Toshiba Blu-ray Player (BDK33)

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Last weekend I made a couple of purchases for the living room, which I’ve been planning for a while. One of these purchases was a Toshiba Blu-ray Player (BDK33). We’ve been able to watch Blu-ray movies on the PS3, but it’s in a different room and I’ve been wanting to be able to also watch Blu-rays in the living room (the other room has a larger television but it’s currently lacking comfortable furniture).

I looked at several different models in Best Buy and Target. I didn’t bother with checking Wal-Mart this time. I was surprised to find a real deal in Best Buy. It’s rare that they have anything, aside from movies, that I would purchase there.

It only costs $59.

I considered it a good deal because it has wifi capability built-in (unlike many that are “wifi ready”, meaning you’ll need some kind of adapter to use them on wifi). It also supports Netflix, Hulu, and some other services.

I was actually just looking for a plain Blu-ray player without those bells and whistles. After all, I already have an Apple TV in the living room. The price convinced me to go ahead and get it. Sometimes it’s difficult to find a regular Blu-ray player even for $59.

So far I’ve been happy with the purchase, though I haven’t used it much. We’ve only watched a single Blu-ray movie and though I do have it on the wifi network I haven’t tested Netflix or Hulu. It’s connected to my older 32″ TV via the HDMI switch. The movie played without any problems and it looked great on my older HDTV.

Superdrive Failure After Upgrading From Snow Leopard To Lion

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A few days ago my wife’s MacBook Pro (13-inch, Mid-2010) suddenly couldn’t read CDs or DVDs. Inserting a disc results in the drive spinning up and down a few times and then ejecting the disc after a moment. We quickly realized this was the first time she had tried to use a disc since I upgraded her computer to Lion.

So far, I haven’t been able to fix the problem. I’ve tried several different suggestions, but I haven’t hit on the correct one. My assumption is that one of two problems have occurred: (1) The Snow Leopard to Lion upgrade resulted in a software problem that affects the Superdrive or (2) it’s purely a coincidence and the Superdrive has simply suffered from a hardware failure.

In the worst case, the MacBook Pro is still well within the AppleCare warranty period so we can have it repaired, if necessary. I’ll try some additional tips as I come across them before we resort to sending it off or visiting an Apple Store.

This doesn’t seem to be an uncommon problem. Quick searches turn up numerous complains from individuals using different configurations who upgraded from Snow Leopard to Lion and ran into the same problem. I’m including a few related links. If I find a solution that fixes our problem I’ll add an update to this post.

Updated 11/11/2011: The fact that this problem just started after upgrading to Lion may be a coincidence. I went through some additional diagnostics this evening. The one step I did that has convinced me that this probably is a hardware failure was an attempt to boot from a CD. My assumption is that if the drive issues were caused by a software problem then it wouldn’t appear before booting into Lion.

While it’s true that my wife hadn’t tried to use the drive since we upgraded to Lion, that doesn’t exclude the possibility that the hardware failed sometime before or after the upgrade. In addition, I have noticed signs indicating that the body area where the drive is located isn’t well reinforced. On more than one occasion, and with other models with similar body designs, that when one holds the laptop in a way that puts pressure in that area that it seems to transfer into the drive itself. In my opinion it’s very possible that the drive can be damaged if one has a disc in the drive while putting any kind of pressure on that area of the frame.

It looks like we’ll need to take the MacBook Pro to an Apple Store for repair.

Updated 11/12/2011: The nearest Apple Store is a long drive from our house so we opted to call Apple support and mail the system back for repair. The initial call was painless. It didn’t take much to convince the Apple tech to enter a ticket to have the drive fixed. I updated him on what I’ve done and when I mentioned it wouldn’t boot from a CD he agreed that the drive was most likely bad. It was a good experience overall. I didn’t have to go through the troubleshooting steps again – the tech accepted my conclusions without forcing me to follow a script.

Updated 12/12/2011: The weekend after my wife submitted the support ticket she received the box to ship the laptop on Tuesday. Her laptop was repaired and back in her hands by the Thursday of the same week.

Netflix Takes a Dive

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This is one of my more rare opinion posts. I usually try to provide useful information, but I can’t resist publishing some comments about the recent changes to Netflix. I think the change in their business model is unfortunate. Netflix was positioned to remain a leader in streaming and rentals, but I’m very doubtful that will continue to be the case.

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Philips DVD Player Changes TV Source Whenever Using the DVD Remote (Workaround)

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Note: Most of this information is probably only applicable to households with a Philips TV and DVD player.

Tonight I ran into an unexpected problem. While trying to watch a DVD in our bedroom the TV input was changed from HDMI2 (where the living room sources are connected) to HDMI1 (where nothing is connected). It happened any time I tried to pause or play the movie. In fact, it seemed to happen every time I pressed any button on the remote.

I quickly eliminated the possibility of the DVD remote sending signals to the TV by preventing the IR from reaching the TV. The problem still occurred.

After a moment I remembered another problem we previously encountered in which the DVD player was turning the TV back on a moment after the TV was turned off. I neglect to post about the issue but long story short the EasyLink capability built into both Philips devices caused the TV to turn back on if the DVD player was still on (or was in the process of shutting down). The solution was to turn the DVD player off before powering off the TV (since then I’ve also shut off the available EasyLink options in the DVD player).

Tonight’s problem seems to be related. I disabled the DVD players EasyLink functions. However, even though the TV appears to have EasyLink support the setup menu does not include any options to disable it.

I noticed that when the TV source is changed by the DVD player it always reverts to HDMI1. Before I purchased the matrix switch we only used the DVD player in the bedroom, where it was connected on HDMI1. At that point I realized the DVD player’s behavior hadn’t actually changed. We hadn’t noticed it before because it was already on HDMI1 and tonight was the first time we had tried to play a DVD since adding the switch.

It’s not a true fix, but the workaround was simply to move the incoming living room HDMI connection from HDMI2 over to HDMI1 on the bedroom TV. Now the DVD player appears to operate as expected without changing the TV source.

 

Mounting an ISO Using SlySoft Virtual CloneDrive (Windows)

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Earlier today I needed to install some Windows software from an ISO image. The ASUS EeeBox PC doesn’t have a built-in CD/DVD drive. Rather than hook up an external drive I decided to look for a tool that could mount an ISO as a CD/DVD disc.

It didn’t take long to find SlySoft Virtual CloneDrive. The program is free and easy to use.

DIGISTOR USB 2.0 Blu-Ray Burner – Mac

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Over the past few years our collection of personal data has grown significantly as well as the need to backup that data. DVDs are no longer sufficient.  Just our wedding photos use over 9 GBs of space, which would require about three DVDs.

I began backing up this data on other hard drives, in addition to our Time Machine backups. I even resorted to storing some data on a portable drive that I keep in our safe deposit box.

Unfortunately, hard drives are bulky. I wanted to be able to backup data to a disc format that would require less space and I could more easily pick and choose when and what to backup.

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The New Multi-Media Server (G5)

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After my wife got a laptop for her birthday the G5 sat around unused for quite some time. After we bought the Apple TV I decided to set it up as a media server. In this case, I’ve started converting DVDs to an Apple TV 2 compatible format and dumping them into the iTunes library of the G5, which I’ve setup again. So far I’ve only converted around 20 DVDs, but that number is slowly increasing.

On several occasions we’ve streamed these movies to the Apple TV, which has worked great. At the moment, I’m focusing on converting the movies that we like to watch from time to time.

It’s been a long time since I posted something in the “Multi-Media Server (MMS)” category.