Archive for January 26th, 2013

Marble maze made out of Legos

The idea is that you put a marble into the top, and have to navigate it through the “maze” so that it falls through a hole in one level to go to the next, and eventually comes out the bottom. You can either make it so there are little holes to view the marble through (like I did), or make it completely “blind.” You can design these in all sorts of ways, including making it so that the maze has to be manipulated in many different ways.

My son loved the one I made for him, and makes his own now.

See photos below

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My thoughts about Symform

I exchanged emails with a reader, and during the exchange, he asked me my thoughts about Symform, especially about running it on a Synology NAS. Here is a copy of my response.

Overall symform is an affordable, new approach on the cloud storage concept, albeit with its shortcomings.

The synology symform client is extremely resource intensive, and would really drag down my DS211j for several minutes when the service started up. The need for having to manually having to set the port number is a shortsighted issue that Symform should address in an update.

The desktop client has no apparent indicator that it’s working either, so that’s another simple user experience issue.
From a security standpoint, Symform encrypts data with its own keys, and there’s no option (yet) to use your own. This comes down to how much one can “trust” symform and their protocols.

From a data integrity standpoint, their 50% parity is a good thing, but I’d be concerned if its enough. And since you’re placing your data in the hands of others, you’re relying on their upstream bandwidth (something that’s in short supply on a typical Internet connection) to get your data back. The more you store, the longer it will take, since there’s no individual file restore option — only whole folders.

Overall? It’s “good”, but not great. I’d use it for non-critical, non-sensitive data that wouldn’t need urgent restoration.

What are your thoughts on Symform? Please feel free to comment below. Thanks!


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Screen flickering and horizontal lines when coming out of standby on Windows 8

I upgraded my Dell Latitude E6510 with an Nvidia NVS 3100M  to Windows 8 a short time ago, and noticed something fairly quickly: Whenever my display came back on after being powered off from power saving mode, or the laptop came out of sleep mode, the screen had a very noticeable flickering and some distinct horizontal lines. The best way to explain it was to say that there was something very wrong with the display refresh rate.

The effect would gradually diminish with time, but wouldn’t completely go away. I updated the graphics drivers from the built-in Windows 8 drivers to the latest ODE graphics driver for Windows 8 64-bit (310.90) — that didn’t fix it. I also noticed that putting the display in 40hz mode and then back in 60hz mode didn’t fix it either. I even would have the problem if I shut down completely and powered the laptop back on a few moments later.

I later found this blog post from someone having the exact same issue. He even indicated that he’s had hardware replaced on his notebook, and that didn’t fix the issue. He did, however, find a fix: Dell’s A08 drivers for the NVS 3100M graphics chipset. He posted links to a Dell search for A08 drivers and two drivers that specifically worked:

nVidia Quadro FX 880M – Win7/Vista 32-bit Graphics Driver

nVidia NVS 3100M – Win7/Vista 64-bit Graphics Driver (this is the one I used)

So I uninstalled my existing Nvidia drivers and installed the 64-bit driver linked to above. You know what? It worked. The flickering went away immediately, and it continues to work correctly resuming from standby.

I also recall speaking to someone who had a similar issue, albeit on Windows 7. I’m guessing it was probably related to the drivers as well.

UPDATE: After doing some more testing, I found this: I took a clean install of Windows 8 where the screen flickering was there, reformatted and reinstalled Windows 7 64-bit. After booting into Windows 7, the screen flickering was still there! It would seem that the driver is manipulating the graphics controller to produce this flicker. Installing Dell’s recommended NVS3100M driver for Windows 7 did fix the flickering issue.

Further reading:

Anyone else having the same issue? Have the drivers above worked for you? Please feel free to share your experience in the comments below. 

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SymformContribution share getting recreated after reboot on Synology NAS after uninstalling Symform

A reader (M.R.) contacted me asking about running Symform on his Synology DS3611xs. He later uninstalled it and found that the SymformContribution folder was getting recreated at every reboot.

After a number of email exchanges, he was able to get Symform to confirm it was a bug:

Thank you for contacting Symform support. I understand that you are having an issue with the SymformContribution folder being re-created after you have un-installed Symform, and rebooted the DiskStation.

I have been able to reproduce this issue, and found that it is re-created due to the folder listed as a Shared folder in the Synology Shares section.

I have sumbitted an internal bug ticket to my developers to look into this issue. From what I found, it is just re-creating the folder, and the Symform services are not present, or running.

The commands to fix it follow, but I’ve updated step 3 to an absolute path:

1. Here is the command to view the Synology shares table:

/usr/syno/sbin/synoshare --enum ALL

2. If you see the SymformContribution folder listed, enter in the following command:

/usr/syno/sbin/synoshare --del TRUE SymformContribution

3. Then, to remove the folder from the Volume1 folder, enter in the following:

rm -rf /volume1/SymformContribution

Adjust the path in step 3 if your contribution folder is on another volume.

Thanks again to M.R. for the information and legwork getting this resolved!

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Performing a clean install from a Windows 8 upgrade media

If you purchased the Windows 8 upgrade from Windows 7, but would rather do a clean install, here’s a method that I’ve found that has been reported to work.

First, obviously, delete all partitions during the Windows install, supplying your key when requested.

After Windows 8 installs, and if Windows won’t activate, do the following:

Run regedit, and set:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Setup\OOBE\MediaBootInstall to 0 (zero)

Open an administrator-level command prompt, and run the following:

slmgr /rearm

Then reboot and run activation again.

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