Check it out… they spelled my name wrong at the end of the video, but it’s not about me anyhow – it’s all about raising money for the ALS and Diabetes foundations… A few years ago, one of our crew members, Joey, was diagnosed with ALS. Since then, so much has happened behind the scenes. The cast is always so generous throughout each season, so the crew always gives back around the holidays by pooling money and giving them nice gifts baskets and vouchers for amazing restaurants in L.A.

A couple years ago, the cast made sure all that money went to Joey, to go towards his medical bills. In addition to our contributions, the cast wrote checks, and the total ended up being almost six figures. It was an emotional day, with all this going on in the “squad room” set, which is the orange-walled room with cubicles so often seen on the show. There was hardly a dry eye in the room.

Seeing first-hand how devastating the disease is, I donated to the ALS Association (and Alzheimer’s Association) last year. Since then, it’s been astonishing seeing how awareness has picked up. I know many of you have donated, and many of you have done the Ice Bucket Challenge. Thank you for that. To take it one step further, some of our crew have created two one-of-a-kind jackets, with the proceeds going to the ALS and Diabetes foundations…. take a look here – http://www.ebay.com/sch/31archer/m.html?item=111482517423&hash=item19f4e037af&pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&rt=nc&_trksid=p2047675.l2562

I know $1,000+ is steep for many folks, but if any of my friends happen to win the auction, I will send you a poster autographed by the cast and a season 12 “cast and crew” hat.

Again, whether it’s via the auction or donating on your own, thanks so much for your generous contributions

He took his own life. “How?” is the question I’ve gotten the most. Where I’m originally from, drugs are the likely culprit. Last year, heroin claimed the lives of two people I went to school with. I was starting to think the Midwest – Ohio – was like some sort of vortex, where there is just so little hope and people get caught up in that momentary escape/high…. that was until Phillip Seymour Hoffman OD’d on Super Bowl Sunday. But it wasn’t heroin that took the life of my friend, nor was it any drug.

Quite frankly, “How?” is a question I can’t answer. The wonder has crossed my mind, but the answer isn’t something I’ve asked. It’s something I don’t really want to know. The last thing I want is a mental image of how those last seconds or minutes could have faded away.

What’s really important here isn’t me or my perspective – it’s the heartache, the your-heart’s-been-completely-ripped-in-two-pieces anguish for so many people that was caused by one person’s momentary decision. I’ve been there, I’ve thought those thoughts, but fuck that – I’ve wondered what other people would think… my parents… my siblings… my friends… my nieces and nephews. In this case, I wish the guilt brought on by over-analysis would have outweighed those low points that everyone has. Not to diminish, but we all have our ups and downs. Some situations come about and are more serious than others, but leaving your children behind is something I can’t understand. I’m sure it’s something my friend couldn’t understand, either… No one could foresee the events that would come, though I remember him telling me, at a young age, of his dad’s decision to leave this world behind.

What’s left, though, are memories…. really good memories and a lot of them… camping out in my dad’s backyard, making prank phone calls, drinking Surge all night, then going skateboarding at 6 AM. Walking along Shaker Creek, seeing an absolutely massive bird that seemingly could have been a very-lost California Condor. Band practice upstairs, then downstairs when the family moved. Playing Tool’s “Stinkfist” in front of the whole school at the talent show in 8th grade. Amber. Playing Korn’s “Blind” at the talent show in 9th grade and all the practice involved with that. Uncle Tommy, at point-blank range, pulling the trigger on an empty paintball gun pointed at my head. Working in live sound together. Working at a haunted trail together for a couple seasons. The Korg ER-1. Buying two drum sets (the crappy black one and the shiny silver one). Many years later- going to a dueling piano bar in Long Beach and having a few beers, talking about making amends. On the last visit here, having beers at the Ramada bar, talking more about making amends… the Universal City overlook on Mulholland Drive and looking down on all the city lights, when he put his mom on speakerphone, saying “Guess who I’m with right now?”

