My precious

My new MacBook arrived yesterday, so I’ve been playing around with it since last night. It’s unbelievably snappy, likely due to the Core 2 Duo chip inside it. I also bumped the configuration up to 2GB of RAM when I ordered it, which is a good idea for pretty much any modern system.

I might have even gone to more, but the Intel chipset inside this system only supports 2GB. The MacBook Pro’s chipset will address 3GB, but to get that configuration you’d have to do 2x2GB sticks and lose 1GB. Anything over 3GB isn’t going to be accessible under a 32-bit operating system, and nobody I know wants to run a 64-bit OS on the desktop full time. OS X 10.5 will change this, because things will pretty much be transparent.

What’s more, the GMA950 card that I’ve previously panned for being slow and nearly worthless actually performs pretty well. I had both my 1680×1050 LCD monitor and the 1280×800 display on the MacBook running last night, and there was less GUI “lag” than my iMac had. (OS X, by nature of its accelerated graphics, tends to have a slower “immediate redraw” rate than WinXP when resizing windows.)

I’ve yet to try any games on it, but that’s not really what this system’s for. Primarily, I wanted something small and light, and the fact that it runs OS X natively is pretty damn cool.

Music reviews ahoy

Since I have quite the collection of music, I figure that a productive use of my time would be to review some of the albums in my playlist. While it’s not at all cool to admit, I’m a bit of a sucker for the occasional “emo” track. (For all the purists, not “emotional hardcore” by any means. Think “angst emo.”) There’s more information in my Facebook profile about particular groups I listen to. I find most genre classifications to be fluid and subjective, depending on the listener and their associated company.

Why the emo angst stuff, though? Sometimes I listen to these songs with an ironic sense of the actual lyrics. A well-adjusted person would find it hard not to laugh when confronted with a masterpiece from Hawthorne Heights:

Ohio Is For Lovers – Hawthorne Heights
So cut my wrists and black my eyes.
(Cut my wrists and black my eyes)
So I can fall asleep tonight, or die.
Because you kill me.

Honestly, you can’t take that sort of thing seriously. It has the syndrome of “did your dad yell at you because you didn’t mow the lawn?” as its primary element.

I can’t blame all of my particular musical tastes on irony (although a good percentage of rap or hip-hop in my collection is clearly for this purpose alone.) Sometimes you can’t listen to the lyrics at all, because if you do it ruins the particular melody of a decent-sounding song. So what if power chords in a 3 beat pattern are trite, cliche and overused? It all just blends together in the background if I’m working on something particular. For example, if I were to write out several lyrics of my current track:

But I can’t take this anymore
I think that nothing can fly
With this broken wing
There’s so much to hold on to now

At first glance, it’s a horribly depressing song. Nobody wants to hear about being prevented from flying. Pretty little birds fly, and we don’t want to lose those! A majestic eagle flies, representing all that is true and valiant and good! Many of our culture’s upbeat, positive songs involve flying! (Note: the particular track, “I Believe I Can Fly,” is positive only when you don’t consider R. Kelly’s criminal record and its associated connotations.) The song above is actually Story of the Year’s “Burning Years.” It’s got a fairly decent melody, but you cannot just concentrate on the lyrics or it’s really horribly depressing.

Speaking of Story of the Year, they have two significant albums on the market. Their 2003 release, “Page Avenue”, has the title track Until The Day I Die that’s possibly the best representation of their vocal and tonal style on the album. In 2005, “In The Wake Of Determination” continued in a similar vein with We Don’t Care Anymore. If you want to fanboy it up, the Wikipedia article is suitably biased towards them and their fans, whereas the talk page contains mostly genre debates.

(The particular fallacy of “In my opinion, as i think i have the right to decide – being a loyal fan and a supporter” is quite predominant.)

svchost.exe causing 99% – 100% CPU usage, solution follows

Update March 5, 2007: Microsoft has apparently released a patch for this issue available publicly at KB article Q927891. This specific article exactly describes the issue I had with a client’s computer. I backtracked a few referral links to this post and noticed the discussion on Ars Technica’s forums. Thanks to people there for following up on this.


Quick note for the tech-savvy: I’ve been reinstalling several systems lately for clients, and here’s something to check on your own boxes if you’re having strange stalling or CPU usage problems.

