Archive for PC

Download hotfixes without contacting Microsoft

A customer can get the fix they want without calling in to Microsoft, assuming they know the KB number of the hotfix they want and can remember the URL format for a self-service hotfix request:

http://support.microsoft.com/hotfix/KBHotfix.aspx?kbnum=KBNumber&kbln=KBLanguage

E.g. The August CU for MOSS 2007 Global is KB 956056. This yields the following URL: http://support.microsoft.com/hotfix/KBHotfix.aspx?kbnum=956056&kbln=en-us.

You will be asked for your email address during the download process. Enter it as a password for the hotfix file will be emailed to you.

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Linux still missing the basics

Yesterday I had another play with Linux. I had put Fedora Core 4 on my PC as a second boot item a while back, and so when we had a power outage, my PC booted back into linux instead of Windows. As I had been listening to some music before the outage, I thought I’d just try and play it from Linux instead. After all, what can be simpler than listening to a few music files?

My first challenge was seeing the files. They were located on an NTFS partition, but I yum’d the correct module, mounted the partition and bingo, could see my files.

I knew the sound card was running under FC4, which was good because my Dell PC has some weird ADI Soundmax IC and it used to output the sound through the wrong outputs. Since FC3 though, sound has worked out of the box.

I decided to put a shortcut to my music directory onto the desktop. This is not as easy as it sounds. There is no ‘create shortcut’, no ‘link’ that works, and dragging the folder icon to the desktop tried to copy or move the files. Interestingly move didn’t complain that I was moving from a Read Only mounted volume. I did eventually work out that SHIFT-CTL drag would create a link (I think!), but it would have been so much easier if there was a right-click menu option.

Anyways, back to playing the files. Playing the files was actually not really the issue, the issue is really my pleasure in listening to them. My PC is attached to some Altec Lansing speakers which include a bass woofer. To make this sound good, I normally have to bottom out the low frequencies on an EQ to drop out a lot of the bass, otherwise the music booms a lot.

XMMS: My music is a mix of OGG, MP3 and iTunes AAC (unprotected). XMMS would play all these formats once I yum’d for xmms-aac. Unfortunately the equalizer wouldn’t work except for MP3 files.

Rhythmbox: Would play the files, but there is no equalizer.

Helixplayer: Claimed unknown format.

Xine: Would play the files, but there is no equalizer. Xine also ‘jumped’ music when I was doing other stuff. Like opening a folder view was too intensive for it!!

mplayer: This actually opened the files, but the GUI is really clunky and non-standard. The playlist editor needs some serious work. I eventually got the equalizer working, but turning that on made the volume much quieter than usual.

At this point I gave up, booted into Windows and bathed in quality sound.

When you can’t even enjoy playing music files from Linux, there can be no doubt Microsoft has nothing to fear from Linux on the desktop.

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PC Cleanup

These days I often use someone elses PC, only to immediately notice that something is wrong with it. Typically you click on Internet Explorer, do one search and think Spyware. This can be caused by popups appearing, slow response or other indicators that are often subjective. Cleaning up these PCs can take sometime, however there are plenty of free things out there to help.

On the spyware front, if you already have spyware installed, or don’t know if you have spyware installed, then first run this:

http://www.trendmicro.com/spyware-scan/

Then make sure you run the WindowsUpdate feature to get all the Microsoft security updates.

Windows Update

NOTE: If Windows Update makes you reboot your computer, run Windows Update again and again until it shows that there are no more updates to install.

Load the Microsoft antispyware software:

http://www.microsoft.com/athome/security/spyware/software/default.mspx

There are other Anti-spyware packages around that you can use instead of the Microsoft Antispyware. To date I’ve not found one program that finds and cleans everything, so here are a couple more you can try:

http://www.lavasoftusa.com/software/adaware/
http://www.safer-networking.org/en/download/

Most importantly, get a good anti-virus software too. You can do a free scan now from here:

http://housecall.trendmicro.com/

But long term you need something installed that auto-updates and protects your email. These programmes are free, but I’ve not sure how good they are:

http://free.grisoft.com
http://www.free-av.com/

Personally I haven’t found an anti-virus package that I like 100%. PC World has a review/rating here:

http://www.pcworld.com/reviews/article/0,aid,124475,00.asp

On the firewall front, you can use the XP SP2 built in firewall, however ZoneAlarm is also pretty good and is free, and offers extra protection:

http://www.zonelabs.com
Free download here.

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Visual Source Safe Admin Password Reset

We used to use Visual Source Safe (VSS) 6.0 for projects, and so have some older projects that are not routinely accessed. So what happens when you forget the admin password a few years down the line?

There are various suggestions around the net, but this little tool should help: Reset VSS 6 admin password

Simply run in the Data directory of your VSS 6.0 project (where the file um.dat is located) using a command prompt, then rename the files as instructed and your admin password will become blank.

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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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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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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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Hard drive…. song?

This has to be a first…

Hitachi Perpendicular

10 times the data density will mean 1TB drives will soon be here.

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iTunes OGG support

Ok, so it turns out that while the QuickTime plugin for OGG enables iTunes to play OGG files, iTunes is completely daft in that the equaliser doesn’t then work for OGG files…

I’ve given feedback to Apple saying they need to add native support for OGG files, but I suspect they’ll ignore it like Microsoft does… each wants to promote their own proprietory WMA or AAC standards, and so ignore the rest of the world, including ‘open standards’. Sigh.

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In the beginning

was this post…

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