Wednesday, 29 December 2010
I've upgraded the hard disk to a faster larger model which makes a small amount of difference to performance but nothing worth worrying about.
The big downer is the fan. The Acer cooling system cools both the graphics card (Radeon Mobility 3470 - again, pretty high spec for a laptop when it was new) and the processor. Unfortunately it does this by running fast and loud and when temperatures go up it runs loud enough to be heard not only in the next room but downstairs too - frankly sitting at the desktop in from of the laptop it was deafening.
I've tried a couple of laptop coolers - I had an Akasa Orion laptop cooler but its fans were worse than the laptops, I had a block of wood - that worked pretty well but recently I've purchased a Cooler Master Ultra X3. Such a simple design - a nice looking bit of drilled aluminum (thin enough that if you don't rest your hands on the laptop when typing it does wobble annoyingly) with rubber bits to stop sliding. Added to that it has a USB powered (with pass thru port) fan system - 3 fans with a volume / speed control so you can choose how much air blowing is required. This works well because the fans can be adjusted so they are quieter than the laptops but they provide enough cooling to stop the laptop kicking into take off mode when the going gets tough. What's more the fans are mounted on the drilled holes on the aluminium sheet meaning they can be positioned to blow air directly at those areas of the laptop that heat up (along with some decent holes drilled in the case to let air in) this is a great solution.
Still, the laptop does heat up a bit though - from day one the processor has reported 51c on both cores as a normal temperature (that's using Speedfan which seems to report a little higher than most other products for some reason), whilst at boot the graphics card sits at 61c.
Delving inside has revealed those silly stick on thermal pads between the graphics processors and the heat sink. Waste of time, off they come and in goes some decent thermal paste (MX2, I've lost my Arctic Silver somewhere). No change in temperature there on boot, however, what I can immediately see is that heat transfer has improved because the temp does not rise much at all - I can also see that it is the GPU temp that is causing the fan to go into take off mode.
Still not happy though - the thermal pads were physically thicker than the paste and inspection shows that the gap between GPU chips and the heatsink is only just being bridged by the paste (caused by stand offs on the heat sink) - this also shows what a poor job the thermal pads are doing as one of the subsidiary chips had no contact at all.
Shims required but oh boy, they would be around £5 each for a 1cm x 1cm piece of copper from ebay. However, a 10cm x 10cm piece of copper (.9mm) was £3.99 via an ebay shop, a bit of elbow grease required and a new hacksaw blade. End result is I've now removed all of the thermal pads (GPU had 3, 2 chips next to the processor had 1 each and the south bridge had one - the CPU didn't) and replaced with custom sized copper shims and MX2 paste (I cheated and only cut one for the chips next to the CPU).
Was a good opportunity too to clean off the solidified cheap rubbish from the CPU and carefully dust everything.
The end result is that now the GPU temperature is 42c (around 39 on boot) and I haven't yet seen it approach the previous 61 degrees starting point), processor temperature continues to be around the same but falls more quickly whilst the fan simply does not kick into take off mode at all - all in all a good result. Interestingly the overall internal temperature has dropped - the hard drive not runs 2 degrees less than it did and the case over the cooling fan and hard disk bay noticeably doesn't get hot as it used to.
Any more to do? There isn't supposed to be a shim on the CPU (just paste when I rummaged) but if I ever take it apart again I'll be trying to wedge one in there (hoping I'll discover a cheap source of something less that .9mm by then) because I'm pretty sure the CPU should have a better connection - I think with nothing to start with wedging .9mm of shim in there would be a bit drastic but I think there is scope for improving the CPU temperature.
Tuesday, 30 November 2010
Why is it that they have some enormous, complex, unreliable drivers.
It's connected by USB - when connected to the PC it works 95% of the time whilst on the laptop it works 10% of the time and I usually give up. Both operating systems are Windows 7 both work fine - it's only the printer that plays up.
I've now discovered a fix that seems to have worked successfully to date - so, when I turn the printer on the PC brings up the message "USB Device Not Recognized" and it rebooting doesn't change the situation.
What I've found is that deleting "USB Composite Devices" from Device manager solves the problem.
Tuesday, 9 November 2010
It turns out that the jump list files can get corrupted, so the easy answer is to bin the whole lot and start again - so just delete the files in %AppData%\Microsoft\Windows\Recent\AutomaticDestinations.
Alternatively, a more methodical but less reliable approach is to just delete the large files found in there -they appear to be files that have become corrupted.
