Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Oh Windows, you are awful!

So, I am back online with my slightly upgraded computer. Things didn't go very smoothly with the upgrade.

The first problem I had was that after installing Windows I found that the WiFi drivers I had didn't work. So I had to use another PC to find the correct ones, then copy them across. And when I installed them, they also installed a useless wireless utility. So I uninstalled them then told Windows to look in the driver folder for the device drivers, which worked okay.

But then when I restarted the PC, I got a message that no boot drive was found. I messed around with the SATA cables, trying to get the new OS drive to be the boot drive, but nothing worked.

Then I realised that actually you can the set the drive order in the BIOS. (I had tried setting the boot order in the BIOS previously, but this just allows you to choose Floppy, CD, or the 1st hard drive). But after setting the OS drive to the 1st drive, and as the 1st boot device, I still got the same message about there being no boot device.

So I decided to install Windows again. Thankfully this time after the install was complete I could reboot and shut down, and the machine would boot back into Windows successfully.

However, after I installed the WiFi drivers Windows became unresponsive and blue screened. Then I got the same no boot device message after restarting. Looking in the BIOS, the drive wasn't listed.

After a bit of cable fiddling the drive was found again, and Windows would boot. But one of the other drives now wasn't appearing.

With some more cabling fiddling and multiple tries this morning I finally managed to get it all working with all drives recognised. (As well as one of the hard drives, the DVD drive also kept disappearing). Just have to be very careful not to move any cables inside the PC!

After getting it working, and installing the graphics card drives I had to restart. Windows tried to install 136 updates on shut down. This took ages, and after restarting it took ages finishing installing them all.

Except, that it didn't actually install them. It said update failed after a bit, then rolled back all the updates. So that was about an hour wasted.

I manually used Windows update to install the updates 18 at a time (which required a restart after each batch). This probably took about an hour too, but at least it did install the updates successfully.

Really MS should offer downloadable DVD images of updated Windows installs that contain all updates so far. Then you could just burn it to a DVD and install from that without having to spend ages downloading millions of updates. Since you still need a valid serial number to activate Windows I don't think there should be any reason why they couldn't do this.

Since installing the 136 updates earlier, there have been about another 30 updates I've installed. And I just checked again now, and there another 89 important updates that need installing.

I had some trouble getting my VPC VMs working. They all said that the parent disk image was missing. But the parent disk image did not appear to be missing. After a bit I figured out the issue - all my disk images were differencing disks from a 'Windows XP Mode.vhd', which was in itself a differencing disk from 'C:\Program Files\Windows XP Mode\Windows XP Mode base.vhd'. This base image was what was missing. After installing that, the VPC VM would start successfully.

Well, actually, it only got as far as asking me for a username and password. But what on earth would this be? Searching yielded no useful information. Apparently Windows XP Mode should ask you for a username and password when you install it. Having just installed it, I can say that it certainly did not ask me for this information.

Eventually I managed to guess the correct combination - XMPUser as the username, and the password was what I had set as my Windows password.

The next issue was that the internet wasn't working in the VM. I had to go into the VM settings and change the Network adapter to shared NAT. I'm sure that's what it was set to previously though, so I'm not sure why that would have changed.

A couple of things I had forgotten to back up were my Filezilla config and hosts file. So I had to manually edit them to add back in the essentials that I need.

In terms of speed difference with the OS installed on an SSD rather than two standard HDs in RAID 0, the TTLS is about the same. But from login to Windows loading fully and being ready to use is much faster.

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Neutral Bye for now

This morning I was writing an article for my photography tips website. In the afternoon I was trying to find images to illustrate it.

During the writing I found this website: Richard Mosse | The Photographers' Gallery, which features photographs of fighters in DR Congo captured on Kodak EIR film. An interesting and unusual idea.

Here's an interesting item I found on eBay, a 37mm-37mm 37-37 mm 37 to 37 Step down Ring Filter Adapter. Given that one side of the ring is clearly much larger than the other side, it's clearly not a 37-37mm ring. Maybe a 37-67mm step up ring. But it's not a typo on the seller's part, it actually says 37mm-37mm on the ring. Apparently 5 have been sold too.

