Archive for the ‘hardware’ Category

ASUS Blu-Ray Recorder and Power2Go   Leave a comment

I recently installed an add-on Blu-Ray Recorder on my Dell desktop machine here at work, and I had some troubles.  You might too.

The physical installation went fine, although they didn’t include a SATA cable in the box with the drive, which I found annoying.  If you’re buying one of these, keep in mind you need to pick up a cable as well unless you’re ditching your existing optical drive.

When I went to install the Power2Go 7.0 software that was pre-packaged with the drive – so that I can actually burn Blu-Ray discs – I got a popup error:

Error 1327.Invalid Drive Y:

“Weird”, thought I.  I have Offline Folders set up on this desktop pointing my documents folder at a server, and that folder is mapped as drive Y.  Well, it can occasionally happen that software developers hard-code a drive letter in their installation (bad practice, boo!) for use as a virtual drive, so I disconnected the mapped drive and tried again.  Still no dice.

It turns out that if you have Offline Folders set up, even if the drive is not connected, the Power2Go installer borks.  Turning off Offline Folders isn’t enough to fix it, because the Offline Folders setup, itself, leaves registry keys in the registry even after you turn off Offline Folders.  You actually have to run the registry editor and remove the legacy entries for the drive mappings to get the installer to not freak out.  Be cautious when you run the registry editor, as you can brick your machine.

Click Start, and then click Run.  In the Open field, type regedit, and then click OK. The Registry Editor opens.

  1. In the Registry Editor, locate the following registry key:
    HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\Shell Folders
  2. In the right pane, note the values in the Data column of each entry.  Find the legacy entry for your Offline Folder entry and delete it.
  3. Repeat for each of the following registry key:
    HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\User Shell Folders
  4. Close the Registry Editor and run the installation again.

Posted September 13, 2012 by padraic2112 in hardware, software, tech

Please, Don’t Buy This   1 comment

Engadget reports Kingston is shipping a 256GB USB thumb drive.  No, that’s not a typo.

Okay, so it’s $1,000, which is pricey for something so small you might run it through the wash and ruin it.

Still, let’s assume for a minute that Engadget is properly labeling it 12 MB/sec (typically, I expect data transfer rates to be in megabits per second, not megaBytes), and that the storage is in the usual 1,000,000,000 bytes to the GB instead of the normal filesystem 1,073,741,824 bytes to the GB.

That’s 256,000,000,000/12,000,000 ~ 21,333 seconds to write it full (with no overhead – ha – that happens in the real world precisely never). About 6 hours.

If, of course, it’s actually 12mpbs instead of 12MBps, you’re looking at 42 hours to fill the damn thing up, again assuming no overhead (yeah, right)….

That is one huge Fat32 partition, assuming you were technically neophyte enough to put the standard removable drive filesystem on it, but simultaneously savvy enough to figure out how.  My God, it makes my brain hurt just to imagine how many centuries it would take to defrag the thing.  On the upside, you’ll be able to hide one heck of an encrypted TrueCrypt volume on that sucker; I don’t think you’d be able to find it in a reasonable amount of time with TCHunt just because of the gigantic size of the thing and the amount of *time* it would take to read it.

Posted February 18, 2010 by padraic2112 in gadget, hardware, tech

Remember “Damnation Alley”?   1 comment

It’s not the Landmaster, but it’s actually more useful in a large scale disaster…

The Cisco NERV:

Posted December 11, 2008 by padraic2112 in hardware, networking, tech, Uncategorized

Installing Windows XP on a Dell Inspiron 1420 laptop   4 comments

My earlier post on how to roll-back-a-Dell-Inspiron-518-to-XP gets quite a few hits, so I’m adding this one for a different model.  Unlike the previous post, this one concerns a laptop, and requires a few additional steps.

To perform this install, you will need:

  • a USB floppy drive
  • a USB flash drive
  • an XP installation CD
  • a working network connection
  • patience

Boot your laptop into Vista, then launch the Control Panel, and make a note of the following devices if they’re different from what I have listed here:

