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Thursday, October 30, 2008

D-Link DSL-2740B [Review]

The D-link DSL-2740B is an ADSL2+ gateway consisting of ADSL2+, wireless, switching and routing capabilities. The DSL-2740B gateway components are enclosed in a contemporary black and silver case. There is nothing physically striking about the unit, other then its build quality. Its design is bland and not nearly as slick as the Linksys' futuristic profile. See our Linksys WAG160N and WRT310N reviews.

The DSL-2740B includes three external antennas designed to provide the best wireless performance possible. The multiple antenna design aims to increase signal strength and coverage, in particular when paired with wireless clients utilizing the same technology. The DSL-2740B includes an on/off switch, a feature missing on many units these days.

The DSL-2740B comes with four switched fast Ethernet ports on the rear. It does not include any USB ports which might otherwise facilitate the ability to share printers and hard drives across a LAN. The usual marketing guff regarding speeds of up to 300 Mbps is touted by the manufacturer, with real world tests not coming anywhere close to those advertised.

[The Rear of the DSL-2740B]

A key wireless feature is that the DSL-2740B is a Wifi Certified 802.11n (Draft 1.0) device. This means that it has been tested with other units and has have been certified and approved by the Wi-Fi Alliance.

The gateway includes a number of security features. These include an SPI (Statefull Packet Inspection) firewall, with the option to configure your own custom filtering rules. We found that the firewall is not engaged by default and must be manually turned on.

IP Filtering, URL filtering, and Parental controls are also included in the unit, but keyword blocking is noticeably absent. You can configure time and day restrictions for Internet Access.

Wireless security is catered for support of WEP, WPA, and WPA2. However, the setup wizard on the included CD will only support WEP and WPA configurations. To use WPA2 or enterprise modes you need to configure these security settings manually. However, we did like the fact that the DSL-2740B can automatically generate wireless security keys for you.

Radius authentication is also supported. MAC address filtering is included, but the value of this as a security measure is minimal. Virtual server configuration is also included.

Tech-savvy people will be able to set up the DSL-2740B via the web interface by simply pointing their browser to 192.168.1.1. The setup CD significantly simplifies the setup and configuration process. The DSL-2740B includes a well laid out and easy to follow web interface.

Current pricing for the DSL-2740B is in the range of $NZ240 - $NZ260, putting it in about the same price bracket as the similarly configured Linksys WAG160N. D-Link provides a generous three-year warranty on this gateway.

Summary

The Good: Web interface, good performance, external antennas allow modification and adjustment

The Bad: Unit housing, setup wizard limitations, firewall not enabled by default

Advertised Product Features
  • Built-in ADSL/ADSL2/ADSL2+ modem
  • 4 built-in 10/100Base-TX switch ports with auto MDI/MDIX support
  • Built-in NAT firewall
  • Stateful Packet Inspection (SPI)
  • Denial of Service (DoS) prevention
  • Draft 802.11n wireless LAN specification, backward compatible with 802.11b/g devices
  • Up to 270Mbps raw data transfer rate
  • Strong WPA/WPA2 data encryption security
  • Multiple SSIDs
  • 802.11e Wireless QoS (WMM/WME)
  • Dynamic DNS support
  • Traffic prioritization
  • Web-based GUI

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Linksys WRT310N Broadband Router [Review]

The Linksys WRT310N Wireless-N Gigabit Router is a SOHO product that facilitates the sharing of a cable or DSL broadband Internet connection with both wired and wireless clients. The WRT310N includes a multitude of features and technology in a neat and stylish package.

The WRT310N differentiates itself from its cheaper WRT160N cousin by providing an Ethernet switch with Gigabit capabilities, and the grey trim which adorns the unit.

The gigabit switching is important to those who transfer large files or stream video over a wired network. You still get virtually identical wireless networking and security features as the WRT160N, which includes the emerging wireless 802.11n (draft 2.0) standard. The WRT310N can run in a mixed mode environment with existing 802.11g device and supports WPA or WPA2 encryption. The WRT310N also supports RADIUS authentication, and includes other higher-end features such as a Firewall, and VPN pass-through.

The WRT310N is both aesthetically pleasing, and the internal antenna design prevents the cluttering of ports on the back of the unit. You will find four LAN ports along with one WAN port on the rear to connect to your broadband modem. The back of the WRT310N looks virtually identical to the WAG160N ADSL2+ Gateway that we have also recently reviewed.

[The rear of the WRT310N]

On the front of the unit an array of blue LED's serve to indicate the status of the various services that the unit provides. A Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS) button is also present to allow you to quickly configure compatible wireless client adapters.

Due to all the hardware features that the WRT310N provides and the compact case it is packaged in, the WRT310N does tend to run quite hot when compared to other units. It is strongly recommended that you place this unit in a well ventilated area.

The WRT310N features Linksys' proprietary wireless technology called RangePlus, and when you pair this router up with compatible Wireless-G Linksys adapters also supporting this feature, you can enhance your wireless networks speed.

The WRT310N includes a web-interface which is consistent with other Linksys routers, and in fact most Linksys products that provide this such an interface. The WRT310N ships with an installation CD which you can use to configure the unit if you are not comfortable with the web-interface.

The CD includes an initial setup wizard and a network monitoring tool called LELA (Linksys EasyLink Advisor). MAC users won’t be able to use LELA as the version included is Windows only. LELA can monitor your network and alert you to any new devices, potential problems and security breaches as and when they occur. LELA can also automatically generate a network map of compatible network devices detected on your LAN.

The WRT310N includes some rudimentary controls to restrict or filter internet access on a per-machine, or per MAC address basis. The obligatory port forwarding/triggering capabilities are also well catered for. WMM and QoS features, along with the ability to set application priorities are also included. For example, you can configure VoIP traffic to have the highest priority and protect it from other traffic caused by behaviour such as downloading files, or P2P application usage.

[DHCP Reservation on the WRT310N]

The WRT310N does not include a USB ports to support features such as print serving, or the StorageLink feature seen on other Linksys units which would allow it to turn an external USB hard disk into a network accessible storage (NAS) drive. It would have been nice if this was included this as the WRT310N is at the higher-end of the spectrum. Additionally, the router will only operate in the 2.4ghz frequency band which means that it wont operate in the 5ghz band that is progressively becoming more popular as manufacturing costs decrease.

According to tests done by cnet, the WRT310N is a strong wireless performer. Tests for 802.11n performance resulted in an attainable rate of 110.6Mbps in pure 802.11n mode, and 95.3Mbps when operating in a mixed mode environment. It's great to see that 802.11n performance is not significantly degraded when 802.11g units are in the mix.

Linksys supply the WRT310N with a one-year warranty, and offers toll-free support in New Zealand and Australia between the hours of 8:30am and 5:30pm UTC Monday through Friday. Not as comprehensive as our American friends who receive 24/7 toll-free phone support. Your other support options are 24/7 online chat, the Linksys support website, or email.

