Games for Windows LIVE gets me over a barrel.

Last night my friends and I wanted to play some Dawn of War II. I bought the game sometime last year and it’s been installed and running perfectly on my PC. I start the game on Steam and it tells me that a Windows LIVE update needs to be downloaded. I wait for the blue bar to finish and I get a message that says I “may” need to restart when finished. Dawn of War II closes and I get dropped to desktop with no further explanation. I repeated this update process about 5 times with the same results. I then tried to install GFWL (Games for Windows LIVE) gfwlivesetup.exe

Games for Windows LIVE needs SP3

Oh I see. So now I can’t play a game that I paid $50 for – on my stable SP2 XP machine. The machine that played this game perfectly fine a few months ago now needs SP3 or else. There is no work-around and no way to bypass the service pack check. (Although I would bet money that if the SP check were removed from the installer, it would function fine.) No, I see this for what it is: Microsoft forcing their OS upgrades down your throat. I have two choices: Upgrade to SP3 for the next 3 hours and figure out what it broke over the next two weeks, or uninstall Dawn of War II, and play it on my new Windows 7 PC I’m planning to build in a month. OR MAYBE I’ll never re-install it and never buy another “Games for Windows LIVE” game again.

Either way, instead of a fun game night, Microsoft has ruined it and made me think twice about their product offerings. Thanks Games for Windows! 😀

ix2 NAS Drive Failure.

I was copying pictures to my network drive and I noticed that it was responding slowly. Taking a good ten seconds to draw a .jpg preview. I logged into my Iomega Storcenter ix2 and the dashboard told me the news: “A drive is missing from the device”

I immediately made a backup to my workstation. Once copied, I completely shutdown the Storcenter, opened it and checked the connections. In order to see that it was a drive that had failed and not the board, I swapped the SATA cables for the two drives, tightened it all up and turned it back on.

What I next learned was that I have little patience for blinking lights. “What are you doing NAS drive?” I asked. “You respond to a ping, but that’s it.” No web interface… Well, let’s see what’s really going on. Connect via SSH and run this command: cat /proc/mdstat You’ll get actual information about what’s going on. At first I saw that the drive was rebuilding and was at 32.4% with 109 minutes remaining. A few minutes later I ran the command and got something like 33.8% with 132 minutes remaining. Okay – time to get dinner and wait for this to finish.

When I returned, the missing drive was back online and was crisis averted? Nope. The next morning I checked my email and received this from sohostoarge:
The Iomega StorCenter device is degraded and data protection is at risk. A drive may have either failed or been removed from your Iomega StorCenter device. Visit the Dashboard on the management interface for details. To prevent possible data loss, this issue should be repaired as soon as possible.

Awesome. 😐 Well, at least my email script still works.
Later that afternoon I picked up a 500GB WD Caviar Green from BB for $56. The Green drives are quieter, a little slower, and use less power – great for this application. I took the ix2 apart AGAIN, and removed the barely 3 year old Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 out of the device. I know that people have hardware preferences out there, and I know they differ, but here’s mine: I don’t buy Seagate drives. Ever. I’ve been a computer tech for over ten years. (Of course I bought the ix2 without knowing it comes with 2 of them 🙂 )

After closing up the drive I powered the NAS up and watched the magic. The new drive rebuilt and I got a steady blue light on my ix2 when I checked later the next day. No linux commands, no format, no partition, no RAID – just replaced the dead drive with a new one of the same size and we’re back in business. Am I pissed that this drive failed in 3 years? Sure. Did the Iomega ix2 do its job and kept my data safe? Absolutely!

If I didn’t need this data immediately I might have experimented with bigger drives, but I think I’ll upgrade to the ix4 before I ever try to upgrade the capacity of this little guy.

Make a Google Earth Fly-Over Video!

