Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Sun's Virtual Machine VirtualBox

I downloaded and installed Sun's VirtualBox virtual machine software in my bid to test alternative virtualization software besides VMware. (Has anyone looked at Hyper-V?)


I was a little surprised during the installation when it warned me VirtualBox was going to re-configure my network connection and that I would loose internet access while this occurred. Neither VMware nor Virtual PC had to do that. I proceeded with the installation and I haven't begun using it yet but I noticed I couldn't connect to a local server for a game of Battlefield 1942. (I know battlefield is old but it's a great game!) My firewall has an open connection for the game and yet I was only able to connect to a local server by disabling the "VirtualBox Host-Only Network" adapter in Network Connections.

Has anyone else run into network problems with VirtualBox?

The World's Wildest Wearable Gadgets

This was a cool article from Technologizer about the wildest wearable gadgets. I've seen a few of these items around before, a few of them were very cool including the Disposable Nail Watch by Timex and most of them were completely weird. Anyways take a look.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Print Windows system information on your Desktop

For a while now I've been using a program that prints my Windows system information on my desktop. I use it on all my servers so I can quickly see what user I'm logged in as, my IP addresses, IE Version number, computer name, etc. It's very handy when you're bouncing around from system to system or have multiple RDP sessions open.

Someone just asked me today what program I use; it's called BgInfo from Sysinternals. Just download the program here, extract it, put the file somewhere permanent (I put it in C:\), then create a shortcut of BgInfo.exe and place it in your Startup folder. Now edit the shortcut and add '/timer:0' after the path in the 'Target' field so the Bginfo program doesn't popup each time you start the computer. Bginfo will now execute when your computer boots and the system information is always there!

Monday, July 20, 2009

MSDN Operating System Subscription vs. TechNET Plus

As a software tester I need to have access to a wide range of Operating Systems, web browsers, application software, etc. so I'm not caught off guard when someone comes at me with an issue. I configure virtual machines with different flavors of Windows like Vista, XP, 2003 Server, 2008 server and many of them have different configuration types so that I can easily start a session, test and then be done.

If there comes a time when I don't have access to these software applications at work or my job demands that I work from home, I found there were a few options. One I could purchase an MSDN Operating System subscription at $699 for the first year and $499 each additional year. Two I could purchase an TechNET Plus subscription at $349 for the first year and $249 each additional year.


The MSDN Operating System subscription basically gives me access to some 231 products that revolve around "Operating System, SDK, DDKs and tools". Products that I would use revolve around Windows XP, Vista, SharePoint, Home Server, Virtual PC, Storage Server (?), 7, 8 Beta (when it comes out), Internet Explorer, etc. I get fully licensed versions that can be used for testing purposes.


Then theres the TechNET Plus subscription which gives me a broader range of products including Windows 2008, 2003, Vista, XP but it also includes SQL Server, Office, and application servers like BizTalk, Groove, SharePoint server, etc. The catch with TechNET is you only get Beta and Full-version evaluation products. However these full-version evaluation products don't have time limits.

So what would be better for a software tester? I'm kind of leaning to the Operating System subscription because it would provide me with a set of core tools for testing. On the other hand it would be nice to have broad access to Microsoft software. Perhaps I should just get both? Anyone have any thoughts?

Add / Remove Windows Components error 0x7e wbemupgd.dll

I was trying to install an ADAM instance by going to Add / Remove Windows Components in a Windows Server 2003 deployment when I came across a "Setup library wbemupgd.dll could not be loaded, or function OcEntry could not be found. Contact your system administrator. The specific error code is 0x7e." Here is a picture of the error:



I found the following Microsoft Help and Support page and followed Method 2. Then I restarted Windows and everything worked correctly. Thanks Microsoft!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Microsoft Origami 2.0

This was originally posted to the Ultimate Ultra-Mobile PC blog:

Microsoft Origami comes preinstalled on a lot of Ultra Mobile PCs including my Samsung Q1U-V. Unfortunately however it came pre-installed with the prior version 1.0, so I downloaded the latest version from Microsoft here.
  • To install this program, remove the Microsoft Origami Experience 1.0 from the Add/Remove or Program and Features section of the Control Panel.

  • From there, run the installer that you downloaded from Microsoft.
The Microsoft Origami Experience 2.0 is a touch orientated user interface designed to enhance the users interaction with an Ultra Mobile. It has four major areas:

  • Origami Central
  • Origami Now
  • Picture Password
  • Touch Settings
Let me first talk about my favorite (and coolest) feature the Picture Password. The reason this is my favorite feature of Origami 2.0 is because it has the most appropriate use in a Touch Screen environment. If you are using an UMPC you probably don't have much of a keyboard and if you have an Samsung Q1, the keyboard you have is small. So this feature makes entering your password incredibly easy and fun. See below:


For this to work, you tap a series of pictures that will unlock your device instead of typing a password.

