Irregular Verbiage
from the desk of Colin Nicholls

More upgrades

November 20, 2008 15:26 by colin

I am now intimately acquainted with the "repair" option of the Windows XP CD setup process; the Windows Recovery Console, and the FIXMBR and FIXBOOT commands. Of those features, I believe that the Repair option wasn't really required, but I guess it didn't hurt to refresh all the Windows system files, reboot three additional times unnecessarily, and apply all the Windows Updates since SP3. I'm sure it was for the best.

In other news, if you have set up your computer for dual-boot between Windows XP and Linux using the Grub boot loader, do not use Partition Magic 8.0 to re-size the Windows NTFS partition. The consequences of this may include destroying the master boot record of the hard disk and rendering your Linux ext2 partition unrecognizable to Linux.

Now I have to re-install Ubuntu 8.10.

Categories: Computers
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Coming Soon

November 19, 2008 22:54 by colin

More Ubuntu adventures;
A possible redesign;
BlogEngine.NET 1.4.5;

And more...

I've been incredibly busy over the last few months. And we moved house. So I have an excuse.

Categories: Miscellaneous
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Mmmm... upgrades.

November 17, 2008 15:23 by colin

Today's project: Upgrading from BlogEngine.Net 1.3 to 1.4.5. So far it does not appear to be going very well. My customized theme is messed up, and the mp3player extension is throwing an exception.

UPDATE: now the mp3 player just doesn't show up at all. But at least the exception has gone.


Categories: Computers
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Expression Web is Frontpage but that's not a bad thing

November 16, 2008 14:53 by colin

I think I am finally getting the hang of CSS (again). Microsoft Expression Web is a very good product - don't be fooled by the Version 1.0 moniker, through the power of rebranding it is actually FrontPage 12.

On the other hand, I hear that Expression Web 2.0 is not worth your time if you're already using 1.0.

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A Quantum of Solipse

November 15, 2008 14:49 by colin

The new Bond film, 'Quantum of Solace', veers as wildly from Good to Bad as frequently as Bond's Aston Martin crosses the center-line on the Italian tollway. On the whole, the film was OK, although I was hoping for the trailer to either Watchmen or Star Trek. Alas, we saw neither. Also: worst Bond theme song ever. I award points for the fact that Bond did not end up bonking the Russian lady.

But answer me this: Why did the villain build his secret base out of exploding concrete?

This diversion was followed by another long day at the office. And this is on a Saturday! Deploying an upgrade often requires working odd hours.

Categories: Reviews
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Monthly Placeholder

August 19, 2008 22:09 by colin

I can't let a whole month go by without posting here... but I see that I have already. And I'm not going to cheat and retroactively post something on my birthday, or something like that. For what it's worth, we've almost been too busy to celebrate, what with trying to find a house that doesn't fall through for some reason or other, and working like crazy on, well, work stuff. I'm going to have to take a day off at some point just to catch up on sleep.

And speaking of Birthdays, thanks to J & A for the marvellous dinner and company at Celadon. I usually try to figure out something fun about my age, but this time I shall wimp out and say only that I believe it is the same as the number of unique shapes that can be formed out of 7 equal triangles of indentical size.

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A new favorite programming font

July 19, 2008 19:50 by colin

I have a new favorite programming font: Damieng's Envy Code R

My old favorite was Microsoft's Office 2007 Consolas, and my initial reaction to Envy Code R was that it wasn't as readable. But very quickly I decided I liked it more. It looks great with ClearType smoothing, it looks good at ridiculously small point sizes, and the O and 0 characters are distinct.

Categories: Computers
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I have just about ****ing had it with Microsoft Software

July 6, 2008 16:46 by colin

This is happening every time I click on Send/Receive in Microsoft Outlook:

Yes I have rebooted since I last had this happen. It is still happening. Am I expected to re-install Outlook now? Usually you can avoid this shit (and it is a travesty that I even have to use the word "usually" because this kind of unforgivable interaction is par for the course with MS) by installing the products in order of release, but Expression Web is a more recent product than Outlook 2003, and yes I installed Expression Web after Office 2003. So clearly you can't even depend on that strategy any more.

I guess I'll try the solution described here: Expression Web Ruminations.

It appears to have worked. Did I over-react? What should my expectation be?

