What’re you lookin’ at?

Well I thought it was interesting so here’s the top 10 posts on nerd. by number of views (based on the last 500 page hits courtesy of Statcounter.com).

  1. Review: Why the Netgear WG311 v3 Sucks (72)
    Slightly dodgy network card that Netgear don’t seem that fussed about fixing.

    Bad on XP, it got worse on Vista (see number 4).

  2. Playing iPod Video on Your TV (45)
    Seems to be a lot of people looking for instructions for the iPod Classic. Here’s a tip: sell it.
  3. Server application unavailable: installing IIS on .NET 2.0 (44)
    Seems to be a common problem. Sadly Microsoft’s error message is about as relevant as ever.
  4. Installing Vista (AKA More Netgear WG311 Misery) (31)
    Even more messed up. Thank goodness for Linksys!
  5. Thunderbird/Outlook/Google Calendar Integration (25)
    How to integrate your Thunderbird calendar at home with your Outlook in work, via Google Calendar.
  6. Orange Answerphone (Voicemail) Number for PAYG (23)
    Such a simple problem. Who knew it would be so hard to find?
  7. Stop Monitor.exe Hogging CPU (20)
    Why can’t people just give you a standard installation instead of trying to do everything for you? Help sounds good, until their useful tools start killing your PC.
  8. How to run IIS Web Server in Windows XP Home (20)
    Microsoft’s official line is it can’t be done, but it’s not that tricky.
  9. Making Firefox Scroll With Syanptics TouchPad (19)
    Discovering the solution to making Firefox scroll on my Acer Aspire laptop.
  10. NAS or Home Server (17)
    I deliberate over whether I can justify spending the extra to build or buy a home server before eventually deciding that a Linkstation Live will meet my needs for less than half the price.

Buffalo Linktheater – Workaround for DivX Codec Issues

I was treated to a Buffalo Linktheater Wireless A & G (that’s the version with no DVD player, I think that was a US-only thing) media streamer by my wonderful girlfriend for Christmas. I’ll post a review (hopefully) in the near future, but first I need to get it set up properly. I successfully streamed some video files to it while at my parents’ house for Christmas week. I finally got round to setting it up in my own house tonight to discover a few kinks.

I have been using Windows Media Player 11 (as it’s already built in to Vista, it’s also a free download for XP) as the server to stream from. The problem is that when I tried to browse a particular folder the Linktheater seems to freeze for a while before opening it, and then showing it as empty. When I checked my PC an error message had appeared informing me that “Windows Media Player Network Sharing Service has stopped working”. On clicking “search online” for more information Windows informed me that:

This problem was caused by DivX Codec. DivX Codec was created by DivX, Inc..
DivX, Inc. is aware of this problem and working as quickly as possible to make a solution available.

The Application Event Log contains an entry for each crash with Event ID 1000 and Task Category 100 and a description something along the lines of:

Faulting application wmpnetwk.exe, version 11.0.6000.6324, time stamp 0x4549b540, faulting module divxdec.ax, version 6.8.0.0, time stamp 0x47547cff, exception code 0xc0000005, fault offset 0x0005c021, process id 0xe1c, application start time 0x01c84be4834cb5f8.

which doesn’t really help much.

Workaround

I split the folder in two, and one of the new ones worked fine. I continued like this until I had narrowed the culprit down to be one of two files. However at this stage the folders all displayed their contents fine, including the one containing only the suspects. Now they just wouldn’t play.

After a lot of moving files and much more crashing and restarting of the Windows Media Player Network Sharing Service, I narrowed the culprit down to a particular video file. I’m not sure what the problem was as it had worked fine when streamed from an XP computer also using Windows Media Player 11; in fact it was watched start to finish without any problems.

It may be an issue specific to Vista or the DivX 6.8 codec, either way I’m happy it’s sorted.

If anyone finds out any more about the cause of this kind of problem or a quicker solution, please do let me know. Meanwhile I hope the above helps someone. Oh and the Buffalo Linktheater Wireless A & G is available from Dabs for about £95.