The WRT310 is well priced and embodies a very stylish case design. Pair this unit with a capable broadband modem, and you have a competent and reliable combination.

Summary

The Good: Aesthetically pleasing design, small power adapter, internal aerials, 802.11n (2.0 draft) support, excellent interface, very well priced.

The Bad: LELA unable to detect all clients, gets very hot and needs good ventilation

Specifications

Standards - Draft 802.11n v2.0, 802.11g, 802.11b, 802.3, 802.3u, 802.3ab

Ports - Power, Internet, Ethernet
Buttons - Reset, Wi-Fi Protected Setup
LEDs - Ethernet (1-4), Wi-Fi Protected Setup, Wireless, Internet, Power
Cabling Type - CAT 5e

Number of Antennas 3
Detachable (Y/N) No
RF Pwr (EIRP) in dBm 17
UPnP able/cert Able

Security Features
Up to 256-Bit Wireless Encryption, SPI Firewall
Security Key Bits 64, 128, 256

Environmental
Dimensions 7.95" x 1.34" x 6.30" (202 x 34 x 160 mm)
Weight 11.99 oz (0.34 kg)
Power 12V, 1A

Friday, October 10, 2008

Linksys WAG160N ADSL2+ Gateway [Review]

The Linksys WAG160N is an ADSL2+ gateway that combines the full functionality of an ADSL2+ Modem, Router, Switch, and Wireless Access Point. With this offering, Linksys joins vendors such as Belkin in bucking the trend of unattractive grey boxes. In doing so they've come up with something quite aesthetically pleasing.

With its all-in-one design, the WAG160N can happily take the place of up to 4 individual network components, leaving you with one neat and tidy package. The gateway is quite slim and comes with a petite power adapter which won’t block your neighbouring wall sockets. However, be aware that this setup also means that you are creating a single point of failure in your network.


One of the first things to notice when looking at the WAG160N is the lack of external antennas. The unit comes with two internal diversity antennas, further adding to its style. The downside here is that you can not enhance your wireless speed and coverage by adding or modifying external antennas, or by changing their orientation. The WAG160N comes with frontal LED indicators to show the status of LAN, WLAN, DSL Link, and Internet Activity.

Another key wireless feature: the WAG160N is a Wi-Fi Certified 802.11n (Draft 2.0) device. This means it has been tested with other units and is certified and approved by the Wi-Fi Alliance. If you have compatible wireless clients, the gateway supports Wi-Fi Protected Setup.

It also supports VPN passthrough for IPSec, PPTP and L2Tp protocols, along with remote management. On top of that, there are some basic access control and content filtering capabilities which you can control by time, machine, IP address, or a combination of the three.

The WAG160N operates in mixed wireless mode only, which does prevent it from being used exclusively in any particular mode. According to PC WORLD tests, the WAG160N's communication speed with 802.11n clients does not degrade significantly when 802.11g wireless adapters are added to the mix.

With regards to troubleshooting the broadband connection, we found only a limited amount of information about the current ADSL connection was available on the WAG160N's DSL connection status page. Available details include status, downstream rate, upstream rate, encapsulation, multiplexing, and some VPI, VCI, and PVC status details. We couldn't find any statistics regarding the current signal-to-noise (SNR) ratio, attenuation, or data errors.

[WAG160N DSL Connection Status]

Linksys decided against including a gigabit wired LAN facility on the WAG160N, so users will be stuck with a 4 port 10/100 switch. A separate gigabit switch would be needed attain gigabit LAN speeds.

[The Rear ports on the WAG160N]

Tech-savvy people will be able to set up the WAG160N via the web interface, simply by pointing their browser to 192.168.1.1. The gateway also comes with an easy-to-use setup CD, which significantly simplifies the setup and configuration process with an initial setup wizard.

The CD also includes a network monitoring tool called LELA (Linksys EasyLink Advisor). The version on the CD is Windows only, so MAC users will need another option. LELA can monitor your network and alert you to any new devices, potential problems, and security breaches. One of LELA's main features is the ability to automatically generate a network map of connected machines. However, when we tested LELA on a machine connected to the WAG160N via Ethernet, it failed to detect either of the two wireless clients we had connected at the time.

We also found that the WAG160N does not need to be restarted on every little change made in its configuration. This is a great advantage, compared to a number of other routers we have configured.

When we tested the unit's ADSL2+ capabilities, it achieved over 18 Mbps download speed, and an upload rate of 850 kb/s when tested with speedtest.net at a distance of less then 1km from the exchange.

[Linksys WAG160N Speed Test]

The WAG160N has an AUTO option, where you do not explicitly define your maximum upload and download speeds. When we enabled the unit's QoS capability with the AUTO option also enabled, we found that our ADSL2+ web download speed was throttled down to less then 2 mbps. Hopefully this issue is resolved in a later firmware update.

We picked the review unit up for NZ$180, which is a bargain when you consider the features you get for the price. A similar gateway from Belkin might cost twice as much. But, to take advantage of the 802.11n capabilities available, you may need to invest in ‘N’ compatible client adapters, unless you have them already.

If you currently have an ADSL2+ modem and are simply wanting to add router/switch and wireless functionality, then I would strongly recommend looking at the Linksys WRT310N Wireless-N Gigabit Router as an alternative.

Summary

The Good: Aesthetically pleasing design, small power adapter, internal aerials, 802.11n (2.0 draft) support, fast ADSL2+ connection, excellent interface, very well priced.

The Bad: Operates in mixed mode only, lack of DSL connection information, 10/100 port switch only, LELA unable to detect all clients, QoS throttling issues.

Specifications

Standards - IEEE Draft 802.11N v2.0, IEEE 802.11g, IEEE 802.11b, IEEE 802.3u,
g.992.1 (g.dmt), g.992.2 (g.lite), g.992.3, g.992.5, T1.413i2,
U-R2 for Annex B

Ports - Power, DSL, Ethernet (1-4)
Buttons - Reset, Wi-Fi Protected Setup
LEDs - Power, Wireless, Ethernet (1-4), DSL, Internet
Cabling Type CAT 5 UTP, RJ-11, RJ-45

Number of Antennas 2 Internal
RF Power (EIRP) in dBm 17
Antenna Gain in dBi 2

Security Features
Password-protected Configuration for Web Access
PAP and CHAP Authentication
Denial of Service (DoS) Prevention
Stateful Packet Inspection (SPI) Firewall
AP Isolation
Website Blocking by URL Address or Keyword
Java, ActiveX, Proxy, and Cookie Filtering
ToD Filter (blocks access by time)
VPN Passthrough for IPSec, PPTP, and L2TP Protocols
WPA/WPA2 Personal and Enterprise
128, 64 Bits WEP with Passphrase WEP Key Generation
SSID Broadcast Disable
Access Restriction by MAC and IP Addresses

Environmental
Dimensions 202 x 34 x 160 mm (8.0” x 1.3” x 6.3”)
Weight 362 g (12.8 oz)
Power 12VDC 1A

Test Unit Details
Firmware Version: V1.00.09

Monday, September 8, 2008

Homecast HT3000 Digital Terrestrial Freeview Receiver [Review]

Introduction

The Homecast HT3000 is a set top box designed to be connected to your television, allowing owners to view New Zealand UHF Digital Terrestrial Freeview transmissions. The unit can receive and display high definition transmissions when connected to compatible equipment.

