TideLog Archive for the “Software” Category

Recently, using ReactOS Build Environment, I started to get weird errors when trying to update my ROS source. It would say weird things like, “RosBE is outdated. Installed version: 2.1.3 Recent version: .” and also upon running the ssvn update command, I’d get, “The selected branch does not exist or the Internet Connection is down.

It appears that the servers moved to HTTPS, and there’s a bug in the batch files that control the wget commands. Kana suggested to change all the wget command lines in the sSVN.cmd file, adding “–no-check-certificate” to the ends, this fixes the problem!

 

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In wacky tech news headlines this week, John Deere, a General Motors company, and the world’s largest manufacturer of tractors and farm equipment, has said that farmers don’t “own” their tractors, because of ECU code. Sure, we pay for their vehicles. But we don’t own them. Not according to their corporate lawyers, anyway. In a particularly astounding display of corporate delusion, John Deere told the Copyright Office that farmers don’t own their tractors. Because computer code snakes through the DNA of modern tractors, farmers receive “an implied license for the life of the vehicle to operate the vehicle.” It’s John Deere’s tractor, folks. You’re just driving it.

Several manufacturers recently submitted similar comments to the Copyright Office under an inquiry into the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. DMCA is a vast 1998 copyright law that (among other things) governs the blurry line between software and hardware. The Copyright Office, after reading the comments and holding a hearing, will decide in July which high-tech devices we can modify, hack, and repair—and decide whether John Deere’s twisted vision of ownership will become a reality.

Seeing as all modern CANBus vehicles, not just tractors, have computer code running through their Controller Area Network (CAN) control units, for things like the traction control, stability control, ABS, fuel injection, and throttle control (drive-by-wire) systems, this latest news sends shivers through me, as I regularly modify ECU fuel maps on buses and cars, to a professional standard.

Like the license terms for Windows and many software packages, you don’t own the software, but you own the computer it runs on, that should apply here by default, it’s stupid greedy corporations getting attention to themselves, again. Be realistic, how many farmers are going to modify the ECU code in their tractor, or even care that it’s there? It’s unheard of. They’re running a business, not practising hacking. I’ve never heard of a vehicle owner modifying fuel maps or control unit code, as it requires specialist tools, not to mention knowledge, to do, so John Deere are just being stupid, and I love General Motors, driving Vauxhall cars in life, they’re cracking motors.

It makes sense to John Deere: The company argues that allowing people to alter the software—even for the purpose of repair—would “make it possible for pirates, third-party developers, and less innovative competitors to free-ride off the creativity, unique expression and ingenuity of vehicle software.” The pièce de résistance in John Deere’s argument: permitting owners to root around in a tractor’s programming might lead to pirating music through a vehicle’s entertainment system. Because copyright-marauding farmers are very busy and need to multitask by simultaneously copying Taylor Swift’s 1989 and harvesting corn? (I’m guessing, because John Deere’s lawyers never explained why anyone would pirate music on a tractor, only that it could happen.)

Haha, but what about SAFETY, John? The modifying of vehicle code by an amateur can lead to DEATH, and ACCIDENTS. Hasn’t really bothered anyone till now, though, has it, Deere? CANBus has been around since the 80’s, too, you don’t see, “Man causes pileup and mass death by modifying car software!” in the headlines? Nope! Seeing as most electronic devices like TV’s, microwaves, phones, and even remote controls have software in them, this could open up a massive debate, as you are still classed as owning those.

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As it is when shipped retail, this drive is terrible. The drive constantly tries to park its heads, lagging the system, even during copy and move operations. With it being a top end 7200RPM drive, this is unacceptable, especially if like my Clevo, it is installed in a gaming machine. It is the power saving “features” of the firmware that cause it. The drive also exhibits “beeping” symptoms where the voice coils of the arm recieve a high current to wake it up and seek track, the high current effectively turns the coil into a speaker, and it makes a beeping sound. The drive constantly seems to miss beats because of the parking issue, causing the arm to miss and have to be shocked back into place by the controller.

