ATI Catalyst Center always crashing

I admit that one of the criteria of buying a laptop was that is must have a dedicated graphics card because I’m do like to play a bit of Left 4 Dead. Unfortunately for me I chose one with a combo of Intel 4000 and Radeon which dynamically switches depending upon the application executed. I say unfortunately because it doesn’t work with Left 4 Dead. In my attempts to force it to work I created an Application Profile in ATI Catalyst Center (CC). Having second thoughts I decided to delete the project…BANG. CC crashed. Restarted app, rebooted, re-installed…crash, crash, crash. The solution was to into you user profile /AppData/Local/ATI/ACE and rename ACE to ACEold (or something). Happy CC again. No idea what the exact issue is, but it did the trick. I hope this helps prevent anyone else losing an hour to head-scratching.

How can you tell if your USB devices are plugged into a USB2 port?

Ok my machine is behind the times, but still it’s important to know if you’ve plugged your USB2 device into a poor USB1 port. Apart from getting a warning about ‘your device could perform faster’ how can you tell?

  1. First off launch ‘Device Manager’, typically found in Control Panel or if you’re Win7+ just Start->type in ‘Device Manager’
  2. Open the Universal Serial Bus Controllers
  3. Look for ‘USB2 Enhanced Host Controller’ (or better) to see what type of hubs your machine supports.
  4. Now open each of the ‘USB Root Hub’ nodes until you find the ones using the USB2 Enhanced Host
  5. Now look at the Power tab and you’ll see which devices are attached

It’s not as nice as you might like, but it’s one way to see if you are using the correct hubs, it’s also a good way to avoid putting USB1 devices onto a USB2 hub too.

Windows 7 64bit, sharing Canon printer with 32bit clients

My trusty Canon MP800 printer was shared to my home network via it’s Vista 32-bit host, however I’ve now installed Windows 7 64-bit. The problem is that although you can share the printer easily enough you have to allow the "server" to have the 32bit drivers available to the clients. The problem is that when you tick the 32bit architecture and try and search for the drivers it won’t detect them, I’m guessing the downloaded 32bit driver package hides the actual drivers until you do a normal install. You can’t do a normal 32bit on a 64bit OS. Luckily I discovered this post that I’ve duplicated (in case it gets losts);
To share printers across a network between Vista x64 and any other operating
> system do the following.
> Vista
> ——
> Click Start >>
Control Panel >> Hardware and Sound >> Printers
> Click on Add a printer
> Select Add a local printer
> Create a new port >> Local Port >> Click on Next
> Enter the port name for the network printer (i.e. \\
Computer Name\Printer
> Name)
> Select the printer from the list
> Continue until the printer is installed.
> Other operating systems
> —————————-
> Find the Add printer wizard and do exactly the same method as for Vista.
> With any luck your printer will already have printer
drivers included with
> Vista and obtaining drivers for other operating systems if they are missing
> should not be a problem.

New graphics card

My ageing 6800GT was starting to struggle so I decided it was about time to upgrade. The current choices of cards are bewildering but I finally decided upon a 8800GT cause the price mark is pretty cheap and they provide a decent frame-rate given the fairly old system it’s going into. However, there are two problems (for me) with the 8800GT; 1. Noisy 2. Pumps heat into the inside of the box. So after a bit of a search I discovered the Gainward GeForce Bliss 8800GT 512MB Golden Sample. It’s got a bit of factory overclocking (nice), it’s a dual slot (so pumps heat outside of the box) which is fine for me since I only have one 16x slot, and it’s got it’s own cooler which makes it very quiet. Installing it was pretty easy although the dual face plate was a little deeper than normal which caused it to hit my cases face-plate holder. Luckily as I was scratch my head wondering how to solve the problem it slipped into place. So how does it run?
Under Vista 32-bit it didn’t realise what the card was until I downloaded the latest nVidia drivers, restarted and all was fine. In fact the same thing happened on my XP boot as well. So the installation was pretty easy. Performance? Well I’m not one that’s bothered about playing things with every setting switched so UT2008 and COD4 looked better, UT had more fun bits enabled and was far less Lego like. The big difference was with Clive Barker’s Jericho which was an absolute one legged dog on the 6800 but fine on 8800, in fact there is so much graphic effects going on that I found it difficult to actually see what was going on!

So for £110 I can only recommend it for someone wanting to upgrade their medium gaming rig. Plus it comes with Lara Croft Anniversary…although she normally makes my blood boil…to quote Spaced, "can’t shoot straight you big t*tted b*tch".

Kick it! | DZone it! |


Hard Disk noise

I’ve spent a fair bit of time trying to stop my PC sounding noisy. I could feel that the hard disks were vibrating and that was probably the cause. The disks had been pretty close to silent (through carefull buying) but for some reason that were now noisy. So I bought the Nexus DiskTwin hard disk cooler and vibration dampner. Is a pretty standard fair where you install your 3.5 disk into the 5.25 bay but with a large chunk of rubber and metal heat sink to make up the difference. But which out of my 3 disks should get the 5.25 treatment? I took the power out of all the disks and put the back trying out all the permutations. Odd thing was that when 2 of the 3 disks were installed is was pretty quiet, with all 3 the vibration came back. So I can only assume that the combination of disks is just enough to catch some sort of re-inforced feedback and cause the vibration. So I decided that I should keep the two Seagates together since they use the same hardware and hopefully would create the same frequency of noise and isolate the Samsung. Installing the Nexus was easy enough but it was wan’t without an annoying problem. My case uses runners to easily fit disks but the screw positions are not flush to the end of the drive like you’d expect from a 5.25 drive. Consequently the disk won’t fit into the rail guides and therefore I was forced to remove 2 drive bays to make room for the one disk. Was it worth it? Well the horrible vibration has died down a bit, and is close to silent with one of the drives goes to sleep so overall it was worth it to reduce the noise even if it hasn’t cured it. But at least I’ve got a good idea what I need to do now…get rid of one of the drives!