Advertised Feature set
The following specifications are posted on the retail box. The feature set on the box is written in American English and I have translated below:
  • High Definition Digital Tuner with Loop –through
  • MPEG-2 Video([email protected]), MPEG-4(H.264)
  • MPEG-1 Audio Layer 1, Layer 2 AVC, HE-AAC, AC3 (Dolby Digital)
  • Wide Symbol Rate 8 Mbps & Frequency Input 470-862 Mhz
  • S/PDIF AC3 Audio
  • Vector Font and 256 colour GUI (Graphic User Interface)
  • Variable aspect ratio (4:3, 16:9) with Pan Vector or Letter Box
  • Teletext and Subtitle supported (VBI & OSD )
  • Installation by Easy Setup Guide
  • Favourite Channel and Parental Lock Function
  • USB 2.0 port or RS232C port for upgrading system software
  • OTA supported
  • HDMI (High Definition Multimedia Interface) supported
  • MHEG-5 supported
Weight and Dimensions
The units dimensions (H x W x D) are 55mm x 280mm x 233mm. The unit weighs 1.2 kilograms.

Audio and Video connections
The HT3000 has the following video output connections; (2 x SCART, 1 x RCA Video, 1 x Component, and 1 x HDMI). The unit has the following complement of audio connections; (RCA Left and Right, and SPDIF)

An important consideration is the fact that over a component connection, the video output is artificially limited to a maximum resolution of 576p and 576i. For the highest resolution available I recommend using HDMI cables where possible.

The Remote Control
The HT3000 comes with a somewhat standard remote control. The main left/right and up/down buttons are located in the centre. The numbered keypad is at the top which may be quite a stretch for some users.
At the bottom of the remote there are several additional rows of options which depending on your knowledge of acronyms are fairly intuitive. The HT3000 comes with a pair of Fairman Super Heavy Duty AAA batteries for the remote. I would have preferred batteries with greater stamina, such as Energizer, Eveready or Rocket Batteries.

Channel Availability
As we go to press there are 10 Televisions stations this unit can receive, and two Digital Radio stations. The ten television channels are; (One, 2, 3, C4, Maori Television, TVNZ 6, TVNZ 7, TVNZ Sports Extra, Parliament TV, and tvCentral). Of these stations tvCentral is only available in the Waikato/BOP region. The two digital radio stations are Radio New Zealand National and Radio New Zealand Concert.

Other channels such as Stratos, Cue, Te Reo, and George are only available through the Freeview satellite service.

Be aware that although this box is capable of receiving HD content that not all stations are currently transmitting in high definition.

Setup
The box for this describes an “easy to install” setup. The unit is true to this statement. Once you have connected all of the cables required (this unit typically includes an HDMI cable among others), the HT3000 will automatically detect all available channels and you can begin to watch TV. As the unit is a Freeview certified unit it can also automatically add new channels as they begin broadcasting.

There are several options for configuring what type of TV you are using, whether it is a tube, LCD, or Plasma display. You can also select how the unit is going to deal with the different resolutions of the channels. You can select Letterbox, Full Screen, or Centre Cut. Unfortunately as the different channels all transmit in different aspects and resolutions you may need to sacrifice some picture or put up with bars along the left and right when 4:3 content is shown.

Performance
Switching channels is at a speed in line with what you would expect from a computer-based media centre such as MediaPortal or Windows Media Center. However, once a channel is selected you will not experience any initial jerky behaviour as you might receive on some PC systems while it adjusts to the video being played.

Pressing the EPG button will result in the word “Loading” being displayed onscreen and a short delay while the EPG is loaded. The now and next facility is very responsive.

The main menu is quick to respond as are the rest of the configuration items within it. This menu is opened at the bottom of the screen as a toolbar, allowing you to continue watching the channel you are on. The EPG also exhibits a similar facility with a thumbnail-like view of the current program being shown at the top right. This facility lets you perform a number of functions while continuing to watch a program.

Feature Brief
The HT3000 features the obligatory option to select different languages for the menus, along with choices on how the OSD is displayed. Parental controls to restrict access to channels via a password are also available. Software updates can be received over the air or via an RS-232 (null modem) cable. The manual also states that firmware updates can be performed via the units on board USB port.

On the channel side you can also 'reserve' a TV program so that the unit can automatically switch to a preferred channel at a specified time. The HT3000 also supports Teletext.

Other Features
There are a couple of features which are glossed-over in the manual. Firstly, the unit comes with an LCD display at the front which turns into a digital clock when the unit is on standby. The HT3000 seems to automatically select the correct time.

Secondly, the unit does have button controls on itself. You have the ability to turn the unit on or off, and adjust the channel up and down directly from the front fascia.

The Manual
The HT3000 comes with a 40 page comprehensive manual. Again this manual is written in American English but is easy to follow. The manual includes some rudimentary troubleshooting instructions if you run into any problems.

Review Unit Details
Model ID: 5120002002
H/W Version: 1.01.00
S/W Version: 1.02.4a
Loader version: 1.02

New Zealand Support
0800 DTVSOL or 0800 388765

Friday, August 8, 2008

Snapper Card - Screenshots of the Website

The Snapper Card has been successfully rolled-out in Wellington for use on Go Wellington buses and a selection of retailers in the area. When you need to 'top up' your Snapper card or USB token you can do so at your local retailer, or alternatively via the snapper.co.nz website.

We recently used the Snapper token in Wellington between two stops. I have included screenshots of the main pages available on the Snapper website which show the transactions performed. You will need to have a Snapper card or USB token yourself to otherwise see these parts of the website.

(Snapper: View My Account)

(Snapper: Quick Balance)

(Snapper: Snapper Transactions)

If you look closer at the two transactions on our USB token you will see that we boarded at the Kilbirnie Shops on Rongotai Road (opposite KFC) and proceeded to our final destination at the Corner of Taranaki Street and Vivian Street (Briscoes). The site lists the transactions is reverse chronological order. This ride came to a total fare of $1.81, which included a 25% discount that all Snapper users receive.

RELATED LINKS

Snapper Card - First Impressions
http://tech.nztechie.com/2008/07/snapper-usb-first-impressions.html

Snapper
http://www.snapper.co.nz

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Snapper USB - First Impressions

Today I received my Snapper USB token in the mail. The token, which enables contactless transactions between consumers and merchants, was sent to me as part of the ANZ National Bank's trial into this new form of payment technology. The devices themselves are set to be available for purchase by the general public on the 14th of July.

