My Canon Digital Rebel XT (EOS 350D)

I just got a new digital camera a couple weeks ago! It’s a Canon Digital Rebel XT (EOS 350D). I’m still pretty excited, my new Canon is a major upgrade from my old Olympus.
My new Digital Rebel XT has been a pleasure to shoot with so far, but I still have a lot of things to learn, this is my first experience with SLR cameras. One thing I absolutely love about the camera is it’s ability to continuously shoot. It’s extremely nice for photographing fast moving children who never sit still. No more missed shots while waiting for my camera to focus.

The Digital Rebel XT is very easy to use. After receiving the camera, I immediately put the lens on, popped a cf card in, and was able to start shooting. Ashley was even able to pick it up and shoot without any instructions. I’ve been really happy with the camera so far and am very much looking forward to more opportunities to shoot with it, should be fun.


TendonUSA Cables

A company called TendonUSA contacted me the other day offering me the opportunity to try out some of their products, all of which are cables of various types. They have a fair number of cable products, from ethernet cables to HDMI cables. The one product I wish they had but don’t (it’s not on their website at least) is retractable ethernet cables. I’m hoping they have some in development for release sometime soon, they’re so cool!

Their CAT6 ethernet cables immediately caught my eye. Their ethernet cables have a feature called EasyConnect, which, if I understand it correctly, replaces the little clip found on traditional RJ-45 plugs with a simple push button. That’s excellent for me, because I have to replace the traditional RJ-45 plugs far too often at work due to broken clips. The EasyConnect feature sounds like it would totally put an end to that little nuisance. No little clips to break on ethernet cables would be dreamy.

The representative from TendonUSA who emailed me compared the quality of their cables to that of Monster Cable and Belkin. Both Monster Cable and Belkin are way overpriced in my opinion, which could have something to do with lack of competition in the high quality cable market. TendonUSA has much more reasonable prices on all their cables, which is great, assuming the quality and performance is there. Hopefully they can bring some competition to the high quality cable market and drive prices down a little. I’m sorry, but $30 for a simple USB printer cable is just madness.

On the TendonUSA about page, they describe why Tendon cables are cheaper and how they can maintain such high quality in their products while selling them for quite a bit cheaper than the competition. Here’s a little piece from their about page:

Why buy TENDON?
Lets make it simple. Tendon connectivity cables are higher quality.
All audio, video and computer cables that fall in the same category (5, 5e, 6, high-speed USB, fire wire, etc) all perform to the same standard. So why are you spending the additional 15% to 25% more on other brands of cable?
What makes Tendon cables better and why should we buy them? The only differences between our cables and theirs are:

From there, they describe the differences between TendonUSA cables and “theirs”. The “theirs” being Monster Cable and Belkin products of course.

I’m hoping to get a few different types of cables from TendonUSA, all of which I will review here. I can’t really compare their performance to that of Monster Cable as I’ve never owned a Monster Cable product. I do have some friends with Monster Cable products for their Hi-Def setups. I plan on purchasing my first Hi-Def television later this month. Perhaps I can talk one of them into loaning me their Monster Cables for some testing. Cuz I sure as hell can’t go out and purchase a $150+ cable for testing purposes. 🙂 As for Belkin, the only product of theirs I’ve really used are their USB 2.0 cables, and their performance was matched by many generic USB 2.0 cables.

I can’t really say much more about TendonUSA and their products until I actually try them out. One thing I can say with 100% certainty though is all their products look very sleek and sexy, all look to be very well designed. Hopefully TendonUSA cables live up to consumers performance expectations. I’d love to see more competition in the high quality cable market, it’d drive prices down and would probably bolster the market as a whole. It’d open the market up to people who won’t pay ~$30 for a simple USB 2.0 cable.

Anyway, I’ll post reviews once I’ve spent a little time with the products. If you’ve ever used any TendonUSA products, I’d love to hear your experiences. From what little exposure I’ve had to TendonUSA, they seem to be a very honest, enthusiastic, no B.S. sort of company. I’m guessing their products will all be top-notch, I just have to wait and see.


Xbox 360: Returning Your Xbox 360 For Repair

Lots of people have been coming here searching for information about sending their Xbox 360 in to Microsoft for repair. My Xbox 360 is on it’s way back to me from being repaired, so I figured I’d post my experience with the repair process.

On March 24th, 2007 I contacted Microsoft Xbox customer support and was able to get the repair process started. My Xbox 360 was still suffering from the dreaded 3 red lights on the Ring Of Light at that time.

Upon initiatiating the repair process, I received an email from Microsoft confirming the repair process had begun. The email stated that I would receive another email once the next step in the repair process begins:

Dear Xbox Customer:

Thank you for contacting Xbox Customer Care. We have received your request for service. Please prepare your console and follow the instructions provided by our customer service department. You will receive an e-mail as soon as the next step in the process has begun.

Thank you,
Xbox Customer Care

The support agent I spoke with gave detailed instructions on what information to include in the box I returned my Xbox 360 in. I typed all the information out, printed it, and put it right on top of my Xbox 360 inside the box I shipped it in. Include this information when returning your Xbox 360 for repair:

  1. Support Reference # (provided by Xbox support agent).
  2. Xbox 360 serial number (from the back of your console).
  3. Your name.
  4. Your return shipping address.

It’s important that you DO NOT SEND YOUR HARD DRIVE, CONTROLLERS, OR MEMORY CARDS! If you send them in with your console you will probably never see them again. Make sure there’s not a game in the DVD drive. Take your hard drive off and make sure all memory cards are out before packing your Xbox 360 up. All you want to send in is your bare Xbox 360 console.

