Archive for the ‘OS’ Category

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

Oopsy Daisy.   Leave a comment

From RedHat:

Last week Red Hat detected an intrusion on certain of its computer systems and took immediate action. While the investigation into the intrusion is on-going, our initial focus was to review and test the distribution channel we use with our customers, Red Hat Network (RHN) and its associated security measures. Based on these efforts, we remain highly confident that our systems and processes prevented the intrusion from compromising RHN or the content distributed via RHN and accordingly believe that customers who keep their systems updated using Red Hat Network are not at risk. We are issuing this alert primarily for those who may obtain Red Hat binary packages via channels other than those of official Red Hat subscribers.

In connection with the incident, the intruder was able to sign a small number of OpenSSH packages relating only to Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4 (i386 and x86_64 architectures only) and Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 (x86_64 architecture only). As a precautionary measure, we are releasing an updated version of these packages, and have published a list of the tampered packages and how to detect them at

Man, would I love to see how package signing occurs at Red Hat.  I’m going to guess that they’re doing it wrong.

Basically, someone’s managed to get a trojaned SSH package signed by the RH signing authority.  Since they were (apparently) unable to get the compromised package into the Red Hat Network, all RHEL customers that use RHN for their updates should be okay.

However, if you use… say… CentOS in your enterprise, it’s probably a good idea for you to take a long hard look at your package repository.  You can’t rely on “hey, signature checks out!” to verify trustworthiness.

This is one of those security announcements that is of small immediate practical impact, but worrisome in implications.  How does RH sign their packages?  How did this occur?  How do we know it won’t occur again?  I expect the answers to those questions are (a) we’re not going to tell you (b) we’re not going to tell you and (c) trust us, nothing really bad happened this time, right?  Slashdot thread.

Full disclosure time, boys.  Who screwed up?

Here’s an interesting blog post detailing… well, not much.

The risks mean we’ve had to be really careful who has signing privileges with the legacy key and how the key signing is handled.

The new key, in contrast, was created in a hardware cryptographic device which does not allow the unprotected key material to be exported. This means we can give authorised signers the ability to sign with the key, but no one can ever can get access to the key material itself. This is an important distinction. If for example a current authorised signer switches roles and is no longer responsible for package signing we can instantly revoke their rights and know that they no longer have the ability to sign any more packages with that key.

Two immediate possibilities spring to mind: someone was able to socially engineer a signer into signing a package, or the process has some level of automation in it, and the attacker was able to inject the bad package somewhere in the automation.  Either way, it illustrates the point that cryptography isn’t generally the hardest part of security, it’s process that’s the sticky widget.

Posted August 22, 2008 by padraic2112 in linux, news, OS, security, software, tech

Windows Update Breaking?   1 comment

Let’s say you just decided to reinstall your machine.  You pull out your Windows XP installation disk, install Windows XP, Service Pack 2 from disk.  Then you connect to WIndows update to install updates.

You’re about to break your machine, but only a little.

See, there’s an update to Windows Update that has to be installed before you do anything else.  However, after you apply this update, the next thing Windows Update is going to do is download and install Windows XP Service Pack 3.  If you didn’t perform a reboot in there (and why should you, it didn’t ask you to), installing Windows XP SP3 breaks your ability to automatically update.  The reason:

The latest version of Windows Update includes a file that was not available in the release version of Windows XP. This file is named Wups2.dll. Therefore, after the repair operation (or reinstall) is complete, the following situation exists:

The Wups2.dll file remains on the computer.
The registry entries that correspond to this file are missing.

Because the registry files that correspond to the Wups2.dll file are missing, update installations are unsuccessful.

Microsoft hasn’t messed up something like this in a while, tisk tisk.

Here’s the fix:

Method 1: Register the Wups2.dll file in Windows

To register the Wups2.dll file in Windows, follow these steps:

1. Stop the Automatic Updates service. To do this, follow these steps:

a. Click Start, click Run, type cmd, and then click OK.
b. At the command prompt, type the following command, and then press ENTER:

net stop wuauserv
2. Register the Wups2.dll file. To do this, follow these steps:

a. At the command prompt, type the following command, and then press ENTER:

regsvr32 %windir%\system32\wups2.dll

Note For a computer that is running Windows XP Professional x64 Edition, type the following command, and then press ENTER:

regsvr32 %windir%\syswow64\wups2.dll
b. Click OK on each verification message that you receive.
3. Start the Automatic Updates service. To do this, type the following command at the command prompt, and then press ENTER:

net start wuauserv
4. Exit the command prompt. To do this type exit, and then press ENTER.

Back to the top

Posted August 19, 2008 by padraic2112 in OS, registry, software, Windows

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

Linux Sysadmins Rejoice   Leave a comment

It’s actually possible! Some time in the relatively near future, you won’t have to package Java yourself! Sun is finally providing something uncomplicated for a platform other than Solaris!