The concept behind this technology is to provide customers with a facility to make small purchases (less then $35) without the need to fumble for cash, or enter a pin number as you do with an EFTPOS card.

Your transaction is completed by swiping the Snapper USB token across a merchant's purpose-built Snapper reader. Alternatively you can make a purchase via a more conventional Snapper card (not shown), similar in design to an everyday EFTPOS or credit card. The readers have the ability to communicate with the Snapper card through a wallet/purse when it is in close proximity, so you don't necessarily need to take it out to use it.

There are of course excellent safeguards in place to prevent indiscriminate transactions from occurring. The transaction can only go through when the merchant has a purchase in progress and the unit must be held near the reader for a moment for completion. Both the token and the card use RFID technology inside to facilitate the payment.

At the moment there is a small selection of merchants who are active in the Wellington region where you can make purchases with your Snapper card or USB token. So far this has been limited mainly to convenience stores, coffee houses, and buses. However, the system is set to expand nationwide, allowing payments for small purchases throughout the country. These units maintain a stored-value (similar in concept to a Telecom phonecard) and can work both online and offline. You can charge the units up with credit online (by credit card) or via a merchant equipped with the appropriate facility. You should also be able to purchase these units directly from retailers in the future. If you register your Snapper on the Snapper website you gain the facility of cancelling it and having a replacement sent to you if you have the misfortune of losing the device or it is stolen. Your existing balance will be transferred to the new Snapper.

The USB token which I received came with the ANZ Bank branding. I also had the choice of National Bank branding as well on the protective sleeve. My understanding is that when the Snapper can be purchased online it will only have the Snapper branding on it. I imagine once ANZ National begins to provision the public with these that they will be appropriately branded.

The Snapper is similar in concept to other systems deployed overseas, such as the Oyster Card in the UK and the Octopus in Hong Kong. There are some wonderful possibilities in the future with this technology, including the ability for merchants to store discount and loyalty information on the card itself. This would negate the need for consumers to carry individual loyalty cards for each merchant they visit.

The most appealing piece of this technology to me is the potential to speed up purchases. A swipe of the token and your purchase is complete. The units in the shops are very simple, displaying a green circle if the payment is accepted, or a red cross if it is not. When you register your Snapper you can also be alerted by text message or email if your balance is running low. In the future there will be a facility to have your Snapper automatically topped-up from your bank account when your credit is running below a certain level.

I'll be posting further information on the Snapper as it becomes available, and hopefully a video demonstrating it in use!

RELATED LINKS

Snapper
http://www.snapper.co.nz

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Saving Videos from TVNZ ondemand

When TVNZ launched the TVNZ ondemand website it gave New Zealanders a new method of consuming television content through their computers. The site proudly advertises that you can "Download of view your favourite shows online"

So it appears that you can stream a large amount of television content through your computer, and the option to "download" shows is fantastic. However, there is one small problem, where on earth is the "download" button? If you are like me you would have searched though dozens of videos to locate one that you can download and keep for yourself. It does not exist!

The website does not give you a one-click download facility to download your favourite shows. Fortunately, I have located a workaround that will let you download the video and keep it forever on your PC.

One Method

1. Connect to the TVNZ ondemand website at http://tvnzondemand.co.nz

2. Browse to the content the video you would like to download an make a copy of. The pre-video advertisement will play.

3. View the Source of the page displayed

In Mozilla Firefox -> View Menu -> Page Source
In Internet Explorer -> Page -> View Source

4. In Either Browser on the source display, press CTRL F to bring up the search dialogue box.

5. Enter the search string ".flv" into the search box and locate where it is highlighted on the page.

6. You will notice that a URL is embedded in the section you have located. Select the entire URL and download it to your PC. You may notice there may be multiple ".flv" files for your particular show. You will need to download each one.

You can paste the entire URL directly into your web browser, or you can paste it into any other download client you wish (e.g. FreshDownload etc).

7. Once the file is downloaded, rename the files extension from ".flv" to ".mpg" and your PC should be able to play the file normally.

At the time of writing, don't expect any stellar quality video as the majority of content is only available in standard definition.

REFERENCES

TVNZ ondemand goes live @ flog, by Adam Burmister

http://www.flog.co.nz/journal/tvnz-ondemand/

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Configuring MediaPortal for Freeview NZ [Quick Guide]

This article is intended to provide computer-savvy enthusiasts with the information required to set up and configure a Mediaportal installation which is capable of receiving and displaying the freeview Digital Terrestrial or Satellite service in New Zealand.

While this document will not go into depth on all portions of the setup, it will provide links to other resources on the web where excellent step-by-step guides have been created.

PREREQUISITES

- One of the following operating systems (Windows XP with Service Pack 2 or greater, Windows Media Centre Edition with Roll-Up 2, Windows Vista 32 or 64 bit). Windows XP 64 bit is NOT supported.

A full list of MediaPortal system requirements is available at
http://wiki.team-mediaportal.com/MediaPortalRequirements

- Microsoft SQL Server 2005 Express Edition (or MySQL. This guide will only cover Microsoft SQL Server). Microsoft SQL Server 2005 Express Edition is free. Download Microsoft SQL Server 2005 Express Edition from [http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkId=65212] or [http://msdn.microsoft.com/vstudio/express/sql/]

- Microsoft .NET Framework 2
[Download Here]

- Microsoft Visual C++ 2005 SP1 Redistributable Package (x86)
[Download Here]

Hardware Requirements

To work with Freeview, your PC must have a TV Tuner. The TV tuner must be capable of receiving a signal from a satellite dish, or be a Terrestrial Digital capable receiver. For New Zealand this means the TV tuner must be a DVB-T (for Terrestrial Digital), or DVB-S (for the Satellite service) compliant card.

A Windows Media Center compatible remote control is also a good idea.

Mediaportal Requirements


1. MediaPortal [http://www.team-mediaportal.com/download.html] Download the latest "Stable Release" Listed.

2. Mediaportal TV Server [http://tvengine3.team-mediaportal.com/] You will be redirected to a forum where the most recent revision can be downloaded by entering the newest thread and locating the DOWNLOAD link.

3. Mediaportal SVN [http://svn.team-mediaportal.com/ ]You will be redirected to a forum where the most recent revision can be downloaded by entering the newest thread and locating the DOWNLOAD link.

The LATM AAC Audio Codec required for New Zealand is included in the MediaPortal SVN.

The Video Codec


To be able to decode the New Zealand FTA Freeview service, you will require a compatible codec to decode the MPEG4 video stream.

Freeview New Zealand encodes video with an MPEG4 h.264 codec. Two recommended codecs for this purpose are:

- CoreAVC [http://www.coreavc.com/]
This is a commercial decoder which is compatible with Mediaportal. Purchase the codec from the site, or if you have no quarms with piracy then locate on your favourite Bitorrent site.

