Monday, July 30, 2012

NGD: 199? Fender American Standard Stratocaster

Ah, oh beautiful day!  I got my hands on a fantastic new (to me) instrument and my wife hasn't left me.  The object of consideration for today is a 1996(?) Fender American Standard Stratocaster.  I purchased this from one of my favorite used guitar outlets for almost exactly $500.  Any day you can get a good strat for around $500 is a good day IMO.

Unfortunately it did not come with a case, which would have made the deal super sweet, but I'll settle for very sweet.  While 90's strats aren't that rare, they are getting older.  I also have not been able to find a left-handed 90's strat in this color anywhere on the Internet - so maybe this one is a little more unique?  At least one can hope.

There's one thing I think is even more unique about this guitar: the model year.  It seems to be somewhat of a mystery!  Here's what I found so far:
The Serial Number  The serial number is an "N9", which usually means 1999, except Fender mistakingly used some of these stickers on 1990 guitars.
The Date Stamps  The neck has a date stamp of Feb 1, 1992 and the body has a stamp of Apr 23, 1992.
The Original Purchase Date  The original owner claims he bought it new in 1996.

So it could be a 1990, 1992, 1993, 1996 or 1999 model guitar.  Whew!  My guess is that's its a 1993 model that didn't sell until 1996 for some reason(?).

Specs (from Fender customer service):

Model Name: American Standard Stratocaster®
Series: American Standard Series
Body: Alder (Optional Swamp Ash Body Natural Finish Only p/n# 010-7400/2-721)
Neck: Maple
Fingerboard: Maple (9.5” Radius/241 mm)
No. of Frets: 22 Medium Jumbo Frets
Scale Length: 25.5” (648 mm)
Width @ Nut: 1.6875” (43 mm)
Hardware: Chrome
Machine Heads: Fender/Schaller Deluxe Cast/Sealed
Bridge: American Standard
Pickguard: 3-Ply White
Pickups: 3 American Standard Strat Single Coils
Pickup Switching: 5-Position Blade:
Position 1. Bridge Pickup
Position 2. Bridge and Middle Pickup
Position 3. Middle Pickup
Position 4. Middle and Neck Pickup
Position 5. Neck Pickup
Controls: Master Volume, Tone (Neck), TBX Tone (Mid, Bridge),
Source: U.S.
Accessories: Molded Case
U.S. MSRP: $1,049.99 (With Swamp Ash Body $1,199.99)

Body: Alder
I've also found that there was a temporary ban on Alder wood from sometime in 1990 till sometime in 1994.  Yet, the body looks to be made of Alder.  Hmmm... maybe Fender kept these guitars in the warehouse until the ban was lifted?

And the neck feels fantastic, a real pleasure to play.  Not coincidentally, necks are supposed to be one of the best things about Fender strats built in the 90's.  Now I can see why.  This one had after-market chrome Sperzels on it - can't find those anymore.  Sperzels are okay, but I prefer Schallers when it comes to locking tuners.  The dial underneath the key is thicker allowing for easier (and less painful) tightening of the lock.

It has the 90's-correct TBX tone control.  

The tremolo came with all 5 of the black springs installed.  Black springs were also common for 90's era guitars.  I will probably remove 2 of the springs in an effort to determine the best floating bridge setup.

Update:  Oops... I did it again!
After watching used guitar sites for some time before and after this purchase, I decided I could find a better example of a 90's strat than this one.  It just had too many flaws so I returned it and got my money back.  It had:

  • A gash on the underside of the neck at the 2nd fret
  • Finish was worn to the wood on the fretboard at the second fret
  • It needed a complete fret-leveling (another $100) - which was ultimately the deal-killer for me
  • Dings and dent in front and back of the headstock and down the back of the neck
  • Walnut truss rod plug had some damage
  • Finished was bashed-in on the bottom side of the body, like it was dropped.
  • Hole in the lower horn where previous owner had flipped it backward Hendrix-style.  I hate that!  Righties- leave the lefties alone!  It won't make you look or sound like Hendrix anyway!

