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Someone is Guilty of Tax Evoision

Filed under: General — 19day @ 22:21:37

As is now well documented, I now have a dual monitor setup. Multi-monitor setups have been available since windows 98, and yet things still screw it up. But I somehow think they weren’t as prevalent, I mean, now even I have it, and I rarely do any upgrading unless it’s particularly easy or just can’t be helped anymore. And so here we have it.

Dual Screen

Need… bigger…. desk….

But programs have to make sure they don’t screw it up. Raymond Chen in his book The Old New Thing calls this a kind of tax. There are lots of taxes that have to be paid by software that wants to play well. Like handling low battery conditions, games working with Alt-Tab, and working properly with multi-monitor setups.

I’ve discovered at least a couple of things that seem to mess up on that front.

PowerDVD, that came pre-installed on my computer, has worked for me relatively faithfully for years. However, when I try to run it on the secondary monitor, it just crashes, right out. And it’s not even using hardware overlays.

WMP seems to work okay (I should hope they pay their own taxes) but once you start playing in one monitor, you can’t drag it to the next one. It is using hardware acceleration, so I presume this is just a limitation, not terribly painful, whatever.

VLC is my new DVD playing software since it doesn’t crash. Well, it does, sometimes. It will just blank out and then die, but what is far more irritating right now is what happens when I play a file in it and have it on the second monitor. When it’s done, the gui shrinks back down to nothing, but then nestles up against the top-left of the screen (still secondary monitor). I can drag another file to it and it plays there, I can drag the window away, but when I double click the titlebar to maximize the window, it acts like a Restore, and just gets a little bigger, I have to doubleclick again to get it to maximize.

But why maximize it, why not just run it fullscreen? Well, that works, but it also creates another entry in the taskbar for VLC hardware overlay. Now if I accidentally touch the original VLC task in the bar, it will appear as an empty gray VLC window overtop of the video. I minimize it, phew.. but then if I doubleclick the fullscreen video to get it back into a window, it does, but the video is now black, and I have to stop it and start it again. I think it’s because when I minimize the parent window, it moves back to the primary display (or thinks it does anyway) and then we get back to trying to move a hardware accelerated playback between monitors. Oh well.

Another sub-tax that VLC violates is keeping dialogs close to the parent. If I put VLC on the secondary monitor and then File – Open Disc, the dialog pops up on the primary monitor… ugh.

I tried Doom3 with the new card, it seemed to be okay (but managed to crash Nvidia’s own Temperature Guage control panel applet afterwards), but since it takes over the primary monitor and drops the res, and the desktop spans, then a bunch of windows suddenly get flung to the secondary monitor. When the game ends, not all of them make it back.

I’ll explore further to see what other programs can’t cope.


Computer Illiterate Men Need Not Press

Filed under: General — 19day @ 04:30:42

If you are advanced in years, pre-pubescent, or a computer-illiterate married woman who doesn’t work, well, LG has the feature for you.

EZ Zoom apparently makes their monitor drop down a step in resolution, effectively magnifying things.. while squishing them, or something. In any case, this is copy-pasted from the LG monitor Userguide shipped on the CD (with all due [sic]ness):

*Only One touch of ez-zoom, you can fine the best resolution you want and it is possible to magnify the size of characters and pictures for the old not having good eye sight, housewives not dealing with computer well and children.

I’m not sure how having a slightly bigger version of an error message or somesuch will help a woman in that position, but hey, at least LG’s thinkin’ of ya.

A Tale of Two Monitors

Filed under: General — 19day @ 00:27:29

I guess I am in one respect like the typical male (well, two respects) in that I like gadgetry. Though I ride very late on the technology wave, I still like getting useless stuff sometimes, when I feel like I really really really want it (harken back to my impulse buy of the PS2).

Anyway, what I felt like getting now was a Dual Monitor setup. I had gotten one last year just after new years, when I was desperately sick, my first flatscreen. What a day it was. But that was all part of the plan, as I eventually wanted to get a second monitor. I knew something else was in my way though, as my video card only had one vga output. Drat.

