January 28, 2011

Useless error messages

Last couple three times I tried to get Deneb (the Windows Home Server) to do updates, it came back and told me it couldn't do so right now. If the problem persists, please reboot the server.

So I did, and it didn't help. Then it occurred to me that I hadn't updated the DNS settings for Deneb, so it was still trying to use the DNS's in New Jersey that don't exist any longer.

Why didn't it tell me that it was having problems contacting the DNS? Wouldn't that have been a more specific, and more helpful, error message than just "It don't woik. Try later."?

UPDATE: Of course, this doesn't rate compared to the all-time greatest useless error message, from the original PC BIOS:

"Keyboard not found. Press F1 to continue."

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in Computers at 09:58 PM | Comments (4) | Add Comment
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January 13, 2011

A DNS question

So how, exactly, does DNS get handled? If you have a list of 4, and the early ones don't work, does it contact the first, wait for it to time out, contact the second, wait for it to time out, and then contact the third?

My Comcast DNSs still don't work, but I'm on the net because I've got the Google DNS's in my list. However, they're #3 and #4. And I've noticed that initial loading of web sites seems sluggish. I'm wondering if it's because of DNS timeouts, and that maybe I should give up on the Comcast DNSs entirely (or contact them and find out what's going on).

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January 11, 2011

Saten -- 1½ CPUs?

I was curious to see how much a certain task was loading the CPU in Saten, so I opened the task manager and left it running. And it had two CPU-loading diagrams, not one.

I didn't think this was a dual CPU. I did some looking, and found the explanation: it's an Atom Z540, and that processor supports hyperthreading. Evidently HP decided to use it.

So the "System Information" frame just shows the one CPU, but the task manager shows two CPU threads.

UPDATE: Hyperthreading was one of those ideas which didn't really pan out. The right approach was multiple cores, and that's how everyone's going now. But there's a generation of processors in there which still supports it, and I didn't expect it to show up in the Slate.

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January 05, 2011

Saten -- Wake up!

The last two mornings when I woke up, I found Saten turned on. I've got its power setting so that when it's plugged in it stays on permenantly, so the real question was, "Why was it on?"

First time I thought maybe I'd forgotten to turn Saten off before going to bed. Second time I realized it was Connector doing it. That's the local program on client machines which, among other things, takes care of doing backups with Windows Home Server.

Eventually I remembered that you have to tell Connector not to wake the machine up at 4:00 AM for backups, if indeed that is what you want. And it is, in this case, for me.

Right-click the Connector icon in the tray and unselect "Wake This Computer For Backup".

On another note: Saten doesn't have any Windows games installed on it. Since it's a machine with limited storage, it's obvious why they stripped them out. Or, for all I know, they don't include that in Win7 Pro. My other Win7 machine is running Win7 Home Premium.

A lot of games aren't going to be playable on the Slate because there's no keyboard and no center mouse button, but it turns out that the Mahjongg game would be fine. So I tried copying it over.

It didn't work. Alycone is running Win7-64 and Mahjongg is a 64-bit program. Saten may be running "Pro" but it's also running Win7-32. It took one look at the program and said, "Sorry, wrong version, I can't handle this." I wonder if there's somewhere at MS where I can download the 32-bit version of Mahjongg?

UPDATE: I remembered that I had a backup of Procyon's disk on Deneb. Procyon is the older Asus notebook which died last year, which got replaced by Alcyone. Procyon was running Win7-32 Home Premium. I copied its Mahjong over, but it didn't work. Lots of CPU activity when invoked, but eventually nothing. Like as not there's something else needed which I didn't copy, but there's no easy way to know what. Bummer.

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January 03, 2011

Saten -- Windows Home Server

Saten's relationship with the rest of my LAN is peculiar. It can see Alcyone, the big ASUS notebook. But that's not massively surprising; it was Alcyone which generated the gobbledegook password that Saten used to connect to the workgroup.

Saten used to be named "STEVEN-SLATE", that being what it got automatically named. I figured out this morning how to change that.

Saten used to see Arcturus, the old WinXP Compaq notebook I use for my torrents, but right now it can't. That doesn't worry me too much.

What's worse is that Saten can't connect to Deneb, the Windows Home Server. It occurred to me last night that it was because I didn't have Connector running and I wasn't logged in.

So this morning I copied the installation files for Connector onto the 32G SDHC I've been using as a data shuttle, and I installed it on Saten.

Saten is now running a full backup. That part's fine. But Deneb only shows up in its "Network" listing in a strange place. When I click it, it tries to access Deneb using IE. (Which fails.) Getting it to open Deneb as a file server may be more difficult.