  • Video Device (in my case, this is an Intel Mobile 965, XP driver available here, file name R181739.exe)
  • Intel Mobile Chipset (XP driver available here, file name R153997.exe)
  • Ricoh Chipset – media card (XP driver available here, file name R141246.exe)
  • Modem (in my case, this is a Conextant HDA D330 MDC V.92 Modem, XP driver available here, file name R167368.exe)
  • Modem Utility – optional (XP version of the utility available here, for that Conextant modem, file name R148605.exe)
  • Network Devices (in my case, this is a Broadcom Netlink Fast Ethernet, XP driver available here, file name R155246.exe)
  • WIreless Devices (in my case, this is a Dell Wireless 1395 WLAN Mini-Card, XP driver available here, file name Dell_multi-device_A17_R174291.exe)
  • Bluetooth Devices (in my case, this is a Dell Truemobile 355 Bluetooth, XP driver available here, file name R127314.exe) – this one is tricky, there’s no link to it on the Inspiron 1420 page.
  • Audio Devices (in my case, a Sigmatel 92xx, XP driver available here, file name R171789.exe)
  • Dell Touchpad (the default XP driver will work, but there is added functionality you can get with the Dell driver, XP driver available here, file name R165804.exe)

Then connect your laptop to the internet, and download all of those files, saving them to your USB flash drive.  You’ll need those later.  If you have devices other than these (there are a lot of different configurations for the 1420), you may need to find the XP drivers for those devices on the Dell Support website for the Inspiron 1420.  Note, however, that if you miss something this is not a terribly big deal, as long as you get the wireless or wired network drivers correct, you can always connect to the Dell Support website at that link *after* you’ve installed XP and find the driver for your mystery device.

Then you connect your USB floppy drive (you’ll also need a floppy, btw), and download the XP mass storage driver for your laptop from the Dell Support website.  Run the executable, and unpack the driver files to c:\temp\intel, and then copy the contents of that directory onto your floppy drive (, iaahci.inf,, iastor.sys, you don’t need the text files).  Then open your CD tray and insert your Windows XP installation CD.  Close the CD tray, and reboot your laptop.

At the BIOS loading screen, hit “F12” to pull up the boot order – the default is to boot from the hard drive.  Boot from the CD drive.  In a few seconds you’ll see “Hit any key to boot from CD…”, hit the keyboard (not too hard), and then the XP installation will begin.  At the bottom of the screen you’ll see “hit F6 to add a storage driver”, HIT F6.  The XP installation will load a few drivers, and then ask you if you want to add a storage driver.  Hit “S” to load the mass storage driver.  This will read the iastor file(s) off of the floppy drive, and prompt you with four options for mass storage drivers, two desktop drivers and two mobile ones.  Unless you’ve chosen two hard drives as an opion, you want the Mobile AHCI driver, not the RAID driver (you’ll get an error if you choose the RAID driver and you’ll need to start over).

Assuming you’ve gotten this far (it could fail if the floppy drive or disk is broken, and you’ll have to create a new floppy from inside Vista and start over), you’ll move on to the next step of the installation.  Blow away all of the existing partitions, unless you want to keep the Dell Diagnostic partition (it’s the smallest Fat32 one).  Then install XP following your normal XP installation guide (there’s a ton available on the Internet, I’m not going to write up a specific one here today).  After the installation is complete boot into XP, connect your flash drive, and install the XP drivers for all the devices that you downloaded above… then enable the firewall (if your XP installation disk is pre-SP2), connect the XP laptop to the Internet, and download the four gajillion XP patches and update your laptop.

Posted October 24, 2008 by padraic2112 in hardware, OS, tech, Windows

Princess Adda! Princess Adda!   Leave a comment

Robot ants to colonize Mars.  ‘Nuff said.

Posted October 21, 2008 by padraic2112 in hardware, robots, tech

This… Is My BOOMSTICK!   3 comments

Megan’s blog buddy VE wrote a post recently that covered what I like to call “alternative lifestyle user input devices”, also known as ergonomic keyboards.  He’s largely poking fun… which is fair enough, there’s a lot of screwy ergo keyboards out there and he’s got most of them on his list.

He missed one.  This is mine:

Buy One.  Trust Me.

Buy One. Trust Me.

The Kinesis Classic was introduced to me by the programming crew at Idealab, in 2000.  I cannot recommend this keyboard (or the Advantage or Pro models) enough, I currently have two of my own, and two that I’ve dragooned CS into purchasing for me, one for each office.  Unfortunately, I can’t get Kitty into using one, so the keyboard at home is still an old school 101 enhanced.

Here’s a list of the awesome (assumes the Advantage Pro model):

  • The keyboard is programmable, hence the “CTRL” key can now reside under your left thumb instead of your left or right pinkie finger.  For anyone who operates a UNIX command line, this is divine.
  • You can get a footpad for it, enabling all sorts of advanced control magic.
  • It has a built-in USB hub.
  • You can toggle it between QWERTY and DVORAK.
  • You can pull it off of your desk and type with it in your lap.  For mixing up your body positioning during long terminal sessions (ie, a normal day at the office for me), this is good at preventing all sorts of bad ergo-related consequences.
  • The keyboard is macro-programmable, so you can actually (if you’re crazily patient enough) write your own macros for keycombos you use regularly.  This is more of a time-burning bug than an actual feature, but it can be dork fun.
  • And, of course: nerds think you are cool when you own one.

