Hulu Experience Problems Loading Advertisements

by jim on February 14th, 2012

A few days ago I starting having a problem with Hulu. Apparently it was having problems loading the commercials before the start of a TV show and so I wasn’t able to watch the shows. No matter what I thought to change, the problem persisted.

Imagine my surprised when I realized that it was my ad blocking plugin, Adblock Plus. Something changed in how Hulu was serving up ads in the last week and now Adblock was blocking those ads, which meant no TV shows.

So, the next time you’re having problems with Hulu, or any other site, try disabling your adblockers.

How to Delete Your GMail Account

by jim on February 8th, 2012

Let’s say you’re doing some spring cleaning and decide that you have a GMail account you no longer want, you can let it languish, never to log in ever again… or you can delete your account. If you delete your account, it’s gone forever in a matter of weeks. You won’t free up your username and you won’t be able to use that username ever again in the future. If you delete your account, it’s gone.

So how do you delete your GMail account? It’s actually quite easy.

You’ll need to look in your Mail Settings, which is the little gear icon in the upper right. Then go to the Accounts and Import tab at the top. On that menu, click on Other Google Account settings link and then Edit under My products. That’s where you’ll find some choices under Services. From here, you have two options:

  • Delete profile and remove associated Google+ features
  • Close entire account and delete all services and info associated with it

Clicking on “Close entire account and delete all services and info associated with it” will delete your account.

If you do change your mind, you have a couple weeks before they delete it forever. They tell you that it may take up to 60 days to be deleted but if you do want it recovered, the best they can do is recover the username.

So, if you want to delete it, you can… but there’s almost no going back.

Gmail Error 400 Using Google Chrome

by jim on January 4th, 2012

I don’t know what causes the Error 400 when I try to load up Gmail in Google Chrome but I do know the solution – clear your browsing history. The Error 400 is typically returned by a server when it thinks the client, in this case me and Google Chrome, has made a bad request. Since I was able to get into GMail using Mozilla Firefox, I knew it was a Google Chrome specific problem. If it were a problem with my computer, I’d get it across multiple browsers.

But upon clearing my browsing history, the error disappeared.

When I went to renew some expiring domains on my account, I noticed several had Private Registration, a service I no longer needed for those domains (a relic from a more paranoid time). The problem is you can’t simply “uncheck” Private Registration when you renew your domains on GoDaddy. If you try to do that, it simply ignores your choice. GoDaddy is pretty sly like that!

Instead, you’ll have to go to the Domains By Proxy site, log in, and cancel private registration from that side. If you don’t have your login credentials you can request it but it will add a few more steps, and headache to the process. I think it’s a little ridiculous that you are forced to manage private registration through another interface, especially since the two companies are owned by GoDaddy, but I suppose they do get a few customers each year willing to pay for private registration instead of figuring out how to turn it off.

Now wait… eventually it’ll percolate to GoDaddy and you won’t have to pay for Private Registration when you renew.

If you have a bunch of domains and want to do a “poor man’s” private registration, open up a PO Box and use that as your physical address. Depending on how many domains you may have, a PO Box could be a more economic solution… plus you get use of a PO Box.

How To Stop Google+ Notifications

by jim on July 9th, 2011

Did you just sign up for Google+ and are now getting a million notifications of who has added you? Tired of it?

Change your settings here:
https://plus.google.com/u/0/settings/plus

Enjoy!

How to Send Free Faxes

by jim on June 23rd, 2011

For years, a sense of dread always fell over me whenever someone I worked with requested a fax of something. I work out of a home office and since I have a cell phone, I don’t have a land line. I also don’t have a fax machine, a relic of the past. So whenever someone asks for a fax, I feel like it’s inefficient for me to drive to some fax place, send over a couple pages, and drive home. Most of the time I can simply scan the document and email it, but every so often someone will ask that I actually send a fax. Fortunately, there’s now a simple solution to my problem – Faxzero.com.

With Faxzero.com, you can send two 3 page faxes a day, which is more than I’ve ever needed, for free. If you need to send a larger document, they can send it for $1.99. They pay for the free fax by adding an advertisement on the cover page. (the paid version has no ad on the cover page)

It’s a great way to save yourself a trip.

How To Format an Xbox 360 Hard Drive

by jim on June 17th, 2011

My last XBox 360 just experienced a fabled E74 error and, very fortunately, I was just a few days from warranty expiration. While I was able to get that one repaired free of charge (they sent a replacement, a much quieter replacement), I realized that I still had my very dead, very E74’d five year old XBox sitting in a box. Since I had done quite a bit of research to find out how much it would cost to repair it, I thought I might get that fixed and then resold on Craigslist. There was only one hitch – I had a hard drive with a bunch of data on it (I’d long since migrated that data over to the new hard drive).

Fortunately, it’s easy to format an XBox 360 hard drive… or any storage device attached to the XBox.

