Archive for May, 2005

Video4Skype

Dialcom has released a program called Video4Skype.

The site is currently slashdotted, but you can download it in an aroundabout way by:

– Download http://itanium2.dialcom.com/videoskype/spontania4skype083.xpi
– Save to disk
– Rename the XPI file to a .JAR file
– Extract it using 7Zip, WinZIP etc.
– Run the EXE file compressed in the file.

The video works quite well, and is as firewall friendly as Skype.

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Dual monitors, flashing screens.

One of the things about knowing PCs is that you are often asked to diagnose problems friends are having, but I’ve never seen this one before…

An ATI Radeon 9600 runs fine with 1 monitor attached. On attaching the second monitor (via DVI-VGA connector), Windows boots, but the screen starts flashing on and off and eventually fades out to nothing!

To diagnose, I uninstalled all drivers and let Windows XP start up on its own, using the Microsoft drivers. Worked fine, other than both screens showed the same and dual monitors were not offered, however that at least proved the hardware was good.

Got the latest official ATI drivers, install, reboot and the problem is back. Tried tweaking options in the driver settings and couldn’t find anything that helped. But found that the ATI drivers install a program called atiptaxx.exe to start when Windows does (see Start/Run/msconfig/startup tab). By unchecking that program and preventing it from loading, the screen flashing problem vanished.

I find it odd that part of the drivers, that are apparently not required, are installed and then sometimes break things. I’m sure ATI have a reason for loading this utility, and I know there must be others out there who have the same problem. If they’re like my friend, they’ll try for a few hours and then give up, or perhaps then ask a friend. If so, perhaps you now have a solution.

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Support. What it means to customers.

Sometimes one gets quality replies from support organizations. Oracle is good. Microsoft is good. Sometimes however, one wonders if the person replying to your enquiry actually lives in the same universe. This is one of those times. The company? Netgear.

About 2 days ago I sent a nicely worded email describing a problem with their driver for the MA521 PCMCIA network card, detailing how the drivers were causing Windows XP to utilize 10-25% CPU momentarily every 20 seconds or so. How I had determined this fact, and requesting drivers newer than those on the website, perhaps beta drivers.

The response. A email with a link to download the existing drivers saying ‘As I understand from your mail, that the adapter uses high memory when the adapter is connected.’

Please. That is not even good English, let alone a summary of my email. This person clearly has no understanding of the English language, let alone the rather technical inquiry. Outsourcing does wonders in the near term to your bottom line, but in the long term customers will go else in search of quality support. There’s a lesson to be learned here for corporations of all sizes.

My first draft of a response was blunt and to the point. So I scratched it and wrote the type of response your average user would write: tried that, it doesn’t help. Let’s see what the fob off is next. Re-install Windows perhaps? I imagine that whatever it is, it will ensure that I never buy a Netgear product again. I’ll keep you posted.

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Ray

I just watched the film ‘Ray’ this evening and would thoroughly recommend it. The name Ray Charles was new to me, but some songs were instantly recognizable. The film taught me so much about things that didn’t happen that long ago, especially since some of the things happened in Georgia, my current home. People like Ray definitely helped make the world with live in today, and when the state publicly apologized and took on his song for the state, it was a touching moment. Suddenly lots of things that you see on a daily basis click into place.

The other side of the story was seeing a man on one side growing into success, and yet at the same time, completely failing due to drugs. His wife was so strong and forgiving. Again, a lesson to us all.

Well worth the time to see, but definitely a film to educate, enjoy then contemplate.

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Skype replaces the telephone

Well perhaps not literally, but if you haven’t come across it, Skype is the premier Voice over IP software program around that’s high quality, simple to use and best of all, it’s free!

I’ve been using Skype for the last year and a bit, and I can’t imagine all the telephone bills it has saved me. Being based out of the US, working with developers back in the UK means I have to call for design and troubleshooting meetings every day. Skype has saved me $1000’s.

So what do you need? Well to start with, visit http://www.skype.com and download the program that’s suitable for you. It runs on everything! Mac, PC, Pocket PC and Linux, so there will be no problem running it. What’s next? Configure your firewall? Not at all. The area where Skype is leaps and bounds ahead of MSN Messenger is in its ability to traverse every firewall every location I’ve been, without doing a thing. Brilliant!

