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· Various Microsoft Hell issues
· It gets better...
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· Sonic DigitalMedia LE v7

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Computer Blog - thebroadroom.net: January 2006

Disclaimer: all of the following is purely from personal experience. TheBroadroom.Net urges you to use your own instincts, common sense, and willingness to take risks when applying any of the information below.

Geeks rule.
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Tech over the long run
posted by Colleen Shirazi, Monday, January 30, 2006 at 3:29 PM (Pacific)

Well, I'm set to buy a new device. I'm researching it on the Net.

A few things occur to me as I do so. #1 is that buying a big name brand item, on the assumption that that means anything, is not a good idea.

I found that out from the Kodak DC4800 camera. How could you go wrong buying a Kodak camera? Isn't that like buying Kleenex tissue or Scotch tape?

That model was not cheap when it came out. It retailed between $500 to $600.

Now...with the "love 'em and leave 'em" mentality of what we call "tech," it is a rather decorative paperweight--supposedly.

There's nothing wrong with the camera. It works. Produces nice pictures too.

As long as I was using a Windows 98 computer, and staying in the U.S., the sole gripe I would ever have had with this camera would simply be that other cameras have more megapixels and take better close-ups, and are, in a word, smaller.

Discovering that Windows XP does not support that Kodak model, was a shock. Discovering that you can't charge the battery (which is no longer being made--use a compatible) overseas was another shock. Discovering that Kodak no longer supports this model (which is four years old) was a third shock.

The most I got out of Kodak was that they used to sell a separate charger. The charger worked overseas. Finding this charger would be possible (given the Internet) but not easy (in terms of finding it in a b & m store).

To be fair, computers used to cost $2000. Something that you paid $2000 for, should not have to be thrown away after three years.

So, I have changed how I see all this "tech." It is relatively easy to buy a big brand name product. It is easy to find a good product at a good price. But what about next year?

Now, I tend to look carefully at the warranty offered on the product. It's hardware; it is highly unlikely to break down. I have a Windows 95 computer, circa 1996, that needed repair only once (to change the sound card). It works fine. It starts up fine, everything in it works; however it's unusable. So, for hardware products, the warranty tends to imply more that the manufacturer will (?) support their product--when said product is more than two, three, or four years old.

I go to the manufacturer's website and poke around. I'm looking for drivers and updates...and mentions, for gad's sake...of their "older products."

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Blogger: stack overflow at line 54
posted by Colleen Shirazi, Saturday, January 28, 2006 at 9:58 PM (Pacific)

Just encountered this. You go to the blog and click anywhere...you get the above message.

Go to your blogger account and turn off the back links feature (settings/comments). Republish the blog.

I'll guess this is a temporary bug.

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Women in technology
posted by Colleen Shirazi, at 7:47 PM (Pacific)

I was googling around...idly...I googled as follows:

computer blog women

I pulled up my own blog (if only because of the keywords) and some articles speculating why there aren't more women in technical fields.

The articles were interesting...a lot of people in the U.S. agreed that women and men were staying away from tech, because so much of those jobs had been outsourced.

Some people scratched their heads over it; some people concluded that women were simply wired differently from men. That women found technology boring and would prefer to do other things.

I've been writing this same post over and over again...I can never make this post sound un-controversial. (Yes, TheBroadroom.Net has a policy that we are not to write about political, religious or otherwise controversial subjects.)

Before I sound sad over it, I'm the one who proposed that rule to begin with...because it seemed to me that so many sites directed towards women were political in the sense of having only one political viewpoint. Either you agreed with the viewpoint 100% or else you were made to feel that the site held nothing for you. Hence, when we were putting together TheBroadroom, I specifically did not want to publish political content. This is The Broad Room: all broads are welcome. :)

I strongly disagree that women are any different from men as far as technology. I tutored programming for a year at my university. I tutored both men and women. You could not tell from someone's code, what gender they were; I challenge anyone to do that.

I did notice that some cultures seemed to encourage women into these fields much more than others. For example, Asian and Middle Eastern cultures seemed to make much less of a big deal out of a woman (albeit typically a richer one) going into technical fields.

Whereas our culture...our Western culture...really makes you feel weird if you're a female computer geek.

The geeks themselves of course were always okay. I've always felt comfortable around my fellow geeks, male and female.

I don't know where I'm going with this. I do think it is largely a cultural issue and it varies widely from culture to culture; it is not imo a global phenomenon.

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Crapware?
posted by Colleen Shirazi, at 7:43 PM (Pacific)

Why is setting up a new PC still so painful?

rotfl...too right.

