Upgrading your Shaw HD PVR

I was searching the web recently trying to figure out how to move recorded content from my Shaw HD PVR to my DVD recorder via firewire. While searching I saw that many Shaw users were indicating that their Motorola HD PVRs had received the firmware that enabled the eSata port on the back of their boxes. More searching indicated that the while the firmware could activate the port it was not yet active. Forum posts indicated that Shaw had told several people that the ports would be activated soon.

Last week while checking out the Shaw site, I saw that the Shaw was now selling a PVR expander for 200.00 CAD. This PVR expander is a Western Digital external 1TB eSata drive. I called Shaw to find out if you needed the Shaw PVR expander or could you use any external eSata drive.

Update November 13, 2009 – I just found out that Shaw has dropped the price of their PVR Expander to 150.00 CAD. TIt looks like they now have the Western Digital drive and a Seagate Drive Available.
I was told that you could use any drive, and that the eSata ports on the Motorola boxes were globally enabled at the end of October.

I ran down to Memory Express (http://www.memoryexpress.com) where I picked up a Velocity external USB/eSata enclosure and a Seagate 1 Terabyte drive for 119.00.
Once I got home it took me about 15 minutes to install the drive in the enclosure and then another 5 minutes to plug it into my Shaw box’s eSata port and get it powered up. When I fired up the Shaw box it indicated that I was not authorized to have an external drive. I 10 minute call to Shaw Technical support and the enabled the port on my box and rebooted it.

When the box came back on it indicated that the drive was not formatted for the PVR and did I want to format it? I indicated yes and within a couple of minutes I flipped to the PVR menu. Sure enough all of our old recordings were there however there was a nice number 0% of space used. we have since recorded several shows and space is no longer an issue.

So I upgraded the box in less than half an hour with a new external drive and now we don’t have to worry about space. I haven’t tried this yet but I should be able to plug in yet a different eSata drive if I ever need more space. I should be able to swap between a couple of drives over time.

Shaw indicated that they wouldn’t support a drive other than the one they are selling however it is a very easy procedure. One problem with the Velocity enclosure is that it is a little noisy compared to the Western Digital firewire enclosure I have but it is not too bad. If you are looking at a little quieter solution Costco in Calgary is selling a 1 TB external drive with USB, Firewire and eSata for 159.99. So it is still 40.00 cheaper than the Shaw drive. See below for updates. There is not really much to performing this upgrade. If your port is not activated it is a simple call to Shaw support asking them to activate it which requires a box reboot and you lose your programming guide and menus for a short period of time, but it truly is a plug and play install.

I have read that the largest drive supported is 1 TB but I haven’t confirmed that as of yet but better to stay with the 1 TB size. It will give you significantly more recording space than the default 160 GB drive that comes with the box.

Important Update November 19th, 2009

I have been reading the forums and have discovered a few things about upgrading your Shaw PVR with an external hard drive enclosure.
1) There is a problem with external enclosures that feature a sleep or low power setting (most of the desktop style drives from Western Digital and Seagate). These drives will go to sleep and not work with the PVR. The lower costs enclosures don’t do this nor do the dedicated PVR Expanders. I would suggest staying away from the Costco WD drive mentioned above.

2) There is a known problem where your Motorola Box will not be able to track space on the external drive and will always register at 0% full. Some people have had Shaw fix this by resetting their boxes several times however another reset (even a firmware upgrade or a power failure will reset this down to 0 again). When the box starts tracking again it will ignore what content is on the drive and start counting at 0 again not indicating how much space there is. To check you use the diagnostics. Power off your box and power it on hitting select immediately, go to PVR diagnostics and use option 13. The first two numbers on each drive will tell you space available on the drive in GB. Motorola will have to release new firmware to connect this and it looks like it might be spring of 2010 before seeing it. This happens with all drives attached.

3) If your PVR box is connected to your TV via an HDMI cable, some people have reported that they do not see the format option. Connect your PVR via component or composite cabling to the TV  to set up the drive

4) Once a drive is connected to the PVR it cannot be swapped. Contents are encrypted and tied to the box they are connected to. Swapping drives will not work as you will not be able to get your old content back after changing external drives.

