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The Reinstall
Date: 27/7/2008
So every 2-3 years I have to reinstall windows. It's part of life. This week it's my turn to face the dreaded reinstall to get XP running on a new faster HD with way more space. Anyway the install went something like this:
  • Put new drive in.
  • Put XP pro cd in drive, boot machine.
  • Drive doesn't read disc. Wow great start.
  • Make copy of disk using Macbook
  • Boot copy of disk. Install.
  • Wait for 2+ hrs while it formats the drive.
  • Boot up, no network.
  • Download nForce4 drivers on Macbook, sneaker net.
  • Install them and reboot.
  • "Pci.sys" missing. Oh great... here we go.
  • Boot into repair mode, decompress pci.sys from i386 and copy into place (using Macbook for reference info)
  • Boots... *sigh*
  • Install the latest nVidia drivers.
  • Install other apps, drivers, HD's etc.
Now at this point I have a working machine with most of the apps we use day to day working well. Seems fast, hasn't crashed... looking good.

Of course it's not good is it.

TV out doesn't work. Here we go. I have painful memories of getting this working last time.
  • Open nVidia control panel.
  • Select TV format PAL/B
  • Select show video on TV monitor
  • "Apply"
  • Nothing works.
  • Repeat all those steps.
  • Still nothing, watch the settings as I do them and each time I set "PAL/B" as my composite output format it reverts to "NTSC/M". Nice.
  • Ok so I poke around on Google, and it seems the regional settings matter. So I set my regional settings correctly and reboot (just to be sure).
  • Then try nvidia control panel again. Same results.
  • After a few minutes of clicking around I pressed apply and the screen went totally desktop blue. Somehow it had decided that 640x480 was good for my main LCD... almost like it had swapped the resolution settings between TV and the LCD.
  • I managed to get the nVidia control panel up again and reset to 1280x1024, but all the task bar and icons were gone.
  • I turned off dual view mode hoping to get my desktop back with "Single Display". Guess what nVidia decided I meant by doing that?
  • It shut down the LCD completely and output to the desktop to the non-functional TV out. So I had 2 displays dead in the water.
  • Some nice descriptive words came to mind for nVidia.
  • After uninstalling the driver, I sorted through my little collection of drivers from past installs. I'm somewhat of a pack rat and sure enough in my nVidia drivers folder is a file called "84.21_forceware (really good).exe".
  • Lol that looks good, so I install it and bang... the TV out is working perfectly. No thanks to nVidia, they must hate their customers with a special sort of evil malevolence to release their current series of drivers.
Needless to say my days of buying nVidia are well and truly over.
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Last one out turn off the lights.
Date: 8/7/2008
In my travels I've had reason to play with custom memory managers for tracking leaks. My particular flavour outputs a text file on exit with each leak and the stack frame of the allocator, including file and line numbers. Very useful.

Initially I ran the dump code using an atexit handler. This seemed to work well, but then I noticed that some global objects were being destroyed after the dump handler was called AND to top it off the handler would not finish. The process would exit WHILE the dump was mid stream. So you get some of the blocks but not all.

So I've been playing with other methods of calling the dump code in the right place. The best so far that I've come up with is this:
#include <process.h>
#include "MemTrack.h"

int main()
    char *buffer = new char[256]; // leak something

    // normal main code..

    #ifdef TRACK_MEMORY
    return 0;
Or something like that. The call to _cexit calls all the global destructors so that their memory is freed before you dump your blocks to disk. Then the ExitProcess is the neatest way to end the process right now without any more cleanup code being called. I played with _exit, but it didn't really exit right now... it wanted to call all the global destructors again. Not cool.

Anyway there you have it, an insight into calling code after all the global objects have been cleaned up.
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Electric Vehicle Technology
Date: 3/7/2008
Just thought I'd mention some technology developed in Australia that could put a serious dent in the argument that electric cars, motorbikes and bicycles aren't good enough yet.

Redox Gel Batteries

Farnow Pty Ltd, see this PDF for some more info, but it's basically a higher density gel battery that can be made cheaply, has a fast recharge time and can deep cycle.

Gemini Electric Motor

Gemini motors are using both ends of the magnets for better power output and efficiency.

Put both of these technologies together and you might get a vehicle that can compete with the gas guzzlers.

Except the technology is protected by the patent system. Which means that we won't see anything happen for another 15 years when the patents run out. In the meantime the human race is running headlong into extinction. All because a few companies need to make a buck. Or not.

Patents are overwhelmingly evil, there is no good side to them. Just stifled innovation to the detriment of human kind.

Previously. Previously.
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The "No files were found to look in." saga continues...
Date: 25/6/2008
Visual Studio 2002, 2003 and 2005 all have a delightful little bug where sometimes the keyboard state can get messed up so that find in files stops working with the error message:

No files were found to look in.
Find was stopped in progress.

Which I've blogged about before. The commonly held solution is to press Ctrl+Scroll Lock and everything is dandy again.

Well until yesterday that is. Where upon that error message appears in my Find Results pane. I dutifully look up the key press on my own blog (who remembers these things?) and press the key combo. And...? Nothing. Still the same error. Huh?

So back to dearly beloved Google, and I'm searching around. And ran into an alternate solution.

Yes, a different key combo.

For the same problem.


I present to you: Alt+Pause/Break.

Yes... believe it. If the first combo doesn't work, try the 2nd. I suspect by now there are "n" different combos that might need to be invoked to pacify the raging Visual Studio, and that getting you hooked on Ctrl+Scroll Lock is just a gateway drug to a whole swath of arcane key combos that you have to know. I expect that this would make a good interview question.

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Debugging Linux GUI apps.
Date: 23/6/2008
When you are running X windows apps in gdb and they grab the mouse and then crash or hit a breakpoint your console is locked out, you can't do anything except quit the app from a text terminal (i.e. Ctrl+Alt+F1).

However there is a better way. Add these lines to your X11 config:
Section "ServerFlags"
    Option "AllowDeactivateGrabs" "true"

And restart X, now you should be able to use Ctrl+Alt+NumPad / to "ungrab" the mouse at any point and debug the issue in gdb.


But it begs the question, why is it not on by default?
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Longest Back Order Ever
Date: 5/6/2008
Some 8 months after I ordered a BYOC EQ pedal it arrived today, just as the Aussie BYOC distributor is calling it quits.

I didn't intend for it to arrive the same week as the Microprocessor, I'll be getting pretty good at wielding a soldering iron yeah?

On top of that I finally picked up D.M. Cornish's Lamplighter last week, written by a friend of mine who now lives in SA.

How am I ever going to get time to code?
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