Posts Tagged ‘Windows XP’

Why Can’t Windows Just Get Along?

6 October 2014

Subtitled:  Windows 8 Cost Me Five Hours of Time For A Simple Task

I spent a largish part of this weekend at St. John’s taking care of a lot of stuff that has built up a backlog.  Most of it was straightforward:  I got all of the lab computers up to snuff (except one that has a video card slowly failing, and another with a balky network card, which I managed to leave at home so I couldn’t install it), and ran a stress test on the lab network.  Ian got the computers in Raegans room connecting and working, and I re-crimped a new network connection for them.

I also worked to get the (previously four) five computers in the 2nd/3rd grade room back on the school network.  This was a significant untangling job, but straightforward.  Those four computers have shared a laser printer (an HP 2100TN) using XP printer sharing for a long time.  Due to where the computers are now physically located, I changed the printer server computer from one to another, printed a test page, and then went to the other three XP machines to connect them to the new printer server, and delete the old one.  I also replaced the five-port 100Mbps switch (four computers and the building network connection) with an eight-port, since I had two additional computers (the W8 box and one other).

I’ve said in the past that shared printing is one of the things Microsoft got 100% right, and pretty darn easy, since the days of Windows 1995.  All of the computers are in the same subnet, and in the same workground, and all can ping each other, so no problem.

Next I went over to the new computer, a Windows 8 box.  So it’s a new UI.  Whoever came up with it, and deletion of the Start button and menus, ought to be tossed out of the profession of software development.

Here’s an example.  I get the move-the-mouse-to-the-upper-right-and-swipe-down to get a menu (well, I know to do it, I do not see the utility).  So I want to change printer settings as in add a printer.  On XP, click Start, Printers, and you get a dialog that includes a button Add A New Printer.  Windows 8?  Do the odd swipe thing, then click Settings (this makes sense).  You get Devices, including Print.  Sounds reasonable.  Click that Print, and you get this:

WTF?Just what in the hell does this mean?  You can’t right-click or click anything except the left arrow back button.  FOUR USELESS CLICKS.

I finally found the add a printer dialog by clicking the faux-Start button on the lower left, and then typing on the odd tile screen P-R-I-N-T, and eventually Windows 8 showed a link to Printers.  I clicked it and got a fairly standard Printers and Devices that included an Add Printers dialog.

OK, now we are getting somewhere.  I got to the shared printer box, but Windows could not see the XP box.  I found a place to set the Workgroup on the System menu, and rebooted the machine.  It refused to see the computer that was sharing the printer.  Couldn’t see any of the other four computers in the workgroup either.  Wouldn’t take a direct entry in the form \\server\printername either.  I mucked around with all this for more than an hour.  Did some reading about W8 and sharing, and found that Microsoft was really interested in having people set up Homegroups.  Well, Microsoft, bite me.  I ended up giving up for the evening.

The next day, I brought everything up from scratch and tried again.  Still no luck.  I was pretty frustrated at this point.  I could sort of understand having issues connecting XP boxes to a W8 printers (understand, but not agree).  But the allegedly more advanced W8 should talk to XP flawlessly.

So after a lot of reading, I came to the conclusion that the W8 connectivity problem was not solvable.  The printer had a JetDirect card, so I decided to connect everything up that way.

I connected an RJ-45 cable from the printer to the switch, and had the printer dump a status page.  The printer had a static IP address set up in the 10. range.  I changed one of the XP boxes to a static IP in the 10. range.  I could ping the JetDirect.  I tried to hit the JetDirect via a web browser; no luck.  I did a telnet to it, and got asked for a password.  A null password didn’t work, nor did admin, or a couple others.

Off I went to the web to find out how to reset the password on a JetDirect card in a LaserJet 2100TN.  I had to look through dozens of pages that had some variety of powering the printer on or off, while pressing the GO and CANCEL buttons.  To save anyone else from having to do this, here is what to do:

1.  Do not trust anything related to the 2100TN on the HP website.

2.  To clear the password on the JetDirect card in a 2100TN, power the printer OFF.

3.  Hold down the Cancel Jobs button.  It’s the smaller one.  Power the printer ON.

4.  Wait 30 seconds.  Release the Cancel Jobs button.  Wait about 3 minutes.  The JetDirect should be cleared, and the default is to get an address via DHCP.  You can verify this by holding down the GO button and then pressing the Cancel Jobs button to get a printer status page printed.