Admittedly, this is a difficult time, but I think my buddy was happy here in that moment… proud of where he was and what I’ve done. I took the plunge, made the move, and got away from that place where everyone automatically assumes that every death is an overdose.

My friend- I miss you and will continue to do so… not that I expect you to be reading my WordPress account from up on high. But I just want your spirit/your soul/you to know that I hate your decision but yet remain proud of some of your accomplishments…. wish you were here, buddy. I wish it was as easy as saying “come on back,” but it sure as hell is not.

Friends, and anonymous people that visit this page, if you ever feel like you need to escape this world, consider that there are people out there who love and respect you…people who would be distraught and feel completely lost without you around. It’s true. People aren’t psychics – they can’t read what you are feeling, even if you think it’s obvious, so please do yourself a favor (and everyone else) and reach out. I’m a good listener, and there are hotlines available to help, too. 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

 

First and foremost, when working with any electronic gear, make sure the equipment is completely unplugged from any power source, including USB.

Tools needed:

– a thin-bladed knife (a utility knife is best, as it will likely get covered with epoxy)
– a Phillips head screwdriver
– pliers (needle-nose are preferable)

1. Take the thin-bladed knife and, at one of the front speaker housing corners, wedge it between the black, plastic, speaker housing face and the silver trim piece.

Logitech Z-10 - pic 1

 

2. Gently and slowly rock the knife back and forth to cut through the adhesive that’s holding the face plate to the speaker housing. Take care to keep the knife lateral to the face plate… the back of the plate has a black coating on it, making scratches transparent and very visible from the front.

Logitech Z-10 - pic 2

 

3. Make 4-5 passes around the speaker housing with the knife, cutting a little further into the adhesive each time.

4. Once the face plate starts to come loose, with your hands, gently go around the housing a few times, prying the face plate up a little more each time. Since it’s plastic, be sure to not bend the plate too much, as it could break.

Logitech Z-10 - pic 3

 

5. Once the plate is off, grab the Phillips head screwdriver and loosen the eight screws holding the housing together.

Logitech Z-10 - pic 4

 

6. Once the screws are loosened, slowly pull the housing apart. Be careful because the speaker wires don’t have much extra slack.

Logitech Z-10 - pic 5

 

7. With the needle-nose pliers, clamp and remove the speaker cable leads and the tweeter leads.

Logitech Z-10 - pic 6

 

With that, you should have successfully disassembled the Logitech Z-1o speakers.

Logitech Z-10 - pic 7

 

In this case, it turns out the problem is a blown speaker, as you can see the tear in the cone. Boooooo!!!!

Logitech Z-10 - pic 8

Hey, all. To get right to the point, I have an old Samsung Gravity 2 (model SGH-T469) that I no longer use, so I offered to give it away to someone who can make use of the phone. I, of course, want to make sure everything I put on it comes off it before the device leaves my hands for good. One major snag popped up, though – I lost the Master Reset password.

After trying no less than 40 possible combinations, I put my old pal, Google, to the task. In general, those Fixya and Wiki Answers pages seem to be little more than hugely unorganized data aggregate sites. They’re like those reverse phonebook pages that have EVERY SINGLE NUMBER COMBINATION listed so the search results will lead you to their page…. only those “help” sites list all possible model numbers, whether they have any useful info for those devices or not. So after searching numerous sites, I finally found a random page that was a huge help. I’ve since closed out of it so, without proper attribution, I’d like to say a big “thank you” to whoever you are.

It turns out that, from the main screen, you can put in a keypad combination to reset the phone – with or without that Master Reset password. Admittedly, I cringed a little when I hit the “OK” key because, well, it’s a little scary trusting that a random code found on a random website ISN’T going to turn the phone into some sort of drone device or whatever.

So, after removing the SIM card, this is what I keyed in from the main/home screen:
*2767*3855#

Upon hitting “OK,” BAM! This message popped up: “Please wait as the phone will automatically restart after full reset is performed”

So there you have it – a simple solution for a lost Master Reset password on a Samsung Gravity 2, model SGH-T469.