Using tools like HDDScan to disable the APM (Advanced Power Management) and AAM (Advanced Acoustics Management) features aren’t permanent, once the drives are power cycled the issue starts all over again. The drive refuses any permanent disable ATA control commands.

There is a Dell firmware that will get rid of the issue, and take the firmware up to 05SDM1. My Clevo’s laptop’s drive started out with 2SDM1 firmware. The new FW makes the drive visibly quicker. The auto flasher doesn’t work, instead we need to manually force it, I’ll show you how.

1. Download the Seagate Update Utility ISO image, hosted on TideLog, this very blog, by clicking HERE. Extract the ZIP file, you’ll find an ISO file called Seagate Utility.iso.

2. Burn the extracted ISO to a CD-RW or DVD-RW, and restart your computer. When your computer restarts, enter your BIOS and make sure the computer is set to boot from CD.

3. The updater will start on its own, but it will actually fail even though a green screen is shown, you will need to manually force it. It will dump you back at a command prompt, so type:

FDLH -m HOLLIDAY -f 0005SDM1.LOD -i ST9500420AS -b -v

Essentially this line forces the detection of Seagate ST9500420AS drives, and force flashes it, even if the BIOS doesn’t have the Dell asset tag embedded.

4. This works on any machine, including Dell Studio, Asus, my Clevo M571TU, and the M570. Any machine with a Seagate ST9500420AS drive should work fine. Any drives with “GAS” on the end are the same drive but with G-Shock protection.

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I updated Firefox today, and was greeted with the follwing message:

Different by Design

Thanks for upgrading! You’re now ready to enjoy the very latest in speed, flexibility and security. As a non-profit, we’re free to innovate on your behalf without any pressure to compromise. That means a better experience for you and a brighter future for the Web.

Hahaha, I burst out laughing! If they’re free from pressure to compromise, then WHY are they so keen to copy Google with Chrome’s limited dumbed down interface? It seems like the programmer’s version of peer pressure to me. Google’s getting bigger, sticking its fingers in pies it knows nothing about (Google +, Google Drive, and all the other flopped stuff they’ve canned in the past) so Mozilla are trying to claw back market share. All because Chrome is sneaklily bundled with installers, whereupon 99% of users are the Next, Next, Next and Finish button clicking types, so Chrome magically gets big market share thanks to usage data and setting itself as default browser after being craftily installed.

It was only ever since that Chrome-browser-for-netbooks crap came along that Mozilla decided to follow suit and give the majority of us with proper systems and big screens a limited UI by default, to supposedly give us more “screen real-estate”. We don’t want, need, nor asked for it. A lot of sites are bad enough where they are centered to 800px wide, leaving tons of whitespace on a 1200px + display. God help standard white page with black text HTML pages, they look terrible.

Mozilla may not have investors and directors to please, but they can’t keep copying competition. Seamonkey is based on Mozilla, but still has a full UI with menus, they go their own way, which is the way Firefox used to be. Google’s ideas are never inventions, they themselves copy stuff that’s already done. Like GMail, that is simply a nice frontend for an Exchange server somewhere, and the GMail Labs, they’re just plugins for said frontend. They like to make people think they invent, but all they do is take stuff that exists and make it look nicer, or in the latest GMail look, make it worse.

JavaScript email frontends have existed for years. I use Roundcube, that trounces GMail in every way possible, and it’s open source and supports plugins. Companies need to start inventing something new rather than copying the existing.

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I’m in the middle of very slowly recovering data from Midori’s 250GB Fujitsu hard drive. Over the last 6 months the problems started out innocently, as if there was a bad sector. The drive would freeze with the HDD indicator solid, then after 2 mins it would recover. Running a full HDD Regenerator scan revealed no bad sectors, but still it happened, albeit not very often.

Then suddenly it has got worse, doing it every 2 minutes, blue screening the laptop. Putting the drive in my USB caddy the drive actually freezes and then completely disconnects itself from the USB bus if I attempt to write to it or cut and paste from it, as if I’ve used Safely Remove Hardware and turned it off. It will read data from itself, but very very weakly and slowly, starting at 800KB/sec, creeping up to a max of 8.56MB/sec after 5 minutes, when it should be at over 15MB/sec, normally starting out at 24MB easing to between 11 and 15MB.

