Archive for the ‘Hardware and Drivers’ Category

Windows XP SP3 – time for an exorcism?

I am beginning to think that SP3 was Microsoft’s “killer” app for Windows XP so folks would get frustrated with XP and move to Vista … and at the same time, when they move to Vista, they wouldn’t have too high of expectations.

Looks to me like Microsoft has just proven that Apple definitely does it better! And Microsoft has no room to ever say a word about Linux, ever again!

Talk about a true dog of a Service Pack! Some folks may not be having problems, but some clients have been through h*ll this past week with their haunted XP SP3 systems after the September 2008 Windows Updates.

We had, obviously wrongly, thought we were out of the woods when we were able to get all the updates for the hardware and software in preparation for SP3 and then the SP3 update went very smoothly and worked well for about a month … until the September 2008 Windows Updates turned one client’s set of computers into possessed computers that would all of a sudden decide that their printers were no longer installed, or Outlook or Firefox or Quickbooks. Or just puke when Adobe Distiller tried to convert to PDF.

By last night they seemed to be working OK, but gawd knows what today will bring. I hope they are out of the woods, but there’s no way to be sure till they try to work with them today. I was beginning to think the computers needed an exorcist. And they still might. If so, I sure hope Microsoft made a safe reversal on SP3.

I can not believe they didn’t test these stupid updates better than this! We were so careful and waited at least a number of months before installing SP3 to make sure SP3 wasn’t creating problems after installation before we figured it was safe to install it.

I think like many, we just thought that once you finally were able to get the daggone thing installed Microsoft would do better than this on the updates. Knowing full well that many people depend on their computers for work!

I think this posting at blogcritics pretty much continues to sum up my feelings on it:

I’d like to extend a nice big F-U to Microsoft for releasing yet another product that’s screwing up my computer (pardon my French). Windows XP SP3 has been out for a few months and I haven’t heard about the world coming crashing down as a result, so I figured it might be safe to install. HA! I should have known the clowns in Redmond wouldn’t be able to get this right.

Well, Microsoft, you’ve managed to once again make people skiddish about installing security updates … Thanks for nothing Microsoft.

Well, it turns out it is Mozilla and Apple!

Turns out that the problem I was having regarding speaking text was both Apple And Mozilla.

I went into the Speech section of the System Preferences, and looked at the setting for the keystrokes for speaking text and set it to Control V. Now even though it doesn’t it ‘show’ Speak under Services, Speech, it does now work in Mozilla Firefox, Thunderbird and SeaMonkey by highlighting and using the Control V key combo.

Very happy there was a work around for it. :D (At least for the Speak Text).

Still need to have Thunderbird be able to print individual Address Book cards; instead of only the complete Address Book. That only changed recently and I don’t like it one bit. Very annoying issue.

Next Mac OS X — 10.6 — at WWDC 2008? another big cat? end of PPC?

Well, it makes sense that 10.6 will be announced soon especially with Steve Jobs’ comments to the New York Times regarding major Mac OS X, but at WWDC 2008? Hard to say.

There is also the naming question brought up at Mac360 as well …some say the only big cat left is Lion. But even a cursory look at wikipedia’s big cat page would indicate that Lion isn’t the only one unless you go with strict ‘big cat’ names. A more expansive list also includes things like Cougar, Snow Leopard, Clouded Leopard and Cheetah (or Puma) (which Apple has been used already and broke the ice for the more expansive Big Cat naming for Mac OS X).

My guess would be Cougar. I would think that would be the most logical choice. Wait to use Lion till they move to an all Intel based Macs and maybe proved their dominance might be a better choice of timing to use “The King” Lion.

And if the RoughlyDrafted magazine/blog article was correct in 2007 about their thoughts on Unraveling the PPC Myth (linked in their Leopard and the History and Future of Mac OS X on PPC article noted above), then it’s not likely going to be with 10.6.

I tend to be leaning toward RoughlyDrafted being right on that score, at least after reading over the history of Apple again in those two articles.

Also, Ars Technica last year also didn’t give any real hope that ZFS would be in 10.5 — maybe have to wait for 10.6, but I don’t think so. Too soon. I think they will wait for the next one, 10.7? or whatever that will be called. Might as well wait to do ZFS when it goes to all Intel Macs makes more sense. Make the major change then.

