Category Archives: Technical

Technical things might also fall under “computer” or “film” or whatever else. Might be documentation, tutorials, or just simply things which involve technical work.

New PC and Windows 7

Okay, so not many posts recently, since I’ve brought myself a new PC and am currently battling the beast that is Windows 7, the ATI drivers from Hell and EDID monitor information being lost. Many reinstalls right now (when I’m writing this Windows 7 is “Expanding Windows files” 🙂 ).

This is my site so I’m putting down what I’ve got. Why not? I spent enough on it all 🙂


So, I decided basically to plan it around the i5 CPU, that recently came out, based on its lower cost and the fact i7’s had no massive amount of speed boosts and HyperThreading isn’t necessary on a gaming box. Made some discussions (which include prices I won’t bother to list below) on my clans forum, mainly going around what to get between SSD’s and HDD’s, with some coming out just at the right time (and lower price then they are now) at Overclockers, meaning I went for 2x64GB SSDs with a complementary 1TB HDD. This was, I hoped, going to be fun (to run in RAID-0).

Graphics card was the newly released 5850 (which was a darn bit cheaper then the 5870), from ATI (who’s drivers I never liked, and we’ll see why I dislike them more soon). I reused my sound card (Creative X-Fi ExtremeMusic), got a ASRock motherboard based on price and because it both had PS/2 ports and lacked some of the rubbish other boards had (more then having a ton of features), and an Antec case with 4 fans slots I filled so they could be run at low/medium speeds for constant air.

I also went for 8GB of RAM – so it’s 64 bit all the way. Final details are:

  • i5 Processor
  • 8GB G.Skill Ripjaw DDR3 PC3-12800C8 1600MHz (This needs a bit of overclocking to get 1600Mhz. Still fast though)
  • Antec 200 Two Hundred Ultimate Gaming Case (yes, that’s its title. Main thing was 4 fan slots and a reasonable design – it also has a nice hot-swapping thing for SATA drives I might well use).
  • Corsair 620W HX Modular PSU (basically worked well on my old PC).
  • XFX ATI Radeon HD 5850 1024MB (mainly got this for 2 reasons – better then nVidia’s offerings at the price, and supports 3 displays)
  • Crucial M225 64GB (supposedly up to 200MB/s read, 150MB/s write).
  • Maxtor 1TB Hard Drive (mostly cheapest 1TB drive. Also provides a good benchmark for the SSD’s performances)
  • 2 LG DVD writers

I also ordered (and am awaiting on) the cheap HANNSG 27.5″ screen (hooking it up via. HDMI should be okay), to make up the 3 monitors along with my 2 existing ones.

My old PC will be used as a new server (redundancy with RAID-5 and RAID-1 setups, constant backups, services running on it, etc.) which is a good use of the box 🙂

Windows 7

Why get this at all? I’ve been using XP for ages. Windows 7 finally, I think, makes Vista useful enough to use. Basically tones down a lot of the unresponsiveness and useless parts of Vista and gives back a button to shut down in the start menu 🙂

In any case I mainly wanted it to, as I said above, upgrade to 64bit properly. This introduces annoying driver signing (which can at least be temporarily disabled for certain tools I might need to use), but otherwise means I can make use of lots of RAM.

Windows 7 Installs – RAID/SSD stuff

I’ve been using the Windows 7 RC this week until this evening when I got out the Windows 7 Professional that got delivered today. The first point of concern was the use of RAID-0 and the SSD’s. HDTune decided that instead of massive performance gains from RAID-0, it should be slower then my 1TB HDD!

Secondly, there are issues using any RAID with SSD’s. TRIM is useful for keeping speeds constant, and there is no wiping tools made for RAID to do garbage collection for my Crucial SSD’s (and likely won’t be for a while).

Therefore, rather then fight for RAID-0, after I updated the firmware of my Crucial SSD’s, I’ve decided to just use them separately. Windows 7 plus the XP VM is 35GB alone, making it fill most of a single drive in any case.

In the future, if software RAID correctly supports SSD’s I’ll make a change over – if I can get Windows 7 installed so many times I’ll have it down to a T.

Odd thing is I need to enable RAID or IDE in the BIOS (rather then AHCI) to get the CD ROM drives to boot to install the OS. I’m going to mess around to see which is best…(just before I sleep after this, got 200mb/s read, 150mb/s write basically on larger files as advertised, which is nice, and better then before I updated the firmware). whew…long time doing all these combinations.

ATI Drivers

Stay tuned. I’ll get Windows 7 fully installed and tested before complaining that my RC experience was bad!