5) The enclosures that Shaw sells contain special drives designed to record video. These are non error correcting drives (unlike desktop drives). I have had no issues with my EC drive but some people have reported video and audio dropouts in recorded shows and this can be caused by built in error correcting on the drives. With the lower price being offered by Shaw on their expanders (in addition to a 3 year swap warranty) I would suggest that these drives are the best way to go. I may soon be switching my drive to one of the Shaw Expanders.

Back Up Primer for Home Users – Part 1 – Hardware

I have posted similar articles in the past on this subject, but it seems that every 3 to 4 months, I end up working on a system that has crashed and the user did not do a backup!

Your PC or Mac can crash due to several different reasons; Malware and Viruses, Hardware failure (most typically Hard Drives) and Operating System crashes. A lot of clients say that they aren’t really concerned about their data until they learn that they can’t just re-download music from iTunes and that all of the digital photos they have taken for the last three years are gone. That’s when they panic!

Not every crash results in a loss of data, for example, a corrupted registry problem can be easily fixed and the data is easily recoverable from the system. However a physical hard drive crash (the only real mechanical part in a system) is a little different. Data can be recovered but it is costly.

I recently sent a 60GB drive into a Data Recovery Center on behalf of a client where the drive was completely dead. It cost the client 100.00 for the company to look at the drive and report what could be recovered. The cost of the Data Recovery for this drive was 1800.00 although almost all of the data was recoverable! Spending a little bit of time and money can save you from large bills like that if you have critical data on your system.

There are a couple of ways you can back up your system, A full system backup (usually an image based backup) that backs up everything or a data backup where you select only your data to back up. This is the method that I usually use because I can always rebuild my system with the original install disks and reinstall my applications.

Next you have to decide where you are going to backup to. Do you just want to keep a local backup or do you want to protect yourself from catastrophe (Fire, Theft, Flooding) and use an offsite backup or both?

Personally I use several methods to backup. I use a lot of local backups and for very critical data I also use offsite backup. The simplest method of maintaining an offsite backup is to keep a copy of the back up media in a secure place outside of your home (locked in your office desk, at a relative’s house, etc).

What You May Already Have

So what do you need to get started? At the very least you probably already have the most basic backup device already in your system. Virtually every system sold in the past 4 to 5 years will either have a CD Burner or better yet a DVD Burner in it. You can use this burner to backup data to a blank disk and store it some where. I have been using this method myself for a long time. If you only have a CD Burner you can put approximately 700MB of information on a single disk. If you have a DVD Burner you can put approximately 4.7 GB of Data on a disk. DVD disks can be purchased very inexpensively especially if you buy them in Spindles. I will typically look for sales and pick up 100 DVDs for less than 20.00.

While burning to a DVD or a CD is a good idea, but I wouldn’t rely solely on it. Cheap DVDs or CDs typically do not last very long and some can even go bad after even just a couple of years. If you plan on backing up this way for the long term, at least plan on buying Archival quality disks. These disks are designed to last more than a few years.

One advantage of backing up on DVD is that you can move the disks to another location to give you the added security of offsite storage. I buy inexpensive generic CD binders and keep copies of almost everything in these binders. Multiple copies can also be made and are ideal to keep a set  locked in a drawer at your office or at a relative’s house.

When I used to sell custom PCs, I usually suggested to my clients to build the system with a second drive installed in the machine. With this setup a client could store data or sync data on to the second drive and install programs and the OS to the primary drive. This gave them basic protection against OS Crashes or a hardware failure of the primary drive. Alternatively the client could use the second drive and some imaging software and run full system backups to the second drive on a weekly basis. I still build all of my personal machines with 2 hard drives for this reason. It is not fool proof though as you can lose your data if the 2nd hard drive fails. Some motherboards offer built in Raid controllers as well where Raid 1 can be configured. With this type of a system your primary hard drive is mirrored over to the second hard drive. This is an excellent solution but does make it a touch more difficult to add additional internal storage if needed and has to be set up (ideally) with the purchase of the system.

External Devices

With the popularity of laptops and netbooks today, or if you buy a prebuilt machine and don’t want, or can’t install a second hard disk there are still several options available to you. At the very least, consider a USB key or two. These have dropped in price significantly as well as increasing in capacity over the last little while. You can pick up a couple of 8 GB USB keys for about 40.00 CDN. With these keys you can copy your important documents over to them periodically (or use a little utility I will describe soon) and at least your most important stuff resides in a couple of places. A warning about USB keys however, these devices have a limit to the number of reads and writes they can handle so I don’t suggest relying on them for backup only. Also because they are so small, they can easily be misplaced and or lost and you don’t want your data ending out in the public if lost.

Hard drives have also considerably dropped in price significantly over the years. Along with this external USB drives have dropped in price as well. Some of the brand name drives come with backup software pre-installed on the drives. For example a 500GB Seagate Free Agent Drive sells for about 125.00 CDN and has software that can do backups for you automatically (Windows Only). If you are a Mac user look at a Western Digital My Book drive. Several other manufacturers offer external drives so shop around you may find some at a better price.These are desktop style drives and are not really portable as most require AC power. So if you are a notebook user and want to take the drive with you look at a 2.5” form factor drive. These are available again from a variety of manufactures but are smaller and generally can draw required power from the USB ports on your system. If you are lucky enough to have a FireWire or eSata port on your system consider an external drive that also offer these features. FireWire is as fast as USB 2.0 but is less draining on your system’s CPU during transfers and eSata is as fast as internal hard drives.

You could also make your own external drive by purchasing an enclosure and then buying an OEM hard drive. Currently the sweet spot for hard drives are the 500GB size. You can pick these up in Canada for about 75.00 (OEM Drives). You can pick up an enclosure for 30.00 or so and add the drive. The advantage of doing it this way is if you later want to increase the size of the drive as prices fall on the larger drive sizes you can easily replace the drive you purchased. The same thing can be done for smaller sized notebook (2.5”) hard drives for portable storage.

Personally on my desktop systems and my own and client servers, I have been using USB 2.0/eSata Hard Drive Docks. These are similar to the enclosures above however instead of opening the enclosure up and installing a drive, you can simply plug in a 3.5 or 2.5” Sata drive in the bay and away you go. I typically have these connected via eSata so they are hot swappable and when I want to change drives or one fills up, I eject it and plug in another drive. I have found a manufacturer that also makes Drive Boxes (similar to DVD cases) so when I pop a drive out I stick it in a box and on my shelf. The docks sell for about 50.00 and I found this this is a great way to rotate storage device around.

Another type of external enclosure I highly recommend is the Drobo. While not inexpensive the Drobo can do things that other types of enclosures just can’t do. The Drobo sells for 499.00 for the Firewire 800 / USB 2.0 version and 349.00 for the USB 2.0 only version. This does not come with any hard drives at all, but 4 drive bays. The Drobo is unique because it replicates the same type of functionality as a high end Raid 5 system most often found in servers and enterprises, but in a much simpler and flexible format. Where Raid 5 requires a fair bit of knowledge, hardware and specific hard drive configurations to work, the Drobo makes this very easy.

Raid 5 requires at least 3 hard drives of identical size to implement the original array and increasing the size of the Raid requires backing up all of your data, installing new drives of equal size, reformatting and then restoring data. The Drobo eliminates this completely. With the Drobo you can use up to 4 (minimum of 2) SATA drives of any size in the enclosure and it will give you storage and data redundancy where a part of each drive is used to backup parts of the other drives. With the Drobo if a hard drive fails or get’s full, simply swap it out with a drive of equal or larger size. Currently the Drobo can support up to 4 4GB drives. It also works on both PCs and Macs. You can learn more about the Drobo here.

Due to the amount of photos we take as a family, I currently store most of them on one of two Drobos (1 USB only, 1 Firewire) both filled with 4 500GB drives. Sysguy Consulting is a Drobo Authorized Reseller so if you are interested in seeing a demo of this device or to order please contact us.

Network Attached Storage Devices

If you have multiple PCs on a home network there are a couple of other hardware devices you can consider. For 250.00 you can add a device called the DroboShare to your Drobo unit. This device allows you to connect up to 2 Drobo devices to it and share them on a network via Gigabit Ethernet. You will take a little of a performance hit as the Drobo only connects to the share via USB but it allows you to share this device and take advantage of it’s data redundancies capabilities over your network and by multiple computers. We have recently received our DroboShare unit here in our labs but have not yet had a chance to set it up and test it. The new Drobo Dashboard software program (currently in Beta) comes with a utility called Drobo Copy which will allow you to set up folders and files to be copied or synced to the device.