Once you have your Xbox 360 all packaged up along with the necessary information, you’re ready to ship. There seems to be quite a bit of confusion exactly where to send your Xbox 360 for repair. There’s lots of confusion because many of the Xbox support agents don’t speak english as their native language. It’s hard to understand a mailing address from someone with a thick Spanish accent. Now, I’m sure Microsoft has more than one repair center, so make sure to pay close attention when the agent gives you the address to send your Xbox 360 to. I was told to send my Xbox 360 to the following address, your support agent may provide you with a different address:

Repair Center
5700 South International Parkway
Door #18
McAllen, TX 78503

I just took my box to my local post office to ship. I shipped it using the Priority Mail service and purchased $200 worth of insurance coverage for $3.35. Total came to be about $18. Only took 4 days to get there, and that’s counting the weekend. Once they received the package at the repair center I got the following email:

Dear Customer,

We have received your Xbox at our service center. It is our priority to process your Xbox in a timely manner and to get it back to you as good as new. We will contact you as soon as we are finished so you can get ready to get back into the game!

Xbox Customer Care

Exactly two hours later, I got another email stating that my Xbox 360 had been fixed and was on it’s way home. The email said my Xbox 360 should be here in 2 to 5 days, it’d be great to have it before this weekend. They even gave me a UPS tracking number, but there’s nothing there other than a confirmation that the return shipping has been paid for. Hopefully some real tracking data will show up on it tomorrow.


Xbox 360: More On 3 Red Lights

This is sort of a follow-up to my last post regarding the 3 red lights on the ring of light. I called Microsoft’s Xbox support line and was on the phone with a guy named Colin for about an hour. I kept telling him that I would just like to send my console in for repair, but as expected, we had to go through the whole troubleshooting exercise.

First off, a week previous to calling support, I had gotten the 3 red lights every time I turned my Xbox 360 on. Then, once I was speaking with Colin, I turned it on and the red lights were gone. However, the Xbox 360 froze almost immediately. Colin then directed me to remove the hard drive. I removed the drive, powered on and the 360 came up, but only for a few minutes. It soon froze again. That got Colin thinking the root of all my problems was the hard drive. Not quite…

Anyway, Colin had me put the hard drive back on and to my amazement, my Xbox 360 powered up without issue. I proceeded to play Gears of War for a little bit until it froze again. Colin told me to pull the power cord and to let the Xbox 360 sit for about 1 minute. I did so, turned the Xbox 360 back on, and my problems appeared to be gone. At that point, I was playing Gears of War while speaking with Colin, and had been playing with no issues for about 10 minutes. So, instead of sitting on the phone forever Colin and I determined the problem was fixed.

I continued playing Gears of War for around 3 hours after I got off the phone with Colin, until it froze. After 3 hours of play or so, the thing just froze. Since then, I have been getting the 3 red lights on the ring of light non-stop. So, I’m basically back in the same boat I was before I called support.

Luckily, Colin gave me a reference number in case anything went wrong. So, I will be calling support back tomorrow to see if they have any other suggestions. If they don’t, hopefully they’ll suggest that I send my console in for repair.

I just don’t understand why the thing was working while I was on the phone with support but refused to boot pretty much any other time. I know it’s not a power supply issue because my power supply light is green whenever the Xbox 360 is turned on, even if the 3 red lights are flashing. And when the Xbox 360 is turned off, the power supply light is amber, as it should be.

So, I’m kinda at a loss as to what’s going on exactly. It seems that the smallest updates have the ability to bring an Xbox 360 to its knees. Like I said before, my Xbox 360 was working great until an update for Halo 2 was downloaded and applied. It was a small update, took about 2 seconds to download the entire update.

I will post more information as I get it.


Xbox 360 Freezing? Let Your Power Supply Breathe!

I had tons of problems with my Xbox 360 after I got it setup. First I had three red lights on the Ring of Light. After getting that fixed, my screen would freeze before the Xbox 360 dashboard would fully load. Eventually I got into Need For Speed: Carbon, but the Xbox 360 would freeze after a minute or less of gameplay. I also witnessed the E71 error message a couple times, fun fun. Microsoft has a page dedicated to freeze issues, although it didn’t prove to be much help in my situation. There are some good troubleshooting tips in there though.

Eventually, I was able to get my Xbox 360 to download an update from Microsoft. After the update was downloaded and applied, I had a totally stable Xbox 360. Downloading the update didn’t seem to work for everyone though. This guy claims his Xbox 360 started freezing after he downloaded the update.

I neglected to discuss the most popular method for fixing Xbox 360 freeze issues. There’s a very simple solution to prevent your xbox power supply from overheating. All you have to do is ensure your Xbox 360 power supply has proper ventilation. Don’t tuck it away back in a corner under a pile of dirty clothes or anything. Keep it out in the open, and let it see as much air as possible. Some people have turned to setting their Xbox 360 power supplies on top of an open box, that way there’s very little surface area touching anything. Setting the power supply on top of an open box will allow better air movement and will ensure air is able to move under the power supply, an area air wouldn’t normally reach if your power supply is just sitting on the ground. There’s some pictures of this method at the GameSpot forums, along with some other Xbox 360 Fixes. Unlimited Gamer has some more information on this method also. Blogcritics has a pretty good post covering a couple different solutions to fixing your Xbox 360 freeze problems.

One of the methods mentioned at the GameSpot forums that you should have your Xbox 360 plugged directly into a wall, not into a power strip or anything. Even if it is in the wall already, it might help to unplug your power supply from the wall for a few seconds and then plug it back in.