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More general Microsoft Hell notes...
posted by Colleen Shirazi, at 12:18 PM (Pacific)

Okay...this is next to insane, but let's share. :)

When I was trying to get an intelligible error message on an ASP script in IE, one piece of advice I found was to install the IIS (Internet Information Services) Windows component. shrugs I did that. It didn't do anything, but then it didn't affect the performance of the computer either, so I left it in. (Changing a "friendly error message" setting in IE gave me the detailed error message, see post below.)

Fast forward 5 days.

The computer is now running Comcast cable internet. Again, it seemed fine at first. Then, Microsoft Hell started up...you know what I mean.

1.) The startup time for the computer jumped from about 30 seconds to 3 minutes. i.e. it took 3 minutes for the desktop icons to show.

2.) The computer could no longer use Automatic Updates (never a problem before on this computer). It showed there was 1 update to be installed. This was the Microsoft Genuine Advantage Validation Tool. As I've said, I have no problem installing this tool...I just couldn't install it. Automatic Updates downloaded it but wouldn't install it (it would just hang). I got it to install the Tool (see post below) but then it showed another update downloaded and ready to install, and likewise I couldn't install that.

3.) (Related to #2 actually) was that I could no longer create new System Restore points. Again, it would hang.

Manually downloading and trying to install Microsoft updates showed that the installation hung when it was trying to create a new restore point. Hence, fixing #3 would also most likely fix #2.

Fine....

I started out on the Microsoft site, looking for documentation regarding System Restore. There were a few articles on troubleshooting it but nothing worked. A clue was an article here:

You Cannot Create a Restore Point with a HighPoint Driver Installed

This computer didn't have this particular driver but I speculated as to whether Comcast had installed something that didn't agree with System Restore.

I then went to the Symantec site to see if there were known issues with Norton Internet Security, the specific program that this computer has installed in it. Again, some advice such as running LiveUpdate. I did this, it updated everything fine, but it didn't solve #1, #2 or #3.

They also said to have the NIS Personal Firewall re-detect its Manual Program Control listings. I did this also. It completed the re-detect process but again, did nothing re the 3 problems.

Hmmm...and I did the "msconfig" thing to stop some items from loading on startup. This was gratifying (I hate all that stuff that loads for no reason) but again did not solve the problems. i.e. it sped up the boot process only after the desktop icons showed (I still had to wait the same 3 minutes).

Don't ask me how but I suddenly wondered if the IIS service was doing something strange. Since it was useless anyway, I had the idea to uninstall it.

I couldn't uninstall it using the same Control Panel/Add or Remove Programs I'd use to install it. It hung (I had the morbid suspicion it was trying to create a system restore point and couldn't). However, of course it was still possible to go to Control Panel - Administrative Tools - Services, find the IIS Admin service, and disable it.

When I restarted the computer, somehow everything just worked again. It booted up in less than one minute (comparable to how fast it booted before). I could now create a new system restore point. And, I installed the new Windows Update that was sitting there.

I have no idea if this information could be helpful to anyone else, but it is the second time that changing a specific Service has produced results. I'm wondering now if Microsoft has better documentation on the Services somewhere.

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Various Microsoft Hell issues
posted by Colleen Shirazi, Friday, January 27, 2006 at 8:51 PM (Pacific)

Okay...where to start.

1.) Trying to install the Windows Genuine Advantage Validation Tool. Now I could care less whether this gets installed or not. Most of the material I found under Google concerned people trying to bypass the tool. Not what I need...the computer has a "real" Windows OS installed in it. So who cares?

The Automatic Updates thing downloaded the (!@#$%) Windows Genuine Advantage Validation Tool. Fine. Then, it wouldn't install it.

I danced around this crap for hours. Here's what I found and it worked:

Windows Genuine Advantage Validation Tool (KB892130) install fails in Windows Update

The part where someone linked here to install the Validation Tool:

http://www.microsoft.com/genuine/downloads/whyValidate.aspx

Okay, fine, that installed the damn Tool. It's there and no longer shows up in the Automatic Updates thing.

I still haven't gotten it to install any other Updates yet, however.

I have a strong suspicion it has to do with Norton Internet Security. Naturally, the Symantec site was totally useless (please read prior posts). Their sole suggestion from what I got out of it, was to allow the Windows Updates site to have information about your browser.

Excuse me.

WINDOWS UPDATES ALREADY HAS INFORMATION ABOUT MY BROWSER. IT ALREADY DOWNLOADED THE STUFF. I JUST CAN'T INSTALL IT WITHOUT BUSTING A GUT.


Now for the cool stuff.

Restore Your Computer's Performance with Windows XP

The part where you can go here:

Startup Applications List

...and actually look up all those esoteric items that get loaded when you start up your computer. As you would expect, a large number of them so far, are not necesssary.

