technology

USB Device Not Recognized with your iPod Nano

I’ve had my iPod Nano for just under a year now and really like it. It’s not the most full-featured mp3 player on the market, but it does have a slick interface and works really well… for the most part. So, when I started experience bizarre errors with my Nano about 3 months ago, I started to get a little worried. I quickly checked Apple’s website to see if my Nano was still under warranty, which it was, so I breathed a little easier, but I still didn’t know what was causing the problem with my iPod.

nano

Here’s what was happening. About 50% of the time I’d plug it into my computer and it would work fine. The other 50% of the time I’d plug it in via the USB cable and I’d get the following messages:

First I’d get this lovely one from Windows:

found new hardware

(Text: “Found New Hardware – A problem occurred during hardware installation. Your new hardware might not work properly.”)

I also occasionally got this error in ITunes, which really confused me:

itunes error

(Text: “iTunes cannot read the contents of the iPod “CRAGUNPOD”. Use the iPod Updater to restore the iPod to factory settings.”)

Since my iPod worked 50% of the time, I knew deep down inside that this just didn’t make sense. Here’s a photo of my iPod connecting to iTunes just fine:

connected to Itunes

You can also see in the above photo that the USB connection icon in the taskbar is weird looking compared to how it normally looks when it corrects okay:

good connection

And since my iPod played just fine, I was skeptical that the problem was with the iPod. Even so, there were two more error messages I’d get that didn’t make much sense to me, but do explain why some people recommend some completley useless solutions:

Error #2:

perform faster

(Text: “This device can perform faster – This USB device can perform faster if you connect it to a Hi-Speed USB 2.0 port. For a list of available ports, click here.”)

I knew this error didn’t make much sense since all of the ports on my computer are USB 2.0. Even so, it seems to indicate there may be a problem with my ports or maybe with the USB drivers (more on this below).

Error #3:

usb not recognized

(Text: “USB Device Not Recognized – One of the USB devices attached to this computer has malfunctioned, and Windows does not recognize it. For assistance in solving this problem, click this message.”)

This last Windows error caused me the most grief. This seemed to indicate that my Nano was malfunctioning. But, again, since it played fine for me when it wasn’t connected, I didn’t think the iPod was the problem.

So, what to do? As any relatively tech savvy geek would, I turned to the internet. I typed in “USB Device Not Recognized” and iPod Nano in Google and got a variety of results. Other people were experiencing similar problems – lots of people (which is probably why you’re here too)! The solutions offered seemed to make sense considering the errors that were popping up. Here are some of the solutions I tried:

Wrong Solution #1:

device manager

Reinstall all of your USB drivers – One forum recommended deleting all of your USB drivers from the Device Manager and reinstalling them all after you reboot. You right click on each of the entries under Universal Serial Bus controllers and delete them. I tried that, and it seemed to work, once. But, surprise, surprise, I got the same error later on.

Wrong Solution #2:
Missing USB .dll file – One website recommended checking to see if you were missing a .dll file that is necessary for USB 2.0 drivers to work. Since I had the file in the right folder, that wasn’t the problem.

Wrong Solution #3:
Reset The iPod Nano – This was probably the most common initial response, and was, of course, completely useless. You can reset your iPod by holding down both the Menu button and the center button for a few seconds. Sometimes it would seem to work and the iPod would connect, but other times it wouldn’t do anything. Again, this is not the solution.

Wrong Solution #4:
Restore the iPod to Factory Settings – This is what was recommended by the iTunes software in the error message above. This solution, however, is the most annoying of them all. Why? Because I couldn’t get the damn iPod to connect to a computer to reset it!!! The only way to reset an iPod to the factory settings is to connect it to a computer that has the iPod Updater software installed on it. And since the problem was with getting the iPod to connect to the computer in the first place, this was even worse than useless.

Wrong Solution #5:
Put the iPod into Disk Mode – A little known feature of the iPod is the ability to put it into Disk Mode. Apparently this turns your iPod into a fancy storage drive, but it doesn’t solve the connection problem. Once again, useless.