Another device I can highly recommend is the DLink DNS-323. The DNS-323 is a network connected storage device. It allows you to install up to 2 SATA hard drives in it, and configure them as mirrored drives, a single large hard drive, or as two individual drives. I have been using one of these devices with a 400 GB and a 500 GB drive installed in it for a couple of years now and it has been great. I store things that I need access to from my multiple machines from on it as well as backing up Music and other documents to it. With recent firmware the device also servers as a Media server allowing us to stream Music, Pictures or Video to Xbox 360’s in the house or to the PS3. You can get a DNS-323 for about 160.00 CDN in addition to the cost of adding SATA drives. D-Link is also offering the DNS-323 bigger brother the DNS-343 that holds 4 Sata Drives at an MSRP of 658.00 with no drives.

There are other Network Attached Storage Devices available but many of these do require a little knowledge of Raid systems (unless you buy pre configured) and start at around 750.00 CDN.

Windows Home Servers

If you have multiple systems at home you may also want to consider a Windows Home Server. This is designed to be a headless device (no monitor, keyboard or mouse required), that connects to your home network. Windows Home Servers are available from a few manufacturers or can be custom built for you by a system builder. HP has one of the most popular WHS devices with it’s Media Smart Server line.

The HP Media Smart is a WHS with 4 drive bays, a low end processor and 1 GB of RAM. There are several models available and the most recent also offers support for Mac users (apparently this is coming for owners of the older versions). In the older 1 TB version of the WHS, 2 bays are available for expansion. So you can easily add additional storage to the device. I recently picked up the older 1 TB model of the HP Media Smart Server (EX475) in a clearance sale at half price (350.00). I haven’t set it up yet but soon will be replacing the WHS Beta box I was using as well as upgrading this machine to 2 GB of RAM and 2 additional 500 GB Hard Drives. I will post a complete review after it is set up and running for awhile.

With Windows Home Server there are different ways that you can configure the hard drives. You can have everything run as a single large drive or mirror the drives. Similar to the Drobo you can change the storage size by changing or adding drives. You can also add additional storage via USB and if available eSata docks. You can also set up some dedicated external drives for backup of your WHS device which is new in the latest update from Microsoft.

Once connected and set up (using the web interface) you install the included software on the PCs in your home. This will set up all PCs where the software is loaded to be backed up nightly to the home server box. If the PC crashes, simply insert the Client recovery disk into the PC and you can restore the entire device from the WHS. The only stipulation is that the computers have to be left on during the scheduled back up time in order to be backed up. One of the really great things about the WHS system backup is that it uses a single instance file storage system to save space. What this means is that if you are backing up 2 computers and it sees a file in the first one with a specific date, time and version if when it backs up system two if and sees the identical file on it, it will place a pointer to the file it already has, saving space on the storage device. Your first system backup on the WHS will take a while to complete as it has to back up everything on the system. After the first backup however things should be much faster as it will backup only changed and new files.

The really cool thing about the WHS is that it can do a lot more than just be a Networked Attached Storage Device. The server becomes a web server in your home so that you can access your files and shared files on the server from any Internet Connected PC. If you are using XP Pro or Vista Business or better on your home machine, you can use Remote Desktop and connect and work from your home PC also across the internet (this is a feature borrowed from the MS SBS team).

Because the architecture has an SDK (Software Developers Kit) several third party programmers have written numerous add-ons for the devices that also extend the functionality. There are add-ons that allow you to back up the server offsite (I will discuss this in the next post on backup), use it to stream media in your home, create web pages and photo galleries that friends and families can connect to and more. new add-ons are being created every week for these devices.

You can connect up to 10 client machines up to the WHS so for virtually any home the out of the box configuration works well.

WHS is also perfect for a small office. It gives the users virtually all of the features of a full server (no domain security though) but allows them remote access, backup and shared files.

Sysguy Consulting can custom build a WHS for your home or office as well. Contact us if you are interested.


When I first started this post I had planned on writing everything up. Then after I finished about the hardware required I realized it would be too long for just a single post. I will write a separate post about software you can use for backing up your system next.

While there is a lot of information provided here, I hoped to show that you really don’t need much in the way of hardware to backup your system. You can get the basic hardware for around 100.00 and with some free software I’ll discuss in the next post you can institute an easy back up routing.