On a songwriters’ forum, one poster was asking if it’s safe to post original songs to Youtube that don’t yet have a copyright (meaning registered with the U.S. Copyright Office). Here is one response:

“just have a copy of the song with an earlier date. I think that would be enough.”

Good thing it’s prefaced with “I think” because that doesn’t work. You can adjust your computer so it displays any time and day you choose. Consequently, creating a copy of any digital file with a time/date stamp isn’t going to help when it comes to making a copyright claim.

Additionally, the age-old “poor man’s copyright” technique doesn’t hold up, either. We did this a few times, many years ago, in one of the rock bands I played in: slide a CD with your original music on it into an envelope and mail it to yourself. The envelope shows the day the stamp was cancelled, so the government’s involvement makes it official, right? NO! Envelopes can be tampered with. Heck, you could probably tuck in the flap on the envelope (so as to not seal it), send it through mail that way, AND THEN plop a CD in there at any later date… or tape down the flap, send the CD, and retape it later when you’ve got a disc with more songs (or whatever) on it. Point being, the “poor man’s copyright” will, unfortunately, do nothing for you in a bind.

What you can and should do is this: pony up the $35 registration fee and make it official. Admittedly, when I first registered, I was concerned about how much it would cost. Would I have to register all my songs individually or what? Generally speaking, and be sure to read the descriptions on the Copyright Office’s website before taking this at face value: You can clump all your demos together (if the songwriters are the same on all of them) and use Form PA (Performing Arts). That registration will protest the gist of the song, melody, and words. For a completed album or final song mix, use Form SR (Sound Recording). Remember, though, bundle what songs you can together so you aren’t continually paying the $35 fee.

Registering your work can eat up a fair amount of time, and money, as mentioned. But if you’re serious about your artistic work and the time and effort put into it, you need to make sure it’s protected.

Lastly, it’s important to note that a copyright happens automatically WHEN YOU CREATE A WORK. But proving that creation is key. Whether you’ve registered or not, put one of these little doodads next to your work if you’re concerned someone might try to rip you off – ©

Here is where you can register your work (here in the U.S.) and find info that’s, you know, not on a forums or a blog! – http://www.copyright.gov

I work on one of the most-watched shows on TV. This is no small operation. Just like any other big, legitimately successful enterprise, we operate under a budget, but we also try to buy products that are going to be reliable. You know, as it’s said, “You get what you pay for.” But sometimes, what you pay for doesn’t turn out how you’d expect. Enter the Microboards G3 disc printer.

The G3 is the second disc printer of the same model that my employer has purchased for the office. The first one was acting funky, so a second one was purchased as a replacement. Taking a quick stroll across the internet, most distributors selling this printer have a price of just over $1,000 on them. That strikes me as pretty expensive for the luxury of printing labels on 50 CDs or DVDs in succession. That’s really the extent of what it does.

The printer does make life a little easier, when it works properly, but the problem is that it’s finicky on a daily basis. “The printer cartridge is unable to move” is the most frequent error message, which is only remedied by shutting down the printer, restarting it, then setting up the print job again. On occasion, even the restart doesn’t help because the printer cartridge is still apparently stuck. Stuck on what, I have no frickin’ clue. It sure doesn’t look stuck.

So, today, after being fed up with getting the “Hey, I’m stuck again” message, I thought I’d give the ink cartridge a little push/pull to see if it moved. The result was that something clicked… and not metaphorically. I’m talking about the “Uh oh, did I just do something bad?” kind of click. I printed a test disc, and the alignment was was off… what should have been printed in the middle of the DVD ended up being far enough to the right that the 10 characters in one line had almost printed off the disc. I could see that the cartridge physically wasn’t returning back to its usual spot after printing.

