Everything, Everything - June 2009

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Things To Avoid With A Bad Foot
Saturday 27th June, 2009 20:53
I think I sprained my foot a few days ago. But that hasn't stopped me from doing the following:
  • Walking to Sainsburys for coffee/lunch
  • Driving for hours down the motorway
  • Playing Wii Fit
  • Playing DDR
  • EDIT: Walking in and out of St Ives
Wednesday 17th June, 2009 17:15
Finally, a spam email has arrived in my inbox (in webmail, not tried it through Outlook yet) that wasn't caught by my anti-spam settings:

Return-Path: lodesolz515@sheng-yan.com
Received: from ip33-112-174-82.adsl2.static.versatel.nl ([]) by mail.robnicholls.co.uk ; Wed, 17 Jun 2009 16:16:58 +0100
Date: Wed, 17 Jun 2009 17:16:53 +0100
From: "Rex Bland" <lodesolz515@sheng-yan.com>
Subject: Worldpay CARD transaction Confirmation
To: <xxxx@xxxx.xx.xx>
Message-ID: <000d01c9ef5e$a5828b10$6400a8c0@lodesolz515>
MIME-Version: 1.0
X-MIMEOLE: Produced By Microsoft MimeOLE V6.0.6001.18049
X-Mailer: Microsoft Windows Mail 6.0.6001.18000
Content-type: text/plain; format=flowed; charset=iso-8859-1; reply-type=original
Content-transfer-encoding: 7bit
X-Priority: 3
X-MSMail-priority: Normal

Your transaction has been processed by WorldPay, on behalf of Amazon Inc.


This is not a tax receipt.
We processed your payment.
Amazon Inc has received your order,
and will inform you about delivery.
Amazon Team

This confirmation only indicates that your transaction has been processed
It does not indicate that your order has been accepted.
It is the responsibility of Amazon Inc to confirm that
your order has been accepted, and to deliver any goods or services you have

My initial reaction was "but I haven't ordered anything recently", then I remembered that Amazon do their own credit card payments and don't use Worldpay. And they wouldn't send an email from "Rex Bland". Or provide a link to an executable, especially one hosted on a random website. Or send the email from Windows Mail from an ADSL connection in the Netherlands. Also, it's WorldPay, not Worldpay. And Amazon.com, Inc.

You need to try a lot harder than that to fool me into infecting my machine.
Inconsistent Decisions
Sunday 14th June, 2009 18:54
Several years ago, the European Commission told Microsoft to make versions of Windows XP available in Europe that did not contain Windows Media Player. This made the EC happy. Pretty much no one bought them. Sales of Windows XP N represented just 0.005 per cent of overall XP sales in Europe by April 2006 - the last time Microsoft released figures (probably because no one's bought any more copies in the last 3 years).

Recently, Microsoft announced that they plan on releasing versions of Windows 7 that do not contain Internet Explorer 8. This made the EC unhappy. It appears they would prefer to see Microsoft ship Windows 7 with a variety of competing browsers.

Can anyone else see the inconsistency? Why were they happy for Microsoft to remove an application from the operating system, but not happy for them to... erm... remove an application from the operating system? I suspect it's because they were getting serious pressure from the people behind Opera and Firefox.

There are only three ways Microsoft can sell Windows 7:
  • With IE
  • Without IE
  • With IE and other competing browsers
They'd obviously want to sell it with IE (like Apple do with Safari), but they know the EC won't like that.

So they've chosen to sell it without IE. It's their OS, they can choose not to supply an application, right?

No. It turns out you can't give people choice, you have to give them options. If the EC gets their way, Microsoft will be forced to supply someone else's software on their operating system. That sounds wrong to me.

There's an article on The Register that goes into this in more detail.
Sponsors Of Tomorrow
Sunday 14th June, 2009 11:32
Intel have made some great new adverts that are available on YouTube (in HQ too).

There's the Intel Star, and my favourite is probably Oops.
Recovering RAID5
Saturday 6th June, 2009 20:40
As usual when I mess around with my fileserver, I've somehow lost one of my arrays. This time I swear it wasn't my fault. I hooked up the existing array and went to import it, but 4 of the disks were already visible with Failed Redundancy and one disk needed to be added (I can't remember if I initialised it or put it online) and after that it was resynching and all was well. But I could also see some missing disks from the old array that I was no longer using. I deleted the volume using Disk Management and expected the missing volume to go away. Instead, the resynching RAID5 array was now gone, and the missing volume was still missing. F**k.

