Using an external USB drive on your PS3 game console

I have just spent all day today trying to fix what could be mechanical issues on a 115GB Western Digital external USB drive. Every so often, I would hear that deathly clicking noise from the external hard drive and then lose connection to the contents of the drive. I fear that it’s life is numbered so I moved the contents to another location and low-level formatted the disk with hopes of getting more life out of it.

In order to use a USB drive with a Sony PS3 game console, it has to be formatted with FAT32 file system. Using the utilities that come with Windows XP SP3, I cannot format the entire drive with FAT32 using “format /fs:fat32” because of FAT32 file system limitations. I searched around for a utility and found freeware SwissKnife. This software let me format the entire 115GB capacity.

After that, I tried to copy all the contents back to the extenal USB drive but I ran into roadblocks again. Using Windows Explorer, the copy would start but fail after a few minutes with an unrecognized sector error message. This only seems to happen with big files over 600MB. I had no issues copying small text files however, so I attributed the error to the FAT32 limitations in Windows rather that bad blocks in the drive. I dropped to a MSDOS command prompt and used XCOPY to copy the same big files that errored out, and I was able to complete the copy with no issues.

One final tip I learned from my Nick. Copy your videos and photos into folders named VIDEO and PICTURE respectively. Make sure it’s all in uppercase. Doing this will let you display the contents easily from your PS3 game console. Enjoy.

Completed a course at BCIT: Relational Database and SQL

Back in December 2011, I just completed a 12-week evening course COMP 1630 at BCIT in downtown Vancouver. This was a great course worth 5 credits, and delved into database design, architecture, a little systems analysis, and a lot of SQL syntax. We learned about Crow’s Foot Notation in building an initial requirements design before translating that into actual tables, columns, indices, contraints, etc. It helped strengthen what I already knew of database systems and look forward to taking database administrator-type courses this year.

Replacing Hard Disks in an Apple iMac

Jade replaced the hard disks on his Apple iMac last week and it was a non-issue replacing them with SSD drives. Here is his account of what took place:

“I ve had it. Opening up my IMac to replace the hard drive. Hope it works..installing ssd cause the original hard drive failed. Such a pain.”

“Dissecting the iMac.”

“Putting it back together. Cool that the screen is connected to the led via magnets.”

Photo credit Jade Amin

Why Do My Google Blogger Sites Rank Lower Than ISP-hosted Sites in Alexa.com?

I asked the following on a guest post by Chuck Rylant on ProBlogger.net, expecting to get some concrete answers to low Alexa.com ranking for my other websites. Just like Chuck, I personally think it’s because of the SEO tools available on self-installed WordPress websites that may not be available on Google’s Blogger. I am re-posting it here because I didn’t get the answer I was looking for and am hoping someone can help me out.

Here is the comment I made below, also linked here Guest Post by Chuck Rylant

—————
11/4/2011 at 1:26 am

I am also not a professional blogger and average around 2-3 posts a month on my computer blog http://www.aminsolutions.com and post more frequently on my personal weblog http://www.chromiloamin.com. I also use Alexa to see my progress but am currently stuck at 5 million on Alexa for the computer blog and 23 million for the personal weblog. It’s been at 23 million for a long time and won’t budge. I thought post frequency would improve my ranking. Is it because I use Google’s Blogger for the personal weblog while I use WordPress for the computer blog? I am thinking of porting my weblog to WordPress. Did you determine if this played any role at all in your research and roadmap? I am also trying to promote an e-book http://www.aminsolutions.com/book and am using these blogs for my platform.

—————

Do you know if there is a difference in the way Google Blogger websites rank in Alexa.com compared to ISP hosted websites?

Dang, We May Have Lost Another Staple Client?

This is a followup to a previous post in the summer of 2011, about how important customer service is to the health of a business relationship.