Since I am fairly savvy with electronics, and such equipment doesn’t belong in landfills, I had tucked the old, disc printer #1 away in a cabinet. I almost pulled the old unit out, until I discovered something on problematic printer #2… Underneath where the ink cartridge rests when not in use, there is a plastic, square outline. I pushed the cartridge holder straight back, and it moved without any resistance, like it’s spring-loaded. Then, sliding the ink cartridge to where it should have been situated, I pushed the plastic square back, and the ink carriage finally popped back in place. A test print was successful, as the text alignment was properly centered on the DVD again. Whew! A thousand more dollars potentially saved.

I am very confident that this debacle hasn’t totally fixed anything – the cartridge will continue to get stuck on itself, and printing will continue to be problematic. The bottom line is that this disc printer is expensive, yet unreliable. Microboards is now trying to phase out the G3 in favor of the G4. But considering how long the G3 was on the market, my expectation that reliability has improved is admittedly very low.

Have your own experience with the Microboards G3? Let me know about it in the comments section below!

I just discovered some extreme ignorance I possess regarding one of my guitars. It’s a Paul Reed Smith Custom 22, which I’ve owned for probably seven or eight years now. Coming from the old school, plain old tuning peg world, I restrung the PRS tonight the same way I always have – locking down the string with plenty of excess slack, then continually winding the tuner until each string reaches its proper pitch. It doesn’t seem like rocket science… until you think there’s a problem with your equipment and just realize the problem is that you’re behind times.

When I got the guitar out and started this project, I thought “Hey, the tuning peg is broken! I can’t lock down the string… it keeps popping out of the string holder on the peg every time I try to wind it.” I was frustrated because, well, this guitar is really nice and has been super reliable for quite a while now. But after seeking some expert advice, this is what I found:

1) There is no need to wind the string around the machine head like on the old style tuners. Don’t do what is shown in the photo below. Rather, read on for proper instruction.

Image

 

2) My whole concept of the Paul Reed Smith winged tuning pegs was just completely wrong. When you’re finished setting up new strings, the wings on the machine heads should flare outward from the guitar, and the top and bottoms rows of tuning pegs should be fairly symmetrical.

To begin putting on new strings, loosen the cap screw just a bit (no more than a quarter turn is needed).

IMG_3487

 

Flare the wing on the machine head outward, and line up the string in the slot, as shown below. No string slack is needed.

IMG_3484

 

While holding the string in place, hand tighten the screw cap, then begin rotating the tuning peg. The screw cap will continue to tighten and, once the machine head aligns just right, the string will begin to tighten. Once tightening begins, push the flat side of the wing in towards the middle of the headstock to lock the string in place.

IMG_3489

From there, bend the string back towards itself, snip of the excess string, and continue tuning the guitar up.

 

The finished product should look similar to the photo below:

IMG_3493

FINALLY! After so long, this guitar has been properly strung. I’m read to rock, and hopefully you are now, too!

If you have any questions about this process, feel free to let me know in the comment section below. Additionally, if you have benefited from this post, leave a little note or consider sharing this page. Thanks!

It’s rough sometimes dealing with an older computer, especially when it feels like all your electronics are starting to have issues at the same time. Although I have a couple of newer computers, I still sometimes tinker around with a Dell XPS 400, purchased new in 2005. It’s actually still a fairly reliable workhorse, though I have been cleaning it up, with the ultimate goal being to retire that old system on eBay.

I started backing up the XPS’s files last week, and of course when I have my sights set on getting rid of the thing, it crashes. During startup, the system kept stalling on a BSOD (Blue Screen of Death) error. I really wish I would have taken a photo of the screen, though at the time I didn’t know I would be writing about it later. What is known, however, is that part of the “stop code” on the blue screen was 0x000000D1, and the error cited at the bottom was iastor.sys

Another cog in the wheel that slowed down finding a solution is that there was some sort of apparent voltage issue with the power supply at some point. That caused the plastic to melt on the SATA and power connectors that plug into the hard drive. Not cool (or good!) But what can ya do? Until now, it’s never had any hard drive issues beyond that one day, a few years ago, when I wondering “Where the heck is that burning smell coming from?” Due to the melted connectors, I can’t simply remove the hard drive and put it in a different computer to run diagnostics.

