Home » 2012 (Page 2)

My new PC

After almost 5 years of usage I decided it was time to replace my trustworthy desktop PC, a HP Pavilion Elite m9060.nl. The PC really started to show its age. It was becoming a bit too slow for today’s software applications, at least to my liking. The limitation of 4GB of RAM set by the motherboard also didn’t help much. Recently I upgraded my 3.5 years old HP Pavilion dv7-1210ed laptop with a SSD and upgraded the RAM from 3GB to 6GB and really found out that for me 4GB is the absolute minimum and with 6GB you get to have some breathing space. I was also sold by the SSD. Boy do those give you one hell of a speed increment!

Since I already had maxed out my RAM and the processor (a Core2Duo E4500) wasn’t quite cutting it I decided to replace it. Sure, I could’ve added a SSD in it and probably extend it’s lifetime with another 6 months or perhaps a year. But that would only postpone the inevitable.

At first I had planned on getting a pre-configured PC by either Dell or Medion. They both had pretty nice offers, especially Medion. The alternative was to build one myself. In the past I’ve been, or actually my brother, rather unfortunate with these kind of PC’s. There was always some hardware issue. Considering that was over 10 years ago and with some old friends convincing me to put together my own PC I decided to take a look if that would give me more bang for the buck.

It turned out it did. The Medion PC I had in mind was around € 1049,-. It contained a nice 2TB HDD and a 64GB SSD (too small for my liking) and the latest Intel i7-3770 as well as a budget NVIDIA GPU and 16GB RAM. With these specs in mind I started configuring my new PC. In the end I came up with this:

At first I had selected a 128GB SSD and the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 570 video card but it increased the price quite a bit. Since I’m not a PC gamer it would be a bit of a waste of money to get this video card. Instead decided to take my older NVIDIA 9800GT Green Edition from my HP PC, which originally had a low end NVIDIA 8400GS GPU in it.

In the end I got all this for around € 921,- saving me € 128,- euro on the Medion PC and still get a bigger SSD.

I only had to put it together, for which I asked an old classmate to help me with. The main reason I asked help was because I was a bit spooked about putting the CPU in its socket. The CPU was the most expensive part of the setup and I was afraid of bending any CPU pins… Did I look like a fool when the CPU was being placed! The buggers no longer have those long pins that the old CPU’s have. It’s been too long for me since I worked with this kind of stuff.

I’m very happy I did decide to build my own PC. I’ve gotten better value for the money and boy oh boy is this machine fast! Windows 7 boots incredibly fast and software applications mostly start instantly. Even stuff like Visual Studio and Adobe CS. I also did gave Ubuntu 12.04 a little test run just to see how fast it was: it boots in about 3 seconds.

Conclusion: I’ve got a kick-ass PC!

HP DV7-1210ed boot from 2nd HDD

Yesterday I installed a SSD drive in the 2nd HDD bay of my HP Pavilion DV7-1210ed laptop. Installation of Windows 7 went fine and after I had moved all important data from the original HDD I decided to format that disk so I could use all of its storage space. But as soon as I did that I was unable to boot into Windows that was installed on my SSD (2nd HDD bay).

I was getting errors about winload.exe and something about an incorrect digital signature for the file. Turns out it was loading the bootloader from the recovery partition from the HDD in bay 1, which was actually for the old Windows installation.

Looking into the BIOS of this laptop I couldn’t tell it from which disk to boot first. With Acronis Disk Director I was able to make the SSD bootable by setting the active-flag on it. When booting the laptop I could press F2 and then F9 to select from which HDD to boot. It would boot into Windows 7 again. This still wasn’t a solution, as it requires you to interrupt the boot sequence every single time you fire up the machine.

Again with Acronis Disk Director I decided to flag the recovery partition on the HDD in bay 1 as active. Then I booted into the Windows 7 recovery console using the installation disc and ran the following command.

bcdboot d:\windows /s c:

In this example d:\windows is the location of the installed Windows 7 on the SSD in bay 2. The flag /s c: tells it to install the boot files into the c: partition, which was the recovery partition on the 1st HDD.

Just to be sure everything will boot again also execute the following commands.

bootsect /nt60 ALL /force
bootsect /nt60 ALL /force /mbr

Hopefully this helps you out when removing Windows from the HDD in bay 1 as it’s impossible to change the HDD boot order in the BIOS of the HP Pavilion DV7-1210ed. I later found out about EasyBCD which seems to make this a lot easier to do.

Why I decided to stop using Ubuntu desktop

I’ve again returned to Windows 7 after having used Ubuntu for about 3 months on the desktop. For some reason Linux on the desktop always breaks down after about 3 months, give or take. My main reason for trying out Linux again was so I could develop in a *nix environment. I’m comfortable with a terminal and lots of cool and useful libraries compile without any hassle. And most of the programming I do ends up running on a Linux server anyway. On Windows 7 you can get quite far with MinGW and MSYS, but it usually takes quite some effort to get something to compile. MSYS is also very slow on my machine(s). And although with Strawberry Perl it has gotten a lot better, from time to time you run into modules that won’t compile and are almost impossible to fix.