Wrong Solution #6:
Revert your USB ports to 1.0 – Some “genius” on one forum suggested reverting your USB ports back to 1.0. A real winning solution. This isn’t even possibly on most computers (unless your original hardware has USB 1.0 ports). Don’t even bother with this one…

Wrong Solution #7:
I tried a few more of the wacky, worthless solutions people blindly threw out on the internet, but nothing seemed to work. Frustrated, I took my iPod into an Apple store to the so-called “Genius Bar” where the “genius” plugged my iPod into a computer and it worked fine. At this point I began to wonder if maybe the problem was with my connection cable, so I took that along. He tried it with my cable – no problem. He then gave me a look as if to say, “Why bother me, a genius, with your petty problems. You’re an idiot; now leave!” (Actually, he was nice, but, like so many other solutions, completely useless.)

Wrong Solution #8:
Out of options, I broke down and tried the two solutions I didn’t think would work but had not tried. I reinstalled iTunes. No luck! Then I reformatted my Windows XP computer. Yep, I reformatted the whole damn thing – spent an entire afternoon fussing with it (I’m actually pretty good at it and don’t mind doing it every now and then, so it wasn’t that big of a deal). Guess what? Reformatting didn’t do a damn thing. I still had the same connection problem!!!

Wrong Solution #9:
At my wits end, I decided that I had to rule out every possibility. I broke down and bought a replacement cable for my iPod at CircuitCity. Thirty dollars later I learned that I could experience the exact same connection problems with the replacement cable that I could with my regular cable. It wasn’t the cable. (I did return it – thanks CircuitCity, and sorry about the packaging…).

Out of possible solutions, I seriously considered selling my iPod on Ebay and being done with it. I’d buy some cheap knock off and listen to podcasts on that device. I was seriously frustrated. I’m usually very good at troubleshooting things but I was bordering on defeat….

Then, in a flash of my own “genius,” I tried something different. I straightened out the cable that connects the iPod to the USB port and plugged it into my computer. It connected fine, just like it did about 50% of the time. Then, hesitantly, I applied a little pressure to the end of the connector where it locks into the iPod and BANG!!!! Errors left and right!!!! All of the stupid ass errors I had been fighting with for the past three months showed up. Device Failure! USB Device Not Recognized, etc.!!!! I had finally figured out the problem – the proprietary connector end of the USB cable that comes with the iPod Nano isn’t very good at getting a solid connection. If you tweak the connection just a little bit, all hell breaks lose! Here are some pictures to illustrate what I’m talking about:

Here’s a picture of the connection port on the iPod Nano:

port

Here’s a picture with the iPod slightly angled so you can see how sensitive the connector inside really is:

connector at an angle

As you can see, it’s just a thin little wafer inside there that sends all of the data back and forth. It’s pretty flimsy and has a lot of little connection grooves on it – connections that are easily lost when you add a little pressure to the cable.

Here are two pictures of me holding the Nano. The first is with the cable straight in:

straight

And here I am tweaking the connection just a little bit:

tweaked

I’m really not putting much pressure on the cable connector and you can see that it is bending away from the iPod. With just that much pressure, the connection between the computer and the iPod is lost. And just so you know I’m not making this up, the screenshots I used for this post were taken today, after I figured out what the problem was (I actually figured things out about a month ago). I tweaked the connector just a little bit and the errors started popping up. I hated making my computer experience the error again because I’m not exactly sure what damage is caused as a result. Certainly the stress on the Nano’s interface isn’t good, but in the name of spreading information, I took the risk. As any good scientist will tell you, in order to test a hypothesis you need to conduct an experiment. I predicted that the problem was the connection between the cable and the iPod. When I tweaked the connection, I got the errors. When I reset everything and made sure there was no tension on the connector, no problems. In my book, that means hypothesis confirmed: the problem is the connection.

Now, understand, I’m a pretty clean-living guy. I may have a few cables running here and there, but I treat my equipment really well. I wasn’t putting any real undue pressure on my iPod cable when I started getting these errors. I wasn’t careful about having my iPod sitting level, but I didn’t think that would be a big deal. I wasn’t sitting there tweaking it or anything. I just started one day. I don’t get the errors anymore, but then I’m fairly careful to lay my iPod completely flat on my desk and make sure there is absolutely no tension on the connector when I connect it. Just the slightest bit of tension will cause the error. I’m guessing that just with regular use this problem will develop in many iPods over time. Why? Poor design! Apple likely went with a proprietary connector to make money. You can buy a regular USB cable for a couple of bucks. Apple charges $30 for a replacement iPod cable! They went with a proprietary connection to make money and that connector is awful (can you say class-action lawsuit?)! It is extremely sensitive and the slightest bit of tension on it will result in errors that don’t make sense to mere mortals.