OpenJDK is based on Java Platform, Standard Edition (SE) 6. The open sourcing process began in November 2006. But a few components, including some encryption libraries, graphics libraries, the sound engine, and some SNMP management code still could not be offered under the GNU General Public License. These components accounted for 4 percent of the platform…

The few remaining encumbrances on Java have prevented Linux distributors from offering a fully open-source version of Java, said Sands. “All those Linux distributions, they haven’t had a full-blown implementation in them,” he said…

Once Java is 100 percent open source, it can be shipped as part of Linux, Sands said. Ubuntu has distributed Java as separately available commercial software, he noted.

Of course, this process started 18 months ago, so… well, we’ll give them the benefit of the doubt.

Posted April 23, 2008 by padraic2112 in linux, open source, software, solaris, tech

Let there be music, Part I   Leave a comment

Busy copying my 700ish albums’ worth of music files from a portable drive to the new desktop, and since I haven’t posted in a while, I thought I’d take inspiration from this activity to write a bit.  The fun part will be part II.  Here’s the boring part:

I loathe almost every popular music player available for the Windows operating system.  Windows Media Player and iTunes both suffer from gargantuan bloat, due to the DRM underpinnings that Microsoft and Apple have shoved into the software so that large media corporations will feel comfortable about distributing their content digitally.

WinAmp used to be my player of choice; they’ve added video file playback since its inception and also glogged a chunk of additional unwanted unnecessary services into the player, most of which are intended to provide some sort of revenue stream to the project.

By itself, I can’t argue so much with that.  I like to see community developers get some sort of reward for their work, and it’s certainly not a zero-cost operation to develop and distribute a media player.  On the other hand, I just want to play some music, damn it.

Currently, I’ve settled on FooBar as a recommended player.  It’s on my laptop.  It’s lightweight, and does a particular job (play music) pretty well.  It doesn’t do much else, but for the time being I’m content.  Jack still likes the visualizations from WinAmp, so it’s on the desktop machine for when he’s sitting in the office.

Posted April 19, 2008 by padraic2112 in software, Windows

Wow, that’s one big honkin’ drive   1 comment

Someone came to visit this post on the blog yesterday from a search result.  By itself, that’s no surprise, that post represents about 57% of my visits.  What’s astounding to me is the terms used in the search:

 12 tb partition for vista

A 12 terabyte partition?  For a Vista machine?  Good God, my worst imaginings are coming true quicker than I realized.  To whoever you are, should you come to visit the blog again, I plead to you, as a IT professional and geek, don’t put a 12 TB partition on a workstation operating system.

Posted November 19, 2007 by padraic2112 in hardware, software, tech, Windows

Random Googling   3 comments

My wife was recently googling people near and dear and found out that apparently I’m quotable.  Dig me, I’m a source!  Speaking out against the Collective, no less.

Posted November 14, 2007 by padraic2112 in noise, OS, tech, web sites, Windows

X on Windows   Leave a comment

Found this via CD-Man’s blog.

One of my complaints about Cygwin (alluded to earlier) is that their X-windowing system is rather… ugh, and old. I’ve been using X-win (campus site license) on my own machine, but Xming is free and open source and tied closely to Xorg. Their development lifecycle appears to be maintaining well.

Posted October 19, 2007 by padraic2112 in software, tech, Windows

Bad Security 201 – Dual Boot   Leave a comment

Dual Booting is bad. If you do it on the public internet, you’re a bad sysadmin. No biscuit. No excuses.

I get a lot of traffic (almost 2/3 of the visits to the site) on my post about Fat and Vista. Most of these visitors are looking to hook up some ginormous external hard drive to their Xbox and their PC, but some significant portion of those people who are visiting are looking for file systems that can work with any OS. They want to run Windows and Linux, or Mac OSX and Windows, or they’re straight crazy and they want to run FreeBSD, Windows, and Mac OSX (you know who you are).

Don’t dual boot. Really. Don’t do it. It’s just a bad idea.

Yes, I know. You’re a Linux user, but one of your favorite games doesn’t run under WINE. Or you’re a Windows user, but at heart you’re a command-line junkie. You’re just so used to some tool or set of tools that works much better under Xorg than under the Windows GUI. You don’t like Cygwin (I don’t blame you, I think Cygwin is horrid too, but that’s a topic for another day).

Here’s the thing: if you’re running the Windows operating system, and you’re connecting to the Internet, you either observe Patch Tuesday or you are going to be excommunicated. And by excommunicated, I mean your machine is going to become one of the zombie hordes, and when you die and go to the Pearly Gates, St. Peter is going to hand you a print copy of every spam your machine ever sent out and make you eat it before you get through the doors.

Dual boot machines don’t get patched. You can promise yourself that you’ll be good, and that you won’t click on “install later”. You can promise yourself that you’ll *always* patch your machine before you do anything with it. You’re kidding yourself.

If you’re stuck with one set of hardware and an absolute need to run more than one operating system*,you need to virtualize. Virtual machines (whether they be VMware or Parallels) run inside your parent OS. They’re not immediately exposed to the big bad Internet. Plus, they force you to have some sort of data discipline. You can keep a virgin copy of your VM around and throw away your working copy if it gets hacked. Not too much fuss, very little muss.

* Come on, you can buy a decent computer for $400 nowadays. Are you *really* stuck with one set of hardware?

Posted October 16, 2007 by padraic2112 in freebsd, linux, mac osX, OS, security, software, tech, Windows