Thursday, April 06, 2017

MagicJack Windows Work-arounds

I have MagicJack phone service, which I have been using for many years. At about $20 per year, it is much cheaper than other phone services, such as FIOS which charges more than that per MONTH. MagicJack is a great value, but they do have very limited customer support and sometimes there are computer issues.

This article details some recent struggles, in case it may help others with similar issues.

When using MagicJack with Windows, the idea is that you plug it in to the USB port, Windows detects the device and installs the drivers, and everything just works. I have found that about half the time this works, and half the time it doesn't (can't find drivers).

Recently my computer died, and I replaced it with a cheap refurbished machine running Windows 7. When I plugged in my ancient MagicJack device (that had worked for years on the old computer), Windows could not load the drivers and so MagicJack was dead. MagicJack does not offer drivers for download, and I couldn't find them anywhere on the internet.

I decided to order the newer "MagicJack Go" device. This one can either plug into the USB port, or directly into the router, so I figured I had two chances to succeed.

Below is a summary of everything I did to get this to work from start to finish:
  1. Plugged in old MagicJack device to USB slot on new Windows 7 computer. Could not detect device. Could not get drivers. Searched all over internet for drivers. Called support to ask for drivers but they were not helpful.
  2. Ordered next gen "MagicJack" Go device for $35 (includes one year of calling - good deal)
  3. Plugged in new MagicJack Go to USB slot on new Windows 7 computer. Could not detect device. Could not get drivers (even though I was hoping the new device would be detected by Windows - nope).
  4. Plugged in new MagicJack Go directly to FIOS MI424WR router using ethernet cable, and into outlet. Instead of dial tone, creepy male voice on phone said "Error 3002".
  5. Went to and clicked "Detect Device" and it was not detected on the network.
  6. Went to command line of PC and typed arp -a
  7. Looked for a mac address that started with 6c (the MagicJack GO device) and noted the associated ip address
  8. Edited the settings on my FIOS router (went to and entered my admin Username and Password).
  9. Clicked "My Network"
  10. Looked for device with MAC address starting with 6c (There were two of these; I had to try each one)
  11. Noted IP address
  12. Confirmed that it is a Static IP address
  13. Clicked Port Forwarding
  14. Set up two port forwarding rules: Port 5060 and 5070 on IP address
  15. Clicked "Detect Device" again and it was detected.
  16. Unplugged router / plug back in.

After I did the above, and waited a few minutes, it started working. The one plus of this whole affair is that the MagicApp is actually pretty cool. I can manage everything on my cell phone, including seeing my contacts (which I can't see on my computer anymore because the MagicJack is no longer connected to the computer). Also, if my computer crashes the MagicJack should now still continue working as long as the network is up.

Note: I was able to retain my existing phone number in this process
Note: You do have to plug the MagicJack into an outlet under this method
Note: It remains to be seen if I'll need to go on to the router again to adjust anything after a power outage

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Word Up / Word Trek

Occasionally I am able to complete a flash game all the way through, or even a PC or console game. But rarely do I make it all the way through the levels for an app.

However, I did make it all the way through "Word Up" (renamed to Word Trek while I was working my way through it). Looking back, there are more levels than I thought - I counted 56 levels on "Earth", each with 30 puzzles, and then about 20 levels on "New World", each with 30 again. Which seems like about 2300 puzzles. Anyhow, nice to finish it and get a victory screen in an app:

One nice thing about this app is that as you advance it tells you what percentage of players have made it up to that level. Also, it would be difficult to cheat on this app, since the puzzles are in random order and also even if you know the words you still have to figure out how to arrange them.

Another good feature is that there is still a daily puzzle which only take a few minutes. You can continue to do this even if you have completed the app.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Fix for Windows 10 Issue - Stuck in Airplane Mode Without Wireless

I was helping a user today fix an issue, which I see online that some other people are struggling with.

His Windows 10 system became stuck in "Airplane Mode", meaning he could not use his wireless connections. He has a Dell Precision M4700 laptop. The solutions that he found online told him to press (FN + PrntScrn). This works on some systems where that key toggles the Wireless connection. However, it was not working for this user. Also, if he went to any of the Windows menus to turn off airplane mode, it would not allow him to do so. He also had tried uninstalling the driver for the Airplane Mode switch and re-booting.

To figure out the solution here you need to understand that Windows does this forced switching into Airplane Mode when Wireless is turned off. So you need to figure out what is disabling the Wireless option on the system. In this case, I looked at the hardware specs and saw that the user's laptop had a hardware switch on the side of his laptop. He was surprised when I told him where the switch was.