Categories: Computers
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The Day the Sun became as the Moon

July 5, 2008 20:36 by colin

26 June 2008: The fires in California have turned the sky around San Francisco Bay grey, and the sun pink.

Categories: Photography
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Ubuntu Time, Chapter One

July 2, 2008 21:24 by colin

I'm writing this post from inside of Firefox running on Ubuntu 8.04 on my Sony Vaio laptop. Let me give props to the Ubuntoi, because the install process was very smooth, and it detected my screen resolution first time (1280x800) and the networking/internet connectivity just worked. I can contrast this experience with the Windows XP Professional install I performed yesterday on the other partition, and let me tell you, it was all about 800x600 and no network until I had installed the Sony-specific drivers downloaded laboriously last week from

But let's rewind and discuss some background: My laptop hard drive has been filling up and I was short on free space. So I went into a frenzy of backing up important personal files, uninstalling unused applications, defragging, etc, and after a while it really felt like time to perhaps reinstall the operating system from scratch.

Many people will criticize Windows and even call the need to periodically reinstall the OS the "Windows Tax". Let me say here and now that Windows XP has been running flawlessly on my laptop for a year and a half without blue-screening once. It went to sleep, hibernated, did everything a boy could want, and never complained. It has been great, and my urge to "clean house" had nothing to do with the OS performance.

The thing about Windows XP dropping out of the retail channel as of June 30 reminded me that I had no easy way to recover my laptop OS if something happened to the hard disk. Sony Laptops have a special, hidden partition that contains "system restore" information that, if you hold your tongue the right way on bootup (and press F10 or something), will reformat your main partition and put things back the way they were when I bought it. Coupla things wrong with that:

  • It's Windows XP Media Center Edition, with multi-megabytage of extra stuff I don't want, not counting the shovelware stuff like AOL or whatever;
  • What if the hard drive fails? 

I could have sent away for the (optional?!) set of System Restore CD's but chances are it would be Vista Home Premium version, *vomit*, (which actually would have come with the laptop when I bought it except that Vista *ahem* wasn't ready yet). Also, there was a utility on the harddrive that would create the System Restore CDs for me if I asked nicely and gave it a couple of blank CD-Rs to play with. So I did that.

Now, I was free to reclaim that unuseable space, if I repartioned the drive... and I'd be able to restore Windows from the CDs.But that would still leave me with Window MCE. And I've heard that Windows Server 2003 makes a really nice desktop OS... so perhaps this was a good opportunity to try it out?

Yeah, long story short: Windows Server 2003 is particular about the device drivers it talks to. By default, I had 1024x768 non-native LCD resolution,un-accellerated graphics, and no network connectivity. The afore-mentioned Sony drivers looked like they were going to work: first networking... success! Then video.... no go. And neither Sony nor Intel make Windows Server 2003 drivers for the hardware in my Vaio.And believe me, once I got the Ethernet driver loaded, I searched for them.

No biggie. Back to tried and trusted Windows XP - Professional this time, not the MC edition. I booted up on my Norton Partition Magic 8.0 CD to re-format C: ready for the next attempt, and discovered that, somehow, it recognised Windows Server was there and refused to run! Really! It said "Partition Magic is not supported on Windows Server. Press any key to reboot" or words to that effect. And here I was thinking that I was booting on the CD in order to take the installed OS out of the equation...

To the rescue: my Ubuntu 8.04 Live CD. This is a great tool. Booting on the Live CD puts you into a Linux desktop, and System->Administration->Partition Editor, and you're there. It can reformat a partition with NTFS despite the fact that you're running Linux. I think that was when I noticed that Linux got the screen resolution and network connectivity working without breaking a sweat...

Ok. So I decided now was a good time to give Linux (or to be precise, the Ubuntu distribution of Linux) a fair shake, and used the partiion editor to create three partions on the 100GB hard disk: 47GB for Windows, 47 GB for Linux, and 4 GB left over for Linux swap space. (It's easy to overlook this until too late. Fortunately, the Ubunu install gently reminds you to do it - but I'm getting ahead of myself.)

Rebooting on the Windows XP Professional CD followed, and the Sony drivers all installed cleanly, leaving me with a much less cluttered environment than when I first started using the Vaio. I got web browsing and email working, then said "What the heck" and rebooted on the Ubuntu Live CD, this time selecting the Install option.

Which prety much brings us up-to-date. I have configured Evolution for email and so far it seems to work. Obviously web browsing is working. I have no idea what my IP address is... so what are the next steps?

  • Finding out what the linux-equivalent to IPCONFIG /ALL is;
  • Getting me some Microsoft TrueType font goodness (the default fonts in Ubuntu are ok, but not great);
  • Seeing if I can get Wireless networking to function;
  • Sleeping? Hibernating? Power Management?
  • How do I take a screenshot?
  • Can I see my LinkStation 250 attached network storage? (That's where my backups are)
Of course, I still have my Windows XP available. I don't expect to be giving it up anytime soon.
Categories: Computers
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