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The speed of changes of modern tecnology never ceases to amaze me. Got myself a MicroMite – a single chip PIC-32 with MMBasic firmware…..

Result? – add a 47uf tantalum cap, power up at 3.3v an away we go. 100% functional computer with a simple yet powerful Basic interpreter built right in. Amazing. Needs a $5 TTL – USB serial converter but thats it! My TRS-80 had less power than this puppy will get you started including where to source the bits.


4WDs – time to stick the boot in – The “FAT ARSE” campaign begins

I was driving in the rain the other day being overtaken by 4WDs. Apparently someone has told them that 4WDs are “safer” in the rain so they actually speed up. Forget about compromised tires, higher centre of gravity, higher weight with consequent poorer braking. Let’s not forget the suspension compromises. But someone told them they are “safer” in the rain. Forget that they are “less safe” in the dry!

I’m now starting a campaign to make 4WDs less attractive. If we do that, then maybe a few more potential owners will think about their choices and attitudes.

Ever notice that most 4WDs have a “huge, fat rear end”? Right! from now on all 4WDs will be called “Fat Arse …….” so from now on, Landcruisers are “Fat Arse Toyotas”! The Porsche Cayenne (surely one of the ugliest cars on the road) is now a “Fat Arse Porsche” – think about it – its so right. Its acceptable to distinguish a model as a “Fat Arse Prado” or a “Fat Arse Landcruiser”. Some examples –

  • Nissan Patrol = “Fat Arse Nissan”
  • Range Rover = “Fat Arse Rangie” (or whatever).
  • Audi Q5 = “Fat Arse Audi”

I figure that if enough people ask “are you driving that Fat Arse Toyota” then a few people may resent that and realise their cars really have a “Fat Arse”!

Let the heckling begin – you heard it here first.


Powershell – the 3 line quicky

I needed to change the profile path for a fair number of users in AD a go. Thought I’d give PowerShell a go. Talk about easy…. here it is.

Change the Profile Path for all users in an OU – the easy way

$users = Get-ADUser -filter * -SearchBase “ou=<yourOu>,dc=<yourDC>,dc=<yourDC>”

ForEach( $u in $users )


$ProfilePath = “\\<yourProfileServer>\<yourProfileShare>\” + $u.sAMAccountName

set-ADUser -Identity $uDistinguishedname -Profilepath $ProfilePath


Well – I lied – there are 4 lines of code. Talk about easy


Spot the difference

More of the same here. Just spent $80 on a new detergent dispenser for our Dishlex DX 302 dishwasher. Spot the difference in these 2 parts, apart from the fact they are different colours.

Hard to spot but the tiny little catch on the light grey one is broken. Why us this an issue? The door won’t latch close, so unless you hang around waiting for the pre-rinse cycle to complete, most of the detergent disappears in the a fore mentioned rinse.

Now my real gripe is that the cover door is removable but NO, you can’t buy the door, you have to buy the complete detergent dispenser assembly – complete with 2 solenoids.

Surely, considering the door is removable we could just buy the door and not the rest of the assembly. If anyone needs a new detergent dispanser (sans a door). Just drop me a line.


Now this is fun. Bought an Arduino / Sparkfun  UNO experimenters kit from Little Bird Electronics. Talk about easy to get running. The little workhorse is now driving the irrigation system in both the upper and lower greenhouses. Here is a pic

I built a 240V -> 24VAC transformer into a jiffy box – its 72VA so I added a 6A fuse. This drives the bodgy little power supply on the left and is switched by the relay into the . 24VAC becomes 12VDC and this then drives the Arduino and the relay. The heatsink on the 7912 voltage regulator is an old Pentium 1 heatsink. Most of the wiring on the breadboard is to

  • accept input from the single switch which either starts or stops the timer
  • drive the piezo which plays a small tune on water on and off
  • drives the servo on the right which provides visual indication of the timer cycle
  • drives the flashing “power (yellow)” and “water on (red)” LEDs
  • holds a single transistor to drive the relay

This is the business end

$19.50 24VAC solenoid from Bunnings and some poly pipe fittings. This irrigation setup is fed by a tank and the valves work OK with this pressure. The fine solenoid cable back to the Arduino is just inserted 100 mm underground using a spade to cut the turf and (this is important) a “stick” to shove the cable to the bottom of the cut. Its not really terminated with insulation tape, there is some soldering and heat shrink under that.