- Cyberlink Codec [http://www.cyberlink.com/]
Recent versions of Cyberlink PowerDVD include a compatible h.264 codec. Purchase and install PowerDVD to obtain the codec or check out your favourite Bittorrent site.

We have never had any success using the opensource ffdshow libavcodec h.264 codec. Your results may vary.

INSTALLATION

Install Mediaportal, then the MediaPortal SVN, followed by the TV-Server. When installing the TV Server ensure that you select the option to install the MediaPortal plugin when it is offerred to you.

Use the following guides if you are having any issues with the installation. Generally the process is quite straight-forward but I have included additional information on configuring the TV Server as the setup of an SQL Database will be required!

MediaPortal Installation
http://wiki.team-mediaportal.com/FirstTimeInstall

MediaPortal SVN Installation
http://wiki.team-mediaportal.com/UserGuides/SVN-nighly-builds

TV Server Installation
http://wiki.team-mediaportal.com/TV-Engine_0.3/

Finally, install Microsoft SQL Server 2005 Express Edition. Ensure that you choose the authentication mode labelled "Mixed Mode" and that you specify a sa login and password. Ensure you record the logon credentials as you will be required to enter them later.

Full Guide:
http://wiki.team-mediaportal.com/TV-Engine_0.3/install-SQL-Server

Supplementary: TV Server SQL Configuration (Microsoft SQL Server)

In SQL Server 2005 Surface Area Configuration select "Surface Area Configuration for Services and Connections"

Under Remote Connections enable "Local and Remote Connections" and ensure "Using both TCP/IP and named pipes." is selected.

Ensure the Windows Service called "SQL Server Browser" is set to automatic.

Detailed guide is available at
http://wiki.team-mediaportal.com/TV-Engine_0.3/config-SQL-Server

Configuring the TV Server for the first time

Once all the required components are installed you will need to configure the TV Server to talk to the Microsoft SQL Database.

Run setuptv.exe from the start menu under 'TVServer'

Select 'Microsoft SQL Server 2005'

The section labelled "Database Location" is prefilled and is generally correct.

Enter the username and password in the "Database Login" fields. You should have recorded the password when we set up Microsoft SQL Server 2005 Express.

NOTE: The username should be 'sa'

Click "Test" and you will receive a confirmation that everything has worked.

COMPLETION

The next task is to setup and scan for digital channels. This is beyond the scope of this guide but an excellent tutorial by cranz on the complete configuration of MediaPortal is available at [http://cranznz.googlepages.com/]

The section specific to scanning for channels and ensuring the TV configuration is set up correctly is available at [http://cranznz.googlepages.com/configuringmediaportal]

REFERENCES AND LINKS

Team MediaPortal

http://www.team-mediaportal.com/

FreeviewHD TV-Server and MediaPortal Guide [cranz]
http://cranznz.googlepages.com/

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Easy Application Install (Gallery2) on IXWebhosting

Web hosting company IXwebhosting offer a number of one-click GPL applications that their hosting customers can implement on their websites.

I recently attempted to install Gallery2 using this facility. I had previously installed Gallery2 on my Startlogic web hosting account through its standard installation script.

Unfortunately my experience installing Gallery2 on IXwebhosting was not perfect. I ran into problems relating to file uploads. I had two distinct problems:

- Photos over 2 Megabytes in size were rejected with an "Upload Failed" error message

- File uploads would fail with the following error:

"filename.ext: You may need to set LimitRequestBody 16777216 and memory_limit=64M in /etc/php.ini and /etc/httpd/conf.d/php.conf on your Gallery server java.net.SocketException: Connection reset"

How I resolved this issue

The 2 megabyte file restriction appears to be a default setting from ixwebhosting which effectively blocks any web-based application from uploading files greater then 2 megabytes in size. (This wont affect you using FTP to upload content to your own site)

In the cgi-bin folder I created a new php.ini configuration file. In this file I added the following text string:

upload_max_filesize = 2048M

The other file upload problem was easily remedied by following the instructions within the error message. I followed the instructions relating to the php.ini file and the issue appears resolved. I added the following two lines to the php.ini file:

LimitRequestBody 16777216 memory_limit=64MB

It is a bit disappointing that this "easy application" required a bit of fiddling with in order to get in to operation under this hosting environment.

When installing on Startlogic the only extra configuration required was actually documented in the installation check of the Gallery2 installer itself.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Media Center Remote Driver for Windows XP

Windows Media Centre computers tend to ship with either an OEM manufacturer's remote control or a Microsoft-branded one. These OEM manufactured machines all come with the associated drivers to support the remote control.

There are numerous Open Source home theatre PC projects in existence that have a similar media centre-style interface and playback capabilities to Windows Media Centre and Windows Vista Home Premium/Ultimate. The advantage of open source is that you can use the product freely without the need to pay the associated price tag that you do with Microsoft products. My favourite open source Home Theatre PC software is called MediaPortal.

Applications such as MediaPortal are smart enough to work effectively with the Windows Media Center remote control, among many other brands. However, you must have a supported driver installed on your Windows OS in order for it to be recognised for use as a remote control device.

For Windows XP if you are running Windows XP Professional SP2 or later then the drivers are automatically included with the OS. The story is slightly different with Windows XP Home. Windows XP Home (any service pack level) does not come with any drivers for the Windows Media Center remote. If you plug it in you will be presented with a request for drivers for the "eHome Infrared Receiver" that it will be detected as.

I have located and tested the following drivers on Windows XP Home SP2 and they function as required.

Installation

Briefly, the steps required to install the driver (one method) are:

1. Download the driver package below

2. Create a directory somewhere on your computer, and extract the archive contents to it

3. Plug in the Windows Media Center Remote control

4. When prompted for the driver, select the option to specify a location and point to where you extracted the archive to.

The driver should then install and you should be working 100%.

Windows Media Center Remote Control Driver for Windows XP [Download]

RELATED LINKS

MediaPortal - free MediaCenter HTPC Software
http://www.team-mediaportal.com/

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Database Problems

NZTechie.com has been down for some hours today, reporting a ghastly looking error message when attempting to load the main page.

After some looking through the database I found that one of the tables was corrupt. I performed a repair within PHPMyAdmin which appears to have resolved the issue for now. The Startlogic repair facility within the Vdeck did not resolve the fault.

I am still experiencing a problem whereby my homepage is loading at an extremely slow rate. [Update: 28 Feb - Caching appears to have not been enabled for my feeds - Issue resolved]

Also the Startlogic Vdeck database backup facility is reporting errors stating you do not have permission to back up OR it provides invalid backups with no content in them.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Startlogic: The Outage Saga Continues

I have been a Startlogic customer since 2004 and have generally found the overall service to be somewhat satisfactory, unless you have an issue that requires the attendance of the Startlogic support desk. On the Startlogic homepage they claim to be 'trusted by over 100,000 customers'.

