Thursday, April 26, 2007

Rip to Ogg?

I was going to call this blog posting "Ogg", but then I may have continued with:
"Ogg! Your village called and they want their idiot back".

Okay, so no offense intended to Ogg Vorbis - not a person (at least I don't think so), but an audio format (actually an "open, patent-free, professional audio encoding ... technology" according to the Ogg Vorbis website).

Why would anyone rip an Audio CD to Ogg format instead of MP3?
Well for one, Ogg is a completely free format, whereas MP3 isn't. Wait a minute, I hear my one reader say, I thought the MP3 format was free. Well, so did I, but I've heard on the "Buzz Out Loud" podcast that the MP3 format is actually owned by several companies, who license it out. That explains why you have to pay extra for an MP3 encoder in some audio software. I assume that Apple pays for the licensing for you somehow so that in iTunes you can rip to MP3s for no extra charge.

So do I rip to Ogg? No, I rip all my Audio CDs to MP3s, as MP3s can be played on all of my "MP3 Players" or DAPs. My only MP3 Player which plays Ogg files is an iRiver H320. This wiki has a list of players supporting the Ogg format, so if you want to make use of this free codec, buy a new DAP...

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Vista - Just Say No

For now anyway.

According to ZDNet, "Dell brings back XP on home systems" - no surprise considering the problems customers have been having with software incompatibilities and "a lack of hardware drivers for Vista" as mentioned in this article "Dell Brings Back Windows XP as Option" in

From my point of view, if I bought a new Desktop which had Windows Vista installed, I would reformat it and install Windows XP Professional. Why? So my Palm handhelds could synchronize with it.

Even Pocket PCs and Smartphones running Microsoft's Windows Mobile Operating System cannot synchronize with Windows Vista. You can only hope they work with "Windows Mobile Manager", which replaces Microsoft ActiveSync.

This is just the tip of the incompatibility iceberg.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

The hunt is over...for now

I haven't mentioned my hunt for a replacement cellphone for a while.
This is because it ended prematurely (before my contract was even up). As I mentioned in "Cellphone Research Resumed" , I had seen a Verizon Treo 650 on sale. Anyway, after comparing the Treo 650 with the Motorola Q, and finding to my surprise that the Treo is actually slightly smaller than the Q in height and width (but obviously not depth) and reading numerous bad user reviews of the Q; namely about the poor battery life and slow data entry, I decided to give the Treo 650 a try. Since I would not be signing up for a new contract and could "simply" switch from my existing phone to the Treo 650, for not much more than I would pay for the Q with a one year contract, I figured it would be worthwhile. It may seem risky to buy online from someone advertising on a user forum, but after reading their posts on the forum, as well as a number of email exchanges I felt I could trust him, and bought the Treo. After paying for it on the Saturday I received it the following Wednesday, in its original box with the original accessories and a Vaja (expensive leather) holster.

The now defunct "Mobile" magazine referred to the Treo 650 as being so much better than the Treo 600 that it was "like comparing a sports car to a melon cart". There are a number of reviews comparing the two phones here and here, but since I still have my old Treo 600, I'll mention a few points.
First, two standard phone buttons (Send and End) have been added to the keypad, which also has been rearranged slightly so some of the buttons are more logically placed.

The 650 was the first Treo with a "user replaceable" battery - the back opens like a normal cellphone and the battery can be swapped out.
As a result of having this "user replaceable" battery it meant the 650 could not have volatile flash memory like the Treo 600 but used Palms new NVFS (Non-Volatile File System), a major hardware change - the battery could run down (or be removed) and the data wouldn't be lost. The touchscreen had been upgraded to 16-bit (65K colors) 320x320 pixels, a major improvement over (less than 4096 colors) 160x160 pixel screen. The processor was upgraded to 312MHz (from 144-MHz), making the performance quite zippy. The only downside was that the new NVFS (Non-Volatile File System) required more space to store the same amount of files, so although the available memory was appeared the same it was actually less than the 650.

The 650 also has bluetooth, so I can finally use the bluetooth headset I got with my RAZR.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Patching the Patches

Yesterday I re-installed the Microsoft patch which gave me so many problems. No, I'm not crazy - I had already tried it on another machine, along with Microsoft's patch "935448" to their "security update" patch "928843" - according to Microsoft after applying their first patch (on top of a previous patch!) "...certain third-party applications may not start." This was due to two files from the two separate patches conflicting.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Up and Running

I'm up and running again on my main PC. It turned out not to be Partition Magic, as I got similar errors trying to resize the partition with BootItNG. So it must be the PCs configuration. I've had enough restores to last me for a while, so I won't be trying this again in a hurry.

Recovery Mode Again

Today I was hoping to finally blog about the end of my hunt for a cellphone. However, since I had backed up my primary PC to a working external hard drive (why "working"? - that's another story), I decided to try to resize the partitions again. This time I booted from the Partition Magic 8 CD, but it made no difference. After resizing the C partition, Partition Magic gave an error and Windows was unbootable. This time I restored from the original PC restore disks, and am now running "Restore my PC" from Norton Ghost, which will hopefully put it in the working state it was this morning.

These Partition Magic failures are really puzzling me. I have used the software successfully numerous times before. Since Symantec bought Powerquest - the developers of Partition Magic - in September 2003 they have not updated the software other than to rename it. So it could be their fault since I'm working on Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 which was released since then. But I have also had problems with running Partition Magic on my three year old Compaq Presario notebook, so it could be the Compaq.

Oh well, it is recovery mode again.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Grrr! Microsoft Windows updates

My iPod is now syncing, and I no longer get an error about HHCTRL.OCX when I start up my PC.

Why? Because I uninstalled the latest Microsoft patch KB925902.

Nano not recognized?

Plugged in my iPod Nano 2nd gen this evening and got this message:

After attempting to restore it multiple times it still shows the same message.

In cyberspace no one can hear you scream

Sunday, April 01, 2007

About the crash

So, about the crash, as I mentioned it was on my main PC. This is ironically the PC I'm moving everything to because of the random shutdowns on my other PC - by "everything" I mean the Palm desktop software which I use to get blog entries from my handheld (where the first draft of most of them are written), and iTunes and a ton of other software.
My PC's hard drive is partitioned into at least 2 partitions: the C drive which basically contains Windows and Program files and a D drive where most of my data and documents is stored. I'd initially partitioned the C and D partitions the same size, but was starting to run out of space on the D partition. So, I fired up Partition Magic, which I'd used to partition the drive on the first place, and shrunk the C drive and expanded the D drive. When I pressed the "Apply" button, Partition Magic rebooted Windows XP and went into batch mode to do its magic. When I checked on it later it had some error message - I didn't write it down although I probably should have. Anyway, next thing I see a Partition Magic error - which is never good. I rebooted the machine.
Windows seemed to boot up okay, although the Start Menu task bar looked a bit squeezed.
I ran a check on the D Drive with Partition Magic but no errors were found.
Then I ran a CHKDSK on C Drive and it displayed all weird errors and showed messages about invalid security for file number (starting at 1 and going through to around 2000) - security set to default.
After rebooting the machine Windows was a mess - no Start Menu or TaskBar and two programs DISCUpdate and DISCHub were using 100% of CPU. I killed them and tried to copy some files to an External Hard drive, but the copy and paste wasn't working (Neither was drag and drop).
After trying to research the problem online I figured my best option was to restore the C Drive. This took 3 tries, but now Windows XP is back minus whatever programs I installed since December last year. Of course my Documents and data on the D drive are still there.