So I had been toying around more recently about finally getting the videocard and second monitor, but I had no idea what kind of videocard I needed, since I wasn’t really sure of what I had, and what had changed. See, I’m interested in computers in the sense of what you do with them after they are on. I’m more into the software. I used to be interested in the hardware, but I never had money to buy stuff, or got magazines, or anything, so now my information is desperately out of date. I remember when RAM had to be balanced between the two sticks. Nowadays, wanting to upgrade my RAM, I have no idea what crazy acronymed RAM will even work with my 5 year old computer, it’s hopeless.

Which brings me to the first painful realization of the evening, I suck at hardware, always have, probably always will. I tend to let my brother handle hardware installations, usually because I’d rather have someone else to blame. Now, at work, it’s another matter. My department rolled out some Dual Monitor setups (which also required a new video card) and I was ready and willing to install it myself. Why? Because if something went wrong, we had a whole other department to help. But with my computer, not only am I on my own, but being my only computer, I can’t get online to check out error messages and such in case something goes very very wrong. Plus my computer’s information has become like another vital organ, if it dies, so does a part of me. Pathetic.

Anyway, I went to my friendly neighborhood futureshop and spent some time looking at the video cards. I had been purposely looking for a GeForce 8600, from previous discussions with people at work. However, imagine my bafflement when I saw things with strange prefixes before the name, and more weird shit after the number. Wha wha what? One card at 8500 was priced much lower than one at the 7000’s, and I assumed the higher numbers meant better. And I saw the 8500 priced significantly less than the 8600 hundred. Like over a dollar a unit in the difference, the memory of the 8600 was less, what? Then I saw, though it was less memory, it was DDR3 memory, so I guess the 3 makes it better than the DDR2 in the other one, by at least a couple of factors of memory capacity itself, I had no idea that sequels to Dance Dance Revolution held so much sway (I jest, of course, I know there is a difference, it was just hard for me to spot).

In the end, I picked the 8500 some such. But I noticed that it was for PCI-Express. Did I have PCI-Express… I know I had PCI… was it express? Are they all Express?…. Should I have looked inside the computer before coming? Yes. Alas, I figured I’d just ask the guy…. my computer is around 4-5 years old, but it runs a P4 processor, knowing the motherboard would have to be compatible with that, is it likely I’d have a PCI-Express slot? The answer was “Sure”. I think it was unlikely for them to answer anything else. I also somehow assumed I was using on-board video, somehow forgetting the mini-fiasco of getting Proteva to replace the card they put in the box with the one I actually ordered, some other GeForce card. All I remembered about that one before going to Futureshop was it was 64M, meaning virtually anything I got would be better. But did I have PCI-E…. seemed every video card there was either PCI-E, or AGP. Someone told me once that AGP = bad, so I just figured.. of course, I have that slot. And bought the thing.

Oh, and I also picked up the second monitor as well. I stood around the monitor/computer area trying to look like I needed to be served, but no one ever approached me. They all looked too busy trying to sell some other people some apple products, claiming Windows couldn’t do the things they wanted to do (some of which seemed to me to be flat out lies, or half-truths, but what the hell, iMacs will probably keep them out of harm’s way). I had wanted a standard-aspect ratio monitor, as in, non-widescreen, because fullscreen games don’t seem to understand that throwing the monitor into 640*480 just isn’t going to work out the way it thinks. But for some reason, those monitors were all crazy expensive, compared to comparable widescreens, so I just grabbed one from a stack, which is how I got the first one, and it worked out okay.

So I get home, ready to power down my computer and do the magic swap. I could install a harddrive, or another PCI card okay most likely, but I’d never done anything like a videocard. It worried me, because if I screwed it up, I’d have no display to help me figure things out. I opened up the case, saw the old card there. Turns out it was an Nvidia GeForce MX440, from good old 2002, piece of crap. It was dusty, I used the can of dusting gas to clean it off (not a can of air, it contains asphyxiating explosive gasses, presumably for my comfort and safety), and then I saw… that doesn’t look like the slot that can handle the pins in the new card. I took a closer look and compared it with the new-card’s quick setup sheet. That looks like AGP… god dammit. I boot the computer and go to the device properties for the display, and it confirms it, definitely AGP, and not even good AGP, but 4x, which I didn’t learn until later. Basically, all those good cards are out of bounds because my computer sucks. As I didn’t feel like even entertaining the possibility of getting a new motherboard, I packed it all up and went back to Futureshop and returned it. They asked if it was defective, I said I was, my computer couldn’t handle it. I saw them type in that the card was defective, so I’ve learned never to be funny with these people. Presumably they will work out that the card is fine.

