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"Murphy was an optimist!"

Windows won’t boot past the logo August 30, 2009 11:20 am

Posted by Doug McCaughan in : Daily Life, Hardware, Software, Technology
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In trying to clone my 60 gb hard drive to a 500 gb hard drive, I ran some utilities on the 60 gb hard drive to fix bad sectors and find missing data. Apparently in the process, I damaged something in Windows. Right now the drive will not boot beyond the blue screen with the Windows XP logo in regular mode nor in safe mode. I’m documenting my steps here because the usual troubleshooting steps have failed and I need to make sure I’m not repeating the same steps twice. (more…)

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Today’s Technical Feat August 27, 2009 1:16 pm

Posted by Doug McCaughan in : Gadgets, Hardware, Technology
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Today I am installing openssh server on Ubuntu’s Hardy Heron 8.04 LTS which is remarkably easy so that I can use Clonezilla to make an image of a hard drive from one machine, across the network, to Seagate FreeAgent Go 500 GB USB 2.0 Portable External Hard Drive connected on a Linux box.

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The Hard Drive Chronicles August 25, 2009 8:53 pm

Posted by Doug McCaughan in : Daily Life, Hardware, Technology
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I work on a Frankenstein computer. No, that’s not some geeky brand of elite super computer. It is spare parts held together with bailing wire and dust. It is an new piece of hardware fit into an old case with the help of a Dremel and a cutting blade. It is just enough memory to do what I need but not quite enough to do what I want. And it is a 60 gb hard drive that floats between 500 mb and 2 gb of free space.

I finally squirreled away enough from my budget to purchase a new 500 gb (p)ATA hard drive. (Being honest with myself this was less about budget and more about martyrdom. I buy things for the kids before myself.) Additionally, Newegg had a great special on a USB external drive. Since I vowed to free myself from being bound to a single computer, I jumped on the special with plans to install a bootable OS such as Ubuntu and keep my entire development environment on the USB drive. As such, I should be able to work anywhere on just about any machine with enough memory.

The upgrade plan was simple. Make a backup of my workstation to the usb drive, then clone the 60 gb drive to the 500 gb drive and I’d be done. Unfortunately, the 60 gb drive came dead on arrival and had to be RMA’d. I couldn’t wait so I started the cloning process but ran into read errors. So 2 days of drive testing and using different bootable CDs with a variety of partitioning and cloning software turned into 3 days and then it happened. Everything quit working! I powered down and haven’t had the guts to return since. I could have just potentially lost a significant amount of data related to the success (if you want to call it that) of my freelancing career and the support and operation of my family. No, despite my rhetoric about the importance of backups, particularly offsite backups, I do not practice what I preach. The quantity of data I manage long outgrew my ability to create meaningful backups of every bit and byte. Instead I grab what is viewed as essential and make sure it is in a few places. For instance, I drop a couple of dollars each month to make sure Amazon has a copy of all our family photos in addition to the subset of photos that make it up to Flickr. I am not prepared to lose entire hard drives.

Next immediate plan of action: Determine damage-Test components individually. If neither drive works by itself, assume the IDE controller fried and test in another machine. If I can show the drives are both good and pass a chkdsk, then I have one more big gun of a partitioning program and an equally big gun of a cloning program that I have not tried. I expect them to be successful and this debacle to be over. Oh..but I have to watch Warehouse 13 first!

Update: My 60 gb drive has been confirmed functional with data. My current suspicion is that the primary ide controller has failed. This could be a good excuse to buy a new computer 🙂

Update: 60 gb drive okay but no longer boots. IDE controller is fine. 500 gb drive approved for RMA. Next step, clone the 60 gb drive to some backup space then tinker with the master boot record to see if I can get the drive booting again.

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In yesterday’s mail August 1, 2009 10:54 am

Posted by Doug McCaughan in : Hardware, Of Interest, Reviews, Sex, Technology, Touchy Subjects
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The Stigma

Apparently there’s some stigma around bloggers, particular mommy bloggers, doing product reviews. There shouldn’t be. I understand the stigma’s origins. The stigma comes from those ridiculous pay-per-post services where the participants are encouraged to write shining reviews in return for the product and/or money. They are disingenuous. The advertiser is not paying for the post. The advertiser is paying for search engine ranking. The 200 people who read that paid post, or even if it was 10,000, are not going to pay for the cost of the advertising. What pays is when someone searches for the product and the multiple paid posts have given credibility and ranking to the product in the search engines. As a matter of personal choice, I do not participate in pay-to-post programs.