So, I would say Cougar makes more sense at this time. No Lion King here yet…no MAJOR change to the underpinning….yet.

And really, if the truth be known about Cougars — the Cougars are nothing to sneeze at! And with this description: “This large, solitary cat has the greatest range of any wild terrestrial mammal in the Western Hemisphere,[3] extending from Yukon in Canada to the southern Andes of South America.”?? Doesn’t that sound like the desire of Apple with their next version of Mac OS X? To be the most broadly used Mac OS/computers?

Which also would indicate (to me) that they would not want to ditch PPC just yet either … like the RoughlyDrafted articles indicated.

I really think that Microsoft made that Mistake with Vista. And I really hope Apple will not make that same mistake. But who knows with the Entertainment Cartels whispering in their ears just like they did with Microsoft…

When the dust settles and if the Entertainment Cartels get their big Win (controlling when and where you can view content on every front from TV (HDTV, computers, etc.), and the Major OS makers have totally pissed off their real paying customers, we shall see what happens then. But I think we’ve already had about enough of that as evidenced by this ExtremeTech article entitled, “How the Hollywood Morons Can Beat the Pirates! (Thanks Adam for the link!!)

EDIT: Well, I guess I had a better opinion of Apple than I should have. Apparently, according to MacRumers, who was reporting on an article from Ars Technica, Apple has decided to turn PPC users away now after all. Oh, and it’s Snow Leopard, not Cougar. More like Nuclear Winter. Very unhappy Mac user here. What a crock!

Ed Bott breaths life back into a $2500 Sony Vaio “brick”

It takes a big hearted computer technician/journalist, Ed Bott to take this ‘$2500 brick’ (as Jeremy Toeman called it – check out the youtube video) back from the dead. (and how many people will have an “Ed Bott as Jeremy also said in the video on the page).

Ed Bott couldn’t even use the restore disks because of all the crapware that Sony put on it! So, basically he had to use a clean install from a Vista Retail version and then call Microsoft to validate it. And he also had to go looking for drivers for most of the hardware. He couldn’t just use the ones that had come with the Vaio because they were flakey!

And it’s not just this one from 11 months ago. Ed got another one direct from Sony. Thankfully it was more stable with Vista SP1 with all the crapware so he could at least get rid of the crapware and then update the drivers but even that experience wasn’t without incident.

Normal average users would not know how to do this! They will need a technician to do this stuff for them! It’s no wonder Jeremy Toeman and others like him were/are so upset with their new OEM computers running Vista!

From Jeremy’s blog posting: “Until a PC company follows any of this advice, Apple will continue to gain market share, and here’s why: Virtually all MacBook users today are happily recommending others to try MacBooks, with a predictable, reliable recommendation. PC users cannot as easily do the same. I had a great Vaio, then a terrible one. I’ve used Toshibas before (great – in the 90s), a Gateway (wasn’t bad), and 3 Dells now (one good, one bad, one ugly). But they are all vastly different.”

But OEM manufacturers weren’t the only problem from day one with Vista. It’s just the latest to surface. Vista had trouble with upgrades as well and that was uglier than the OEMs. And alot of that had to do with drivers — oh, and non-functional software! And don’t forget many gamers programs!

Even Ballmer recently stated that Vista was not done yet, errr, “A work in progress.”
This was much worse than the XP situation when it came out (which was pretty bad in itself). WinXP SP1, actually it was more SP2 that finally corrected things for WinXP. But the problems continue to plague many who try to upgrade to SP1 of Vista. Of course to prevent many of the problems resulting from upgrading to SP1. They are saying it’s best to upgrade FROM a clean install to have the best results.

I sure hope they do a better job with the next one (Windows 7) — but I am not holding my breath.

DirectX 10 Hardware Is Now Obsolete

A friend today was telling me about a situation with new video cards, DirectX 10, games like Bioshock that are really frustrating to Gamers.

The copyright holders/developers of Bioshock apparently have an activation revoke tool. And I am sure they are not the only ones!

Most gamers knew that they were waiting for the changes in Vista to make gaming work right in Vista, but I don’t think they expected this!