There's a shortcut on Alcyone's desktop I use to open Deneb. I think I'm going to try copying that over using the SDHC. But not until the backup is finished.

UPDATE: Man, I don't understand Windows Networking. That shortcut doesn't work. It says "Windows cannot access \\DENEB".

But Connector works, partially. I finished a backup. I configured the backup from Alcyone, during which Deneb connected Connector on Saten to get a preliminary directory listing. (So that I could choose what to exclude from the backup.)

On the other hand, I can't open the Connector console from Saten. It says it can't contact Deneb, just the same way that Explorer complains.

This isn't a problem with WIFI. Alcyone is wire-connected to Railgun and Saten is RF-connected to Railgun. Alcyone has complete access to Deneb, but Saten only works to do backups.


UPDATE: With only 64G of SSD, one thing I've been a bit worried about is that eventually "System Restore" will use all my free space.

I found this. Turns out there's a menu in Win7 to control how much space can be used. I just checked, and it's set to 3%, 1.78G. I wonder if that's something HP tuned, or if MS has incorporated an intelligent heuristic? Anyway, I can spare that much. Currently the C drive shows 14G used, 45G free.

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December 31, 2010

Saten -- bezel camera

There are two cameras on the Slate. One is in the middle of the back and has 2048*1536 resolution. The other is mounted in the upper left corner of the front and it's 640*480. That one's intended for teleconferencing, but it probably would have been better if it had been in the center of the top. (Maybe that wasn't possible.)

The camera app which comes with it allows you to choose which camera is active, and whether you want to capture video or still frames. So here's how ugly I've become:


Quality is pretty poor, but the light level is really low. Probably it would have looked better if it weren't 1:00 AM and not very many lights on.

And that picture makes clear why it's a problem for the camera to be off to the side. I'm looking at the center of the display, not at the camera.

Strange ideas that come to me in the middle of the night: OK, then, what happens if you hold it up to a mirror?


I had to use my chin to make sure I didn't drop it.

What I'm doing with the electric pen in my right hand is to hit that button, which triggers a frame grab.

UPDATE: It'll record video, too, or at least it claims to be able to do so. I tried grabbing 9 seconds of video using the bezel camera at 640*480 and the resulting MP4 file is 4.75 MB, which is about right.

But when I tried to play it on Alcyone, all I got was audio. MediaInfo says that it has a video track, running just shy of 20 fp2, and it's M-JPEG. That's "motion JPEG", a kind of poor man's version of MPEG2 which has the advantage of being fast to encode, but isn't very compressed.

AND apparently I don't have a codec for it, so Zoom Player and MPC both treated the file as sound-only. Interestingly, Windows Media Player played it properly.

I'll have to do some experimenting with it.

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December 29, 2010

Saten -- Master of Orion

Saten's CPU loading is only about 20% when MOO is running its initial animation sequence.

Unfortunately, DOSBOX doesn't understand touchpads, and so it acts as if there's no mouse. In fact, I had to use the task manager to kill off the window. So it's uninstalled now.

Pity; MOO was one of the things I most wanted to run on Saten.

I've been going through various episodes of Railgun looking for reasonable images of Saten to use as a screen backdrop, and I'm having a difficult time. What I want is a screen shot with only Saten, face on, wearing her seifuku, smiling but otherwise looking normal. I hadn't really noticed it originally, but nearly always when she's looking like that, there's someone else (usually Uiharu) in the shot, close enough so that I can't edit around it. I've found a couple of candidates, but the problem is that she doesn't really totally look happy in them.

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December 28, 2010

A networking puzzle

OK, geniuses, let's see if you can figure out this little problem that just happened to me. I figured it out, and it's solved now, but it's obscure.

Here are the players in the game:

Regulus -- the Qube, through which everything flows.
Railgun -- the new combined ethernet/wifi hub
Zako -- the old SMC ethernet hub
Deneb -- the Windows Home Server
Alcyone -- the super notebook.
Saten -- the Slate
Arcturus -- the Compaq notebook I run uTorrent on

Alcyone connects by wire to Railgun.
Saten connects by wifi to Railgun.
Railgun connects by wire to Zako.
Zako also connects by wire to Arcturus and Regulus
Regulus also connects to the cable modem.

All the other machines use NAT on Regulus to access the internet.

My torrents suddenly turned off and stopped running. That's where the problem first appeared. Arcturus could access Deneb as a file server just fine, and it could load my private start page off of Regulus, but it had no other network connectivity. DNS always failed, and IE couldn't load anything off the net.

Meanwhile, Alcyone was working just fine. Saten had no problems.

Then I tried rebooting Alcyone -- and it no longer had internet connections, even though it could access Deneb just fine.

