Troubleshooting Microphone Problems using Fortnite on PS4

My son has been playing the popular game called Fortnite www.epicgames.com/fortnite/ on PlayStation 4 for many months now. There is social component to the game where a team of players collaborate by using their headset and microphone in their party/group chats. One day, the microphone on my son’s headset stopped working in Fortnite.  The troubleshooting that father-son had to go through to fix the issue is worth blogging about because I couldn’t stand seeing him get declined from Battle Royale party invites and just playing the game solo which isn’t as fun. For a few days, he would FaceTime his friends on our iPad so that they can talk on the side while playing Fortnite on PS4. You probably won’t want to go through that scene as well so I thought it’s time to put in some of the troubleshooting skills that we are so good at and put that to good use so that others can benefit from our experience. Here are 4 phases you will likely go through to try and fix this.

1) The first thing that comes to mind is to replace the defective microphone with another proven working one. So I went and used my iPhone headphones, plugged that in to the PS4 controller and was amazed it didn’t work. This got me curious so I tried his old headset on my iPhone and used the microphone to call my wife’s cell phone. That worked well so there was nothing wrong with his old headset and my iPhone headphones.

2) The problem is probably with the game itself. Just like in Skype conference calls, others can mute participants at will, so I suspected that my son’s mic was probably muted during one of the party chats. We searched within the Fortnite application settings where that may be. We looked at YouTube videos to see where we can test the mic and also read some of the FAQs and forums on Fortnite’s website.

Since we couldn’t find where his profile might have been muted, we decided to delete the game and re-download/re-install it to attempt a fresh start. I posted a tweet on Twitter and Instagram to get some confirmation that his data and purchases will not get deleted as well as the skins we purchased for $13 from the online store. I also posted a question to the Fortnite support on the Epic Games website, haven’t heard back yet. Most of what I heard and read says that the data should be safe as it is all stored online with his profile account. Crossing our fingers, we deleted the game and waited 3 hours to re-download and re-install the game. After logging back in, all the data including previous purchases were still there (thankfully) but the mic was still not working for both microphones we have been testing with.

3) The problem is probably with the PS4 console itself. We combed through all the audio settings to see if a recent patch corrupted the drivers used for the old mic my son was using, or if the mic test bar flat lines just like it did in the game. The mic test on his old headset did not show any activity. Although there was some slight activity on mic test bar for my iPhone headphones, I couldn’t hear my voice and there was a screeching high-pitched sound each time I talked through the mic. I later learned from a BestBuy salesperson that this was normal for iPhone headphones due to its proprietary nature. So it is looking more and more like the issue is with the mic not working on PS4, although it works on my iPhone or mp3 player. I was going to open a support ticket with PlayStation helpdesk but since I subconsciously didn’t want there to be any issues with the more expensive PS4 console, I went back to my son’s initial suggestion that the mic was the culprit.

4) Go back to #1 and assume it’s the mic. My brother-in-law is also a gamer so we went to borrow the headset he uses for his PS4 so that we have a third mic to test with. It was a KOSS headphone and surprisingly it worked. It was definitely the two mics we were testing with that was the issue. Problem solved. We went to BestBuy and bought this $39 PlayStation Afterglow LVL 3 gaming headset because we wanted to make sure we didn’t spend anymore time on this.

Hope this helps you out.

 

Creative way of fixing a defective iMac video card

My brother’s 27 inch monitor on an iMac 2009 started displaying 5 pink vertical lines and wouldn’t progress after the default Apple logon screen.

He went to YouTube for help and found that the solution was to take apart the video card and bake it for 392 degrees Celsius for 8 minutes. This sounded like the same people who would post about exotic tips like charging an iPhone quickly by sticking it in a microwave; or drilling a hole in an iPhone 7 where the audio an auxiliary port is supposed to be. However, my brother was happy to report that it did work and that he now has his iMac back, good as new.

 

After baking the video card, the heat re-solders the connection and you get a few more years out of your video card after that.