If you want proof of the abuses of copyright holders and software developers and how they are abusing their place in the world through Vista the Enabler, apparently Bioshock is one to take a peak at.

Say you have a gamer who buys the game. He currently has a GeForce 88xx PCIe video card on a Vista system. He runs Windows Update which in turn installs the new updates for DirectX 10…which apparently shuts off (for no apparent reason) the eye candy the card is fully capable of doing in the game, and had before the update.

Out of frustration, he buys the next version of video card that supports the new updates to DirectX 10 …. for $549!!!

Now he figures he can go back and play Bioshock and really get a great game going! But NO!!!! HE goes back to play Bioshock only to find his activation was revoked for a change in hardware!!!

So after the third time changing hardware, he now has run out of activation credits.

Now he has to purchase the game again.

Then I go to do some searches in Google to see if others are having this type of trouble, and low and behold Slashdot has this: DirectX 0 Hardware is now Obsolete.

DirectX 10 Hardware Is Now Obsolete
Posted by Zonk on Sat Aug 11, 2007 05:41 AM
from the shouldn’t-have-blinked dept.
Windows Graphics Hardware Games
ela_gervaise writes “SIGGRAPH 2007 was the stage where Microsoft dropped the bomb, informing gamers that the currently available DirectX 10 hardware will not support the upcoming DirectX 10.1 in Vista SP1. In essence, all current DX10 hardware is now obsolete. But don’t get too upset just yet: ‘Gamers shouldn’t fret too much – 10.1 adds virtually nothing that they will care about and, more to the point, adds almost nothing that developers are likely to care about. The spec revision basically makes a number of things that are optional in DX10 compulsory under the new standard – such as 32-bit floating point filtering, as opposed to the 16-bit current. 4xAA is a compulsory standard to support in 10.1, whereas graphics vendors can pick and choose their anti-aliasing support currently. We suspect that the spec is likely to be ill-received. Not only does it require brand new hardware, immediately creating a minuscule sub-set of DX10 owners, but it also requires

Lots of very interesting comments at Slashdot on this.

All those folks that said, you don’t know what you are talking about. That I can still do everything on Vista that I could on XP and Win2K … read it and weep.

I kept saying it is not now! It’s later. Vista is the Enabler. The copyright holders and developers will not want to ‘sqeeze’ too hard till they have a decent number of suckers, errrr, users on Vista before ‘squeezing.’

Of course this is really not the first time (see WGA and other DRM issues, etc), but somehow all the other times was some sort of fluke that quietly gets fixed, or oh, that’s just the way it is with Vista. But now things are starting to change for users, eh? How many users will be affected by this do you think?

What say ye, now?

By the way, thumbsup to ID Software and others who create their games for OpenGL so it can be ported easily to other OSes like Mac and Linux/UNIX. And not be hit by this Microsoft operating system centric DirectX lockin crap.

Thanks Charlie for the confirmation so I could go looking for examples of this!

Single and Multi Color Printer Cartridges and Other Futility

Printer cartridges … don’t get me started!! LOL!

I was reading my WindowsSecrets Newsletter this morning (here’s the complimentary version of the issue to view) … and I was already intrigued by Brian Livingston’s article entitled, “SkipRearm doesn’t work, activation still broken,” then I started reading Scott Dunn’s article entitled, “Epson’s claims of cheaper ink are empty” and this hit a sore spot with me.

Cost per page is a very slippery slope.

Depending upon what type of “picture pages” (credit to Captain Kangaroo on that one) – meaning not the different types of pages, but the various colors that those pictures will include – will determine true cost effectiveness with print cartridges at any given time.

In an ideal world (without massively overstated copyright and patent laws), since the printer companies can make the cartridges for pennies, they should sell them for much less than they currently do, IMHO.

Elsewhere, I was reading about Apple’s iPhone costing twice what it cost to make it. LOL! And this is bad. Yes, it is. But not nearly as bad as the print cartridge percentages!! Some have done costing with printing, but has no one ever REALLY questioned this oppressive problem with printing costs/cost of printer cartridges??

We have an HP Wireless All in One printer, very nice printer in many ways. Since they charge about $10 per color cartridge, and about $18 for a black cartridge, it can be an expensive proposition with 5 or 6 cartridges in a printer. Less so, to some degree, if you replace each color only as needed, since that would be $10 instead of $36-56 or more per cartridge).