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It gets better...
posted by TheBroadroom.Net, Tuesday, January 24, 2006 at 1:22 PM (Pacific)

http://dmoz.org/Society/People/Women/Web_Portals/

*momentarily speechless*

Did this category even exist before they dismantled the entire Women's category?

Is this where all the sites that got zapped off the Women's directory ended up?

TheBroadroom.Net is not a portal site by anyone's definition (which is why I never applied to have it added to a Web Portal category in the first place). There is more content on one page of our site than you will find in ten pages of other sites.

Bring back the Syrian listing!

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How to open an online Excel spreadsheet at a particular cell
posted by Colleen Shirazi, Monday, January 23, 2006 at 3:48 PM (Pacific)

I do not know if this works using the MS Excel Viewer, i.e. I am testing this on a computer with Excel installed in it. (This is usually the least of your worries.)

It seems like a crushingly obvious thing to do and yet the only clue I found as to how to do it, was a rather obscure reference on the Microsoft site:

HOW TO: Link to a Particular Worksheet from a Web Page in Excel 2000

Check it out:

http://broadroom.net/spreadsheet_demo.xls#test!a1

http://broadroom.net/spreadsheet_demo.xls#test1!p6

http://broadroom.net/spreadsheet_demo.xls#halfway

http://broadroom.net/spreadsheet_demo.xls#keep_going

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Internal Server Error 500 running an ASP script
posted by Colleen Shirazi, Friday, January 20, 2006 at 7:06 PM (Pacific)

There is a problem with the page you are looking for, and it cannot be displayed.

Well I got one of these and, it was simultaneously a bittersweet ex-Perl moment (I do NOT use ASP myself) and another mind-boggling, bang-head-against-the-wall Microsoft moment. After all, aren't we all Microsoft slaves in the end? We all have to use Microsoft Internet Explorer; and now apparently even I have to use ASP, so why can't the one Microsoft product be used to debug the other?

I tooled around on the Net for a while over this. I got some advice to use Micosoft Internet Information Services.

http://www.faqts.com/knowledge_base/view.phtml/aid/25082/fid/51

So I went ahead and installed it, using the default settings.

This didn't seem to do anything; just thought I'd mention it.

This was helpful:

http://p2p.wrox.com/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=32196

The guy said to turn OFF your IE's Show Friendly HTTP Error Messages.

Once I did that, I actually got a useful error message:

Server object Error 'ASP 0177 : 800401f3'
Server.CreateObject Failed
[file path of Rule Set File (.prf) and line number]
Invalid Class String

This was copied from the Microsoft site but it is the error I got.

http://support.microsoft.com/kb/q188289/

Give it a try. Good luck.

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Sonic DigitalMedia LE v7
posted by Colleen Shirazi, Saturday, January 07, 2006 at 4:49 PM (Pacific)

Also known as "CD Burning for Idiots." :D

I am the idiot and the Sonic program came with a Dell that I'm working on. I've had very little experience burning anything so here is my preliminary report on this product and CD burning in general.

Note: this first part addresses CD-R recording only. This stands for "CD Recordable" and means that you can burn some stuff on the CD, then add to it later on, but you may not erase and rerecord on the CD.

First of all, I did google around to find some information about burning CD's. It was horribly, horribly confusing. Like so much of the latest technology, what I got out of it was that "this CD medium won't work on this CD player," "the burning speeds are all different," "format or don't format"... etc.

Anyhow. Apparently, before you even buy your first spindle of CD recordable disks, you should know what the speed of your CD burner drive is.

That's great if you still have the spec label attached to the front of your computer shakes head. I mean I'm sure there is in fact an idiot's way of determining this in a computer you didn't actually buy or else bought long ago. I tried the usual Device Manager and didn't seem to get anywhere.

How I determined the recording speed of my drive was that I started recording something in it using the above mentioned Sonic program. The one I have is 48x; the Sonic program tells you this.

(At least I think that's what the 48x signifies. It could be the read speed for all I know.)

To get there, I bought some Memorex CD-R blank discs (52x, 700 MB, 80 minutes). Why 52x and why Memorex? I went to Staples, they also had HP, Sony, Maxell, the Staples house brand, etc. I chose Memorex simply because I'm old; Memorex cassette tapes were quite commonly used for tape dubbing (ask your parents).

Why 52x? That was the maximum recording speed on the shelf. (Sony's were 48x.) From what I've read, you can use a higher speed blank on a slower speed drive, but not the other way around. Turns out I could have bought the 48x ones as well.

Close all other programs and turn off your screen saver or anything else that might start running while you're recording, before you burn anything.