Just recently, our most loyal client since 2004 has just announced that they would like to postpone or hold-off on monthly managed IT services in the “short-term” while server upgrades are performed by their other IT provider back east. They are also looking at options for an offsite server, possibly outsource their email infrastructure and sign up for SaaS provider. They are starting to use a lot of mobile devices to do a lot of their work, including Blackberries and Android tablets so their datacentre is changing.

It’s unfortunate that we will not be involved in transitioning their infrastructure. I hope the GM calls after the dust settles so that we can continue with our business relationship. My single most important advice to others is to frequently and continuously revise your customer service strategy.

Notes on Freelance Camp 2011 – How to Write a Book (Session #3)

This is a continuation from my previous post What Clients and Consultants Really Think? (Session#2). The third session that I attended is on writing and publishing a book.

/How to Write a Book, by Kathrin Lake.
This was a very interesting session for me because I aspire to one day publish my very own paperback. Kathrin says that for her, it usually takes her 2-3 months to write a book. She says that it is about trust, in that readers wants to get to know you. She also says that successful writers have memorable stories to tell. They are about life stories and must have a message. Everyone knows how to write but Kathrin says you must intimately know the process that you use to do that. If you don’t already, then you have to figure out your own process for writing. Her suggestion for finding your writing process is to:
1) write blogs;
2) get the bulk of your book done;
3) read, educate yourself.

Editing
If you are starting out, you probably should send out an electronic copy of your book to family and friends. Kathrin pushes for a quick push to get the majority of your book done and multiple edits from multiple editors. If you can afford it, professional editors are obviously the way to go.

Publishing
Kathrin says that the publishing world is in complete chaos right now because there are so many formats, i.e. ebooks, kindle, and ipad. Since it is so easy to publish, there is also a lot of competition. She says there are 5 ways to publish:
1) Traditional publishing;
2) Self-publishing, print-on-demand;
3) Sponsored publishing, paid expert advice;
4) Kindle, this is the cheapest;
5) Blogging.
Item number 2 appeals to me.

Marketing
Sharing excerpts of your book is a great marketing tactic. Selling by chapter or chunks is also a very good way to tease readers into reading your entire book. You have to have a ‘platform’, i.e. what is your form of exposure for your book? Put together book trailers and videos, and get endorsements from your Advanced Reading Copy (ARC) that you send out.

So get started. If you already run a blog like this one, convert your blog into an ebook. One of the myths is that you have to write chronologically, but that’s just not true. You can write it any way you like. Someone asked why readers would buy an ebook when they could just go online to read the blog. The answer is that some people like their reading materials all neatly packaged and in print. I know I do.

I enjoyed this session and I may sign up for more of Kathrin Lake’s classes at Douglas College. These were my notes from a weeks back so I hope I covered everything. There are still other sessions that I attended at Freelance Camp but I’ll save them for next time.

Notes on Freelance Camp 2011 – What Clients and Consultants Really Think? (Session#2)

This is a continuation from my previous post Contracts for People Who Hate Contracts (Session#1). The second session that I attended is about Clients/Consultants and what they really think.

/What Do Client and Consultants Really Think? by Corwin Hiebert and Mark Shiah
In the presentation, Mark was the client and Corwin was the consultant. They re-enacted many things that we all go through when in a client-consultant relationship from introduction to project finish.

Some of the things I learned from the consultant side of things:

– Help client make better decision.
– Be the expert by diagnosing and analyzing the problem.
– Know your role.
– Caring for the client or the project.
– Don’t let clients chase you down.
– If you have multiple clients, make sure you manage and prioritize your time.
– Use online collaborative tools like “Smartsheet”.
– Make client feel that they are the priority. I got burned by this previously and I have more details if interested.
– Give your honest advice to the client, and fully believe the project will work.
– When it comes to money, nickel-and-diming is awkward for the next engagement. It’s better to send all your invoices ahead of time to the stakeholder.
– And finally, provide value-base project work instead of billing hourly. Corwin recommended this book “Value-based Consulting”, I believe the one written by Fiona Czerniawska.