(However it was terrible. Constant crashes and blue screens – with no overclocking and seemingly no overheating from any part of the system – along with random bursts of 99% usage on the desktop, for no apparent reason, with random fixes I’ve still got bookmarked just in case I need to try them on what should be working drivers although the control panel is utterly terrible regardless…I tell you they’re trying to kill me here, I swear! Never again ATI! even if the performance far outranks nVidia!).

EDID woes

EDID is the Extended Display Identification Data in the firmware of monitors, set along DVI connections to the OS to check what modes a monitor can do.

Sadly, out of my two duplicate 22″ Iiyama monitors, one of them has an obvious EDID deficiency. Luckily XP never noticed this, except saying it was Non-Plug and Play. Windows 7 (and I assume Vista) however doesn’t like this.

My experience has been of utter frustration first of all figuring out that EDID existed in the first place. Then using several tools to read what Windows thought, what the monitor actually reported (which ended up being nothing – ie; there is an issue!) and so on.

Once I figured it out, I unsuccessfully failed to update the EDID with a copy from my other monitor (the tool simply didn’t work), and using Windows 7’s promising EDID override feature failed – likely because of two issues. The first is the ATI drivers (they barely noticed it existed at all most of the time), but secondly, since it never reported any EDID information in the first place, Windows likely didn’t notice the fact I provided EDID information in the new driver file (as it should be to override it). Or maybe it was the ATI drivers there again. I had some random success adding some custom resolutions, kinda, but it was a bit of a mess and ATI didn’t allow me to actually input a custom resolution despite the fact that Windows itself detected it simply as a Generic Doesn’t Want To Tell Me What Monitor It Is item!

I’m going to contact Iiyama if it is still in warranty (and likely even if it isn’t), and hopefully get it fixed that way.

Now, to sleep for me, I’ve got a long weekend ahead of me fixing this mess, or figuring out what I’m doing wrong overall at least 🙂

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 🙂 ).

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. 🙂

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

Finally a Gallery2 WordPress Gallery Replacement

So I’ve got around to testing a large amount of possible replacements for Gallery2 and found one which generally fits (and I hope will be improved since it is entirely stable, but lacking a few features). The need was to have:

  • A WordPress-integrated browsable gallery (so it cannot just be the “attach images to WordPress posts” WordPress uses by default). This would include the ability to have subgalleries and automatic thumbnail creation.
  • The ability to put a gallery image in a post (with caption),
  • Easy to upload images too (ie; would allow multiple file uploads at once. By Java, FTP, Flash, zip etc.).
  • Ability to add some kind of description or name to the pictures.

It also cannot be a off-site host. I frankly despise putting too much on Facebook, while I actually like some of Flickr’s parts too, I have a website for a reason and both want to use it, and not give my photos intentionally to a third party. Faster too to link to my own photos 🙂 and no reliability problems.

Gallery2 Woes

Why get rid of Gallery 2 then? Well, Gallery2 itself isn’t too bad, as it goes (and is easily hackable with plugins, theme changes if you need it to be better) – it had also a great Java upload thing just to process a ton of uploads over HTTP, and resizing (and cropping), thumbnail and subfolder options (such as what was the folder thumbnail) were good too. Naming and descriptions were fine as well.

However, WordPress integration was always problematic. The rarely-updated and complex WPG2 likes things done in a very specific way, often messing up both its own settings and the main Gallery2 install settings (permalinks mainly). It liked its own gallery page, which simply embeds the Gallery2 page bizarrely – I couldn’t get it to work much better, so the Gallery2 part was always off by itself! The actual insertion of images in posts generally worked okay too – a little annoyance at adding odd CSS and HTML but in generally a-okay for what I needed, and finding images worked fine too.

This was a few years ago mind – some of the plugins below didn’t even exist then, and WordPress hadn’t even integrated things like auto-site-updates and its own media offerings were lackluster (and for me still are not suitable, see below). It worked with some effort before. Just I need a better and simply a more simple solution now.

Testing Options

So, in any case I’ll go through what I generally tested then! Some are rather popular ones I just couldn’t get working or were not suitable, cest la vie 🙂 In fact, there were no many that even fitted the “Don’t use the WordPress media upload system”.

WordPress Itself

Hopeless for the above criteria. I need accessible galleries, thumbnails and captions, while WordPress can deal with per-post images, it doesn’t have any captioning options, gallery options (although some plugins hook into it) and organisational options are limited to “by date and post” or “all in one folder”. With hundreds of photos to add at minimum this was unworkable.

Sad, too, since the upload interface allowed easy additions of titles and descriptions when uploading.

