Posts Tagged Windows

Google Music vs iTunes Match

Google and Apple each brought their own services which allow users to upload their music library and stream it to their devices in the form of Google Music and iTunes Match, respectively. But how do those services compare?

Let’s take a side-by-side comparative look at some of the features:

FeatureGoogle MusiciTunes Match
Number of songs20,000 songs not purchased from Android Market25,000 songs not purchased from iTunes
PriceFree$25/yr
Supported devicesWorks on common browsers on Win / Mac / Linux / Android / iOS (1)Works on Win / Mac running iTunes; iOS devices supporting iCloud
SyncAutomatically sync music to Google Music using Win / Mac / Linux clientAutomatically sync music to iTunes Match using iTunes
Sync SelectionSelect which songs to upload using sync clientAll songs from iTunes library are synchronized.
Local StorageSave music to your Win / Mac / Linux / Android device for offline playbackSave music to your Win / Mac / iOS device for offline playback
UploadingEvery song must be uploadedMatching is performed prior to upload; Only unmatched songs are uploaded
Supported file formatsMp3, AAC (m4a), wma, flac, ogg (source)Same as iTunes
Excluded formatsNone24-bit audio; Bitrates under 96 kbps; File over 200MB (source)

(1) Although Google Music is reported to work on iOS devices, I can confirm it does work on iOS (iPhone), but only as the desktop site (which is clunky and requires zooming on an iPhone screen). The mobile site still shows I have no music in my library.

As you can see, Google Music is aimed at the Android crowd, while iTunes Match is aimed at the iOS crowd. However, a few of the major points in Google Music’s favor that I see are that it supports playback from a web browser, has a Linux client, and is free.

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Windows CHKDSK at boot cancelled by phantom keypress

When you run the Windows checkdisk (chkdsk) utility, it may report the disk being in use and recommend that you schedule chkdsk to run the next time the computer restarts, like the following screenshot shows:

chkdsk_schedule2

Windows can’t check the disk while it’s in use. Do you want to check for hard disk errors the next  time you start your computer?

However, doing that ran me into a very curious issue on Michele’s laptop: I would restart the computer, and get a message telling me to press any key within a few seconds to abort the scan if I so desired. Sorry, but I don’t have the exact message in front of me at the moment. Curiously it would abort itself after a second or two, stating that I pressed a key (which I did not). I’m fairly certain this is caused by this issue here: kernel atkbd.c: Unknown key released messages on Linux.

In order to make the chkdsk run without aborting due to that phantom keystroke, you have to set the delay to zero. To do this, boot back up into Windows, open an administrative-level command prompt, and run the following:

chkntfs /t:0

That will set the delay to zero seconds, effectively making it unable to be interrupted. Schedule the disk check again and reboot. It should run without issue.

Questions, comment, or any issues with the above are welcome in the comments section. Thank you!

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Reverting localized Adobe CS5 interface to English

If you’re a Adobe CS5 user and you have a localized language installation but you want to revert to English as the interface language, either temporarily or permanently, follow this tip:

First, completely exit your Adobe product, then follow the instructions for your OS below.

Windows:

In explorer, open C:Program Files (or Program Files (x86))

then AdobeAdobe Photoshop CS5Locales

You should have one (or more) locale folders, such as en_GB or es_MX. Open it, then Support Files within it.

You should see a tw10248.dat file (either with or without the extension, depending on your settings.) Either rename or delete this file, depending on if you want to revert to your localized language installation again in the future, and restart your Adobe product.

Mac:

In Finder’s search box, type tw10428. The file tw10428.dat should appear (either with or without the extension, depending on your settings.). Either rename or delete this file, depending on if you want to revert to your localized language installation again in the future, and restart your Adobe product. (To rename, select File > Get Info)

The interface language should now appear in English.

Questions or comments on this are welcome in the comments section below. Thank you!

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Intermittent wireless connection and disconnects with DD-WRT and Windows 7

If you’re using DD-WRT on your router you may find that certain wireless configurations cause the wireless clients to either be unable to connect or drop connection. This seems to be the most noticeable on Windows 7 systems, but likely happens on other systems as well. Note that I did not observe this at all on a Linux-based system and I’m completely unable to explain why. Perhaps a difference in the wireless stacks between Windows and Linux highlights this issue.