Sure enough, he had inadvertently hit the switch and turned off his Wi-Fi. With this switch turned off, there is nothing you can do in Windows to turn off Airplane Mode and turn Wireless back on.

The solution in this case was simply to turn on the hardware switch, re-enabling wireless. Then Windows will allow to toggle off the Airplane Mode setting.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Pro Life. Pro God. Pro Gun.

I was behind a pick-up truck at a stoplight, and the above bumper sticker was proudly displayed in the top corner of the window. "PRO LIFE. PRO GOD. PRO GUN." These are all reasonable positions for someone to take, and I certainly have no problem with sticking your beliefs on the back of your F-150 for all to see.

The issue I have is that these three stickers were not sold separately. It is a single sticker with all three positions. And trust me on this - the church or gun shop where this sticker was purchased did not offer any other permutations of these three options, besides the exact three shown. This is an example of an ideology setting your beliefs. It's probably a safe bet that this guy is also not a big proponent of same-sex marriage, or doing anything about climate change.

My personal preference is to choose my positions on an individual basis. For example, I happen to support at least one of the three sentiments above, but not all three. This means I can probably never run for President. But I don't find it to be any sort of profound contradiction. I suspect that puts me squarely in the minority - it certainly does among people that I interact with. And what makes me even more of a freak is that I've actually changed my position a full 180 degrees on at least one of these three topics.

My challenge to you is to think about where you would stand on a list of issues, such as the three stated above. If most or all of your principles fall in line with a particular ideology, consider whether you want to be a person who can walk into a shop and purchase everything you believe on a pre-printed sticker.

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

The Masters

I had the distinct privilege of attending a practice round at The Masters golf tournament in Augusta, GA on Tuesday, April 5, 2016. The following is my recollection of everything I experienced that day.

We woke at 5:10am and left the Baymont Covington motel at 5:30 for the 1 hour and 40 minute drive to Augusta. The electronic traffic signs on I-20 East led us to one of the sprawling parking lots as the earliest arrivals joined us in the lot. No less than 20 attendants directed us to our spot (in section labeled C3 with white and green sign). We checked in one last time on FourSquare, etc. since there are no cell phones permitted anywhere in the facility at any time. Left the phone in the golve compartment and grabbed the ancient digital camera and sunblock.

As we walked about 1/4 mile to the lower (Gate 9) entrance, we were greeted warmly by every last parking attendant, security worker, restroom attendant, and about 100 other staff. We did a quick reconnaissance jaunt through the gift shop, and waited until 8:00 for the course to open to the public.

We walked out by the 15th green. We walked a bit up the 15th fairway and watched our long shadows cast toward Rae's Creek and the Sarazen Bridge to the green. We crossed the 15th fairway, trying to fathom that long downhill iron to cross the hazard to reach the creek in two, but not too far to go in the water just over the green at the 16th. We made our way back down to #13, walking past the spot where Phil Mickelson squeezed a 6-iron between two trees from the pine straw for victory in 2010. We sat on the bleachers behind #12 tee in Amen Corner. while Steve and Scott went off to grab their first pimento cheese sandwich from the nearby concession stand. We contemplated for a while the spot from which Larry Mize chipped in to beat Norman in the playoff in 1987.

We spotted the first player - the amateur Cameron Smith and hit caddie were going around by themselves. He chipped a few balls to different parts of the 11th green, and then played a nice shot into #12 and crossed the Hogan Bridge. We never realized that the tee for #13 was tucked away just behind #12. Off in the distance, we saw the bench by #12 tee where later in the day Tom Watson would leave an egg salad sandwich in memory of Bruce Edwards.

We walked up along #11, past the spot where Tiger snapped his 4-iron on the follow through in 2007, all the way back to the impossible tee shot to such a narrow fairway. Headed over to the small elevated 10th green, and down the hill to the spot in the right rough from which Bubba Watson hooked a wedge on to the green in 2012 to beat Louis Oosthuizen in the playoff. Up the steep hill to the 10th tee. Joined a mob watching Charl Schwartzel and Jordan Spieth tee off on #1.

