Saturday, September 30, 2006

Looking Forward (To October)

I'm really looking forward to the end of October. Since I will then be able to update my Dapper laptop to Edgy Eft which will have AIGLX built in. Then I can install Beryl (a compiz-quinnstorm fork). I will not install beta software however, since I use that laptop for work etc... So the 'how I did it'-guide will have to wait.

If you can't wait however, this LiveCD could help. (Boot with "sabayon aiglx".)
(From the announcement.) Beryl is a fork of compiz, and a collection of other tools to go along with it. CSM has become Beryl Settings Manager (beryl-settings). CGWD has become Emerald, with its companion emerald-theme-manager.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

What A Day(s)

Warning: the following post will probably contain swearing and profanity, this is because I am very mad at the moment... sorry.

The day before yesterday, around 2 a.m.: I stop working for that day and shut down my PC.
Yesterday: I start that PC (it's my Windows machine: be prepared for anything) and see 'One of your drives has to be checked for consistency...' yadda yadda. I am not woried, this has happened before, so I think: 'A check can't be bad.'.

Yeah, right, around 50% of the first check: chkdsk hangs... I wait... I wait some more... I start looking on the Internet for some support... This is gonna be bad... I think, and I restart.

I restart and restart and restart and the check keeps locking up. So I try to cancel it and start Windows.

STOP: VOLUME_NOT_MOUNTABLE or something like that... What the fuck! Again! Windows loads this time, but the system is remarkable slow. This is bad.

I grab an XP install disk and throw it in the drive... recovery console... trying to remember that !"£$ administrator password and running checkdisk as if there's no tomorrow...

Chkdsk is performing additional checks and fixes...
Chkdsk is performing additional checks and fixes...
Chkdsk is performing additional checks and fixes...

BSOD! A BSOD for god's sake! In a setup environment! How bad can things get? UNEXPECTED_CHECK_EXCEPTION what the!

Okay: let's search for tools and trials for NTFS file checking. Back in the day, we had Norton. Then: Norton was still a friend for sysadmins. But back in the day, we also had FAT32, which was more open and more known than NTFS... (Did you know that 'NTFS Recovery' in Norton Tools today actually means: chkdsk /r /f?)

Iolo Drivemedic Stuff Thingy Trial. I install quickly before Windows locks up again.

Iolo shit has performed an illegal operation and has to... goddammit! Is this a tool or what, it doesn't even work (Windows 64 bit maybe?) After scrutinizing the install maps I find the image for a boot disk 'Which will fix every error you see and do your laundry too!', or so it says above the 'BUY ME!' button on their site.

Turns out that boot floppy (Who has floppy's lying around the house? I'm glad I had.) is the result of a night filled with passion between MSDOS and FREEDOS: crappy mouse drivers are the result.

I try navigating my way through the screens with my arrow keys, but when the second screen shows some nice circles to select the drive I want to check, Tab, Space, Enter, Arrows and all the other keys don't work! Who makes this crap? Esc: exit application. I could cry. So I search for a PS/2 mouse, and plug it in. Of course you have to restart, because the ctmouse.exe crap refuses to believe that there is a mouse (apart from the one it made up at COM1). Now the mouse works (and believe it or not, both the USB and the PS/2 mouses (or mice) work now, I don't get this). I click my drive and I am happy this problem will be solved.

( ) Fix MBR.
( ) Fix Partition Table.

No shit Sherlock. All this trouble for this? Crap Iolo tools! I have news: the only tool which is a little bit fucking usable for fixing NTFS partitions is... chkdsk. That's right, MS had kept NTFS as their little dirty closed secret and now nobody can play with it. ntfsfix on Linux tries to give a little help, but doesn't do anything either. How bad is that? So chkdsk again... now from another install CD (you never know). After spinning and crunching the drive, it spits out:

The drive has one or more unrecoverable errors...

Oh really? Time to backup stuff then. But don't try this in Windows. You see, when you drag and drop some files, 10 files for example, and number 5 can't get copied for some reason, then it drops all the next 5 too, so you can spend some hours figuring out which file is giving you problems.

Luckily there is XCOPY, with it's /c flag (if i remember correctly) to continue copying if an error occurs, CLI tools still are the best tools. The only thing is that when there was an error: the whole fucking OS just crashed or froze. Great.

But never I will give up my 9GB of important documents and data!

