Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Visual Studios Express

Microsoft has decided to permantly make their Visual Studio Express editions free from their previous "it's free if you download it within a certain time period".  I guess now it makes more sense.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

XP Blue Screen

In theory, WinXP is suppose to prevent letting software crash the OS and seeing the dreaded Blue Screen of Death and overall I guess I do see less blue screens then previous versions. However, software drivers can still crash the OS which I found out recently. It took awhile before I tracked it down to a buggy network card driver. WinXP detected my Netgear FA312 ethernet card on installation and even Windows Update didn't find anything more recent drivers. However, I was starting to see random freezes and crashes to blue screen with the message: DRIVER_IRQ_NOT_LESS_OR_EQUAL. It took me awhile before I found someone on the web mentioning that he had the same problem and it was caused by a buggy network driver.

I went to Netgear's site and downloaded the 1.8 version of the driver and so far things look better. I'm mainly writing this to remind myself that if I ever had to reinstall winxp again to not forget to update the driver.

Sunday, April 9, 2006

Anime fest

Over the past two weeks, I've been doing some serious anime watching. ^^; Some of the anime were ones I've not seen before and some is just re-watching what I had already but finally got on DVD. What I've watched recently:

Samurai Deeper Kyo (full season)

Inuyasha (season 1 & 2)


Maison Ikkoku

Marmalade Boy

Slam Dunk

Burst Angel

Slam Dunk

Slam Dunk was a huge manga in the late 80s and early 90s. If Dragon Ball was the hit of the 80s, Slam Dunk was the next huge hit. I remember seeing it everywhere, and I remember that I was skeptical about how good a manga about a Japanese high school basketball team can be. One day, I was bored and decided to rent the first two mangas and I was hooked. I eventually bought the entire series and even years later, I still enjoy going back and reading it. The anime came out around 1993 and there were some early fansubs of a few episodes and the movies (which were disappointing). At the time there weren't any LDs of the TV series so all of the fansubs were based on fairly poor VCR recordings with mono sounds!

I haven't kept up with the later fansubs, but then the domestic rights were picked up by Geneon. This weekend I picked up the first two DVDs of Slam Dunk. The anime was done very well and was exceptionally faithful to the manga even down to the art. If you read the manga, you will recognize the scenes except now they are animated. The subtitles are like close captions since it even describe emotions (i.e. "shocked gasp") and overall there weren't much extra effort put in to the DVD. There are basically 5 episodes per DVD and no chapter stops within each episode. There are no extras, no trailers, nothing. Still, the anime itself is very enjoyable and the translation is good.

For such a huge hit that it was, I'm baffled as to why Geneon does not promote this series at all. There's absolutely no mention of it on their site other then a press release and it's not listed among their offerings. Have they decided to stop releasing beyond the 4 DVDs that's out there?

Friday, April 7, 2006

Linux Desktop

I've never really used Linux as a "desktop" system. Instead it has always been a "server" where I would run web servers, database servers, file servers, etc. With the new box, I've actually connected it to my monitor using a KVM switch so for the very first time it can potentially be used as a desktop system.

Basic things such as browsing with Firefox, etc. worked out-of-the-box on Fedora Core 5, but one area that I've never used Linux for was to play video and sound. I downloaded the VLC player from (which also hosts RPM packages for ATI and Nvidia video drivers) to see how well it can play some of the media files that I have. The files played without any problems, so I was very pleased, but I haven't tried it on any Windows media files which I heard did have problem on 64bit linux.

Thursday, April 6, 2006

Backing up Windows

After the painful process of reinstalling WinXP, I felt compelled to do what I can to avoid repeat doing this again in the future. I figure that what I needed was a disk imaging program to backup my windows partition so that I can just restore it without having to go through the install process again.

I've used Norton Ghost before, but the version I had wasn't very good. Setting up a bootable CD wasn't easy and it required me to go to DOS in order to backup. New versions might not need to do this.

My criteria were that it must be easy to use, can automatically backup to CD/DVDs, can easily create bootable rescue disk, and can restore the backup without Windows. I settled on True Image and tonight I tested it out. The reviews were favorable and wasn't too complicated.

My first three CDs went into the trash. I finally set the priority to "Normal" (from the default "Low") and was able to burn the backup CDs. The aborted writes before changing the setting were very annoying since there was no explanation given as to why they failed. True Image also installed an annoying animated icon in the task tray which I found to be distracting. I took out the various startup commands since I don't need to do scheduled backups on this computer. Once I changed the settings, everything worked without a hitch.

Finally, I feel like I've gotten the different boxes up-and-running.

Postgres vs Oracle

Here is an article regarding Postgres vs. Oracle from the DBA perspective. It's good to see professionals starting to look at the merits of open source database alternatives instead of just MySQL.

Windows On Mac hardware

A good move on Apple's part to release tools letting Mac hardware dual boot either Windows or OSX. One of the reasons for Linux's early adoption was it's ability to be dual-booted along with the user's original OS, so this can encourage more people adopting Macs. However, there is a difference between Linux and Macs. Linux had dual boot because people already had the hardware and wanted a better OS without necessarily having to completely sacrafice the old OS. In this case, people have the OS and software and will be buying hardware to run it. I guess Apple's hope is that they'll start trying out OSX and eventually migrate over.