Issues related to this include not being able to connect to the wireless AP, instead receiving a message such as “The access point did not allow the connection” or something similar (Apologies, I don’t have the exact error message.), and losing wireless connection to the network or AP, even though it is still shown in the list of wireless networks.

This appears to be related to the wireless security settings, specifically the settings for security mode and WPA algorithm. See the following screenshot:

ddwrt_wpa_mixed

Having the security mode set to WPA2 Personal Mixed and the algorithm set to TKIP+AES appears to cause the problem.

According to the DD-WRT help:

WPA2 Mixed
This mode allows for mixing WPA2 and WPA clients. If only some of your clients support WPA2 mode, then you should choose WPA2 Mixed. For maximum interoperability, you should choose WPA2 Mixed/TKIP+AES.

So, according to this, it should work — but it doesn’t seem to work quite as advertised. Instead, this is the recommended setup as long as all your wireless clients support WPA2:

ddwrt_wpa

Security mode set to WPA2 Personal and algorithm set to AES only appeared to completely solve the problem.

For the curious, this is DD-WRT v24-sp2 (08/12/10) mega (SVN revision 14929), the current recommended build.

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Dell A940 Printer on Windows 7

Someone recently asked me about setting up a Dell A940 printer for them on Windows 7.

After seeing that the Windows 7 Compatibility Center lists it as “Not Compatible” for both 32-bit and 64-bit, I wasn’t optimistic that it was going to work at all.

After plugging it in, Windows 7 identified the scanner function but didn’t want to have anything to do with the printer functions of the device.

After some searching, I found a post on the Dell community forums. It says that there are Windows Vista drivers for both 32-bit and 64-bit, which work fine on Windows 7 and fully enable both the scanner and printer functions.

Here’s direct download links for anyone who is looking:

According to the poster there, in order to get this printer to work well, you’ll want to have up-to-date .NET Framework and Java.

This strikes me as a little curious because Windows Vista and Windows 7 are based on similar driver architecture, and the device should be listed as supported. But, even though it’s not, the above drivers seem to work fine.

 

 

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How to permanently ignore a Windows XP update

In order to ignore a Windows XP update, you have to make sure Automatic Updates is NOT set to Automatic. Rather, set it to one of the following two settings (in Control Panel > Automatic Updates):

  • Download updates for me, but let me choose when to install them.
  • Notify me but don’t automatically download or install them.

Windows will, upon finding updates, prompt you that updates are available but will not install them. This will give you a chance to ignore your selected update. If you want to force Windows to check for updates immediately, open a command prompt and type:

wuauclt /detectnow

Next, once the update is available and you’re prompted to begin the installation, select Advanced. This will show your list of potential updates in a checkbox-list format.

Uncheck the update you do not want to install and click Next.

You will then be prompted if you want to ignore the update. Confirm.

Questions, comments, and feedback are welcome.

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Toshiba L515-S4960 and Windows XP

Windows XP is not officially supported by Toshiba, and they offer very limited software downloads. This guide will attempt to give you the best installation instructions and driver download locations that apply to this model. Also, you may find the detailed spec sheet handy when looking for drivers.

Pre-Installation

Before installing Windows XP, go into the BIOS and change the SATA Operation mode to “Compatibility.” Read why here.

Installation

Insert your Windows XP disc. Immediately after powering on the system, tap F12 repeatedly to enter the boot device selection menu. Manually pick “boot from cd/dvd drive” and follow the on-screen directions.

Post-Installation (Drivers)

The following attempts to list the device IDs and driver download locations for Windows XP drivers. You may want to check your device IDs to verify same hardware.

Required Windows Components

The following Windows components are required for some drivers to successfully install:

Ethernet (10ec:8136) – Realtek PCIe FE Family Controller

WinXP, Win2K, Win2003 Auto Installation Program (SID:1453654) [link]

Wireless (Unknown Device ID) – Realtek RTL8187SE

Windows driver auto installation program [link] may or may not work.

This is the device that’s installed according to the spec sheet. However, several of these have the below Atheros chipset device.

Wireless (168c:001c) – Atheros Communications AR5BXB63 (AR5006X) /
WLL3141 (Toshiba PA3613U-1MPC) 802.11bg Wireless Adapter

Driver is here [link], but you will have to use the inf installation method, as there is no exe. Point to the netathwx.inf file in the download.