It seems the MCU (Micro Control Unit, Main Control Unit, or Micro Code Unit) is failing, or there’s a voltage regulation issue between that and the heads. Modern hard drives only have three main chips as well as resistors, diodes and capacitors on their PCB”s. You have the MCU (main processor), the Cache memory chip, and the motor driver chip, often a SMOOTH chip, that spins the drive up using high current, then tapers off keeping it steady once it’s spun up to full revs. Remember when HDD’s had massive boards with lots of chips and electrical gubbins? That single MCU does the work of most of those, an awesome example of modern integrated electronics!

While we’re on the subject of Fujitsu, let me tell you a little bit of my data recovery background involving them…

Hard disk drive faults can occur for any number of reasons, sometimes wear and tear on the mechanical parts of the drive’s internals can lead to a drive failure, in other cases electronic faults on the drive’s PCB can lead to the failure of the drive, or even a mixture of both. Even a drive that is mechanically and electronically sound can fail, often leading to confusion in determining exactly what the cause of the failure is. The answer lies with the software that controls the hardware, that is stored on the platters, in the MCU, or both.

Quite a few years ago, when the data recovery industry was really taking off, new failures started cropping up, drives would spin up, make sounds as if initialising, and then…? …Nothing.

But what could be the cause? There was a very well known failure that appeared around the same era that data recovery companies started to appear like they were being mass produced from a factory! This failure was found in a popular brand of consumer desktop hard disk drives manufactured by (of all guys, Fujitsu!). These series all had model numbers beginning with either MPF or MPG. Before long the following drive models started failing, going into failure territory like no drive had been known to before:

  • MPF3102AT
  • MPF3102AH
  • MPF3153AT
  • MPF3153AH
  • MPF3204AT
  • MPF3204AH
  • MPG3102AT
  • MPG3102AH
  • MPG3204AT
  • MPG3204AH
  • MPG3307AT
  • MPG3307AH
  • MPG3409AT
  • MPG3409AH

These drives weren’t of the modern simple three chip design, they had big PCB’s with lots of circuitry. Once failed the Fujitsu hard disks behaved normally, spinning, apparently initializing, but not becoming ready. Whilst common in all drives of the above series the problem was particularly common in the MPG family, especially the 40GB and 20GB models, MPG3409AH, MPG3409AT, MPG3204AT, MPG3204AH.

To repair these drives access to the micro-program that starts and controls the drive (the firmware) was required. Once access to the drive had been gained via the manufacturer’s own unpublished ATA command-set the job of checking each of the firmware modules began. In most cases a temporary repair of the drive in order to extract a full clone onto a working device could be performed, involving repairing certain logs in the drive’s own firmware by replacing the contents with those from a known working drive of the same firmware revision. Results were often instant and long-lasting, but, once a drive had failed once there was only a finite length of time before it would fail again.

A good few years after the first problems Fujitsu finally admitted there were issue with the hard drives, cowardly blaming component manufacturers for the fault. The MPF and MPG series of drives showed excellent promise, with good performance, low price point and good build quality to boot, they should have really cemented Fujitsu’s foundations in the consumer desktop hard disk drive business, though it lead to Fujitsu calling it a day on further desktop hard drives instead concentrating on notebook and Enterprise class devices.

Even today they are still utter crap. They use the same Marvell processors that a lot of Samsung and Western Digital drives do, but WD and Sammy drives seem much more reliable. Samsung and WD boards that match failed ones are also easier to source as you don’t need to match serial numbers (embedded in ROM and on the platters on Fujitsu’s) because WD’s firmware and serial are just stored on the platters, as I think Samsung’s still are.

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Older scripts still use this, and it’s causing me headaches. Luckily I found out why it’s happening. Recent versions of MySQL require you to use ENGINE=MyISAM instead.

Simply load any.sql or .php scripts into a text editor, and use Find Replace! Replace all instances of  TYPE=MyISAM with ENGINE=MyISAM and your problem will go away!