I organize a stage rally in Ridgecrest, California called the High Desert Trails. For the last three years we have run on a six mile road on private property. In order to grow the event we needed to find more roads. Stepping up to public roads means more insurance, permits, and logistics (more stuff). None of which we can afford if competitors think it’s still a small rally. Competitors (like myself) are often skeptical of new roads. It usually takes a couple of years before ‘everyone’ in the rally community knows what the roads are like at [rally name here]. How do you get rally drivers excited about an event with new roads today?

Google Earth! Imagine what it was like 10 years ago, before publicly available satellite imagery was a mouse click away. Rally Masters would spend hours driving around looking for roads. Even with updated topographic maps, you still have to get out there and check out what it actually looks like. Early in 2003 I spent some time looking for roads in New Hampshire and the topo maps don’t tell you about the flooded marsh, the rocky boulder filled road, or the intersection that home owners just piled dirt and brush on, so that neighborhood kids would stop using the route.

With Google Earth we were able to see what shape the roads were in, and we got an idea of how wide they were and if they were blocked, gated, etc. This reduced the number of ‘road scouting trips’ to a handful. We were even able to scout the route we had decided on when we got back to check for anything we had missed. The ability to see this kind of road detail is a game changer. “I’ve seen it from space.” is now a part of my vernacular.

It was only natural that I wanted my competitors to see it from space as well. I actually prefer this to coordinates, as I don’t want to reveal the exact route until the day of the event. For those rally folks reading this, I’m sure my methods can be re-produced and you could ‘discover’ the area outside of Ridgecrest that we’ll be using for the event. You are also aware of the pre-event testing rules, and the jeopardy to the event should you decide to do any pre-running. 🙂

How was it done?
* You’ll need a copy of Google Earth.
* You’ll need a screen capture program called CamStudio.
* Both of these programs are free!

Setup your view under Google Earth Options: Tools – Options – 3D View. Click ‘Show Terrain’ under ‘Terrain Quality’ and crank the slider to the max for detail. You’ll also need to edit the options for ‘Touring’ under Google Earth Options. Some of these options for recording refer to the Pro version of Google Earth which will make these videos in much higher res. A full version of Google Earth Pro is around $300. Highly recommended for a business or commercial venture. (but you can do just about the same thing for free with Cam Studio *cough) A good place to start is by setting the options to match what I have below. You’ll want to tweak your angles and heights continually to get the shot your looking for.

Go to the area of the map you want to make a movie of. Start by creating a path. A new window will pop up called ‘Google Earth New Path’. I suggest you change the name from ‘Untitled’. When you LEFT click on the map a point will appear. RIGHT click if you made a mistake. Use the controls in the top right to move around to your next point. Hit OK on the ‘Google Earth New Path’ window when you’re done. You can click on the path to add more later as well as changing the color and thickness of the line. You’ll want to hide this when you actually record your movie. This interface took me some time to get used to (especially in 3 dimensions) so be patient with it.

In CamStudio you’ll want to setup the video options to capture a ‘Fixed Region’ (I used 320 X 240). When you hit record a window will appear, place it over the Google Earth window as shown. Start the tour by clicking the “Start Tour” button: Record your shot and hit ‘Stop’ on CamStudio. You will be prompted to save your video.

For the rest of it I edited a group of videos and different shots with plain old Windows Movie Maker. Added a little royalty free music and uploaded to YouTube. As far a the rally is concerned, my first reactions were something like: “Woah! Helicopter? Oh Wait… this is awesome!” It will no doubt get peoples attention and hopefully we’ll get tons of competitors out to the High Desert Trails Rally on April 9th, 2011.

Five knots you should know.

Five knots you should know.
The Square Knot can’t save you, and just forget about the silly Sheepshank. You already know how to tie a half hitch, slip knot, and the noose, right? Whether sailing, camping, fishing, climbing, or rallying – Here are five knots that you should know.

Click more to see how you did…
Continue reading Five knots you should know.

WordPress 2.0 > 3.0 now with text!

“Going forward may not be the answer. Maybe I should go back.”