I turn every CD and DVD I can find around: Knoppix 4.something, yes!

I boot Knoppix (lovely DVD that is) and prepare for some copying. Of course, you can't write to other NTFS files, so I had to copy my files over the network to my laptop. I boot up SSH server and in Knoppix I try:

scp -rpv /mnt/sda1/Documents\ and\ Settings/Yaddayaddayadda myuser@

Which works. On some file I get an output/input error but at least it doesn't crash and saves what it can...

Until... a large file came up... '- STALLED -'. What does that mean? The network isn't down, is it? I try a quick ifconfig on Knoppix: only lo? Where has eth0 gone?

Turns out, if you use a nForce motherboard, it causes scp and sftp to crap out (or the other way around?). You have to turn your PC off and then turn it on again to recognize the eth0 again. (Restart? Forget it!)

A Windows Share, then, I start Samba (which is easy in Knoppix) and connect with my Laptop. I successfully copy the remaining files... (That was a few hours ago.)

Now I really want to know what has caused this behaviour. Since Scandisk Surface Scan isn't around anymore and replace with chkdsk over there, I try
badblocks -c 16000 -s -v -o ./out /dev/sda1

Holy cow: are all these bad blocks? This drive is only three (3!) years old! Name to blame: Maxtor. I hope it's still under warranty. Never I will buy their shitty drives again, never! So at the end: it wasn't really Windows' fault, but they could've made my job a lot easier.

Now I can go through the process of installing Windows all over again once more... I'm gonna take an aspirin now.

What have we learned?
  • Backup!
  • Download the newest Knoppix DVD and burn it now!
  • Maxtor is shitty.
  • The only tool we have for fixing NTFS files and indexes and attributes is chkdsk.
  • Luckily there's Linux, and SSH.
... goddammit!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Comparing Vista UIs

Nice post on Digg: this Blog post visually compares various user interfaces (Aero Glass, Basic,...). Be sure to check it out (although the site is getting dugg at the moment).

Monday, September 18, 2006

Crappy Scanners And Linux

Recently we got a new HP Scanner. It's a good, nice one without any complaints.

However: the scanner I used before was a crappy scanner with a brand nobody knows, picked up for almost nothing at some cheapskate-store (because I very rarely need to scan something). The installation of the drivers was always a pain, copying files around, right clicking .inf files and whatnot... And then hoping that it wouldn't throw a general 'TWAIN error' at me. People who know something about this whole TWAIN thing know it's a pain. According to Wikipedia, it stands for Technology (or Toolkit or Thing) Without An (or Any) Intelligent (or Important or Interesting) Name, which is just cheesy. Hell, I even think that Microsoft's new WIA (or: Windows Imaging Acquisition) is better.

Anyway: a few weeks ago, my Windows machine gave up scanning, maybe it had something to do with the fact that I was running Windows x64, I don't know. Reinstalling drivers: no dice. Moving files around: no dice. Installing drivers for other scanners (one can try): no dice. Unplugging the damn thing and throwing it out of the window... err... no dice.

Until now. I was thinking: "Hey look, there's that stupid old scanner, maybe this will work on Linux..." So I promised myself that I would spent a few minutes (not more) trying to get this to work, before dumping it completely.

I connect the scanner to a free USB port... nothing happens. No worries, after fiddling around I find that the command is xsane (hey, go easy on me, I'm still a bit of a Linux noob).

So I try that, and get a nice bunch of error messages... perfect.

failed to open device 'artec_eplus48u:libusb:001:002': invalid argument

Really? So my crappy brand scanner is actually an Artec. Fine, after searching a bit on Google I find the following suggestions, export this:

And then run again, we now get some more information:

[artec_eplus48u] Try to open firmware file: "/usr/share/sane/artec_eplus48u/Artec48.usb"
[artec_eplus48u] Cannot open firmware file "/usr/share/sane/artec_eplus48u/1200.usb"
[artec_eplus48u] download_firmware_file failed

Apparently, .usb is a Windows driver, so good luck getting it. Luckily, the drivers where still on my other machine, and I do a search for every .usb I can find. Artec48.usb gets found and copied over to the directory xsane suggests: /usr/share/sane/artec_eplus48 (had to create it).

I tried again... It frickin' works! What a piece of cake.