On the other hand, replacing an entire color (all colors in one cartridge) cartridge ($36-$56 or more) depending upon the printer, for ONE color that is out is totally ludicrous.

Many times you run out of one color long before the others. If you could have replaced that one color for a fraction of the cost, it is certainly better than throwing away a cartridge with maybe as much as 1/2 of the other colors still in the cartridge, because you happened to print a page or pages that use more of one color than the others consistently. This actually happens quite frequently. Even so, $10 a color is still highway robbery, IMHO. How many actual prints do you get for that $10??

Compare that with the cost of film developing a few years ago? Seeing any correlation?

And God forbid that your ‘intelligent’ printer decides that today it will have a superiority complex, and won’t except your new cartridge this time for some unknown reason, and says it’s still out of ink after putting in a brand new cartridge. Believe me, it does happen! It happened to us a couple months ago.

In our older HP printers, there is no choice but to replace the entire cartridge to the tune of $36 because we ran out of red or blue or yellow, that is until we found a surplus store online that sell them for considerably less.

But there aren’t many options for the newer printers to get them at major discounts like the older printers. You will still pay 6.99-9.99 per color (more for the slightly bigger black cartridge) in the Wireless Photosmart FOR EACH COLOR – and there are about 5/6 cartridges in there. But that’s better than paying the cost of some of the other newer printers with less cartridges and some colors together in one cartridge for the $35-$50 or more range per cartridge.

The problem is not so much whether the printer has one cartridge or many, the problem is that the printer companies are sucking their customers dry. It’s like highway robbery. They hook people in with these very inexpensive printers (sold at a discount so they can make it up later on the cartridges, over and over and over) .. So they nickel and dime ya to death till the printer dies and they try another one from that company or another company that is just as inexpensive.

Throw away printers … that’s gotta be good for the environment, right? With all the electronic boards inside, etc.? I can just see them stacking up in the landfill.

Sometimes it’s almost less expensive in the long run to get a really cheap printer on sale, install the drivers, print till you run out of ink and then go buy another $49 printer … it’s cheaper than replacing the cartridges!!

This is the crazy world we live in. And hardware/electronics companies love it! Particularly printer companies.

Instead of seeing that they have the golden goose and if they would just treat customers fairly they could keep their golden goose happy and healthy, they get the greedy company syndrome, they do the same ‘ole, same ‘ole that other greedy companies seem to get themselves into….burn customers on every purchase and keep them over a barrel. It’s what I like to refer to as the ‘laundromat syndrome.’

Sometimes I think people get so fed up because they really have no choice if they like the printer they have, or maybe they don’t want to have to go through the annoyance of time and frustration installing over 300MB of drivers and software for yet another printer (and of course they all want to do that). Not only that, will they uninstall the old one first … likely not if they are not that savvy of a computer user. What a registry and hard drive and potentially compatibility nightmare over time.

I don’t know; it’s a real quandary. No matter what anyone says, you can’t seem to change the printer companies’ mentality because they are just that greedy! And amazingly enough, it is working for them! Why? Because they are ALL doing it! Every single printer company is price gouging, IMHO…Except maybe this Kodak one that Corrine is talking about in her blog posting…not bad really. Is that only for photo paper or normal pages too?

It’s that “dollar down and a dollar a week” mentality that started with the ‘ole ‘company store’ … “St. Peter don’t you call me, ’cause I can’t go; I owe my soul to the company store!” (credit to Tennessee Ernie Ford and his song Sixteen Tons). Except of course now in today’s society, it’s more like $100 down and a $1 a day or more!!

Every bank/credit card company, music and movie CD/DVD subscription services, magazine and book club, satellite/cable company, as well as printer and other hardware/electronics companies are trying to get you hooked on them for a dollar down and a dollar a week forever.

And why not, it worked for the utility companies and insurance companies, God knows the debt monster is working really well for the banks and credit card companies. Sheesh, it even works for charitable organizations, right? It’s only 50 cents a day, less than a cup of coffee….

But, it’s their golden goose and don’t you mess with their golden goose … they may not treat the goose well, but don’t you try to make life better for the goose by pointing out the futility.

