Upgrade an Xbox 360 HDD, Headache Free Christmas Light Repair, and Stripping Kindle DRM

Once a week we round up some of the interesting questions we’ve answered from the Ask How-To Geek mailbox and share them with the greater readership. This week we’re looking at Xbox 360 upgrades, Christmas light wiring, and stripping Kindle DRM.

How Can I Upgrade the Hard Drive on my Xbox 360 Slim?


Dear How-To Geek, Hi! I have a new Xbox 360 Slim 4GB. It doesn’t come with a hard drive and I can’t afford the 250GB hard drive add-on. I do have a laptop hard drive (the Western Digital Scorpio 120GB). Is there anyway I can use this drive instead of buying the pricey upgrade? Thanks! Sincerely, Hard Drive Hacking in St. Helens

Dear Hard Drive Hacking, We don’t think we’ve ever had a reader email that involves such a fortunate coincidence. Yes it is possible to hack your Xbox 360 slim (or any Xbox 360 for that matter) to use a third party hard drive. Not only that but the Western Digital Scorpio line, specifically the 120GB, is the drive most modders will recommend because so many people have used it with such success. What are the chances that you’d have the exact drive we’d recommend you get? All you need to do now is to swing by Amazon.com and pick up this dirt cheap $3 Xbox 360 Slim HDD Caddy (trust us, you don’t want to free mount your drive in the case, even if some videos online will show people doing just that). With the caddy and HDD in hand, hit up this tutorial over at GamerWok. It’s not the only tutorial on the topic (so feel free to check Google and YouTube for additional tutorials and videos) but it should get the job done for you.

How Can I Troubleshoot and Repair My Christmas Lights?


Dear How-To Geek, I know you guys normally cover computer stuff but since I do see electronics projects pop up now and then I figured it was worth asking. I’m late putting up my Christmas lights this year and so far everything has been a mess. I have tons of strands with bad bulbs. I have a bunch of extra bulbs so it’s not like I can’t replace the bad ones… but with the whole strand dark there’s no way to tell which one is the bad one! Surely there has to be some sort of tool for this kind of thing? It’s got to be cheaper than buying all new strands! Help! Sincerely, Clark Griswold

Dear Mr. Griswold, Since you’re talking about burnt out bulbs, we’ll assume you’re talking about incandescent mini lights. You’re right, there are tools available to help you. In fact the tools in question work so well most home owners would call them down right magical. What you need to help with your Christmas light woes is a multi-function tool; we highly recommend the Light Keeper Pro. It’s highly reviewed and the comments on it are absolutely glowing. It will help you do several things including testing strand fuses, pulling bulbs, and fusing shunts. The last one is the most important feature and it does it very well. Mini Christmas light strand bulbs are designed with a fail-safe mechanism. In the event that the bulb burns out there is a small shunt that will melt and fuse the two wires together so, despite the bulb being burnt out and not illuminating, the current will continue to flow through the strand and the rest of the bulbs will stay on. The most common cause of total strand blackout is one or more shunts failing to melt and re-form the circuit. The Light Keeper Pro (and similar tools) send pulses of electricity through the line that melt the improperly joined shunts. Without a tool like that you’d either have to throw the line out or go through and test every single bulb in the whole strand. For a little over twenty bucks we think you’ll find it’s a worthwhile investment and a huge time saver.

How Can I Strip the DRM on My Kindle Books?


Dear How-To Geek, Is it possible to strip the DRM from my Kindle books so I can do things with them like I would with a book purchased from a DRM-free ebook store? I’d like to be able to give a book to a friend when I’m done reading it or keep a copy on my Kindle and my laptop (as oppose to, you know, start running an underground book store with all my illicit copies). Is there any way I can go about this? Sincerely, Book Worm in Wisconsin

Dear Book Worm, As you can imagine Amazon frowns on people cracking the DRM and they usually update their system to squash new techniques that allow users to do so. That said, we completely understand why consumers would want to remove the DRM from media they purchase (whether it’s Amazon books or DVD discs); you paid for it and you have the right to view it, read it, and otherwise interact with it the way you want to. To that end we can point you towards this helpful blog post. Apprentice Alf has gathered up a bunch of different Kindle and other ebook format hacks and streamlined the process of using them. The most recent update to the package was in October and to the best of our knowledge it’s still working. You’ll need to use the open-source ebook manager Calibre, the plug-ins from Apprentice Alf’s guide, and some DRM enabled books to strip. We’d highly recommend reading over the FAQ and some of his other blog posts to get a feel for the process first.

Have a pressing tech question? Shoot us an email and we’ll do our best to answer it.

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