3 apps to monitor and control your kids’ mobile usage

If you are like most parents with young kids, you will most likely have run into issues prying mobile devices and tablets away from your kids’ hands. In my house, my kids are only allowed to use these devices on weekends and only for a maximum of 2 hours. This is easier said than done however and they end up sacrificing quality time on their other activities so that they can get back to whatever it is they do on these devices. I heard at the school of a mobile app that they used widely to curb these addictions with kids and technology, and thought about trying it out. The app was OurPact. I have other devices to manage however so I had to hunt around for others.

The apps listed below allows for a trial period which then converts to a freeware license with a limit of 1 device that can be managed indefinitely. Here are the top 3 that I am using for both my iOS and Android devices:

  • OurPact
  • Kidslox
  • Qustodio

The setup was fairly similar among these apps, with a parent and child component to install. A VPN profile is pushed out for Kidlox and device certificates for the others. I liked OurPact the most because of the fast two button key stroke to disable my kid’s device. There also appears to be no limit where the other two blocked too many uses of the block/grant feature. I was able to navigate around this limit by using the time restriction schedule available in all 3 apps. By restricting usage to specific times of the day, it worked the same as sending a remote lock request to my kids’ devices. It just took a lot more keystrokes. Qustodio sends me daily email reports which I’m sure I can tailor but didn’t bother. The other two didn’t spam me which I appreciated and because I personally didn’t need to know what they were using the devices for, just that they stopped using them when I ask them to.

The overall winner for me is OurPact.

Moving to a different hosting provider

For close to a decade, our web hosting provider was with 110mb.com and byethost.com. This provider offered free hosting using MySQL and WordPress which was more than enough for our blog. However, a security flaw in one of the WordPress updates caused our site to be blacklisted on the internet and which resulted in getting our subscription revoked. We were provided a backup of the MySQL database and all the WordPress web server files, and then called it quits.

Using blogger.com seemed to be a good fit but we couldn’t restore the blog contents easily. Hunting around the internet, we found 000webhost.com which offered the same services as byethost.com. Tried it out a few months ago and have now just recently restored all the blog contents from a few years ago. We are now under way to getting all the pages back the way they were so stay tuned and thanks for checking back in with us.

Merry Christmas.

How to Recover Data from a Failing Hard Disk

One of the many things I dread is losing invaluable photos saved to USB drives. I have had it happen previously but I was lucky that some of the contents were saved to the cloud. This past weekend however, my 160GB USB drive started making a clicking sound and I knew that it was on its way out. I still had access to the contents but it was very slow to copy even a small JPG and AVI file locally. It was going to take days to complete the entire copy so I thought I would reboot the computer to improve performance. To my horror, the USB drive would no longer mount on restart. I tried different the USB drive on my laptop and other computers, with the same result.

I had a bootable utility CD that I use to repair damaged disks by running CHKDSK on them. I did this previously to another USB drive and ended up losing more data so I avoided this. This USB drive is really an IDE drive enclosed in a USB chassis so I took the drive out, changed the jumper to make it a slave, and connected it the IDE cable of another computer. I booted into the utility CD and loaded NTFSDOS Professional to see if it would mount the drive. It did. However, copying the contents also took the same amount of time and if it encountered a file on a bad sector of the drive, it would ABEND or BSOD. This won’t work.

I booted into the utility CD and ran the older Ghost 7 application. I did a partition-to-partition clone using the failing hard disk as the source and an equivalent IDE disk as the target. Before continuing, I made sure to check in the options, to continue with the clone even if it encounters errors along the way. During the process, the following errors would come up but it didn’t interrupt the clone:

“Bad block(s) encountered on read: 0x1, drive:129, 64 sectors starting from absolute sector 160857399”

The throughput was around 60MB/min, sometimes dropping drastically. This continued for 3 days before it finished. After it completed, I removed the drive and placed it back into the USB enclosure and I was again able to access all my invaluable photos and videos. I quickly made a backup of the entire drive up to the cloud.