SATA II (SATA-2) cable

Since aquiring a copy Vista Ultimate from Mix 07 I thought that it would only be polite to install it 😉
I didn’t want to give up on XP in case I lost devices or…games don’t play as well Embarrassed
So I bought a nice new SATA II drive to install a dual boot Vista on. Now I’ve had problems with SATA cables because the sound proofing on my PC can nudge the cable and SATA cables are RUBBISH at staying in place so I knew I had to find a right-angled cable to increase the gap between the cable and the case. I found a cable by akasa that looked right-angled, although it didn’t specify that, so I took a chance on that. What I didn’t realise is the cable has been designed to include a retaining clip! Hurray, so not only is it right-angled it makes a decent attempt at staying in place. So if you have a choice get one of these! Product Code: SATA2-60-BLUV

Western Digital MyBook Premium

I decided that I needed some "offsite" storage so I bought an external drive from Western Digital. There were so many choices but I finally settled on the WD MyBook range because;
  1. Ok price per GB
  2. Use an external (or rather non-bus) power supply so it won’t suck the juice from a laptop or (more importantly) won’t require a USB port to itself
  3. Understands when the host machine is on and off and acts accordingly
  4. Quiet to run
  5. Doesn’t look ugly

I plumped for the Premium rather than the Express because of it’s "Capacity Gauge" – a little coloured ring that shows how full (or not) it is. They also do a Pro but that seems more about connectivity.

So how is it? Well first impressions are pretty good. I plugged into both USB and Firewire without any problem, which is great ’cause I’ve got lots of USB devices and no Firewire so it won’t take another devices place on the hub. It’s not the fastest drive in the world and the backup software was frankly odd to use. It seems to run in one of two modes; a) All documents/pictures/music etc – it will scan all the folders on the drives you tell it b) You tell me what folder to backup. I’d really want a combination of the two but there you go. Plus it took about 5-6 hours to backup the documents I requested but only seemed to take about 30 mins to manually copy the files over. So I’ve gone back to simply copying the files I want to the drive. OK I won’t be able to do incremental backups but I’ve always been wary of those.

Is it noisy? No actually it’s pretty quiet and will shut itself down when not in use so I’m very pleased with that. It does vibrate when sitting on my desk but putting a magazine under it was enough to stop that, so that says more about the quality of my desk than the drive! It also stays pretty cool so environmentally very good.

So it’s all rosy? Not quite, the reason for me upgrading to a premium doesn’t seem to work – the capacity ring. I’ve gone through the KB and uninstalled/reinstalled but nothing has convinced it to start working. I’ve posted to WD so I’ll see what their support is like.


Over a week has passed and I’ve not received a single response from WD. So I’ve sent yet another "Question" to them. So far I’m not very impressed with their support team. I’ve also connected the MyBook to another PC and still no joy viewing the capacity.


Guess what, still no response. To be honest I’m pretty disgusted with them. Well I’ll give them another few days but so far I can’t honestly recommend buying any WD disk if this is the level of service you can expect.

Wake Up On Lan

Recently I’ve wanted to remotely start up machines, either because a machine the other end of VPN is down or I can’t be bothered to walk upstairs and turn on a desktop file server whilst using a laptop! What started off as a simple process seemed to have a number of gotcha’s that I thought I’d record.
The basic premise is that if your machine has a network card that support Wake Up On Lan (WOL) then if you enable this setting you can…wake the machine up via the network. There seem to be various ways of doing this but I chose the "Magic Number" approach using a utility called MC-WOL.EXE.
The basic steps in using this little program are:
  1. You first need to discover the MAC address of the network card in question. To do this I ran a command window on the target machine and entered "IPCONFIG /ALL". Note down the address of the card, it’s not the IP address but a series of hex numbers normally "-" separated.
  2. Ensure the machine’s BIOS is configured to accept WOL. This usually requires rebooting your machine and going into the "setup" for the BIOS. Locate your network settings and ensure that WOL is enabled. Note that on some systems you can have conflicting settings. So Wake Up from Hibernation settings often conflict, see you BIOS/Motherboard settings for more details.
  3. Switch your machine off and run MC-WOL from another machine.

This should work, however there are a number of gotcha’s.

  1. Firewalls. I only use this via a LAN or VPN so I’ve not had this problem but for sensible reasons a firewall can get in the way of your call. This is good news since you don’t want people on the internet starting your machines up.
  2. "Soft" and "Hard" shutdowns. This was the first time I’d come across this concept. You can shut a machine down in two different ways. For example, pressing Shutdown in Windows produces a Soft shutdown and the machine can normally be woken up. Hold the power button and switching the machine off results in a Hard shutdown and it won’t wake up. This is annoying since the reason you want to wake a machine might be because someone’s turned it off or ’cause of power cut, et al.
  3. Operating System settings. The BIOS changes aren’t always enough. Sometimes you have to go into Hardware Manager, select the network card and look at its settings. My cards have "Use Magic Number" or "Enable WOL". As you see there doesn’t seem to be a standard so look for something that sounds like Wake Up…not great instructions but there you go.