Should product reviews be on a blog? Absolutely! The Internet is a reflection of the real world. In the real world, if I try a product I like, I will probably tell others about it. If a company wrongs me, I will warn others. It is only natural to extend that to the Internet. Some bloggers will even ask companies to send them products. They have the audience and clout to get this benefit. Reviews don’t have to be positive. The catch is that if you get a reputation for giving negative reviews, no one will send you their product. Mike Arrington recently accused Leo Laporte of Twit.tv of getting a pre-release Palm Pre in exchange for a glowing report and Leo took great offense.

I have products sent to me. I’ve had the best intentions of reviewing them but never have. Until someone starts BlogHim and lets us daddy blogs have cat fights over swag, I think I’ll accept products for review. Joan Goldner, a wonderful person!, sent me The Busy Body Book when my Covey planner had run out and I forgot Cathy’s birthday. I never posted a review of The Busy Body Book but it remains one of my favorite organizers despite being a Covey fanboy. I’ve been calendarless for 2009 but am just about to order a Busy Body Book. Read about it on their blog.

Yesterday’s mail

IDE to SATA adapter and LifeStyles Condom

Yesterday I received two products: a bidirectional IDE to SATA or SATA to IDE Adapter and a LifeStyles premium polyisoprene Skyn "closest thing to wearing nothing" condom with Excite female stimulating gel. I’m looking forward to reviewing both of these products! The adapter I ordered from Hong Kong for $4 which included free shipping. It comes with a circuit board, power cable, and a SATA cable. I recently tried to buy a SATA cable locally, just the cable, and it was going to cost me $20 plus tax! The condom was a surprise and comes with a survey asking for feedback on the Excite female stimulating gel. I think I’ll be able to find a volunteer to help me fill out that survey (pseudo related note: We bought Watchmen last night). Now I’m off to plug a cable into something.

IDE to SATA adapter and LifeStyles Skyn condom

The Review

Here’s your quickie review: The Excite female stimulating gel product..let’s just wow! No, let’s say that twice..WOW! WOW! As for the Skyn condom, anyone with a LATEX allergy who has been horrified by a polyurethane plasticized baggy as an excuse for protection can be happy to know that your polyisoprene condom lives up to its marketing. Not only is it as comfortable and flexible as a latex condom, it truly is almost like wearing nothing.

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Ultimate Boot CD for Windows 3.50 out with 1 error June 26, 2009 8:50 am

Posted by Doug McCaughan in : Hardware, Software, Technology
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If you ever have to do some serious troubleshooting on a Windows XP machine, you need the Ultimate Boot CD (Linux version) and the Ultimate Boot CD (Windows version) (see also Ben Burrows blog). The windows version recently released version 3.50 and may have an error. If you get the following error message:

Section:SourceDiscsFolders.2600
Cannot find folder: wnt5
Section:SourceDiscsFolders.2600
Cannot find folder: wxp

Then follow these instructions. In summary:

Click the Plugins button.
Select # DriverPacks.net – BASE
Press the EDIT button.
Change: CONFIG=DPs_BASE.exe /API: /settings:
To: CONFIG=DPs_BASE.exe /settings:
[Source, ubcd4win forum, hilander999]

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Ubuntu Accomplishments – Wacom Tablet May 26, 2009 7:07 pm

Posted by Doug McCaughan in : Hardware, Technology
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I have two Wacom tablets that I use for my art. My first tablet ever was a Wacom UD-Digitizer II serial tablet. I’m not even sure USB was around back then. This tablet was unbelievable at the time! Felt like I was writing on paper with a real pen or brush. Being able to use an eraser on the computer was remarkable. However, there were certain problems with its size, roughly 5×7, so I bought a Wacom Intuos serial tablet that is more like 12×10 inches. Tablets make computer art fun!

When I set aside a new machine for a replacement Linux server for my in-house development, I decided to actually use Ubuntu Desktop 8.04 and install Apache-MySQL-PHP on it afterwards. I’ve found myself using the Linux Desktop more and I think I can eventually migrate completely from Windows. Unfortunately, the computer I chose to do this with uses a mechanical mouse instead of an optical mouse. You know, one with the mouse ball that constantly needs cleaning. The mechanical mouse holds me back more than anything else from making the switch. Ergo, I decided to pull the Wacom Digitizer II out of the boneyard and see if I could get it to work. It was surprisingly simple.