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Uniwill don’t provide BIOS’es on their website, and neither do Novatech. My P55IM is officially a Novatech Alpha R Pro, and you’ll remember from my last experience with Novatech trying to get a BIOS for my Novatech branded Clevo M670 that it was a nightmare, and also that Clevo do not provide BIOS files, they instead referred me to Novatech.

Well, Uniwill build the vast majority of Fujitsu Siemens laptops (now just Fujitsu since Siemens sold their stake back to Fujitsu), and that includes the P55IM, which is badged as the Amilo Xi2428, and the Novatech Alpha R Pro. The best bit of it is that Uniwill nor Novatech have BIOS updates, but Fujitsu do, and regularly. There’s been a few releases for the Xi 2428 P55IM, and they can be flashed on to all versions of the machine, including the P55IM-1, and P55IM-5.

To do it, download the update from FSC by looking for the Xi 2428, boot from a Hiren’s Boot CD into the Mini Windows XP environment, and run the EXE from there. I couldn’t get it to run under Win 7 or Vista, nor could I on my old Amilo Li 1818. You’ll then have a Fujitsu Siemens Amilo BIOS boot screen, and the machine referred to as an Xi 2428 in the BIOS and DXDiag!

Your drivers will re-install as the IRQ maps are changed by the update, so don’t panic when your system looks weird on reboot!

Further to that I’ve edited the BIOS file using Kassie’s Phoenix BIOS Editor, and have replaced the Manufacturer and Model string to a Kitamura one, and put our splash screen on it! Don’t ask me how, I’m experienced at it, and it isn’t easy doing a BIOS chip desolder and Willem chip wipe and program if it goes wrong, thankfully I know how, and have the facilities.

NOTE: Don’t download the 1.16C version. FSC set the CPU fan on permanent full to try to counter the nVidia GPU problems. It doesn’t make a difference, and is annoying. Download the 1.14C instead.

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I found this out the hard way, but fixed my problem myself, being an advanced techie. I installed Race Driver 3 under Windows 7 64bit on my P55IM, and ever since it asked for a reboot and tried to install a StarForce driver, the system wouldn’t start on it’s own. The Starting Windows screen comes up and sticks for ages, and the Windows animation doesn’t appear, instead the machine boots straight into Startup Recovery.

This finds a problem, but cannot fix it, so the system will still NOT START. Here’s how to fix it:

1. Turn off your computer, and as Windows is about to start, hit F8

2. Hit enter on “Disable Driver Signature Enforcement”. The system will now start normally, but slower than usual, and you might get a warning from Windows that the StarForce driver is corrupt and/or incompatible, and it has been disabled. This won’t fix it permanently, we now need to delete the driver.

3. Open a command prompt, and one by one, right click the window and paste each of these lines in, hitting Enter after each one. You won’t get confirmation, it’ll just go to a new prompt:

DEL c:\windows\system32\drivers\sfsync03.sys
DEL c:\windows\system32\drivers\sfdrv01.sys
DEL c:\windows\system32\drivers\sfhlp02.sys

4. Uninstall Race Driver 3. You can do this anytime, either before or after this step, but the game doesn’t work anyway without the driver, and doesn’t uninstall it as part of the uninstall routine, so do it anyway round.

5. Reboot, and you’re done!

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I’ve been working on a new mod for Saints Row 2 on PC. I’m a member over at The Row, and have been working with the guys to fix the silly vehicle powertrain characteristics of some vehicles. This is a little mod I’ve done to fix some of the big and small vehicles in SR2 that use Front Wheel Drive (FWD), that should really be Rear Wheel Drive (RWD). I’ve also increased torque and max speed on the slower vehicles.

Tidosho’s Vehicle Powertrain Mod is born!

Tidosho's Vehicle Powertrain Mod Logo by Kalahee from The RowThe vehicles I’ve fixed are:

Septic Avenger

Stilwater Municipal

MixMaster

Bear APC

Voyage

Topher

Go!

Komodo

KeyStone

Overall, they’re much more fun to drive. The Topher, Komodo, and Go especially have been sped up considerably, with more set off power. In the future, improvements will include gear additions, to extend power and speed.