This problem typically occurs under these circumstances:

  • You have Windows 2000, XP or 2003 Server installed on your system (I’m not sure if Vista is affected)
  • You’ve installed Microsoft Update as the Windows Update page recommends
  • You have a copy of Microsoft Office 2003 or any Office 2003 applications installed (this could affect previous versions, too)

If your CPU usage is randomly spiking to 99% or 100% with a svchost.exe instance, download Process Explorer and look for the svchost.exe instance that’s pegging your machine’s processor. If, when you expand the process, you see “wuauclt.exe” or a Windows Update thread running, your problem is related to this bug.

Microsoft does have a KB article about this issue (927891) and it’s been mentioned by a few Microsoft MVP’s – here’s how you go about getting the official hotfix. If you don’t want to go through all that rigamarole, I’ll be calling in this week to acquire the hotfix for some of my clients experiencing this issue.

Alternatively, to fix it RIGHT DAMN QUICK NOW? Hit the jump.

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DVD Decrypter Ripping Tutorial

If you’re interested in ripping DVD’s with Decrypter, check out this Wink tutorial I’ve created. This demo briefly shows you how to use File ripping mode to decrypt and rip content on DVD discs to your hard drive.

Note that this process may be subject to your local copyright laws. I assume no responsibility for what you choose to do with this process! It’s a tech demo demonstrating Wink features, for informational and educational purposes.

Two dead hard drives, two days

There have been a plethora of hard drive problems I’ve had to deal with this year. In the past two days, I’ve had to repeat the wonderful Windows XP installation/update process three times – once for one of my servers (Windows XP/Apache2.2/PHP/MySQL stack) and twice for client systems whose hard drives just up and quit.

In January, my cousin’s P3/733 gave up the ghost in the same way – rather than buying a new hard drive and installing Windows again, he opted to go out and get a MacBook. It ended up costing him a bit more than he wanted to spend, but the system works for him now instead of Media Player giving a “Windows Genuine Advantage” failure every time he tried to play a video file. (Admittedly, I’m unsure exactly where this XP copy came from, but it shouldn’t prevent him from launching a previous version, like v10, of Media Player.) In the meantime, he ended up using VLC to play all video files. After attempting to reset the product key to a known, valid one, both using Microsoft’s official key change application and a widely-known registry patch:

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Oh, the humanity!

[R]eading YouTube comments is a pretty stern test of the ol’ faith in humanity.

I couldn’t agree more. The hierarchy of Internet commenting goes, from best to worst:

  • Slashdot/Kuro5hin
  • SA Forums
  • Generic blog comments
  • Blog comments on a linked-from Digg site
  • Digg comments
  • YouTube comments
  • GameFAQs, IGN, Xbox.com Forums

Are people not accountable for what they write online anymore? I guarantee you wouldn’t see as many racist, misogynistic, crap-filled comments if people had to post using their full name. There should really be some sort of standard for online posting – that’s why I like Something Awful and the SA forums. The $10 registration fee really encourages quality contributions, giving a more tangible value to your alias.

Xbox 360 dashboard update and efuses

Some recent news over at Xbox-Scene has made it clear that Microsoft fully intends to exploit the enhanced security features of the IBM PowerPC-based CPU. Effectively, once you’ve installed the January 2007 update for the console (kernel version 4552), you’ve tripped an “efuse” that refuses to boot prior kernel versions. There may be up to 32 of these software-programmable switches, and once the efuse has been set it cannot be reversed.

This situation is similar to the electronic countermeasures employed by DirecTV in attempting to disable satellite decryption cards. On Black Sunday, writing invalid data to a PROM caused pirate smart cards to refuse to bootstrap the satellite receiver. In this case, tripping the efuse in the CPU prevents the Xbox 360 from booting previous kernel versions.

It might now be possible to sympathize with people who claim that “the latest dashboard update bricked my console”, considering that there are two ways for the update to cause the condition:

from x-s forums:

Looks like what is happening is either:

A) During the update the EFuse doesn’t blow and the dash updates fine which when checked by Hypervisor returns a no boot condition

B) During the update the EFuse blows correctly and the update DOES NOT flash correctly which when checked by the Hypervisor returns a no boot condition.

For more information on the update package itself, including a string extraction, hit the jump.

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VX2025wm and Ubuntu 6.10

I’ve always seemed to have more trouble setting up monitors and displays under Linux than should be warranted. Cobbling together a few forum posts from Google, here’s what I’ve come up with in xorg.conf that seems to have my VX2025wm working at native 1680×1050@60Hz resolution. You may not need the ModeLine parameter, depending on how your monitor is hooked up – mine runs through a KVM box that doesn’t much like passing resolutions > 1280×1024. Get the changes and xorg.conf after the jump…
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