If you have any questions please feel free to email us at sysguy at sysguy dot com.

Internet slow down with Shaw high speed

We have been getting a lot of complaints lately about clients Shaw high speed Internet service slowing to a crawl suddenly, and Shaw support being no help in resolving the issue. The Shaw techs are quick to blame the clients router or tell them that they have a virus. I actually stumbled across the fix this past summer. I have implemented it at a few client sites with good success.

Shaw has been changing their network around in the Calgary area for the last 8 months or so. As clients are moved off the older network they are being moved into a new IP address range. These new IPs start with 70.xxx.xxx.xxx.xxx as opposed to 68.xxx.xxx.xxx. The problem occurs with Internet Explorer and one of it’s settings.

To see if you are affected open Internet Explorer and go to a site that lists your IP address like www.whatismyip.com or www.ipchicken.com. If you see an IP address starting with 24.xxx.xxx.xxx you will be affected.

In IE go to the Internet Options settings (in IE 6 click on tools, internet options, or on IE 7 press the alt key to bring up the hidden menu or click on the tools button). From the dialog, click on the connections tab, then click on the lan settings button at the bottom. Uncheck the automatically detect settings checkbox and uncheck the proxy server checkbox. Click OK then click OK again. Close IE and restart it. Your home page should load faster, and checking your IP address using one of the sites above, you should now see your IP address start with a 70 number. Your browsing should speed up and you should be able to access almost all web sites properly again.

Some new Vista Performance Patches

Earlier this month Microsoft released some new performance patches for Vista that address issues like the file copying. They are not available yet as Automatic updates but can be downloaded from Microsoft’s site. http://www.microsoft.com/downloads and search for Vista.

They do improve Vista’s performance a great deal so we are advising clients running Vista to download and apply ASAP.

Shaw blocking port 25 outbound

Well it has been happening all summer but Shaw has been slowing blocking port 25 outbound on their connections. They are probably one of the last ISPs in North America to do so.

Does this affect you? Probably not! If you do use email accounts other than Shaw’s you probably are or will be affected. Here is what is happening, Shaw blocks port 25 outbound which is the port that email servers use to send and receive email. By blocking port 25 outbound your mail client can’t communicate on that port to your mail server. and therefore cannot send email. Telus has been doing this for sometime now and I was first made aware of Shaw’s changes in May of 2007. About a month later my connection started doing the same thing.

Their rational behind this is that it reduces outbound spam from their network, where in actuality one of the side affects is that it can make your non Shaw email look more like spam because of one of the methods of working around the block. 

This restriction can affect you if you have your own domain email, or if you use pop3 services for Gmail, Hotmail, AOL etc.

How can you work around it? Well if you have your own domain and use that email server, see if your hosting provider can set up your sendmail program (or mail server) on an alternate port (like 2525). If this is done go into your mail client’s advanced settings for the account and change the smtp port to the port that was provided. You should now be able to send to your own server.

If you don’t have the option to change the ports you will have to send email out via the Shaw (or Telus mail servers if your are with them) . Go into the account settings for your mail client and set the outgoing servers as your ISPs. For example with Shaw cable in Calgary it is shawmail.cg.shawcable.net.  If you are using a mail server other than your own domain you are essential done (although it is possible that you email will be marked as spam because the sending domain will not match the email domain). If you are using your own domain there is one other step you have to do. In order for your email not to be tagged as possible spam, make sure that you create an SPF record for your domain including your ISPs mail servers as authorized servers to send mail for your domain.

There are several web based wizards available that will walk you through the process of creating the SPF record (Microsoft has a good one). Create your SPF record and either add it (or have it added) to your DNS records as a txt record. This tells other mail servers that use SPF that your ISPs mail server is authorized to send on behalf of your domain and therefore it is less likely to be tagged as a spam email.

I have checked and this affects both personal Shaw accounts and commercial accounts. However my server running on a static IP address works fine.

Just another way that spammers have ruined our Internet experience!

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New Shaw problem – Access Denied with certain Web sites Fix included

I ran into some strange things using IE and my Shaw internet connection this summer. I would go to sites and would get access denied messages or it would say that I was a spammer. My wife even was denied the ability to do a Google search.

