Category Archives: Computers

Things to do with PC’s, laptops, hardware, software, and likely the whole host of problems of seemingly getting very simple things to work.

Resizing Windows Bootcamp Partition on my Macbook Pro

Finally got an update for my site! (I need to work on more, we’ll see). Useful information to post which I need to record mostly for myself if I ever do this again!

Basically resizing partitions can take a while; mainly due to moving data. My situation was that my Windows 7 partition was too small; I was down to 1GB of space (150GB was Windows, 600GB was Mac OSX on a 750GB drive). This likely, doing somewhat in reverse, could

In preparation I made a backup; not that I had much to backup. πŸ™‚ You may also want to defrag the drive fully (moving all data to the front) so it is slightly faster to extend; I’d recommend JkDefrag: http://www.kessels.com/jkdefrag/

Resizing Mac OSX partition

The first step was to resize the Mac OSX volume. This first required me to decrypt it; takes a while but after that the Disk Utility can easily resize HFS+ volumes. Simply find it in the Utilities folder, open it up, select your drive and click on the Mac OSX partition to resize it. Some oddities arose; I now can see the “Recovery HD” partition when I hold down Alt (the “Option” key) on bootup, so it moved that to the end of the partition. Who knows where it was before.

Resizing Windows partition

The second step is to resize Windows. I did this with one note, which I am not sure is entirely true but whatever; I left a 10MB space (apparently needs to be at least 512KB of space) between the last part of the Mac OSX drive and the Windows drive I was extending.

The tool of choice was GParted; http://gparted.sourceforge.net/ – just booted by holding Alt as normal. I changed the preceeding space to 10MB, and made sure it went to the end of the drive.

Another thing to note is that it said I had to do a checkdisk of my Windows partition. I did a full checkdisk – rebooted into Windows, right clicked the (C:) volume and chose Properties, selected Error-checking “Check now…” button under “Tools” and selected both checkboxes (essentially choosing /f and /r). Of course you can’t do it when it is loaded so after restarting it did the checks and I was ready to resize.

Problem: Windows is no longer seen!

Once Windows 7’s partition was resized came in the problems; the default bootloader (holding down Alt on boot) didn’t see the “Windows” partition anymore. I used 2 things to fix this.

The first was rEFIt; http://refit.sourceforge.net/ – this replaces the Mac OSX bootloader and has a nifty tool built in that I had to use – install it in Mac OSX using the DMG download. The problem with resizing Windows is that Mac OSX’s bootloader no longer knows where the Windows partition starts – there are essentially two layouts for the drive (GPT and MFT), which are now out of sync due to GParted increasing the Windows size. Once installed I restarted and used the Partitioning Tool, which automatically detected the error and asked to correct it. Once corrected Windows then was known to rEFIt properly; after a few reboots for me at least.

Final Fix: Inaccessible Partition Error

Last thing was that Windows itself now was bothered by the resize; generally this will also happen if you, say, had 2 Windows installs on a machine, deleted the one at the front of the drive and resized the latter to fill the drive. Windows thinks that the files to load the OS are located in a very specific place on the drive, which would now be wrong.

It comes up as black screen error; if that doesn’t occur, great I guess πŸ™‚

If it does, it requires either something like ERD Commander (known now as MS DaRT); I used version 6.5, but the same process is achieved through using a bootable Windows installation or upgrade disk; the Repair option will search automatically for such basic issues with a current installation and ask to apply fixes. Do so and it should allow full access to your Windows partition again πŸ™‚

Again the CD was just booted through using Alt/Option key on bootup.

You could now remove rEFIt, I may well do so in case I want to re-encrypt my Mac OSX partition, since it likely would interfere (and most certainly is unsupported according to its own documentation).

Hope this helps someone else; certainly when I searched Google it took a fair few threads and posts to find all of this, since most of them point to (now) paid tools.

Investigating Dual/Triple Monitor Gaming and Desktop

So I’ve been looking for new parts for a Windows 7 PC – basically since I want a nice CPU and RAM speed boost to use with Windows 7 64bit, and am looking at a i5 processor. This means I’m looking at Graphics setups too – and the possibility of getting a nicer widescreen monitor, possibly making me have 3 (hey, it’s all dreams at the moment in any case πŸ™‚ ).

I currently have 2 22″ monitors (1680×1050), setup in dual view off a relatively budget 9600GS nVidia card. I wanted to check out what options there were for 1 monitor, 2 monitors, 3 monitors. I’ve not bothered looking at 4 monitors – both because I won’t be using that kind of setup (desk space!), and because my personal view is you need a centre monitor to use since I play games, and so having a monitor a full 2 away from the primary one won’t help much. On the games front, I’ll also be seeing what you can get to have peripheral-vision-adding multiple-monitor-widescreen – called Surround Gaming usually. πŸ™‚

I’ll link to all my random finding, and man, let’s just say that some technology companies don’t like to actually provide easily accessible FAQ’s! Continue reading Investigating Dual/Triple Monitor Gaming and Desktop

Pandora Pre-ordered

I was debating a while ago about getting some better portable media player. My DS I’ve never got on with – encoding video for my R4 card is a real pain, it just doesn’t get on well with most input video types. My friend directed me the way of Pandora project (I don’t have an iPod touch, like he has, and already have an MP3 player πŸ™‚ ), which is a neat rather indie piece of kit being made up.

