Archive for December, 2009

Why, Twitter, WHY

December 29, 2009

Why is it that Twitter doesn’t allow you to stay logged in on multiple browsers/machines? For a service that encourages use from multiple places, it is really annoying to have to log in all the time.

There are, however, services that won’t kick the login token, and still allow you to use it.. just not the http interface.

AMD Combo-shuffling madness

December 26, 2009

I’m not a big fan of AMD but I’ve always found myself buying AMD combos since ever. That trend continued as I had an ECS NForce4M-A and AMD X2 4200 from 2007. I had to pass that down to my dad so I bought myself a Gigabyte MA74GM-S2 rev1 and AMD X2 4850e (mATX, low-power, PCI-E x16 below the PCI-E x1, somewhat interchangeable with my old combo… sad how these are “features” to me)

Basically with the advent of HDTV and Windows 7, demands have grown increasingly high for powerful platforms that are capable of smoothly playing HD video, even in Flash. I needed a system that was decent but not top-of-the-line, and thanks to Windows Experience Index I found out that my CPU was the bottleneck of the system.

I needed a DVR/HTPC for myself as well so I bought a AMD LE-1640 + MSI K9N6PGM2-V2 combo from Fry’s .. and they had the Athlon II X2 240 combo for the same price before I got any good use out of it. Lame. Long story short, the video card on the X2 4200 combo broke so I lost my DVR/HTPC to give it to him. Except this time, I paired the X2 4200 with the MSI K9N6PGM2-V2 so that he could have better performance (the LE-1640 is only meant for a HTPC.)

It was long before I managed to replace the HTPC.. I ended up buying a Asus M3N78-VM + AMD Phenom II X2 550 combo. The motherboard was appealing because it had an onboard GeForce8 with all HDMI/DVI/VGA and optical sound outputs, AM2/AM2+/AM3 support for flexibility, 4 RAM slots, x16 below the x1.. yeah. (I want the x16 below the x1 because my 9600GSO is dual-slot and I would prefer it that way anyways.) The CPU was not that appealing but in fact it seems to be AMD’s strongest dual-core processor, and it’s 80W which is higher than 45/65 but not quite 125/145. I prefer dual-core over quad-core for better single-thread performance. But basically I bought this combo to use the CPU for myself and the motherboard with awesome integrated video for my HTPC. AMD, more mATX and x16 below x1 made it flexible in case I wanted to swap things around some more.

So now I have the AMD Phenom II X2 550 inside my Gigabyte GA-MA74GM-S2 Rev1. That required a BIOS update to work and I’m glad it worked. The Asus M3N78-VM holds the AMD LE-1640 as the HTPC. My dad’s using the MSI K9N6PGM2-V2 with the X2 4200, and the NForce4M-A is being unused and holding the AMD 4850e until I find a cheap video card that can hardware accelerate HD video and flash. (There were a few $15-20 deals that I’ve missed…)

But yeah. 4 combos and not a single one is stuck with its “proper” CPU. Awesome =)

Taking the leap from (hardcore) XP to 7

December 13, 2009

I’m a big fan of Windows XP, but only because I’m so used to it, like many other people. I’ve been running it since early 2003 (sometime after Service Pack 1 came out to resolve the first big set of issues). I use it (though I use Linux for strict work/school purposes), my parents use it, my sister uses it.. basically all friends and family I supported used it. When Vista came out, I saw no reason to switch. Everyone complained about the differences anyways. Now 7 has been out for a while and I still saw no reason to switch, but I figured I should do so, to take advantage of my new Intel X25-M G2 80gb SSD.

First trial: Intel Atom/nVidia ION nettop:
I first installed the x86 version on my Acer AspireRevo AR1600-U910H with an Intel Atom 230 and nVidia ION chipset. The thing is powerful for playing HD video with hardware acceleration, and using a low 16W while idle. It was pretty easy to install and I first went to install updates and graphics drivers. I did both and rebooted, only to find myself at a flashing display. The computer worked fine, but the display just kept flashing black every half-second. Frustrating. I switched from HDMI output to VGA output and that wasn’t flashing, but that didn’t solve the problem. I installed some another Windows Update (I forgot which one it was) and it went away. Phew. Adobe just released hardware acceleration in Flash 10.1 beta and it wasn’t very promising on the Atom/ION. YouTube 720p was still sluggish and CPU usage was lowered, but not enough for smooth playback. I activated Windows on this machine, which I think may have been a mistake. I don’t think I want 7 anymore on this PC (I used it for less than a day!) and I want to save it for my DVR PC. I also couldn’t get hardware-accelerated x264 in .mkv containers with Media Player Classic Homecinema. Windows Media Player seemed to work, but lacked features that I use in MPC-HC…