After some investigation I found the problem. I was using IE and it appears that the setup (automatically detect settings) was using Shaw’s proxy server and that was being blocked. Whenever I tried to access cbs.com I would get an access denied message. I tested this at a few client sites and saw the same behaviour. No problems when I used Firefox (recommended anyway). Going to whatismyip.com showed that my IP address was 24.xx.xx.xx which I know is wrong because I have one static and two dynamic addresses from Shaw and all three are supposed to be in the 70.xx.xx.xx range.

I find that this does not affect people with the older Motorola Cybersurfer modems either, only the docsis (small black ones). To fix the problem in IE do the following:
Open IE and click on the tools drop down (IE7) or on the tools menu in IE 6 and select Internet Options.
Go to the connections tab
At the bottom click on LAN settings
Uncheck the box that says automatically detect settings
Click OK all the way through to close the dialog boxes

I have reported the problem to Shaw technical support , but have not updated them with the fact that I have found this on other clients connections.


New Vista Performance Patches Released Yesterday

On Tuesday August 7th, Microsoft released a couple of patches for Windows Vista. One deals with Vista performance and the other deals with Reliability and compatibility. These patches are available for download as standalone patches and I am not sure if they will show up next week under the scheduled patch Tuesday downloads in Microsoft Update. I have applied both patches to two of my Windows Vista systems so far. I noticed very little difference on my Vista Ultimate Asus laptop with 2 GB of Ram after applying the patch. I did notice however a huge difference on my Intel Core 2 Duo desktop machine that has 4 GB of ram. As I had posted earlier the upgrade from 2 to 4 GB of RAM on that machine was not as smooth as I would have liked. After the upgrade the machine seemed like it would pause from time to time, It never displayed this with only 2 GB of RAM and would only occur for a few seconds. Various combinations of RAM sticks would make it worse or better. In the end, I found that 4 double sided RAM sticks ran better but the machine would still occasionally pause for up to a minute.

Since the performance patch directly indicated that it addressed memory management I applied that as soon as I got it last night. I have been using the machine (albeit via remote desktop) all day and there definitely seems to be an improvement in it’s performance and have not seen it hang all day. I have not tried it enough after the compatibility and reliability patch all that much to see whether there has been a difference.

Here are links to the Microsoft KB articles regarding the contents of the patches, and these articles contain links to the download site. Please note that you have to validate your copy of Vista as genuine.

Performance Patch KB Link


Reliability and Compatibility KB link


I would suggest that anyone running Vista may benefit by installing these two patches


Intel Wireless Card Woes

I wasn’t going to post a full blog entry for this, but was going to post it to my mini blog instead (http://sysguy.tumblr.com). Then I decided that other folks may benefit from this too, and the rant will be a little longer than I thought so I will post it here.

I have been having issues of late trying to hook up my Asus laptop to one of my wireless networks here at home, and yes I did say one of my wireless networks. With my back problems I have been working from home and off of my laptops of late connecting via remote desktop to my main PC. Rather than run 3 cables to the laptops I need I was hoping to hook up via wireless to do my work.

When I said wireless networks I did mean more than 1. At home I run up to 5 wireless networks at the same. My main network has an older Netgear WG602 Access point with one SSID and a Linksys WRV 200 router with two SSIDs set up on it, one is WPA security and the other is WEP for a couple of devices that don’t have WPA ability. My SBS 2003 server network has a Belkin N1 Wireless router set up in Access Point mode (I am testing the N speeds) and there is another Linksys WRV 200 with a wireless network set up for a new MS server I am in the beta program for. I am currently trying to connect to laptops to the various networks. My Asus Z62FM custom built machine with Vista Ultimate and an Intel 3945 ABG Mini PCI-E wireless card in it and my new Acer TM6292 laptop (Out of the box review coming soon) with an Intel 4965 ABGN mini PCI-E card in it and Windows XP Pro.

I know what many will say is that the interference from the networks is causing the problem, but I don’t think that this is the reason. All of the SSIDs are different and the devices are set for different channels. The Netgear on 11, the Main Linksys on 6 and the Belkin on 1. The Linksys on the beta server is currently disabled.

