Archive for the 'windows' Category

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Windows is good at a lot of things. So is Linux.

On the desktop, Linux has only been getting better. For instance, imagine my surprise when I plugged my old wireless mouse into my Ubuntu box and immediately received a warning about its battery being low. I’d been using this mouse with Windows for years, and it had never once indicated that it knew anything about the mouse’s power status. I’ve always believed Windows to be the current leader in device compatibility (companies will pay to write drivers for what people are using, and most people use Windows), so I found this to be quite humorous.

Poor old Windows, showing its age. I pointed and laughed a little.

Only problem? That same warning has been showing for the last 6 months, and the power estimate has never changed. It didn’t go to zero when the batteries finally gave out and died and it didn’t go away after replacing the batteries.

Well, what’s that they say… Even a broken clock is right two times a day. Although this is only right once a battery set.

So close.

Sansa C200, Linux, and Rockbox 0

A few weeks ago, I purchased a refurbished Sansa C2xx series MP3 player. It’s a small, 1GB “gumstick” player with a microSD slot and supports Rockbox, an alternative, open-source firmware. When running Rockbox, it’s rumored to support MicroSDHC, giving it a total capacity of (currently) ~17GB. In addition, it seemed to support both Windows and Linux pretty well, making it a good fit for someone who, like me, jumps between both.

For the most part, things work pretty well. Up until tonight I’d been running the default firmware, when I tried to install Rockbox. Here’s a collection of my experiences with the player.

  • In the default firmware, the volume level is not saved when the device powers off. I use a set of earbuds that seal very well to my ears: a little volume goes a long way. Whenever I turn the player on, I have to immediately crank the volume down. I’ve heard that Rockbox will fix this.
  • When resuming a previous playback position, forward/back functionality works inconsistently from how it works at all other times. If you resume partway through a song and press back, you expect it to rewind to the beginning. Instead, it skips to a random song. If you then press forward, you skip to another random song — not back to the song you were listening to.
  • It’s a hybrid MTP and MSC device (in that order), picking whichever is supported by your operating system. On Windows you’re most likely stuck with MTP, while unless you specifically install MTP software on Linux, you’ll be given MSC. Unfortunately, the files you can see in MTP mode are not visible in MSC mode, and vice versa — and there’s no way to choose one mode or the other. In practice, that means there’s a big wall between your Windows and Linux music (until playing it).
  • Linux apparently doesn’t play with the FAT(32) partition nicely enough to use it as a disk — I could not get the songs I copied onto the device via Linux to show up in the player’s database. In addition, just trying to use the device routinely caused file-system panics (to be honest, I didn’t even know they existed) which took down my whole box. I was also unable to get Rockbox installed via my Linux box.
  • I experimented with MTP support in Rythmbox (granted, very quickly), and couldn’t see everything I’d loaded onto it (complained about a codec..?). I didn’t try adding new files.
  • Given the problems I had getting files loaded from Linux into the database under the default firmware, Rockbox seems to be the way to go, as it supports browsing the actual file system for music.
  • I finally installed Rockbox via an older XP install (which saw it as an MSC device), and confirmed that it did recognize a 4GB MicroSDHC card. But the default firmware always handles USB communication, so you have to copy things onto SDHC cards externally.
  • None of the SD readers in my house support SDHC, again leaving me without a way to load music from Linux.

So, while I like the player overall, it hasn’t proved as Linux friendly as I’d like. Once I get an SD reader that supports SDHC, things should improve markedly.

Wireless Statistics 2

My brother’s out visiting for Thanksgiving, and his Vista-powered (or was it ready?) notebook is having an incredibly difficult time connecting to our wireless network (for whatever reason). I was, of course, quick to place the blame on Vista — and not just because I’m being bigoted; this isn’t the first time I’ve heard someone complaining about Wifi problems under Microsoft’s “best” OS.

Anyways, I began searching Google for problems specifically related to his PC/chipset, but, in the process, stumbled across a completely scientific method of proving which operating system — Vista or XP — was better.

First, I searched for “Vista wireless problems”: 15,400,00 results.

Then I searched for “XP wireless problems”: 13,700,00 results.

Not quite as overwhelming a victory as I’d hoped for, but it’s pretty clear who the top contender is.

(As a purely academic exercise, I then typed in “Linux wireless problems”. A scant 46,200,000 results. Maybe this method isn’t really as accurate as I was hoping for. Or, more likely, people are posting lots of comments about how Linux fixed their wireless problems. Yeah.)

The Easiest Installation 1

If you’re like me, you loathe installing software. Then again, maybe there aren’t many people like me. In fact, maybe my personality is a statistically improbable occurrence. So improbable that it’s more than likely that I don’t exist.

In other news, here’s a list of extremely useful software that you don’t have to install — they all have single executable downloads that require no additional files. This alone makes these applications great for stashing on a thumb drive or downloading for a single-time emergency use on your friend’s machine.

  • uTorrent – great for those rare moments when you need to download a quick, uh, VMWare image
  • SciTE – a lightweight and competent editor that includes syntax definitions for, *gasp*, PHP (and other lovely languages)
  • The pervasive PuTTY – quite possibly the best Windows SSH client ever
  • WinSCP – when you get sick of the Windows command line (which you no doubt will, because it’s not really good at all), try joining the 21st century and using a GUI

Miss Manners 0

I just discovered why Windows has the largest slice of the market share: it’s so darn helpful.

A few minutes ago, a little popup window appeared near my tray with a nice little message about updates that were ready. I clicked, scanned the list of updates and deselected “Internet Explorer 7.0 for Microsoft Windows”, as any self-respecting computer user should.

Another dialog appeared: “Updates that are not selected will not be installed.”

No duh… That’s why I deselected it. Thank you, Windows!

Laptops and Vista 2

I found a pretty good deal on a laptop during CompUSA’s three day clearance (or some such), so I went and picked it up to replace Mindy’s aging Averatec (which has been a trusty old thing, but is, as I mentioned, getting some gray hairs). Unfortunately (or not, depending on how you look at it), it came with Vista Home Basic preinstalled.

Before buying it, I spent some time researching the downgrade clauses in the various Microsoft EULA for Windows Vista. According to everything I could find (and I’d post links if I wasn’t so lazy), the OEM EULAs do NOT include any sort of rights to previous versions of Windows, so if you were planning on that, don’t.

First impressions of Vista, however, seem to mirror what everyone’s told me: slow and annoying. The laptop came with 512MB of RAM, about half people said I’d want, so that’s part of it. But all of the confirmation popups have nothing to do with hardware.

All in all, though, after switching back to the “legacy” interface and removing the desktop background, I think it’ll be manageable. Although I am considering installing Ubuntu…