To download my Mod, visit my TVPM Release Thread to get the latest version. Also, to discuss it, visit my TVPM Discussion Thread over at The Row. My mod has also been integrated into The Gentlemen of The Row (GoTR) Mod, which is a massive mod with many fixes, features and unlockables by the community at The Row. Click HERE to visit the GoTR Mod thread.

Combined, the GoTR Mod makes SR2 so much more fun and enjoyable!

Register, and say Hi to us all!

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I had one of the good oldie Liteon DD-A100X DVD Recorders in for repair today. I’ve got one of these beauties myself, and they’re really cute! The power supply was whining on Standby making a fizzing noise, the DVD recorder actually powered up, until a disc was inserted, then it shut down, with a scream from the PSU. This told me straight away that there was a failed capacitor on the PSU board.

There was. It had burst, and was slightly burnt where the vent had burst. Checking the terminals of the cap solder pads after removing it revealed a fluctuation, which I knew was an in-line resistor. After I replaced the two components, the supply was fine, and the recorder read discs again. My standard procedure when I repair a DVD recorder is to upgrade the firmware, and remove Macrovision. Any FW before 2007 on these Liteons is buggy, I know from my own machine, so I’ll walk you through it.

Checking current firmware revision

To check your current firmware, look at the label on the right side of your machine, there should be a white sticker with a barcode and a silver rating plate. On the barcode sticker it looks like this:

Model: DD-A100(3902205216)

S/N: 002648605362 – – Manufactured Date: November 2006

||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||

F:LNQGE032*1 – – D:BC70 – – HI-POT OK – – MADE IN CHINA

It is the F: and D: numbers that are important. The F: is the Firmware revision, and in this case the upgrade version we’re going to install is LNQGE034, so we’re OK, the upgrade is newer. The D: number is the Drive software version, which doesn’t matter, as this latest FW doesn’t have a drive upgrade with it.

Please note I CANNOT BE HELD LIABLE for damage due to mistakes or hardware errors, or injury that may occur from you performing this procedure. You do it at your OWN RISK!!

This procedure is for the LITEON DD-A100X ONLY, other machines are NOT COVERED here! ILO Hacker does many Liteon clones, but CHECK FIRST before doing it!

1. Download ILO Hacker

ILO Hacker is a great little tool. This program removes Macrovision, sets Region Free, and enables LP Record Mode if the firmware does not have it. This will work for future firmware releases (and already has, without having to be updated!). This is because the program searches for the correct area of the firmware to hack, and then hacks it for you! Works for *ALL LiteOn LVW-XXXX and ILO firmwares (*except LiteOn model LVW-5101)

It should also work for Daytek and Gateway and Philips Clones. (ILO is a rebranded LiteOn). All we need to do is run ILO Hacker, load the firmware, let ILO do its work, and then flash (or reflash if you’re hacking current FW. You can’t dump without a Debug tool, which I have, as it solders to a header on the motherboard, and also allows me to do bad flash recovery).

Click HERE to download it. Extract it anywhere you like, it doesn’t need installing. Keep it handy in case Liteon release new firmware, which I doubt as the machine’s 4 years old, and discontinued.

Download latest FW from Liteon

I’ve saved you the job, as I already have the latest from 2007, just in case they ever remove it, it’s permanently on TideLog. Click HERE to download it. Next, extract the contents using WinRAR or similar.

Hack with ILO Hacker

Open ILO Hacker. Leave the two checkboxes ticked. The DD-A100X already has LP mode, so this won’t make any modifications anyway. See the button labelled “Select Firmware File”? Hit it! Then browse to the .DA0 file you extracted.

It’ll make the possible changes, and save the hacked firmware in a Hacked folder relative to wherever the original firmware was extracted. How easy was that? Now all we need to do is get the firmware into your machine’s innards….

First, though, we’ll refresh the machine. This is optional, as not all A100 machines have it. In the Setup menu of the unit, look for “Restore” and select it. (The unit will do a system restore).