This report is intended to act as a record of the recent 32 hour outage that one of Startlogic's shared hosting servers (named st03) suffered, and the subsequent outages which took place after it was initially restored to service.

MY EXPERIENCE

Prior to 3:00pm (New Zealand Standard Time) the Startlogic shared web server st03.startlogic.com suffered a complete outage. All websites hosted on st03.startlogic.com were inaccessible during the this period.

Despite multiple chat sessions with the Startlogic helpdesk, the server was not operational for a total of 32 hours. I spoke with numerous technicians over this time period and they gave assurances that my website would be restored in certain time frames, with the most common being; soon, a few minutes, 2 hours and 6 hours respectively. Additionally, during one chat session the helpdesk person advised me of two hours and then later changed her mind to 6 hours for restoration (Melanie Evans).

After my website was restored (32 hours later) I found that Startlogic had reset all the directory permissions for my website to more restrictive settings. I queried this with the helpdesk analyst (Ivan Davis) who then told me to go in and fix them myself. I did this but am quite annoyed with the attitude in relation to something they caused. When speaking with him he terminated the connection as soon as I advised him that I could connect to my website. This is quite unprofessional.

Subsequently, my website experienced several additional outages to a lesser degree of varying timeframes since the initial recovery.

When I asked more details about the exact cause of the server outages, either the helpdesk staff were unwilling or unable to provide this information. I would not expect them to know the cause of the fault as soon as it occurred, so I did ask them well down the track while the server was undergoing the apparent 'recovery' process. If the server was being recovered then surely their engineers should have information on the root cause by then.

Information that I was able to glean from the helpdesk staff includes the fact that st03.startlogic.com hosts websites for approximately 500 customers and that the root cause may have been server overloading (Ivan Davis). Another Helpdesk Analyst (Christopher Kiplin) suggested to me that the outage could in fact be related to server maintenance being performed at the time. I received no prior notification of any server maintenance of any kind.

Of the five or so Analysts I chatted with I did seem to make the most progress when dealing with Ivan Davis. To his credit when I asked for compensation he forwarded my request and compensation was provided (An email from the Billing department advised me I was to be compensated).

In relation to the smaller subsequent outages he advised me that my website would be up within a few minutes. He was true to his word and my website did respond. I kept him entertained with random questions so I could keep him online to give it a few moments for the site to be recovered.

During my period as a customer since 2004 I have only experienced two major sets of website outages (this one inclusive), but I have always found that the recovery process is painfully slow.

Startlogic hosting packages are dirt cheap and perhaps you might think that you get what you pay for. When I signed-up to Startlogic the site advertised an uptime guarantee of 99.9%. With the events of late, Startlogic is no longer providing this uptime promise to me. I have also noticed that they no longer display any uptime percentage guarantees on their website.

OTHER PROBLEMS I HAVE EXPERIENCED

Listed below are other problems which I have experienced since 2004 with Startlogic:

  • The premature closure of support tickets, with no response from the helpdesk
  • Removing Anonymous FTP access. I can no longer host files via FTP for users unless credentials are created for them.
  • Main account to connect to my site via FTP was disabled for no apparent reason. I had to log into my vDeck and create a new user.
  • Lots of problems with the vDeck control panel and items refusing to load, or the entire control panel becoming inaccessible.
  • Inability of the Startlogic Helpdesk to create a CNAME subdomain record correctly. They fail to put a full stop/period after the name of the server I am pointing the CNAME to. This is despite me advising them to use a full stop. This functionality is available in the vDeck Control panel, but only when it's working!
  • Extensive delays in having my hard disk space increased. They would increase storage space for me and I would find the next day that it had reverted to the previous size.
  • Failure of email services from time to time
  • Inability for the Startlogic helpdesk to email me at my New Zealand ISP (Orcon) email address. Nothing ever comes through that they send to that address, whether it be from a person or any automated notification system they have configured. They can email me at my @nztechie.com address.
In my list of complaints I have stated that I am unable to receive email from Startlogic to my normal email address. When you create a support request ticket you are able to log into the members area of the Startlogic website and check on them though this portal.

THE NEW PLATFORM

For quite some time now Startlogic has been migrating customers to what they call their 'new platform'. This new platform is promised to improve the reliability and responsiveness of websites and provide better data security with improved backup.

Below is a snippet of part of my chat session with the Startlogic helpdesk where they promise no problems once I am migrated to the new platform.

Ivan Davis: Hayden, the issue is resulted due to the load on the server. Once you are upgraded to the new platform, you will not experience any issues.
Hayden Tennent: Do you guarantee that?
Ivan Davis: Yes, Hayden.


RELATED ARTICLES

32 Hour Startlogic Outage

Startlogic compensates me for the Outage!

Startlogic Outage for st03.startlogic.com

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Modifying Web Server File Permssions in Filezilla

There are an enormous number of open source PHP applications on the web for installing on your own webserver, whether it be your own server or on a shared host server.

In many cases these PHP applications come with their own easy to use installers, requiring the webmaster to simply upload the extracted code to their server and then run the included web-based installer. If well designed, the web-based installer will setup the entire configuration with the only user interaction being the answering of a few questions and the clicking of 'next'.

Now there is one component that these web-based installers can not configure. They can not configure the permissions on the files and directories associated with the installation. In many cases if the application is well documented the webmaster will be directed to change the permissions on particular directories and/or files. Included steps on how to do this will vary from installation to installation.

One Method
(with FileZilla!)

If you are installing on a Unix-like (Linux) server you can directly send commands to the server via a command line interface (CLI), however many users will prefer the convenience of a GUI Windows-based configuration. This is where FileZilla comes in.

This article assumes a basic familiarity with using FileZilla.

STEP 1

You will know about a file permission error when one of the following occurs

- The Installer advises you that a particular file/directory is not writable

- You try and run the application and you receive cryptic error messages stating that a file or directory could not be written to

If the application is well documented you should be advised which folders and files need writable access. You may have been given a series of permissions in the form of three numbers such as "777".

STEP 2

Within FileZilla browse to the directory or file you need to change. Right-Click it and select "File Attributes..."


You will then be presented with the following window which will allow you to change the file/directory attributes:


The important thing to understand here is that there are two methods to configure permissions in this window. The first is by using the check boxes, with the second being to enter a numeric value in the box at the bottom. Any changes you make to one will be immediately reflected in the other.

If the permissions you require are documented as a numeric value you can enter them in the text box to meet your requirements.

If there is a complete lack of documentation on the numeric value to enter, try 775 and failing that try 777. These numeric values will generally make a file or directory writable.

Please note that making a change to a directory will not cause all files underneath it to inherrit the same permissions. You will need to manually change any files underneath, either one-by-one or selecting multiple files at once when using the File Attributes command on them.

Explanation of File Permissions

Owner - The uploader of the file
Group - Usually other registered hosting users on the server
Public - Public Internet Users

In the three number representation of permissions, the first number is for the owner, the second for the group, and the third for Public Internet Users.

