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Showing posts from June, 2012

Life's a Bitch

When we are little, we master our physical self. Witness the toddler who can't seem to stop smearing his sleeves with food.

When we grow older, we master our emotional self. Witness the young adult who goes in and out of relationships. Witness the husband and wife who quarrels over little things every day.

When we are old, most of us (hopefully) would have discovered our true "self". We have achieved mastery of our inner nature.

Then it is time for us to leave the world.

Ain't life a bitch?

Booting to DOS from a USB memory stick

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Now that the floppy disk is ancient history and optical media is not far away, it seems we still have to boot to DOS from time-to-time to perform certain tasks, whether it is to flash a BIOS, or perform some hardware diagnostics. The preferred way of doing it these days is via a USB memory stick, and the easiest way to prepare your USB memory stick to boot to DOS is via a freeware tool called Rufus.


With Rufus, a few clicks is all you need to prepare your USB memory stick to boot to DOS. It comes with two DOSes embedded: MS-DOS and FreeDOS. No extra files are needed. After you are done preparing the stick, you can simply copy the extra application files you need over via Windows Explorer, whether it is to flash the BIOS or to diagnose that network card. It is pretty straightforward.

In addition, Rufus also lets you prepare the USB memory stick to boot to supported ISO images, including Parted Magic, Ultimate Boot CD, Windows 7 Setup etc., even Windows XP Setup (but I haven't teste…

Using Google Docs to monitor your website

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There are many different ways to monitor your website. You can run a program (eg. Integrio Uptime Scout) locally on your own machine, you can use a web service (eg. FreeSiteStatus), and now you can summon the might of the entire Google infrastructure to tackle this task (via Google Docs) for free.

The whole thing is surprisingly easy to setup. You first make a copy of this spreadsheet. Then within your own copy of the spreadsheet, change the URL to point to the website you wish to monitor and the email address to be notified for uptime and downtime.


Then in the Google Docs menu, select Tools –> Script Editor to bring up the script editor window. Then select Resources –> Current Script’s Triggers. Under the "Run" drop-down menu, select "isMySiteDown". Then under "Events", select "Time-driven", followed by “Minutes timer” and choose how often you want your website to be checked (eg. Every 15 minutes). Now save the trigger and authorize Googl…

Speed comparison of USB 2.0 vs USB 3.0 portable hard drive

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Here are the CrystalDiskMark numbers of a USB 2.0 portable drive (Samsung G2 Portable 640GB):



and a USB 3.0 portable drive (Seagate Expansion 750GB):


So although the theoretical bandwidth of the USB 3.0 interface is much higher compared to USB 2.0 (48MB/s vs 480MB/s), it is limited by the throughput of the mechanical hard drive. So at best you are looking at a 2x throughput improvement when moving to USB 3.0 for mechanical disks.

Performance of SATA-to-SATA HDD caddy

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The CrystalDiskMark figures for the Cosair CSSD-F80GBP2 running in the slightly reengineeredHDD caddy purchased from DealExtreme is as follows:


Not top-of-the-line, but very good for running virtual machines without being bogged down by the mechanical HDD.

Compared that to the Seagate ST9500420ASG, which is a 7200rpm unit that is probably pushing the performance limits of consumer-grade mechanical HDDs:


The 4K read/write performance of the SSD gives it the extra edge when running multiple VMs on the same machine.

64-bit Windows = 64-bit Java?

Here's one of those counter-intuitive situations that give tech such a bad name and make even an experienced user such as yours truly (with over 20 years of IT involvement) want to throw my arms up in despair. If you are running a 64-bit version of Windows, which version of Java should you install? The 32-bit or 64-bit variety? If you choose 64-bit, you are wrong!

Take a look at this little snippet of information at the official Java website. If you are planning to use Java in your browser (IE, Firefox or Chrome), you'd better install the 32-bit version of Java. The reason is because most browsers are still 32-bit, and they can't access the Java runtime if it is 64-bit. And as far as I know, the 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Java cannot co-exist on the same system, so 32-bit is really the only way to go.

You probably only install the 64-bit version of Java on servers where you need the extra "omph" and in-browser Java support is not required. For the rest of us, …

Thinkpad Edge E530 won't wake up from sleep

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I recently purchased a Thinkpad Edge E530 laptop from Lenovo. I think it is great value. I ordered it with the default 2GB RAM and bumped it up to a nice pair of Kingston HyperX 4GB DDR3 RAM, bringing the total up to 8GB. The whole thing costs me only about S$600.

But there was only one problem with the laptop. It wouldn't wake up from sleep or hibernate properly. I have to force power off the machine and boot it up again after sleep. I tried everything. Updating the BIOS. Updating the drivers. Nothing worked. It was frustrating.

After a tedious round of elimination testing, the culprit was finally tracked down to a HDD caddy that I purchased from DealExtreme. This is one of those gadgets that lets you install another harddisk into your space-scarce laptop by using the slot reserved for the optical drive. I use it to add a 120GB SSD drive into the laptop and use it to run certain I/O intensive applications (eg. virtual machines).

As luck would have it, I chanced upon a discussion

Make Google Chrome Portable the system default browser

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Making Chrome Portable the system default browser turned out to be more complicated than I'd expected.

I am currently running Windows 7 x64. I first tried Change Default Browser, which seems to be the tool recommended by everybody, but that didn't work for some reason. I tried a few other methods, but none of them worked. Finally I found salvation in this discussion, in the last post made by jonasformolo.

What is needed is to created the chrome.reg file, then fire up the text editor and replace all occurrences of:

D:\\Softwares\\Portable\\Extracted\\GoogleChromePortable\\GoogleChromePortable.exe

with the full path to Chrome Portable on your system (mind the double backslashes!). Finally double-click to enter it into the registry.

However, there is one additional and crucial step to take which is missing in the original instructions. Since you can't easily edit the value in:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Classes\GoogleChromePortableURL\shell\open\command

with a text editior (unl…

Turning off numerical sorting in Windows Explorer

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Windows XP introduces the concept of "numerical sorting", where filenames in Windows Explorer are sorted by evaluating their numerical value instead of the ASCII order. For example, if you have a bunch of files:

  Doc111
  Doc22
  Doc3

they will be sorted as:

  Doc3
  Doc22
  Doc111

because 3 < 2 < 111, get it?

This is very confusing to those of us who expects things to be sorted logically i.e. in ASCII order. Who's the idiot who made this "numerical sort order" default on all Windows after XP?

Anyway, one way to right this wrong is as follows:
Press [Win-R], type "gpedit.msc", then press [Enter] to bring up the Local Group Policy Editor.Select "User Configuration", "Administrative Templates", "Windows Components", and finally "Windows Explorer" in the treeview on the left of the editor.Double-click on "Turn off numerical sorting in Windows Explorer" in the "Setting" pane on the right of the e…