I read that somewhere...your CD burning relies on your PC writing everything in one fell swoop. Having your screen saver or other power save pop up during the burn may well produce a "coaster."

To format or not to format?

Let me repeat, I'm old. I well remember having to format floppy disks before writing to them. I also remember when they started selling floppies already formatted.

The Sonic program has a feature that uses "DLA" (drive letter access) technology. All that means is that it's less complicated burning stuff to the disk. It doesn't seem to affect the quality of the recording; it simply emulates the experience of using, say, your Windows Explorer to copy files and folders from one place to another.

That's what I started out using. For this..."Direct-to-Disc" under "Data" on the menu...you do need to format the blank first, using the Sonic "format" button.

This eats up a significant amount of space on the disk btw. I saw the available space on disk plummet to around 627 MB.

Formatting a CD-R disk using "quick" format takes only a few seconds, it is not a big deal.

You may then literally punch "Add Data" and select whatever you want burned to the disk. It's a cosy, comfortable familiar feeling for the beginning "burner."

You then have to hit the "Make Compatible" button when you're done. This is to make your newly burned disk compatible with computers or players which do not have Drive Letter Access installed in them.

With CD-R, you can append data even after you've run Make Compatible, but you will need to run Make Compatible again after you're done. Make Compatible eats disk space too. What I got out of the Sonic site...which I found pretty useless actually, it seemed geared towards people who already know what they're doing...was that Make Compatible could be run a maximum of 15 times on the same disk...so try to do the majority of your burning before running it.

That's all folks.

I tried using DLA the first two times I burned anything. On my Imation CD-R, everything worked perfectly. On my Memorex CD-R, I couldn't get a Windows 98 computer with a CD-ROM drive to read the disk.

Imation: I formatted my Imation CD-R using the Sonic DLA formatting program. In different sessions, using Direct-to-Disc, I burned a jpg image file, a program file, and a folder full of jpg's, to the Imation. I then ran Make Compatible to test it out.

The Win 98 clunker read everything fine from this disk.

Memorex: Here I formatted the disk, burned three folders full of jpg images to it, then ran Make Compatible.

The Win 98 machine would not read the volume label of the disk and wouldn't show any of my files in My Computer.

I went back to the XP/Sonic machine and tried running Make Compatible again.

This time the Win 98 machine "read" all three of my folders as a single music file, which I couldn't open, naturally enough (since it was not a music file).

Two Windows XP machines with DLA installed on them read the same disk perfectly so technically it was not a "coaster," but I felt disgruntled nonetheless.

At this point I decided to not use DLA for my next test.

Data Disc v. Direct-to-Disc

The other option under Data is Data Disc. (There is also "Easy Archive" but I haven't gotten there yet.)

This, imo, is much much better than Direct-to-Disc, once you feel comfortable with the general burning process.

With Data Disc, you need to make a project...but it's not as awful as it sounds. It's actually quite easy.

Here, again, you turn off your screen saver and whatever programs are running.

You place an unformatted blank in your burner drive.

Here...I think it's much easier to go ahead and give your disk a volume label before you burn anything to it. i.e. I'm sure there is a way to go back and do this post-burning but it's not obvious.

If there's anything already on the disk apparently you have to load the lot into your project before adding anything new ("Load Disc"). I haven't done this yet though.

Click "Add Data" and start selecting what you want to burn on the disk. Here it just adds your selection(s) to the project; you haven't burned anything yet.

Sonic tells you as you're going how much space you have left on the disk.

Once you're done, go ahead and hit the big red button on the bottom of the screen ("Click button to continue").

You get a gratifying screen telling you, finally, what speed your drive records at, what speed you are in fact recording at, the progress of your project...it takes only a few minutes to burn the whole thing.

Plus, you need not run Make Compatible at all. My "Data Disc" Memorex ran fine on the Win 98 clunker as is.

When you're done, you also have the option to save the project. Presumably you may then burn the exact same set of files and folders to another disk.

When to use DLA?

Thinking on it, the DLA option makes sense if you want to have a CD-R handy to burn stuff on here and there, the same way you would have with a floppy disk.

You would be able to use this CD to transfer files to, say, another computer that already has DLA installed in it...so, once you've formatted the disk, you're basically good to go.

When to use Data Disc?

This would appear to be the obvious choice when you want to save a bunch of stuff on a disk and then share the disk with someone else (or else play the disk on a non-DLA device). Or you just want to save a bunch of stuff and be done with it. It's ultimately less hassle than DLA (no formatting, no Make Compatible) and you get quite a bit more disk space in the bargain.

Good luck and have fun burning!

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