It interested me, but not because it is dead cheap – all told it’s Β£266 for the unit and adapter, which is without SD card storage it uses, and so isn’t cheaper then an Eee or any equivalent really (well, many are much more expensive, but I’m not looking for a laptop replacement here). It has a good set of features and is nicely geared towards something I need to get into – ROMs and emulation.

Simply put there is no way to play the majority of old games out there (buying the consoles and games second hand is actually quite expensive in money and space), so emulation helps in that respect greatly – since I am a member of the IGDA’s Game Preservation SIG, emulation is one area I need to investigate anyway! I’ve never got on with it on my PC, since a keyboard or mouse just doesn’t feel right for most of the games. This should help, I’ve got plenty of time travelling to and from work to play on it. Inputs include a d-pad, some control nubs, shoulder buttons and some normal buttons. The screen is also a touch screen, which saves on having a mouse – which is a big plus, one thing about the Eee’s and other notebooks I’ve used is they are just horrible for mouse control on the go.

It also should be a very competent media player – long battery life, and reasonably big screen (800×480, which is over 16:9 – the closest 16:9 is 800×450) I’m not sure how well it will cope scaling videos (if it is software based it might be a big slow, but some example youtube videos are pretty neat), but in any case it’ll be good to shove some videos on it and play them right away, I do intend to rip my DVD collection once I get it automated.

Finally, while I do not intend to do a great deal with it (but you never know) it will be capable of a full OS, browser and so forth (anything that can be recompiled for the ARM processor actually). Good in a pinch, I’m sure I’ll have it on me more often the my laptop since it is around the same size as a DS. This beats out any other media player at least πŸ™‚ – the keyboard might not be great for this, but it’ll do I’m sure.

The only thing is it is a pre-order, it will probably be more then a month to get it (they’ve not started manufacturing – so likely two months), but I’m happy to support such a team of dedicated people. I did get told of the project when it was starting ages ago, and I’m impressed they’re almost done (since I entirely forgot about it!). A great little open source machine. πŸ™‚

I’ll share my experiences when I get it. It does depend on community support, so hopefully will get what it needs πŸ™‚

A Forced Reinstalled

My XP installation went up in smoke, well, a “user32.dll not found” BSOD on boot error at least. At least my reinstallation was partially planned.

Just to note in case I ever come across the error again (it BSOD’ed after the scrolling loading bar of windows, but before the login screen appeared) there are a variety of probable reasons the BOSD occured – all of them pretty unrecoverable. Hive registry corruption, files being missing or corrupted from the system32 folder, driver problems or hardware problems. Notably checkdsk performed fine off a PE disk, there are no viruses, and the only hardware problem I did know of was an external HDD (a older Maxtor one) noting a missing driver for installing it’s front button.

It’s a toss up between a “as good as reinstalled” fresh registry, meaning nothing appears as installed, and many programs break (gee, thanks Microsoft. I love single points of failure), and reinstalling. The latter option at least means I can install newer drivers, and get it fresh – and more importantly, sort my RAID config out.

Interestingly, I couldn’t do RAID1 with more then 2 drives, or RAID5 with more then 3. Funny motherboard support for software RAID to be honest. RAID10 (1+0) on 4 HDD’s is good enough for my OS and data – so cut back on the data a bit. RAID0 on 2 HDD’s for my games, for speed, and since I wouldn’t miss the installations as much as the data.

This is one reason I’m effectively offline though. I only just got things installed yesterday (nLite is brilliant in most respects for creating a good boot CD, just takes a while going through all the tweaks πŸ™‚ ). I did get all my data off before deleting my RAID config, well, I hope everything important.

This also gives me a chance to try some new firewall/AV stuff. I’m trying ESET security (nod32) on trial – not too impressed so far (the firewall seems a bit cumbersome to edit, AV a bit uncustomisable), but the memory/CPU front seems lower then my past firewalls or AV’s. Once the trial is over I’ll decide whether to keep or try Comodo’s (which firewall I used before, and was okay), or some other – suggestions welcome, and AV isn’t entirely necessary (not many seem to integrate well with Thunderbird, sigh), to be honest – but a decent firewall is paramount (stopping outgoing things, and opening incoming ports, for a variety of reasons – especially when I am up to trying some networking stuff).

