-- [ Ko2000 :: Product reviews ] --

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Since in general, most products I buy do:

  • have an issue or problem
  • software or hardware bug

or

  • will have to be replaced due to malfunction

I though that I might as well write some short reviews of the different hardware I use. Might be good info to someone, or maybe just a reminder the next time I buy something new.

As most of the things break I will mostly be complaining ;)

Contents

Freecom FSG-3 Storage Gateway 400Gb

I was recommended by a close friend to get one of these, since it can act both as a router, wireless ap and NAS, all in one.

Hardware

The unit looks very nice and the leds are not too bright (there is a setting I think) so that the whole room will not be covered in blue light during the night.

The hard drive in mine broke after a couple of months. Since the hard drive is built in you can not try to recover any data from it unless you want to void the warranty. And if you void the warranty you will not be able to get a replacement disk. Anyway, the store that I bought the unit from where very kind and I was able to send in the unit, and did only have to pay the cost of sending it in to them. Took a couple of weeks to get it back though as they did mend it, and did not replace it with a new unit.

There is a small plastic stand that you can place the unit on, but it might be good to note that if you do it will be very difficult to get it off, as it clamps down very well. Some force will do it, but it does not feel nice.

The sound level is substantial. There are two modes, "Hot and silent", "Standard regulation" and "Max cooling". They should have been called "Hot and loud", "Standard noise" and "Cool and sounds like a freight train" (I know, we have the trains passing a couple of meters from our living room window). I can also add that the external power supply also gets really hot. With the configuration "Hot and silent", the web UI tells me the following (and turning it to Max cooling will not lower the power supply as it is external.)

Power Supply Temperature: 67 °C
Controller Temperature: 57 °C
CPU Temperature: 59 °C
Fan speed: <3000 rpm

Transfer speed, I never got transfers to or from the NAS up to more than maybe 3-5Mb/s on my 100Mbit network. Maybe it is faster using earlier firmware?

Software

When I bought the unit the promise of fresh updates coming once in a while did sound very good. And when I bought it there was one (or maybe more) stable firmwares, and the latest ones where in beta. Great, since the beta firmware did fix some issues. However to this day that beta firmware did not go into stable and the larger issues with the beta firmware where never resolved.

So what did I never get to work in the latest beta firmware:

  • E-SATA connectivity and backup
  • Backup to USB disk
  • Wireless network

The Web UI is quite good, and configuring is easy. Some features are a bit difficult to understand but it will work out.

The torrent app in the unit does work, but since it does not support any new transfer formats, encryption, etc. it will only work for simple download jobs, and not really for seeding or keeping a ratio.

There is a UPNP streaming server built in, and that did work very well, and I did use it both from my KiSS DVD player and from my Wii. Totally the best part of the product, but since the bandwidth is so low I had to stop using it when more and more media went into HD quality, since it does not manage to stream that data over the network.

Finally

I'm not using the unit anymore as a router, one day it just did not respond any more over the network, and when trying to get it to work it turned out to have gone into the default settings. I then did flash it into the stable (old) firmware and configured it to run as a standard NAS. I still use it to store some video and backup data, but will change that as well soon as I do not think that it will hold that much longer.

Buffalo WHR-G300N

To replace my FSG as a router and wireless AP I bought a Buffalo WHR-G300N, compared to the Linksys WRT54G series it did seem faster (in spec anyhow). And I got a good deal on eBay from Hong Kong with DD-WRT pre-flashed.

To my surprise it worked directly out of the box, very easy indeed. DD-WRT has a great web UI and it was very easy to enable wireless network, etc. I also found the online documentation handy, it will explain most parts of the UI.

Hardware

Nothing to complain about really, it is quite light so I have to secure the cables so that they do not take the routers with them down on the floor. As on the FSG the plastic stand/foot is quite hard to remove once put in place, but at least on the buffalo it is logical to remove if you take a look at it.

I found it a bit confusing that the reset button is covered by the plastic stand/foot, and since I did not look into the manual it took some work to find it ;).

Software

Well, DD-WRT on this one, and it is working good.

Problems

Well, i have had two "small" issues.

Problem with duplicate MAC address

It turned out that when the device was pre-flashed with DD-WRT the people in Hong Kong did put the same MAC address on all the devices. And since my ISP do not allow duplicate MAC addresses anywhere in their nationwide network I had a bit of a problem.

Read more here: Buffalo WHR-G300N duplicate MAC address.

Settings lost problem

One day about one month after I started using the device it just disappeared from the network. No wireless network, no ping reply and no routing.

I tried to find the device, and after connecting tcpdump I could see that when starting the device it was looking for a tftp server on IP number 192.168.11.2 for the file firmware.ram. The device was using the IP 192.168.11.1 which is the default, but I could not connect to any services on this IP. I then pressed the reset button (at the bottom;) for about 30 seconds and then to my surprise the device booted up and then only thing what that it had put in the default settings.

When I got the device it had the firmware "BrainSlayer-V24-preSP2/07-18-09-r12523", and since it now was in default settings and that there had obviously been some kind of a problem it was now better to update to the latest firmware. So I put in the "BrainSlayer-V24-preSP2/08-31-09-r12759" firmware with openVPN. And now everything is working as it should.

Bredbandsbolaget

I'm using Bredbandsbolagets ADSL connection with 20Mbit/s download and 4Mbit/s upload. The download will be a little bit less since I also have IP Tv coming through there.

The ADSL modem that they sent be has its own wireless network and switch, this is very handy when

  • You have visitors/neighbors that need some Internet, but you do not want them to access your other PCs (like a DMZ).
  • As a backup Internet connection when your router breaks down.
  • You need to find out if it is your Freecom FSG router that is slow, or if it is the Internet connection itself.