As an early adopter of WordPress (look through the archives some time…) I can clearly remember the departure that WordPress made around version 2.0. They started calling links ‘the blogroll’ like dumb hipsters and when the admin logged in, it said ‘Howdy!’ and lots of other weird things that had nothing to do with the ability to write / create / share were changed. The media uploader was so horrible at the time, I turned ‘upload.php’ back ON and kept my hacked up version WP 2.02+ and it’s been unchanged for years.

I finally started to like the new stuff from WordPress when I installed 2.8 on highdeserttrails.com. It’s now consistent and polished, and doesn’t feel hipster and untested. I’ve been putting off a major upgrade of planetkris WordPress for a while. Okay, I guess like four years. It looks as though the WP folks have forgotten about me in the same time a BMW lease takes to expire. Everything before 2.7.1 right now has a very fuzzy upgrade path. Like “Dude – you can’t export XML?! What the hell is wrong with you?” fuzzy.

After reading the ‘update your database until MySQL shoots out of your nose‘ posts out there, and not finding any clear update path for those of us stuck in time – I started to think back to how I got here. I imported my ENTIRE BLOG *gasp from a MovableType text file called mt-export.txt. Yeah… Like a UTF-8 TXT file I can open with notepad.exe – text file. I looked for many ways to export and import and it all came down to this post: WordPress Export to Movable Type or TypePad The idea was to just export everything in MT format, wipe WP 2.02, the folders, etc. Setup WP 3.0, new files, new database, import from MT. If I had to go back, I just restored the files already pointing to the old database.

This clever theme drops your entire blog, all posts, all comments, in a big long page which you can click ‘view source’ and save as an mt-export.txt!
Want to edit where all of your images are stored before you import? Go crazy! Want to not deal with a drop of MySQL and get your blog updated? Here you go! The other positives are that the install is fresh. A fresh database and WP install is ALWAYS going to be better then an ‘Upgrade to 2.1 > Upgrade to 2.3 > Upgrade to 2.5 > Upgrade to 2.7.1‘ ugly beast of a thing.

Compromise for some? I’m sure. All I wanted was the posts. I didn’t even really care if the comments came over, but they did. Categories, author, and dates too! You’ll have to figure out your links, pages, themes, etc. on your own. WordPress 3.0 feels good and I particularly like this quote from the dev team – “Normally this is where I’d say we’re about to start work on 3.1, but we’re actually not. We’re going to take a release cycle off to focus on all of the things around WordPress. – – The goal of the teams isn’t going to be to make things perfect all at once, just better than they are today.” Dumb hipster? Not these guys.

I’m rocking a slightly modified theme from Yashfa right out of the box. You like?

Transmission, Screen, etc. on your Storcenter NAS.

storcenter ix2 running transmission
As I guessed in a previous ix2 post – there is a better, thinner, BitTorrent client. Abhilash suggested checking out Vladimir Vuksan’s blog post about customizing iomega storcenter with ipkg.

I’m going to do some more research into all of this, but right off the bat I was able to install ‘screen’ and ‘transmission’.
This page on setting up transmission on a headless machine (NSLU2) was the ticket.
The only hard part I had was finding and editing the settings.json – in order to add 10.0.1.* (my local subnet) to ‘rpc-whitelist’ like this: “rpc-whitelist”: “127.0.0.1,10.0.1.*”, The trick is to start the daemon and let it run for a few seconds, then the file will be created.

vi /.config/transmission-daemon/settings.json

Once added, I re-started the daemon and opened http://10.0.1.5:9091 – the web client opened right up. In the preferences I set the directory to: /nfs/public/Media/Torrent/ (an existing share called public where my BitTorrent files are stored on the ix2) I started up a few torrents and checked my CPU with ‘top’. 10% is a lot better then 70%. The interface is much better then the stock ix2 version 2 firmware. You can set limits as well as “Temporary Speed Limits” for making sure your ix2 is in top form when you’re awake.

Further study:
1. I just heard of synology NAS drives this morning. I’m going to take another guess that their related in some way to the Storcenter.
2. Those repositories are from nslu2-linux. Knowing this from the start might have made my mucking about in the SSH a bit better…
Enjoy!