E.g Owner/Group/Public - 777

Below are all permission attributes available:

0 None
1 Execute
2 Write
3 Write, Execute
4 Read
5 Read, Execute
6 Read, Write
7 Read, Write, Execute

Examples

775 - Gives Read, Write, and Execute permissions to both the Owner and Group. Gives Read and Execute permissions only to the public.

777 - Gives Read, Write, and Execute permissions to all users.

765 - Gives Read, Write, and Execute permissions to the owner, and Read, Write permissions to the Group, and Read, Execute permissions to Public Internet Users.

Sometimes it is necessary to give a file/directory 777 attributes to get an application to function correctly.

If you are still struggling with any permission issues or have further questions, feel free to drop me an email or comment on this post.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Disabling the Blogger Navbar (Navigation Bar) on a Blog

INTRODUCTION

The majority of Blogger blogs come with what is called the "Navbar" placed automatically at the top of their blogs. It has a number of useful features, however it is possible to disable the NavBar by editing a few short lines of HTML in your blog. Before I proceed, I thought you should be aware of the following:

- Being the owner of a blog, you will unable to use the convenient "Dashboard" link to quickly get back to the Dashboard. If you want to write a new post, you are going to have to go to http://www.blogger.com as you have removed the quick link to the Dashboard.

- Some people like to surf and browse between blogs. They make use of the "Next Blog" link to browse between blogs. You are going to annoy these visitors by removing this capability. You may keep some people on your blog longer but you will also annoy a hell of a lot of people.

- If somebody Googles (or uses any other search engine for that matter) a search term that was shown on your main page when google last indexed your site, but no longer exists on the front page, your readers will not be able to use the search bar on the NavBar to scan again for those keywords. The only method left is for the reader to manually browse through your blog to find what they are looking for. Many will give up in frustration.

- Readers are not going to be able to use the convenient "FLAG BLOG" link if they believe your blog contains objectionable content.

- You won't be able to access the "Sign In" or "Sign Out" links on the NavBar, and neither will your visitors.

ONE METHOD

1. Go to your Dashboard

2. For the blog you wish to modify, click "Layout" (See Screenshot below)


3. Click "Edit HTML"

4. Insert the following code:

#navbar-iframe {
display: none !important;
}

between the Blog template description and the "Variable definitions" section as shown in the example below:

5. Click "Save Template"

The NavBar should no longer be displayed in your blog.

Also, if you are running Google Adsense on your blog, check to see that this process has not mysteriously resized any of your ad units.

REFERENCES

Blogger Templates - Remove the NavBar
http://blogger-templates.blogspot.com/2005/01/remove-navbar.html

Sunday, January 27, 2008

NOTEPAL by Cooler Master [Review]

INTRODUCTION

With so many options available to provide cooling for desktop machines, you might wonder what cooling solutions are available for laptops. In this respect your options are limited, but by no means non-existent.

The NOTEPAL by Cooler Master is essentially a plate on which you place your laptop, providing cooling via a number of methods. This plate is made out of alloy aluminum.

The NOTEPAL comes in four different versions. It comes in a design for 4:3 laptops, and a design for 16:9 laptops. For each there is an option of silver or black colour. The model I picked up was the R9-NBC-ADAK model.

As the unit is made out of aluminum, it serves to significantly dissipate heat from your laptop. The model described here has two fans on it which blow air to the underside of your notebook. The unit is powered via USB.


The typical setup would have one of the USB ports on the laptop connected to the unit to provide power. It provides an extra USB port to compensate you for the loss of the port used. If you don't have a docking station, you could even use this as a poor man's docking station for your USB devices.

INSTALLATION

Installation really is a breeze. Simply unpack the unit and place it where you wish to use your laptop. Then, place the laptop on top of it and connect the unit to a free USB port on the laptop using the supplied USB cable.

I really liked the way that the NOTEPAL raised the height of my laptop. As the NOTEPAL is angled, it raises the height of the laptop screen and puts the keyboard in an upwards slope. The increased height it provided to the screen was welcomed. I use an external keyboard with my laptop, however using the laptop's keyboard is much easier at an angle, compared to being flat on the table.

The angle also leaves a lot of space under the laptop which improves airflow.

Our laptop used in this review was slightly wider than the NOTEPAL (Approx. 1.5 cm each side), however it was still very stable.


Depending on your laptop model, the way it sits may block indicator lights and/or switches located at the front of your laptop. The laptop we used had only indicator lights on the front, and they were not obscured significantly enough to cause any problems.

GENERAL FEATURES

The unit features an on/off switch to enable or disable the onboard fans. The units fans are rated at 21 dBA. The fans are extremely quiet. Unless you are working in the quietest of rooms/offices, you will barely notice the unit in operation. In fact, you may notice your laptop reducing its own fan spin speed automatically due to the cooling capabilities of the NOTEPAL.


OTHER FEATURES


The NOTEPAL is also designed so it can be used on your lap. Strange how the term laptop has shifted over the years to Notebook instead. With this unit, you can safely operate your laptop on your person, without the fear of burning your privates.

SPECIFICATIONS

Material: Alloy Aluminium
Dimension: 320x300x40 mm
Weight: 2.05kg
Fan Dimension: 70x70x15 mm
Fan Speed" 1500 R. P. M. +/- 10%
Fan Airflow: 9.5 CFM +/- 10%
Fan Life Expectancy: 30,000 hours
Fan Noise Level: 21 dBa
Air Pressure: 0.63 mmH2O +/- 10%
Current: 0.10 A
Input: 0.6 W
Bearing Type: Sleeve
Rated Voltage: 5 VDC
USB Ports: Maximum current rate 300mA

Cooler Master NOTEPAL Specifications
http://tinyurl.com/yorlke

CONCLUSIONS

I did not perform any scientific tests to determine the cooling capabilities of this unit, however manually checking the temperature of the underside of the test laptop did tend to suggest that this unit does operate as advertised.

Taking into account the NOTEPAL's ability to increase the height of your laptop's screen, and the way that it angles the keyboard, I would strongly recommend it. I picked this unit up for NZ$70 from INC Technology in East Tamaki, Auckland, New Zealand.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Switching Off Sim Lock on the Samsung W531 Cell Phone

The Samsung W531 Cellphone is currently being marketed and sold through phone provider Telecom New Zealand. Telecom currently runs on a CDMA network, while the only other competitor Vodafone NZ runs on a GSM Network.

The Samsung W531 is marketed as a world phone. As the world leans towards abandoning CDMA for GSM (Telstra in Australia is a big roaming partner with Telecom NZ which is due to drop the CDMA network completely), Telecom have released this phone with dual CDMA and GSM capabilities. Telecom is due to change it's network topology to GSM in the future.

This dual network type connectivity allows Telecom to have roaming agreements with GSM partners overseas without the end user requiring a different handset each time they travel abroad.