Real deal: Main PC and “My Documents” hassle
Once I got my SSD, I installed the x64 version on my main computer. This time I remembered to not activate Windows until I was sure it was suitable. First I tried to remap my user profile’s “My Documents” folder to my “E:\Documents” folder (on another disk of course.) After being confused about “Libraries” for a bit, I went into Properties of C:\Users\Ricky\My Documents and there was a Location tab to change the location. This was new to me, because the old “My Documents” was simply a link to “Documents and Settings\Ricky\My Documents”. Now we have a real folder linking to another real folder. Okay.. so I pointed the location to my regular Documents folder, and as always it asked me if I wanted to move my “existing documents” (I pretty much have none, it’s a fresh install) to the new location. Like I did in XP, I said no, and.. it didn’t work. I ran in circles wondering where My Documents was, so I fired up a program that wrote to “the” directory and it was writing to C:\Users\Ricky\Documents. pretty much a new folder. And this new folder didn’t have a Location tab, so I couldn’t figure out how to change it. I was stumped and gave up for the night.

I decided to make a new user profile to try again, and this time I hit yes.. and it actually worked. That’s silly. Moving on, I loaded Digsby to see if it referenced the new location. I was able to see all of my IM logs again, so I thought it was safe. I started chatting and after a while I noticed that it wasn’t doing any *writing*. Questioning why, I loaded Synergy and tried saving the config file, and it told me “Access is denied”. Okay.. I love proper security practices but I’m the only user of this PC and I don’t care about security between users and operating systems, I just want access to all of my stuff. I gave write permissions to the “Users” group for the disk, and all was well, but that’s not exactly a proper solution. I don’t want to repeat that for all of my disks, and it had trouble taking permissions from some directories. There were so many other things wrong so I moved on..

Taskbar/task grouping/jump menu/Quick Launch/pin buttons:
I’m not a fan of task grouping on the taskbar, not even in XP. In XP you could disable it and it wouldn’t combine similar tasks into a single button, AND it wouldn’t place similar buttons next to each other. I went to the properties page and set buttons to “never combine”, but unfortunately, similar buttons were still next to each other. For that, “7 Taskbar Tweaker” (some third-party program) let me switch “Group by application id” to “Don’t group”. It also let me change the right-click menu to the old-style menu, which I use for the really close proximity of “Close”. “Close” *may* be on the bottom of the new-style menu, but it’s more pixels up than I’m used to (I’ve used the exact same mouse and sensitivity for over 6 years so I don’t even look to rightclick-close items on the taskbar anymore.) For both of these functions, I would hope that some registry edit is enough and a third-party program isn’t necessary.. so I’ll figure that one out later.

I use Quick Launch in moderation, only for applications that I will click multiple times in a day. Namely Firefox and a file browser. Shells/calculator/notepad are used sparingly but still used a couple times in a day. I can pin these items to 7’s taskbar, but that caused a different issue.. When the application was open, I couldn’t click the icon again to open another instance of the application. I discovered that middle-click would open another instance, and it’s an interesting UI feature that I should probably follow.. But I went through all the hassle of getting Quick Launch back! =[ The problem is, I’d have to hit the existing tab to launch another instance, instead of the predefined area, which takes slightly longer to do since I’d have to find the application.. (I’m all about optimization/speed/Starcraft here..)

Speaking of which, StarCraft doesn’t really work well. And I installed the standard nVidia drivers for win7x64 but the “Change flat panel scaling” option wasn’t even to be found. For resolutions without matching aspect ratios, I prefer the “keep ratio + stretch” option.. so now I can’t play any games.

Cygwin sshd wasn’t too bad but still annoying. Cygwin itself + the retarded file permissions all over the place are making things unusable.. I can’t use SVN right now..

The UI is significantly less responsive than it was in XP. Winamp, Firefox, Digsby, selecting items on the desktop, you name it. Thank you bloat. Windows gave my system 5.4/7.0/6.7/6.7/7.4 (CPU/Mem/Aero/Gfx/HD out of 7.9) for Windows Experience ratings. Now it’s making me upgrade my CPU when my 4850e was plenty for XP. -_-

I like the new way of hiding system tray icons in 7. Yay..

I also like front panel audio jack detection (though I had it with drivers in XP) and auto-switch/separate set of volume control settings. May have existed in Vista though.

I’ll end it there.. there’s a lot of other crap that I don’t even want to think about right now.