Now, if you have a DHCP server, the JetDirect should have received an address in the same range as your computer.  If not, you will need to change your computer IP address to be in the same subnet as the JetDirect.

The web server still didn’t work.  I did a telnet to the JetDirect.  It does NOT support the ECHO ON command, so you will be typing in the dark.  I used the DHCP-CONFIG: 0 to disable DHCP, and IP: address to set a static IP address so my DHCP computers could find the printer.  Now I was able to ping the printer from all the workstations.

Next I set all four XP machines to print to the newly IP-enabled printer, and deleted the shared printers.  That was easy.

I went to the W8 machine.  It could ping the printer, so that was a good sign.  I started the Add Printer dialog, and almost immediately got this:


Yay, looking good so far.  So, I thought, this will be easy.  I clicked next, and got a dialog that didn’t have that particular printer, but it offered to go off to Windows Update and find it.  I clicked OK, and W8 went off and thought a bit.  It came back with this:


So, W8 went off and downloaded drivers for approximately 10,000 printers.  Well, maybe not that many.  But, I would have expected W8 to at least download the driver for the printer that it had already identified.  Or at least pointed at the printer in the selection lists.

Regardless, I pointed at HP and then found the printer in the list of printers, and the driver installed and the printer was printed to.

But this was way hard.  I’m good at this stuff, but while it’s been pretty easy to share printers since W95, and nearly trivial since W98, turned into a heck of a lot of wasted time for me due to W8 being way too difficult in talking to ANOTHER Microsoft operating system.

I’ve not blogged about it, but two weeks ago I had a non-trivial time getting a W7 box to reach out to another W7 box.  This leads me to believe that MS wants to junk workgroups in favor of homegroups.  If that’s the case, it’s quite user antagonistic.

An Annoying Windows Bug

4 June 2012

I got very annoyed when XP Pro introduced a “feature” that automatically shuts off wifi whenever a wired connection was active. There is no good reason for this. I used the ability to share connections.

Another thing is vexing me now. My machine was docked, and I did a suspend. Now Windows refuses to re-enable the wifi. It requires an admin credential to re-enable. This persists through a complete restart.

In the past, I have to boot off another media (like System Rescue CD), re-enable the wifi, and then restart Windows.

So thanks, Microsoft, for doing everything possible to limit connectivity.

Some Dual-Boot Weirdness, XP and Linux

19 December 2010

My very cute and computationally intensive roommate has a fairly beefy Dell dual-core machine. She does a lot of graphics work, and collects music and videos. Her machine had a 160GB drive and 1GB of memory, and we determined that an upgrade was in order. She also wanted a Linux distribution to get some experience with.

I did a short amount of searching, found that prices for the components I needed were pretty much the same, and chose a 1.5TB Seagate drive, and four 1GB DDR2 sticks from TigerDirect. Total price, about $160 including shipping. I was amazed at the low price. The stuff arrived at the house a day earlier than the four-day shipping promised.

So yesterday, I started off by installing the memory sticks first (and got the 32-bit Windows limitation of only showing 3.7GB, in spite of the BIOS showing all 4GB. Really, you would think a big-time outfit like Microsoft would fix that).

Next, I installed the 1.5TB disk into the chassis as the first SATA drive. Dell recognized it immediately.

I booted the computer with my trusty System Rescue CD v 1.6. It started up just fine. At the command prompt I did an fdisk -l and it showed both disks. Here I made two small errors. I executed my favorite cloning command dd bs=256 if=/dev/sdb2 of=/dev/sda. First error, there were a couple useless partitions on the 160GB disk, and I just wanted the XP partition, so I thought to copy it over and grow it to the full size later. Second error – a “bs”, or blocksize of 256 bytes, so it made for the least efficient transfer. This second error meant it took about four hours to do the cloning operation, and the first error meant that the clone would fail. Fortunately, because I had not changed the original disk, the errors were no-impact.