Video Controller (8086:2A43) and (8086:2A42) – Intel Graphics 4500M

Intel Graphics 4500M [link]

PCI data aquisition + signal processing controller (8086:2932) – 82801I (ICH9 Family) Thermal Subsystem

Seems to be satisfied by installing this driver [link] – Feedback is appreciated.

Sound (8086:293E) – Intel Corporation 82801I (ICH9 Family) HD Audio Controller

Intel® HD Audio Controller – Realtek [link] (partially working – reportedly needs SMbus driver to work)

SM Bus controller (8086:2930) – 82801I (ICH9 Family) SMBus Controller

Satisfied by [linkNote: It seems after running this driver (even though it uninstalled the above Intel HD Audio driver) then running the Intel Driver Update Utility (below) appears to completely satisfy audio drivers.

Modem (11C1:1040) – Modem device on High Definition Audio Bus / Agere Systems HDA Modem

Toshiba Software Modem Driver for Windows XP [link] – But reportedly doesn’t satisfy this device. The Lenovo driver at [link] may work instead.

Audio device on High Definition Audio Bus (10EC:0268) – Realtek Audio

Windows 2000, Windows XP/2003(32/64 bits) Driver only (Executable file) [link]

Intel Driver Update Utility

Available at [link] – May detect some drivers but not all.

It appears that this Toshiba has hardware similar to the Dell Vostro V13 [link] and the Dell Studio 1555 [link]. You may be able to find some drivers to fill the missing pieces by checking the links above. Please let me know what works for you so that I can update information.

If you own or use this model Toshiba laptop and have different hardware, or have a link to a driver not listed above, or even an alternate driver download location, please feel free to leave a comment below. I will be updating this article as I find applicable drivers. If anything here has helped you, please let me know by leaving a kudos!

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How to get Vendor and Device IDs in Windows to find missing drivers

If you’re missing a driver in Windows, it can be extremely frustrating if the manufacturer doesn’t have one listed on their website. That leaves you to go find it yourself on the Internet.

The key to getting working drivers revolves not around matching them to the manufacturer, but matching them to the device IDs. Believe it or not, Dell drivers will run the same device on a Toshiba, on an HP, etc as long as the device IDs on the hardware match that on the driver. You can even go directly to the chipset manufacturer’s (Realtek, Atheros, Intel, etc) website to get drivers from them.

So how do you find the device IDs?

Go to Device manager, then find a device with a yellow exclamation mark (missing driver) and double-click it.

Go to the details tab. The drop-down should read “Device Instance ID”

Below it, read the ID and take the following bold bits from it:

pciven_10ec&dev_8136&subsys_ff661179&rev_024&38f101ee&0&00e0

In this case, the Vendor ID is 10EC and the Device ID is 8136. A common representation of this is the Vendor ID and the Device ID seperated by a colon or hyphen, such as 10EC:8136 or 10EC-8136. Running these through your favorite search engine should turn up drivers fairly quickly. If nothing else, it will help you find the full name of the device and help you find it on the chipset manufacturer’s website.

Another thing to note is the subsystem. That’s the part after the SUBSYS parameter. Windows shows it as 8 hex characters (in this case ff661179 but you can also find it represented as ff66:1179. This may be important in driver matching as well.

Be wary though — some sketchy download sites will trick you into giving away personal information (email address, cell phone number, etc) or ask that you install software (toolbar, driver installer) in order to download drivers from them. Avoid these scams!

Please feel free to comment!

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How to securely wipe hard drives

I often times get asked by friends and clients to refer them to a good tool for securely wiping their hard drives. If you’re decommissioning, selling, or returning a drive with sensitive or confidential data on it, you are right to take measures to wipe the drive.

Deleting files from a hard drive doesn’t actually delete them. Instead, it merely “marks” them as deleted, leaving the original data intact until the disk space is reused. It may be that even after that space is reused that partial remnants of the files still remain, and can be easily recovered. TechRepublic wrote up a good article backed by solid research that shows just how many drives contained easily-recoverable data. The results are unnerving, but they don’t have to be.

When wiping drives is a concern, you have two choices — completely wiping a drive that you’re no longer using — that is, if you’re going to part with it; or wiping only the “free space” of your computers hard drive that you’re still using, simply to make sure deleted files are actually gone and unrecoverable.

