Archive for the ‘computers’ Category

Windows 7 ReadyBoost with the built-in SD card reader in a Dell Lattitude E5550

Friday, August 28th, 2015

I bought a 16GB Class 10 SD card on super-sale, and I wanted to set it up with ReadyBoost on my new Dell laptop. To my dismay, I couldn’t get the ReadyBoost setup prompts to come up – for years I’ve been annoyed at constantly seeing that option when I plug in a Flash drive or SD card, and now, when I actually wanted it, it wouldn’t come up. Figures.

Apparently few people use ReadyBoost – there weren’t any search results specific to my Dell model.

I did find a reference to removing the manufacturer drivers for the SD card controller for a similar ReadyBoost problem, so I gave that a shot.

In the Windows Device Manager, under Storage Controllers, my card reader was listed as a “BayHubTech/O2Micro Integrated MMC/SD controller”, Driver version, dated 5/12/2014. I have no idea if there is a newer driver, or if such a driver would support ReadyBoost. I did the right click, update driver, manually choose driver, “standard SD card controller” thing (not the exact words).

And… magically, it worked.

I now have a top level “SD host adapters” branch, and below that “SDA Standard Compliant SD Host Controller” in the Device Manager.

Whether or not I’ll be able to notice any difference with 12-13GB of ReadyBoost added, well, I’m not sure. I feel it did help on my previous laptop running Vista with a 4GB card.

Disappointing Out of Box Experience of Gateway Netbook… in 2011!?

Thursday, January 6th, 2011

Every once in a while I get a reminder of why Apple is able to make 10 times as much money per computer than everyone else.  The end user experience is incomparable. From the moment you walk into an Apple store, through to the point where you use the device, someone has thought about your experience.

I just had the opportunity to setup a brand new (entry level) Gateway netbook.  There’s nothing special about it. It has an Atom processor and Windows 7 Starter edition. After opening the box, plugging it in, and following the on screen prompts, things seemed pretty good.  Then, it required a reboot to finalize the settings.

It took literally 30 minutes from reboot until I was able to login.  Literally.  It felt like 10 times that long.  I wasn’t really watching what it was trying to do, but whatever it is, it is embarrassingly long.  There aren’t any install options, this netbook is exactly the same as the  rest in the pile, so virtually all of this time should have been done before it left the factory.

So, that’s my first impression of that computer, and Gateway. Sitting around and waiting.  And no, this didn’t include the Windows updates that I did later in the evening.  Actually, this reminds me of the time I setup a Gateway laptop for a client – that was a disaster also, IIRC, I had to drive around the neighbourhood trying to find blank CDRs in order to get past the required initial backup – they had included some low end blank CD’s, one or two of them were bad!

First impressions count.


Windows 7 RAID-1 (Software Disk Mirror)

Thursday, June 17th, 2010

Today, I learned more about Windows 7 and it’s built in software disk mirroring for hard drives than I ever wanted to know.

It’s virtually impossible to find this listed on an official page (I can’t find it), but Windows 7 Professional has software disk mirroring enabled. In previous versions of Windows, software disk redundancy was limited to the server class operating systems, e.g. Windows 2000 Server, Windows 2003, and Windows 2008. Although, IIRC, Windows NT4 Workstation had disk mirroring, but I’m too lazy to look that up.

I spent several minutes today trying to find an official page that listed software RAID as a feature… and failed. Then, before starting this post, I tried again, and still failed. There are several 3rd party sites that mention software RAID being enabled in Win7. In the end, I had to set it up myself to be satisfied that it was true.

No, dynamic disk mirrors are not really the same as RAID1, but it’s close enough for me, and better in some ways – it should be possible to move a Windows mirrored drive to a completely different motherboard, for instance.

BTW, be careful with the entry level Dell Vostro 230’s, they don’t include support for Intel Matrix Storage anymore! Yes, that’s how this whole exercise started.

P.S. I just noticed that this is blog post number 101!

Recording from a Hauppauge HVR-950Q USB TV Tuner to VirtualDub

Saturday, March 6th, 2010

The 2010 Vancouver Olympics are over. IMHO, they were awesome. Unfortunately, it’s time to get back to work. Almost.

I want to record some video from Shaw On Demand of a curling event that I attended live. I have access to a Hauppauge HVR-950Q USB TV tuner – a great piece of hardware paired with terrible software.

I had multiple issues, but in the end, as I type this, I have my old laptop capturing the video from the composite (i.e. “RCA” video) input from the Shaw Digital Box.

I started this adventure on my day-to-day laptop, a 1.5 year old laptop running Vista. On this computer, the WinTV 6 software could not properly display the signal from the composite input. It would get about 1 frame per second, plus some really weird “chipmunkesque” spurts of audio. It was unusable to view the composite feed, never mind trying to record from it. I then tried the newly released WinTV 7 software from the Hauppauge website. It was worse – it is even more bloated, even slower, and still unable to view the composite input properly. Note: I have previously watched the Over-the-Air HDTV channels with this unit, so it’s specific to the composite input, and it might be specific to my laptop. There is a big difference between OTA HDTV and composite – an OTA signal is compressed MPEG2 and the unit passes it directly over the USB to the TV tuning software, whereas, the composite is fed in some sort of raw format that requires massive USB bandwidth – i.e. there is no on-device MPEG encoding.