Walked around the clubhouse, by the par-3 course, and over to the short line waiting to see Founder's Circle. Took a picture down Magnolia Lane and of the three of us in front of the iconic floral map in Founder's Circle. Walked back around to the practice area. Saw Sergio Garcia practicing his putting. (It would be the chips up to #9 on Friday afternoon, however, that would be his ultimate undoing.) Watched Billy Horschel practice his chipping. Walked up to the front gate, and then back around, past the long line snaking into the main gift shop. Walked past the legendary "big oak tree", "wisteria vine", and the huge scoreboard all prepped for tomorrow's par 3 contest. Up along the 1st fairway, behind #1 green, and past #2 tee box. Watched Mark O'Meara (playing by himself) hit two drives from #9 tee. Crossed over #9 and walked backwards down the hill of #8. Watched Rory McIlroy, Brandt Snedeker, Harris English, and Justin Thomas hit second shots up the hill on #8. Saw the next group come through and play their second shots to the same blind green - Phil Mickelson, Bryson DeChambeau, Keegan Bradley, and Dustin Johnson. Watched Mickelson and DeChambeau walking up the fairway, chatting loudly about club design philosophy. DJ ambled up the right side by himself, with Bradley skipping behind on the left.

Saw several players play up toward the green on #2 - the very same where Oosthuizen recorded a double-eagle in 2012 from 253 yards out. Watched Bernd Wiesberger, Derek Bard, Jamie Donaldson, and Steven Bowditch spend quite some time playing bunker shots and chipping to all parts of the green.

Found a spot where we could watch some players hit up to #7, and some others teeing off on #3. Saw Rickie Fowler, Brooks Koepka, and Jimmy Walker approach and putt to the center pin location on #7. Walked down along #7 fairway to see the intimidating angle over the bunker that seemed to take up all of the green. Saw Spieth and Schwartzel again, and watched them play their second shots into #7. Watched a few groups play the green on #6. First Mike Weir, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, and Emiliano Grillo tried many attempts to get anything to stop near the pin from the apron behind the green. Next we saw Victor Dubuisson and fellow countryman Romain Langasque play the steep angles of the green. We climbed the steep hill past #6 tee and up to #5 green.

We saw Vijay Singh and Horschel play their second shots to the green. Singh dropped quite a few balls and played to back locations on the green. Unfortunately, this would not help him make the cut. Walked down along #5 to the tee. Saw Garcia and Jim Herman each hit two balls off the tee. (Herman had won his first career tournament after 16 years on tour the week before at the Shell Houston Open.) Shuffled over to the green of the long #4, to watch Sammy Schmitz, Danny Lee, and Soren Kjeldsen. Lee hit a bunch of balls from the mammoth front bunker, a popular spot that day as always.

Headed over to #3 green. Saw Smylie Kaufman getting a lot of advice about the green from Bill Haas. They waved Russell Knox up to play his shot to the green.  He made a 30-foot snaking putt and then joined then for a threesome on the 4th tee. Kaufman's tee shot landed about 4 feet right of the pin, but then rolled all the way back down into the fairway.

We hadn't seen #9 or #18 yet, so we walked back down #3, across #2 and #8, and to the landing area below #9 green where Norman had started his collapse in 1996 when his wedge approach rolled back down off the steep green front and into the fairway. Walked past the 18th green and through the big open area in the center of the course that you do not see on TV.

Standing behind the 17th, we saw Mickelson hit his approach over the green and right. We scampered down close to his ball as Bones came through and pushed the crowd back to allow Phil to play the shot. He had to play it, since he had a serious match going on (unlike the other groups we saw that day). He hit a great pitch to 3 feet and sank the putt for par. (Unfortunately, he missed the cut after a number of uncharacteristic mistakes on the back 9 Friday.) DJ, DeChambeau, and Bradley practiced putting for quite a while. We watched them walk over and tee of on the ridiculously long chute of #18, all landing near the right side of the fairway. Some jerk yelled out as they walked by "Hey Phil, my wife said you wouldn't wave". But Phil did not hear it.

We saw Ben Crenshaw and Carl Jackson cross the 17th fairway, shaking hands with a few patrons and sneaking by hundreds of others who did not notice them. We walked back down #15 and watched Snedeker and English play long second shots toward the 15th green. Found a decent spot by the 16th tee to watch a few groups play. Snedeker and English hit tee shots, and then the crowd chanted for them to skip balls across the water. Snedeker actually skipped one on to the green, 15 feet from the pin, to thunderous applause and roars. The next group was Thongchai Jaydee and Kiradech Aphibararat. After their tee shots, they also skipped a few balls (unsuccessfully) from the drop area into the water.