Monday, 8 November 2010
Monday, 4 October 2010
Sunday, 3 October 2010
The only time I doubt why I carry on is when I see really amazing pictures that I can only aspire to.
Luckily I'm just too slow witted to give in.
So, for some more pics have a look at the ePhotozine gallery : http://www.ephotozine.com/u58102
Friday, 1 October 2010
What are you talking about I hear you say? Well, spraying the web with silver paint to better define the web and hairspray to spray on the black card so the web sticks to it.
Yesterday morning there were webs everywhere and some amazing structures so there I was taking photos of dew covered spiders webs in the garden. I quickly found the backgrounds are completely distracting unless neutrally coloured so my black card came into play inspite of the lack of paint/hairspray.
My point and press just is not up to the job though (Panasonic TZ-5) - it has a macro mode that is pretty reliable but webs are just too tough and without a tripod (too lazy to go back upstairs) there's no chance.
However, some of the dew covered webs did provide some interesting water droplets so I took a couple of handheld shots which appear to have worked satisfactorily :
Thursday, 26 August 2010
I honestly don't think there is ever a perfect backup and even commercial organisations get it wrong and have slip ups.
What do I do, well I have been using Paragon Drive Backup (various versions but actually the free version works really well) to make a complete image of my machine - I now do this for all machines to make sure an overall backup is in place for easier restoration. Will I use it in times of trouble, given Windows benefits from a complete rebuild every now and then I just don't know but I have used it to switch between installs while building my HTPC (ie backup, add a feature, test, rollback if required with no nasty registry hangover).
Unfortunately, making an image takes quite a while and the incremental version doesn't seem very, well, incremental.
So, day to day file backups? I use Robocopy - a free download from Microsoft or built in on Windows 7 - backup what you want where you want when you want, a genuinely useful utility if configured correctly.
But that is still a bit manual - yes I could schedule it but there is no practical way of making it work in the background., but it does the general job.
Recently I received a cover disk with Genie Timeline Free on it - what a great program, it just works and is now installed on two of my machines. It's free so I cannot help but recommend this if you have a spare drive to hand - it's is not perfect but it does work. Problems? Firstly it is a per user install which means each user accounts needs to configure their own backups which is strange & the files duplicate as the backup cannot automatically keep only a single copy where folders overlap. Secondly, although it works neatly in the background, file copying still impacts desktop use (so a fast drive is really needed) and lastly it uses volume shadow copy but each time appears to make a full backup of the file rather than just keeping changes. But it does work.
The downsides were bugging me so I've looked for other software & hit upon Avanquest Autosave Essentials - this is nicer looking, easier to configure and appears to work faster. Also the license price is for 3 machines. Does it work? Well on a test folder of < 30 files it was brilliant. On a backup of my user folder of approx 40Gb? No, junk, it crashed out after a couple of minutes, took less time to remove from the hard disk than it took to tidy up the half copy of files it had made.
So Genie Timeline it is for the time being.
Wednesday, 25 August 2010
I’ve had problems of late with Windows Media Center on Windows 7 where on resume from sleep I get a a black screen for around a minute – I’m not the only one but I don’t have a clue what has changed to cause this to start happening.
So, I’ve finally been forced to give MCE Standby Tool a test. I say forced because I have tried to minimise the software installed on my media center machine to reduce the conflicts, reinstall hassle etc.
I have tried MCE Standby Tool in the past on a Vista configuration and I can confirm it did nothing useful for me at all so was not expecting much this time to be honest, although plenty of people swear by it.
Since I last tried it there do appear to be a lot more options which are pretty clear although some remain unclear. For instance the pop up that asks which devices should be allowed to wake the machine up gave a list of “HID Device xxxx” and “HID Device xxx1” straight out of Windows’ internal systems, well I don’t know which HID device is which but there were at least four on the list and as there are only 3 things plugged in that makes it interesting.
Still, reboot as required and we’re away, or not.
Previously, I got a black screen on resume which was clearly Media Center having some sort of display issue, now on reboot I get a black screen – this one is strangely much blacker except for the “Start” menu. No mouse response at all but luckily the three fingered salute worked to show that MST Blanker had crashed which caused MCE Standby tool to crash.
So that made the system much worse, uninstall works nicely though but check carefully that your settings are back where they should be!
Thursday, 12 August 2010
Setup is relatively complex most of time with Blogger, instructions are given on screen & involve editting the HTML on the design page, however, occassionally an "add this button" button appears - I cannot quite spot the logic of when it appears but unfortunately since attempting to do the job on my home laptop the button hasn't appeared again, so manual editting is the way to go.