I just couldn't get over the fact that for $50 more I could get a 90's strat in like-new condition.  The mystique of the manufactured vs. purchased date wasn't enough to make me keep it.  Oddly enough, it still played very nicely.  But in the end, I decided to put the money toward a different instrument that I'll  describe in a future post.

Friday, July 20, 2012

How to Activate Windows 8 Enterprise Preview

(If you want the quick answer, see the bottom of this article.)

I wanted to start using Windows 8 on my work laptop since it will be released in a matter of weeks.  We're a Microsoft EA customer, so I checked our Volume Licensing downloads and sure enough, there sat "Windows 8 Enterprise Preview" ready to download including the product key.  I compared the build number to the official Window 8 Consumer Preview and it's the same, 8400.

After replacing the drive in my laptop, I downloaded and installed.  Interestingly, it did not prompt me for a key during installation.  After installation, weird "activate this PC" text appeared on the screen that seemed to appear above windows opened on top of it, unlike the "evaluation copy" text.

Trying to activate from the "Metro" interface only gave me a message about a problem that occurred and to try again later.  Activating from control panel gave me more of an error message, but not much:  failed to activate windows, with a generic error code of 0xCxxxx.

So I thought it might be a good idea to call Microsoft Volume Licensing Activation support.  Bad idea. Here's how that went:
Called MS volume licensing activation center.
Did "over the phone" activation - read 9 groups with 7 numbers each.
After all that, person said the numbers were invalid???
Then they asked me to click on icons and options that didn't exist.
Then forwarded me to some tech support group.
Explained previous steps to new support tech.
New guy said volume licensing activation group should help me out.
I told him that they forwarded me to him.
He lies and says no, it was the retail volume license group!
Back to volume licensing group I go - exact same menu options.
Chose same option.
Yet another new guy says he is, in fact, in the volume licensing activation group. Ok.
I provide him Windows version and EA agreement number.
Silence, then on hold music.
Then ringing... what?
MS professional support person answers.
She says she can't hear me and hangs up.

Frustration sets in... install CentOS? Ubuntu?  SmartOS?  Hmmm...  Then I remember seeing the command "SLUI 4" in regards to activating Windows 7.  That brings up the "activation by phone" window.  On a whim, I tried "SLUI 3" - bang!  That brings up the "change activation key" window, exactly what I needed!  I pasted the new key and it activated automagically.

Why was this so difficult?  They'd better fix before RTM!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Monetizing The Blog

This post is a little over-due as I started monetizing this blog several months ago, but I thought I would say a few words about it anyway.

My purpose for this blog is not to make money (if it were, I'd spend much more time providing content and making it look better).  However, turning on the built-in blog revenue-generating features was easy so why not?  My main purpose is really to document and share information on things I'm passionate about and others might find helpful or interesting.  If I make a few pennies along the way, so be it.

The ads displayed in-between articles are from Google Adsense.  I have no control over what ads are displayed.  Theoretically, they're related to the blog post, but I can't guarantee that will always be the case.  I also can't say that I would recommend any service or product being advertised here since I don't know what it will be.  Take it for what it is.  If you click on it, I get a penny.

Besides Adsense, I have also signed-on with Amazon to become an affiliate.  All this means is that when I recommend something, I can provide a link to the product on Amazon's web site that, when used by the reader, will pay me a few pennies if the reader purchases the product.  Sort of like a referral fee.  Note that the price doesn't change for you, the reader/buyer.

The "Recommended Products" box at the bottom right of this blog contains products that I recommend.  And I only recommend products that I personally own and/or am very familiar with.  If I write a review of a product, I will include a link for that product at the bottom of the article.  Based on the products in the box (at the time of the article), you can see that I'm going to be writing reviews on home theater equipment from Yamaha and Polk Audio - all of which I've been very happy with, but you'll have to wait for the review to learn more.

Below that you'll see an "ARRITDOR Shopping" image/link.  Use this if you'd like to throw a couple of pennies my way - you can purchase any item on with no increased cost to you.

Don't feel like you need to use any of these options.  They are there if you want to use them.  And if you do use them, I'll greatly appreciate it.  Otherwise, just enjoy the articles.  Thanks!