Let me start with the Acer machine. This one took a while to fix but I did fix it and it was strange. I updated the drivers to the latest Intel drivers for the card and could not see any of my wireless networks except for the one on Channel 11. I checked the settings on the card and could not figure it out at all. If I moved away from the other two wireless laptops that were there I could then see and connect to the other networks. But if I happened to lose the connection I could not re establish it without moving away again. I uninstalled and reinstalled the drivers several time. Finally I tried changing the ad hoc channel settings to channel 6. All of a sudden I could see the two SSIDs. This really shouldn’t be happening at these SSIDs are set up for infrastructure mode and not AD HOC mode. I have since been able to connect without problems and have been able to now see all of the three networks I have set up.

The 4965 card does have the problem that other Intel wireless cards have in that it will after a long period of time drop the connection. Re-establishing the connection usually involves disabling and re enabling the card in the Control Panel Network Icon. The problem also occurs after bringing the machine out of sleep mode or hibernation mode.

On my Vista Asus machine the problem seems to be specifically pointing at the network card itself. I have tried several fixes that I have found on the net and none seem to work. Again I was only seeing the network that was on Channel 11 (this is the default ad hoc channel setting in the Intel driver). Changing it to channel 6 allowed me to see the SSIDS on that channel. But for some reason I cannot connect to any of the networks. Nothing I tried worked (enabling/disabling the card, registry hacks from MS knowledgebase, disabling IP6). Finally I put in an old Netgear WG511 PCMCIA wireless card in the system and boom, I could see all of the SSID’s and connect to any network. There were a couple of problems that Vista identified that the router did not support and it offered to fix those. Once that was complete the card was stable and would connect fine. After a while I removed the card and connected with the Intel card and everything was fine for a couple of hours with it. After installing more software and rebooting the machine, I found I could not get connected with the Intel card but again had no problems with the Netgear card. Now this Vista machine has been newly reimaged twice this month (a couple of weeks ago I did it because of wireless problems) as well) and this last time I tried default Vista drivers, as well as the latest Intel ones.

I have picked up a used Dell DW1500 Mini PCI-E card from EBay to try in this machine. This card does feature the Draft n spec but I am more concerned about the connectivity of the machine. This card is based on the Broadcom chipset, and if it performs like the Broadcom card in my wife’s Acer I should be fine. I hate the idea of having to carry around a second wireless card in case I can’t connect with the one that I have.

Of course I will no longer be able to say that the laptop is a Centrino Duo after the change because one of the components will be gone (the Intel wireless card) but if this card works I will be happy. Watch here for an update after the card arrives and is installed.


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Strange Vista Networking Problem.

I have recently run into a strange problem with my main Windows Vista Ultimate system and my networking. So far both times that it happened to me were after Windows automatically applied Windows Updates and rebooted. The machine is based on an Intel Board with an Intel on board Gigabit Nic. It has been more of an issue lately as with my back injury (I can’t sit down) I have been using remote desktop to connect from my laptop down to my main machine to use some applications or access data.

I have tried to connect via remote desktop back to my machine but the desktop would not respond. I checked the machine and it was powered up and sitting at the log in screen. Logging in and checking the networks showed that the machine was connected to two networks, my own (private) and an unidentified network (public). There is only 1 network adaptor and no Bluetooth or wireless in this machine. Furthermore it was showing local only as connectivity.

Running diagnose and repair indicated that there were two network connections and to disconnect 1 and try again. Disconnecting the cable did no good. The first time this happened it solved itself after a reboot, when it happened today two reboots did not solve the problem. Finally I disabled the network card and re-enabled it and this solved the problem.

I am still not sure if this was caused when the machine rebooted when remote desktop was connected or if there was another reason. I will watch it a little more closely and see if the problem crops up again.

Hidden menus Vista and IE 7.0

If you open my computer or a Windows Explorer window in Windows Vista, you may notice that the menu is not there. The same applies if you have upgraded to IE 7.0 on Windows XP. One of the most often questions I get is “Where are the IE menus?” Actually they are there but hidden, and I have confirmed that this tip also works on IE 7.0 on Windows XP SP 2.

Open IE 7.0 and press the alt key on your keyboard. The old menu with file, edit, view, tools etc will now show up. The same applies if you open a Windows Explorer box in Windows Vista. Press the alt key and the old fashion menu shows up.

If you want the menu to always show in IE open the menu with the alt key. Go to view toolbars and check the menu bar. It is a little trickier for the explorer windows. Open my computer and open the menu. Click on tools, folder options and then the click on the view tab. Click in the box that says “always show menus”.