Also, it is a little unfortunate that whatever you do, facebook & twitter are always the options initially displayed. I've attempted to create links to other services but the naming is not obvious (the code says "facebook" in the facebook part so I tried copying and using "blogger" but that was clearly too obvious).
Wednesday, 11 August 2010
I've had no response from the help forums but have now cracked it - for which purpose I am uploading the picture I want to use here :
Why? Well it turns out that I can take the web link for the above, remove the scaling (the /sxxx) and use that with no problems found yet, whilst the same technique using Picasa fails - therefore, the problem is Picasa interacting with Chrome.
Incidentally, this picture is a macro shot, taken hand held on a point & press camera in the back garden.
Tuesday, 10 August 2010
Still, having learnt that lesson it is time to press boldly on into the unknown.
Luckily one can change the background image in the new templates to your own - all you need to do is make sure you have an appropriate resolution image to hand & accessible online (eg in Picasa) and change the image link in the template.
As easy as that, well pretty much :
1) Create an appropriate image. The one I had from stock on the designer was 1800x1200 so I altered one of my own images to 1920x1200 as a nice catch all - it will work fine with lower resolutions too. Note, my initial image was around 200k which was a bit slow to load.
2) Upload to somewhere online - Picasa is good, just make sure it is a full size image, I set the album to unlisted and that seems to still work. Then goto the picture and click on "link to this photo", copy the "embedded link" string into notepad and search for the string commencing
Ah, you noticed the new "attribution" section at the bottom - it even appears on the Blogger design page but you can only add to it and not actually change it.
Friday, 6 August 2010
Wireless connections work fine for simple applications like the odd bit of browsing but I have been finding that with any volume of use they fall over. Admittedly the expensive Cisco kit at work never fails but cheap USB wireless is unreliable.
I have tried a number of brands and have settled over the years on Netgear, no frills, decent value, but no help on the wireless front.
My last attempt has been a WPN111 which uses the standard netgear config software (so in conjunction with Vista or Windows 7 you are doomed to pain).
Actually, the device works well when it works, unfortunately it cannot cope well with sleep so frequently has to be unplugged to force a reset (and to cool down). I have tried every setting possible on Windows 7 to no avail.
I understand that PCI based wireless is better but as no one seems to say much good in the reviews of current products that seems a waste.
Luckily, we have just relocated my satellite cable so took the opportunity to run a lan cble.
Ah, networking problems solved.
Saturday, 24 April 2010
So, I've been tinkering & have taken a macro shot of a daisy taken as the sun went down yesterday :
and produced firstly this from just the raw tool :
unfortunately it seems to lose a lot of brightness during the lossy save / upload process and then using the Raw tools to change the exposure I created 3 files of -4,0 & +4 EV and ran it through Photomatix
I know they're not great pictures but this discovery means a much greater scope for control of a picture and HDR is now possible, I'm even more encouraged having found an article comparing HDR pictures produced using RAW pictures vs images produced using files generated using the camera raw editor.
There's some work to be done - I need to start with a great picture first....
Thursday, 1 April 2010
Refilling cartridges does appear to make financial sense, I have an HP Photosmart D5460 which produces awesome colour photo output, at present a set of cartridges is around £80 and that is more than 50% of the purchase cost whilst a complete set of inks with the refill tools (the modern ones are good) cost around £23 and I think will do around 4 refills (the box says 5 but with it's hardly an exact science).
Clearly there are downsides to refills (besides messy fingers), chief of which is uncertain print quality and uncertain robustness of the inks - if you are printing photos to display / keep for a long time then sticking to HP manufactured cartridges is essential.
But what if you just want the odd snap to show people and are not concern about longevity? Or you are printing web pages / text for convenience of your work / hobbies (so we print web pages to have a hard copy to refer to when working off screen quite frequently)? Who cares how long the colours stay bright.
I have purchased a set of inks from Inktec. I don't recall any magic claims about longevity of the colours but they are supposed to be consistent colour blah blah and they come from a business specialising in refills - there are plenty of cheaper sources out there, particularly ebay. These come with tools which actually work, the instructions are good but take a couple of goes to figure out.
My experience? Well I have found my HP D5460 cartridges have a little ink window on the bottom that fills with ink, once I realised I monitored how full that was (hold the cartridges the right way up as the ink simply sinks down into the window) and that is the indicator.