  1. Write down your console serial number, located on the back of the unit. You’ll need this to confirm the format, this is so you don’t accidentally format something.
  2. Start the XBox without a disc so it goes to the XBox Dashboard.
  3. Select My XBox, then System Settings. Then select Memory.
  4. Select the storage device you want to format and then hit “Y.”
  5. This will give you the option to Format the drive, which deletes everything. Accept the confirmation message.
  6. It’ll ask you for that serial number, aren’t you glad you got that ahead of time?
  7. Wait.

That’s pretty much it. It’s best to do this before you sell your console so you don’t pass along any information you don’t want to.

What are Hotfix Uninstallers?

by jim on May 26th, 2011

Every so often I run a suite of tools designed to clean up space on my computer and speed it up. One of the tools is Piriform’s CCleaner, a fantastic freeware tool that does a mighty fine job of cleaning up the registry.

As I was looking through the Advanced section, which is normally all unchecked, I decided to check them all (except Wipe Free Space) to see how much I could save. Apparently I had 800+ MB of Hotfix Uninstallers that I could remove. What the heck are Hotfix uninstallers?

It turns out that every time you update Windows with a hotfix, it stores some data into an uninstaller just in case the hotfix breaks something. These are those hotfix uninstallers and they simply accumulate over the months and years. Chances are you have a few hundred megabytes locked up in these hotfix uninstallers. As long as you haven’t experienced any problems since the last update, you can safely remove them.

Keeping your system tidy is one way of helping it run faster.

Microsoft XBox E74 Error Warranty

by jim on May 19th, 2011

Two days ago, as I was playing Mass Effect 2 on my XBox 360, I noticed that the visuals were getting weird. There were random pixels appearing all over the place on some screens, perfect on others. I knew immediately, since this had happened just one year ago, that my XBox was about ten minutes away from dying with a classic E74 error. You’ll usually see one red light (lower right quadrant) and an ominous all text message on the screen.

The E74 error is a generic class of errors related to video output, which can mean anything from a bad cable to a bad graphics chip. If you’re lucky, it’s just the cable and you can just buy a new one. Chances are… you’re not lucky. It’s probably a failure in the ANA/HANA (for HDMI) scaling chip because the chip has come loose. When you run the XBox for extended periods of time, it heats up. Normally, this isn’t an issue, except in the case of this one ANA/HANA chip because of how it’s seated and mounted. After a while, the chip can come loose and you’ll experience an E74 error. This is what happened to me.

There are a lot of home-brew fixes, from wrapping it in towels to holding the chip down with pennies, but the only real permanent solution is to open it up, remove the chip, and reattach it. You can usually find someone nearby willing to fix it for around $40 (some guy in his garage) to $100 (a store).

One nice thing is that there is a three year warranty on XBox’s for this specific error. I bought mine refurbished last November (yes, it’s only lasted six months) and was researching local repair options (I’m really not that interested in opening it up and doing it myself), when I thought to check the warranty. It turns out that the person who previously owned it had it repaired last May… so I was within a one year warranty. I had until May 21st (yes, that’s in two days) to request a repair. I got off lucky.

If you have an E74 error, how do you check if you’re still under warranty? Easy, head over to the XBox Service Center, register your console, and then request a repair. You will find out if you’re still under warranty (at which point you can request a repair) or learn when it expired. Be sure to indicate it’s a E74 error, so they know that the warranty is for 3 years, otherwise you may not get the correct answer.

And do it now… the last thing you want to find out is that your warranty expired yesterday.

I use a portable hard drive (one of those Western Digital Passports) to store most of my files because I often find myself using several computers. It’s nice to have a local copy of some of my more often used documents, especially when I’m on travel and can’t necessarily connect to the internet (or I have files I don’t trust to be floating around the interwebs). As a result, I have several folders and file shortcuts on my desktop that get all jacked up whenever the drive letter of the Passport changes. What I don’t want to do is change each shortcut every single time, that’s a hassle. Fortunately, there’s a simple solution.

Really Easy Temporary-ish Way

The easiest way to do this is to use the subst command. Just go to Start -> Run and enter the following:
subst [drive 1] [drive 2]
This will map Drive 1 to Drive 2. In other words, if your shortcuts say E:\filename.txt and the file now resides at F:\filename.txt, you would enter:
subst e: f:/

This now maps both E: and F: to that drive, until you restart your computer. If you want to make that permanent, you’ll have to create a batch file, dump a shortcut to it in your Startup folder, and then it’ll do it every time.

Easy Way

Since I want my drive to always stick with one letter and because I’d rather not create another file to throw into Startup, this slightly less easy way will assign the letter to the drive permanently. If you did the subst, you’ll want to undo it:
subst [drive 1] /d

You can confirm the mapping is gone by typing in subst
.
Now, right click on My Computer and select “Manage…”. This brings up the Computer Management window, find the Storage item and then Disk Management underneath. In the list of drives you should see your USB drive, right click that and select “Change Drive Letter and Paths…” Make sure you aren’t running anything before you agree to the warnings and the drive should be mapped.

That’s it!