Amazon Fire HD 8 Crashing My Wireless Router?!

I took advantage of Amazon Prime day this year and picked up a new Amazon Fire HD 8 tablet. While setting it up, I ran into problems when the wireless connection kept dropping. Others in the family had reported Wifi problems earlier in the day, so I didn’t think too much of it. Rebooted the cable modem and wireless router, but the problems persisted. Figured it was a problem at the cable company and decided to just let it go until the next day.

Unfortunately, the problems persisted into the next day… until I turned off Wifi on the Fire HD 8! It turns out that something about the Fire HD 8 was crashing my wireless router. This could be consistently demonstrated: the router crashed repeatedly every time I turned on Wifi on the Fire HD 8, and recovered when I turned off Wifi.

After doing some online research and finding a number of unusual solutions that were purported to work (make sure to check the “Hide Password” box on the Fire HD 8 before connecting? really?), I was able to track down the real problem (and a solution).

Wireless routers can be configured with a variety of different security options. These options control who has access to the network; it can be left entirely open for anyone to use, or can be secured using a variety of different protocols and encryption strategies.

Two of the strategies are to leave the network open or to use WEP security. Neither are good options: an open network is a bad idea, and WEP is a weak protocol.

Better options are WPA and WPA2, WPA2 being the most secure. My router’s configuration page includes the following description of the security options:

“Use ‘WPA or WPA2’ mode to achieve a balance of strong security and best compatibility. This mode uses WPA for legacy clients while maintaining higher security with stations that are WPA2 capable. Also the strongest cipher that the client supports will be used. For best security, use ‘WPA2 Only’ mode. This mode uses AES cipher. For maximum compatibility, use ‘WPA Only’. This mode uses TKIP cipher.”

Another thing to note is that the WPA2 with AES option allows for the highest wireless rate (generally around 130Mbps). WPA with TKIP is capped at a rate of 56Mbps.

How does all of this relate to the problem I was having with my Amazon Fire HD 8 tablet? My router had been configured as suggested, in ‘WPA or WPA2’ mode, for maximum compatibility. When I changed the configuration to WEP with TKIP only, the problems went away! It seems that something about my router, the Amazon Fire HD 8, and WPA2 with AES was a bad combination.

The solution was to configure the “Guest Zone” on my router, which effectively sets up a second network. I left my original network configured in ‘WPA or WPA2’ mode, so that all of my existing devices could take advantage of the better security and higher wireless throughput rate of WPA2 (assuming they supported it). The new “Guest” network was configured with ‘WPA Only’ and the TPIK cipher. I connected the Fire HD 8 to the “Guest” network, and now all of my devices (including the router!) are able to coexist peacefully together. As far as the lower throughput rate on the Guest network required by the ‘WPA Only’ option, it does not seem to be an issue. I have been able to stream video on the Fire HD 8 from several locations in the house, both near and relatively far from the wireless router.

Hope this information helps someone else!

 

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Laptop vs Tablet – First Impressions

This week I attended the Life & Literature conference at the Field Museum in Chicago.  The conference was sponsored by the Biodiversity Heritage Library.

The target audience for this conference was scientists and librarians.  I am a software developer, but am also the lead developer for BHL.  As such, the attendees of the conference were my target users, so it made sense for me to attend and observe.

While attending the conference, I had two technology needs.  First was a way to follow the #LifeLit Twitter hashtag, and second, I needed a way to take a few notes.

To accomplish those goals, I chose to use my Nook Color instead of my laptop.  If you’re not familiar with the Nook Color, it can be considered a “tablet lite”.  While primarily an ebook reader, it runs a variant of the Android operating system and is capable of running apps and playing audio and video. 

I have been skeptical that a tablet can truly be a laptop replacement, particularly for creating content.  Just the same, this conference gave me a perfect opportunity to give it a try.  So, with my Nook Color, I used the Seesmic app to follow Twitter and the EverNote app to take notes.

Here I list the advantages and disadvantages of using a tablet computer.  I say “tablet”, because even though my experience is with a Nook Color, I believe that these apply to all popular tablets (iPad, Nook Color, and the soon-to-come Kindle Fire).

Tablet Advantages

  • Instant on – This provided a much better experience than waiting a few minutes for the laptop to boot.
  • Battery Life – I charged the Nook Color between day one and day two, but I didn’t have to.  The laptop wouldn’t have made it through a single day.
  • Form factor – A light 7-inch tablet is much more convenient to handle than a 5.5 pound 14-inch laptop.
    Tablet Disadvantages
  • Lack of Multi-tasking – I found it inconvenient to have to exit the Seesmic app whenever I wanted to take a note, and then exit the EverNote app to go back to Seesmic so I could continue following the Twitter feed.
  • On-screen Keyboard – I quickly became pretty good at typing with my thumbs on the on-screen keyboard, but I feel that if I had needed to take a lot of notes, then the laptop would have been a necessity.  It’s possible that a larger tablet (like the iPad) might help with this problem, but I’m not sure.
    In conclusion, I can say that the tablet worked well.  I’m not convinced that it will be appropriate in all situations, but as a tablet skeptic, I can now admit that there are occasions where a tablet is useful for both consuming (in this case, the Twitter feed) and creating (my notes) content.