Cleaning Code-injection Malware on Thanksgiving Long Weekend

I just finished removing a code-injected malware that blacklisted a website with security providers like Google and Symantec, and it had to be on this Thanksgiving Long Weekend. Nothing makes me more sick that having to deal with this type of cleanup but it has to be done. Our whole household is already sick with cough and flu so this adds to the fun.

I noticed the infection by constant emails from my service provider that my quota was getting exceeded. I know the site is popular but couldn’t be that popular. When I tried to get to the site using Google Chrome browser, I received a ominous red splash screen letting me know that there is malware on the site and that I should only continue if I understood the risks. Fortunately, I had the site registered with Google Webmaster Tools and was able to get a sample of the suspicious code injection. I also ran
//killmalware.com/, //www.siteadvisor.com/sites/aminsolutions.com, and //sitecheck.sucuri.net/ against the website to advise me what other sites see as a baseline prior to cleaning up the malware. This is what I had to do, without too much detail so that the hackers aren’t wise to the exact solutions:

  • Put the site into maintenance mode, displaying a friendly reminder to clients that this is scheduled;
  • If using CMS, update the platform to the latest version, including all security patches;
  • Register the website with Google Webmaster Tools to have it tell you what and possibly where the code-injection malware is on the site;
  • Search the web site’s file system for the sample malware code snippet returned by Google Webmaster Tools. Sometimes, it is easier to use Notepad++ to search through contents of every file so do this after downloading a copy of the entire web site locally to your computer. If hosted on the cloud, use your favorite FTP client like CoreFTP to download the contents;
  • After finding the code-injected malware, remove the malicious code;
  • Make sure you prevent future code-injections by following Google’s write-up here //support.google.com/webmasters/answer/3024344. Specifically look for malicious code that’s obfuscated to avoid detection, e.g. eval (base64 decode);
  • Get Google Webmaster Tools to re-review the site to ensure the malware has been removed. Make sure you configure the preferences to email you of any future malware attacks on the site;
  • Run //killmalware.com/, //www.siteadvisor.com/sites/aminsolutions.com, and //sitecheck.sucuri.net/ against the website to ensure it passes all the tests.
  • After tests pass, deactivate maintenance mode on the website to open it back up to customers.

Gobble gobble gobble. That’s how you serve this turkey to dinner.

What to do when Web Reputation Filters block your Websites

I was surprised to see the pop up message below when querying some of my websites at Best buy. The Web Reputation Filters used there says that my websites hosted on 10.179.104.111 are controlled by group or individual known to be malicious. I was blocked from opening my website. This isn’t good and I thought about doing the following to mitigate this serious outage.

1) Contact my web hosting provider to explain that their Web servers are on a bad block of IP addresses and let them sort it out with Web Reputation Filters.
2) Ask my web provider to move me to more reputed web servers on different IP blocks.
3) Contact Best buy support and ask them to unblock the IP or domain used by my provider, or have them fix the WBRS rating assigned to my provider ‘s domain.
4) Make immediate WordPress backups of my websites and start shopping around for different and reputable web hosting providers.

I haven’t decided yet but am leaning towards option 4. Your thoughts?

 

IT Support Do You Need It?

This is a guest post written by Muhammad Azam and he is known for his expertise in technology and IT support and solutions. If you are searching for reliable Manchester IT services or IT solutions for your business then read his blogs.


Businesses always need better ways to reduce their operational costs, without compromising the effectiveness or quality of work that is being done. Businesses today are driven by profit and every decision that is made is for increasing the profits and to make better use of company’s resources. In this era, new and unique ways are being developed to help businesses overcome hurdles and reduce the running cost of the businesses. Outsourcing of operations is one of the most unique and most reliable ways to do so because with the help of this method, a business can easily reduce its work force and the cost associated with employing such a work force.