The second time I did it right. I executed dd bs=256K /dev/sdb /dev/sda. This time the 160MB cloning took about 40 minutes. One thing – when I clone drives at school, it usually takes about 40 minutes to clone a 40GB disk using IDE. The two SATA drives have rated throughput of 1.5GBps and 3.0Gbps, and that speed shows!

Once I got the disk cloned, I booted the 1.5TB disk and watched Windows thrash around a couple minutes to deal with the new disk and the moved disk. Then, I rebooted into System Rescue CD, and used gparted to (1) delete the two useless Dell partitions (getting back another 3.5GB of disk), and then grew the XP partition forward and backward to make it about 1.4TB. I rebooted the computer again, XP came up, and disk usage had gone from about 90% to 10%. Very cool. I’m running the 160GB disk as a secondary disk for a while, then I will go clean XP off it, and use it as a backup disk.

So I started the second part, putting Linux on. When I grew the XP partition, I created two other partitions at the end of the disk, one 5GB partition formatted as FAT32 (which both Linux and XP understand), named “Shared”, and one 50GB partition named “Linux”. I did this out of habit. XP doesn’t understand any disk format except for Microsoft-developed stuff. Linux has understood NTFS as read-only for a while, and for read-write more recently. I have usually dealt with this by creating couple GB of partition formatted as FAT32, mainly so that if I needed to share a file between Windows and Linux, then using FAT32 is a common format both understand. I need to get out of that habit, and start just having Linux mount the Windows partition every time, using ntfs-3g or whatever the distro supports.

I had given some thought as to the Linux distro to install. I am partial to Fedora, which I use for the wide variety of tools, the fact that it is the same as I use for the school server, and it has multiple software development environments. Raegan needed much less – editing (OpenOffice), graphics (The GIMP), Internet (Firefox and Opera), and media (audio and video). Given that, and the fact that I use Ubuntu on several of the student computers at school, and the fact that Fedora has to be hand-configured with a lot of video and audio tools (that I rarely use), I decided to get her Ubuntu.

I downloaded it on her new disk, and burned the CD, and then booted the computer from the CD, and… major problem. Ubuntu seemed to hang for a looooong time, then I got an error “Ubi-language crashed” or something like that. It was consistent across several tries at loading. I looked the error up on Google and got very few references to what caused it. So after thinking about troubleshooting versus a known good route, I said the heck with Ubuntu and went to Fedora 13. [Quick update later this afternoon: I popped the Ubuntu 10.10 CD into two of my machines, and it booted all the way up just fine. One is a Dell Dimension 4600, and the other is my cranky HP 6930p. I say cranky because it needs a particular driver for both XP and Vista and W7 installs, and even a special parameter for a Fedora install. But it ran Ubuntu just fine.]

I pulled my F13 live CD (which I knew had an install-to-disk function) and fired up her computer with it. It started just fine, and so I told it to install to disk. I had told gparted to format the partition intended for Linux as an ext3 filesystem, and F13 found it just fine when I told it to select existing Linux partitions and use it for the installation.

The installation went very quickly, and eventually it asked me about the bootloader. It detected the XP bootloader on the first partition (which is called /dev/sda1). I used the editor to rename the XP description from “Other” to “Windows XP”, and changed the Linux description from “Fedora” to “Fedora 13”). Looking good so far.

The next time I rebooted, there was a bit of a delay, but no Grub boot screen. I seemed to remember that when I did a F12 installation at one point, that the Grub had been set to not show a menu (why, I don’t know, that seems stupid for a multi-boot computer). I tried to force my way into the boot menu by hitting the space bar during boot a number of times, but it only annoyed Windows as it booted each time.

I did some research and found away to boot using Linux rescue mode from the full Fedora 13 DVD. This quickly showed me that the Grub menu had indeed been set to not display. I changed that using “vi” (I had to dredge up the editing commands from a memory long ago and far away – I am not a vi fan) by commenting out the line that said to not display the menu, and then changed the time before starting the default from 5 seconds to 15 seconds.

Restarted the machine, and damned if XP didn’t come up again! At this point, it was about 2300, and I said the heck with it and went and did other things.