So, what’s the right solution?:
Lay your iPod flat on a hard surface and make sure there is no tension on the connector. Make sure your cable is straight and connected properly to the iPod. Now, before you plug in the USB side, restart your Windows computer and reset your iPod (hold down the menu and center buttons for a few seconds). Resetting everything seems to be necessary as the error gets everything screwed up (I’m not a programmer or tech genius, but I know it works). With everything reset and your computer back on, plug in your iPod and see if you get the error. I’m betting you don’t. If you do, and you get it all the time on every computer you try, I’m guessing the connection port on your iPod is now shot. Take it into Apple and exchange it!

If this solution doesn’t work for you, well, you can post a comment below, but I’m not making any guarantees. Like I said, I’m not a computer genius. But having tried all of the other solutions I found, I’m fairly confident this is the answer.

technology

Removing Tivo encryption without Sonic software

I bought a Tivo about 6 months ago knowing that Tivo was planning on releasing the Tivo ToGo feature sometime during 2004. Well, as it turns out, it took until early 2005 to release this software update so you could transfer the shows/movies/programs you record on your Tivo to your home computer. I had actually been using my VCR to transfer those shows to my computer prior to the release of the ToGo feature. It took a lot longer to accomplish, involved a lot more steps, but was doable. So, it kind of goes without saying that I was excited when Tivo finally got around to releasing this software update which meant I could transfer shows/movies/programs to my computer wirelessly then burn them onto a DVD for archiving.

But, as it turns out, Tivo decided to encode the programs so you can only watch them on a computer with the Tivo Desktop server software installed. Or, if you want to pay an additional $50+ you could buy a program from Sonic that would remove the drm encoding and allow you to burn the programs to DVD. I’m cheap (even though I bought and use a Tivo) and have no interest in purchasing additional software just so I can already use the software I have (Nero and video editing software) to burn shows to DVDs. So, I searched around a bit on the internet after the ToGo feature finally made it onto my Tivo (in February 2005, almost a month after they started releasing the feature) and found a way to remove the drm encoding so I could edit the programs – remove the commercials – and burn them with the software I already own.

My information for how to do this and links for the required programs can be found on this site:
http://andrewconnell.com/blog/archive/2005/01/22/868.aspx

While the process isn’t really that complicated, there are some specific steps that need to be taken and the directions on the site above aren’t perfectly clear. So, I figured I’d post my own directions with nifty pictures.

1) Of course you need to the Tivo desktop server software installed on your computer so you can transfer the shows. I’m not going to provide instructions on how to transfer programs to your computer as that is covered in detail by Tivo on their support site.

tivo 4

tivo 2

tivo 14

I will note, however, that Tivo shows are stored with the .TiVo file extension. Files with this file extension have the Tivo drm/encryption and whenever you try to open them to play them you will be prompted for a password (more on this below).

2) To remove the DRM/encryption, you need two other pieces of software:
-XMuxer
GraphEdit
(I’ve provided the same links as are found on the site above. In case it is illegal to distribute or re-distribute the software, I’m just providing links to other locations where the software is available and not providing the actual software here.)

3) You’ll need to install both of these pieces of software. You should not need to change any of the default installation settings.

4) Once you’ve installed XMuxer and GraphEdit and have transferred a program to your computer, you’ll need to open GraphEdit.

graphedit1

5) Inside GraphEdit you’ll want to open the program from which you want to remove the encryption/drm. You’ll notice that the default file extension for opening files in GraphEdit is as a ‘Filter Graph’ (see picture below). Change this to ‘All Files’ (see picture below). Then navigate to the folder where your TV file is stored.

graphedit2

6) Once you find the file you want to clean up, click on it and select open. Before it will open in GraphEdit, you need to provide the password Tivo requires to access files with the .TiVo extension:

graphedit3

7) Enter your password that you set when you installed the Tivo desktop server software and the file will open in GraphEdit and look something like this:

graphedit4

I don’t really claim any expertise on how this program functions, but if I’m not mistaken it basically is a graphical representation of the different pieces of software that are going to be involved in opening, decoding, and playing back the Tivo file.

