Thursday, November 13, 2008

Free phone, free video phone = skype

I purchased a Logitech camera a few months back pretty cheap after rebate, and now had an opportunity to use it with Skype. The allure of free skype-to-skype video phone calls is alluring, as well as $29.50 a year for unlimited USA skype-to-any landline phone calls. Not bad.

The great thing is that for callling Japan, it is only $9.95 a month, UNLIMITED Skype-to-Japan landline. Wow! How's that for keeping in touch???!!!!

Free download, and just need a cheap webcam: I recommend the Microsoft VX-1000 for $22, a bit more if you have to buy and ship. No need to go too fancy for megapixels, as you want fast streaming/compact video.

Gmail also just announced free video phone/messaging service, too. I will try that later, but I like Skype for the computer-to-landline paid service (but extremely cheap!!!).

Just note that if you are considering ditching your AT&T landline, then you will need a cell phone for 9-1-1 service. Computer phone companies can't reliably give that service, especially if your electricity is out, or your computer just crashed. But for most of us with cell phones, it may be time to ditch the wired phone to the wall, and just go cell/Skype combo.

Geek out,

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Sony Vaio PCV-W600G upgrade

The old 160GB hard drive was getting pretty full, especially with the purchase a year ago of an 8 megapixel camera with video, so Newegg supplied a 500GB hard drive for a pretty good price.

I also had a spare stick of 512MB DDR RAM, so wanted to put that in, too, to bump up the RAM to 768MB (from 256x2, or base 512MB).

Things were pretty straight forward, and both a hard drive change and memory upgrade require no more than a philips head screwdriver.

Step one is to look behind the screen and see a small button, which you depress and then slide the cover to the right an inch, and then lift out (as above).

Step two involves removing the one small screw over the small plate covering the RAM chips. Then slide the small metal panel and remove. Unsnap the memory release tabs, and insert new RAM (the Vaio motherboard can only support 2 sticks of 512MB DDR-333 SDRAM (desktop RAM, not laptop style). This is also known as PC-2700 as well (speed rating ~ 8 x 333MHz)

Now, time for a Hard Drive upgrade. You better have copied over EVERYTHING you will need to an external USB drive. Think about everything in "My Documents" (incl music, pictures, downloads, etc.). One thing easy to forget is Outlook Email and the Address Book, which is not routinely kept in My Documents, so you will need to export or backup Outlook or Outlook Express email & address book. Do a GOOGLE search on that topic...there are programs out there to do that too. Also think about stuff that is saved under the "Program Files" directory: tax returns, etc.

Consider if you have the restoration disks for your computer, or the ability to re-install Windows (CD + registration key, on the side of the computer). Also consider if there is some program you are using regularly, that you might not have the install disk... this is easy to overlook, and can be a deal-stopper.

The Vaio PCV-W600G originally came with Windows Home version, but I upgraded to WinXP PRO, which can be bought pretty cheap these days.

You're just better off copying the whole darn hard-drive to the USB hard drive (I like to have a backup hard-drive at least double the size of the computer it's backing up...)

Alright, to get the old hard-drive out, remove all the screws you can see holding on the back plastic panel. You will also need to remove two thin rubber "feet" off the bottom to remove two additional screws. Then using a thin screwdriver pop off the plastic cover.

Then, you will see the metal box holding the hard-drive on the back of the base unit. Remove those screws to the metal "box", and then remove the hard-drive cables for data and power, remove the mounting screws holding the hard-drive to the box, and slide it out.

Remove the old hard-drive.

Re-install the new hard-drive, and reverse the above to reattach everything to normal. Make sure you get your can of compressed air and blow out the years of accumulated dust, both back here and on any other air intake ports.

Voila! You've upgraded the hard-drive!

If you need to get into the BIOS for any reason, hit F2 a few times immediately after powering up the computer.

You will need your Restoration disk or WinXP install disk in the CD-ROM for the computer to boot and begin the process.

Once Windows is back up and running, let Windows go through the whole "update" process, which can take multiple downloads and re-boots, including SP3, which is humungous. Do *all* updates before installing ANYTHING else. When there are no more updates (go to to make sure), then save a Restore Point and name it "fresh install with updates" or some-such.

Now copy over all your My Documents folders (pics, music) from the external hard-drive. Reinstall your favorite Programs, and restore your Outlook Express emails (or Microsoft Office to get Outlook going).

Some great programs I always put on a fresh install:
All of these are free shareware, except for those marked with a *

Windows Defender antispyware
Avast antivirus
Firefox 3
Outlook Backup program
Framework .Net 3.0 with SP1 (required by many programs)
TweakXP Pro
Winamp 2.95 (fast and fluff free)
Yahoo Widgets
Cobian Backup
Roboform *
Microsoft Mesh (for networking my computers worldwide)
Tweak UI
MS Office * (also get Office Updates from
CD Burner XP Pro
Foxit PDF (see PDF files without the large Adobe download)
Printer Drivers
Image Resizer (microsoft free download)

Here's my favorite Firefox add-ons, too, which need to be re-installed:
IE Tab
AI Roboform
Download Statusbar
Tab Effect

Consider moving your email cache and address book to a folder in "My Documents" called "My Email"... that way it gets backed-up automatically when you make a weekly backup of "My Documents" to an external hard-drive (I use Cobian Backup, which is free and reliable).

Have fun,

Geek out,