Upon researching the problem, it started to become more clear that the boot files on the hard drive must have become corrupt. I was at a loss for what could possibly be done. After giving it a few days (and considering the issue with the melted connectors), I decided to power up the Dell but connect the SATA (data) cable to the motherboard on a different Windows XP computer.

Can you guess what happened next?

The secondary Windows PC instantly recognized the Dell’s drive, and “Chkdsk” (the Check Disk program) began to run. After a few minutes of diagnostics, the secondary computer finally reached the Windows desktop screen, and the Dell drive popped up as a secondary hard drive! Hooray! It seemed to be fixed! … !!!

At that point, I shut down both computers and plugged the SATA cable back into the Dell. From there, I booted that computer up, and everything was almost back to normal. I say “almost” because the processor was doing this new thing, were it was constantly spiking at 100%. Even more strange was that the Task Manager didn’t show anything hogging more resources than usual. Finally, it occurred to me that I tweaked some BIOS setting when first trying to figure out what was going on with the Dell computer. It turned out I needed to set the computer up to share the dual core processors again, as it was then only using one of the cores.

To make a longer story even longer, if you’re getting a Blue Screen of Death and have an older computer, it might be worth a shot plugging the hard drive up to another computer to see if you can run some diagnostics. It worked for me, and I’ll finally be able to put this computer up on the auction block soon. “SOLD, for a thousand dollars!” – one can dream….

I’ve written about it before, and I’m writing about it again: data management is extremely important if you want to keep files around for the long haul. And maintaining organization for those files is key, as we only have so much time on this planet to deal with such issues. I’m writing this as my other computer is copying old CD-RW files to an external hard drive. I have stacks of media that need consolidated, and it’s a shame that the project requires so much of a time investment. That doesn’t have to be the case for data generated today.

In an earlier post (check it out here), I spoke of technology like the Drobo S, which we use at work to backup video footage that costs millions of dollars to produce. As it’s frequently said these days, “storage is cheap,” so there is very little excuse to NOT backup all your important documents, including (but not limited to) your photos and videos.

The file management system that works best for me is a combination of an external hard drive and a pair of DVDs. That is, I try to be meticulous about backing up every single important file to that external drive, and then to a primary and a backup DVD when enough data accumulates and warrants burning a disc.

Also, for my system, I try to keep the data conventions simple. I really enjoy travel and taking pictures – probably spending more time doing so than I should – so I keep a primary folder on the external drive called “Photos-MainBackup”. From there, all photos are narrowed down into more folders displaying the year (if known) and content. For example, one recently created folder is called “2012-Italy”. Nice and simple. That way, you can search for content based on year or the subject. And sometimes it helps you to figure out exactly when the heck you went somewhere.

Also, many of us have pretty sizable music collections these days, so it might not be such a bad idea to create a “Music-MainBackup” primary folder, and maybe even a “Documents-MainBackup” folder.

Of course these are merely suggestions. This is the system that works best for me, so I don’t have to spend a whole lot of time sifting through data to find what I’m looking for. Again, if “storage is cheap these days,” there is very little reason to lose data forever. It’s bound to happen, though, if you don’t plan ahead. Backing up does take a little time investment, but the time spent is very well worth it. Otherwise, it seems that the time invested in creating content that isn’t worth saving is a waste right from the start.

 
 

Colorful Circuits

The disclaimer comes first. Don’t take this purely as advice for your situation. Even a lot of people who called themselves “experts” you should be skeptical of, and I’m not expert. With that said, here are my discoveries…

You’ve heard it before: don’t put all your eggs in one basket. I’ve really taken that to heart, seeing the ups and downs of my first stock purchase back in 2008. Recently, I have diversified my portfolio and have also started looking for a place to stash some cash. I know, you’re probably thinking “You can put some cash in my pocket,” but I bet you won’t pay interest.

