April 27, 2008

Vista - Day something

Ok, just a few comments from using Vista so far. There's something wrong with Vista's built-in unzip capability. It is slower than dog doo dripping down an even sidewalk on a cold day. I downloaded and installed 7-zip, which is free and open-source (and licensed under LGPL!!! for you programmer/license geeks out there). 7-Zip works much faster than Vista's builtin unzip, so it's worth the extra right-click-menu instead of the simple drag-and-drop out of the archive file.

Other than that problem, Vista works fine for me, and I haven't run into any problems that a simple 'Run as Administrator' doesn't fix. I actually prefer the UAC turned on in Vista as it lets me know when the computer is going to do something potentially destructive.

One of my favorite oldies games is Thief:Dark Project. It requires to be set as Administrator to run because it changes files in the program's installed directory as it runs videos and does save-game files. Thief also is older than multi-processor machines, and freezes up when run on a dual core machine. To fix this, you can either edit the process affinity after you kick it off, or patch the executable (I found the instructions here). Of course, if you run as administrator, you can't simply change the process affinity (as its permissions are higher than yours). I opted to patch my executable.

I also decided I wanted to have Linux around with this laptop, but I didn't want to repartition it and re-install Vista and Linux. So I downloaded Wubi which lets you install Linux into a software partition created by the Wubi product. It also installs Grub and boots into the software partition when you turn on the machine, so it's not running Linux [Ubuntu] in a virtual machine. Linux can be uninstalled quickly from within Windows as well. I'd suggest it for anyone wanting to give Linux a try with minimal pain.

April 11, 2008


Why the fuck are power grid control computers attached to the Internet?

There should be a physical, brick, steel, admantium, whatever, wall between the computer equipment that controls the power stations controls and the rest of the world. These people hacked into this equipment by taking over people's Internet-browser-capable workstations.

HOW? What idiot designed the security at that power plant?

Let's just say that remote control capability is necessary to perform the duties of the controllers at this plant. That remote control should only be possible from an authenticated, otherwise unattached terminal from an equally secure location. The remote control terminal does not need to be able to access YouTube.Com.

The state of computer security in this country is horrendous. I don't know how the hell the person responsible for this idiocy still has a job. It's just completely unbelievable.

Mobility Modder to the Rescue

Ok, ATI puts out reference drivers for their laptop chips. However, Acer doesn't subscribe to their (whatever) and is not a supported manufacturer under their program to provide drivers. That means when ATI puts out good, working drivers (for example, version 8.3 Catalyst drivers) for my laptop card (Mobility Radeon X1400), they won't install on my laptop, since my hardware is not officially supported.

Thankfully, SOMEONE OUT THERE SOLVED THIS PROBLEM! The good folks at Driver Heaven have a tool that makes changes to the install script(s) for the drivers that allows it to install the drivers on my laptop. I just downloaded and installed the newest drivers using their little modding tool, and everything works! Aero/Glass, Second Life, Phun... I am once again happy with my laptop. Now to take a reference backup/snapshot and move on to installing more stuff. Thank heaven for Driver Heaven! Look for a Paypal contribution from me today!

Vista and the video driver - Day 4

It looks like I have a choice. I can have a Vista installation that works for everything except OpenGL games, or I can have OpenGL drivers that work for everything but Aero/Glass, and crash Vista when I shut down my machine.

Vista came with drivers that work for my video card, but OpenGL performance is approximately 1 frame per second (possibly lower - no I'm not exaggerating!) I've tried my laptop vendor (Acer) and video card vendor (ATI). While newer drivers are out for the video card, Acer hasn't bothered to update them (the laptop's about a year and half old, so why should Acer care) and will likely not be doing so at all.

I downloaded third-party drivers from Guru 3d (OmegaDrivers still hasn't put out a set of 32-bit ATI drivers - :cry: :cry:). They work (as far as making my programs work), but the ATI control center crashes, and when I shut down my machine, it blue-screens.

I've tried even a fresh install of Vista at this point. I think I'm out of Vista options. It looks like I'll have to switch back to XP until OmegaDrivers comes out with a set of drivers that work. Perhaps I'll drop him a note asking nicely.