The worst problem with so many of the “dollar down and a dollar a week plans” is that you don’t really own anything for that money. You pay, errr, overpay for the cartridges, then it’s gone. It’s hard to know what to spend all your dollar down and a dollar a week things on. If you are not careful, you will have no money to live on while you pay for everyone else’s livlihood.

Don’t get me wrong, many are very worthwhile, but even then you have to be cautious right? You can’t afford every subscription you think is worthwhile, can you?

But some ‘dollar down and a dollar a week’ things are totally gone before you know it (consumables like printer cartridges, etc.). Sad because then both the item and the money are gone forever.

I am not saying we need to cut out all consumables from our lives. If we did that we couldn’t eat now could we? ;)

I am saying we need to be cautious and we need to point out when things don’t make sense … like the cost of printer cartridges which are probably in the hundreds of percentages of mark up over cost of production … It has been said, that mark up of 45-50% is reasonable over cost. But some companies think that mark ups in the hundreds of percent are reasonable!?! Especially when the ‘consumable’ will be gone VERY quickly and they will have to feed the beast if they want to print.

Why the iPhone will change the (PC) world

Why the iPhone will change the (PC) world – article by Mike Elgan (Mike’s List/The Raw Feed) posted on ComputerWorld.

Imagine an iPhone the size of a big-screen TV. That’s the PC of the future.

I really enjoyed reading Mike’s piece on the iPhone and what it might or hopefully will mean to the (PC) World. Thanks to Mike’s List for including it so I didn’t have to wait to see it elsewhere!

Hope you do too. It talks about the big items that changed how things are done by Apple in the past (putting together great technologies and perfecting them) into something that everyone could get their mind around such as the original Apple computer, The Mac, the iPod, and now the iPhone…hopefully.

Steve Jobs did an amazing job at MacWorld promoting the up and coming iPhone, which lit everyone up over the hope of this very cool new product, even if they didn’t want Cingular, or couldn’t afford the iPhone….like me! LOL!

But Apple certainly has had a few big products that changed the way everyone’s way of doing things, even if they don’t use Macs. Not many companies can say that, especially more than once in their company’s life.

Mike talks about the new iPhone UI (user interface) and how this could well be the next new full sized computer interface.

As Mike so elequently states on page 2, “I don’t know about you, but I think 23 years is a long time to wait. I’m fed up and ready for the next radical leap forward in UI technology. You will, too, once you’ve seen the video I link to at the end of this column.” and this, “Tomorrow’s third-generation PC UI has already been invented. All the research is done. In fact, some elements have been independently developed by dozens of geniuses at multiple research centers, each taking a slightly different approach, but all embracing more than one of the major five elements of tomorrow’s UI.”

Like I was saying in my previous piece on the iPhone (basically my article on talking myself out of wanting one and pretty much getting past it since I didn’t particularly want to be locked into a multi-year contract with Cingular and I really can’t afford an iPhone), there is something really special about the iPhone. There was something so special about it that I really wanted one badly the minute I saw it! I think many of us saw that this was the next generation of computer technology and we all wanted to be a part of the first of this new technologies’ uses….at least I did.

Oh, well. Life goes on.

Mike talks about five components of future computers: Multi-Touch, Gestures, Physics, 3-D, Minimization of icons. Mike goes on to say after discussing these items;

Does all this sound familiar? These are the five core elements of the iPhone user interface. And they do not exist together in any other major product.

Mike did a fantastic job on this 4 page article … well worth reading!

The only thing I could have hoped for more from Mike’s article was a reference to Linux and 3-D rendering. Since really Linux (according to a digg.com article submission 331 days ago ;) )had the capability through an add on to the GUI for 3-D first (at least the kind that Vista and Mac OS X will have in it’s next release coming soon).

But the beauty in 3-D was what Mike was really going for here, objects that you can ‘get your mind around’ and your fingers around, are the really cool part of 3-D that hasn’t arrived in operating systems yet, but the pieces to make it happen have been created already! Better than the 3-D in the original Jurassic Park which seems lame by comparison to the description Mike gives. I will have to view the videos on the broadband to see it in action!

I like the future, I’m in it! (thanks to the forward thinking/prophetic Firesign Theatre for that line ;) )

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