The big trick with this HP5460 is the software. HP have been very clever to make sure you keep buying their cartridges, the printer bleats if non originals are used - firstly, refilling the existing cartridge is a disaster as the printer keeps saying the the cartridge needs replacing. So the trick is to have 2 sets of cartridges so refilling the "old" set means the printer just tells you that you've inserted a previously used cartridge and asks you to press ok. Job done.
These refills are great. Just remember to refill over a sink.
Sunday, 28 March 2010
I've never visited Chailey Mill and having lived in the vicinity for the last 7 or 8 years I think this might be something worth taking Alex to see in the summer.
Sunday, 21 March 2010
Wednesday, 17 March 2010
This looks really handy to me - I can plug in my 1TB backup drive, a USB memory stick and a printer. At £60 it is an almost unique item at a sensible cost.
It is actually available for purchase now (in fact iomega emailled me to tell me so) and the Iomega site has demo of the web interface that you will get in production.
Unfortunately, it has the typical design flaw applied to usb devices designed by someone who hasn't got a clue, firstly, not enough USB ports, so very quickly you would need two of these, good for making money, not so good for sockets and secondly, usb on the front and back so it doesn't matter how the device is positioned messy wires still protrude - for pete's sake designers, spend a little time thinking about who will actually use these things & how, casual USB use will still be via the desktop.
Discouraged, actually no, the device looks so great, it even has remote internet access, admittedly via a pay for service but you'd have to fiddle with port forwarding on your router anyway (well except for those of you who forgot security) so why not just skip the web service and let yourself directly in?
So why haven't I purchased on yet? Well I have an HP D5460 printer with the usual 2 way usb capabilities - it is used on 2 PCs & I've got the usb cable taped to a desk leg for convenience of swapping over so having the printer on the network would be great but I do like the 2 way comms.
More and more devices support modern usb features, does the Iomega Connect? Who knows, the manual does not say but what it does say is "connect a supported printer". Is there a list of supported printers? No.
I've raised a support call with Iomega - they have responded which is good - they even responded same day (now 7 days ago) with "we'll check to see if a supported printer list exists". Why say connect a supported printer if you don't know what is supported.
There, that's off my chest now.
Wednesday, 24 February 2010
You've got a problem. You need to fix it.
But you also need a way to quickly and easily rerun all of your outstanding jobs because that can take hours. Microsoft provide
[msdb].[dbo].[sp_start_job] 'job name'to help out but that's only good for one job.
I've written the following code to rerun any jobs that have failed or been cancelled which fit the given name using the standard like syntax, waiting for a specified delay between each.
usp_ReRunJobs 'job name', 'delay'where 'job name' is literally the textual name of the job ie if all of your full backups are called 'Full Backup Of xxxx' then 'Full Backup %', alternatively, just '%' to do everything, whilst 'delay' is in the format 'hh:mm:ss' ie '00:00:30' means a 30 second delay between each job.
You might have even tried the retries feature of scheduled jobs - that works wonders except where a job is genuinely broken and the retry impacts on the next job and so on, so usp_ReRunJobs could be scheduled to run daily after the usual job complete as a backstop.
Here's the code :
IF OBJECT_ID ( 'usp_ReRunJobs', 'P' ) IS NOT NULLDROP PROCEDURE usp_ReRunJobs
gocreate procedure usp_ReRunJobs (@Name varchar(255) = 'Full Backup%',@Delay varchar(8) = '00:00:60')asbegin
set nocount on
IF ISDATE('2000-01-01 ' + @Delay + '.000') = 0BEGINSELECT 'Invalid time ' + @Delay + ',hh:mm:ss, submitted.';END else begin
create table #xp_results(job_id uniqueidentifier not null,last_run_date int not null,last_run_time int not null,next_run_date int not null,next_run_time int not null,next_run_schedule_id int not null,requested_to_run int not null, -- boolrequest_source int not null,request_source_id sysname collate database_default null,running int not null, -- boolcurrent_step int not null,current_retry_attempt int not null,job_state int not null )declare @JName varchar(255)declare cJobs cursor fast_forward forselect j.namefrom msdb..sysjobs jjoin msdb..sysjobhistory j2 on j.job_id = j2.job_idwhere j.name like @Nameand j.enabled = 1and j2.instance_id = (
SELECT max(h.instance_id) FROM [msdb].[dbo].[sysjobhistory] h where j2.job_id = h.job_id)and not exists ( select x.job_id from #xp_results x where x.job_id = j.job_id and x.running = 1)and j2.run_status not in ('1','4')order by j.name
insert #xp_results exec master.dbo.xp_sqlagent_enum_
jobs @is_sysadmin = 1, @job_owner= ''open cJobsfetch next from cJobs into @JNamewhile @@fetch_status = 0beginselect 'Started '+@JNameexec msdb..sp_start_job @Job_Name = @JNamewaitfor delay @Delayfetch next from cJobs into @JNameendclose cJobsdeallocate cJobs
drop table #xp_results
I'm not claiming it's the prettiest code or the most efficient but it gets the job done. The only thing I haven't managed to crack is getting the job start message appearing during the execution of the code so if you want to watch your jobs you'll have to resort to activity monitor, I have tried raiserror nowait but that didn't work either but that is a downside I can live with given on the second day of having this code in place it saved me about an hour of rerunning tasks by hand.
