Icecream pudding

December 24th, 2009

1. Melt a 4 litre tub of vanilla icecream in a large saucepan.

2. Dice two large Mars Bars, Cherry Ripes, Crunchies and Turkish Delight bars. You can chop them as finely as you like, but it’s best when they’re nice and chunky.

3. Heap the chocolate bits into the saucepan with the icecream and stir until consistent.

4. Carefully pour the whole mixture into a large bowl lined with Gladwrap (to make getting it out easier later on) and smooth flat on top. Put the bowl in the freezer and let it sit. Upend onto a very large plate, and serve in slices. Voila – icecream pudding, an awesome Christmas treat for climates where Christmas day often approaches 40 degrees celcius.

Boot space in an early Smart ForTwo.

December 13th, 2009

This isn’t really relevant to anything else on my blog, but in the interests of freeing information I thought I’d share this for Google to find later.

I was trying to find the exact dimensions of the boot space in an early model Smart ForTwo coupe – the 0.7L engine model made between 1998 and 2006 (I think it’s the 450, the new one built starting in 2008 is the 451), but could only find it quoted as “170 litres”.

I couldn’t find the actual numbers anywhere on the internet. One helpful forum thread suggested about five inches cubed, likely from someone who’s only seen pictures of the thing and immediately dismissed it as rubbish. I wound up emailing someone at the Mercedes Benz dealer in Sydney, who replied (on a Saturday!) with the information I was after.

So: The boot space in an old ForTwo is 95cm wide, 70cm tall and 50cm deep. So nearly a metre wide, and a bit taller than it is deep.

Just for fun, I have compared that to a 32″ widescreen TV on sizeasy.

More extreme than other leading TIMs

December 8th, 2009


I swear this isn’t a scrapbooking blog

December 4th, 2009

This computer suggested an insane screen resolution:


This MSI laptop recommended one:


This file doesn’t exist, but it might if you delete it:

.wtf files are tricky.

This is what a touchpad looks like, under the cheap paint:

Well-worn touchpad.

This is the cleverest virus I’ve ever seen:

CAPTCHA-harvesting virus.

(If you have this “Windows XP Professional”-branded virus on your computer – forcing you to solve a CAPTCHA puzzle every few minutes, lest it reboot your computer – hit ctrl+alt+delete and close rundll32.exe. Then download and run combofix and then avira to get rid of it.)

Primitive technology

November 8th, 2009

“Okay,” he said, “try it.”

So I tried it. I pushed the clutch pedal to the floor, started his car, pushed the gearstick left and upwards, and let out the clutch to see what’d happen.

And of course, the engine went into first gear with no power behind it whatsoever, and immediately stalled. A little orange light appeared among the instruments, asking me very politely not to do that again.

“Cool,” I remarked, grinning like an idiot with a new toy. Then settled down and mentally prepared myself for the first proper test run.

Clutch in, turn the key, clutch out and accelerate. The engine raced with the merest suggestion of movement from my right foot, causing me to panic, over-correct and pretty much completely lift off the pedal. The car stalled again, bucking sickeningly to and fro this time, before settling gently back into the dip in the ground of the empty car park we’d found for this experiment.

Read the rest of this entry »

Rant: USB hard drives and warranty

October 30th, 2009

Thinking of buying a USB hard drive?

External USB hard drives at Officeworks.

Obviously you’re gonna go for the one with the longest warranty – three years will surely see you through your CompSci degree, yeah?

Hold on for a minute. There’s a point I’d like to make.

Hard drives are reasonably equal beings, nowadays; some tend to fail more than others, but it’s impossible to tell for years after they’ve hit the market, and nobody’s going to wait that long. They’re also a very competitive market, where prices fluctuate by mere dollars and cents every week, and when the pressure gets as high as it is now, they’re going to cut costs everywhere they can to stay in the game.

They can’t cut many corners with the drives themselves. I’m talking about the cheap crappy boxes they put them in.

Read the rest of this entry »

Out and about

October 30th, 2009

On the side of a machine that rents trailers at a servo:


Airport Krispy Kreme:

Krispy Fail

Guess the restaurant:

"Dude, what the hell did you have for dinner?"

What a dead pixel (and a very small portion of the fileserver at work) looks like:

When you make millions of something, one or two are bound to come out with toethumbs.

Howto: Edit the boot menu easily in Windows Vista and 7

September 19th, 2009

Startup options in Windows XP. Startup options in Windows 7.

The Windows XP boot menu is determined by the contents of C:\boot.ini, a scary little text file that nevertheless is pretty important to know about if you fix computers. Microsoft changed how the boot menu works in Windows Vista and 7, helpfully removing the Edit button as you can see in the screenshots above.

You’re meant to use the even scarier command-line-only tool bcdedit, but I can’t be bothered learning how that works just to fix the incredibly basic problems I usually see (duplicate entries due to messed-up OS installs or repairs, or tweaking dualboot systems properly).