That's it for now as I'm about to remove my RAIDed OS hard drives and replace them with my new larger HD for storage and small SSD for the OS, which I will have to install from scratch. I hope I can successfully swap the drives and unRAID them without problems.

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Copying and verifying

Today I was still copying files and verifying the copies. One issue I had was that when I plugged a drive into the internal SATA, it was not showing up Windows. I tried searching for advice, but everything seemed to just say to check the Disk Management panel. But the hard drive was not even showing up Disk Management for me. It was showing up during BIOS / bootup though, so I knew the problem was not with the drive / connection.

Then I finally found the answer - the drive did show up in Device Manager, and had a little arrow showing the device was marked for safe removal. I use Zentimo xStorage Manager for hot-swapping hard drives, and the system must have remembered that I had previously safely removed the drive and kept it in the same state. So I just needed to use Zentimo to return the device, and then the drive showed up properly.

Another issue I had today was there were two files that refused to be copied - they would apparently copy okay, but then they would remove themselves after you did anything with them (e.g. select them / view properties, etc). They both appear to be partial mp3 downloads, so I'm not bothered that they won't copy, but the behaviour is rather weird.

Still lots more copying and verifying to be done tomorrow.

Friday, 25 April 2014

Copying files

The time has come for some more storage for my PC, which involves the inevitable movement of files from the existing drives to the new one and backups.

Currently I have two RAIDed 500GB drives as a single 1TB drive. This contains a partition for the OS and software, and another partition for storage. So the first job was to copy all the files from the storage partition to my new 3TB drive (and 2 backups). But just copying to the first drive took up most of the day!

When the copying is all done to the three new drives, they will then need to be verified against the existing backups. So this is all going to take rather a long time.

And when that's done, I'll then need to look through the OS partition in case there is anything in there (e.g. program settings, plugins etc) that I want to keep). Then it will be a case of adding the new drives (one 3TB for storage and a 120GB SSD for the OS) and removing the old drives. Reinstalling Windows, installing the ten billion windows updates, and installing all the software I use again will likely take longer than a day.

While I could probably use some software to mirror over the OS partition to the new drive, I'd rather start from scratch. Yes, installing everything again is a pain, but I find that a fresh install is generally faster than an older install where many programs have been installed and uninstalled.

So it wouldn't surprise me if the process of what is effectively upgrading from a 1TB drive to a 3TB drive will take me about a week.

I don't actually have an SSD drive for installing the OS on yet. I was looking at prices, and they've come down quite a lot from even a few months ago, when I bought my Sandisk SSD (which I use for VMWare VMs and Photoshop scratch disk). I did order the Samsung 840 EVO 120GB drive today, but even with my Amazon Prime trial it wouldn't be delivered until Tuesday. So I cancelled the order. I think I will wait and see if I am granted membership of Flubit over the weekend. If I am, then hopefully I can get a better price on the drive. If not, I'll just have to order on Monday and possibly wait a day longer for delivery then if I'd ordered it today.

While I've been waiting for the first copy to finish, I've been going through some of emails. I receive a lot of spammy emails offering me SEO and website design services. However, one that stood out was one that has a subject line of 'Creating Mobile Apps!' and came from 'soccer babe babe' (actual email The to field was also some other email address, not mine.

Usually these emails have a proper from address, and are addressed just to your email address. But it seems these guys didn't care about making their email as spammy as possible. This is the email content:


I am Picke– Marketing Executive (iPhone & Android Apps)

we are a web development company specializing in development of iPhone and Android applications. We have more than 3 year of experience in developing custom mobile applications. Each application is reviewed and designed especially for each customer to fit the specific requirements and objectives.

We help your business combine two modern business directions: wireless devices with web-based applications. High quality and customer-oriented approach are guaranteed.

Why iPhone Apps?

  • Instant gratification
  • Ease of use as it can be accessed anywhere
  • Attracting new customers
  • Increasing Revenue

For business, finding the right iPhone apps developer could be a key factor to adapting their product to the marketplace and for the right audience.

Give us an opportunity to serve you. I assure you would like our solution and services


Picke- Marketing Executive


The stupid thing is, most of these emails (including this one) are sent to an address for a website that is quite clearly not a business and does not sell anything.

Something random I found recently was this modification that mates a torch, slide holder, and camera lens to become a projector: Guerilla beam. Seems very expensive to me, but a clever idea.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Annoying banks

Today was quite annoying as I realised how much a missed credit card payment had cost me. I pay the card off by Direct Debit, but I didn't have enough money in my current account when the card company tried to take the payment for last month's bill. This resulted in the bank charging me for the attempt to withdraw more money than was in the account, and rejecting the payment. The card company then charged me for the rejected payment, a late payment fee, and interest on the amount. Altogether it cost me about £100. Doh!

I'll have to try and pay more attention to my card bills and make sure there's always plenty of money the current account to cover it. Normally I just put the bills to one side to look at later as I've got loads of other stuff I need to be getting on with.

In the evening today I started writing an article for my photo tips website, to replace the article I wrote earlier in the week that was a duplicate.

I also watched 'Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa' with Billy, which was quite good. We watched it on a free Amazon Prime trial. It refused to play the video in HD because apparently the TV is not HDCP compatible. And it refused to play it at all when the computer's monitor was switched off! It certainly doesn't make you want to pay for Amazon Prime.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Waist Ted Thyme

Today I finished off an article for my photo tips website, only to discover that I'd already written a very similar article previously. Doh! The time isn't completely wasted, as I can put the article on hubpages, squidoo, or somewhere like that. But it does still mean that I need to write a new article for the website.

I found out about this website People request a photo they are looking for and their budget, then photographers can submit photos for their consideration.

It's a bit like 99 designs, but if the client doesn't choose your image as the 'winner', then it doesn't matter as the image can still be used for other purposes. (Unlike 99 designs where a logo designed for one company is hardly going to be of use for anyone else, and you're not going to have a ready-made logo that meets what the client is looking for either)>

The photographer takes (up to) 70% of the fee, and imagebrief gets the rest as commission for providing the platform.

Something I found interesting was looking at the completed briefs, some of the shortlisted images didn't seem to match the brief very well. For example, this brief was for an image that another image of a mid-sized delivery truck will be composited into. Yet one of the images seems to feature a pedestrian crossing taking up much of the foreground, and the space across does not appear large enough to fit a truck into.

And this brief for a honeybee image was awarded to what is quite a boring image in my opinion. There were lots of great images submitted, but the one chosen is pretty mediocre. You can't see the bee's face, and highlights on the flower are blown out.

A lot of the travel / location photo requests also seem to be for USA locations. So I don't think that the site is really for me.

In the afternoon me and Billy went out to hopefully buy some cheap mini eggs for sending to Mauser. But in Tesco all they had was some Kinder eggs, Smarties hens, and Lindt bunnies, and while they were reduced, they were still all expensive. In Sainsburys they didn't have any easter stuff at all. And in B&M Bargains they had expensive Lindt Bunnies and Mini Caramel eggs, which were quite expensive (not reduced). But I bought them anyway.

The replacement power supply for Mauser's comp arrived today, and so Billy was trying to get that fitted, and needed me to help him for a bit. Then he had lots of problems with the computer not detecting the drives properly.

And then Mauser's monitor stopped working. It was completely dead, the power light wouldn't come on or anything, jiggling the power cable, switching it for a new one etc. had no effect. But then later it just suddenly started working again. Very weird.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

eBay maniacs

Just going through my eBay watch list again. Things I noticed are:

  • A Wimberley plamp sold for £32.50 plus £3.99 P&P. That is actually cheaper than new (currently it is £37.00 plus P&P at WEX), but it still seems pretty expensive for a second hand one to me.
  • A Contax T2 camera sold for £21 plus £5 P&P. These normally sell at around £200. Of, course there were a few reasons it was so cheap. The flash doesn't work, the body has some dents, film doesn't wind on properly (so shots get overlapped with each other), and the retractable lens doesn't always pop out properly when turning the camera on. But despite all these problems, it still seems like a relatively good deal if you have a mirrorless camera. You could just butcher the camera to remove the lens, then create a mount for your mirrorless camera, and you've now got a cheap Zeiss T* 38mm lens (and the Contax T2 lens is very well regarded).
  • On the obviously fake versions of software front, someone paid £36.55 for 'Adobe Photoshop CS5 with Serial', while someone else paid £63 for 'Photoshop CS5 EXTENDED Verison With Video Tutorials (WITH A DEAL)'. Why people pay money for cracked software I don't know. If you don't mind using illegal software, then why bother paying for it when you can download it for free? These auctions were for downloads, so it can't be that people are just paying to have the software on a disc.
  • Adobe creative suite cs 5.5 master collection 2 DVD sold for £60.99 plus £1 P&P. Quite clearly a fake since the seller says You need to watch a video how to activate its a good copy ! It's got the crack program. All in DVD.
  • Adobe CS5 Photoshop Extended Microsoft Windows Boxed Full Version sold for £166 plus £5 P&P. The listing states I bought it over a year ago from ebay and it works perfectly, and as far as I know it is genuine, but then says when I received it from the previous owner it contained very simple instructions for overriding an error message relating to the registration serial number once it is installed, I will obviously enclose this with the software and If you want an unregistered product to receive Adobe back-up and updates etc this isn't the item for you. So it's obviously a genuine product, right?
  • One that possibly was not a fake was Adobe creative suite 5.5 master collection, which sold for £322 plus £8 P&P. However, the listing states 'Unopened', yet the photo shows the discs outside the box (and it's not a stock photo).
  • A De Oude Delft 65mm f/1.0 lens sold for €53 + €18
  • A De Oude Delft 50mm f/0.75 lens sold for €77 + €18
  • A Pentax K fit Tokina 17mm RMC II lens sold for £141 + £2.60 P&P. The price some of these old lenses go for is just silly. It's a great lens for £20, but for that kind of money you'd be much better buying a decent modern lens.
  • A Yashica ML 35mm f/2.8 lens sold for €97.98 plus €8.88 P&P. Not as bad as the Tokina lens, as I understand this is a relatively good lens. But still seems quite expensive.
  • A brand new Samyang 14mm f/2.8 lens for Olympus four thirds mount didn't sell for £85 (free P&P) because the reserve wasn't met. That would have been an extremely good price if it did sell for that though. I suspect that the mount could be swapped out for any DSLR mount with a bit of work - the full frame Samyang lens is rather large and bulky for use on a four thirds camera.
  • I noticed that quite a few items I was watching had finished at 99p with no bidders. When you click through you see that the seller had cancelled the auction, typically This listing was ended by the seller because the item was lost or broken, though sometimes This listing was ended by the seller because the item is no longer available. I think quite a few sellers just cancel the auction when they don't get the price they want, which is against the spirit of eBay. If you want to get at least a certain amount for your sale, then either start your auction at the minimum price you'll accept, or set a reserve price. It's not difficult.

Saturday, 12 April 2014


The last few days I have been trying to update my photo website to use 'responsive design' so that it will display better on phones. So far I have only updated one page. It already used a fluid design, but I worked on hiding / streamlining a few elements that aren't so important when the screen is small, so there's more room for the important content.

I also changed part of the design from using js to using CSS media queries. But I didn't realise that IE8 has no media query support. At the moment I think I'm not going to bother with 'supporting' IE8. So long as the site looks reasonably okay and is usable, IE users should be catered for.

When I tried testing the site in IE9, I found that the virtual machine was really slow and kept crashing. So I am currently downloading a VMWare player IE9 image, which I hope will be compatible with VMWare Server 2, since I have that but not VMWare player.

After installing VMWare player (which had to uninstall VMWare Server 2 - apparently they can't co-exist), I tried starting the IE9 VMWare image, but got a checksum error. So I then downloaded FCIV, and ran this on the partial rar downloads of the IE9 VMWare image, to calcultae their md5 sums. I then checked these against those given for each of the parts on the website (where the IE9 image comes from). They all checked out okay.

So then I checked the sha1 sum of the extracted IE9 image, and this was indeed different to the sha1 sum given in the manifest file. So I re-extracted the image from the rar(s), and then calculated the checksum using FCIV again, and this time it was correct. I added the image to VMWare player, and it started up and worked okay.

Likely the image would have worked in VMWare Server 2, it was just that the extracted image was corrupted but VMWare Server 2 doesn't check the checksum of the VM image against the manifest file, so you don't get a warning that the image is corrupted.

I saw an ad on a site about linking your AmEx card with Trip advisor. So I clicked through for more info: TripAdvisor + AMEX. However, it seems there are actually no benefits to linking your card with Trip advisor at all. The only benefit listed is:

Get a £50 statement credit when you use your connected Card to book a Hilton Hotel in the UK directly with Hilton, and make a single purchase of £250 or more on your checkout charge. Valid until 31 May 2014. Offer is limited to the first 15,000 Cards.*

First, that is a special offer, not a general benefit of having your card linked to Trip Advisor. Secondly, for me at least, it is very rare for me to book a hotel in the UK, so I wouldn't be able to take advantage of this offer anyway.

Monday, 7 April 2014

Stats checking

Yesterday afternoon I wrote a blog post for my photo tips website, and then I spent the evening finding relevant photos to illustrate it.

This morning I was just finishing the article off. For one of the images I had added text with some perspective distortion. I had done this by adding a type layer, converting it to a smart object, then using the perspective transform. (Perspective transform is not available for text layers in Photoshop).

But I noticed that the text nearest (that is, the part where the text is largest) was looking a bit pixelated and ugly. So this morning I was trying various things to try and correct this. I tried enlarging the size of the smart object that contained the text, then transforming the object layer back down in size. But that didn't work.

I tried using the 3D tools in Photoshop. But I couldn't see how to perspective distort the text using those tools.

I tried using the type warp option, but couldn't achieve an effect that looked correct.

Then finally I found the answer. You have to convert the type layer to a shape layer. Then you can use perspective distort, and the layer maintains it's vectoriness so it still looks good.

For most of the rest of the day I was checking my web stats. Extremely tedious, but needs to be done.

In the evening I played on Civ IV for a bit, which I haven't played in ages. Amazingly no-one's declared war on me yet. (I nearly always use a tactic of just building lots of improvements in my cities rather than building units to defend / attack).

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Not getting much done

Things always seem to take a lot longer than they should. This week all I've managed to get done is three articles. And two of those were reviews, which in theory should be pretty quick to write because they're just writing your thoughts on the item, no research needed at all. (I had already 'tested' the items previously).

Admittedly, I have done some baking / cooking, prepared my pog website update, and gone on Animal Crossing during the week as well. But still, the majority of each day was taken up writing the articles - approx 2 days for each article.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Reading, writing, and watching

Most of yesterday I was reading about Urbex and writing an article about it. In the evening I watched a film and a few short documentaries about it.

Today I was finishing off my article. Quite a lot of the time was spent writing a Creative Commons Attribution script for use with Flickr's New Photo Experience which was forced upon all users recently. The previous CC Attribution helper script I was using doesn't work with the new design. I started off by modifying the existing script for Greasemonkey in Firefox. But then after updating Firefox to version 28, the script stopped running at all. I couldn't see any reason why it wasn't working - Greasemonkey was activated, and the script was enabled in Greasemonkey.

So, I just created a new script for TamperMonkey in Google Chrome instead. The previous CC attribution script I was using for Greasemonkey used some strange functions that I'm not familiar with, likely exclusive to Firefox rather than being javascript (to find a node you'd use xpath). When I wrote my script for use in Chrome I just used standard js, which I'm relatively familiar with, and thankfully that worked fine.

And one random thing - Google Maps has got a Pokemon game: Become a Pokémon Master with Google Maps. Possibly an April Fools, but it was posted on 31st March rather than 1st April.