Two support documents helped make quick work of getting the tablet functioning. 1) The community documentation for Wacom and 2) The community documentation for Wacom troubleshooting. The first gave me this simple line:

sudo apt-get install xserver-xorg-input-wacom wacom-tools

The tablet failed to work. The second explained that I needed to update /usr/bin/dexconf which would then rebuild /etc/X11/xorg.conf with these lines:

Section "InputDevice"
      Driver "wacom"
      Identifier "stylus"
      Option "Device" "/dev/input/wacom" # USB ONLY?
      # Option "Device" "/dev/ttyS0" # SERIAL ONLY
      Option "Type" "stylus"
      # Option "ForceDevice" "ISDV4" # Tablet PC ONLY
      Option "USB" "on" # USB ONLY
EndSection

Section "InputDevice"
      Driver "wacom"
      Identifier "eraser"
      Option "Device" "/dev/input/wacom" # USB ONLY?
      # Option "Device" "/dev/ttyS0" # SERIAL ONLY
      Option "Type" "eraser"
      # Option "ForceDevice" "ISDV4" # Tablet PC ONLY
      Option "USB" "on" # USB ONLY
EndSection

Section "InputDevice"
      Driver "wacom"
      Identifier "cursor"
      Option "Device" "/dev/input/wacom" # USB ONLY?
      # Option "Device" "/dev/ttyS0" # SERIAL ONLY
      Option "Type" "cursor"
      # Option "ForceDevice" "ISDV4" # Tablet PC ONLY
      Option "USB" "on" # USB ONLY
EndSection

Section "InputDevice"
      Driver "wacom"
      Identifier "pad"
      Option "Device" "/dev/input/wacom" # USB ONLY
      # Option "Device" "/dev/ttyS0" # SERIAL ONLY
      Option "Type" "pad"
      Option "USB" "on" # USB ONLY
EndSection

# Uncomment the following section if you you have a TabletPC that supports touch
# Section "InputDevice"
# Driver "wacom"
# Identifier "touch"
# Option "Device" "/dev/ttyS0" # SERIAL ONLY
# Option "Device" "/dev/input/wacom" # USB ONLY
# Option "Type" "touch"
# Option "ForceDevice" "ISDV4" # Serial Tablet PC ONLY
# Option "USB" "on" # USB ONLY
# EndSection

Naturally I would have to comment out the USB references and uncomment the serial references. Then the serverlayout section had to look like:

Section "ServerLayout"
      Identifier "Default Layout"
      Screen "Default Screen"
      InputDevice "stylus" "SendCoreEvents"
      InputDevice "eraser" "SendCoreEvents"
      InputDevice "cursor" "SendCoreEvents" # For non-LCD tablets only
      InputDevice "pad" # For       Intuos3/CintiqV5/Graphire4/Bamboo tablets
      # InputDevice "touch" "SendCoreEvents" # Only a few TabletPCs support this type
EndSection

I rebooted and nothing happened. I realized /usr/bin/dexconf was a script and ran it. Upon rebooting I was stuck in VGA mode. This was looking like a failed experiment. On a whim I decided to make the changes directly to /etc/X11/xorg.conf and surprisingly, the tablet came to life! GIMP is suddenly fun to use!

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Hardware/Software Support March 28, 2009 10:28 am

Posted by Doug McCaughan in : Daily Life, Hardware, Software, Technology
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A service I provide to friends and family is cleaning up their computers when they start reporting, "it’s moving so slow!" or "I keep getting these popups." or error messages or whatever. Usually they are having a virus, spyware or malware issue. I’ve published my trade secret on how to fix this yourself. It takes me roughly 5 hours to clean a machine thoroughly. Granted, I usually do it overnight by sitting the computer beside me and taking breaks between programming tasks to evaluate the problems. You take smoke breaks; I take computer repair or social media breaks. For the service of cleaning a machine, assuring it has adequate virus protections, and making sure all the latest security patches are in place, I charge $135. In addition to software/hardware upgrades, I have replaced keyboards on laptops and even re-soldered a power connector on a laptop to its circuit board.

Yesterday a friend brought her computer and speakers by the house so I’ve added a service…speaker repair (I’d recommend just buying new ones).

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Technologies to come March 4, 2009 5:10 pm

Posted by Doug McCaughan in : Gadgets, Hardware, Software, Technology, Touchy Subjects
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Someone titled this "Microsoft’s Vision for 2019" I don’t know if that is true or not. What I do know is that much of what is presented in this video is already in the works. I’ve seen some of it demo’d. I know we have the technology to be deploying some of it today but necessary infrastructure improvements and profit margins stand in the way. For instance, if Nokia has a plan to release version A B C D and E of a phone there is a good chance that while were are using version A that B C D and E are in the works if not already developed. If B and E were developed at the same time Nokia could sell E but would miss out on all the profits by release B then waiting awhile to release C and awhile longer to release D and so forth. It doesn’t make fiscal sense to jump ahead. If money were not the issue and the technology improvements were solely about the advancement of society, you can bet we’d jump from A to E.


