Archive for April, 2009

ExactImage QuickLook plugin now with iPhone PNG support

Monday, April 27th, 2009

Update: Now with improved PCX support!

I updated my ExactImage-based QuickLook plugin to also support non-standard, Apple iPhone optimized PNGs (with “CgBI” chunks). A great help for iPhone developers who want to get a better overview of their bundle content, enjoy: 1.5 update with PNG support. As usual: If you have another image format you like to preview on the Mac just let me know!

Sony^W PC BIOS madness

Monday, April 20th, 2009

So I wasted most of my weekend messing with old PC hardware. Initially I just wanted to check some KVM/VT detail and needed a test system. I was under the impression some lingering Sony VGN-SZ laptop would fulfill the need. However, it turned out, that Sony disabled VT in the BIOS, at that time, locking the MSR bits. While some NVRAM tweaking should enable it, this procedure required some newer BIOS to be flashed for a determinstic, known offset to tweak.

First of all the Sony BIOS flash thing required Windows, which obviously was not installed on the machine. So I grabbed the XP copy shipped with the device and some hours later I had to find out that the Sony BIOS flash tool requires a bunch of Sony “support-DLLs” (to determine the machine model). So some more disc jockey-ing later, I finally had to find out that the latest Sony BIOS updates even require Vista!

All my time spent on just getting XP on the machine where thus wasted - and obviously I had no Vista around. I grabed the latest Windows 7 public beta and thanks god some hours later the Sony BIOS flasher was not so picky to complain about Windows 7 vs. Vista, but that the BIOS update would not be suitable for this machine!

It was only some more hours later that I accidentally found on Google, that the US version of the BIOS (PHBSYS-01041232-US.EXE) would not flash on this particular VGN-SZ2M, but the Japense (or Asia or whatever) version (PHBSYS-01041232-UN.EXE) would! I really wonder what the PC manufacturers think creating such a madness. Specifically with 40++ model variants you can go hunt the matching BISO for (not to mention the initial insane move to disable a hardware feature, such as Intel VT).

But now with the BIOS update finally done the biggest suprise is still to come: The T2300 CPU does not even feature VT!!! And this, while I even checked on the Intel website that it should. Turned out the cpuid identifier T2300 is no real T2300 but a T2300E. Yes, and extra E, indicating no VT. And I really wonder how such a huge, market leading company, as Intel can afford shipping CPUs not correctly identifying uniquely thru the cpuid, …

ExactImage QuickLook plugin with PCX support

Sunday, April 19th, 2009

Update: Now with iPhone-optimized PNG support!

I updated my ExactImage-based QuickLook plugin to also support PCX image, enjoy: 1.2 update with PCX support.

As usual: If you have another image format you like to preview on the Mac just let me know and I’ll see how quickly I can add support for it!

Creating a bootable FreeDOS USB stick (thumb drive)

Sunday, April 19th, 2009

So I had to test some tiny detail of Intel VT-d variation and needed a normal PC. The only non-Apple hardware to spare in the office was some aging Sony Vaio VGN-SZ laptop which unfortunately comes with VT disabled in the BIOS. In the attempt to re-enable the VT support by some NVRAM poking I had the need to have some form of DOS for the BIOS utility and obviously I had none at hand.

So I grabbed the 1.0 release of FreeDOS and just used Qemu to install it onto a USB stick passed to the VM as hard disk:

qemu-system-x86_64 -hda /dev/sdb -cdrom fdbasecd.iso -boot d

After some minutes and a couple of Enters I had a bootable USB stick with FreeDOS for this arcane flashbacks of dancing with the high techology that is the PC BIOS.

Tip of the week: keep your printer’s laser clean

Friday, April 10th, 2009

For a year we wondered why our Konica Minolta 2430DL produced vertical stripes. As we mostly printed regular, every-day office letters it did not mattered too much, as it was mostly visible in more saturated areas. We mostly waved it off as: it’s probably just the empty color toner (which was at 0% for many months, but still printing in principle).

Today, however, we wanted to print some invitations, and as the Xerox Phaser 8500 had it’s (usual) hick-ups with the custom page size we decided to go with the laser printer and started to get rid of the stripes by installing a new magenta toner, but no change. As we also had a new drum in the storage we replaced this in the hope to finally clear ths stripes, but still no go.

After some more back and forth and excessive googling (which was not too helpful anyway) we further searched for replaceable consumables but did not found any. This pointed us to further disassemble the printer and we indeed found places one can self-service and clean: Most particularly the laser!

And cleaning the laser it was: After we wiped off the laser segment under the drum cartridge the stripes where finally gone! We now wonder why it is not more prominently noted more often (in magazines and the net, but also the manual) that one is supposed to wipe of some hidden laser under some “attention: don’t touch - hot!” warning signs, …

So the new drum cartridge and magenta toner could be put back into the storage, the old consumable still producing solid colors, even with the color toner cartridges indicated with 0% for about a year, now.

However, in the end we still convinced the Xerox Phaser 8500 to print our custom paper as the colors where way superior. At least we finally know where the stripes came from, and can print stripe-less on the laser printer as well.

Microsoft Laptop hunters ads - you get what you pay for

Sunday, April 5th, 2009

So Microsoft finally got some TV advertisements out of the door that does not suck completely.

However, I like to add: you get what you pay for. Of course a Ferrari is no Mercedes is no Tata Nano (Indian) car. One usually get what one is paying for. And in case of this el-cheapo PC’s it’s a irregularly shaped plastic case, full of least cost hardware, with usually some design glitches (such as at least noisy audio output, up to a just-VGA external video output to the worst case: system bus noise or overheating problems causing medium to long term system stability issues). And you still pay the Microsoft Windows OS software tax, anyway.

On the other hand I even brought PowerPC based Apple computer back in the days, not even to run Mac OS - no, I just required reliable hardware, with superb battery life for my Linux needs. Back in the days the Mac OS (9 and early OS X) discs went into the trash immediately. But bug free, solidly built hardware with suspending to RAM capabilities and up to 5 hours battery life even under Linux was just outstanding back in the days.

And this technical matters aside, I really wonder if another price race to the bottom is in Microsoft’s (and the remaining “PC”/IT industries) interest after the NetB..k and NetTop inflation, …