Create the firmware upgrade CD

This is another easy step. You require Nero, or similar burning program, and a blank CD, I recommend you use a CD-RW, as the firmware is only 3MB, so if you use a write-once disc, it’ll be wasted. Burn the .DA0 file to the root of the CD, no other folders or files, and finalize the disc.

Upgrade the firmware

Simply turn your Liteon on, pop the disc in, and the firmware upgrade will start. Follow the instructions on screen, and when done, remove the disc.

You now have a Region Free & Macrosvision Free recorder!

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I reported a while back that Microsoft had dropped the Hardware Assisted Virtualization (HAV) requirement for XP Mode under Windows 7. They’ve now rolled out the update, on their XP Mode pages. I’ve set it all up on my M670SU, and it seems to run pretty stably, but there’s a few minor default settings that seem weird:

1. VirtualPC is set to only have 256MB RAM by default on the XP image, and it’s slow as treacle, even on this Core2Duo CPU with 2GB RAM. I increased it to 768MB.

2. The VHD file is set at 126GB Expanding (My HDD is only 60GB!!) and I’ve haven’t yet figured out how to decrease it. You could easily overlook this, and then have your machine start acting weird as it runs out of space, yet VPC won’t bother!

3. The graphics will only go up to 16bit colour, using a crappy S3 Trio emulated card. At full screen, the title bar and window looks washed out, with colour loss and banding. Come on, Microsoft, the Trio is friggin’ ancient!! I wish it’d use my nVidia 8400 built in card, it’s WAY more powerful!

4. The virtual machine Hibernates instead of shutting down when you close it. This has to be changed to Shut Down, as you can’t change settings while it is Hibernated.

Other than that, it seems fine. I’m currently setting up VirtualBox to do a side by side comparison, because VPC doesn’t feel as fast as VBox does. XP Mode automatically shares your PC’s drives, so you don’t have to set them up manually like in VirtualBox. Here’s the installation window:

It then sets itself up, and displays the main XP desktop, which seemed to take longer than it should. If it performed this slowly on my dual core system, imagine how slow it’d be on a single core Pentium 4! I haven’t tried it, nor do I want to!

There’s been a lot of criticism of it on forums like Digital Spy, and news sites like the Register. People saying that VirtualBox and VMWare Workstation are better. They are right! The only snag is VMWare isn’t free, whereas VirtualBox is. I like XP Mode, it is useful for people using Windows 7 who don’t want to manually install a virtual OS. Then again, XP Mode is officially only intended for business use, and not personal.

But, to me, it feels slower than it should. My Core i7 rig runs it lightning speed, but the graphics are still emulating that awful S3 tripe. My i7 has the latest ATi HD5700 based card, for God’s sake!

If Microsoft call *this* a “selling” point of Windows 7, they’d be wasting their time. It feels like it was something they came up with at the last minute. Hang on, it WAS!! My advice to any business is, use VirtualBox! VirtualPC has been lacking and lagging behind the market for some time, mainly with USB support, they’ve only *just* caught up, but even this version feels rushed, and thrown together. On an older machine that meets the Minimum Win 7 requirements, you’re SURE going to FEEL it!

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Microsoft has just this minute released the EEA browser choice screen update to users of Windows 7, that it agreed to do in line with an EU ruling:

Cool. Don’t need it, though. I’m using the king of all browsers, Firefox, already. The one and only! (Until they change the UI to look like the crappy Ribbon and Chrome monstrosities, in version 4, that is.

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This time, it’s not Mac OS x86, it’s Linux. I’ve been trying to get OpenSUSE 11.2 to run, it installs fine, but then I get a corrupted display when I reboot to do the second stage of configuration. Failsafe doesn’t work.

So I went back to 11.1, and this does the same, even forcing my display to go to its native res of 1440×900. This time, though, I can get into Failsafe, but still can’t get it to go into normal. I’m not sure if it’s something to do with the nVidia Linux drivers, or the X-Windowing server.

I’m working on the OpenSUSE forums, to solve it, if you see me (Tidosho), say hi!