We grabbed a chicken sandwich in a green bag, some Masters chips, and a diet coke in a collectible Masters cup, and brought it up to the bleacher seating along the right side of the breathtaking 13th hole. The sun was strong now, so we took off our white sweatshirt for the first time. We watched several groups play #13. First Singh and Horschel, then Ryan Moore, then Ian Poulter and Paul Casey, and finally Patrick Reed and Jim Herman. Poulter fished a bunch of balls out of Rae's Creek while Casey practiced shots from the lay-up area. Looking past the Nelson Bridge, there must have been thousands of azaleas and dogwoods on the far side, framing the picturesque green.

We walked by #16 one final time, and then up the hill to the gift shop. This shop on the southwestern part of the course was far less crowded than the main one - perhaps the best kept "secret" at Augusta National. With a bittersweet melancholy, we headed back toward the parking lot. On the final path, as we were again greeted warmly by everyone, Steve spotted a member and said to him: "Thank you sir for putting on the greatest tournament in the world." He said it was his pleasure.

In addition to the above narrative, these are some other memories and random observations that I took away from my visit to Augusta National Golf Club:

  • Every square inch of the entire property was either grass, pine straw, or landscaping. There was not a single spot on the course of ground under repair, dirt, mud, trash, etc. It was absolutely immaculate. Even in the areas where the crowd was walking.
  • There were no less than three attendants in every washroom. They wiped down the sinks and stalls after every use.
  • After each group played the 16th green, a crew of three attendants would go out on the green and pick up every leaf, piece of pine straw, and grain of sand
  • Even the camera cables ran underground, beneath the fairways.
  • The food was cheap - $1.50 to $3 for the sandwiches. Entire lunch (with drink) was $6
  • There was a very surreal feeling walking around that place. Scott said it felt like visiting the Grand Canyon. It reminded me of walking through the background imagery of the Mona Lisa.
  • Steve checked his tracker at the end of the day, and we had walked 8.8 miles. To me, it did not feel like nearly that much. I just hadn't really thought about it

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Samsung Galaxy Phone Shuts Down After Taking Photo

I have a Samsung Galaxy 3 android phone and noticed something odd recently that had happened a few times. After taking a photo, the camera would immediately shut down. Sometimes I could get it to start up again using the power button, and sometimes I had to take off the back panel and remove/re-insert the battery to get it to come back to life.

I figured out the following regarding this issue:

  • It only occurs when I use the flash
  • It only occurs when my battery life is low (about 30% or less)
  • It only occurs if I use the stock photo app that comes with the phone (which is what I normally use by force of habit, even though I have some better photo apps installed)
  • It started occurring when I purchased a spare battery from a third party manufacturer
  • Alas, when the phone finally comes back on, the picture that I took when it shut down did not get saved
  • When the phone comes back on, it still has the 30% charge (or whatever it had before the incident)
I believe what is causing this issue is that the phone has a mechanism that shuts it down when the power gets very low (usually below 1%). This is a safety feature so that it shuts down gracefully rather than abruptly when the battery dies completely. I think when the flash picture is taken, the phone is somehow confused for that moment and thinks it is very low on battery even though it is not. Hence it implements the emergency shutdown.

The workaround to avoid the issue is:
  • Do not use the third party battery, except in an emergency when the primary battery is dead and re-charging
  • Do not use the flash when battery life is less than 30%

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Xbox 360 Wireless Controller on Windows 8.1

My son was having issues installing an Xbox 360 Wireless Controller on Windows 8.1. He borrowed his brother's bluetooth USB device and connected that to the USB port. Then he installed the software from Microsoft. The software said it was only compatible on Windows versions XP and 7, but we tried it anyway. The device was detected by Windows (green light on, and new device showing up in Device Manager), but we could not get the controller to pair with the device, The device showed up twice under the Printers and Devices screen - once as a Bluetooth USB device, and once as "Unknown Device". We tried messing with the settings for the Bluetooth USB device, but nothing would make it pair with the controller.

This is what we did to get it to work:

1. I read that there are sometimes issues with the computer giving enough power to USB devices. But you can trick the computer into giving more power to the USB slot by plugging in a USB hub and then plugging the wireless bluetooth adapter into the USB hub. We did this first.

2. We then clicked on the "Unknown Device" (in Control Panel / Devices and Printers) and said we wanted to manually install the driver. We searched the local driver list and selected the category "Xbox" at the bottom of the list, and then found the list of wireless adapters. We selected the bottom one (something like wireless connector 6.2.x). It said the version might not be compatible, but we said to try anyway.

After the above, the controller instantly connected. And then the game was working. I'm not sure which of the above (or both) fixed the issue, but I suspect it was #2.