8) Once you get it opened up, you’ll want to delete parts of the process so you can replace them with your own. You’ll want to delete everything after the ‘Moonlight-Elecard MPEG 2 Demultiplexer’ if you, in fact, have that included in the process. If that component is not included, you’ll want to delete everything after the actual show (the box with the ‘program name’ + the .Tivo extension). GraphEdit should now look like this:

graphedit5

9) Now you need to insert your own pieces of software into the decoding process. To do this, you go up to the ‘Graph’ menu and select ‘Insert Filters’:

graphedit6

10) If you had the ‘Moonlight-Elecard MPEG 2 Demultiplexer’ already in the process, you only need to insert two elements. If you didn’t have it, you need to insert three. The filters/elements you need are found under the ‘DirectShow Filters’ submenu:

demultiplexer

11) You want to insert the ‘Moonlight-Elecard MPEG 2 Demultiplexer’ first if you don’t already have it (picture not shown). You’ll then want to insert the ‘Moonlight MPEG2 MultipLEX’ filter (select it and hit ‘Insert Filter’):

graphedit7

12) Next you’ll insert the ‘Moonlight DumpPos’ filter:

graphedit8

13) When you click on the ‘Moonlight DumpPos’ filter and hit ‘Insert Filter’, a prompt will pop up wanting to know where you want to store the output file. This is actually a very important part of the process that you don’t want to mess up. When this prompt comes up, you can choose to name the file whatever you want, but you need to specify the new file extension. I usually rename the file the same thing as it was previously named, but you have to make sure you change the .TiVo file extension to .mpeg. If you don’t do this, the file is virtually unusable because the drm/encryption is gone but it is still recognized as a Tivo file. In short, make sure you rename the file extension to .mpeg or the file is worthless:

graphedit9

14) Once you’ve inserted all of the filters you need, you will then have to draw connections between them all. This can be a little annoying as everytime you draw a connection the program moves all of the filters into a line. Since I use dual monitors, I just expand the window so I can see everything, but it’s really just a simple matter of dragging everything onto the main window once they’re all connected (video goes to video, audio goes to audio). Your final GraphEdit window should look like this:

graphedit10

15) With all of the filters in place, all you have to do is hit the play button in GraphEdit. It will take a couple of minutes to process and output your new, encryption free .mpeg file, but that’s the gist of it:

graphedit11

16) The resulting file should be DVD compliant. If not, Nero or another DVD creation program should do whatever is necessary to convert it. I’m not providing instructions on turning the actual file into a DVD, for that you’ll need additional software – so you can use the instructions that come with it.

17) One last thing… In trying this process I have found that the resulting video footage can be pretty crappy. I have had some TV shows turn out absolutely worthless with stuttering and frames freezing. However, bad video footage usually isn’t a problem. Where I usually do have a problem, and this is with almost every file, is the audio and video get out of synch (there’s usually a 20 frame lag between audio and video). I’m not sure what causes this, but I usually end up using a video editing program to cut out the commercials anyway, so I adjust the audio and video to get them resynched during that process then output them from there as DVD compatible mpeg files. If anyone has any suggestions as to why my audio and video are not synched after removing the drm/encryption, please let me know.

Note: You can put other videos back on the Tivo and they don’t have to have come from the Tivo to begin with. They just have to be in the same format that Tivo uses, which is an MPEG2 format. This screenshot from the program GSpot reveals the settings you should use if you want to convert a video into a format compatible with Tivo. It’s basically SVCD format, if you have that option:
gspot

technology

How To Fix the Azureus “File Close Fails” Errors

I occasionally use Azureus (a bit torrent manager) to find episodes of TV shows I missed (which I promptly delete) or to download open source programs (I never use it for anything illegal of course ;). Anyway, a few weeks ago I downloaded a few torrents and started them in Azureus. I was headed out of town for about 10 days and was going to leave my computer running while gone so I could access any files I needed. With the torrents I downloaded running, my computer would have something to do for the 10 days I’d be gone.

