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Wednesday, 11 November 2009

More Woes

There is plenty on the net talking about how insomniac Windows 7 is - it wakes up for everything. That's generally pretty easy to resolve, open up task scheduler and edit all the tasks (30 mins if you can keep focus on the excitement).

However, one task is missing from the scheduled jobs & that is Windows update. I've had it confirmed by a Microsoft person that automatic updates will wake the PC if it is asleep to download updates. Personally, I find that really annoying & it should be a setting on the automatic updates page, however, we are where we are. I searched high & low throught scheduled tasks to discover, unless it is hiding under a cunningly disguised name, Windows update is not a scheduled task.

But clearly it is scheduled. Aha, it's hiding, right here : HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\WindowsUpdate\Auto Update

I am still trying to find out if it is possible to only do updates if already awake (automatically, I don't need the hassle of having to press a button for myself) but a more important issue raises itself - what other Microsoft (& other less dodgy stuff like trojans & viruses) makes use of "hidden" scheduled tasks?

Big brother probably is watching  incidentally did you hear the news that the UK government is going to store all of our web activity soon?. Sitting comfortably?

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Windows 7, less impressed

Well my Windows 7 installation is completed. Just a bit more tinkering required - primarily I wanted to get My Movies installed but I seem to have fallen foul of some issues & I'm not the only one it seems.

Firstly, it seems at random that the live tv fails - well, that is where I first noticed it but on further testing it seems that live tv, recorded tv and movies all have an occasional problem where they just spend forever trying to load or do load and then stutter or just show a black screen. A reboot seems to clear the problem but I had to start fiddling when the problem happened immediately after boot up for the firs time.

The behaviour is reminiscent of codec problems but I'm using the new Media Foundation, Divx (to handle MKV & DIVX) and PowerDVD. The oddity is that if this really were a codec issue surely it would be everytime? A check with filmerit reveals problems with quicktime files but that clearly isn't the problem because they play fine. A longer check with gspot reveals a problem with PowerDVD (version 8 something) but uninstall only makes more of a mess of the codecs - they are still registered but clearly not accessible. Testing some files reveals that the missing codecs have made no difference whatsoever & gspot confirms the problem exists even with mpeg 1 files created when recording tv. Not sure how to progress this one but there are other problems which this has revealed......

It seems that after a movie has finished playing the system keeps the file locked & hence never allows sleep mode to happen automatically - you can press sleep (menu or remote) and that works and sorts the issue out, it is just the automation dies. While on the sleep subject, I changed the scheduled tasks to stop Windows waking up for every event microsoft could think of (goto scheduled tasks & check / edit each one - you will find most are running far more frequently than you need and if they are set to be stopped if they run for too long, too long is considered to be 3 days so you might want to change that too).

Not sure if this behaviour happens for music because it is at that point that I broke my install and have had to start the reinstall - that's pretty disappointing because I had also found that no matter what I did I could not get windows to acknowledge the 2nd partition with a duplicate copy of the first on it - my XP install had this arrangement so if the first got corrupted I could just copy the second  back, as opposed to mirroring where the corruption gets copied too, but Windows 7 just ignores it's own settings. So, I broke the install by flagging both partitions as active - you don't want to do that! At least I now get to rethink my install sequence and make backups as I go along.

I've found a new problem during the reinstall. Windows has some nasty files it hides (bootmgr being the one in my mind now as it caused the reinstall) during install, so when I installed on my 2nd drive and removed the first on reboot, sure enough it seems that nasty files are stored on the first disk.

While the install works itself through, I will mention My Movies, this is a smart product to include decent pictures & movie information into WMC. It works nicely but the user interface is hardly intuitive (the "let's find what movies you've got" isn't the first option or even presented in a Wizard) and it has 3 other huge problems. Ffirstly, it constantly reindexes the files it already has recorded which meant I kept getting messages like "5 new files added" which you have to manually ok. Secondly, series are very messy (they are in Movies too). FInally, the worst issue is that the movies I found information from the online service where I had an ISO file (.ISO image of the original - ie the ones I own) would insist on loading the file exactly as labelled on the original disk - so if you didn't have precisely the same version as the person who uploaded the information in the first place it became worthless & would ask you to put the CD in. I can see why this is but I would have thought the sensible code would allow you to run whatever file it finds in the given directory then users can choose (and rename files to something meaningful in some cases).

Better finish fixing Windows 7 now. Wish me luck and the memory to avoid that Realtek 8139 driver update on Windows update that kills the device.....

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Media Center on Vista

I'm almost "finished" configuring my shiny new Windows 7 install for HTPC use & this will feature Windows 7's Media Center product. In a fit of enthusiasm I thought I would have a look at MCE on my Vista laptop to see if I could make use of it & hence remove MediaPortal to reduce the amount of installed software.

All started well, the interface, although largely the same is subtly different & I'm left wondering why my videos are hiding under the pictures section rather than TV & Movies. Unfortunately what I've now discovered is the Vista's MCE is pants. For starters the codecs installed on my laptop are solidly ignored so none of my home videos open (not the .avi ones, not the .mov ones & not the .mp4 ones) and what is worse is when I point the library at my movies it causes MCE to crash. Of course, Microsoft have been helpful in that it tries to restart but unsurprisingly, having crashed one, it crashes again, and restarts, and crashes again. No, that is not fair, it crashes just the once and gives up, sometimes I get taken to a Microshaft page which says I should check for updates (done & there aren't any - surely the software could check before offering the option?) and asks me if the information was helpful.

My conclusion on Windows Media Center on Vista? Well, can you imagine how much fun I had repeatedly explaining why the information offered was not helpful, oh yes and then some but I bet no one reads it as the online answers to "I have a Vista problem" now seem to be "why are you still using Vista?".