The Touchscreen Settings are in Origami make it easier for the user to integrate touch screen capabilities into Windows Vista. This feature is nothing special but it does offer some customization, which with Windows is a huge plus.

Origami Central is basically a landing page that gives you access to media, internet and programs with the touch of a finger - almost exactly in a Windows Media Center type screen. See below:


This is a screen capture of the Internet tab. It looks nice here, but when displayed on a screen that is 1024 x 768 the images are a bit pixelated making it look a bit cheap. When you click on the Browser icon, it launches Microsoft Internet Explorer inside the Origami Experience and after a few uses I found to be a bit more clumsy to do with your finger than with the mouse feature built into the Q1.

Perhaps I'm used to browsing the web with a mouse or just in Windows and using my finger to scroll, but my take away was this interface didn't really enhance my experience. The Feeds Menu is a graphical list of feeds in boxes that you can click on. Again it didn't really enhance my UMPC experience.

I was most perplexed / upset with Origami Now which gives you a display of information in large graphical "gadgets". You can add a clock or notepad or rss feeds or calendar to this display and move them around until your comfortable. However none of these features was truly revolutionary (I can add all that stuff to my sidebar) and they all require that it sync with Microsoft Outlook. I use Outlook for everything, but because Origami needs that information when it starts, it automatically starts Outlook when the computer boots up, which makes me close it out when I start using Windows.

Origami Now didn't offer anything of value to my UMPC touch screen experience. In the end it was all duplicate features. I felt the same way with Origami Central. Why not combine all that stuff into Windows Media Center? Afterall you can only run Origami on Windows Vista and I hate hate hate having duplicate features or software. That's exactly why I removed the Samsung AV Software. Origami also seemed to crash quite a bit (buggy MS software) and that's just annoying.

In the end Microsoft Origami Experience 2.0 offers a lot of redudant features that don't enhance the users experience of Windows or it's possible touch screen capabilities. The picture password is the best feature it installs and I can only hope the next version (if there is a next version) adds far more value or integrates into Windows much better!

Samsung Update Error Plus Round 2

This was originally posted to Ultimate Ultra-Mobile PC blog:

I've noticed a lot of people having the same issue with Samsung's Update Plus software: dwLoadStatus != SLU_Load_Finished. I contacted Samsung a while back but I never heard anything, so I decided to contact them again. After trading a few emails here is what they had to say about the issue:

"Dear Chris Kenst
Thank you for contacting Samsung Electronics. We will gladly be able to try and assist you with your Ultra Mobile PC, that you are inquiring about today.

I do apologize for your ongoing issue. I have checked with our engineers on the Update plus software and they said that there are no updates available for any Samsung program at this time. I also made them aware of the issue and once I get a responce back from them, I can give you an update. Thank you and have a nice day.

Sincerely,

Matt"

I got this response yesterday on 11/3/2008. That's about all I can do, right? Hopefully they filed the issue somewhere and it will eventually be fixed.

Gateway m275 Convertible Tablet PC Review

This was originally posted to the Ultimate Ultra-Mobile PC blog:

I purchased the Gateway m275 Convertible Tablet PC when it initially came out because it was the best of both worlds: Laptop and Tablet PC. I wanted the ability to write handwritten notes for class and yet still wanted to be able to type notes. The m275 was the full tablet experience without the drawbacks.

I would walk into class open the Tablet PC, turn it on, swivel the screen around and lock it into position, then rotate the screen to comfortable position to write. It was a really cool product when it came out and always turned heads in class. This was around the same time Microsoft Office debuted OneNote which was / still is perfect for taking notes because of its layout and ability to transform my handwritten notes into text.


However there were a few downsides in the design:

  • The entire computer weighed about 6 pounds which even for a laptop was heavy. It was especially heavy for a tablet which averaged around 3 pounds.
  • The stylus (located on the side of the computer) was prone to breaking making it hard to clip in and fall out.
  • The swivel was known to wear out and break especially if you didn't carefully toggle it. When I purchased the m275 I opted for the accidental damage since the swivel wasn't covered under original warranty. I wasn't always careful when toggling it and I had to have it replaced.
  • The bezel around the LCD would scratch and show wear and tear rather easily. I ended up purchasing a better one on eBay and replaced it.

It's amazing that you can still find these things on eBay. I wouldn't want one now given the advancements coming in touch screen and Windows 7, but having a Tablet PC is something I've wanted to revisit ever since I got rid of the m275. Maybe someday it will come true.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Installing Synergy on Mac Mini OS X

I've set this up twice: once for my Mac Mini at home: hooked up to my LCD TV so I can play DVDs and watch movies; once at work so I can test on Macintosh OS X Operating System. I did this because it's so difficult to find and run OS X on a Virtual Machine and I had the hardware. (Pretty soon I'll need something that can run Google's new Operating System!)

