Thursday, February 28, 2013

HP monitor flickers and makes popping noises when used as a second monitor on a MacBook Pro

I am posting this solution and problem in case there might be other folks who encounter this problem. 

I have a MacBook Pro that I carry around to various places.  At our summer house, we have an HP monitor that I hook the MacBook Pro up to.  It’s a 23” monitor and gives more screen space; in fact I rarely use my MacBook Pro unless it is hooked up to a larger monitor.  When I am traveling, I am forced to use the 15” screen of the laptop, and it is not that bad. 

I’ve had problems with this monitor since I bought it.  Once I hooked it up to my MacBook Pro, the HP monitor would flicker (going black or half-black), and if it was really acting up, it would go black and make popping noises every few seconds.  It was irritating as hell, and it was all I could do to keep from ripping the monitor off my desk and throwing it. 

I looked up all kinds of solutions on the web for the flickering problem.  Here are some notes that I collected:

1.  If it starts flickering on and off, go into the menu and choose factory reset.  This may solve the problem.  Generally do not take laptop off the monitor as this causes the flickering to start again. 

2.  Unplug the monitor’s power cord and hold down the monitor’s power button for 30-60 seconds. Plug the monitor back in and turn on the power button.  If the HP monitor shows "Power Button Lockout: Press and hold the Power button for 10 seconds to unlock the Power button function. 

The above two methods seemed to solve the problem some of the time, enough that I did not look further into the problem.  Today, however, the problem just never stopped. 

I finally started testing the pieces.  The HP monitor accepts an HDMI input but not a DVI or miniDisplayport input.  I’ve therefore been using a miniDisplayport-to-HDMI adapter to connect the miniDisplayport adapter on the MacBook, to an HDMI cable, to the monitor.

I took an Asus laptop with an HDMI output and connected it to the HP monitor.  Voila!  The monitor worked perfectly.  This told me that the monitor and HDMI cable were not the problem.  I had been assuming that the monitor was the problem, but I was wrong. 

Now the problem would be either in the graphics card of the Mac or with the miniDisplayport-to-HDMI adapter.  I’ve been using the MacBook Pro with another monitor back at home, so I had a feeling that the adapter was the problem.  I fortunately had another adapter in my spares kit, and upon using it, the monitor behaved perfectly with my MacBook Pro! 

Moral of the story – perhaps test your cheap monitor adapters first.  Also, I am starting to wonder if I ever will buy another Mac laptop.  I’ve been a loyal Mac user since 1985, when I bought my first Mac, but I am often reminded that we Mac users pay a lot more for the privilege of owning a Mac.  I have two Windows 7 laptops that I use regularly, and they are just great.  Windows 7 is just as good and stable as a Mac.  My Windows laptops cost under $500, do everything that my Mac laptop does, and have features like HDMI outputs and USB3.0 ports, which my 1.5-year-old MacBook Pro does not.  Having to buy adapters for just about frigging everything leads to time-consuming problems like this, and having to carry a box of spares around for everything.  The only reason I am still using a Mac laptop is because I use the Apple-only software Aperture and Final Cut Pro.  I might have to learn Lightroom and Adobe Premiere and start carrying around a PC laptop instead.  But then I’d have to deal with Adobe software, and that is a nightmare all its own. 

Thursday, February 21, 2013

California Database of Unclaimed Property is Easy to Use

California has a database of unclaimed property.  It is easy to use.  

The search database is at:

I was surprised at how easy this was to use.  I saw that my wife and a few friends had some claims coming to them (old stock dividends, car company rebates or refunds, etc).   One friend had five claims for over $500.  I had nothing. 

If you fill in a claim form, you should get the funds.

Take a few seconds to check this database.  I checked this database after reading a San Jose Mercury News article about it, which mentioned various tech celebrities that were included in this database.  I checked Steve Wozniak (one of my favorite people in the tech world) and I see that Apple owes him a bit over $5!  Really, Apple can't find Steve Wozniak?  

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

3G Data via USB Modems and Mifi Hotspots

I've become a bit obsessed with getting cellular data on USB modems.  I travel a great deal, and having a USB data modem has saved me money over the long term since I don’t have to pay $15 or $20 per day if I am in an airport or hotel, for example, and need to check my email. 

I bought a Virgin Mobile Ovation MC760 USB data modem about two years ago from Walmart.  It cost about $100, and the good thing was that Walmart had an arrangement with Virgin Mobile so that a Walmart-purchased modem offered better and cheaper plans than Virgin Mobile offered.  I still have the modem (anyone want to buy it?) and it offers a one-month plan that allows 1Gb of data, for $20.  Virgin Mobile has since raised their prices; the nearest equivalent plan is $35 per month for 2Gb of data. 

The only problem is that Virgin Mobile uses the Sprint network, which is not available in some places.  For instance, we have a summer cottage in Washington state, and I can’t get internet access there using the Virgin Mobile modem. 

I also have tried a Datajack Mifi hotspot, and this is a great service and a great little device.  The Mifi hotspot is dead simple to use and set up.  It has a battery and lasts quite a while.  If I am in a hotel room and need the internet, I can just put this on a table, turn it on, and in a few seconds, I will have my own wifi hotspot.  The speeds are fine as is the prices.  Again, however, the problem is that the Datajack service uses the Sprint network. 

A last service and device that I heartily recommend is the FreedomPop service.  I am often at my parents’ house in the Bay Area on the weekends.  They don’t have internet service, which sucks.  When I am there, I just plug this stick into my Mac laptop, and I have internet service from the Clear network.  The FreedomPop stick works well when I am in the Bay Area,, and they offer a free service.  I just paid $50 for the USB modem which they call a “deposit” and which gives me 100Mb per month free.  However, like many free services, FreedomPop often sends bogus marketing materials stating "free upgrade" which are nothing more than ways to get you to pay.  If you can sidestep the marketing ploys (which are downright fraudulent!), this is a good free service.  It’s fairly slow during the day, but I have found that it is pretty fast in the evenings.  Again, the big problem is that the Clear network is so limited (I cannot get it at our place in Washington state, for instance). 

I have tried more gear like the above, including a Zoom modem for AT&T SIM cards and Cradlepoint routers.  I’ll write more about my experiences shortly.  In the meantime, a great resource for information on these kinds of things is the 3G store: -- “Official Site for all things 3G”.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Insuring Your Camera Gear - Update

Insuring Your Camera Gear -- see the full post at:

My article that explains camera and production insurance is one of the most popular posts in my blog.  My blog has had over 25,000 pageviews in its six-year history, and this post has had numerous comments and over 1800 pageviews.  Thanks for reading my blog!

I've recently had to do renew my insurance policies, and to seek out new coverages for changes in my life.  I've discovered more than ever that a good insurance agent can help you cut through all the jargon and misconceptions to find you a good product.  Some of the agents mentioned in this article are still around, but some of them are now gone.  Please be aware that this post is almost six years old, and that some of the companies and policies have changed.

I've most recently been impressed (and have been impressed in the past) by the service and professionalism of two insurance agencies that I regularly work with.  They are:

Athos Insurance Services
P.O. Box 61102
Pasadena, California 91116
Office: 626-716-9800
Mobile (text): 626-379-6280
contact: Katherine Wong
Athos Insurance can issue policies for camera and video gear, production insurance, and other insurance needs.  They have an online platform for specialty programs. 

Rand Insurance
50 Locust Avenue
New Canaan, CT 06840
phone number: 203-966-2677
fax number: 203-966-7355
Rand Insurance issues an insurance policy for members of the North American Nature Photographers Association (NANPA).  

See the full post on camera and production insurance at: