Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Making HP Compaq Recovery CDs DVDs

I have often clean install HP/Compaq notebooks from scratch, using my own Windows CDs/DVDs, and downloading each driver from HP one by one. This is because when I go for the recovery CDs, they are not useable for whatever reasons: lousy media, scratches, mould, et cetera.

Lately, some HP/Compaq notebooks provide the option to create ISO images instead of writing directly to CDs/DVDs. With abundant cheap storage nowadays, you should always use this option. Make sure you back up the images on more than one disks. Burn them onto DVDs only when you need to recover a system.

I have just bought a refurbished Compaq 8710p with the original HP 3-year warranty from a HP reseller. When I tried to make a set of recovery DVDs, unfortunately it tells me a set has already created from the system. According to the Help info, this obstruction is because of the Windows Vista license and not the HP drivers.

What I actually need is the HP drivers and not the Vista DVD. Notwithstanding that the notebook comes with a Vista Business license, I am a Microsoft Empower subscriber and have my own legitimate Vista DVDs and licenses.

While I can understand that the protection intentions are noble, I find it odd that I am allowed to use the current version of Vista until my disk breaks down. After that, I am not allowed to use the Vista from the same license.

Searching around, I found a simple hack that allows me to make another set. Just look for the file HPCD.sys in the Recovery partition and/or %windir%\SMINST. Rename or delete it. That is all.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Motorola Motorokr S9-HD - After one week

As I have said earlier, the sealing capability to block out external sounds is zero. In a quiet place, I can hear the different parts of the orchestra clearly. Unless I compare it with a reference source, I cannot say for certain that I can hear all parts of the orchestra that were recorded. But in a quiet place it sounds really good.

In a noisy place, nothing is heard. Turning up the volume is suicidal of course and hence is something I do not try.

Listening while jogging is out as the ear pieces do not stay in place. If I hold with both hands, I hear the whole orchestra. When I let go, I just hear a weak melody, losing the identity of the instruments.

Also, it seems to forget the pairing with my Nokia E-71. I think the problem is in the Motorola as my phone works fine with another Nokia mono headset in the past. So, everytime I power on the Motorola, it connects automatically. After about three seconds, it disconnects. I have to manually pair it from the phone and enter the PIN again.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Honoring the System/360

I just found this celebration of the 40th anniversary of the System/360 at the Computer History Museum.

Another presentation at the museum said that the S/360 project is like Google today pouring $32 billion into a new product which might or might not work to replace search. I found a video of the presentation here.

For the few who have the opportunity to write their programs on punched cards, paper tape, teletypes, CRTs, and now Visual Studio 2008, perhaps we should be more prepared to celebrate the 50th anniversary in 2014.

Deism, predestination, omniscience, infralapsarianism ...

(This post is meant for trained computer scientists.)

I write a program, say, a game with different role playing characters. Let's call this program The World. There are good guys and bad guys in The World. There are space invaders, and spaceships too.

I am the creator of this program.
[Aug 2010 update: by sheer coincidence I came across this 1976 article: ]

Unless I have lots of time, I have to write the program running on an existing operating system. Hence, I would be making operating system calls. In addition, I may make use of third-party libraries. But nothing prevents me from also writing the operating system from scratch, starting with the first IPL instruction. It would take a long time, but is something a mere mortal can definitely accomplish.

Nevertheless and notwithstanding that my program with the OS is now more than 800MB of machine code, my program is pretty simplistic and deterministic. The outcome of every single player action is known when I wrote, or even at the time I designed, the program. Which spaceship is going to crash and burn, which corner of which space invader is going to be blown off, are all known by me, the creator, long before anyone inserts the first coin and a new player life is created. I have to write every single line of code that shows the bits of space invader falling off, pixel by pixel.

After many days (definitely far greater than six) of designing, coding and debugging, I could have a nice running game. With all the effort put in, The World is complex, in fact very complex (and very buggy). And it would probably be beautiful too, with lots of graphics, animation, and audio effects.

Now, I have complete knowledge of The World. Because I code every line, I know everything there is to it about this game. Over time, I may forget things here and there, but all I have to do is to refer to the source code, and if it is amply commented, I would be able to understand every bit again.

The World may be an enjoyable game offering countless hours of excitement and challenges, lots of explosions, and births of new lives and deaths of many others. But in the eyes of us human beings, that is, the class of living things who are capable of creating The World, it is a simple program, albeit with many lines of code.

Despite all the colorful graphics, sound and fury, my program is by all definitions still very dumb. Every single action is hard-coded in The World at the time of creation. Every possible outcome is predictable, and has to be decided and coded by me the creator. What happens when a player moves the joystick one degree to the right, I have to code the response, depending on the state of all the other parameters at that moment in the game. Nothing can be unexpected. If there is, it usually ends up as a bug and has to be corrected.

Which game character survives to eternity, which goes up in a ball of pixelated flame, it's all in my hands. I make the decision, at my own will and good pleasure.

Each player life has a certain amount of free choice. The outcome of every choice still has to abide strictly by my algorithms. When a new player life is created, I throw a die, a pseudo-random number that is still pre-determined on which algorithm I use, to set it on its initial path of action. be completed

Friday, November 28, 2008

Motorola Motorokr S9-HD - After two days

I am very pleased with the audio performance of this mobile concert hall. Anywhere (almost) or anytime, this headset turns my Nokia E-71 into a very nice piano concerto machine.

At Nokia volume level 1 (one notch above mute) and Motorola minimum volume level (double beeps), I can hear the klavier keys crisp and sharp, almost like sitting next to it. The cellos and double basses stun as they reverberate through my nervous system. ppp passages drown me in a stupor, and as the orchestra crescendos in the final bars, I have to hold back from clapping and making a fool of myself.

I said almost anywhere as the sealing capability of the "ear buds" is zero. Other than in a quiet environment, I have to push the "ear buds" with both hands into my ears and hold them there. So while it's cord-free, it's definitely not hands-free. The "ear buds" are no ear buds. They are gigantic speakers that perhaps only Shrek can call them ear buds.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

IIS ASP.Net - What identity is your page running in?

There are at least three identities that I know of when you run an ASP.Net page on an IIS server. They are:

  1. At the page level: Page.User.Identity

  2. At the thread level: System.Threading.Thread.CurrentPrincipal.Identity

  3. At the process level: System.Security.Principal.WindowsIdentity.GetCurrent()

Then there are authentication and impersonation modes to set. In Vista, the Computer Management configuration is not as neat as XP or Server 2003, as follows:

Click to see details

The different identities have values as follows (the IIS server is mozart and the web browser user is UserA):

Authentication ModeASP.Net ImpersonationProcessThreadPage
AnonymousFalseNT AUTHORITY\


Thursday, May 1, 2008

Windows Vista!


This is a long blog entry, as the matter is serious and it cannot be trivialized by a few sound bites.

I started using Windows Vista only in January 2008. I didn't believe all the negative reviews out there. After jumping into it, I still do not accept all the comments that I have read previously. But Windows Vista is more than a disaster, it is alarming. It looks like the first step of a Microsoft decline, unless Microsoft takes drastic steps to get out of this complacency.

Speedwise, Vista is not slow, it is just fatally flawed. Features-wise, Vista is a retrograde, a big step backward. Things which we could previously do in Windows XP and Windows 2000 are now missing.

Microsoft does not give information on how Windows Vista is done. So I can only try and reconstruct by deducing from what I can see.

First, it is a very different team that worked on Vista. This is a team of Generation Xers, iPod-totting, and who use Windows XP without venturing beyond the default configuration settings that came out of the box. I will substantiate these hypotheses.

Lack of Common Sense

And this team or the program manager probably had never attended a class on operating systems. If they did, they did not understand what was taught. I have 2GB of RAM. All my loaded programs add up to less than 1GB. Tell me, why is my computer paging like no tomorrow? Why does Windows Messenger generate 13 million page faults after running for a week when at no time in the week did my programs ever go beyond 1GB? Why why why? Why should the disk even be touched at all (except when allocating paging space, space that will never be accessed again in my computer)?

I have Windows Explorer showing about 100 files in a folder. I press Ctrl-A. The hard disk goes into over-drive , the new fanciful hourglass comes on, and I cannot do anything to the folder for the next 6 seconds. Why? I have more than 1GB of RAM free, doing nothing but draining electricity. If I press Ctrl-A repeatedly, the same hold-up occurs each time. Doesn't the iPod-totting Vista team know anything about caching or not doing work that is already done? This is basic. This is an F. Windows 2000, XP and Server 2003 do not have this problem. I have just installed Vista SP1, and this major flaw is not fixed.

All the reviews that describe Vista as slow are technically incorrect. When we say a software is slow, we mean that there isn't sufficient hardware power to do what the software wants to do. In Vista's case, there is gross overkill of CPU power and RAM to do the task at hand, eg select all files, but Vista is not using them.

There is a long list of things that I could previously do in Server 2003, XP and 2000. Possibly Windows 95 too but that was too long ago for me to remember to make accurate comparisons.

The Vista team probably did not know of these features, because they do not go beyond out-of-the-box XP. They are people who leave the default settings where they are.

They use the XP interface which consumes the extra pixels on the window borders for no beneficial returns. They use Windows Explorer in the default showing files as pictorial icons, just like the early man with his pictures of the day's hunt on the cave walls. Mind you, the icons of two different Word files are exactly the same but they prefer it this way. The icons don't even tell you that the files are of different sizes, but they like the blue W graphic. The screen real estate for four Word document icons would allow a listing of 20 files with details, but they prefer the pictures.

Missing Feature #1

The sad consequence is that they crippled the Windows Explorer Details view without even realizing it. Wake up! Previously, I could resize the width of a column in the detailed view to just a couple of pixels, for example the file Type column, which I don't need to see (because the file name extension already provides the same information) but I want to leave it there to be able to do a quick sort by file type by just clicking the column header. Vista does not permit a column width to go less than 70 pixels! Why why why? I want my file Type column to be only 3 pixels wide. Why must I waste another 67 pixels that can more than accomodate the file Size column? Why must the file Size column be at least 70 pixels wide when the string "144KB" takes up only 31 pixels?

(How do I make Blogspot not resize my images?)

Missing Feature #2

One limitation of a GUI as compared to command line mode is that repeating the last action is difficult to implement. Hence, it was ingenious of XP to have the recently launched programs stuck onto the Start menu. In XP it works reliably. In Vista, it's random. Sometimes a recently used program is there (Notepad), sometimes it is not (MSDN Library), and sometimes it stays there for a short while and then disappears (SQL Server Management Studio Express). Another feature loss compared to XP.

About the only innovative feature I can find in Vista is the ability to just type in a command or program name after hitting the Start button. Unfortunately, this feature is disabled by the Vista team whose members probably are not CS educated. If I type a command, I expect to see what I type immediately. However, Vista starts churning the disk, and it is less slow to click menu items instead. I have a 100 million times more RAM than what is required to contain my whole Program menu listing, but alas the Vista team insist on reading the disk.

I find it puzzling. I type some search words into Google, they are looked up against the whole world's billions of web pages, and the results come back from Google's servers 5,000 miles away on a narrow 128kbps pipe faster than the Start button giving me the right link after I type in "MSDN" on my computer with megabits of bandwidth among all the different components. This incompetence and complaceny will kill Microsoft.

Why iPod-totting? These people are a marketeer's fantasy. They fall for hype and have difficulty understanding the bare facts. The Aero interface is a joke. If I am so lame as to need swooshing windows I get a Mac. The Aero is a half-hearted effort that results in a half-baked Mac. I have no need for swooshing. All I need is a visual indication that a window is closing or opening so that I know that my system is still responding. The classic Windows interface, which I use even on XP, meets this UI requirement just fine. Swooshing the way the Mac does does not give me a single benefit in my use of the computer. Whoever thought of the Aero interface must have thought Windows users are equally gullible for a gimmick.

Missing Feature #3

Windows Extended Desktop must be just a mere curiosity to the Vista team. I have been totally reliantly on it for the past seven years, with different monitors in the office and home. My latest is a 1280x1024 display in one location and a 1680x1050 one in the other. My physical organization is the second monitor sitting above the LCD at both places. With XP, I have no problem plugging in at the two locations when I get my notebook PC out of Sleep or Suspend. (By the way, I do not Shut Down my notebook, not since Nov 1997.) It is a disaster with Vista. Each time I get the PC out of Sleep, the configuration is random! I make it a point to plug in the monitor and power it on before the PC. Sometimes, the second monitor would be on the right, sometimes it would not be detected, sometimes it would be on top, sometimes it would be on the left. At other times, Presentation Settings would automatically turn on.

Now, Presentation Settings with the New Display Detected dialog is one stupid gimmick that makes me deride the Vista team as incompetents. They allow the the second monitor to be on the exact left or exact right only. They think the whole world is a bunch of simpletons? It seems that the group that designed New Display Detected is totally unaware that Extended Desktop is a Vista feature.

work in progress ...

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Your old notebook alone is an overkill to send man to the moon

Remember Apollo 11? Apollo 11 took men to the moon and back safely.

There were some computers on the rocket, the command module and the lunar module, vintage perhaps, but still capable computing power to take men to the moon and back no less.

Working on the Apollo program were about 10,000 or more people: NASA employees and contractors. There were also a number of mainframe computers supporting the program, and to let all those 10,000 interact. In those days, there were no personal computers. Maybe a few leading edge engineers had electronic calculators. Nevertheless, they still sent men to the moon and back with all the stuff they had.

Freely call any electronics that is capable of holding some charge RAM.  Call anything that is capable of doing some work on a clock cycle computing power.  Now, if you add up all the computing power in all the electronics, all the mainframes and whatever computers that were used, in mission control, launch control, the command module, the lunar module, all the calculators, et cetera, the total amount of computing power, RAM and disk storage respectively would add up to less than what your grandmother has in her Celeron PC that she uses to browse the Internet.

What does it all mean? Detractors would say, "Oh, that was 1969." Wrong, very wrong! The crux is that your grandmother's Celeron PC can single-handedly control all the processes to send men to the moon and back. This is not a hypothesis. This is not a theory. It has happened.

Extrapolating from this experience, it would mean that with today's computing facilities, the accumulated knowledge and lessons learned, it would be possible to make another lunar mission using a fraction of the original workforce in a fraction of six years at a fraction of the original cost.  The distance to the moon has not grown any longer nor the environment harsher.

What went wrong?

Next time you feel your PC is a bit sluggish, remember this story.

And if a CIO or computer salesman says that you need a more powerful server, either he is ignorant or has some ulterior motive.

2015 update: A quote from Ray Kurzweil: "A kid in Africa with a smartphone is walking around with a trillion dollars of computation circa 1970"

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

S/360 NG

Passing on the baton ...


@ 2008