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Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Fractal Design

About 6 months ago I purchased a Fractal Design R3 case, great looking all black case, featureless front door, sound proof layers on the panels. A pleasure to install into and some nice attempts at minimising dust inside. However, a common feature of reviews is a note that the clips holding the covers over the front fan bays won't stand up to much use. Sure enough, they have died after only half a dozen uses but on an off chance I emailed Fractal Design via their website and lo and behold they replied asking how many clips I needed and posted them in short order. Would have been easy to ignore the email and take no action but for the second time in the recent past I've gone away a happy customer and am saying so publicly, well done guys.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

What kills a PC

Well, many things but when my HTPC died recently I have been left scratching my head as to why. I have checked each and every component that I can get at with no change in the situation, for once in my life I've even tried changing the battery - looks like the motherboard to me.

Finally, I have relented and taken the machine apart, I'm using a Silverstone Grandia GD01 so space is not really a problem but to take the whole thing apart the hard drive bays and optical drive bays have to come out which is a bit of a pain.

However, it has been worthwhile. I knew that the machine had hosted a mouse a while ago so I had lifted the machine off the bottom shelf of the TV unit onto the upper & everything has been working fine for around 3 months since but on being able to clearly see the whole mobo in the light the problem was revealed. I could see patches of, what could only be, dried mouse wee and spread across the corner where the bios chips are is a mass which I must suspect is mouse poo that has expanded with more liquid and dried / heated and generally cooked by the environment inside the case.

Wiping that mess away revealed severe corrosion of the legs of first BIOS chip. Around the area I could see any number of diodes on the board and where diodes are missing I could see solder points where diodes could be affixed (presumably for different models, this being a Gigabyte GA-MA-78GPM-DS2H), however, under where that nasty mess was if there were diodes there were no longer, whilst the solder points have corroded down to the board, in some places copper is visible and in others just the board itself shows through.

Dead board.

My only problem with replacement is that I foolishly purchase an OEM licence of Windows 7 Professional and there are significant restrictions. I have approached Gigabyte for advice on a replacement board but their only interest is in selling something bigger and better missing the point of both the license requirement and the need for low power consumption in a media PC.

I have been doing my research, my experience with the Gigabyte board has not been good (besides the mouse incident I've all of the fan headers have failed one after the other) and Gigabyte support is rudimentary at best. I'm fine with the AMD processor though - this being my first venture into AMD, I'm still an Intel person but they just haven't got the lower power end sorted yet. I did purchase the original Intel Atom board & was very impressed with its performance but it just could provide the performance level required for higher levels of movie playback & today reports are still a bit mixed with regards the ION offerings. So this time I'm going to give the AMD APU a shot with the recently released E-450 in the shape of an Asus E45M1-M PRO A50M Hudson M1 board - it's micro ATX with expansion slots so there is an option for graphics card upgrades and tuner card if need be.

I am not expecting processor performance to be stunning and given the 4850e I had wasn't quick at listing the 45,000 music tracks I have in Media Center it is a bit of a worry. However, let's have some fun, I can see that once the Media Player database is built most of the activity is disk related and Windows is very disk heavy so an SSD is on the way (so completely silent expect for the power supply, 1tb Western Digital Green Power drive, frying mouse poo and anything else hiding in the case). What I find bizarre is that when Windows is building the Media Player database it does not put any stress on the disk, memory or CPU - it is as if the process deliberately runs at very low priority which is a pain when sitting there waiting for it to rebuild (and rebuild at random as best I can tell) - come on Microsoft get it sorted.

The trouble is that looking around causes other thoughts too, boy is the Grandia a monster, it looks as elegant as an elephant under the TV and stands out as a computer (the VFD has long been turned off, what a load of rubbish that was) so I have also ordered a Moneual 312B.

That's my Christmas present sorted then.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Dr Who

To bid rid of Russell T Davies and the gay themes, it's all worth it

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Reebok Customer Service

A rare positive comment!

The motor on my Reebok Fusion cross trainer has expired, on investigation a couple of teeth from the acrylic cogs had parted company with the cog so was losing traction. I emailed Reebok fully expecting (a) no response (b) a "just buy a whole new one" response.

Instead within 24 hours I had a response telling me that my call had been passed onto their parts business with the contact details listed.

