Arman Gungor's Blog Litigation Support and Technology

5Dec/105

APC Smart UPS Loud Beeping Problem

I have been using an APC SUA1000 at home for about 5 years. I have used other APC devices in the past and have always been happy with their build quality and performance. However, this unit has been giving me trouble lately. It all started about 2 years ago when I came back home from a long trip to find the UPS emitting a constant, loud, excruciating sound. The beeping did not stop when the UPS was turned off or its power cord was disconnected from the outlet. The only way to stop the noise was to either disconnect the battery or braindead the UPS.

After a few e-mail exchanges and phone calls with APC customer service, I was informed that my warranty had recently expired and my only option was to send the UPS for a repair at my own cost. I decided to open the unit's case and take a look inside to see if there was anything obviously wrong with it before shipping it for repair. I disconnected the batteries, looked inside the UPS and did not notice anything obvious. Closed the box, powered up again and to my surprise, the noise was gone. It passed self test and I tested it a few times under load by disconnecting it from the outlet and it continued to provide power without failure. I was able to use the device for another 2 years or so without any trouble.

Life was good again until the unit ran out of battery recently. I ordered a replacement APC battery and installed it. As soon as I turned the unit on, I was welcomed by the good old constant buzz. Went through the same process of opening the box and disconnecting the battery a few times without any luck. I also sent some messages to APC message boards and found out that there were at least a few more people with the same problem. Their UPSs (not only SUA1000 but other models such as SUA1500, SUA2200 etc.) appear to work perfectly fine except for the annoying noise.

Finally, not having been offered a viable explanation or solution by APC, I was forced to operate on my UPS. I opened the case again, located the piezoelectric buzzer (see picture) and de-soldered it. I am sure the UPS is still trying to emit the same sound but at least I am not hearing it. It has passed self test as well as my manual tests and has been powering my computer successfully for the past couple of days.

Filed under: Hardware 5 Comments
10Sep/100

Western Digital Fiasco

I bought a Western Digital My Book Essential 2 TB USB 2.0 Desktop External Hard Drive yesterday. When I plugged it into my computer, I was greeted by a driver installation prompt. I have seen hard drives and flash drives with launchers before and swiftly ignored the prompt and let the driver installation fail. I noticed that a separate, read-only volume with WD junk popped up as expected. I proceeded straight to disk management to remove the hidden partition and re-format the drive as a vanilla hard drive. To my dismay, WD appears to have integrated this hidden partition into the drive's firmware! Apparently, it is not possible to simply re-format and get rid of this hidden partition short of taking the actual hard drive out of the enclosure (voiding the warranty) and plugging it directly to the computer as an internal HDD via SATA. WD provides a piece of software that hides the read-only partition from view but does not delete the junk software or prevent the automatic driver installation prompt.

I have several problems with the software that comes with the drive:

* The driver installation is problematic and works only on Windows. Consequently, the drive causes problems when used in MacOs, Linux or any other non-Windows system such as XBox, PS3 etc.
* The software bundled with the hard drive takes up a significant amount of disk space, reducing the usable disk space on the drive.
* Most importantly, when I buy a hard drive, I expect it to function as a hard drive. I do not require additional junkware, especially the non-removable kind, to help me "manage" my data.
* Need I say that the software is worthless?

I think this is a disgrace and a big blow to any power user. The drive is going back to where I bought it from tomorrow and Western Digital lost some points in my book. I heard that the same problem applies to their passport model mini hard drives (of which I used to buy older versions regularly) as well and there is a fairly large community of people bashing them as we speak. I may continue to use their internal hard drives but I will look for a better alternative for external hard drives.

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15Apr/100

Remote Desktop Connection Problem

We have been having an RDP connection issue with one of our Precision workstations at work. When an employee tries to connect to the computer, the remote desktop login screen is displayed as expected, the employee enters his/her credentials and presses the connect button but the connection is never established. Moreover, no error message is displayed. The mstsc window simply disappears. We have looked into all sorts of potential issues from firewall problems to the version of mstsc. We also checked the event log on both the client and the server and saw no errors related to this problem until yesterday.

While looking at the server's event log yesterday, we noticed some "information" messages. Their event source was "Application Popup" and the message read "\SystemRoot\System32\RDPDD.dll failed to load". "RDPDD.dll" mentioned here is the RDP Display Driver. Based on this information, we decided to update the display driver of the server computer (the graphics adapter is NVIDIA Quadro NV290) and voila! Strangely, this issue seems to affect only this specific computer. We have other Precisions with the same NV290 drivers and they have been working fine.

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8Dec/090

USB Write Protect

USB_Write_ProtectBeing in the litigation support industry, we work with USB devices almost every day. When working with customer-furnished data, it is very critical to prevent data spoilation by using a write-blocking device. Actions as simple as plugging the hard drive into a computer running Ms Windows and taking a look around are sufficient to alter metadata.

I recommend using OS independent, hardware based write blockers. The brands that I prefer are Tableau and WiebeTech. These products act as a bridge between your computer and the device that you are working with and block write requests at a hardware level while allowing you to read from the device.

Even though these devices are fairly affordable, unfortunately not every litigation support professional has one in his/her arsenal. There are different strategies for those of you who do not have access to such hardware. One of the easiest ways of blocking write requests to USB devices on a Ms Windows computer is by changing the storage device policy in the registry. The following key, starting with Windows XP Service Pack 2, controls whether or not Windows is allowed to write to USB devices:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\StorageDevicePolicies\Writeprotect

I made a very small utility yesterday to automate this task and make it a little bit more user friendly. It is called USB Write Protect. All it does is to check whether or not you have a compatible operating system and to allow you to toggle the registry key mentioned above. Please feel free to download it via the link below and let me know if you have any questions or concerns. Please note the following:

  • This method blocks write access to USB devices that are connected after the registry key is set. In other words, you need to make sure the device you will be working with is disconnected prior to running USB Write Protect or changing the registry key manually.
  • This method only works with Microsoft Windows XP Service Pack 2 and up.

USB HD Download USB Write Protect 1.0 [140 KB]
Requires .NET Framework 3.5

12Jun/090

Sony Ericsson K850i BROD

Yesterday I encountered the k850 Blue Ring of Death for the first time. I was working at my desk and all of a sudden my phone vibrated briefly. I noticed that the keypad was lit while the screen was dark and phone unresponsive. After removing and re-inserting the battery and attempting to turn it on numerous times,  I concluded that I may have a problem. Looking at my new brick for a few minutes, I pulled up my warranty information to see that my warranty had expired about three months ago.

k850i

As I found out later, this issue seems to be fairly common among k850i owners and is referred to as the blue ring of death due to the fact that the blue ring around the camera lens remains lit along with the keypad while the phone refuses to turn on. After thinking what might have happened for a few minutes, I realized that this oddity happened exactly when an alarm was supposed to go off. The alarm was set to read an MP3 ring tone from the memory card. This led me to believe that the issue might have to do with reading from the memory card. Unfortunately, removing it didn't help.

Thinking that the memory card read error might have caused some corruption in the phone's flash, I decided to try re-loading the software. I downloaded and launched the Sony Ericsson Update Service (SEUS) application hoping that there might be a newer firmware available. Unfortunately there wasn't, but the application allowed me to re-install the existing software without any trouble. I lost all data stored on the phone but it took only a few minutes to get back up and running thanks to a recent back-up of my contacts, tasks etc.

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