Archive for the 'blog' Category


Wednesday, July 1st, 2009


Way to go, digg.

To my dearest comment spammers

Monday, June 29th, 2009

It’s very nice of you to say you think my articles are well-written, and that you feel the author knows the subject matter very well. It’s lovely that you’ve so carefully considered the relevance of my website to yours, and decided to enrich my website with a link to your own.

Be that as it may, the utter generalisation of your statements, combined with the fact that both your home URL and your name appear to be “best payday loans”, it’s kind of obvious your entire reason for visiting my blog is to attempt to spam it.

Just FYI, it takes me far less time to mark your comment as spam than it does for you to copy/paste your tripe to the comment box and solve the captcha puzzle and post your comments to my moderation queue. Please re-evaluate the return on your investment here, and kindly go away now.


A cross-section of the internet

Friday, June 12th, 2009

You’ve all heard of it. Some of you even know what it looks like. But who’s actually used the Opera browser?

I’ve tried, a couple of times. My opinion’s always been “holy crap it’s fast”, “holy crap it’s configurable”, “can’t be bothered switching to it because Firefox has Adblock Plus and Net Usage and I couldn’t find equivalent plugins that were as simple and obvious to use”.

Here’s an interesting article – “8 Browser Innovations Started by Opera“. Apparently we’ve had tabbed browsing since the year 2000, but nobody noticed. I suppose it would’ve been irrelevant until the majority of people had dialup and could stand to load more than one page at once.

That article makes an interesting point about market share. Obviously Internet Explorer is largely popular in graphs because it’s the first program tons of new computer users actually see (and trying to conceptually separate Internet Explorer from “my Bigpond Explorer”, “my email”, and “Windows” can be hilariously difficult), but I’ve played with IE8 on the few occasions I’ve actually sat down to use it, and it’s actually not terrible.

I’d like to share some statistics about my own blog here, courtesy of Google Analytics. Here’s a glimpse of what information I collect about you:

Browsers used by visitors to between mid-April and mid-June, 2009.

Here’s the breakdown of web browsers used by every visitor to a page on in the last 90-odd days. You’d expect a huge amount of IE users (drivers are usually the first thing to go on a freshly installed PC), but Firefox reigns supreme. Chrome is more popular than Opera, and there’s some Safari in there too.

The Opera Mini hits are concievably all my own fault – I use that on my phone, having never bothered with Sony Ericsson’s default K850i browser. I’d never heard of Camino before looking at this myself (hello, Mac users! What are you doing here? *waves*). The rest are weird little devices, probably random hits from bored friends of mine. Who I could probably identify from those devices. You guys are bored.

Operating systems used by visitors to between mid-April and mid-June, 2009.

Operating systems. Windows takes a good 7/8ths of the cake, while Linux makes up most of the rest (Hi to anybody who set up their own Ubuntu DHCP servers or whatever from my walkthrough!). A small number of iPhone OS hits (Hi Nathan and Bohdan!), SunOS and UNIX are probably from universities, and surely whoever’s responsible for the OS/2 hit is taking the piss.

My latest venture

Saturday, June 6th, 2009

I have started a new project, in the same vein as my driver guide. I’m collecting service manuals of every laptop computer I can find and hosting them on a new page here:

These files contain parts lists for each model, and how to disassemble them, down to the LCD screen and the motherboard. As a repair aid, they are invaluable, as they can easily halve the time it takes to replace a keyboard, and attempting a motherboard swap without one is a risky, unreliable procedure.

The manuals are often difficult to find, though; very few manufacturers actually publish them for the general public, and I strongly applaud and recommend those that do. Those that don’t, on the other hand, only make it more difficult to repair their laptop computers, which reflects badly on them as companies who care more about their sales than their support.

I invite everybody to have a look, email people the link, digg it, tweet it, whatever. The more people who see it and know it exists, the more will (hopefully) help me expand and improve it over time.

some things i scraped off the interweb this week

Monday, March 23rd, 2009

First up, “Extreme Sheep LED Art”.

You herd me.

There’s a ton of skepticism in the comments about how real that could be. I’m inclined to think a) it’s worth watching for the hilarious concept alone, b) the fireworks at the end are thoroughly believable. Enjoy it either way.

Next, something serious, but just as breathtaking:

There’s some kind of trick photography going on – a weird lens here, some time-lapse there – but my brain can’t make heads or tails of it. It thinks it’s watching some stop-motion thing with teeny tiny scale models.

Somehow, though, the big boats still look big. Which leads me to…


Yeah. That’ll about do it.

I discovered Dark Roasted Blend dot com last night. It’s full of crazy awesome things like that.


And this. This is obviously a drawing or something, but seriously. If I was a supervillain, this would be my primary base of operations. In the sky. With cannons.

Honourable mention, of course, to the Blue Marlin.