Quickly before I continue though, I won’t be using AVG or Avira, since they’re okay but pretty hefty. McAfee isn’t very good generally, Kapersky is not great in any respect (totally unusable, unbearably slow). Avast and Sophos are pretty unweildy (and not free). Don’t even get me started on Samantec/Norton, the bane of all problems on a PC (it’s almost true, if there are viruses it’s not detected or can’t remove, they’re less of a problem then Symantec itself. Shame people pay for it).

Since starting work I’ve also decided system restory at a low % of my drive space (80GB OS partition) is a good idea for the OS. At least it’ll give me a chance to get back in easily if the registry corrupts. some other things I usually remove I’ve left running too, a bit more typical setup – for the minor problems I sometimes had before, because I have 3GB of RAM now.

PFN_LIST_CORRUPT. Fun with BSODs!

Okay, so annoyingly I was “taken offline” (well, by my own devices) by installing some new RAM. New RAM that should have run fine at the EPP settings, although they don’t automatically activate with my motherboard (Asus PB5-Deluxe), setting it manually makes my system rather unstable:

11516
Downtime number 1…my first bit of debug info

I also installed some new nVidia drivers at a similar time (180.40), and these in fact caused a problem when I didn’t uninstall and remove the old ones, but seemingly had nothing to do with this error. However it did BSOD separately with an nVidia driver error in Fallout 3, so I reverted to the old drivers for now. This is separate but equally frustrating, and I need a fresh XP install to really install the new drivers I guess.

Therefore, this error was my RAM doing something wonky – according to Google anyway. I at the moment have given up on overclocking it to the recommended and slightly faster settings, since I’d prefer a stable system. I can’t even seem to get this tester tool running for more then a few minutes – my CPU gets to 70 degrees celcius after a few minutes out of the hour test. Annoying!

I reseated the RAM, but I suspect it’s some setting or other in the BIOS, since it did it again (and a third unrecorded time):

11521
Downtime number 2 (of many more)

I’ll have to get back to this error later. It could also be to do with my paging file being corrupted or somesuch by my motherboards software RAID, but since I turned off the overclocking I haven’t had the same problems, thus it really rules that out. The RAM is also dandy – ran Memtest a few times on separate occasions just fine, and I overclocked my previous RAM to a similar set of standards. We’ll see if I can get it working when I reinstall, and do things a bit more rigorously. With a lot of rubbish on my XP install, and me wanting to get my RAID sorted out better, it’d be good to test on a clean working install. I also could just avoid the whole issue and, you know, ignore the fact I can’t get the better timings and go for the slightly higher but more stable ones πŸ˜‰

Also a shame I can’t run the /PAE flag on Windows, it simply can’t recognise more then the 4GB total address space (which, with my audio card and 640MB nVidia card, totals at 2.93GB of space available). Might try disabling a few more non-needed bits from my motherboard, but the extra RAM is welcome, especially since I intend to install a second OS in the form of Vista x64, which will make use of the extra RAM.

At least my PC will keep going for a while longer. Fallout 3 runs nicely on High, and I could probably up some of the settings if I liked – although the amount of times it just crashes is getting exceedingly high to the point of frustration now, with me not knowing why (since it boots back into the game just fine right after a crash…).

BIOS Randomness Disabling My PS/2 Keyboard and Mouse

So, it seems after altering the fan settings on my BIOS I can’t use my keyboard and mouse (this is being posted from my laptop). Do you know how annoying it is to not even have Windows recognise USB ones either? I don’t know why it decided to do this really, I just hope to set my BIOS up in a way so I can actually use USB keyboards to access it so I can get to the BIOS whatever!

So, before I do a BOIS CMOS reset which should fix the problem, I need to make a backup of my fakeRAID0’ed data to an external HDD. I managed to get one drive recognised using DMRAID in Knoppix, but for some reason only the OS parition on the first two drives. The other 2 partitions (over the other 4 HDD’s) were not mountable, and trying the internet for answers didn’t help (It likely is the info for the RAID is not where DMRAID is looking for it but I’ve no idea how to fix that. The OS one was detected since it basically is only on the first 3rd of the RAID0).

Therefore I moved onto BartPE, and after finally realising after one CD that the “Press F6 to choose RAID drivers” in it obviously wouldn’t work…so I made a new CD integrating it (which was pretty easy actually!). Data is copying now, once it’s all on a external HDD I’ll be happier if I have to wipe it.

Must implement that weekly backup routine I intended to do weeks ago…must also get another terabyte external HDD to do this on! Lesson to everyone here is BIOS settings suck to change if they can disable your PS/2 ports (or hopefully I haven’t got broken ones which is the other option, sigh). I don’t know what kind of lesson it is, but it’s a “waste a day getting data off your hard drives in a PE environment” if it’s anything to go by.

Update: I did reset my BIOS, and it did sort my mouse/keyboard (and I’ve now enabled USB ones too). I still am unsure which option changed it, so always beware and backup before changing the BIOS! πŸ™‚