Whether it is the finance department or the IT department, services are being outsourced to companies all over the world that can provide reliable and effective services for a very low cost. However, outsourcing IT services to overseas companies is not an option many businesses explore because there are limitations when it comes to outsourcing IT services. This is the main reason why businesses are forced to hire managed IT services that are situated in their area or city. Hiring a local professional IT company is a far better option as compared to an overseas IT support company because the services provided by IT support companies often requires visits to the business location, especially when a problem arises that cannot be taken care of remotely.

IT problems can arise at any time of the day or night and sometimes, it requires the presence of the IT professional on location to ensure hardware related issues are taken care of, if there are any. When you are thinking about hiring an IT support company, there are a few questions that you must answer in order to ensure that you are making the right decision for your business. Justifying the decision of hiring an IT support company is the most important thing because for this, you need to identify the reasons and their arguments as to why hiring an IT support company is the best course of action for your business. This is done before the managers start working the numbers and figure out if this option really is cost effective and reliable or not.

One of the most important questions to be answered is that, does hiring an IT support company directly contributes in the growth of your business, in the short-run and in the long run? If the services offered by an IT support company are not suitable for your business and if you think that, you will end up spending more than the budgeted amount on this decision, then it is obvious that the decision of hiring an IT support company is not in the best interests of the business. However, this is a rare case because the cost of running an in-house IT department is often far greater than the cost of hiring an IT support company. Although, this might be true for large enterprises, but same can be said about small business that are looking for reliable IT services.

Not Interested in Custom and Free Hosing (Not a Typo)

I received this email from an Internet Service Provider that offers free hosting. I used their free hosting service from before and had been happy with the uptime and throughput. Helpdesk was also very responsive. My only complaint is with their email correspondence. They obviously use email templates for their email campaigns but the spelling mistakes are rampant and it reflects very badly on the company from my perspective. I firmly believe that client correspondence is very important and must be professional free from grammatic and spelling errors.

Here is the body of the email that I received:

I definitely do not want any ‘continued custom .. free hosing’. Don’t want to get hosed, LMFAO. It’s an honest mistake but they need to spend more time proof-reading their correspondence before hitting the SEND button. Just saying.

Six iPhone Apps That Could Save You On Your Voice Plan

My friend recently told me about how he had to pay for overage fees on his iPhone 3G data plan in the past two months. He mentioned that because of this, he was going to try and save on both voice and 3G data plan by going offline whenever there is WIFI coverage. I thought it made perfect sense because in the normal course of a business week, he would have WIFI connectivity when he is in the office and when he gets home. Doing this would allow him to reduce his monthly limit from 1GB to 500MB.

In addition to the 3G data plan savings, he also said he can further save on long distance voice plan charges. He downloaded a few iPhone apps that he could use without using up any airtime. As long as he has WIFI or is connected to 3G, these apps will allow him to avoid using precious phone airtime:

MagicJack
This app let’s you call to any phone, as long as you already have the MagicJack hardware plugged in at home. Free calls in Canada and in the US.

netTalk
Can call anyone, including non-netTalk users and it’s free in Canada and in the US. My friend says this is his favorite so far.

UWewe
Registration is based on a real phone number. Allows you to call other UWewe users for free or any phone all over the world at a discount. The best thing about this is that you have 20 minutes of free calls per day, my friend says.

Viber
Lets you make free phone calls anywhere in the world and send text messages to anyone who also has the application installed. The username is your telephone number so it makes it easy to call anyone who also has the app installed. //helpme.viber.com/index.php?/Knowledgebase/Article/View/18

Weixin
Allows users to send and receive instant text and voice messages for free, to other Weixin users. //chineseculture.about.com/b/2012/02/04/wei-xin-app-gaining-popularity-in-china.htm

Skype
Use this to talk to other Skype users for free, but discounted to any phone. Very popular because it’s so cheap.

I haven’t actually used any of these iPhone apps. What’s your take on any of the 6 listed here?