The unawesome:

  • It takes anywhere from 2 hours to a week to get used to it (I was at the 2 hour end).
  • They don’t have a wireless model.  Boo (although I have seen one hardware-hacked into wirelessness).
  • If you share a computer, you have to get your terminal partner to use it, which is a social engineering problem (see above).
  • They’re expensive.

How expensive, you may ask?  Well, $289 for the Classic, $299 for the Advantage, and $349 for the Advantage Pro.  I know, most of you reading at this point just decided I was out of my mind… $280+ for a freaking keyboard?

YES.  For anyone who spends hours a day at a computer, this is good money to spend.  A good 55% of the people who do my job have crippling RSI by this point in their career, and I don’t.  That’s worth a lot more to me than the money I’ve spent on these keyboards.

Posted October 16, 2008 by padraic2112 in ergonomics, hardware, tech

Installing XP On A Dell Inspiron 518   36 comments

Dell’s Inspiron 518 line only comes with Vista pre-installed.  Unlike some other machines you may order from Dell, they don’t give you two copies of the installation media, Vista is all that you get.

We don’t use Vista (and probably won’t for a while yet), so I needed to back-port a pair of these machines to XP.  Someone else out there might want to do it.  Here’s how (disclaimer: there is no modem or card reader, and only onboard video in these machines, you may have trouble with models that are configured otherwise):

First, you’ll need a USB key or some other removable media.  Boot the box into Vista, connect to the network, and go to the Realtek website and download the WinXP (WinServer 2003) Driver… file name  Next, go to the Intel website and download the XP drivers for the video chipset… file name win2k_xp14363.exe. The network and video drivers are the two drivers that you *must* get before you start the reinstall process, there are XP-compatible drivers on the Dell Resource CD that shipped with the computer for the Intel chipset and sound card, but the network and video card drivers on the Resource CD is Vista-only.

Next, you need a Windows XP Professional installation disk.  If you have the Volume Licensing Edition (like Caltech does), you don’t need to worry about licensing… you can install any version of Windows on a machine you want, provided you bought it with some Windows license on it.  If you don’t have access to the Volume Licensing Edition, you need (a) to have ordered your computer with either Vista Business or Vista Ultimate in order to have access to Microsoft’s “back-port” terms; and (b) a Windows XP installation disk (and key) of any type.  If you bought it with Vista Home, you’re stuck shelling out the $$ for the license.

Boot the box with the XP installation disk in the CD/DVD drive, destroy the existing partitions, and install XP like you normally would (if you don’t understand what I mean by “destroy the existing partitions”, you probably shouldn’t be attempting this until you do).

Boot into XP, connect your USB drive, and uncompress the file to your desktop.  Open up the Device Manager, browse to the network card, and choose update driver.  Don’t let the wizard search, choose “I will choose the driver”, and use the “Have Disk” option.  Browse to the uncompressed folder and select the .inf file.  The wizard will complain that the driver might not work, but this is Realtek’s driver and so far it seems to be fine in production, so you can probably safely ignore that 🙂

After the network is working, stick in the Dell Resource CD.  Cancel the autoplay, open up My Computer, and right-click on the CD/DVD drive and choose “Explore”.  In the “Zipfiles” directory, you’ll see a long list of executables, you want these ones:

  • R180772.EXE (audio drivers)
  • R180776.EXE (Intel chipset drivers)

Install those drivers, and you should have a working sound card, and USB hub.  Enjoy!

[edited to add]: There are XP drivers available for the Conextant modem that comes as an option to this machines.  If any visitors to the blog have a 518 with the media card reader, please let me know if you’ve found XP drivers for that as well, so I can add it to this post.  Already this post has had five Google search visitors looking for “Inspiron 518 XP drivers”…

[edited to add]: Thanks to Michael S., in the comments, the drivers for the all in one card reader driver for XP:


Posted September 25, 2008 by padraic2112 in hardware, PC, tech

Bandstands went out with runnin’ boards!   Leave a comment

Thunderbird got itself into an endless loop today on the home PC, trying to update itself.  Contents of the error message: “One or more files cannot be opened for editing”.

Wow, thanks, that’s very illustrative – can’t you tell me *which* file?  Turned out the culprit was mozMapi32.dll, a file located in Thunderbird’s program files directory.  Something (other than Thunderbird) was locking the file.