By installing Synergy on my Desktop PC (Windows XP Professional at work and Windows Vista Ultimate at home) and on my Mac Mini (OS X), I can share my mouse and keyboard between the two. My monitors easily accept two monitor connections so no need for a KVM switch. This setup will work with any PC and Mac as long as you're using OS X.

Note: I leave a mouse plugged into each machine so I can start Synergy after the computer goes to sleep, gets turned off, needs to be woken from sleep, etc. A wireless mouse works well.

Requirements:
1. You should already have Synergy downloaded and installed on your PC.
2. It should be configured for all existing machines.
- If you want to know how to install Synergy on your PC then let me know and I will blog about it.

Preparation Steps:
1. Download the Synergy Client for OS X here (this will start the download for the binaries).
2. Download the Synergy GUI for OS X here (this will start the download for the program).
3. Extract each of the downloaded files.

Installation Steps:
4. Run the OsXSnyergyGui application.
5. It should ask for the location of the synergy client application. Browse to the path of your recently extract synergy folder (mine is called synergy-1.3.1) and select syngeryc.
6. The OS X Synergy GUI application should now appear. It displays the path to synergyc and asks for a Server IP Address if you are on the Client tab (you should be).

PC Configuration Steps:
7. Start Synergy on your Desktop PC using the "Share this computer's keyboard and mouse (server)" option.
8. Click Configure
9. Under the Screens area, click the '+' button and add the name of the Mac Mini to the list. (This has to be the exact name of the computer or it won't connect.)
10. Under the Links area, add the position of your Mac Mini.
11. Click OK.
12. Start Synergy on your PC.

Mac OS X Configuration Steps:
13. In OS X Synergy GUI, enter the IP Address for the computer you just started Synergy on.
14. Click Start
15. If everything is setup correctly the GUI will say something like "NOTE: started client" and "NOTE: connected to server".

You should be all setup. If you're like me and don't want the distraction, hide the OS X Synergy GUI window and go about your work.

If anyone has problems or feedback, please let me know and I will try to incorporate the changes.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Pictures of my Samsung Q1 with Windows 7

I promised these photos of Windows 7 running on my UMPC a while ago:

This is a picture of my Samsung Q1 with Windows 7 running. You can see the desktop with the Beta Fish (one of my favorite backgrounds) and the new taskbar. If you look closely you can also see the Windows 7 build information in the lower right hand corner!

With Windows Vista installed my Ultra Mobile has a Windows Experience Index of 2.0. As you can see with Windows 7 it only has a 1.5 rating, which means either Windows 7 didn't like the drivers or that Windows 7 is a little more intense in terms of it's requirements. Microsoft has stated the minimum requirements are the same, so I would venture to say the drivers may not be perfect. Does anyone know if Samsung plans to support drivers later than Windows Vista on their Q1s?
I wonder if other manufacturers of UMPCs will support Windows 7...? With Windows 7 going to be out near the holiday season and Windows 8 on a time line for 2011, I think were up for an exciting time in the Ultra Mobile world! The last picture I took shows My Computer with how much hard drive space the basic Windows 7 install took up.


Monday, July 6, 2009

Air compressor screeching on 2001 Chevy Tahoe

Last summer I had a problem that seemed to only occur when I would put the engine under stress (like accelerating) while running the air conditioner and then later on whenever I would start the A/C. I would hear a screeching sound, not like a belt screeching, more like something was loose in the engine. I have a 2001 Chevrolet Tahoe 4 wheel drive with a 305 HP Vortec V8 Engine and at the time it had about 60,000 miles on it. Eventually I took the Tahoe into a shop and when they called back to tell me the problem the compressor had to be replaced at a cost of around $1,000. (Maybe I should have used a dealer).

It turns out the compressor was tearing itself apart from the inside out, caused by broken / loose metal. I’m not sure how this originally happened but this loose metal began to strip the rest of the insides making it hard to cool and making it very noisy, hence the screeching sound. Now that I have a repair manual, I know every 5 years or 60,000 miles I’m supposed to have the air compressor service. Maybe if I had done that around the first 60,000 miles I might have been able to catch the problem before it got worse.

This isn’t exactly a technology issue, except that if there were a better place to track vehicles and their maintenance requirements, a lot of these types of problems could be avoided. I’m surprised GM hasn’t come up with a site on their own; better maintained vehicles over the long run could be a marketable advantage!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Samsung Update Plus Error

This was originally posted to the Ultimate Ultra-Mobile PC blog:

When I had initially installed my Q1U-V software Samsung's Update Plus worked fine. Somewhere down the line it stopped working and I started receiving an error whenever I click "Search for New Updates".


dwLoadStatus != SLU_Load_Finished

I've attempted to reinstall the program a view times to no avail. There aren't any previous versions online, so I may have to go back to my Samsung Resource CD to try and find it. I'll post later when I figure out if that works!