Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Panasonic DMR-ES15 and a U61 error code.

January 5, 2007, I bought a brand-new Panasonic DMR-ES15 DVD Recorder.

Sometime a few months ago it experienced a problem reading a disc, and displayed U61 on the display. After fiddling with a few buttons and probably unplugging it and plugging it back in (I don’t really remember what I did then), the device returned to normal and resumed working properly.

I promptly moved on with my life and forgot about it.

Yesterday afternoon, exactly 13 months and two weeks after the original purchase, the unit displayed the U61 error again, and nothing I could do would get the machine working again. After several attempts to reset it by pressing different buttons, holding various buttons down at power up, or by unplugging it and plugging it back in, I gave up and called Panasonic for help.

I spent a good amount of time on the phone with the Panasonic Tech Support agent. I let him know the machine was exactly 1 month and 2 weeks out of warranty. I let him know I’d just purchased a nice new set of Panasonic phones a few weeks ago. Nevertheless, after he’d also concluded the machine was definitely broken and wouldn’t work again without being repaired, he informed me that he thought it would be unlikely the factory would make an exception and repair it for free, but that I could include a copy of the receipt and a letter asking them to consider it.

The flat-rate for a repair was $130. I paid $97 for the unit, new.

So I pulled out my trusty multi-bit screwdriver (and searched Google) and went to work. Looking at Google, it appears to me that this is an extremely common problem with this model. There are many, many other pages detailing people that have this exact same error, with this exact same DVD Recorder. It appears to me that the unit has a design deficiency, and I’m inclined to think Panasonic ought to cover these repairs for free or at a heavy discount, or at least make the relevant repair procedures and parts available to owners of the units. But I don’t know the percentages of problems vs. OK units, and for all I know this is just a case of a small but vocal minority, so I’m not anti-Panasonic yet.

If you’ve arrived here because you also have the U61 on your DMR-ES15, I can tell you what I’ve done to solve the problem on mine. I’m not a trained repairman, I have no electronics or mechanical education, and it’s highly possible I don’t know what I’m doing, so proceed at your own risk.

First, I unplugged the device. Next, using a Phillips-head screwdriver remove the two screws on the sides (1 on each side), and three screw on the back, of the case, and remove the cover.

There is one Phillips-head screw at each side of the DVD drive, and one at the back, attaching the DVD drive to the DVD Recorder chassis. Remove each of these screws, and you can remove the drive assembly. There are 4 delicate ribbon/flex cables running from the bottom of the drive, to sockets on the circuit board. Gently slide each of these out of their sockets on the board.

Once the screws have been removed and the flex circuits unplugged, you can remove the drive from the DVD Recorder.

On the top of the DVD drive there are four more small Phillips-head screws, one at each corner. These secure the top cover of the drive. Remove these screws, and then remove the cover by lifting the back edge up, and then pulling the cover backward and up.

NOW, I tinkered for a long time on the drive mechanism, reassembling and testing repeatedly, before resolving the error on my unit. Ultimately, the solution was to carefully slide the laser head to the back of the drive. The laser was originally forward (toward the tray door). Once I slid the laser all the way back, I put everything back together and everything worked properly again.

I won’t be surprised if the problem re-occurs as I never determined the original cause of the problem, but at least I now know how to quickly repair it.

Hope this helps.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Latest Happenings

1) I took Nate to a classmate's birthday party this afternoon. Before the party, he commented that birthday parties "are like school, but with fun cakes and stuff".

2) I've installed a new Logitech webcam on my laptop, and am looking to test out videochat with somebody.

3) So you didn't give the new Joe Jackson CD a try yet, even after my nagging in the previous post, huh? Well, in 2006 Lloyd Cole released another excellent CD, one I'm listening to as I type this. The album is titled "Antidepressant", and includes lyrics like:

I said I’m trying to write my novel
She said Neither am I
And either way I saw you reading No Depression
You’re doing nothing I’ll come over
We’ll watch 6 feet Under
And then we’ll maybe get around to your condition

4) I've been working on printers around my home lately. I've got enough printers to stock a small store, and none work perfectly. On the one hand it's pretty aggravating, but on the other hand I'm having a small amount of fun trying to get at least one working properly, so I can live with it. As I sleep tonight the printhead on a Canon Pixma iP4000 is going to be soaking in a bowl of rubbing alcohol. This particular printer was working perfectly, with only one minor issue - it refuses to print black, at all. I'm hoping the printhead is just clogged, and tomorrow AM whatever had been clogged up will be OK. Of course, while the printhead sits in the alcohol, about $75 worth of ink cartridges are drying out on my desk.

5) At my job I do a lot of work with Microsoft CRM. At the beginning of the year Microsoft released CRM version 4.0, and I've been doing a lot of testing with the new release. I'm testing many different scenarios - straight installs, upgrades, upgrades with 3rd party add-ins, etc... This past Friday I completed an upgrade on a test box, using a copy of a genuine, production database. Things went very well, which is always exciting.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Various tidbits

Tonight I installed a webcam that I picked up a few weeks ago at Radio Shack for about $8. One more reminder that you get what you pay for. It's lousy.


Yesterday I finally received my signed copy of Joe Jackson's new CD Rain in the mail. I listened to it continuously all day today at work. It's a great album. A DVD was included with the album, with interviews and behind-the-scenes type content. I haven't watched it yet, but am looking for time to do so.