IPTV

Bredbandsbolagets IPTV service has quite a lot of channels available, something got me to sign up for the largest and most expensive package with two years minimum subscription, I do not really watch TV so... damn ;). The IPTV box is connected directly to the ADSL modem with a single Ethernet cable, you can not route this data through your normal network, so be careful where you place your ADSL modem, otherwise you will need a very long Ethernet cable.

Problems

The main problem I have been having with the Internet connection is that every time there is some kind of change in the system or if I do a change of my subscription my bandwidth will be reset to 2Mbit/s download and 768Kbit/s upload. And I will have to call them to have them set it back to my faster speed.

Customer service

The people at bredbandsbolaget is always helpful, I have made several calls to them, and they can easily connect to the ADSL modem and do some checks, test some settings or help out with strange MAC address related issues.

HTC Touch Pro

Ok first the positive things with the phone:

  • The hardware is very robust, and nice to hold.
  • Not to heavy, and does not feel plastic.
  • The screen will not scratch easily and the case/pouch that comes with it.
  • Buttons are easy to use, both on the front and on the qwerty keyboard.
  • The Swedish ÅÄÖ are hidden under a Fn (function) key, but are still easy to use when writing.
  • Pen and touch screen is very exact and responsive.

Ok, so all the positive things are about the hardware. Now to the negative things about this phone...

  • Windows Mobile (do I need to say more)
  • It is extremely slow to use, the user interface is sluggish to say the least.
  • When pulling out the qwerty keyboard the UI will automatically go from landscape to portrait mode, which is great. But what you are currently doing on the screen will disepear.
  • The HTC Touch Flow skin that they put on top of Windows Mobile possibly makes it easy for beginners that only want to check weather and the time. But if you want to call people and connect to the Internet you need to go into the Windows Mobile settings interface that are really bad.
  • Audio quality on bluetooth headsets (both HTC and third party) is really bad (with all I try). Strangely when I call someone using a blue tooth headset I will hear them ok, but they will have trouble hearing me.
  • HTC support will answer any question with "you have to disable this or that option in Windows Mobile to get it to work", which means for example that to get the key lock to work you need to turn off the automatic password feature.
  • The phone book is very hard to navigate. You need to type in the name or if you want a person with a name starting with "F" you need to go to the letter "G" in the list, otherwise you will only get the first person with the name begining with "F" and the rest will be "E"-people.

I can go on all day, so you ask, why I am still using the phone? Well it cost more than €500 so I can not just throw it away. But it will be replaced soon.

When I first got the phone it was not reset correctly, so every time I started the phone I had to calibrate the touch screen. So when I had setup everything in the phone (trust me, it takes time, like configuring Windows ;). I then had to do a software reset of the phone, I then found that after this the phone was working much better, so it seems that when you get a phone like this, first thing is to do a software reset on it.

One thing to remember is that there is no (free) way to do a software reset and still keep your SMS or MMS messages, and you need to backup everything.

Oddly the firmware version that was available when I got the phone did just have three buttons "Answer", "Reject" and "Silent" when there was an incoming call. Not that brilliant for a touch screen phone. If you have it in your pocket or in the case/pouch it will automatically do one of the available actions when taking the phone out, most likely Answer. There was however a software that did fix this, but requires a bit of messing around with files and settings: S2U2. In the latest firmware update they did add a small slider to answer or reject, so that is sorted now.

Another strange thing is that Windows Mobile 6.1 that this phone is using has a Windows Update feature, but there has from when I got the phone never been an update on there, nothing. I was then very disappointed to realize that the Windows Mobile version in the phone could not be upgraded to a later version, so it will stay in the stone age even if WM 6.2 or 7.0 is released.

There is hope, you can run Android on it, YouTube video here. This is unofficial and some parts do not work, but anyway.

Well, enough ranting. Hopefully they (HTC) have learned their lesson (I know that I have) and will never use Windows Mobile again.

Playstation Portable

I bought a PSP 2004 series right when the new models of 2008 started to come out. So I got a quite good price for a completely new unit.

I got it to be able to watch TV-Series and Movies when our working. Both on the plane and in the hotel, and my laptop is way to large to have in your lap in these places, and hot too.

I'm very happy with the result, I can even find Movies in most airport and electronic stores around the world when out traveling (you still need to be careful about region protection on movies. Games is not a problem it seems as they are not region protected).

I even found a couple of games that I like ;)

The screen is quite small, but not a problem when you are watching by yourself. The audio is very good and the connector for headphones is not in the way.

When I got the unit the first thing I did was to get a pandora battery and do a software mod, this was much easier than I thought and has then enabled me to put in some demos and old school music stuff.

We have used the PSP as music player in the car for several car trips, and that has been working perfectly.

The battery will work for several hours of games or video playback, and it has never run out when I have been traveling. One should however note that if you leave the unit for a couple of weeks when not traveling, that it will run completely out of battery. So make sure that you charge it the day before you travel, even if it was fully charged when you left it the last time.

Converting video files to fit on the unit can be a bit tricky, and in most cases you might be able to get pre-converted TV-Series from your local dealer. I have been successfully using PSP Video 9 from Red Kawa. You might want to make sure that the video is converted to 480x272 (PSP screen size) in MP4/AVC format.

Nintendo Wii

coming up...

Dell XPS M1710

coming up...

Dell 5150

coming up...

Shuttle xPC

coming up...

Hyundai Getz (2003)

coming up...

TT'SHINE H869

Also known as Hightel (XpressMusic).

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