Tuesday, 23 February 2010
Thursday, 18 February 2010
If you run gpedit.msc and navigate to Computer Configuration >> Windows Settings >> Scripts you will find a start and shutdown option. Right click on either in the right hand pane and select properties & you will find a list of scripts to run at startup / shutdown.
I've created a short robocopy script to backup the user directories to a different destination on shutdown which gives me a little more security for my important files. Using robocopy makes the process pretty quick as I'm only copying over changes.
Here's a sample of the robocopy script :
robocopy "c:\Users" "d:\UserBackup" /log:"d:\UserBackup.txt" /np /xj /lev:10 /S /XF ntuser*.* *.tmp desktop.ini thumbs.db picasa.ini /xd "c:\Users\each user\AppData" /ZB /R:1 /W:5 /purgeYou will note that I exclude the AppData folder for each user - if my machine dies and I have to rebuild I'm only interested in user generated documents not any config details but essentially the exclude directory (/xd) and exclude file (/xf) section can be preety much as long as you like - and mine is in the live version.
Wednesday, 17 February 2010
However, that leaves me with one major annoyance and that is my ability to just run robocopy.
Well, I've found a fix it seems - I've been looking for a while and there seems to be no single answer that actually works but now I've got something. It's cheating a bit because it's working on the assumption that the user you are running as is an Administrator (you are doing backups so seems reasonable)
Create your robocopy batch file and then create a shortcut to the batch file and goto the properties of the shortcut, select "Advanced" and tick "Run As Administrator".
Now go into gpedit.msc and browse to Computer Configuration -> Windows Settings -> Security Settings -> Local Policies -> Security Options, you will find at the end of the list of settings in the right hand pane a number of UAC settings, mine are now :
You'll need to reboot after making any changes to the group policy.
Friday, 5 February 2010
They came named Bertie & Bassett and are the better part of 12 years old but very friendly and like a lap to sit on in the evening.
Like all cats they seem to grab opportunities to drink out of the toilet bowl and Bassett likes blackcurrant squash - I caught him with his head in my pint glass slurping away.
Thursday, 4 February 2010
My problem comes about when the users affected are not in the Local Admins group on the destination server - we want to lockdown rights to the box whilst still allowing SQL services to be accessible via SSMS (SQL Server Management Studio).
The users can still access SSRS remotely because they can go via the web interface but as anyone who uses it frequently will know it is so slow compared to using SSMS.
The fix to enable remote access to SSIS is as follows :
Goto Control Panel -> Administrative Tools on the destination server
1) Add the users (their login accounts, or even better an AD group) to the Distributed Com Users group unders Users & Groups. We found this step necessary but that might vary on different servers, the ordering of these steps doesn't really matter so if you fancy you could try it later. We have also added the users into the other SQL server groups there too (probably just "for good measure").
2) Goto Component services -> Computers -> My Computer, right click and go into Properties, Com Security and add the same users / group with the Remote Access privilege - you shouldn't need to add others because the everyone group should do that for you.
At this point Integration Services should now be accessible via Management Studio but Reporting Services is probably telling you it does not know the machine name you've entered (try it, go on). So to finish off for Report Services :
3) Open Computer Management, browse to Services and Applications -> WMI Control and right click on it then open Properties -> Security and finally add the requried users or group with the Remote Enable privilege. This is rather brute force, if you want more granular control let me know if you find which individual modules need amending.
Monday, 1 February 2010
I rather like the feature of being able to shuffle all my music (around 20,000 tracks) and play through photos at the same time. Isn't remarkable how many photos I took sideways?
One flaw has been spotted with MCE though and that is that the scheduled time does not automatically adjust when the programme moves - I guess that it's just a simple entry "record at this time & use this text to describe it" as opposed to our Freeview PVR box (Humax 9200) which seems to use the programme name (and then records every repeat on every channel which is annoying but at least not as disasterous as missing the programme entirely).