If you happen to have the same problem, and want the Artec48.usb driver, you may of course drop me a note (macuyiko at gmail dot com).
I'm happy, now this scanner still is a little bit of use. This is what I like about Linux: if you have a problem: continue fiddling and trying without giving up. In the end it'll work out and you'll have learned a lot of things (which is great).

Penn & Teller's Bullshit Links

Featured yesterday on Digg: it seems that there are a lot of Penn & Teller episodes of 'Bullshit' on Google Video.

I had never seen this show before and find it quite funny. Some of the episodes are really hilarious (bottled water, creationism,...). Don't think that the show itself is a great scientific program tho[1], some of the tactics they use to prove their point are based on some psychological characteristics of humans. (E.g.: certain arrangements of groups will perform better than others. E.g.: presenting items in a specific order so that people will most of the times choose the second one due to conditioning from media: first show old boring bad product A, then introducing a better newer product B.) But still: many of the topics they show are indeed: 'bullshiat'...

[1]: Except creationism: that really is complete bullshit.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

My Dream App: More Contestants

It looks like My Dream App has announced all the contestants now. Let's see...

Bob: Pile o' Cards: use piles of cards with anything on them: text, media, widgets, pictures and more. Looks like this could become a handy little app.

Cameron: Atmosphere: 'a virtual outdoors for your desktop' - an enhanced weather application. This can prove handy for a lot of people but personally I wouldn't use it (since I can just look out of my window).

Dan: Blossom: 'a virtual plant that responds to productivity' - wow, this is a cool idea. Withering plants will correspond to lazy, game-playing computer sessions, thriving plants to a good productive day in Excel. Everyone will have different looking plants, awesome.

Dilon: Bookroom: reading e-books in a beautiful interface, looks good, maybe this will give some people an opportunity to read more again.

James: Destinations: the ideal app for the travellers. 'Plan vacations and trips with ease' sounds really useful to me.

Jeff: iGTD, Getting Things Done on the Mac with integration with iCal, IPod and more. Looks like this will also prove to be handy.

Josh: iGotPets: 'keep track of your pet's well-being'. A shame I don't have pets. So personally I wouldn't consider using this, but I can imagine that the 'pet-freaks' out there would love something like this.

Kevin: Hijack: Cocoa interface to browse and participate in discussion forums. Not sure what to make out of this. I'm curious how this will turn out.

Marshall: SweepIt: cleanup messy desktops with simple rules. I would love something like this (on all my machines, on all platforms). Since I spend a lot of time keeping my desktop and folders in clean, pure condition.

Mickey: Supplemental: 'Photo Booth for videos, with easy to use video logging'. If you're into videos (a lot of Mac-people are), then this could provide you with some extra help.

Mike: iSightSee: control your Mac using the iSight with hand gestures and movements. If this works (meaning: it actually does a good job at recognizing the different gestures) then this could also become a handy tool.

Raven: Telepath: push mail, news and more from your Mac via SMS. I wouldn't use this (it probably would be difficult to setup in some countries and/or it would cost a lot and my phone inbox is currently more than full), but some people might love it.

Richard: Whistler: 'ever had the urge to create a song'? With Whistler: you just tap, hum or whistle something into the app. Wow: if this works fine this would be amazing!

Rusell: Ground Control: 'Dashboard done right'. What can I say about this one? Let's see how it develops...

I think I have them all now. Again: all ideas are great and it looks like the competition will be hard! Check out MyDreamApp for more info. Nominating the contestants will be fun but difficult.

Friday, September 15, 2006


Old news really, but Microsoft has released more details about their upcoming music player, Zune, yesterday.

In my opinion, MS has done a very good job when it comes to designing this thing. Look at the brown version: it's very retro and stylish. I actually like them better than iPods (sorry Apple fans, I never liked them).

However, only time will tell if these things will be usable too. (Worst case: contains more DRM than iTunes. Or crashes with a BSOD...) Also: Microsoft still wants to get the 'Hey we are cool too!'-message out, without actually being hip. (Not that they have to in my opinion: the Zune looks very well designed.[1])

Still, at the moment I am more than happy with my Creative Vision: M music player: 30Gig and great battery live. Actually: I first wanted to get another iRiver, but since they now also use MTP[2], I decided to pick up something slimmer. The tag-based-browsing system is a pain in the shiny metal ass though, because I still have a lot of untagged MP3s, so I hope the next firmware update will contain directory/file name based browsing (please)...

Here's a video of Zune in action:

[1]: Then why is Vista so ugly?
[2]: Media Transfer Protocol...

