Tag Archives: br0ken

You can

There is nothing as glorious as opening up a terminal session on my spare Ubuntu laptop and log right into my server. That is, without downloading either Putty or a host of other MingW/Cygwin utilities on Windows. You guessed it: My main Windows computer is out of working order and until then, I’ll be working on my “Ubuntus b0xen”. No Steam games, no iPod Touch no nothing. Not that I miss iTunes.

There’s actually no real excuse for me not using this Ubuntu laptop more often: both Firefox and Chrome work like a charm and appear to be faster. I never really had problems using OpenOffice or VLC (remember this is a 512 MB Centrino laptop) nor did I ever run into heavy multi-tasking issues when programming. I noticed that ever since I upgraded to Ubuntu 9.10, MonoDevelop 2.0 was added as the default package, which is something I have not touched for ages (I run a development version of MonoDevelop).

This reminds me that my favourite photoeditor, RawTherapee has officially become open-source, and yes, it runs very well on this machine. I have to admit that it looks weird running it in 1024×768 resolution, but as long as it works and I can get my raw photos to work.

My. Suck.s

Earlier, I was looking for an OpenWRT version that could run my Linksys WRT54G. This is where I found out that the hardware version of my router (“8″) isn’t supported. Aw. Apparently, Linksys switched to a propriety embedded OS, the [infamous] VxWorks. Aw2.

There are holy wars being fought about routers, particularly which one sucks and which one doesn’t. Personally, I haven’t had many issues with Linksys hardware and the WRT54 I bought this summer (no review!) was a piece of cake to set-up. I wished I had bought the one with that extra USB slot, though.

Talking about that infamous VxWorks: it’s a real-time operating system (Wikipedia) which is competing hard against Microsoft’s Mobile/CE platform. It’s apparently ported to many processors and it powers (and powered) most likely your favourite spacecraft, including the Mars Pathfinder mission. There’s an interesting anecdote about how the software almost threw a kink in the cable, detailed in this article at Microsoft Research (with an interesting follow-up from the JPL).

Made in WhereEverLand

My Apacer multi-card reader just broke on me. Upon closer inspection, the pins on both ends of the CompactFlash reader seem to have broken off1. Maybe I was in a stage of ‘excited delirium’, which according to popular belief, makes me as strong as a super hero. But I digress: I think they make this kind of hardware intentionally fragile because they are massively produced in countries where resources are cheap.

It always strikes me as funny, though, to blame the product’s country of origin for any breakage. For some reason, it reminds of anti-Japan sentiments in the late 70s and early 80s (or anti-Malaysia and anti-Taiwan in the 90s) where, at that time seemingly, all electronic hardware came from. Labour in those countries was cheap, so many manufacturers decided to move plants to Asia, which allowed these countries to enjoy an economic boom. Sometimes quality and mass-production don’t go hand in hand2.

To get back to the Apacer card reader: obviously the CF’s pin structural design is at fault (it is way too fragile) as it broke in its first year of usage. So, I end up making the next calculation before I get a new one: I could buy a new reader every year for 20 dollars (‘cheap’) or I could get one that lasts me a bit longer for the price of 30 dollar (My Canon camera seems to have an excellent and solid mechanism for guiding CF cards in its internal memory slot, so I presume there should be sturdier card readers around).

While I’m at it: I recall comments my dad made about the rise of Japanese-made (cheap) products before the Second World War broke out. The quality of these products were (at times) ‘abdominal’ and fueled the belief of European supremacy over the Japanese, that is, if they (the Japanese) decided to go to war3. History tells us the opposite happened, of course.

1 For a moment I was afraid the pins of the camera might have broken off and were stuck in the card. However, I just checked my camera and it looks fine.

2 This is not an entirely fair statement: the point of mass-production is to get consistent quality (compare with the car production by robots), but if the initial design of the product relies on dubious cheap components then something is terribly wrong.

3 Obviously war was on the minds of the colonials in Asia, particularly after Japan signed the Tripartite Pact in September of 1940, well after the German Blitzkrieg successes in Western Europe.


More Joostcomputer stuff: it was so hot today, that one computer just shutdown on me. Its fan was running constantly and I wasn’t too surprised to see it go out. Better leave it off too.

The P-100 gave up earlier this month too: the computer had issues multitasking, which resulted in sound bog-ups whenever there was (heavy) disk-activity. For example, simple things like copying files forth and back and playing music at the same time was literally impossible. This is the simplest form of multitasking, which has been resolved since Windows moved away from cooperative multitasking (ed: wrote originally pre-emptive). If your system (Linux/Unix/Windows) doesn’t pass this simple test, then obviously something is wrong. Anyway: the local Staples company was gracious enough to allow us to trade the laptop for a new one from a different brand.

I finally enrolled in the Joost program, which promises TV over your Internet. I watched a couple of random blits and (short) movies, ranging from straight pulp to interesting. The interface is still not streamlined and confusing at times. You definitely need a fast connection to enjoy these shows: however, I wonder if most of the programs shown are already available somewhere else on the Internet and not particularly unique to Joost. But yeah: it is different and at times fun. I think Joost is public (beta) at this stage (Earlier it was invite-only), but if you can’t get in, send me a mail and I will see what I can do for you.

Your Windows just broke

So, you have a Toshiba laptop and Windows doesn’t want to start anymore and shows a message in the form of ‘system config corrupt’ and ‘please insert the original Windows disk and press ‘r’ to start Windows Recovery Console’.

If you read this, it is already too late (that is, unless you have the original XP disk, but this is highly unlikely since your Windows XP is an OEM one). Your only option is to use the Toshiba Recovery Disk (which should come with your laptop) and that one has several options but all of them lead to the ‘one way': DESTROY UR D474. So: before you run that, use Knoppix to retrieve all your precious data and start the recovery (this is not as hard as it sound: you basically insert the Knoppix disk, insert your USB backup drive and off you go). Or:

If you read this before something bad has happened: most OEM installs don’t include the much needed ‘Windows Recover Console’. This is something you have to install yourself manually and trust me, you will need it.

Most OEMs install basic Windows XP data in the C:\windows\i386 directory: this is the directory you should head for and look for a file called ‘winnt32.exe’. Install the Console by issuing the following command:

YourDriveAndWindowsDirectory:\i386\winnt32.exe /cmdcons

So: if you ran into that error shown above and you did install the recovery console, this is the Microsoft KB article you should read.

That didn’t work

Windows Update downloaded the latest security update (KB925902), but after restart I got the folllowing error message:

RTHDCPL.EXE – Illegal System DLL Relocation. The system DLL user32.dll was relocated in memory. The application will not run properly. The relocation occurred because the DLL…

Alrighty!!! A patch gone wrong, apparently. On today I guess, the same day they released that security patch, Microsoft issued a hotfix (KB 935448). Notice that you may get errors while getting to the actual download: it appears that this fix is quite popular. If you run a RealTek card, you probably ran into the same issue. Particularly, if you own a Toshiba laptop.

Oh: and talking about patches, you may also consider updating your WordPress (see also here for more details).

04/04/07: Slashdot discusion.
04/11/07: A weeks later, the issue brought up over at the BBC.