Here are some things that made no difference: power cycling Zako. Power cycling Regulus. Power cycling Arcturus.

I also tried disconnecting the ether net on Arcturus and enabling its wifi. It was exactly the same: it could access Deneb, but not the internet.

Here's what did fix it: Power cycling Deneb, and once it was back  up then power cycling Alcyone and Arcturus again. After which everything worked beautifully.

See if you can figure out why.

UPDATE: Here's a hint:

When I saw that, I figured out the problem.

UPDATE: Here's the answer:

So Arcturus and Alcyone couldn't make contact with the Regulus NAT because they were out of the subnet. But they could talk to Deneb as a server because Windows networking doesn't use TCP/IP. It's an entirely separate protocol that runs over ethernet. (And it also works over wifi.)

Arcturus stopped working because the previous DHCP lease had run out. It tried to access the DHCP server on Deneb, and for some reason that didn't work. (I'm not just sure what the deal was. The DHCP page on Deneb showed that it had reissued IPs to all the machines in question, but they never heard it.)

Alcyone stopped working when I rebooted it because a reboot results in a new DHCP request, which failed.

The reason they had the IPs they did is because that's the rules. If a computer is told to use DHCP on boot-up and cannot find one, then it picks a random IP in 169.254.*.*.

So rebooting Deneb caused the DHCP server to restart. Rebooting Arcturus and Alcyone caused them to make DHCP requests for new IPs, and it worked properly, giving them IPs within the Regulus subnet.

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Saten -- yet more notes

The button on the stylus works to access the right-click popup. Press the button on the stylus and then click the item.

To get to Win 7's "startup" folder, click "Start". On the "all programs" entry, right-click and select "open". Then trace down to the Startup folder.

UPDATE: They did a new release of CCCP in October. So I downloaded that and installed it on Saten. It brings a copy of MPC with it, so that was fine.

Playing a 640*480 MKV file (first ep of Realbout High School) uses between 25% and 30% of the CPU, which isn't too bad at all.

But I wasn't getting subtitles. I remember that getting subtitles to work was a pain, but I'm not going to mess with it any further right now.

Alcyone, my muscle machine with quad cores, has these numbers:

Processor: 6.9
RAM: 6.9
Graphics: 6.8
Gaming graphics: 6.8
Disk transfer rate: 5.9

Saten's numbers:

Processor: 2.7
RAM: 4.4
Graphics: 4.4
Gaming graphics: 2.5
Disk transfer rate: 5.1

Guess those SSD's really have the speed, eh?

Considering that Alcyone was designed for high power gaming, and cost more than twice as much, it's hardly surprising. But so far I haven't really felt as if Saten was unreasonably slow, for the kinds of things I've been doing.

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Saten -- adding Quick Launch

Right-click on the task bar.

Choose toolbars->new toolbar

This is the directory you choose:

C:\Users\Steven\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Quick Launch

(where "Steven" is my user name. Use yours.)

to do this you first have to go into Explorer and enable viewing of hidden and system folders.

UPDATE: Curiously, I didn't have to create the "Quick Launch" directory. It's already there.

I've been alternating between having Saten in its cradle (with power connected) and pulling it out so it's more comfortable to use. The standard power settings really crank back on the CPU speed when power isn't attached. I guess I can understand why, but I think I might override that. Performance really goes into the toilet and everything gets a lot more painful to use, especially the touch screen, in which useability strongly correlates inversely with the response latency.

Microsoft Security essentials is now installed.

I originally set up the account on Saten with the same name I use everywhere else, but with no password. I just changed it so that it has the same password as everywhere else, too, and I thought that would make networking work, but it doesn't seem to. I think the reason is that I don't have the WorkGroup set up properly. At the moment Saten is getting its credentials from Alcyone, and that's the only computer it can see on my LAN, and the only directories on Alcyone that it can open are c:\users\Steven\My Pictures and My Music and My Videos.

Which is good enough, I suppose; Microsoft doesn't actually enforce what I put in those directories, so I'm using My Pictures to transfer software over. But I really do need to gain access to Deneb so that I can do a full backup.

There's a backup program on Saten. When I put my 32G SDHC into it, one of the prompt choices is to use it for backup. But all it backs up is user data files. It doesn't do a backup of the system.

Deneb takes a full snapshot of everything, and I'll feel a lot more secure once that's happened. Still, it's not urgent, and it ought to wait until I do all my other setting up, like getting Proxomitron and Zoom Player and MPC over there.

I'm not sure I can move Zoom Player; the password protection on that may not permit it to work on Saten and on Acyone too. MPC, on the other hand, isn't protected so I know that will work.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in Computers at 01:25 PM | No Comments | Add Comment
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