Anyway, went back to the wall-o-computer-stuff and looked just at the AGP ones. Oh, wait…. AGP-8x… what the hell is that? Sides of boxes say helpful things like “Required: AGP-8x compatible slot” and “Some motherboards violate AGP standards, card may not physically fit”. This does nothing to build my confidence. What the hell should I get? At least having seen the card already in the computer, it had 3 sections of pins, do these look like that? No. I finally find one that has the features I want, while being old enough to work with my computer (for XP, no mention of Vista), and yet is far more expensive than the one I just returned, with is all newy and Vista-ready-y. *sigh*. I buy the smegger. I end up at the same cashier to whom I returned the first card, she gave no indication that she recognized me. People are strange, when you’re a stranger.

I get home, uninstall the previous card’s drivers (or the manual says demons will devour my soul) and shut off the computer. I slowly and carefully remove the old card, and slowly and carefully install the new one. Ah, the next step… attach power. What, this thing needs a power feed? The old one didn’t… I guess it needs more to pump out all those triangles, yeah. Well, I knew higher end ones needed more power, but I figured all it needed was a good enough PSU and pulled it from the socket or something. Oh yeah, turns out my new PSU is just good enough to handle this thing, the first card wouldn’t have worked even if I had a PCI-E slot. Of course, I only remembered to check this once I found I had to plug the thing in. The card came with it’s own power lines, but I found a spare lead from the PSU and plugged it in, hoping for the best.

After rebooting into glorious 640*480 mode, installing the drivers off the CD, rebooting again, and changing the display mode myself (somehow I figured it would pick a good one once the drivers were there), I was set. The one downside to the card is that it’s not DVI-DVI, but DVI-VGA or whatever. On my old card, I was on the bad connector anyway, so I never knew DVI regardless. So I took the new monitor (and given it’s number, assumed it was better) and plugged it into the DVI port, and the old monitor into the second. The old one apparently could handle DVI (as all flatscreens I think can, by their nature), but it didn’t provide the cord, at least I think it didn’t… it’s been a year, leave me alone).

So now, I’ve got the dualscreen goodness, and for my own reference, here is what I’ve got
Card: Nvidia GeForce 7600 GS OC (512MB DDR2)
Primary Monitor: LG L206W 1680*1050 DVI
Secondary Monitor: LG L204WT 1680*1050 VGA

Games still don’t understand it. Neither does GotoMyPC, at least, not natively, but I can make the window span and it sort of works, except since my dual screens are widescreen, while work ones are non-widescreen (Pan and scan? heh) then I have less than optimal screen useage, alas)

I think the next upgrade to my computer should be system ram, I have a paltry 512M, and I’ve been meaning to get another stick. While I was in there I did see that it was just on one stick, and I have 2 more banks to play with. But I wonder what friggen alphabetsoup kind of ram it is.

I guess I’ll just listen to the beepcodes.

Edit: I have my motherboard manual, it’s an Asus P4B533, and says this about the memory:
3 x 184-pin DDR DIMM sockets for up to 2GB memory
Supports PC2100/PC1600 unbuffered ECC/non-ECC DDR DIMMs

Which is great, except CPU-Z tells me that my memory is PC2700 (166 MHz). What? Looks like I’ll have to crawl in and see for myself. But what if CPU-Z isn’t wrong? Hate.


Arachnid Suicide

Filed under: General — 19day @ 04:10:55

Anyone who knows me knows I’m quite wary of spiders. Very much so. Very very much so. In fact, I had a dream only a couple of nights ago where I was back home in my room, filled with debris (so, you know, quite normal so far) but there was this tiny spider on the wall, but with really really really long legs, and as I sprayed it with Raid, more bugs kept pouring out of the wall.