So 2 days later I finally thing I really ought to ring and whilst looking for the number in my email I discovered an email from the parts people saying "yes the part you want is available, call us on...." which I had missed.

24 hours later and the part is in my hand and 1 day on it is fitted and working.

It would have been very easy to tell me to buy a new cross trainer and lose a customer, plenty of other businesses out there would but instead I have had a positive customer experience, saved several hundred pounds by using a replacement part and am happy (that won't last of course but that is just me).

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Microsoft Explorer Mouse

I have just purchased a Microsoft Explorer mouse.

Primarily this was to replace either the MS Natural 6000 I use at home, which is falling apart or the Trust mouse I use at work (who knows what model, just has a number on the bottom (14835) which is also falling apart and is eating AA batteries at an ever growing pace.

The Natural mouse is a great shape but I'm not great a sitting my hand on the mouse so isn't ideal and when I do consciously put it in the palm of my hand it is too small so I'm not using my finger tips to press the buttons. That said is an excellent mouse which is shown by its continuing relatively high price. The rubber coatings though are falling wearing off - just as they ae on my Trust mouse.

Enter the Explorer mouse. This is a great shape and sits in the palm of my hand much better than anything else I've tried before and supports my little finger fairly well so I'm encouraged to sit my hand on the mouse this time. It uses BlueTrack technology to improve tracking on various surfaces - the Natural mouse is ok on most surfaces but A4 paper defeats it - gives me a reason to keep my desk a least a little clear of junk. The trust is pretty Trustworthy all in all, can't say I've had any problem with tracking but reception can be a bit hit and miss. The Explorer mouse is better, much more positive, my beech effect, melamime worktop still throws it a little but not so much that I'm searching for another surface.

Issues? Build quality. As mice go this doesn't cost in the league of the gaming mice but given you can pick up a mouse for a couple of pounds the £20 for this is not cheap and I am sad to say this is not up to the solid build quality of previous MS mice, it feels light, the plastic feels cheap, the buttons click positively but actually vibrate the whole surface. I quite like the slightly rubberised surface but that will wear off as in past experience so I suspect in another year I will be looking for me next mouse.

Thursday, 17 November 2011


Google's Blogger Dynamic views can now display Adsense ads but for the life of me I could not get them to display.

After much too and fro it turns out that I have AdBlocker installed as a Google Chrome application and that is automatically filtered adsense advertisements seamlessly from the page - no blank patches, simply not there.

The adblock tool also filers content from blog posts - so I had attempted to write a blog post criticising (constructively) Google's adsense help / lack thereof but the post just appeared as a blank box so I was convinced big brother was filtering such comments.

So Adblock duly removed as somewhat over zealous.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Shell Diesel

Once again I made this same mistake. There I am driving along and the fuel light goes on. So I pull into the first petrol station I see and fill up - Shell Diesel, standard variety. Why do I keep forgetting! I consistently get around 10 to 20% less miles per gallon when using Shell fuel. Note to self, keep driving on, ignoring the low fuel light until any other station is found....

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Falling Skies, American Standards

We've been watching Falling Skies which is a passable sci-fi TV series. After 3 episodes I can safely say passable largely because we have to avoid X Factor & Come Dancing somehow. Early on the lead gives an example of smaller forces defeating larger forces : the Athenians at Marathon, ok. The Scots against the British. Yes, I can now confirm for any American readers that England is just a few miles South of London.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

the three musketeers

This is what it is all about, Adrian, one for you!

I have been to see The Three Musketeers and without a doubt there will be disagreement with my opinion.

It was great - there I said it, inspite of only 6 stars on imdb and the local rag giving it only a couple it was great, goodbye herd hello some "facts"

Yes, it is the same 3 musketeers story you've seen before - notably that with Michael York, Oliver Reed, Raquel Welch and a host of other greats.

Yes, it is historically accurate, france existed, there were blokes running around with guns and swords, history tick.