Nokia N95 8GB on Vodafone UK by Christmas

The good news is that Nokia’s new “N95i”, or Nokia N95 8GB as it looks like being officially dubbed, is going to see a UK release this side of Christmas. The bad news is that it seems to be a Vodafone exclusive. This is not good news for anyone that was hoping to get a good deal on it as, in my experience anyway, Vodafone seem to be much more expensive than O2 and Orange in terms of tariff deals (although to be fair they’re all getting more expensive for handset prices).

What’s the big deal with

the new N95 8GB anyway? Well, there are a few tweaks to the N95 formula: for a start I’ve wanted a phone equipped with WiFi for a good while now, but while the N95 met this criterion it apparently ate batteries, so the new 8GB version Nokia are releasing has a bigger battery as well as an even bigger 2.8″ screen (very useful when using the wireless to browse the internet) and has 8GB of internal flash memory instead of an expansion slot. I really badly wanted an N95 but I’ve been hanging off until this comes out, though I may be hoping for too much for Vodafone to have it available on a £30/month tariff before Christmas (the busiest time of the year for mobile phone sales).

Ah well, maybe I can get one in the January sales?

For more info on the N95 8GB see the Nokia or “tweaks” links in the post or see this Dialaphone blog post.

Vista Update

Following my earlier rant about the trial that is installing Vista with a Netgear wireless card, I thought I’d offer an update on that story.

Firstly, my new Linksys (WMP54G v4.1) wireless card is working fine.

Thanks Amazon.

Secondly, I updated the Windows Experience Index score just now. Still the same graphics card in the machine, so I don’t know how but suddenly my desktop graphics rating jumped from showing 2.1 to 4.1, pretty sweet! On viewing the details I also noticed that the graphics card apparently has 334MB of system memory available on top of the 256MB of dedicated RAM. I don’t know if this was the case before or not so can’t say if that influenced the change in score.

Anyway, this brings my overall Windows Experience Index up from 2.1 to 3.0, now based on the Gaming Graphics score (WEI bases your overall experience rating on the lowest score it finds). My system now looks like:

Processor (AMD Athlon 2800+): 3.4
RAM (1.5GB @ 266MHz): 3.7
Graphics (256MB eForce 6200): 4.1
Gaming Graphics: 3.0
Primary Hard Disk (Seagate 120GB 7200rpm): 4.4

Now if anyone can tell me of a Protowall/PeerGuardian substitute that works with Vista I’ll be sorted.

Installing Vista (AKA More Netgear WG311 Misery)

I managed to get a copy of the 32-bit Windows Vista Business from the MSDN Academic Alliance program through university and, after a RAM and graphics card upgrade, and a lot of moving of files to clear a partition for it, I was ready to install Vista. The installation itself went reasonably quickly. After about half an hour I was choosing desktops and playing with the control panel.

I was disappointed to notice that my initial Windows Experience Index (Microsoft’s measure of how pimped your PC is) was disappointing at 2.2, let down by poor graphics performance, considering I’d just spent about £40 on a new 256MB card from Dabs. Maybe it’s because I’m only running AGP4x, I don’t know. Anyway, Vista told me my system was rated as follows:

Processor (AMD Athlon 2800+): 3.4
RAM (1.5GB @ 266MHz): 3.7
Graphics (256MB eForce 6200): 2.2 4.1* – yay!
Gaming Graphics: 3.0
Primary Hard Disk (Seagate 120GB 7200rpm): 4.4

The first spot of trouble came as I tried to get my wireless connection going. The device manager was reporting my Netgear WG311 v3 present and correct, but it wasn’t picking up my network. Oh dear. Anyone familiar with my previous exploits with this card will probably guess I wasn’t very surprised by this.

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Review: Why the Netgear WG311 v3 Sucks

I’ve had the WG311 wireless PCI card from Netgear since I initially set up my home wireless network a few months ago. In that time it has been no end of f**king trouble!!

The first problem I had was that on installation was that the connection would cut out inexplicably (the router was about 2 feet away through a plasterboard wall), but wouldn’t actually realise that it had been disconnected (either running the Netgear utility or the Windows Wireless Zero configuration, both seemed to think they were still connected despite the lack of traffic.