The next thing you will need is a microphone and headset. Now some PC’s have these built in, but I wouldn’t recommend them because they often cause the sound to loop back, with the person speaking being able to hear themselves. Most annoying for them, so it’s a much better idea to purchase a headset with mic that comes around towards your mouth. These can be picked up cheaply these days and make the world of difference.

Lastly, run it and sign up for an account. Then providing you have a friend who is already using it – and if they’re not, they should be – then you can just search for them and add them to phone. Much like MSN.

Once up and running there are options to call land lines or allow people on landlines to call you, but those are paid services and it’s up to you. Personally I subscribe to the SkypeOut so I can call people on their regular phone from my PC. If they’re not in your country then it’s definitely cheaper than using a regular phone to call them.

As a closing note, the other day a friend was mid-Atlantic on a flight that provides wireless internet access. Amazingly we spoke for a couple of hours until his battery ran out. The cost – $30 for internet access for the flight. I’m sure you won’t manage to get calls from a plane any cheaper. The only thing I’d say was that there was quite a bit of wind noise in the background, but a better, noise cancelling microphone would have helped cure that.

We truely are in the age of Voice over IP!

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Hitachi Travelstar 7K100

My IBM (now Hitachi) 7200 RPM drive really gave my laptop a new lease of life when I installed it a year or so ago, but until now, the maximum capacity of these fast drives was 60GB which in this day and age is getting a little small. Looks like that’s now changed with the introduction of 100GB drives by Hitachi. If you have a Mac Mini, or are are power laptop user, then this could be a worthwhile upgrade if you have a slow 4200/5400 RPM drive.

http://www.hitachigst.com/hdd/support/7k100/7k100.htm

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Happy Birthday UKNova

The web’s favorite community for UK Television is having its first birthday sited at its current domain. UKNova has been my saving grace this past year while living in the USA as it enables access to UK produced television.

Personally, I’d prefer to pay the BBC etc. to watch the shows, and to the beebs credit, they are pioneering the way with a closed trial at this moment (but limited to UK broadband users). Still, the media corporations around the world need to start moving forward in this digital age and listening to what consumers want. We are willing to pay, however you need to start considering the Internet when arranging regional licensing of programmes, as I know this is something that prevents me paying to watch UK TV.

UKNova has a radio station playing on it’s birthday amongst other IRC and forum festivities… check out the fun here: UKNova

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NASA World Wind

NASA World Wind has been around for a while, but is worth looking at if you’ve never seen it. You can basically hold the world in your hand and spin it around. Zooming is supported to the house level if you’re in the USA. Elsewhere in the world you can enjoy mountain ranges and visit countries you’d never dreamed of.

You can download it here. It should be noted that it’s quite a large download, but it’s also good to see NASA using Bittorrent to help overcome that problem.

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24

Warning! potential spoilers…

I’ve just finished watching the last episode of FOX’s 24. Amazingly I entirely missed seasons 1-3 when on TV, but was bought the DVD set of Season 1 for a birthday. It sat on my shelf unwatched for a year before I opened the wrapping and have been hooked ever since.

Somehow the producers manage to keep you on the edge of your seat through every episode, although I have to say from watching Season 4 on TV and experiencing the breaks, that watching more than a 1 hour episode without the adverts on DVD makes for much higher level of enjoyment. The early season DVDs sometimes stole 3-4 hour chunks of my life I was so captivated, and the 2-hour start and ending that FOX did were the best viewing simply because they allowed you to get more immersed.

Watching the ending, it is sad that Season 4 looks as though it’s the last to come. I’m glad they found a way to keep Jack alive as you build up a raport which makes the characters real. Loosing them would be hard. I guess that’s a sign of a good show, as is knowing when to end.

Still, I’ll miss not only Jack’s incredible talent of staying alive, but the rest of the team too, especially Chloe. I hope Kiefer Sutherland decides to try something new again soon.

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Filezilla

A while back I mentioned listing various essential tools, but haven’t posted anything for a while.

Filezilla is such a product. It is a file transfer tool that simplifies FTP and SSH file transfers into a Windows GUI. Speed is excellent as you can setup multiple simultaneous transfers (essential when copying small files) and it is particularly intuitive.

If you ever upload or download files, typically when creating or supporting websites, this could be what you are looking for. It’s free and can be found here.

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