Digitizing those old vinyl LPs with a SONY PS-LX300USB turntable and Sony Sound Forge Audio Studio 9.0

Following is a description of how I’ve transferred LPs to MP3 using the SONY PS-LX300USB turntable (purchased off-the-shelf at the local Best Buy) and Sony Sound Forge Audio Studio 9.0 software (included with the turntable).

I purchased the turntable specifically because it has a USB output in addition to the usual audio output cable. Like many people, I rarely listen to CDs, records, or (shudder) tapes any longer, so I was looking for a turntable that would allow me to convert my old vinyl albums into a digital format. As it turns out, the out-of-the-box information for using the turntable is limited at best; perusing message boards for information about the turntable and (especially) the software shows that I’m not the only one who initially struggled to produce quality recordings.

I hope that this tutorial will be helpful

The operating system that I used to prepare this tutorial is Windows Vista. The following procedure should be almost, if not exactly, the same for Windows 7. The Windows XP experience may be slightly different due to differences in the Sound and Device Properties dialogs.

1) Start by plugging the turntable into an open USB port on the computer. You must do this first! When you run the software (step 2), it expects to find the turntable attached to the computer.

2) Start the Sound Forge Audio Studio application.

3) Choose Options/Preferences from the menu.

4) Select the Audio tab of the Preferences dialog.

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5) On the Preferences dialog, choose Windows Classic Wave Driver as the Audio device type.

6) On the Preferences dialog, make sure the USB Microphone is chosen as the Default recording device. Depending on the other peripherals attached to your computer, this choice may be different for you. You may have to identify which is the appropriate microphone device for the turntable.

7) The settings you have just changed should ensure that you will be able to hear the audio through the speakers attached to your PC. Click OK to close the dialog.

8 ) Choose Tools/Vinyl Recording and Restoration from the Sound Forge Audio Studio menus to open the Vinyl Recording and Restoration Tool dialog.

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9) Click the Device Properties… button to open the Sound dialog to the Recording tab.

10) Select the appropriate USB microphone device on the Sound dialog.

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11) Click the Properties button on the Sound dialog to open the Microphone Properties dialog, and then select the Levels tab on the dialog.

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12) Reduce the microphone level to 1 or 2. This will make the sound output from your computer speakers very low, but will greatly reduce distortion in the recording.

13) Click OK to close the Microphone Properties dialog.

14) Click OK to close the Sound dialog.

15) Click Next in the Vinyl Recording and Restoration Tool dialog.

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16) Start the turntable and click the round Record button on the Vinyl Recording and Restoration Tool dialog to begin the recording. The record button will become a Pause button.

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17) When finished recording, click the Pause button.

18) Click Next. The application will attempt to detect the tracks in the audio you’ve just recorded.

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19) The next page of the Vinyl Recording and Restoration Tool dialog will allow you to specify the name of the album and artist, as well as the names of each track that was identified. However, with the recording level set so low (1 or 2), it is unlikely that any tracks will be discovered, so simply leave everything blank and click Next.

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20) Check the Audio Restoration and Peak Normalization boxes and click Next.

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21) The application will work for a minute or two, removing hiss and pops, and increasing the sound level of the recording.

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22) When the processing is complete, click Next. Don’t worry about the options for burning a CD or saving tracks to your computer.

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23) Check the “Leave underlying data window open” box and click the Finish button.

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24) The Sound Forge Audio Studio window should now look something like this.

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25) Choose File/Save As from the Sound Forge Audio Studio menu.

26) Pick a folder into which to save the audio file, give the file a name, choose a file type (i.e. MP3), and template (i.e. 192Kbps, CD Transparent Audio), and click Save.

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27) Once the save is complete, you can use the audio editor of your choice to break the saved file into individual tracks. Audacity is a great free utility for editing audio which I recommend. You can also use the Sound Forge Audio Studio application itself to do the editing, though I found its interface to be anything but intuitive.

Using this process I have been able to produce nice digital copies of my old vinyl records. I’m not an audiophile by any means, so I can’t give precise metrics on the quality of the transfers. I’m satisfied with the results, and I’m thrilled to be able to conveniently access music in my collection that had been relatively unavailable.