Well, I've been in this position before, so I decided to get my tools together. First, I booted up my main machine to get the registry key so I could register my copy of File Scavenger. Then I downloaded File Scavenger (3.2, but thankfully my 3.1 key works fine with 3.x versions by the look of things). I hooked up the other drives from the old array and created a nice spanned volume to copy all of the data onto (no redundancy, but in theory it's "redundant" on the missing RAID5 and I don't have any more 1TB hard disks!). Then all I needed was the order of the disks. Sadly, because I'd only just created the array and imported it into the new install of 2008, I hadn't actually made a note of this. So I decided to do some guesswork with File Scavenger. I don't recommend doing this, as it requires a "sixth sense" or "gut feeling" to guess the right order without trying every possible combination. I'm normally pretty good at it, but I made the fatal mistake of forgetting to change a default setting. I should have used 0 instead of 63. This really screwed up the results of the long scans, causing me to give up and rely on Raid Reconstructor. My experience with it in the past hasn't been great, but after reading some forum posts it seems it's worth adding a couple of 0s to the probe size.

As I was using software RAID in Windows, I knew to use a 64KB strip size and set the parity to dynamic disk, but I thought I'd let it try the other parity options too to make sure that the entropy was correct. After leaving it running for about an hour, it appeared to have come up with a significant result and a drive order (presumably so good, that it appeared to have skipped the rest of the combinations). This was the drive order I'd had the most success with when I was playing with File Scavenger, but had ruled out because of the default 63 value (Raid Reconstructor defaults to 0,128 when testing) causing a low number of results - but substantially more than other combinations I'd tried.

I tried a demo version of R-Studio, threw in all of the drive details and let it perform a quick scan. I stopped it and created a preview of a large PDF file (IIRC the demo is restricted to 64KB, but the preview is able to generate previews of larger files) and it looked okay (or as good as it could in their PDF previewer). I then used File Scavenger and this is when I finally remembered to set the value to 0 rather than 63 (you'd think after trying ~100 combinations, I would have remembered sooner, but it was very late last night and I was tired). I recovered the same PDF and opened it in Adobe Acrobat (on another machine) and it looked perfect (bookmarks, images, text... everything!). So now I'm trying to recover 2.68TB worth of data onto a 2.72TB spanned volume. It's 4% there so far, which gives me plenty of time to write down what I'd done this time. In preparation for when (not if) I have to do it next time.

In my experience, it's a lot easier to recover data from software RAID5 than hardware RAID5. I'm glad I made the switch, but it's still not a substitute for proper backups. The plan was to move the data onto the array and then copy the really important data back onto the individual disks to keep as backups (at least until I want to use the disks on other systems), but my RAID cockup occurred before I had a chance to do that and before I could make a note of the disk order.
Stupid Windows Server 2008 Installer
Friday 5th June, 2009 22:27
I wanted to install Windows Server 2008 x64 onto a SATA hard disk. I've had it running on an IDE disk, but I wanted to move to a larger SATA disk. After replacing an old array of 1TB disks with a new array of 2TB disks, I decided to re-use one of the 1TB drives. It should be simple, boot off the DVD, delete any existing partitions on the disk, install Windows onto the unpartitioned space.

Attempt #1
I can only see the IDE hard disk. I try looking for ICH9R drivers on the Gigabyte driver CD, but I can't get it to display any drivers other than the Gigabyte SATA controller.

Attempt #2
I move the SATA drive onto the Gigabyte controller and use the Gigabyte CD to load the Gigabyte SATA drivers. I can only see the IDE hard disk.

Attempt #3
I load the drivers off the IDE drive for my 8 port Supermicro SATA controller (the 64 bit signed drivers I've been using are actually Adaptec drivers) that I'd been using earlier today to migrate data between the two arrays. I can only see the IDE hard disk.

Attempt #4
I try hooking up another 1TB hard disk, one to the Gigabyte controller and one to the Intel one, setting both to legacy IDE mode (rather than native AHCI). I load the Gigabyte driver off the Gigabyte CD. I can only see the IDE hard disk.

Attempt #5
I disconnect the 1TB drive on the Gigabyte controller and copy the Intel ICH9R drivers onto the IDE disk (under the IDE install of 2008) and try loading them during the installer (I thought it supported ICH9R natively, but I'm getting a bit desperate and will try anything). I can still only see the IDE drive.

Attempt #6
I decide to boot back into the IDE install of 2008 and go into Disk Management. I delete the volume and the disk reverts to a basic unformatted disk. I boot off the DVD and...

I can see the 1TB hard disk! I can finally see it! And I didn't have to load any drivers either, it was built into the installer already.