So I was here asleep, but woke up at around 3am, not sure why, just woke up, decided to have a drink and look around online for a bit. Midnight was on the bed so I was petting her, and then she gets tense and looks up. I glance up but don’t see anything so I figure she’s just doing that thing again, you know, how cats always see something just over your left shoulder and freak you out. But no, she was still looking up… so I look up and wait for my eyes to adjust to the darkness relative to the bright monitor I had been looking at, and see a damn spider scampering quite quickly across the ceiling. Damn. It’s one of those spindling legged ones that I seem to get most often, the ones that will make a little web-nest in the corners where wall meets ceiling. Not sure of the actual name of the subtype, but I know them well. I had even killed one a few days ago in my room. I’m convinced they get in through the balcony door gaps.

Anyway, I get up and leave the room, as I’m want to do when a spider is running around in it. The cat still watching. I turn on some lights and grab my Raid (which, of course, I have handy having killed that other one). I’m annoyed that I woke up for this, how do I always know? Anyway, I hate these spiders because when sprayed, they have the tenancy to just bloody well jump from whereever they are, and I didn’t want this thing falling on my desk or worse my bed, and I’d never find it.

It had been racing around in a couple directions for a bit, and I was hoping it would head towards a wall so I could spray it and have it fall somewhere I could see so I could finish it off and dispose of it. Alas, it suddenly doubled back and raced towards the area over my bed. I decided to try to coax it back to the far wall by blowing… mind you I’m still near the doorway of my room, so I’m blowing at it from at least a meter away on the horizontal plane, and it’s probably half a meter up from my lips, making it… oh, something like 1.11 meters away. It fricken jumps, because of a light breeze. I figure something must have annoyed it for it to be running around like that to begin with.

So now I have no clue where it went, so I just leave the room and watch TV. Maybe the cat will get it, or maybe it will find a wall, climb up and I can start this again. After a while I’m tired of nighttime TV and come back into the room, the cat having joined me in the living room soon after I left since she follows me. I slowly from outside… then I take a big step in and look around the door frame and inner wall of the door frame to see if it’s actually behind me at this point (don’t laugh, earwigs have done that crap). I can’t see the damn thing. The cat comes in and starts swatting at some stuff on the floor as if she had either found it, or killed it and was just looking for more at the last place she saw it. But it doesn’t seem like that’s the case.

It was hard to judge just where the spider would have come down, I was sort of looking for a silk line from the ceiling, but I didn’t think these spiders would make those, so I guessed that maybe it would have come down in the very narrow region between the desk and the bed, so I get a flashlight and look there. And there it was, twitching a bit, but not at all a well spider. Evidently not noticed by the cat. It jumped from the ceiling because of a light gust of air, and slapped into the floor and that was it. I had just assumed that a little spider (well, as compared to a giant one like a tarantula) would have a small enough terminal velocity that it would survive that jump even without a lifeline. Guess not.

I think this entry is entirely too long to have reached that conclusion. But still, I thought it was interesting.
A spider was harmed in the creation of this story, if this upsets you, then I suggest you don’t read the news.


National Lampoon’s Pointless Vacation

Filed under: General — 19day @ 17:41:49

I’m on vacation this week, I had a bunch of days I had to take so I decided to put them in a bunch and basically take off thanksgiving. But it is a pointless vacation, no plans, bad sleep, etc and so on. Nothing much has been going on. For thanksgiving I went home, developed and cold, and basically felt miserable, but the cold appears to have mostly abated. Back here, I’ve been staying up almost all night due to the sleep pattern inspired by the heat of the nights back home and the discomfort of the cold. At least I’m spending a lot of time with my cat, heh.

I think I’ll work on my Zygote game, it will be ready for release any century now. One day I’ll have to port it to windows or something. I’m just toying with it right now. I’m pretty well stuck on the collision detection, which is kinda important. I suck at math.

In any case, I needed the time off work. It’s been pretty intense lately, so it’s nice to have some extended down time, though it will be above-full tilt as soon as I return. *sigh*

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