NextGEN Gallery

NextGEN was the most popular one I tested. It worked, nicer integration then many, but fails at the “subgalleries”. Some parts were utterly terrible to use – the way you have to make subgalleries and so forth simply failed for me – strange admin interfaces to get it to work, where it simply didn’t want to cooperate. The documentation was poor too, surprisingly. Finally, the upload interface didn’t work with any SSL options enabled, it simply didn’t (neither Admin SSL or what I generally use, forced WordPress SSL worked), which is required for me.

If you want a gallery, try it – but be aware of the issues with subfolders and pictures in those same folders.

Awsom PixGallery

Pixgallery was a nice and simple gallery, might be suitable for others (especially, it appears, comic sites). However, it didn’t work too well for me because of the lack of inline-post-thumbnail options – it works fine as a gallery, but not for having images in posts separately. However it did most other things fine – and has some options I miss in the one I chose, namely things like “Remove underscores and replace with spaces in filenames” and filenames being different from captions/descriptions.

One other oddity with this was nice permalinks were destined to never be added, for no foreseeable reason. Odd, since I rather like them, keeps URL’s nice and readable, which is the point (and is why my site isn’t all p=1412 or something!). Another thing was that ordering could not ever be done with “Folders come first”, which is a bizarre omission and makes ordering things a bit difficult unless you manually order everything.


Sadly, despite Coppermine looking like a competent 3rd party gallery, the only plugins allowed integrated galleries, nothing that helped linked thumbnails and captions into posts easily. This just made me miss this one out entirely, a latecomer in any case, sadly no one is dedicated to do a fuller implementation it seems.


Not many others played well with my subfolder-madeup WordPress, and wanting to have a page or folder in the root directory. Many were out of date, basically not working with the latest WordPress code (and REALLY needs to add a Mozilla-addons-like “Select the version of WordPress you are on”!). A fair few just integrated other gallery software – mainly external sites (Flickr, Picasa etc.), and others just messed with adding javascript or options over the WordPress upload system.

The Final Choice

Lazyest Gallery

Lazyest Gallery was my choice for a swap. It has it’s own simple system to check a set directory for picture files (so FTP uploads work fine), and create thumbnails and cut down sized versions on the fly – done nicely in the folders themselves. Can caption images relatively easily, and users can comment per picture too. None of the captions are DB based, but instead XML based (comments are just in WP’s normal system). Simple to setup, and some simple options for how the galleries should be displayed (size, columns, amount of things per page, slideshow options and so forth).

The way you put a page up for it is dead easy, and it works with WordPress being in a subfolder thankfully, keeping my site structure neat. It also has excellent syntax for adding whatever kind of image in a post – whatever size, position and caption.

Still not feature-complete enough in some areas – permalinks are on the upcoming features list (yes!), there is little ease of use moving things around (see below for why), and I’d also like at some point separate “Name” and “Caption” fields, which would really solve file naming issues. It also doesn’t have a nice way to find an image to add to posts (the button helps but first you need the image path and name), but this is minor since it is easily copied from the gallery itself. It appears it will continue to be updated with some nice bits and pieces I could use too (such as multiple HTTP upload facilities).

Odd Apache Note

Apache running PHP has any files created by it set to the user “nobody nobody”. With the security risks involved, yes, this means I can’t physically remove some files or folders (arbitrarily sometimes) except through the same PHP scripts (and sometimes it’s just bizarre what does and doesn’t work mind you). Lazyest has problems deleting thumbnails/caches and their folders sometimes, but it can delete the photos themselves it seems from whatever source they were from. I’ve got some simple scripts so if I need to I can force things to be permission 777, then deleted by PHP itself, which should solve any major issues with this. Or I just won’t move much. As long as it is readable so it can be backed up, all should be okay.


There is no perfect WordPress gallery out there yet for me, mainly! I think Lazyest is by far the closest and most well integrated for my needs. I’m going to spend some time moving images over to it (along with their descriptions) and updating the hundreds of posts I have linking to Gallery2 images and replacing them before I remove Gallery entirely. Here’s to hoping it works okay in the end! (And if a better gallery plugin becomes available, I don’t know even then if I’ll bother to swap back, but Lazyest keeps everything quite neat if I ever did 🙂 thumbs up from me on that).

eSata Working Nearly Perfectly, and Comments on Pages

The System Restore has worked fine getting my FireWire working from the previous problems I had. It still isn’t a proper hot-swappable eSata port, and I’ve no idea why (internet reports that it can be). However, HotSwap! is a neat app that can do it since the drive can be removed, just needs to have the cache cleared so there are no write errors. Just means I’ll have to be a bit careful not having it turn off without disconnecting it!

I’ve also had time this week to enable comments on all the pages on my site, and now they’re enabled by default on new ones I create. I’m inspired mainly by’s impressive comments (well, I say impressive, they’re notable for being usually better at explaining things then the real documentation!). Might be useful in the future in any case.

