Notebook Annoyances

One of the major problems I have with travel (at least out of NJ) is the need for decent connectivity to work.

Now, I would not worry as much, since – usually – I could bring a couple small items with me and just borrow someone else’s PC (preferably one with a large enough monitor, so the RDP to work will not freak out). This is what I did during last year’s trip to my father’s house, and it made the flight *so* much easier to deal with.

This time, however, its a bit different. First, its a personal preference of mine to only borrow a system from either very-long-time friends or from family, since in those cases I’m not overly worried about what they may see while I’m logged in. Second, the VPN is now checking if an anti-virus scanner is up and running on the connecting system (and only allows XP or 2K right now). And, I’ve pledged to bring at least one notebook to Mysterium in order to help with various projects on-site.

So, this is why I’m currently undergoing the hell again of a re-install of XP on the old HP notebook (2 hours and counting!). It was running Linux quite nicely (and even had Windows 7 32-bit on it for a few days), but those happy experiments were due to losing my original media. Obviously, I’ve corrected that (the replacement from HP came in yesterday), and the first part of a dual-boot with Win7 is underway.

Of course, that’s not stopping me from re-examining how I setup the hardware. The old 7200 RPM disk from the Sager got dropped in before this rebuild, and there are 2 x 1 gig memory sticks en-route. Still a ton cheaper to do that, then to price out a replacement notebook; So far, about 15% of the quote I got from Lenovo (and that was *after* a 40% ‘shared’ EPP discount). So far I expect the only caveat to be less battery life, but it was already near the 4-hour mark so making that a bit less is *not* an issue…

Hopefully the new setup will be finished by Saturday (just did reboot #5 under XP-Update *sigh*). Crossing fingers…


Seeing (Infra)Red

So, a few weeks ago I advanced enough in the Virgin Healthmiles program, that I had about $150 in discounts available from their store. After perusing what they offered, I finally settled on getting a heart rate monitor (HRM) from their equipment partner, Polar.

I got the F55 HRM for about $50. I could have opted for something like an F5 for (essentially) free, but if I intend to be serious about the program (and my health in general) as much as I have recently, it was best to get something a bit more well-rounded and flexible. And, in theory, uploaded sessions from the Polar unit can grant me points under the HealthMiles program; Good win-win here.

I have so far done the initial setup and recorded a test session with it. Though I find the chest strap uncomfortable at any ‘snugness’ setting, it does work well in getting a heartbeat out of my skin (which is a big plus, given my personal experience with similar devices).

There was just one catch that I initially overlooked – It needs to communicate with the world via an IrDA port. No problem, I thought, just pull out the HP notebook and . . .

. . . Find no IrDA port on it. Argh.

Now, ignoring the separate fact that the sync software is Windows only (and the HP is now Linux), this is slightly surprising; That notebook is circa 2005 and I did not think it would have been too ‘new’ for bluetooth to have totally taken over IrDA. Of course, I’ve had so many notebooks over the years, all of them with IrDA, that I did the ‘mindless’ thing and thought it did have it.

Anyway, the older Sager notebook does have the port (I just re-checked), so I’ll probably spend tonight re-installing XP on the poor thing (to confirm that *something* will talk to that HRM). Getting a desktop IrDA bridge – usually via USB – has been a completely different (and annoying) saga over the past few days, and one I really don’t want to repeat. I still have an opportunity to try and grab a working adapter at the TCF flea market next weekend, and if I can’t find it there I’ll finally take to ordering online.


Desktop Status – All Clear (Mostly)

Good Grief, I forgot how long it takes to generate one of these custom CDs (or now, in my case, DVD, as I started placing other software on it – like Ghost).

Anyway, everything important (for work) appears to be back up and happy. Fun gotchas included the lack of a current network driver; Gigabyte’s driver page did not show one, so I figured it was merged into the chipset driver file – NOT, and I should know better. I ended up pulling that off the previous CD, then letting Windows Update fix it to current.