A little investigation showed that the root cause of the problem was likely my logitech web cam, killing off the web cam software enabled me to delete the file and do a clean install of Thunderbird

What?  Why in heaven is my web cam software locking files in another program’s directory?   Now, I’m not entirely positive that the root cause is the web cam software, I didn’t test out this theory rigorously.  But a google search shows that logitech software has been suspected as the root cause of update problems for quite some time now.

So, if you have a logitech web cam (or possibly any logitech device; I’ll try to replicate this problem with the web cam uninstalled and the wireless mouse plugged in), expect update problems.  Turn off your web cam software (annoyingly, the easily accessible logitech software does not provide “do not launch at boot” as
an option.

Nice going, dev squad at Logitech.  If in fact you’re the root cause of this problem, you’ve managed to replicate bad behavior that I haven’t seen since late Windows 98… and you’ve left it broken for quite some time now without fixing it.

I’ll try to take the time to verify this post-haste.  If this is the case, I’d have to consider not recommending Logitech devices in general…

Posted July 25, 2008 by padraic2112 in hardware, software, tech

External Monitors and Intel 945/955/965 Chipsets   1 comment

Reinstalling my laptop today and tomorrow, and it reminded me that I ought to have posted about this 8 months ago when it happened.  So, I’m doing it now.

The Intel 945, 955, and 965 mobile graphics chipset is extremely popular in mobile computing.  Odds are fairly good that if you have any sort of “business” level laptop, or anything that’s under $1,000, or any tablet PC, you’ve got one of these babies pushing your video.

I don’t particularly like them (in comparison to nVidia chipsets) for a number of reasons.  The Intel graphics display utility widget is badly designed (the nVidia one is much better).  The chipset uses systems memory to increase its power, instead of having enough RAM on its own (both ATI and nVidia are both better at this), and most damning you can’t run all the games you might like to run on an Intel chipset … but I couldn’t find a tablet PC that I liked, otherwise, so I’m stuck with one.

The “out of the box” driver for the 945 chipset (and above) does not support all of the native resolutions for external monitors.  If you have a laptop and you never hook up an external screen, this is no big deal.  If you have a docking station, though, this can drive you mad.

No 1440×900, no 1680×1250.  If you have a nice widescreen digital flatpanel as an external device, this can make you crazy.

Turns out the fix is pretty easy, you download this driver from Intel and you’re all set.

Posted July 24, 2008 by padraic2112 in hardware, tech, video

He’s dead, Jim   Leave a comment

I bought a tablet PC (a Fujitsu) almost a year ago.  I’ve mentioned it before, but I’ve been meaning to blog about it a bit more thoroughly and just haven’t gotten around to it.

Switching over to a tablet is foundationally a major change in how you use your computer.  Normally, when I buy a new machine, I spend a considerable amount of time getting it tweaked *just the way I like it*.  Flip this dial, turn that switch, install this widget, etc.  I didn’t do that with this computer.  Why?  Because I wanted to use it for a while to find out how it was different, so that I could at some point in the future blow it away and reinstall it clean to *just the way I like it*.  I knew that when it came to the tablet, *just the way I like it* was something that was going to be different from non-tablet computing, and I wanted to play with it for a while to find out what those differences were.  More on that in my next post.

Well, I played with it for a year.  I learned a lot of things about my interface with the computer.  I installed a lot of software (some of which I’ll install again, some of which I decided was horrible).  I hooked it up to a number of different peripherals, installed drivers, uninstalled drivers, messed with the registry, etc.  I’ve hacked this thing pretty hard in the last 12 months.

I’ve killed it, finally.  This was expected, so it’s no big deal.  But today I plugged it into my docking station here at work and it’s decided that it can’t recognize my external display’s native resolution (I’ll post about that too, someone else has had this problem).  The difference between 1600 x 1200 and 1650 x 1280 doesn’t seem like a lot, but looking at any display in a non-native resolution is like listening to a symphony with the strings section muted 50%… it drives me nuts.  I reapplied the fix that made this problem go away 8 months ago, no dice.  One of the other devices I’ve installed (the webcam, the wireless mouse, the printer, some native fujitsu driver, whatever) is futzing something up.  That’s more or less normal for a Windows box that’s about a year old, anyway.

So, I have to take off an nuke the entire site from orbit.  It’s long overdue.  It’s going to drive me to make a couple of changes in how I use my computer on a daily basis, instead of doing things halfway between how I used to do them and how I do them now.  I’ll finally be using 80% of the tablet’s functionality.  I’ll actually post a bit about the machine, in hopes that any gentle readers might learn something interesting.

Now if I can just find the installation disk…

Posted July 24, 2008 by padraic2112 in hardware, software, tech, Windows, work