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.

Server application unavailable: installing IIS on .NET 2.0

I feel so dirty, but for a project I’m working on at the moment I have to use ASP.NET instead of PHP; “why?” is a question for another day. Anyway, I’ve installed IIS before so that wasn’t a big problem… or so I thought.

I already had the .NET 2.0 framework on my XP machine so went straight to installing IIS (5.1 comes with XP Pro). It installed easily enough and my hello world html file was served without any major problems (actually that’s not true, before I copied my own files across I tried to check the IIS default pages served ok only to discover, through more googling, that if I used IE instead of Firefox that annoying box asking me for a password would go away).

Now my ASP.NET issue. I got a Server application unavailable error message in big red letters when I tried to run any .aspx (ASP.NET) scripts and couldn’ t figure ou

t for the life of me why. The Event Viewer, where IIS errors are logged, gave little more by way of help: Failed to initialize the AppDomain:/LM/W3SVC/1/ROOT

Err… What?! I worked out that it wasn’t affecting html pages, just ASP ones – and only .aspx ones at that, suggesting it was .NET-related.

As it turns out the problem was that I had installed .NET before IIS. It’s easy enough to fix, but it took 20 solid minutes of googling to find the solution in a Microsoft community newsgroup (and then realise that I’d have found it already if I’d just read to the bottom of a 4 year old forum post I’d already found).

Anyway, what you need to do if you’re getting this “Server application unavailable” message is navigate to your .NET directory (something like C:\WINDOWS\Microsoft.NET\Framework\v2.0.50727) in a command prompt and run the command aspnet_regiis.exe -i which will register ASP.NET with IIS. If that still doesn’t work, there’s always PHP.net 😉

Making Firefox Scroll With Synaptics TouchPad

Even though, as a web designer, I hate Internet Explorer I’ve been using it regularly on my laptop more or less since I got it. The reason for this sad state of affairs was that Firefox wouldn’t recognise the scroll buttons on the Synaptics TouchPad and so I’d have to scroll using the cursor keys or the scroll bar on the right. This situation finally became untenable this morning though – I had two instances of Microsoft’s Visual Web Developer open and the machine seemed frustratingly slow to respond. A quick duke at Task Manager confirmed that this was because lots of memory was being used.

The Visual Web Developer program uses a lot of memory but I was surprised to find that Internet Explorer was actually using more at about 60MB. Firefox, also running at the time, was only using about 20MB so I decided it was time to fix the scrolling problem. I googled a bit and came across reports of people testifying that they solved the problem by downloading the newest drivers from Synaptics’ web site. This didn’t work for me though. Then I came across this forum post at Mozillazine which talked about changing a setting for the scroll buttons from “scroll selected item” to “scroll item beneath pointer”. Unfortunately this didn’t work for me either.

Here’s what did (after installing those new drivers):

  1. Double-click the touchpad icon in the system tray
  2. Ensure the correct device is selected in the Device Settings tab and click the Settings button
  3. Open the Buttons list and click ‘Scroll Up Button Action’
  4. Choose “Scroll the current window up” from the list.
  5. Click the ‘Scroll Down Button Action’ and choose ‘Scroll the current window down’ from the list.
  6. Apply/OK out.

Voila! Firefox now scrolls. I later discovered that someone else had replied to the above Mozillazine forum post advising just that, but I assure you I discovered it myself quite by accident.

Anyway, during the course of this fiddling I also discovered that you can use the right hand edge of your touch pad for scrolling. Just move your finger up or down the far right edge of your touch pad and the window scrolls. Unlike the scroll buttons, this did work in Firefox regardless of the above setting (though according to this KnowledgeBase entry, it may require the newest drivers), so if you’re having problems with Firefox scrolling with a Synaptics touchpad device, you should now have two solutions. Enjoy!

Going x64 on an Acer Aspire 5003 wlmi

Back in October/November time I got myself a new laptop for university and general showyness. I didn’t want to spend too much money and, following a recommendation from a friend, decided to check out LaptopsDirect.co.uk. Soon enough I’d plumped for the Acer Aspire 5003 wlmi – a 64-bit AMD-based laptop with 512MB of RAM. Having taken note of the 64-bit Turion mobile processor, I initially found it highly strange that the laptop shipped with a 32-bit version of Windows XP Home, rendering the 64-bit processor about as much use as a chocolate teapot (OK, as much use as a 32-bit processor anyway). Then again, this is the same machine which for some reason has a hard drive partitioned into two 40GB volumes, both formatted using the FAT32 file system. Honest to God.

I realise there are issues with drivers with x64 machines and put the perplexing decision to ship 32-bit Windows down to that, however after a lot of hunting a thread Planet AMD64 provided links to x64 drivers for both Acer’s Ferarri 4000 range and their Aspire 5020, which seem to work for the 5000 series too. Maybe it was just laziness.

Continue reading “Going x64 on an Acer Aspire 5003 wlmi”

BT Admits 21CN’s True Speed

Anyone who has read my previous posts here may have gleaned that I have a certain disdain for big companies over-hyping their own products. Having seen so many instances of BT coming so close to telling outright lies as makes no difference, I was understandably sceptical when I heard BT claims that their 21st Century Network (21CN) would give users broadband ADSL speeds of “up to 24MB/s.”