I’d like to share a lazier solution: VistaBootPRO gives you a perfectly good GUI for boot menu editing. The personal edition sells for US$10 on their site, but there appears to be a free version available here if you’re only going to need it once or twice.

VistaBootPRO on Windows 7.

It gives me a slightly scary error message on startup about Vista not being detected (I’m running Windows 7) and that I may “experience minor problems”, but it’s worked fine for the basic things I’ve done with it. YMMV.

Solved: “Bluebirds” installer on LG GH22NS50 DVD-RW

September 3rd, 2009

LG GH22NS50 DVD-RW. LG GH22NS50 sticker.

This is the LG GH22NS50. We’ve started stocking these at work – just the next low-cost SATA burner option for us. Except it comes with a nasty surprise, and that surprise is Bluebirds.

Bluebirds 'disc' shown in My Computer.

It’s some kind of drag-to-disc software included with the drive. Not on a CD, of course; it’s hacked into the drive’s firmware, and shows up when there’s no disc in the drive at all. Which means that every time you close the tray with nothing in it, you get prompted to install it, thanks to Windows helpfully autorunning it.

It’s not really a malicious program. It just sits in your system tray until you close it or uninstall it (Control Panel -> Add/remove programs, in XP). It’s probably even helpful, for the few people who let it sit around long enough to find out. I haven’t seen anyone do that yet.

Way to go, LG; not only does your drive automatically try to install an unwanted program on your customers’ computers, but you’ve changed a fundamental thing about how CD drives work: If there’s no disc in the drive, it should be empty and that’s the end of it. You’ve changed how it behaves, and that fills us with false and misleading knowledge.

It’s as bad as when ISPs used to rebrand Internet Explorer as being “provided by [some telco]”; none of my customers could ever understand that IE was just a program on their computer and nothing to do with their ISP.

Anyway, the fellow who started this forum thread has the solution – there’s a firmware update for the drive that removes the Bluebirds installer, along with the fake disc-in-drive thing. Not to steal his thunder or anything, but I wanted to complain too. 🙂

Firmware update for LG burner.

The firmware updater orders you to remove the disc from the drive before running the firmware update, which is the most passive-aggressive thing I’ve ever seen a PC program do. You have to eject the drive and let it sit there poking its tongue out for 30 seconds while you erase the Bluebirds part of its brain.

I’ve uploaded the program to my /static/ folder, so there’s another place on the internet for it to be found:

You might want to read that forum thread anyway. The utter lack of official information from LG about this is disturbing.

Obviously this just removes the installer and auto-runner from the drive; if you’ve clicked yes to install it, you’ll have to uninstall it from your computer as well. I don’t recall seeing it in Control Panel; there’s a link in the Bluebirds folder in your Start Menu to get rid of it.

Update 30/9/09: There’s a separate version for the Lightscribe-enabled GH22LS50; that can be found here:

LN01 firmware update for LG GH22LS50 (Lightscribe) DVD-RW: (2MB)

Update 7/1/10: A few commenters here run Linux or BSD or something else that isn’t Windows; I don’t currently have a practical way to experiment with it myself, but one commenter successfully reflashed his drive using Crossover Linux. They offer a fully-functional 30 day trial here, and I recommend trying that if you possibly can.

If you seriously have no way of flashing it yourself though, any little PC shop ought to be able to do it for you for a small fee – if you visit the place you originally bought it from they may do it for free if you complain logically enough. At my work we pre-emptively reflash the drives before they go out because we couldn’t stand the thought of selling them with the Bluebirds crap still in them.

Update 23/5/10: A commenter has informed me of the new 02 version of the firmware for both of these drives. It took me a good 30 minutes to track down both of them, thanks to every region-localised website LG operates containing the full product page of each and every product they’ve ever made, but the respective support pages only showing the products most relevant to that region. I still have no idea where the Lightscribe version of this drive is meant to have been sold, but it’s sure not any country I’ve heard of.

Anyway – well-deserved plug here for Firmware HQ. If only companies would properly support their own products, we wouldn’t be so utterly reliant on the goodwill of sites like that. The Lx02 firmware apparently adds support for Windows 7, although I don’t recall having problems with it at work…

LN02 firmware for GH22NS50: (2MB)

LS02 firmware for GH22LS50 (Lightscribe): (2MB)

Solved: Error 0x800704dd running Windows Update

August 22nd, 2009

Frequently referenced as error 80240020. The fix depends on what version of Windows you use. Microsoft happily document each solution on its knowledgebase page here:

I wouldn’t bother blogging this, but the fix for Windows 2000, XP and 2003 involves adding a registry key that’s gone missing. Something happens to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Winlogon\Notify\SensLogn, namely that it disappears. Not sure what’s causing it, but I’ve seen it on two PCs at work in the last week, and I quickly tired of re-typing the key information (there’s 14 different fields to fill in…).

Here for your (and my!) quick reference is SensLogn.reg. Right-click, save to anywhere, and merge with your registry on 2000, XP or 2003 to fix error 800704dd.