At the moment the Arduino is simply turning it on for 15 minutes every 11 hours and 45 minutes. Future improvements will include

  • A more permanent board for the interfaces
  • LCD for cycle indications
  • A RTC (real time clock) for timing.
  • More relays for different circuits. I need to connect Jacq’s staghorns on the eastern deck into regular watering.

Most of this, of course, is dependant on me not sacrificing the Arduino into the next project……   THIS! Muah-ha-ha

Chucking stuff out

I’m getting depressed about this. Lately we’ve had a spate of electronic failures. Most of it is not repairable and even though its (comparatively) cheap – especially compared to 10 years ago – I’m getting jack of just “chucking stuff out”.

The recent casualty list is accentuated by a freak lightning hit but I just can’t fix this stuff and the cost of professional repair is more that buying new stuff.

The DEE (Dead electronic equipment) list includes

Panasonic SA-DT100 home theatre system. Its almost 10 years old but it now says “F61” when it starts and this means the audio amplifier board is toasted. Problem here is I now have 6 speakers (inc subwoofer) which are now virtually useless.

Netgear EV100 – the NIC is dead and won’t go online. I could use it for USB playback but I bought it for TWIT and YouTube.

CABAC ADSL router – all NIC ports now dead. + El Cheapo 8 port 10/100 only has 2 working ports.

I just hate just throwing this shit out. I can’t reclaim any of it, even recycling is tough. About the best I can do is keep the power transformer (for copper) and cases from the Panasonic for the steel. The rest just chucked in the garbage.

I’m getting a real feeling that someday, we as humans, are going to pay for this, one way or another.

Long time since I have contacted Microsoft support

Office 2007, well more specifically Outlook 2007 crashed this week. Kept coming up with “Outlook 2007 could not open a window”. Hmm… Usual stuff followed. Attempt a repair, uninstall and then an install in that order. All failed with the same

Error 2203. An Internal error has occurred. (C:\Windows\Installer\.ipi -2147287035 )

I didn’t really want to do the crash and burn (delete everything in the file system and registry) napalm technique so I thought I’d ring MS PSS. Surprisingly it was pretty simple and painless – Kudos to MS Support. The VOIP connection as usual was scratchy but I only waited for 5 minutes.

The fix?

go to a command prompt, navigate to the Office12 folder and execute

outlook /resetnavpane

– The pss dude reckons that this was in some internal DB as I’d searched for it before hand. Anyway it was a good experience and I though I publish as people are quick to complain and slow to praise.

CD Covers aka “Jewel Cases”

This is a LONGGGG term “this really shits me” post.

How many stupid, mongrel, busted CD covers do you have?

One of my biggest wishes is to meet the stupid prats that designed that one. Probably Phillips – Sony had their design shit together in the 1980. Were probably in the ’80s where Apple is today.

What total crap! Scratches easily, the stupid lugs on the cover break and the thing is then stuffed.

Can you remember the first time (ever) you tried to open one (25 years ago for me)? It was “intuitively obvious” – NOT!

How many times have you busted one just opening them, or dropped it (an busted it) just because it was (and still is) one of the worst cases (sic) of industrial design in the 20th Century.

Bottom line….

Complete, total, EPIC Fail!

Old Media

A rambling post about the future of digital media

Been cleaning out some stuff lately – you know chucking out that old mother board (but keeping the 1.6 Ghz Athlon CPU). I used to think that keeping this stuff would be good to cook up a Myth Box (or something) but price of new all-in-one mother boards and processors is so cheap that “why bother”.

In hurling out all this stuff, I’ve started to trawl the archives and I’ve noticed how my old media builds up. I used to have floppy based backups. Now that every PC I look after @ home is Windows 7, I don’t need to keep floppy disks any more (for the F6 boot drivers) so they have all gone – in the last few weeks I chucked out

– Floppy drives (I still have just one)
– Travan tapes – a mighty 800Mb compressed. Haven’t had the drive for this for ages – Can’t think that anyone else will either.
– DDS2 tapes, a drive and the PCI SCSI II controller. Can’t think why I’d need to keep these. I smashed the tapes (just in case) and pulled the tape out.
– CD ROMS – Interestingly, almost past their use by date. The only reason I need CD’s is that my wife’s car has a disc based MP3 function so I cut her collection to MP3 to save changing CD’s. Apart from that – almost all gone. I’ve still got some of my original games (Quake, UT etc) CD’s but even they are on the short list. STEAM has fixed that. I threw out almost all my old Technet CD’s (and some of the DVD’s too).