This wasn’t the first time I ran Linux on my desktop PC. About 7 years ago I started out with Gentoo. It actually ran fine on my laptop, aside from WiFi issues. The compile hell that came with it was terrible though. I’ve ran Ubuntu 7.10 on my desktop without much issues, until I upgraded to 8.04, which broke everything. After that I used Windows Vista for a while and eventually Windows 7. Somewhere late December ’11, early January ’12 I decided to try Linux again. At first I wanted to use CrunchBang because it was so lightweight, but couldn’t get my system to boot into it. Then I tried Fedora 16, which featured Gnome 3 out of the box. I really liked how Gnome 3 looked, but Fedora 16 was way too unstable for me. After that I gave Ubuntu 11.10 a chance, installed Gnome 3 on it and simply enjoyed it a lot.

For 3 whole months I was able to run Ubuntu 11.10 without issues. Some software didn’t work out of the box, but I was able to fix that and I don’t consider that Ubuntu’s fault. Before I tossed the towel into the ring my NVIDIA 9800GT got too hot and the system would just freeze. I was using the open-source drivers (nouveau). I found out that this driver always runs the GPU at 100% and it simply wasn’t able to not do this. After replacing these with the official NVIDIA drivers the problem was solved. But shortly after an update for this driver made my system freeze at startup. I rolled back to an older version and again, the problem was solved, though the rollback was pretty hard to execute. The real misery started after I did a normal package update, which sometimes happened daily, and everything I needed malfunctioned. The VPN software I used wasn’t able to setup a tunnel, which I need to connect to the company’s network. I also run a virtual server in VirtualBox for several things, but I no longer could fire it up anymore. It had something to do with VirtualBox drivers that couldn’t load anymore.

When all that happened I had enough of it and waved Ubuntu, or Linux for desktop in general, goodbye forever. I’ve had enough of it and in all these years it hasn’t gotten any better. It’s my expectation that Linux on the desktop will never get big. I’ve still got Xubuntu installed on my netbook, but haven’t booted to it in ages and will probably uninstall it soon as well.

I don’t want to be too negative though. Ubuntu 11.10 did have a number of pros as well (though most are software you can run on other platforms as well):

  • Gnome 3 – after a couple of tweaks I found myself to be very proficient with Gnome Shell. Lots of people hate its guts, but I really liked it
  • Remmina – a great remote desktop client for RDP
  • ShrewSoft VPN (ike) – easy to use VPN client, but you have to compile it yourself since the supplied package doesn’t work.
  • Vim/GVim – yes, it’s multi-platform, but seemed a bit more responsive in Linux
  • Terminal (Bash) – some tasks are faster done on the terminal and Git for example is a lot faster than on Windows
  • Compiler toolchain – you pretty much install build-essential and you’ve got almost all the compilers and other related things you need
  • Nautilus – a much better file manager than Explorer will ever be
  • Skype + Bluetooth headset – I’ve had no issues using my Bluetooth headset under Ubuntu and Bluetooth in general just works. Can’t say that for Windows 7.

Currently I’m back to Windows 7. It works, but could be more responsive (I’m looking at you Explorer). I know that for my terminal needs I could use Cygwin, but I don’t see that as a proper solution and the last time I tried it installation took forever and it just didn’t work. Since my desktop PC is already 4.5 years old I’ll be replacing it sometime this year. I’ve decided to try out a Mac, either an iMac or Mini. All I want is a fast system, with a stable OS that doesn’t require much attention to stay running and a *nix environment. At the moment I think OSX will be able to give me that. The wait is now till Apple renews their models.

htbaapub.zmq 0.03 released

I’ve released htbaapub.zmq 0.03, a wrapper for ZeroMQ. This release fixes data corruption when sending messages. The corruption was caused by BlitzMax collection String data a bit too soon. This was a tough one to find as garbage collectors are hard to predict.

As of now htbaapub.zmq also contains several unit tests to make sure everything works as expected. It doesn’t have full coverage, but I’ll improve this in the future. In case anyone is interested, the test module used is bah.maxunit.

You can install this version with maximus, download it or fetch the sources from GitHub.

htbaapub.zmq 0.02 released – ZeroMQ for BlitzMax

This is just a short announcement on my Blog to let people know I’ve been busy wrapping ZeroMQ (or ZMQ) for BlitzMax. The result of this a new module called htbaapub.zmq. It’s available from the Maximus website, meaning you can install it using Maximus. If you rather fetch the Git repository that’s possible as well.

The module is still very much a Work In Progress. Most of ZMQ’s functions are available from BlitzMax and both Windows and Linux are supported. It should work fine on a Mac as well, but I’m unable to verify since I don’t actually own one.

A couple of examples are included as well. Have fun playing with ZMQ and if you encounter any bugs, please report them. I’ll then be able to look into fixing them.