Fortunately I also had a nearly clean partition with Windows XP Pro installed, so I tried using it with that. Here it seemed ok, for a few hours anyway. It turned out it was suffering from the same problem, but it the connection lasted for 8-12 hours rather than 30-90 minutes.

I tried everything. I used the Netgear utility; upgraded the drivers to the latest version from the Netgear website (1.1 – despite well-known problems with Windows XP SP 2, they’ve only ever produced one revision); I disabled the Netgear utility and just used the Windows Wireless Zero Configuration (uninstalling and reinstalling the card between times to be doubly sure there was nothing left lurking on the system). Nothing seemed to work.

A Solution?

Eventually I downloaded the drivers provided by Marvell, the original manufacturers of the chipset for the v3 version of the WG311 (Netgear seem to bring out different, incompatible versions of the same card with chipsets from different manufacturers to allow them to shop around for parts- and you can’t usually choose which one you get when you buy, not that the previous versions of the WG311 were problem-free). Shock of shock, the Marvell drivers actually worked!! Netgear should just bundle them with the card instead of their own messed up piece of crap they call a ‘utility’.

Now all I had to worry about was the fact that since moving the PC with the WG311 in it to a different room, the signal was extremely weak and intermittent. Having little experience with wireless networks, I just assumed this was because, despite only being about 10 feet away, there were 3 plasterboard walls between the router and the PC. Still blaming the router, I was on the verge of ordering a stronger antenna when my brand spanking new laptop arrived and in the same room, it was getting a “Very Good” signal at 54 Mbps; imagine my pure rage!

So that’s that. After a few months of pain after pain in the ass with Netgear’s WG311 v3, I’ve given up and am planning to replace the card in the near future. What’s the point in a wireless network card that only works when its right beside the router?

If you’re having similar problems, you might find the Marvell drivers (MV-S800374-00.zip) useful. That said I make no warranty as to their usefulness, and Marvell probably won’t either since I can’t find a link to the file from their site. Use at your own risk.

Also, see this follow-up for the next chapter of my battle with the Netgear WG311v3.

BT / Netgem Iplayer+ Review

There are lots of patronising adverts on television telling us to ‘go digital’. A few years ago I decided to get a Digital Terrestrial Television (Freeview) box for my student house and plumped for the BT / Netgem Iplayer. I’ve now decided to generously share my thoughts on such product after a couple of years use; because that’s how nice I am.

A few years ago I purchased a (Netgem) BT Iplayer Freeview box (a returned sale) for £30 from ebay so I could get Freeview in my room in a student house in Belfast. Now, a couple of years on, I’ve decided to share my experience of this particular piece of kit.

From what I’d read on the subject on the internet, it seemed unlikely that the loop antenna on my TV wouldn’t be sufficient to receive DTT (Freeview), even though the iPlayer supposedly performed better than other boxes when there was a weak signal. I assumed my house would have poor reception (particularly in my downstairs room) so I also grabbed an amplified set-top aerial from Argos and was initially quite impressed with the quality of the picture and sound. In fact, aside from the fact that initially the EPG was only a now/next (see below), I would have been delighted.

Setting Up

The box immediately auto-tuned to pick up the available channels; the standard 5, plus ITV2, BBC Three and Four etc. The picture’s good, although subject to interference from mobile phones and cars outside (I blame that on the set-top aerial though). The on-screen display menus make it easy to configure your box the way you like it.

Features

The box itself is packed with features. Mine was the BT Iplayer, meaning that although it was manufactured by Netgem, it was BT-branded and came with different features, such as on-screen caller ID when plugged into your phone line, at the expense of a Top-Up TV slot (which wasn’t a problem as I wouldn’t waste my money on Topup TV anyway). Other than that the boxes were nearly identical, and thanks to a subsequent software upgrade (downloaded through the box’s built-in modem) I now have a Topup TV-capable “Iplayer+” (complete with 7-day EPG) anyway.

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