My general feeling is that it was just too hard to install Linux (rather, it was easy to install Linux, but making it work with XP is too hard)! I have thousands of OS installs under my belt, including hundreds of Linux installs. When I did my first dual-boot installation (I think it was Windows 2000 and Fedora Core 2), the FC2 built the dual-boot configuration automatically. The last couple duals I have done required me to use System Rescue CD to fix things, something that is easy for me but impossible for 99% of people. That is not a good thing for Linux.

I’ve found some rather detailed things to try (including changing the XP boot loader to find the Linux install), but that is low-priority to other things I’m doing around the house, so it will be a while before I get Raegan up on Linux also.

Using My Computer As A DVR

30 September 2009

OK, very few people might be interested, but I am going to document my computer-as-Digital Video Recorder (DVR) saga from Saturday.

We don’t have a working VCR, but I have no less than two video capture cards in my main development computer. There was show on the “Ovation” TV channel that I wanted to record. So I thought that using a piece of DVR software would work.

Now, I’ve got a lot of computer and digital video experience. I have a two-channel video stream that I run quite often; I use it to send video over the house network to my laptop so I can watch Dish or over-the-air TV wherever I happen to be working.

First I fired up the WinTV2000 application. It has a VCR function. I ran it for two minutes; it only saves in AVI format, and the two minutes consumed 180MB of space. For the two-hour program I was wanting to record, it would require about 200GB of disk, and I just didn’t have that kind of space available.

I started working the upgrade process around 1300 Saturday. I had stuff I was doing around the house and outside, so I was sharing my time between the computer DVR project and the house.

So I knew about an application called MythTV. First I downloaded a live CD called MythDora, which is MythTV based on the Linux Fedora distribution. Since my development machine is a dual-boot XP/Fedora 5, I thought this would be a good test. I got the CD booted and MythTV started. After going through configuration, it started running. MythTV seemed to be running, but when I got to looking at the logs, it was not able to open either of my video devices. I played with it a while without success.

I booted back into my Fedora 5 installation and downloaded a KDE-based TV app. It started showing me the output of the TV tuners right away. So those were working OK under Linux, there was a problem with MythDora.

I decided to upgrade my Fedora 5 installation to Fedora 10. I downloaded the DVD, burned it, and started the install. That went well. It did take an hour and some change, but at the end of it I had a new Fedora 10. I immediately downloaded two TV apps and ran them, got TV! I downloaded MythTV in source form, since I could not get it via Yum or in an RPM. I started the compile. It crashed after 10 minutes complaining about a missing library.

Next, I thought about using VLC, which is a good player and can stream. I tried to get it via Yum, but it was missing some library, and I couldn’t find the library.

So I rebooted back into Windows XP, which has a copy of VLC for windows already installed. For some reason, it couldn’t find either TV card. I played with the inputs but the darn thing wouldn’t start streaming.

Finally, I hit upon a solution. I would use Microsoft Media Encoder to stream the TV to another computer, which would capture and store the video stream. When I started the WME wizard, there was an option I hadn’t noticed to encode to DISK. In MPEG formats! I tried it on a short segment, and it saved the stream just fine. Then it opened up with Windows Media Player.

I started the capture of the program. Thie program ran from 0030 to 0230 Sunday. I got to stay up and listen to the program (“Phantom of the Opera: Behind the Mask”) with one ear while I did some Internet searching that I had put off doing, so it wasn’t like I was sleeping or anything like that. The two hours of MPEG-1 recording ended up taking up 2.3GB.

In the end, I got the program recorded, but I did it manually. I was not able to set a DVR-type timer to start and stop the recording. I also wasted a bit of time trying to get various software working, downloading and burning stuff to CD and DVD, doing installs, and the like. I got a Fedora 10 update (which I needed to do anyway, since my new school Linux server is also Fedora 10) on my development and test machine. But this was the first Linux-based Charlie-Fox that I have had. It’s kind of ironic that a freebie from Microsoft (Windows Media Encoder) got the job sort of done in place of Linux, when a lot of Microsoft stuff is barely functional.

I’ll work on it some more later this week.