If you are having trouble saving money to put back for retirement, here is an idea that might help you. If your employer offers direct deposit, have them take out an amount every week that you won’t miss. In my case, that small amount goes straight into a bank that I only have a savings account with and rarely visit. It’s really out of the way, which is great because it’s not so tempting to use that money on a whim for something else. When I reach a goal of $500 or $1000, for example, that money gets invested.

CDs

CDs are a tricky thing these days. Rates are sooo LOW, LOwww, lowwwwwww, but the important thing to remember is that rates are even lower for that money sitting in your savings account. Although you will get a higher interest rate for that five year CD, a lot can happen in that time. Your best bet is probably going to be to lock away that money for two years and search for better rates when that term is almost up. Alternately, if you plan on socking away, say, $1,000 in a CD every year, you could continually set up 5 year terms and, eventually you’ll get to the point where you have a CD term ending every year.

Now, when it comes to IRA CDs, the guidelines are slightly more complex. With that direct deposit money I spoke about, I was going to set up an IRA CD at one of the banks that had a higher yield rate listed on bankrate.com or bankaholic.com (I forget which). With the particular bank in question, I browsed through some reviews and decided to navigate on over to their website to start setting up an account. I think that’s when the Lord Almighty blessed me with a sign… honestly. I filled out all my personal information, clicked “submit” and suddenly lost my internet connection. When it came back, I was like “Okay, I’m going to read a little more and make sure this is the right bank.” It turned out it wasn’t. I discovered some fine print on another page saying they charge an annual $30 IRA account maintenance fee. I was going to make about $10 a year on the two-year CD I was going to set up, so going with that bank would have actually made my retirement account lose $20 a year!


STOCKS

When I first bought stock, I didn’t have the freedom to decide what broker I was going to use. My employer decided that, as I was purchasing through an Employee Stock Purchase Program. The broker is a major one that you’ve heard of, and I like how the system works. I bought the stock when it was at an all-time low in 2008, at less than $1 a share. Knock on wood, but the stock has shot up since then, back to a more normal value for that company. A dividend is paid on the shares every-so-often, and the dividend reinvestment program is awesome. It’s great to periodically check in on your account and discover that you have more stock shares than the last time you logged in.

Automatic dividend reinvestment is great, but some DIY stock brokers like Scottrade don’t allow it. Instead, when a dividend is paid, the money goes into your account. It seems like a ploy to add money to your overall balance, to get you to buy more stock, which means having to pay the $7 transaction fee more often.


IRAs

This is where it starts to get into those murky, giving-specific-financial-advice waters that I am trying to steer clear of. But if you don’t already have an Individual Retirement Arrangement (IRA), they are a smart choice. There are some limitations, but the tax benefits can be great. This year, the maximum contribution limit for most people is $5,000. There are also some income limits to consider. If you’re earning a six-figure income every year, chances are you’re not eligible.

Roth and Traditional IRAs each have their own tax rules but, in my exploration, it seems that most people prefer the Roth. With the Traditional IRA, you can deduct your contributions on your tax return every year, and you pay on your earnings when it’s time to retire. With the Roth, you can’t deduct the yearly contributions from taxes, but the money isn’t taxed at retirement. In other words, for people who can do without that tax break, it’s probably wiser to go with the Roth. Again, though, consult an adviser for your personal situation.

Another thing I have learned is that contributions to your IRA have to be cash, unless you’re rolling another investment vessel like a 401k into the account. Otherwise and unfortunately, you can’t do things like take stock shares in a regular account and transfer them directly to an IRA. Rather, you would have to sell your shares and use the proceeds as a contribution to your IRA. From there, you could buy shares of the same stock again if desired, but that wouldn’t be so wise because of the taxes you would have to pay on the stock sale. I would love to make a hefty profit, then move it to a tax-advantaged account, but it’s just not to be.

That just about sums about my recent discoveries for now. If you have any questions or have your own helpful tips to add, feel free to comment below. Happy investing, and good luck!