Game: Lego Star Wars 2

I played a bit of Lego Star Wars 2 last night, I haven't gotten very far yet but it's quite an enjoyable game so far. People who've played the first one will feel right at home, since the two are almost identical in gameplay and graphics.

The game itself is - of course - very cheesy (it's Lego!). But everyone who touched the little stones in their childhood (who hasn't?) will love the little blocks and characters.

LSW2 is enjoyable in single player mode, but it becomes really fun when you press F2 (I have the PC version, of course) and a friend takes control of the other character: pure fun.

Platformers are rare these days, so LSW2 is one of the best platform-games today. together with Beyond Good And Evil, Psychonauts, and the first Lego Star Wars.

The graphics aren't next-gen, but the bright side is that you won't need a powerbox to run it.

If you've played the first one and loved it, you will love this one too. If you didn't like number one or don't like platformers in general, then you won't pick up this one.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Neverwinter Nights On My Ubuntu-Laptop

Today I finally decided to spend some time and try to install Neverwinter Nights on my laptop, since I absolutely still love that game. Of course: you could follow this howto, but since I don't have NWN Platinum or Diamond, I had to follow other instructions. I didn't want to pirate the game (I legally own the original and the two expansions, so I figured that would work too).

Instead I followed the instructions from Bioware, congrats to them for making this game available on a Linux (and Mac) platform!

Step 1: "Installing Using Downloaded Linux Client Resources"

Download the Linux Client Resources v1.29 (from BioWare). Extract this archive somewhere (e.g.: /home/user/Programs/nwn).

We will do the English install, for other languages: follow the Bioware instructions, these instructions are just narrowed down and compressed...

Also download the Linux Client 1.29 binaries (tar.gz, 5.3 MB). (Make sure you are logged in into the Bioware site, registering is free.) And also extract these into your installation folder. Make sure you overwrite all existing files - this is a rule for all further archives, unless stated otherwise.

If you have SoU and HoU, don't update to the latest version yet. And wait with playing the game ;).

Step 2: "Installing Shadows of Undrentide Expansion Pack"

Make sure step 1 completed succesfully. Since the Linux installer on the disk is broken, we will do it ourselves.

Make sure you can access the following files, they are in the CDs root folder.

Extract them into your installation folder in the above order (overwrite)!

Then delete the following files from your installation folder if they exist:


And then execute the following command from a terminal:


Step 3: "Installing Hordes of the Underdark Expansion Pack"

Make sure you completed steps 1 and 2.

Remove the following files if they exist:
/INSTALL/ xp1patch.key

Again: get the following archives from the HoU CD root and unzip them into your installation folder in the following order:

Download nwclienthotu.tar.gz and also extract it into your nwn directory, overwriting all.

Again, run ./fixinstall from your installation directory.

Step 4: updating

Now update the game, download the patch here. To update, just overwrite-extract the archive you have downloaded in the installation map.

Step 5: fixing

I got the following error when starting Neverwinter with the ./nwn command:
mcop warning: user defined signal handler found for SIG_PIPE, overriding
Creating link /home/username/.kde/socket-hostname.
can't create mcop directory

To fix this, I executed:
mkdir ~/.kde/socket-hostname
Replace hostname with your own hostname, of course (it is mentioned in the error).

Then everything worked perfectly fine: NWN starts and I can enter my CD keys, the game doesn't run like it does on my gaming machine, but I'm satisfied that it runs at all with such a small Thinkpad X60 with quite a crappy graphics chip.

Again: thanks to Bioware for making this available (which other game company would host a one-gigabyte file on their servers?).

Happy adventuring!

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Playstation 3 European Ad

It seems Sony is taking their advertisement campains seriously, the first European Playstation... oops I mean PLAYSTATION 3 ad hit the internet about yesterday. It seems that Sony doen't worry about the costs: the ad is more than 3 minutes long and more will follow.

You have to admit it: it's another cool ad. We only get to see some shots from a real game at the end, but it looks good... maybe the PS3 won't do as bad as everyone thinks after all... maybe it will do real good (after the price drop).

Friday, September 08, 2006

My Dream App finalists...

My Dream App - "Idol 2006" for Mac developers, has begun announcing finalists with - at this moment - still 15 people to go.