Yes, it was as simple as that. The installer was hiding the hard disk. I don't know if having the entire array hooked up would have worked (as they would appear as foreign disks that need to be imported), but it would appear that a single drive from an array will not show up until you've deleted the volume. This probably prevents a few stupid administrators from installing the OS over the top of a disk that's part of an existing array, but I suspect it fools just as many people when they try and re-use disks.

The moral of this story is that you should always delete your volumes after you've finished with them.
Big Brother 10 Starts Tonight
Thursday 4th June, 2009 17:26
Will I be watching? The respectable answer is obviously "of course not, it's a load of rubbish", but the truth is I'll probably watch tonight's show. If I find any of them interesting I might try and catch the odd episode afterwards, but I'll probably stick to the RSS feeds that are usually about each year. I gather they've cancelled the live feed as they finally realised it's costing them too much time and money to run for a small number of viewers - plus the viewers were able to tell when the producers were biased with their editing.
3DMark Vantage
Wednesday 3rd June, 2009 20:54
I've finally installed my new graphics card and... wow! It's ridiculously fast and it's not that noisy (although it's hard to tell over the insane noise from my spare PSU (voltages are fine, but both of the fans have gone). I decided to give 3DMark Vantage okay. The framerates are perfectly acceptable (dropping down to 15fps at one point, but generally around 30-40fps.

Check me out! I can't wait for the next LAN party so I can show off my upgraded system.
This Example Becomes More Interesting
Wednesday 3rd June, 2009 15:54
I spotted a new entry on the IEBlog about CSS support in IE8. Most people probably don't need to worry about supporting other languages, and most people don't care about writing web pages. I was vaguely interested, but as I made my way through the article my brain gave up. I don't mind having to work something out if there's a purpose, such as when I play Portal, but not when I'm trying to take a short break from work to stop me from going insane. The bit that made me laugh was the statement:

This example becomes more interesting as one adds a second orthogonal div, this time with a relative size

More interesting? More? It wasn't interesting to begin with, it certainly wasn't afterwards.

I shouldn't be too critical, I think it's actually a very good article on IE8's CSS support, and it helpfully describes the logic behind what's seen. But it's not the sort of thing you can flick through, and it's not a relaxing 5 minute break.
Retail Therapy
Tuesday 2nd June, 2009 14:46
My fileserver is rapidly running out of free disk space and has recently experienced a few unusual freezes. This has resulted in a few reboots and lots of resynching of the two RAID5 volumes (and a couple of hairy moments where I was worried I'd lost terabytes of data). I'm not sure if it's the dying motherboard, a dying SATA controller card, buggy x64 drivers, a dying hard disk, or just good old fashioned bad luck. I decided to bite the bullet and do The Big Upgrade. I now have several expensive computer components sat on my desk at work (£1341 worth), which I'll use to help build a new fileserver when I get home tonight. Yes, despite my bad luck with the WD 1TB Raid Edition drives, I've decided to purchase their 2TB drives (not the Raid Edition though, as they're only avaliable for pre-order).

You'd think that would cheer me up. No, what cheered me up was today's purchase, a shiny new graphics card that costs a fraction of what I've spent on everything else. I guess it's because I won't really see any benefit from upgrading my RAM (I don't even use 4GB right now), and because the fileserver really needed to be upgraded (and I'm used to having a lot of disk space/never deleting stuff). The graphics card, however, is completely non-essential.

So, more importantly, what did I get? After several days deliberation, I stumbled across this interesting card, MSI's N275GTX Twin Frozr OC with a dual-fan and 5-heatpipes design. I was persuaded by the non-reference cooler:


I'm not sure if it'll be louder than my current chunky heatsink and 120mm fan solution (although it probably will be), but it will be almost 3x faster. I mostly use my main system for LAN parties, so it'll be worth it. You can't usually hear my machine after everyone else there have turned theirs on.
Dumb Anti-Spam
Monday 1st June, 2009 14:18
For some unknown reason one of my emails was marked as spam. Perhaps it was my choice of subject line, as my mailserver is setup correctly, I'm not on any blocklists, and the plain text content shouldn't have looked dodgy (there weren't even any links in it!). This annoyed me slightly, as it prefixed "[SPAM] " to the subject line. But what annoyed me more was the fact it added the prefix to every reply. The last one I saw had a subject line of "RE: [SPAM] RE: [SPAM] RE: [SPAM] Computer Parts", but I suspect the recipient has a final email from me saying "RE: [SPAM] RE: [SPAM] RE: [SPAM] RE: [SPAM] Computer Parts". I'm not sure why it doesn't check for "RE: [SPAM] " and then not add the prefix, but perhaps it's an efficiency thing. I really hope that's the reason why, and not because some programmer was lazy.
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