I tried VirtualDub next, the free video capture software that I’ve used from time-to-time for years. VDub could preview the signal fine, and with much less processor overhead. Unfortunately, when I tried to start the capture, I kept getting this error: “The Capture device does not support the video format”. I eventually find a solution to this error, but only after I tried my ancient laptop.

I tried using my ancient HP Celeron 1.1Ghz laptop. It runs XP, and my theory was that the Hauppauge software just doesn’t like Vista. This might be true. I was able to use the WinTV 6 software on the old laptop fine… eventually. You have to run the install, and the setup from an administrative login. Otherwise, the software will crash hard, without giving any clues as to why. Watching the composite input in WinTV 6 used a lot of the CPU, but it is a 5 year old laptop, so it’s all relative. It was unfortunately, far too slow to do a live encoding to MPEG.

So, I knew that the composite signal worked reasonably well. I tried VirtualDub on the ancient computer. I got the same error when trying to start the capture. The fix? The trick is to look at the VirtualDub device properties to see in which format the preview was coming in. In my case, it’s 720×480 UYVY. Once I set this on my custom capture format, VirtualDub worked fine. I’m not able to encode to MPEG live, I’m using HuffYUV and 10s of GB of hard drive space to capture 2 hours of video, but it will work. I’ll have to transcode to MPEG4 later.

In the end, I could probably have used VirtualDub on the first laptop that I tried now that I knew how to get a compatible capture format. According to Google, there aren’t many people who have had these problems… I feel special. Sometimes I wish things would “just work.”

Spoolsv.exe using lots of CPU on a Terminal Server

Friday, July 17th, 2009

I have this recurring problem at one client’s site.  The setup is a small Windows 2003 Terminal Server environment, with remote POS terminals over the Internet – I don’t like this arrangement for the many single points of failure (a couple ADSL lines, a couple routers, a couple switches, a single server, etc.), but that’s beyond the scope of this post.

This client is happens to be running BBL, AKA WinPOS, AKA, WinBPS, over Terminal Server.  I have no comment on the software itself, it’s the arrangement of using it over Terminal Server over the Internet that makes me nervous – no, I had no input into this setup.

A further complication, is that the printers that the software uses, Zebra, label/ticket printers, have poor drivers that I don’t believe to be TS compatible.  They sometimes get stuck when the remote session is closed.  This eventually screws up the Windows spooler service.

When this system stops working, new Remote Desktop sessions fail to start properly.  After logging into the server, I will check the processor usage in Task Manager.  If the spoolsvc.exe process is using a lot of processor time, this is what I do:

N.B. Follow at Your Own Risk.

Stop the spooler service (no one will be able to print, but they probably can’t already):

net stop spooler

Open RegEdit.exe and browse to this part of the registry:


At times, I’ll find dozens of stale Terminal Server printers listed.

Export the registry keys first, to make a backup, just in case.

Then delete the Terminal Server printers from that same part of the registery, do NOT delete the local printers.  These are the ones with the “…on MyComputer … in session…” within the printer name.

Deleting these has worked for this particular server several times to resolve the CPU hogging spooler service (spoolsv.exe)… but sometimes they can’t be deleted in RegEdit.

Grab a copy of RegDelNull by Systernals, it’s free as in beer.

Use RegDelNull.exe to remove some of the entries that would not delete manually – I’m looking at you Mr. Zebra Printer Driver.

Here’s what that looks like (anonymized, of course):

C:\Installs>regdelnull HKLM\System\CurrentControlSet\Control\Print\Printers -s

Note: In a recurrence of this problem, I had to run RegDelNull one step higher in the registry, I’m not sure why – i.e. HKLM\System\CurrentControlSet\Control\Print

RegDelNull v1.10 - Delete Registry keys with embedded Nulls Copyright (C) 2005 Mark Russinovich Sysinternals - Null-embedded key (Nulls are replaced by '*'): HKLM\SYSTEM\CURRENTCONTROLSET\CONTROL\PRINT\PRINTERS\Zebra101 _ on MyComputer(from MyComputer2) in session 3\PrinterDriverData\Barcodes\(0x1701)*de 93

You get a prompt to fix the Null.  Say “Yes”.

Then go back up a few steps and delete the problematic printer from RegEdit.  With the null value gone, you can delete it.

Then restart the spooler service.

net start spooler

If this works, the spooler will start, it won’t use a suspicious amount of processor cycles, and the RDP connections will start working immediately – no reboots required.

Then go and find updated drivers.

I’d be glad to hear about a better solution… please comment below.