Haven’t quite got to chucking DVD’s but that time is approaching soon too. Noticed that I have developed a collection of Hard Drives. Considering that a 1TB HDD is now well under $AU100, I’m wondering what the life time of the lesser HDD’s in the collection will be. I still have  a 9GB Quantum but its time to seriously copy anything worthwhile and ditch it. This means that my minimum media tolerance is now > 10 GB.

Lightweight USB keys are still useful but anything under 2 GB is now on the way out. Time to smash that old 128Mb up. SD Cards < 2 GB are now gone to. Somewhere I have a 32MB
“Multimedia” SD card. Probably can’t get a reader for it.

I know it sounds obvious but I can’t see this ever stopping – the price of late model media (and the computers) is just startling but I also feel that we really are about to enter a digital dark age.  Most of these media types, with the exception of the Travan,  are  still available but they are fairly quickly disappearing from use. Can you still buy DDS-1 tapes?

How long before my spinning magnetic media disappears? At the rate solid state drives are evolving, I’m thinking 5 years will be optimistic

A good example and one thing that I have been watching is home camcorder media.

A couple of years ago our old Sanyo 8mm camcorder gave up the ghost. Not sure but it was suggested that it you don’t turn them on occasionally then the capacitors dry out and then that’s is – no more play!. Big problem if your entire family video collection is on 8mm.  Current price to transcribe an 8mm to DVD was > $100! I like looking at the falling technology prices – like most men I like the hardware and gadget catalogs – and was noticing the demise of 8mm video cameras. Bugger! (I thought) and went out and bought a brand new Samsung 8mm from Hardly Normal. Problem…. We had recorded our tapes in LP (Long Play) and the Samsung didn’t support this mode. Back to Hardly’s, cough up enough for a Sony Handycam. This turned out to be the 2nd last 8mm tape transport that Sony made. Talk about close. Quick project to transcribe all the movies to DVD. (Interesting aside – my now almost 4 year old laptop has a Firewire port – try finding one of those – do Mac’s still have them? – so the transcription was straight forward).

I’ve noticed that the Camcorder lifetime is dictated by the media. Here is a very rough list.

– 8 mm Analog – about 12 years. Includes Hi8 and VHS-C (Yes, I know this is not 8mm!)

– 8 mm Digital – about 6-8

– Mini DV tapes – perhaps 6 years but now completely gone

– DVD camcorder – 3 years (maybe). Now gone. Not sold anymore

– HDD – still in use however seem to be restricted more and more to high end i.e. 1080p devices. Gone in consumer devices.

– Flash media – current consumer media – lifetime, unknown but probably significant.

Interesting to see how the current media sets will last.

Windows 2008 R2 Activation blues

Its taken me a while to find this but now its blindingly obvious. We are testing R2 as it has some advanced Terminal Server (now Remote Desktop Services) that we are interested in. We have a number of 2008 (R1?) servers and an activation server with a KMS key that works OK.

Now comes the hard part. If you don’t want to go through the hassle of recovering your KMS keys from the R1 activation server then you need to

1. SP2 the R1 server
2. Apply the appropriate hotfix to permit R1 servers to activate R2 (and Windows 7) machines.

You got through the change control process (you do have one don’t you?) and apply all these changes to your licensing server including the new R2 KMS key.

Full of expectation and jumping on the R2 server you hit

slmgr -ato

and get rewarded with a 0xC004F074 error. I have tried a couple of times to find this but eventually Googled “Security-SPP 0xC004F074”. This lead me to where at the end of Table 10 – it finally pointed to Table 11.

This is the “gold” document – it enabled me to decypher the error code in the 12288 message.

Cutting a long story short. The string has a value of 5 where I have only 1 R2 server in the farm.

I don’t understand this. I already have 10+ 2008 servers in my farm but now MS needs me to build 5 R2 servers to go through the “minimum number” procedure again to get activation to work again.

I’m finding the MS Licensing/Activation regime to be hard work. This has taken about 8 hours to get this far (with service packs etc) and I still have even more work to do to get my systems activated. I’ve already crossed the #5 threshold once – why do I have to do this again?