One interesting gotcha involves Ghost migrations of very large partitions (say, a video/VCD/ISO/’misc stuff’ collection). Generating the image dump (92 gig compressed) was fine, but migrating it from the new WinXP install back to my new (larger) partition gave an ‘out of memory’ error. So I fired up the Recovery CD (I got Ghost 14 over the weekend as the recovery disk is now Vista-based), and finally got the new partition migrated.

The video card drivers got a severe makeover too; Latest Nvidia driver (combined with this card model – 8800 GT) now has PhysX hardware support through the GPU. Too bad that I don’t have anything just now that required the hardware (and not likely to have any just now). Nice bonus though…

I’m still doing some spot recoveries from the backup images (i.e. my FireFox settings), but overall I’m up and running well. Webmail (Exchange) at work is once again responsive, despite its requirement for IE (at least if you want a decent interactive experience *sigh*). Still need to connect to the VPN (and from there the work desktop and/or PuTTY), but I suspect it should be fine now.

No games or other stuff installed yet. I’m dreading the re-install and re-download of my Steam collection (which got rather impressive). And there’s stuff like Oblivion, that I’m pondering not re-adding just yet. Maybe I’ll pull out some old stuff first, like SimCity 4, or *shudder* Riven.

Have Fun y’all,

Desktop Woes Again

Well, from the looks of things, something bad has been happening with the desktop. Or, more accurately, Win-XP. But to most folks reading MystBlogs that’s probably not surprising. :-P

In my case that’s a bit exasperated by the install method itself, which was through a heavily nLite-modified CD. I just spent the past several hours reviewing what I did, and am likely to re-do this quite differently:

1) Slipstream of XP-SP3 (and hope my key does not get eaten again, as it did when I slipped SP2 onto an original-release CD *sigh*).

2) No slipping/adding of hotfixes after SP3, or of really wild things like Media Player 11. First of all, the steps were complicated. Second, I can’t find any info as to how I did any of it. And lastly, I’d rather have M$ deal with the problem, despite the need for multiple reboots (just fewer with SP3 in).

3) Do NOT go hog-wild in removing things from XP. My biggest regret so far has been removing Calculator (which in hindsight was also not worth the space savings). I’m probably just going to remove the 2-3 things that are vastly annoying or have severe holes, like Messenger. And as much as I’d like to ‘get rid’ of IE, its going to be difficult when and Steam both use core parts of it.

4) On the same note, do NOT to hog-wild on *adding* things either through nLite. My mantra in creating these CDs has always been ‘Back to Work.’ As this is now the only Windows PC I have (both notebooks went 100% Linux), its become even more imperative. So PuTTY is immediately on the list, along with one or two other things that can speed up my bootstrap (OpenOffice, FireFox, status stuff). Again I made mistakes here on the last CD, this is a good time to correct that.

4) I *will* go nuts this time with services (since they can be rolled back if a mistake was made). I’ve been waiting on SP3 registry files from BlackViper, and *cheer* they’re now available. That’s at least a start, and an excellent reference site (he even has Reg Tweak files for Windows 7!). I highly recommend looking over the site, just be prepared to lose an hour or two reading. ;)

5) In the hardware department, get a new gigabit card as a spare (preferably using PCIe-1x). Something absolutely screwy has been occurring on the one my motherboard has (probably weird drivers), and my only ‘spare’ is an ancient Intel 100Pro card (ordinary PCI no less). It had issues with how I ‘connected’ to my work desktop; Then again, it could be Windows, but better safe than sorry.


I’m also strongly considering a dual-boot with Linux, finally. Just too many stories recently by Myst-ers with crashed Windows installs, and their Linux boot saving the day. If that becomes the case, I’ll probably ‘test-drive’ the CentOS version since that’s what got installed on a couple systems at work (and may be our future variant there). OpenSolaris would be nice, but its not playing nice with the VPN (missing packages).

Right, onwards. We’ll see how this pans out…