Sure enough, what do you know, it turns out I was rightly sceptical. Buried in a statement from BT’s CTO announcing that BT would not implement traffic shaping, was an admission that you would need to be practically in the exchange to achieve that kind of speed and a prediction that real speeds would be somewhere in the region of 8-12MB/s. So basically we’ll get roughly the speeds that BT (and other ISPs) have been telling us we can get for a year or more now

? Wow. That’s right up there with

From just £9.99 a month
£9.99 a month for first 6 months, £17.99 a month for the next 12

Don’t you just love marketers?

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.

Continue reading “Installing Vista (AKA More Netgear WG311 Misery)”

So Full of Anger

Why are people am I so angry? Something happened not half an hour ago that should probably scare me. I heard a noise outside the window of the room where I was trying in vain to do a bit of my dissertation (now due in 4 weeks; shite!) and went out to see what it was. I could see a dark figure walking away from my door with my wheelie bin, which had been parked beside it.

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How to run IIS Web Server in Windows XP Home

Microsoft tell you that it’s not possible to run IIS, the Windows Web Server, on Windows XP Home Edition (see note 1). In previous versions of Windows, the home versions (Windows 98, ME etc) included something called Personal Web Server, which was a bit like a cut down version of IIS. Imagine my horror when I had to create a website using ASP (not my choice, I’m a PHP kinda nerd.) only to find that my shiny new operating system couldn’t even do something my mum and dad’s old Windows 98 box could do.

Having paid seventy odd pounds for this ‘upgrade’ I was a bit miffed that Microsoft had discontinued PWS. Then, after a bit of Googling, I discovered Win XP Home could run a web server after all – and IIS at that. As a bit of a bonus, you can also access the Windows XP Pro / Windows 2000 style advanced security settings (see note 2). Here’s how it’s done.

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WordPress: Problems Updating Settings

I’ve just spent the guts of an hour fannying about no various websites trying to figure out why I was getting an HTTP 404

(File not found) error when trying to update the settings on WordPress to make it ping different services. I hunted through the file being called, ie options.php, to no avail. I Googled the problem and found this. The guy who zipped a new options.php file had taken it offline (more 404!!) and the other solution posted there didn’t work. Still a 404. Then I read it might be something to do with Apache and mod_security, so spent a minute or two pondering contacting my web hosts.

Then it came: my Eureka moment. After some messing about I noticed it didn’t happen on the “General Options” page (options-general.php), only on the “Writing Options” page (options-writing.php). I then tried updating the settings without changing any of them and … it worked!! Crazy!

It didn’t take long from then to figure out that the problem wasn’t with the WordPress setup, but with one of the URLs I was trying to get it to ping. Apparently WordPress doesn’t like Pinging the services at NorthernIrishBlogs.com, BritishBlogs.co.uk or IrishBlogs.ie

WordPress doesn’t seem to want to work with any URI that has a “.” in it, so that rules out any that point to files (with extensions) rather than directories (in fact, I just tried to save this post after inserting an example URL and was given a similar 404. I then went into panic when I hit ‘back’ on the browser to see an empty text area where my post used to be! Thank goodness for auto save). Presumably WP is trying to pingback the URL because it was in my post, and is having problems but I don’t know, but it doesn’t seem to have a problem with normal URLs, extension or not. Bizarre!

To be continued…

Northern Ireland Enters 21st Century

Let’s face it, our politics might be stuck in the 17th century, but Northern Ireland is going to be the first region of the UK to be fully covered by BT’s 21st Century Network, a plan to convert the Public Switched Telephone Network to system that uses IP for both voice and data. By 2010, all Northern Ireland’s exchanges (160 of them) will converge into 3 major hubs (2 in Belfast, 1 in Portadown) utilising the new technology.

According to SwitchedOnUK the line I’m on will be converted between April and June 2009, but what difference will it make to you and me? Well, the main one that jumps out is that maximum ADSL broadband speeds will jump from 8MB/s to 24 MB/s*. Presumably this will be a huge boost to BT’s plans for Video on Demand services among other applications. It will also allow businesses to wider use of more bandwidth intensive applications and hopefully set Northern Ireland up as a good place for them to be.

That said, some of the small print looks a bit worrying.

Broadband services will have a separate switched-on date … Some broadband services may remain on the old network and others will be switched-on to the new network over time.

I’m also not sure how much of the speed quoted is fact and how much is BT’s usual marketing ‘hype’ – remember, at the minute BT’s Northern Irish customers have access of “speeds up to 8MB/s” but many are limited to somewhere between 2 and 6. I’ve no idea if the new figure being bandied about is going to be an flat standard rate or a theoretical maximum.While I would like to think that in a major upgrade like this there would be a way to maximise the connection quality for everyone, regardless of distance from the hub/exchange, but this is BT we’re talking about. If I find out I’ll update this post accordingly. Thanks to KeithBlog for reminding me about this and

for links to more info.