Telecom engages a "Sim Lock" on the phone so that it can not be used on the Vodafone NZ GSM network. Telecom allows it only to be used for roaming with it's overseas partners.

All is not lost. I have successfully removed the Sim Lock on my Samsung W531 with ease, and I can switch between Telecom NZ CDMA and Vodafone NZ GSM without any issues.

Before You Begin

Put your GSM Sim Card into the Samsung W531

How to disable the Sim Lock

1. Press the "Menu OK" button on your handset

2. Press # (hash/pound key)

3. Press 1

4. Press 0 (number zero)

5. In the presented window, enter code 123580 [Update 01-Aug-08: If this code fails please try 159753. thanks dwanhalla]

6. Press OK

7. Press * (star key) to select the menu labeled "Sim Lock"

8. Change the option from "On" to "Off"

9. Your Samsung W531 will restart automatically and attempt to connect to the GSM network for the Sim Card you have inserted.

Notes: Some sources report that if you firmware upgrade your Samsung W531 at any stage, it will reset the Sim Lock settings and may change the code required to enter the service menu. You may wish to consider this as there have been firmware bugs reported on the Samsung W531.

Some sources also report that a different service code may be required and that the method of accessing the service menu differs from that described in this guide.

When the phone is in GSM mode it is not capable of sending or receiving Vodafone PXT/MMS messages.

The service code and procedure were performed on a Samsung W531 with the following version information:

PRL: 01031
S:SCH-W531 AJ05
H:W531.04
MCL:5.1.23

REFERENCES

Sim Lock code information adapted from reader comments posted by Hamish and GreeZe at:

Sprint's SCH-W531 from Samsung in the flesh
http://tinyurl.com/2ktt9z

Additional field service code provided by dwanhalla.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Enabling and Disabling User Account Control (UAC) in Windows Vista

Windows Vista ships with a strong security feature known as User Account Control. This is a powerful security feature, however, it may annoy both novices and experts alike with the constant dialog boxes it generates, requesting permission to perform system functions. This quick guide demonstrates how to switch it on or off.

Open the Control Panel

The first step in enabling or disabling User Account Control is to open the Control Panel. This can easily be achieved by clicking the start button and selecting "Control Panel" as indicated in the screenshot below:


Opening User Accounts

From the main control panel, double-click to open the "User Accounts" Control Panel Applet. Refer to the screenshot below:

Opening the configuration for User Account Control

From the following windows, click on the item labeled "Turn User Account Control on or off" as per the screenshot below:


Toggle User Account Control on and off

Turn User Account Control (UAC) by ticking or unticking the checkbox as shown in the screenshot below:

Click OK when you have finished your selection, and you are complete.

Further Reading:

User Account Control - Wikipedia
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User_Account_Control

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Omnipass + Windows Vista + Windows Update = Problems?

I recently came into contact with a brand new Lenovo laptop (3000 N100 model) loaded with Windows Vista Business on it. The laptop came preloaded with the Omnipass Fingerprint Security application. This application is written by Softex Incorporated.

I ran into an issue with the application after I performed a normal Windows Update. After the installation of a number of updates, the machine restarted as per normal after applying the updates.

Unfortunately, the user is now presented with duplicated user listings at the Welcome screen. This means that, for example, if you have three users, each user will be displayed twice on the welcome screen. This does not affect usability. On entering Windows Vista, it is confirmed that there are NOT any duplicate accounts within account management.

After performing an uninstall of Omnipass, the problem is resolved. A re-installation of Omnipass should allow the application to function normally.

However, Ronnie Vernon (Microsoft MVP) (link) advises that downloading and running UninstMSPwdProv.exe from Softex will resolve the fault without requiring a re-installation:

[Update 09/04/2015] You may download UninstMSPwdProv.exe from NZTECHIE.COM.

If you decide to create a system restore point, then un-install the application, be aware that fingerprints stored and associated with accounts will not be restored when you roll back. You need to use the inbuilt capability of Omnipass to back up the profiles, or re-enroll all your users after a rollback.


In the comments section I have listed all of the Windows Updates that were installed prior to the problem occurring.

I have also located a Discussion Thread regarding the same fault at:

Duplicate icons on Welcome Screen
http://forums.techarena.in/showthread.php?t=813976

The main Softex Incorporated website is available at:

Softex Incorporated
http://www.softexinc.com

I have also located the following post which is written by a Microsoft MVP which carries a significant weight with me:

User account appears twice. cannot delete it
http://groups......osoft.public.windows.vista.ad....

Saturday, January 12, 2008

How to install a Veo Advanced Webcam on Windows Vista

There are no dedicated drivers available for the Veo Advanced Webcam for use under Windows Vista, and if you attempt to use the standard installation CD you will be greeted with an error stating that the driver is only compatible with Windows 98, ME, 2000, and XP. To make things worse, the Veo website appears to now be defunct.

However, I have successfully installed the drivers supplied with the camera on a Windows Vista machine. The method for getting this camera installed on Windows Vista is to use what is known as compatibility mode.

This is a feature of Windows Vista (and some earlier versions) that allows some older drivers and applications to function with newer Windows Operating systems. In essence, it fools the installation CD into thinking it is installing on a compatible OS. I have had success by using Windows Vista in Windows XP SP2 compatibility mode for this application. [Note: you configure compatibility mode per application, you don't need to run the whole system in such a mode].

One Method

1. Hold down the shift key on your computer to disable the CD from Autoplaying

2. Insert the Veo Advanced Connect Installation CD-ROM & Bundled Sofware CD-ROM in your CD-ROM/DVD-ROM Drive.

3. Browse to the root (first) directory of the Install CD and locate Autorun.exe

4.
Right-Click Autorun.exe and select Properties

5. On the resulting window, move to the 'compatibility' tab and tick the box labeled "Run this program in compatibility mode for:" then select "Windows XP (Service Pack 2).

6. Click "OK"

7. Browse back to the executable (Autorun.exe), run it and install it as per normal.



Below you will find links to where you can download ISO, Nero, and zipped versions of the Veo Advanced Connect Installation CD-ROM & Bundled Software install CD.

The install CD claims compatibility with Windows 98/ME/2000/XP. As per this post, it is compatible with Windows Vista when compatibility mode is used.

Veo Advanced Connect Installation CD-ROM & Bundled Software
[Version: AdvCntV008-VIM] 
Download

Friday, January 11, 2008

More email blunders and a Creative License

In the spirit of recent emails which have been sent in error to me, I include the following email which I received from Sky City Cinemas. It appears they have an important announcement. Unfortunately, the email is devoid of any content other then a standard signature. See the screenshot taken below:

In other news, I have been doing some investigation into the creative commons licensing system. I have now publicised in this blog my authorisation for others to make copies of my work, subject to the restrictions of the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 New Zealand License.

Link to License: Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 New Zealand License