It’s a barge. It sinks itself, swims underneath other boats, re-surfaces, and then carries said other boats around.

Like, for instance, that destroyer. Or an oil rig.

That’s about exhausted my quota of awesome for the week. Tune in next week, for more of whatever I happen to dig up in my travels.

Solved: 100% CPU usage on Acer Aspire 1640Z

Wednesday, March 11th, 2009

Do you have an Acer laptop? Is the CPU going full bore for no reason? Is your battery getting a bit old?

Then do I have a solution for you.

Fun problem at work this week, as above. The SYSTEM process – not the System Idle process, as you’d expect – was eating as much CPU time as it could, causing it to heat up and run its fans like crazy. Oh, and the laptop’s keyboard and touchpad were practically useless – it was ignoring 9 in every 10 keystrokes, and you’d get maybe 2-3 responses a second out of the touchpad.

I had to plug a USB keyboard and mouse into it; curiously they worked flawlessly. I guess it was too busy to listen to its PS/2 inputs.

I googled “system process using cpu“, and landed on an essay by Mark Russinovich (the Sysinternals guy) on how he used Process Explorer to hunt down whatever was using his CPU like crazy. His problem turned out to be bad network card drivers; in my case…


…it was something called Deferred Procedure Calls. A further google for that turns up a surprising number of Acer laptop users. This thread explains it all. There’s a hardware bug somewhere in the way certain Acers – at least the 1640Z, and some 3000 and 5000 series models – talk to old batteries. Possibly they’re getting hung up on it reading too close to zero, I don’t know.

The fix is simple. All you have to do is pull the battery out.


CPU usage will instantly decrease, and everything will return to normal until the next time you reboot with the battery slotted in.

If this is your problem, you have three simple options. First, you can chuck the battery out, leaving the laptop to rock from side to side on a flat surface because some of the feet are on the battery; two, you buy a new battery, gambling it’s the battery’s fault and not the laptop’s; and three, go buy yourself a shiny new laptop that isn’t crap.

Edit: I’m getting a lot of hits from people with recent Acer laptops, saying they have full CPU usage. This exact problem is to do with old batteries; if you’ve got a Core2 Acer or something similarly recent, it’s not the same problem and I can’t specifically help you. I suggest checking Task Manager (ctrl+alt+del, pick it from the list) and looking in the Processes tab – find what’s using your CPU, google the name of it and kill it. Aside from that I can’t really help.

more speedruns: sonic the hedgehog

Sunday, February 22nd, 2009

Could I just have your attention for a couple of hours? Yes? Sweet.

To celebrate buying my own Sega Nomad, I went on a bit of a hunt for Sonic the Hedgehog speedruns on YouTube. They’re every bit as awesome as the Keen 5 one from the other week; if you were a Sonic fan back in the day, check these out.

First up, here’s Sonic the Hedgehog 1, for me the scariest of the lot with those gigantic spikes and no spindashing. In two parts, because this was uploaded when Youtube still limited videos to 10 minutes. Up on CPU!

Then there’s Sonic 2, from the Sega logo to the death of the final boss in 19 minutes and 55 seconds:

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do not adjust your set

Sunday, February 22nd, 2009

If you happen to have been reading my site over the last hour or so, you might’ve noticed random things changing colours or size or growing antennae or whatever. That’s because my blog’s a bit overdue for some design tweaks, and I’m too lazy to set up a sandbox site to play with, so I’ve been changing the live site as is.

The theme is a bit darker, and I’ve set up a rotating image banner thing for the header. It’s a bunch of closeup photos from in, on or around my desktop PC, and I think it looks much better than the default happy blue bar that used to be there.

The banner thing is run by Dan Benjamin’s randomizer, which was as easy to setup as it was to find, which I did via this.

Howto: Automatically log in and lock your session so things load faster

Sunday, February 22nd, 2009

If you don’t set a password on your Windows user account, you get logged in straight away, and things like MSN and your email notifier start loading immediately. If you have a password, things stop dead until you’ve sat down and typed it in to log in, in which case you could still have a minute or two to wait before things are usable again.

What I dreamed up the other day was this: Is there a way to log yourself in automatically, but immediately lock your session, so you still need a password to use your PC but your desktop/icons/random programs are already loaded by the time you type it in? Intel have a feature in their wireless drivers called single sign-on that connects to your wireless network before you’ve logged in, to speed things up in that exact way; why can’t we do it with everything else?

Turns out that a) we can, and b) it’s easy to do, because I’m not the first person to think of doing it.

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Windows 7: Devices and Printers window

Tuesday, January 13th, 2009

I stumbled on a new item in the start menu today: Devices and Printers.


It’s somewhere between My Computer and the Device Manager. Intrigued, I answered yes to that interesting question at the top and set about plugging in every USB device I could see within arm’s reach:

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