All the ideas are looking pretty neat at the moment:

Anders - Stick-It: 'A modernized sticky solution that lets people use virtual stickies just as they do in real life.' Sounds really cool and handy, but I think this app will have a hard time to compete with existing or comparable apps.

Andrew - Desktop Wars: an RTS game played on your desktop. As a matter of fact, I once tried to make a similar game when I was younger and when I had almost no programming experience. I never completed it. So I'm pretty exited about this idea.

Bogumil - Herald: a virtual newspaper app, using RSS and other technologies. Looks promising and it would be a great app if it can introduce the concept of RSS to more people.

Farzad - Portal: 'File syncing from the future.' I almost never use file-syncing apps (mostly because most of them are a pain to use). So if this app works out, it will make a lot of people happy!

Joe - Puppet Constructor: Flash for beginners: manipulate and animate 'puppets' with the ease of a toy. This is great, everyone who starts working with a complex app like Flash, or Photoshop or a 3d animation program wants to imitate 'all that cool stuff' they saw online or in magazines, only to be dissapointed with the steep learning curve. This app will probably provide hours of fun.

Michael - Chatboard: a virtual whiteboard. Has the potential to turn into a great collaboration tool, but it will again be a challenge to compete with other products in my opinion.

Michael - Cookbook: a lovely idea. Of course there already are cookbook applications, but this one will do online shopping, voiceovers, sharing, and more, the concept screenshot looks really neat.

Peter - Bubble Fish: 'Bubble Fish is the friend who knows everything, but without the annoyance factor.' With the abily to search on Flickr, Google and Wikipedia, this could turn out as a very handy little research tool.

Windy - iStyleIt: a 'virtual closet for your Mac', pick out, arrange and rate clothes and combinations. Sounds like a silly idea? Not really when you think about it. Share combinations with friends and save time in the morning when choosing what to wear. Even me (a guy!) like this idea... a modern life-app.

Be sure to check out, this whole 'contest-concept' is very entertaining and I will surely keep an eye on further development.

The only downside? Mac only, but it's better than Windows-only (now maybe some apps have the chance to get ported to Linux, one can hope).

See you next time!

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Bravia The Second Advert

If there's one thing (and possibly the only thing) that Sony seems to do alright these days it must be their ads.

Remember the colored-balls Bravia ad? Of course you do.

It seems their second ad (again: with lots of color) is almost finished. Watch a cool production movie here. And see more images on the Bravia ad site.

Isn't it cool when there is so much advertising about an... ad? Absolutely lovely idea.

Also, I absolutely crave the "like. no. other." logo at the end, it makes me want to buy Sony products, a lot of them. If only the rootkit-scandal didn't happen.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Grinding Windows (To A Halt?)

Some of you have probably read this post on Digg. Someone apperantly made a video about Edgy Eft running 40 processes without crashing.

Some people basically replied "Windows [and Linux] can do this for ages!" or like "This is really neat!".

It is really cool though that the Ubuntu team has managed to quickly open Openoffice (around 3 seconds now), I am really looking forward to see that running on my laptop.

However, I wanted to prove that Windows will also not crash when doing this (not a recent version that is). So here it is: my video response, using the following amazing batch script:
start sol
start mspaint
start calc
start notepad
goto loopit
It's the loop of doom! Sorry for the bad quality, but it's better than YouTube. When I close the command line window, Windows was running around 140 instances of Notepad
, Paint, Solitaire and Calculator each (screenshots maybe later). However: during all this, it did slow down, but is was still quite manageable afterwards. I had to stop the loop because Paint was starting to spit out error messages (as you can see in the video).

Then, I closed the four groups from the taskbar. Windows seems to have a bug here: it doesn't close all programs and some had to be closed manually (ah the fun!).

On which system was all this done: on my main Desktop/beast machine: two Opterons and 4GB of RAM, so I agree that this is in fact not really fair towards that first Linux-video, but it was a fun thing to do (I was surprised that Camtasia could survive the heavy load).

In conclusion: I do not want to flame Ubuntu or Linux in general (I am running it myself so...), but running 40 processes at once is not such a formidable feat. Also: Windows is more stable than Mac/Linux/Whatever-zealots tend to believe[1].

A, those lazy Sundays...

[1]: Except for Windows 3.1. And 95. And 98. 98SE too, a little. And ME. Especially ME. Stay away from ME... 2000 might work I think. Windows XP 32 bit too (I was running 64bit). And 2003 probably too.