From the client side of things, the only thing that we as the consultants ask for, is that you do not carboncopy (CC) everyone in emails. Deal directly with the project manager who will distribute all correspondence to the project group.

For question-and-answers period, a question asked was: What is the difference between Contractors vs Consultants?
– Contractors are “yes” people. They will do what you tell them to do.
– Consultants will bring expert advice and give you options. They will talk themselves out of a job at times if they don’t believe a project will work.

This all I have for this session. The third session I went to is titled “How to Write a Book” by Katrin Lake. Stay tuned for the exciting details.

Short-lived Canpages Writing Gig

I provide writing/blogging services for Helium Content Source (http://www.heliumcontentsource.com) and the latest assignment was to write short 300-500 word articles for Canpages, advertised as Canada’s fastest growing local search company.

Helium uses a great dashboard for article submissions, edits, and approvals. Canpages uses WordPress for the blogging platform and when articles are approved at Helium, a second set of edits and approvals happen at Canpages. I was able to get 4 articles published at Canpages before the assignment came to an end for me.

Here are the published articles, and they are tailored to Vancouver -centric stories in lifestyle, entertainment, and restaurants linked below.

http://blog.canpages.ca/blog/?author=72

If the link becomes stale, here is a graphic

I am always looking for more writing/blogging opportunities so if my writing style appeals to your needs, please contact me at info at aminsolutions dot com.

Notes on Freelance Camp 2011- Contracts For People Who Hate Contracts (Session#1)

Notes on Freelance Camp 2011

This past weekend I was at the Freelance Camp held by TheNetworkHub at New Westminster http://thenetworkhub.ca/freelancecamp. There was a lot of energy at that “unconference” and I left feeling very motivated. I didn’t know that “unconference” meant no set agenda for the day until one was created by participants themselves. Speakers would line up and have a maximum of 30 seconds to pitch their session. If the session gets voted on, it will become one of the sessions offered that day.

Some of the sessions I attended include:

(Session#1) Contracts;
(Session#2) What Clients/Consultants Really Think?;
(Session#3) How to Write a Book;
(Session#4) Rules of Engagement; and
(Session#5) 6 Time Management Tips.

I will have separate posts for each of these to ensure it is legible and easier to digest.

/Contracts – by Danielle Lemon and Martin Ertl
This one was popular and one I immediately signed up for. Danielle and Martin talked about many reasons for having contracts.

-Contracts are great planning tools.
-It shows professionalism.
-It provides a statement of work listing what is in-scope and out-of-scope, deliverables, backout clause.
-Clearly shows milestones for payment, and terms of those payments.
-It shows the approach you will take for the project.
-Clearly specify which law applies when conflicts arise, e.g. write that the law of British Columbia applies.

They also covered most of the questions I had including:

Is an email contract acceptable? Yes. It’s better than a verbal contract. You should start the work initially with the expectation that a full contract is on its way. Also, make sure they reply to the email confirming receipt or agreeing to the content.

As the Consultant, what do I do with subcontractor contracts? Who wins?
They complement each other. The contracts will tend to be one-sided so make sure you read through the other contract and make changes as you see fit.

What do I do with clients that aren’t on retainer and have no written contracts signed?
If there was no provision to make amendments to terms and agreements, you will have to renegotiate the contract. It means you will have to treat existing clients as though they were new.

How much do I charge web clients?
A third of the total as a downpayment. You want to make sure you get paid in case the relationship deteriorates.

How should one make changes to existing contracts?
If you made provisions for regular reviews, update your Terms and Conditions on paper or on your website and direct your client to those changes. However, you need to have a clause that allows you to make changes to the contract.

How do I deal with verbal agreements, over the phone or in person, regarding a new project?
Followup immediately with an email detailing the meeting minutes and ask for confirmation emails to ensure all parties are on the same page.

This is all I have for the first session. Stay tuned for the second session that I attended, i.e. What Do Client and Consultants Really Think?