Yes, it was in 3d. I've seen my fill of 3d films over the last couple of years and I can safely say I am unimpressed, I didn't want to see this is 3d but our local cinema doesn't show it during peak hours any other way. What's wrong with 3d, well it does work nowadays but being a glasses wearer two pairs is not a fashion statement to be made. I saw Clash of the Titans in 3d and can safely say a terrible film is not rescued (there's another one for you Adrian). I saw Thor in 3d, not a bad film (on the fence there chap, it has Natalie Portman so I can't fault it really) but I go sick of the glasses and discovered that only some parts of the film had been recorded in 3d. So 3d for this film, well, it worked, it seems to have been used gently pretty much throughout the film and been used effectively without excessive flying into your face effects.

The film itself was good entertainment with the expected humour and action and James Corden makes a remarkably good effort at Planchet. English accents abound for the musketeers but not being French myself (yes this side of the channel) I don't see the problem there. Air ships, no problem there either, why not. Orlando Bloom as Buckingham, blooming brilliant.

All I can say now is that I assume Adrian will hate it with a passion.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

new site

A new site and why not, it's simple to create and experiment with blogger so let's give it a whirl. At this point there is a distinct lack of customisation available but that's coming.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Windows 7 Libraries

I've been driven to distraction over the last few days - Media Centre (64 bit Win 7) has lost its music and no amount of rebuilding libraries has helped.

Finally had to ask for help and cracked the problem by artificially adding then removing items from the library. Along the way I discovered that the performance of music in WMC is massively improved by stopping Windows Media Player from accessing the internet for album covers & info (set it manually and be done with it).

I also found that the default WMP on Win 7 64 bit is the 32 bit version (so you can change the short cut to point at the 64 bit folder rather than 32 bit, no problems there).

Also documented in the posts I made on The Green Button (title above is the link) are some checks to ensure folders are set correctly in the registry - they probably aren't if you've made drive / path changes.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

SQL Server Installation Problem

Another day and another install of SQL Server Developer Edition (2005 in this case). Installation complete & there's no way to connect to reporting services or analysis services. Strange, no icons, nothing in the object explorer connection.

Turns out SQL Server Express edition is installed and it is a higher version that I've just tried to install so I am missing the options.

The resolution was to install using SKUUPGRADE = 1 as a startup parameter and then when that install completed I had to refer to an earlier post because management studio was still missing.

Got there in the end.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Sql Server Reporting Services 2005 Issue

Again SSRS 2005 has stopped working.

This time it follows install of Sql Server 2008 developer edition on my machine so I've been trying to figure out how to get both working on the same box - it is possible according to the documentation but there is no mention of how.

Unfortunately I am getting the following message when attempting to connection to Reporting Services via SQL Management Studio "unable to connect to the remote server. No connection could be made because the target machine actively refused it."

Now that's not very nice is it, I ask nicely & it does nothing.

Anyway after a few weeks of digging I've finally found my problem is not related to the Dev 2008 install - it is in fact our network wide security settings, they have been changed!

So the solution was to go into IIS Admin console, goto the properties of my default web site (which hosts my SSRS pages) and goto the Home Directory tab and then change the Execute Permissions to Script and Executables.

Job done.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Polarising filters

New camera, new screw in filter.

I've purchased a Panasonic Lumix FZ100 camera and needed a new 52mm threaded polariser. So one short trip to ebay later and  I have ordered a Hoya Por1 Digital filter. Rather nice all in all - however, I now conclude it is the worst polarizer I've ever owned.


Well, the first thing I managed to do is get a finger print on the glass surface, polarisers are often pigs to clean and this proved to be the case and repeated wiping with a lens cloth has caused the coatings to start wiping off.

You can't see the current lost areas (both sides) on pictures yet but as the filter hasn't been out of the house yet I can't imagine it's going to last long as pretty sure I'll have to clean it again one day.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

All that glitters is not gold...

....and all that looks like icing on the Christmas cake isn't, ouch.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

SQL Server 2005 metadata error when installing Reporting Services

Shiny new install of Reporting Services all done. Unfortuntately attempts to login to RS via SQL Management Studio give an html string error mentioning metadata problems with IIS. Attempts to access http://localhost/Reports result in an IIS error about changing permissions.

This is install problems with .Net Framework.

Just goto the v2.0.50727 folder (c:\windows\\framework\v2.0.50727) and run
aspnet_regiis -ga aspnet
where "aspnet" is the name of the ASPNet user found in the list of users on the local machine.