Monthly Archives: December 2006

First Taco Bell in Montreal

Taco Bell LogoYo quiero Taco Bell. I’ve always been a big fan of Taco Bell, I know it’s fast food and doesn’t compare to "Real" Mexican food, but Why am I so excited? Don’t get me wrong I don’t think Taco Bell is the greatest food in the world, but once in a while nothing beats that 99 cent soft shell taco.

Taco Bell has been all over Canada for a while, except for Quebec. At first I thought it was a language issue, in Quebec everything must be prominently French, and I just assumed no one wanted to go through the trouble of translating the menus, packaging, signs etc.

But one day we went to visit a friend in Ottawa (2hr drive from Montreal), and spotted a Taco Bell, of course we stopped in for a bite. What really surprised me was, everything was bilingual? what’s the deal? So why not in Montreal? Till this day I still don’t know what took them so long, but we finally got our first Taco Bell in Montreal, more specifically (in Pierrefonds, corner of Pierrefonds blvd and des Sources blvd).

Although I think this is great news, I feel a little pessimistic, and don’t think it will do well. Why?

  • First of all, bad timing, just a couple of weeks ago there was an E. Coli Outbreak caused by Taco Bell’s across 6 states. That can’t be good publicity, which brings me to my second point.
  • NO Advertising, I hear rumors going around, a friend of a friend heard they were going to open a Taco Bell in Montreal, but when I Googled it, or even checked the official Taco Bell website, there was no news or information about it. I did however find a post on a forum about the rumored location. So I took a drive and checked it out myself, I was pleased to see, it wasn’t a rumor.
  • Lastly, I feel the location isn’t the best. My opinion would be downtown and for the West Island, St-Jean close to the highway, or even the Fairview mall. The main roads on the West Island are (des Sources, St-Jean and St-Charles), des Sources is the first exit coming from downtown and takes about 10min to reach Pierrefonds blvd. It beats driving 2hrs to Ottawa. Still I believe the Fairview Mall or around that area would have been better exposure, especially with the lack of advertising.

So the official opening date is Dec 18, 2006, hopefully it will be a success and they will sprout out, all over Montreal. I for one look forward to it. Mmmm Tacos. 🙂 

The Hard Drive on my PVR died – What do I do?

So the hard drive on your PVR dies, what do you do? Do you go out and drop $299 on a new PVR or… Hey wait I’m a techie, I’ll just buy a $60 HD, pop open the lid and just replace it, right? unfortunately it’s not that easy, after days of trial and error, I finally got it to work, it took , lots of reading, lots of patience and of course lots of Diet Coke, I will share the steps I took to finally make it work.

First a brief explanation of the inner workings, of the Bell Expressvu 5100. When you get a factory new PVR, and plug it in, the built-in software lets call this "firmware", is "virgin"… The firmware initializes the HD with the receiver serial number and smart card number, this procedure is called marrying the hard drive with the receiver. Once that’s done, the firmware gets updated through the satellite signal, and is no longer "virgin". All this is seamless and fairly quick, it just looks/sounds like the receiver is booting up.

Now since the hard drive is "married" to the receiver, you can’t just buy a new HD and just plop it in, on top of that, the receiver only works with a handful of specific hard drives. But when I bought mine, the clerk at the PC store convinced me he’s done this before and sold me a Western Digital HD promising it would work. the 5100 PVR only supports some models of Maxtors and Seagate drive, Luckily a good buddy of mine had an 80Gb Maxtor Drive he was willing to swap with me, although it was not on the list as one of the supported drives, I think it made the job easier, because the many attempts of getting the western digital to work were unsuccessful.

Alright, enough with all this blabbing and lets get to: "how I replaced my HD"… Here is what I used, you can find out more info on the following, by using google, and there’s also a great yahoo group called dishmod loaded with information.

  • New Hard Drive – the one I used was an 80Gb Maxtor 6Y080L0
  • Jtag – a piece of hardware that allows you to connect your PC to your receiver, in order to upload/download firmware
  • Original Smart Card – because the new card is incompatible with virgin firmware
  • Jkeys 2.9.11 – software that allows you to upload/download firmware to/from receiver
  • Flash Edit 2.1 – software that allows you to edit firmware information
  • Hex Workshop – software which allows you to edit any file "will use it to add HD serial number"
  • IRDr 3.16 – software which "fixes" CRC errors "caused by editing the files" and generates EEPROM files
  • Virgin Firmware – I used P087 with DCKA build … do a google search for "tsop banks"
  • PowerMax – Maxtor HD utility – used to low level format the HD "zero-ing the HD"
  • Caffeine –  I use Diet Coke, some prefer Coffee… required to stay awake when things go wrong

Make sure you have all the above things before you begin:

  1. The first thing you’ll want to do is "zero fill" your hard drive also known as low-level format, I used PowerMax boot disk. Make sure you choose the correct HD, and select full format not quick. This may take a while 90 min or so for my 80gb, while that’s working "assuming you have a second PC" goto step 2
  2. Backup your current firmware by connecting your Jtag to the receiver and using Jkeys. You will need to  save flash1, flash2 and EEPROM, keep them in a safe place (also make a few backups). These files contain important info (following bullet points) make note of them because you will need them at a later time to restore your system.
    • Boxkeys like: 11 22 33 44 55 66 77 88
    • IRD # like: R 00 1234 5678-123
    • Build Cfg mine was DCKA
  3. Once you find your Virgin TSOP… the one I used was P087 build DCKA, (you must find a build matching the one from your backup). At that point you can open it up in FlashEdit, and paste in the values you got from the backup (boxkeys, IRD, Build), check the "fix CRC" box and save as.
  4. Now you can open that updated virgin file in Hex workshop, I searched for ST380020ACE and typed over it with Maxtor 6Y080L0 "it IS case sensitive", this shows up twice in the file, so do a second search/replace… and finally save the updated file, to make it easier for the next step use a simple name, like u7.bin
  5. The edit in the previous step causes a CRC error, so you have to run it through the IRDr.exe application. Open up a DOS prompt, goto the irdr <dir> and type "irdr u7.bin" it will ask you if you want to rename the file, "choose yes", it will also ask you if you want to save a new file, "choose yes", you will have a file with .UPD.bin at the end
  6. You’re now ready to upload the edited virgin firmware, fireup jkeys, connect the jtag, start by erasing flash1 then flash2, you can then program the firmware onto flash 2. there was also a virgin eeprom that came with the P087 virgin flash, upload the virgin eeprom and your done.
  7. You can now connect your receiver , your HD, insert your smart card (I forgot to mention, Expressvu sent out new smartcards a year or so ago, because the virgin firmware is older you will need your original card) and power up the unit, at this point , if all is well there will be a nice marriage between the receiver and the hard drive, if you don’t get any error messages it’s a good sign, but you won’t be able to tell, only channel 198 will work , no PVR functions.
  8. Remember the backup in step 2? We will need to do Steps 4-6 to your backup firmware, which is edit to add Maxtor drive, fix CRC with IRDr then Use Jkeys to upload the edited file and your EEPROM Backup.
  9. Reconnect everything. Power up… And if you’re lucky, you will see "Hard Drive is spinning up" Message, followed by "aquiring signal", and finally be able to record your favorite shows.

The drawback of this procedure is: every time your receiver gets an update you will have to download/edit your firmware to include the "unsupported" drive, I strongly recommend getting a supported drive, it will save you lots of headaches

I hope my experience sheds some light on the procedure or can at least point you in the right direction, I know I haven’t gone into much detail, but if you already have some experience in this hobby , it can be a huge help for some of us, especially as a reminder to jog our memory, months down the road.