But no sooner had I walked out the door and gotten a chance to check on my computer then I started noticing some strange errors in Azureus. I was suspicious at first that it may have to do with the fact that I was downloading a whole bunch of torrents and may have run out of hard drive space on my “torrent” drive (an old 80gb drive used just for torrents). I checked the drive space and it was getting low, so I stopped a few of the torrents, deleted the files they had downloaded, and figured that would solve the problem, freeing up some space.

azureuserror1g.jpg

No such luck. The next time I logged into my computer I found the same errors. There are, in fact, two separate errors that pop up and I wasn’t really sure what was going on.

azureuserror1i.jpg

The first error says:
File close fails: D:\torrents\**************** (The process cannot access the file because it is being used by another process), open fails, flush fails

azureuserror1j.jpg

The second error says:
Disk read error – D:\torrents\******************* (The process cannot access the file because it is being used by another process), open fails

If you look closely at the error messages, the error is on a specific part of the torrent that is being downloaded (in this case they are .avi files). I wasn’t sure what the problem was, but continued to think that it may just be these particular torrents since I had never had this problem before or it may be tied to my earlier problem with the hard drive being too full.

azureuserror1h.jpg

Either way, if I stopped the torrent and then started it again, the torrent would reset (Azureus would check each torrent again) and then run for a while before giving me the error again. Since I could get it to go away and each torrent would run for a few hours before running into the error, I figured I could live with the problem for a while.

Well, I tried that, but eventually the error messages got so bad that I decided to do a little sleuthing on the internet to see if anyone had encountered a similar problem. It took some searching, but I finally found someone who had a solution to the problem. The culprit wasn’t my low hard drive space, Azureus, or the torrents. The culprit was, get this – Google Desktop. That’s right, it’s the nifty program I use once every two or three weeks to find something on my computer that has gone missing. Apparently Google Desktop was indexing my torrents while they were running. And if it was indexing the file while Azureus was trying to access it, they would run into a conflict and Google Desktop would win – blocking out Azureus and resulting in the error messages I was getting. I’m not positive on this, but I think I did upgrade Google Desktop around the same time I started getting the error messages.

The solution to the problem is actually pretty simple – well, there are actually two solutions. The site I found suggested uninstalling Google Desktop. I thought that was a little overboard, so I went with the second option – telling Google Desktop not to index that hard drive. It’s a simple little process; here’s what you do:

(1) Right click on the Google Desktop icon in your task tray and go to “Preferences”

azureuserror1b.jpg

(2) Search for where it says “Don’t Search These Items”

azureuserror1a.jpg

(3) Enter in the location of your torrent files:

azureuserror1f.jpg

(4) Then save your preferences:

azureuserror1d.jpg

(5) You should see a “Your preferences have been saved” message:

azureuserror1c.jpg

(6) Restart your torrents and you should be good to go.

The website I found said it had some issues with getting Google Desktop to not index the torrents after telling it not to. After I told it not to, I didn’t have a problem (I waited two days and had no more errors). In order to get pictures for this “how to,” I again allowed Google Desktop to index my torrent drive and within about six hours it had killed all of my torrents. So, I’m almost 100% positive this was the problem.

technology

Checking the signal level on your Toshiba Cable Modem (PCX2200)

pcx2200.gif

I’ve had RoadRunner high speed internet access for nearly a year now (7/2004-5/2004), and for 6 months of that year, I have experienced intermittent signal loss. What this means is that I lose my connection to the internet at random times and for no apparent reason (e.g., webpages don’t load, IM doesn’t work, downloads don’t work, etc.). Of course to me this is a problem, but I have had a hard time convincing RoadRunner that it is a problem. Much of what makes this problem tricky is that my ‘cable’ light on my modem stays on, which is supposed to indicate that the modem is receiving a signal and is connected to the RoadRunner network. As the technicians at RoadRunner have repeatedly pointed out, if the light is still on, I should have a connection. But I don’t. And, it is often the case that if I unplug my modem, then plug it back in (which is the only way to reset it), I can get the signal back, at least until it goes out again (which could be 5 minutes or 4 hours later).

After nearly a year of complaining about this problem, I have finally been able to figure out what is really happening. The problem is that the strength of the signal making it to the modem is really, really low. But, there is a signal and it is high enough that the modem believes there is a connection, so the cable light stays on.