Microsoft’s Vision for 2019

2019 is too far away. We need these technologies today! Freeze me and wake me in 100 years.

Update: Take a look at how AT&T envisioned the future back in 1993. Pretty amazingly on the nose!

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Coding Horror Appears To Be Hardware February 2, 2009 8:18 pm

Posted by Doug McCaughan in : Daily Life, Hardware, Programming, Technology
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The other day some bizarreness slipped into my code. It made no sense. The problem could not be reproduced on the production machine but all the recent changes had not been migrated to it. I examined and tested and pulled hair out and pounded head against wall after wall. Finally, I went to the old staging server and cleaned it up, removed all the code, wiped the database, then made an exact copy of the development code and data on the staging server. Surprisingly enough, I could not reproduce the problem. On examining the development server, I noticed that the hard drive was almost out of space. Could this be a swap space problem? Doesn’t matter. This development server has done its time and needs to be retired. I need a new machine! On the positive side, I can quit chasing ghosts and start moving forward on my application again.

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A negative of installing a new motherboard December 20, 2008 11:57 am

Posted by Doug McCaughan in : Daily Life, Hardware, Software, Technology
, 7comments

I am pleased to have my workstation working again. I miss the portability of working on Tommy’s laptop but nothing compares to having multiple monitors for productivity. When will they make a laptop with a screen that can fold out so that the laptop itself will have 2 or 3 screens? Imagine. Fold up to reveal the keyboard and one screen. Need more real estate? Fold the screen to the left and you now have 2 screens and a keyboard. Need more? A 3rd section folds out to the right and now you have a keyboard and 3 screens and portability! Oh how I dream.

Anyhow, seems my machine is still not up to par. Windows just informed me that I have to install service pack 3, again. (since installing the new motherboard required reinstalling Windows core files)

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Today’s Technical Challenge December 17, 2008 2:20 pm

Posted by Doug McCaughan in : Hardware, Technology
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This one is aside from the normal programming endeavors. Tommy’s laptop, Vista installed, is refusing to logoff the current user. It has been saying "Logging Off.." for hours. Various forums have suggestions about an IE update to fix the problem, driver updates, unsigned drivers, blah blah blah. None of that matters if you cannot get the machine to some kind of command prompt or other useable interface. I’m going to try pulling the battery out and removing all power.

Update: Removing the battery and power cable, then waiting a few minutes before reconnecting power fixed the problem.

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Today’s Technical Challenge – New MB for Existing XP December 16, 2008 9:18 am

Posted by Doug McCaughan in : Daily Life, Hardware, Technology
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My motherboard died on my computer with all the software required for my consulting efforts. Why did it die? Because the capacitors on the motherboard were manufactured with an incomplete and flawed electrolyte formula that was acquired through some bad industrial espionage. I have since been given a new (old, I mean newly manufactured but we are talking Socket 462) motherboard. After installing it last night, Windows gets to mup.drv in the bootup process and restarts the machine. So today’s challenge (and one necessary to access my invoicing software) is to get Windows repaired so that it, and all the installed software on that hard drive, work with this new motherboard. Of course, I do this in conjunction with pumping out code. Days like this make me wish I had an IT department. I miss Nate.

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Error messages you don’t want to see December 16, 2008 12:06 am

Posted by Doug McCaughan in : Daily Life, Hardware, Technology
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When booting your computer for the first time after installing a new motherboard, one should not expect to see 1) CMOS battery low nor 2) CMOS memory wrong size

Update: The CMOS simply needed to be reset. The battery was fine. The computer boots without problem now but Windows gets to mup.drv and the computer restarts without ever reaching the Windows splash screen.

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Computer with early onset Alzeheimer’s November 28, 2008 12:04 pm

Posted by Doug McCaughan in : Hardware, Technology
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Nothing makes Black Friday blacker than rebooting your development server to see the ever familiar memory test run and instead of completing having the message "Memory Error!" appear on the boot screen. My first game console was an Atari 2600 circa 1978. My first computer was an Atari 400 around 1980 and my father with me helping (looking over his shoulder) upgraded the memory from 8kb to 32kb by soldering a chip to the motherboard. Can you imagine the tech support calls if that was the procedure today? "Yes sir. My name really is Steve. Now, did the soldering iron go all the way through the motherboard or just your CPU?" I have never seen a memory error until today. I made it through a reboot so hopefully it was a fluke.

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LCD Monitor flickers yellow February 16, 2008 8:28 am

Posted by Doug McCaughan in : Hardware, Technology
, 2comments

If a MAG Innovision LT565 Model 568 (LCD monitor) has a sharp image then turns yellowish then turns sharp then turns yellow, does that mean the power supply is failing? Worth repairing?

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