April 10, 2008

Vista - Day 3 &!@(*^%@*&%$!@

Of course, it was too good to last. One good thing - I did get the printer to work. It wasn't a simple matter. I have my printer on my XP Media PC downstairs, shared out on the network. Vista doesn't even see that PC when you browse the network, although you can see the shares by running \\machinename - you just can't use the shared printer by clicking on it (like you could in XP) and installing it.

Step 1. Install Vista drivers for printer, telling printer driver it's ok that it doesn't see the printer, but to install ANYWAY. This gets driver onto the machine.
Step 2. Choose properties (run as administrator) and choose the Port tab. Add a new port, type: Local Port, name: \\machinename\printersharename .
Step 3. Delete printer.
Step 4. Re-add printer, choosing the port that was set up in Step 2.

It took about an hour to find that solution and figure out the correct steps in the correct order. Any deviation from that order of doing it, and it wouldn't work. I'd get access denied errors and other various and sundry bullshit.

So then I shut my machine down. Vista decided that it knew better than I did about what video driver I should have installed, and 'updated' my ATI video driver during the shutdown/install patches process. I know this because I had previously told it NOT to install that patch, every time I had gone to the update/patch screen. It was the only one left.

Well, fuck Vista.

Now my machine is back to running slow as shit in graphics-intensive applications, and now it crashes/blue screens on shutdown (which causes it to memdump and start right back up). I'm going to have to spend another couple of HOURS cleaning up the mess it created forcing me to patch in this piece of shit graphics driver.

April 08, 2008

Vista - Day 2

Video Drivers are the soul of the computer. I have an Acer Aspire 5672 with an ATI X1400 Mobility card. Updating the drivers with the 1.7.3 NGO Optimized drivers from Guru 3d did the trick for programs that weren't working, including Second Life. Yesterday Phun (a crayon/physics type game) wasn't working except at a crawl, but this definitely fixed that problem. Everything seems to be working pretty good so far...

I also installed new Acer Orbicam and Realtek Audio drivers for Vista from Acer. Next stop - my stupid printer...which I expect to be an issue.

I bit the Vista Bullet

Microsoft lured me into upgrading my laptop to Vista Ultimate with a free copy of the OS I got at a Launch (2008) event. So, last night I bit the bullet. I'll try to make notes here of things as I run into them.

1. The upgrade took hours. I hear clean installs are much faster, but I wanted to keep a lot of software I already had installed.

2. Desktop Icons were BIG - solution: click on desktop, hold Ctrl, and use mousewheel to resize them.

3. Windows Search wants to index my whole hard drive - serious disk usage - solution: disable Windows Search service

4. Aero works great - but if you want the diagonal window task switcher, you have to learn to use the Windows-Tab instead of Alt-Tab

5. AVG Anti-virus had to be reinstalled. I have the free version, but the license data didn't carry over in the migration.

Will post other stuff as it happens/I remember.

April 07, 2008

Springfield Mall - WTF?

What the hell is going on at Springfield Mall? I was at the mall on Sunday afternoon, and it appeared that large swaths of the mall were closed off. Stores and eateries were walled off with drywall, and even the movie theater was closed. I checked their website this morning, and there was no information at all. If you live in Northern Virginia, you may be wondering whether it's a sign of the economic times, or just a case of suburban blight. In fact, with some of the goings-on in the past year at the mall, I could easily imagine vendors jumping ship. When gun-play comes to your local shopping center, it's easy to figure that stores may wish to relocate.

But a little birdie told me something big is cooking at the mall. A major renovation is planned for Springfield Mall, with upscale stores planned for the renovations, although I didn't get any specifics from my singing friend. Perhaps the 'upscale' target is to fight off the image that Springfield Mall may be getting after the shooting incident. I was told that some stores are being forced out of the mall, while others are being given the opportunity to relocate. In fact, my favorite barber shop was relocated upstairs next to J.C. Penney's.

A quick call to the Springfield Mall contact number got a little bit more information. Planning meetings are apparently being held with local community groups, most likely the Springfield Chamber of Commerce at a minimum. The renovations will begin after some more stores are relocated to one side of the mall, and this should be happening in the next few months. They have also told me that a new website will be launched with information about the renovations soon. While the person I spoke to was unsure about whether it'd be linked to their main site, I suspect it will.

If you're a shopper, or you just live in the area and were curious as to what is going on, now you know.