There are many good, free, easy-to-use utilities that do an excellent job of wiping your drives. Here’s are two that I’m most familiar with and can recommend:

Darik’s Boot and Nuke (DBAN) – (website) (download) – Wipes drives completely

Darik’s Boot and Nuke (“DBAN”) is a self-contained boot disk that securely wipes the hard disks of most computers. DBAN will automatically and completely delete the contents of any hard disk that it can detect, which makes it an appropriate utility for bulk or emergency data destruction.

Eraser – (website) (download) – Can do “free space”-only wiping

Eraser is an advanced security tool for Windows which allows you to completely remove sensitive data from your hard drive by overwriting it several times with carefully selected patterns. Eraser is currently supported under Windows XP (with Service Pack 3), Windows Server 2003 (with Service Pack 2), Windows Vista, Windows Server 2008, Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2.

CCleaner – (website) – Free space and full drive wiping for Windows

Besides being an all-around great cleaner for the registry, CCleaner now includes the ability to wipe both full drives and free space only. A great utility for Windows users.

These are just two programs, and there are many more available.

If you’re a *nix user, Engadget points the way to the shred program. In a nutshell, the following command is what you’re looking for:

shred -vz -n 3 /dev/sda

This will write 3 passes of random data to /dev/sda (make sure that’s the right drive before you start!), followed by a 4th pass of zeros.  It takes some time, so if you don’t mind random (suspiciously random) data on the drive, you can skip the zeroing pass by omitting the z flag.

Do you have a suggestion for a utility that can securely wipe hard drive data? Do you have any questions or feedback on the above? Please voice your thoughts in the comments below! Thank you!

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Convert VirtualBox (vdi) hard drive image to VMWare (vmdk) format

I’ve been using VirtualBox for my Windows XP VM when I’m in linux to get a handle on those Windows apps that I absolutely need, and to sometimes address a piece of hardware that otherwise won’t work. One of the biggest issues I’ve had is a distinct lack of VirtualBox to address my BlackBerry — I absolutely must use my Windows hard drive to do it.

VMWare Workstation seems to overcome whatever shortfall exists in VirtualBox to address it, and I’m happy to say, it works quite well. However, now I have this VirtualBox hard drive image with all my software already installed, and I want to boot it in VMWare. How to convert it?

Fortunately, the VBoxManage utility of VirtualBox can actually convert a VirtualBox vdi image to the vmdk format used by VMWare. It can do it rather easily, as well.

The command format is:

VBoxManage clonehd          | 
                            [--format VDI|VMDK|VHD|RAW|]
                            [--variant Standard,Fixed,Split2G,Stream,ESX]
                            [--existing]

Example (Windows):

"c:Program FilesOracleVirtualBoxVBoxManage.exe" clonehd "Win XP.vdi" xp.vmdk  --format vmdk --variant standard

Absolute path to VBoxManage is necessary unless it’s in the Windows $PATH.

Example (Linux):

VBoxManage clonehd "Win XP.vdi" xp.vmdk  --format vmdk --variant standard

Successful run gets this output:

0%...10%...20%...30%...40%...50%...60%...70%...80%...90%...100%
Clone hard disk created in format 'vmdk'. UUID: xxxxxxxx-xxxx-xxxx-xxxx-xxxxxxxxxxxx

Next, open VMWare and select Create a new virtual machine

Select “I will install the operating system later”

Make your OS selection about the OS that’s currently on the vmdk you will be using. (The guest OS, not the host OS).

Later on, you will have the option to use an existing vmdk image as your virtual hard drive. Do so.

You should now be able to finish setup and boot your converted disk image.

Note that creating a new machine and using an existing hard drive image is not a feature of VMWare Player. Workstation or another product is required. However, JoVa has shared a great workaround:

Since my tip for VMWare Player is not very clear on what to do exactly, I have the following, easy steps that you can follow, right after you started VMWare Player.
1) Select: Create new Virtual Machine
2) Select Guest Operating OS “Microsoft Windows” and select the version you have (for example “Windows XP Professional”)
3) Click “Next” and give a the virtual machine a name, for example “XP-pro”.
4) Click “Next” set the maximum disk size to the size of your actual virtual machine (important!)
5) Click “Next”and click “Finish”. The VM is created
6) Copy your VM (the .vmdk file) over the created (empty) .vmdk (e.g. xp-pro.vmdk)
7) Play the virtual machine

Questions, comments, or feedback is appreciated, as always.

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