I have fought with Roadrunner for six months to convince them that there is a problem, and that the problem isn’t on my end. I use a router to connect the four computers I have at home. RoadRunner first blamed my connection problems on that. I disconnected the router and still lost the signal. Then they said it might be my computers. But why would all four of my computers lose their connections simultaneously? They don’t all have bad Network Interface Cards (NICs), and I know that for a fact because two of them are laptops and they work when I take them to school. I do have to admit, however, that the technicians have admitted that my signal is low but they never seemed to think it was much of a problem and they definitely have never seemed to want to do anything about it.

Now for the educational part… What does it mean when I (or the technicians) say my signal is low? From what I can gather, signal level is measured in dBmV (deciBel milliVolts; don’t ask me what this means, I don’t know). This site, and the last cable technician that came out to check my line, says that the recommended signal level is in the 0 to 2 dBmV range. My signal is -14.1 dBmV. Apparently, according to RoadRunner’s technicians, -14.1 qualifies as ‘low’ signal, but not a ‘bad’ signal. Of course, the technicians don’t want to admit that the result of my ‘low’ signal, is that I intermittently (and for no apparent reason), lose my signal. One website I found referred to this phenomenon as ‘losing synch’.

Even though the technicians were telling me my signal was low, they weren’t actually talking in terms of numbers. They just kept speaking to me euphemistically about ‘low’ and ‘bad’, with no concrete information or numbers being passed to me, the consumer. This was bothersome and I really didn’t know what to do about it. After all, what do I know about cable signal levels? What’s more, the only way that the technicians had checked the signal level was to hook up a fancy gadget to my cable right where my modem plugged and and, voila, there was the signal level. But one technician actually spilled the beans about self-checking my signal level when he did it while I was on the phone with him from wherever he was located. Perhaps I should have known this was possible before he did it, but I didn’t. However, once I realized it was possible, I decided I wanted to know how to check it myself so I would have solid evidence for when I had to call for service again.

So, what I have done below is outline how to self-check your modem’s signal level. It’s a little complicated and took me a while to figure out, but now that I know how to do it, I figured I’d share this with everyone else. Also, this is really only complicated because this particular type of modem does not broadcast its public IP page on the same network as the internet (if you don’t understand that, don’t worry, I don’t really either, but that’s how it makes sense to me). So, what you need to do is change your network settings so you are on the same network as your Toshiba modem (along with most other DOCSIS modems), then you can check its status and the corresponding signal level. This won’t tell you whether you are connected to the internet (a nifty program called PingPlotter will help with that), but it will tell you how crappy your signal is. You can then use this information to call RoadRunner and chew them out.

So, this is how you check your modem’s signal strength:

1. You need to connect directly to your modem, so plug the ethernet cable coming out of your modem directly into your computer’s NIC (network interface card).

2. Open ‘Network Connections’ on your computer:

checktoshiba2.jpg

3. Choose your Local Area Connection, right click it, and click on ‘properties.’

4. This will pull up a new window called ‘Local Area Connection Properties’. Look for an item that says ‘Internet Protocol (TCP/IP)’. Select it, then click ‘properties.’

checktoshiba4.jpg

5. This will pull up another window labeled ‘Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) Properties.’ The button next to ‘Obtain an IP address automatically’ should already be checked (see the picture below). However, what you need to do to get on the same network as your modem, is set a static IP. You do this by checking ‘Use the following IP address:’

checktoshiba5.jpg

6. When you click the button next to ‘Use the following IP address’, it will demask the boxes and let you enter in numbers. The numbers you want to enter are:

IP address: 192.168.100.2
Subnet mask: 255.255.255.0
Default gateway: 192.168.100.1

checktoshiba6.jpg

7. That’s it. Once you have entered those numbers exactly, you can click ‘OK’ at the bottom of the ‘Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) Properties’ box and ‘Close’ on the ‘Local Area Connection Properties’ box.

8. Now, pull up your browser (Mozilla, Internet Explorer), and type in the following URL: . What should come up is a screen that looks like the following:

checktoshiba1.jpg

9. This will tell you your signal strength (circled in red). If it is below 0, you’ve got a problem. You can then proceed to hound RoadRunner until they come rewire your house or whatever else is necessary in order for the problem to get fixed. Or, you can just do what we are probably going to do, get DSL.

Reference site:
DOCSIS Diagnostics page