Finally, my Gallery2 installation with WordPress WPG2 plugin is again messing up (note the two Gallery links in the left navigation) – ahhgg, but for a proper permanent link setup which actually worked so it was /gallery/v/XXX instead of /v/XXX links from thumbnails! This is a PITA, and I’ll have to sort it sometime, or replace Gallery2 and WPG2 – which won’t be a small task (meaning: re-uploading *everything*), but I think might be necessary (and would allow me to cull some of the less worthwhile pictures and setup better thumbnail sizes so not so much HDD space is used on my server account), or at least I need to hack it to work better.

I’m leaving it since I want to also investigate hacking WPG2 to do better thumbnail HTML/CSS – at the moment it sticks the image and link inside a

tag to get it to float, centre etc – while in the RSS feed, this pretty much goes out of whack since of course CSS isn’t loaded for it. Inlining some CSS into the tag would certainly help there.

eSata and Losing my FireWire

I’ve got 2 nice new eSata Verbatim 2TB RAID external hard drives (which I’ll set to RAID1 mirroring) for lots of game archive data, preservation stuff and website archives.

However, for some bizarre reason after messing around between eSata settings my FireWire ports have entirely stopped working. I want to use eSata since, when it was actually working (with my FireWire and USB drives), eSata was around 200MB/s read times, while USB was about 38MB/s read times. FireWire is a few megs better (although a different, and single drive) at 41MB/s, although now none of the FireWire things I plugin work. I gave up last night, sigh, technology!

Also, oddly, eSata now reports the drive as internal (I can’t make it disconnect by “Safely remove hardware”) despite it starting out as removable. I’m very confused, my motherboard does have a really dodgy implmentation of this though (JMicron controller, which can do simple RAID though eSata, which is probably part of the issue – it’s not “just” a hotswappable eSata port!).

Here’s to hoping that System Restore can set it right, something that I’m glad I’ve actually enabled just for this kind of situation. The BIOS settings are now back to what they should be, so I’m now going back in time to June 30th, 2009…wish me luck 😉 If it’s not this, I’ll double check my BIOS, which hasn’t got a lot of custom settings, and should, I hope, be possible to resolve.

~~~~wavey lines~~~~ wooooooo!

Nice New iAudio Battery

My iAudio battery was giving up on me. It is now 4 or possibly 5 years old (I got it one Christmas), and so, I thought, “I’ll replace it!”. No doubt you can do this for most MP3 players, especially those years out of warranty like mine 😉

I found some handy instructions and site pointing on the iAudiophile forums. Megacapacity had the ticket, a suitable fitting battery. Presto chango, I got one in the post (from Hong Kong so took a few days).

Yesterday I did the operation. I managed to open my MP3 player pretty easily. Got a soldering iron off my Dad to get the old one out and new one in – doing this I also got rid of one wire since it just wouldn’t reattach (after I knocked one end off) despite me trying for a while. It isn’t a necessary wire at least, connecting to an unused bottom connector (well, at least I hope so, I can still hear it playing at least 🙂 ).

The finished work. Note extra wire and old battery.

I tried out the battery today (on a trip to the NMOC). Previously, it honestly had only a 50/50 chance of turning off after immediately taking it off the mains power (sometimes I had to keep it plugged in to initially boot it). It was worse with the original firmware, I now have RockBox on which is good (apart from lacking a “Normalise” function, the only downside of the firmware). Originally it then lost its charge fast, and leaving it for a few hours even if you don’t use it lead it into “Cannot start low battery” mode.

Now however it held it’s charge, after listening to 3.25 hours of podcasts, probably isn’t even 25% down (it’s really hard to tell on the screen). Not sure how long it’s back up to run-time wise, I’ll have to try it out on a long haul (perhaps a trip next week), and hope that it keeps going for a while longer. I can’t afford a new MP3 player yet, although it’d not be bad if I could get a larger then 20GB one next time 😉 – this is a good money saving tip if your battery does die too. Cost me £16.79, which is much more affordable then an entirely new player 🙂

My Macbook’s Missing Energy Saver Options

Seems I can’t change my Macbooks Energy Saver options from the menu bar now, which is a bit annoying for some tasks.


Not just me, so well, it’s everyone. Hmm, it’s nice that Apple provides some good fixes in their major updates – but then taking things out of software is nasty. Naughty Apple! Just because the 2008 Macbooks never had this option, why do you force me not to have it? I hope it gets fixed, but it’s unlikely.

This also happened before, although with something much more annoying, the “Update” of graphic drivers which removed any way to play 256 colour pallet games. They just like removing functionality over time I guess! 🙁

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! 🙂