Coinciding with last week's release of the new Joe Jackson album, there has been an increase in volume of messages on the Joe Jackson Yahoo Group. Following the various discussions, I've found something interesting - it seems to me that people's preferences of the songs on the new album, as well as preferences about which albums are better than others, are all over the map. What I think is the best song on the new album (or the worst) seems to vary a lot from person to person, and what I might consider a weak album is another fan's favorite.


Sometime in the early 90's I drove from New Orleans up to New Jersey for the first time. One of the standard highway signs that lists Gas Stations, Hotels, and Restaurants displayed a sign for the "New Orleans Steakhouse", about 20-30 miles away from any large city in New Jersey. Now, having grown up in the New Orleans area and loving good food, I laughed at the thought of a 'New Orleans' restaurant in NJ, especially in some backwoods nowheres-ville.

For the last 9 months or so I've been working in Sparta, NJ, and drive past the New Orleans Steakhouse nearly every day. I started thinking that if this restaurant has been in business for as long as it has been, how bad can it be?

Today was Mardi Gras, and the restaurant hosted a Mardi Gras party today. So I took Jessica out for dinner tonight and we decided to give the joint a try. The service seemed inconsistent. Everybody was friendly. The waiter didn't seem like the brightest bulb in the box, and we had to wait a little too long between my appetizer and our entrees, but everything came out right, and nobody had any attitude.

There were slices of King Cake at the hostess counter, and we each had a small slice. A live band, "The Noisy Neighbors", played fun Mardi Gras music, and the food, though not up to Al Copeland or Commanders Palace standards, was still pretty good. I had a cup of gumbo that was defintely good, and a plate of Bourbon Chicken over dirty rice that was far superior to the typical bourbon chicken available at every mall food court.

During the meal some of the waitstaff and customers from the bar paraded through the restaurant second-line style. The entire waitstaff were dressed up for Mardi Gras, some wearing masks, all wearing beads, one in a Jazz Fest shirt. Somebody gave us beads to wear, and a couple of Purple, Gold, and Green festooned noise-makers.

Dinner was good, and fun.


Over the weekend Jessica, Nate, Maren and I were walking past the YMCA in downtown Montclair. Nate asked what the building was, and in response I pointed to the flags hanging in front of the building emblazoned with "YMCA", and asked him what was on the flags. He answered, questioningly, "yumica ?". It sounded so similar to Yarmulke, Jessica and I couldn't help but laugh. I'd never noticed that the pronunciation of this well-known Christian organization sounded so similar to the skullcap worn by Jews.


Looks like Clinton and Obama are running neck and neck on the Dem side of things, and McCain is going to win the other side. Nothing to comment here, just recording this point in time.


Not at all related to the above tidbit, but our country Really, Really Needs something like Instant Runoff Voting or Approval Voting. I don't know what the best voting system may be, but our current system, wherein we avoid voting for a candidate unlikely to win because we don't want to waste our vote, is a truly bad system.


Did you already forget about the new Joe Jackon CD ? Go get it, now! At least listen to it!


That's all for now. Good night.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Voting Troubles, entirely unrelated to electronic vote stealers (aka voting machines)

Today was 'Super Tuesday', the day much of our country had the opportunity to vote in the Primary contests that help determine which candidates will be nominated to compete in the Presidential election in November. My polling place happens to be in the old gym at Nate's school, so this morning I took him to school, and after walking with him to the entrance he uses, I then walked around to the old gym to vote.

Considering my first choice refused to run, and my second through fourth choices had already dropped out of the race, I wasn't exactly eager to vote, but I did have a definite preference, and have proudly voted at every opportunity I've had since turning 18.

When I got to the front of the line I exchanged pleasantries with my neighbor, an older lady that lives across the street from me and has (wo)manned the polling table for at least the last 9 years, as long as I've lived in my current home.

She flipped to the proper page of the voter roll book, and while my wife was listed, my name was missing. This lady does recognize me, and she did speak up to the other workers there, explaining that my name should have been there and that I've been living in the area and voting there for years. She was not antagonistic, and did speak up for me, letting the other ladies there know this was a mistake. Unfortunately, nothing she could say could change the fact that my name was no longer listed.

I asked for a provisonal ballot, and not surprisingly saw that the poll workers had no idea how to handle this situation.

Now, this was only a primary, and while I do have a strong preference in the election, I don't quite fear the other candidate, as I do the candidates of the other party. I DO believe the real contest, in November, is absolutely critical, and I want to be 100% certain my vote will count in November. SO as soon as I got to my desk after the voting debacle, I wrote a letter to the New Jersey Elections Commisioner. I cc'd a half-dozen others: the Essex County Elections Board, NJ Governor Jon Corzine, West Orange Mayor John F. McKeon, NJ's two US Senators Menendez and Lautenberg, and the NJ Star Ledger Editors.

In the letter, I included all of the gory details of what happened, and made it clear that I don't want this to repeat in November.

It was probably overkill printing out 7 copies of this message and mailing it to so many folks who probably couldn't care less, but this is important to me, and hopefully at least one of those officials will at least pay a little attention to the issue. I also was sure to add the little "cc:" bit at the bottom, letting all of the recipients know that I sent copies to the other recipients.

You can view a copy of the letter here.

(And, Hell, I just noticed that I omitted Senators Lautenberg and Menedez from the cc; line. Damn.)