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Something we frequently do at work is a full backup and reinstall, my nickname for it is a Wash ‘n’ Wipe. It goes like this: Image the boot drive to one of our backup server drives, wipe their drive and reinstall Windows, find drivers and programs, then plug the backup drive in and copy their stuff back.

To cut a very boring long story short, Windows decided to letter the backup drive C:, called the boot drive F:, and once our drive was removed, it hung at the “Welcome” screen. It’s just so silly I can’t think of a decent analogy.

Fortunately, I had an idea how to fix it, and it worked. It works on Win XP/Vista/7. Reproduced here mainly for my own reference, and my techies, and so you can remember reading about a fix if it ever happens to you:

  • Run regedit (Windows key + R, “regedit”, enter, or, click Start, Run, type “regedit” without quotes On Windows 7, the Run command is under All Programs/Accessories)
  • Go to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\MountedDevices
  • Delete ALL of the keys listed, for example \DosDevices\C: to Z:
  • Pray, whilst rebooting, and pray some more as you come to the welcome screen

It worked for me, and that computer’s back with a customer hard at work. I’ve found this works on XP/Vista and Windows 7. I have a testbed with all 3 installed for this kind of testing.The more problems you can solve, the more custom you get, and don’t have to turn away! Here’s a screenshot under Windows 7 I did:

All the drives with ???? are removable USB drives maps (on my system!). They’re perfectly safe to delete! Yours will likely be different.

This particular registry key – HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE/SYSTEM/MountedDevices – lists the mapping between the disk drives on your computer and their respective drive letters as visible in My Computer. Windows sometimes gets confused about how to refer to your boot volume (should be C:/), and if your boot volume’s drive letter changes after you install XP, it will likely get stuck starting up and hang just before the Welcome/login screen.

If your machine WON’T start, obviously you can’t just run regedit, but there are ways around it. There do exist commandline tools you could run from a floppy disk, but by far the easiest way is to grab a liveCD that contains a registry editor. I use Mini XP on Hiren’s BootCD, but this tool should do the trick easily enough for most.

Caution: If you have programs installed to drive letters other than C:\, be aware this could cause issues with them. Windows may be intelligent enough to reassign the driver letters with respect to installed programs, then again, being Windows, it may not be. I haven’t tested this analogy yet, but will try to, and report back.

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I’ve discovered several ways to determine whether my laptop battery is good, or failing. Before I detail it, let’s understand a bit more about battery capacity.

A battery is rated in MilliWatt Hours (abbreviated as mWh), which determines how long it lasts. The higher the rating, the longer it lasts. There are 2 values that ACPI pulls from the battery, Designed Capacity, and Full Charge Capacity. Designed Capacity is the capacity hard coded into the regulator chip inside the battery, to match the total cells, and is how much charge the cells will hold when at optimum condition. Full Charge capacity is how much charge the battery is currently holding. Over time, it will get lower, as the battery cells (or regulation circuit) wear out.

Windows 7:

Windows 7 will notify you if your mwAh rating is low. It displays a warning, in the system tray (or Notification Area, as some know it!), that looks like an empty battery and plug with a cross next to it. Clicking it displays this:

Windows Vista doesn’t display this, so in Windows 7 it’s quite useful. It doesn’t actually display the values I described above, so you don’t actually know how BAD the battery is. This is where my next tool comes in.

HWMonitor:

HWMonitor is a tool made my the same guys who develop CPU-Z. It monitors the temperatures of your CPU, GPU, and HDD, and it also tells you your battery status, displaying the Designed and Current Capacities I mentioned above, in a nice window like this:

My battery is really BAD! On my Novatech, it is holding almost a 1/3rd less than it should! It has lost 34085 mWh of its capacity, all because the previous owner left it on the mains, and didn’t condition the battery!

ALWAYS CONDITION your battery, they’re not cheap to replace, you’ll wish you had when you need it! And NEVER buy ANY CHINESE or TAIWANESE batteries from eBay, or the internet! They’re INFERIOR, manufactured to LIMP standards, will NOT LAST long, and can be a dangerous FIRE RISK! I work with computers, and see it on a daily basis, “Oh, but the battery was really cheap!” Yeah, you get what you pay for!

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