Windows XP Install

Now that I've completed setting up the linux box, it was time to clean up the windows box since it'll now be used for a different purpose. Setting up Linux was very quick and easy despite FC5 occupying 6 CDs. Windows XP comes on 1 CD and it should be noted that it's being installed on an older computer then the Linux box.

The first thing I had to do was install Windows 2000 since I only had the Windows XP Upgrade CD. For some reason, the Windows Upgrade CD wouldn't boot directly on the computer so I was forced to go through this process (the Win2k was also an upgrade but I can boot and just put in win98 when it asked for verification of an older version of Windows). Once Win2k was up, I used it to start the WinXP installer. I probably could've found the answer somewhere on the web, but the installer automatically copied setup files to the C:\ partition which I didn't want since I wanted to format that cleanly before installing WinXP. With the setup files on C:\, I couldn't format the partition while I was in Windows. So, I basically had to boot into win2k, clean up the files on the C:\ partition, install winXP, then delete the Win2k stuff since it still took up space. This process took roughly 1.5 hours.

Once Windows XP was up, I was prompted to activate it. I put in the product code and... no go. It tells me to call Microsoft. Windows XP was previously on this computer and I'm just reinstalling but I guess MS feels I need their approval. So, I call their number, goes through the process and they tell me a long series of numbers to enter and now Windows is "activated".

Similiar to what I did after I installed Fedora, I immediately went to get all the updates for Windows. With FC, it was a simple "yum update". With Windows, it was Windows Update, but first it needed to figure out what updates I needed. The first two sets were patches that required a reboot each time. On the third update (each update is manually initiated by me), it began to download Windows XP SP2 followed by a long install (long enough for me to leave the computer, do something else and come back right when it finished). Another reboot and it was time to get more updates. I lost track of how many more reboots it required but after about 5 hours, Windows XP installation was done! Now I remember why I've been so reluctant to reinstall windows... I'm almost afraid to use it until I can come up with a good backup system/restore disk so that I don't have to go through the process again! I think there are options such as Norton Ghost but if there are other solutions, please let me .

Tuesday, April 4, 2006

Fedora Core 5 + AMD64

So I'm now officially in the world of 64bit computing! Having grabbed the Fedora Core 5 CDs for 64bit processors, I did my first installation onto my new machine and it was pretty sweet. The Shuttle is definitely more quiet then most desktops (didn't really compare against the Sonata box, though), but not quite as silent as the Mac Mini.

The last time I installed Fedora Core, I felt it was already fairly easy to install except I did run into a snag with my CDROM that I had to search around the web for a bit to resolve. The formatting, partitioning, and package installation took a bit of time, but it was all automated so didn't require any intervention on my part. When setting up the new box, I was a bit unsure about whether there would be any trouble with the hard drive since in the past large capacity hard drives always seem to introduce some setup issues.

It turns out that I had nothing to worry about. This has definitely been the easiest linux install I've ever done. I simply inserted the install CDs and let it rip. It went extremely fast, and the whole process took roughly 30 minutes and I installed a lot of packages. Once it was done, the system booted into X without a hitch (i did have to change the refresh rate from the display control panel).

I ran a yum update to get the latest patches (~100Megs worth), grabbed the latest nvidia driver (make sure to have a new kernel then the original that shipped with FC5 since that kernel doesn't allow non-GPL modules), configured Apache and Samba through the control panel and I was done!

Honestly, I'm pretty impressed. I had expected to start the installation, go to work and finish everything when I came home. I still need to transfer the old files over to the new machine, figure out what to do with the old server, and do some customizations but as of now I have a fully enabled 64bit linux machine running. :-)

I still need to figure out how to deal with playing media files since many 64bit apps don't have the 64bit plugins and aren't able to load 32bit plugins. I'll probably have to use some of the apps in their 32bit form which isn't necessarily a bad thing.

Posting comments

I realized today that comments were disabled on this blog (not that people actually write any coments ^^;).  I guess it was disabled when I upgraded Wordpress.  Anyway, it's on again.

Monday, April 3, 2006


I've been getting back into anime recently and have been catching up on a number of series as well as revisiting old ones.  This weekend I re-watched Samurai Deeper Kyo after getting the box set.  The first time I watched it, the translation was horrible and I couldn't quite figure out what was happening at the end.  With better translation, this series is definitely more enjoyable!  The voice acting for Kyo is pretty amazing.  There are a lot of famous voice actors that fans of anime will quickly recognize.
I've also been trying to catch up on Rumiko Takahashi's Inuyasha.  The first season turned out to be quite good and I enjoy the characters and story so far.

Both series are worth checking out but each is very different in feel to the other.

Sunday, April 2, 2006

New PC

I finally bit the bullet and decided to replace my old (but still reliable) pentium 2 Linux box. I have one computer with the Antec Sonata case and it's very quiet, but this time I wanted something small, quiet yet still be powerful to last me for a while. I decided to build my own using a Shuttle PC barebone system. I picked the SN95G5V3 since I wanted to go with a AMD 64 processor and I didn't want to invest in a new PCI-E video card when I had an extra AGP card lying around.

I picked up a AMD 3500, Pioneer DVD burner ($60), Seagate 500GB SATA HDD ($270), and 1gig Cosair DDR memory module (single so I can add another gig later on without having to dump this one). The price was decent and it took me about an hour to put everything together. Now, the only problem is that I have no OS for it...

I plan on running Linux on it, of course, but I haven't downloaded it yet so here I sit with a pretty awsome little machine and not being able to turn it on! ^^;