Thursday, July 8, 2010

Tailoring the Zune software

Hey Everyone,

Well I have finally got around to tailoring the Zune software and have made it soo much easier to use.

I use Windows Media Center 2005, and to put cover art on albums, you use the default Windows XP way of setting the picture to be folder.jpg. Unfortunately Zune looks for zunefolderart.jpg. So, all my immaculately organized music looked like blank albums.To fix this, use the generic patch from here http://www.ringoffates.com/?p=19 make sure to select your dll file. Make sure the Zune software is closed first.



The User interface is pretty sweet when you are transferring media to your Zune, but you don't want to look at something that large all day, click the button to the left of the minimize button called Mini Player. Much easier to use, in addition, it looks exactly like the Zune HD's now playing screen! I wish I could browse my entire library this way. (I intuitively want to touch my screen now :-/)




I didn't use the Zune software for playing media because it always sounded horrible on Windows 7, I had always assumed this was because it lacked hardware sound acceleration, however I discovered, as with my other machine, disabling the Windows sound "enhancements" fixes a lot of problems. Depending on your hardware, you either have a Enhancements tab on your speakers, or in my case, the enhancements were on the Advanced tab. To do this, you click the speaker after clicking on your volume control once. Now Zune sounds as good as Winamp did. If you thought that your cymbal hits sounded "metallic", this should fix those problems.





Don't forget that since this is a Microsoft product, the integration between it and Windows 7 is very tight. This exhibits itself mainly in the fact you can change tracks just with a hover over of the Zune icon on your taskbar.










Here is a list of keyboard shortcuts from Microsoft, I preferred Winamp's ZXCVB being the audio controls, but this is ok. Rule of Thumb, CTRL + first letter of what you want to do (Back, Forward, Play and Stop) with F8 and F9 being volume controls.

To do thisUse this keyboard shortcut
Previous item or chapterCTRL+B
Go to search boxCTRL+E
Next item or chapterCTRL+F
Turn shuffle on or offCTRL+H
Eject CD (this doesn't work on computers equipped with more than one CD drive)CTRL+J
Play or pause playingCTRL+P
Stop playingCTRL+S
In audio playback, turn repeat on or offCTRL+T
Zoom video sizeCTRL+Z
In video playback, rewind video. In audio playback, return playback to normal speed after fast forwarding.CTRL+SHIFT+B
Fast forward through the song or videoCTRL+SHIFT+F
Show Zune HelpF1
Mute soundF7
Decrease sound volumeF8
Increase sound volumeF9


I am still working on a fix for the unknown album issue I and a lot of you aree probably having. This stems from the fact that a lot of my MP3's are not from full albums and this have no album title on them. I could probably tag them all Unknown Album in the Album field, but that would be sort of cheating.

Till next time!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Rant on the Home Entertainment Industry



This post might be a little short as I want to get back to enjoying my new investment, heh. Also, a note on the photo, it seems to be the picture that everyone uses when they are talking about home theatre, so I might as well get on the wagon. Specs for it will be put at the end of this post.

I recently stumbled upon the best deal of all time, a Denon AVR 590 for 279 dollars. I also had a 100 dollar gift card to a certain red and white store to boot. Now I can enjoy my home theatre custom built PC through a 5.1 amp with a pure digital path.... after 2 days of configuring!

I think this is why people think Home Theatres are extremely complicated, and good ones are in the realm of people with infinite budgets or who are geniuses. There are a myriad of certifications, and each of them mean slightly different things. Like DTS vs Dolby Digital, or 5.1 vs 7.1, vs 9.1!!!! or THX! Seriously... I had a hard time justifying stereo to 5.1, I doubt I can be moved to purchase a 9.1 system. I also doubt many people even know THX is a certification at all. It just makes people think of loud sounds. (The audience is now deaf reference from Tiny Toons)

http://www.spikedhumor.com/articles/135368/THUD-The-Audience-Is-Now-Deaf.html

In my opinion AV manufacturers should rally around a standard, and stick with it. They think they are maximizing profits by making people upgrade their old hardware, but they are wrong. What they are actually doing is marginalizing their customers by making only the "audiophiles" upgrade, while everyone else is satisfied with their TV speakers, or old stereos. The other problem is also for connector certifications, I can wholeheartedly understand the move from analog to digital (for most applications), but why are their 3 different kinds of digital connectors, with 2 specifications of HDMI?? The industry needs to rally around ONE digital connector, and HDMI was supposed to be this answer, it had HDCP, 7.1 SPDIF audio, Network, and DVI all in one connector... what is the problem. Oh yes.... license fees. STOP DOING THINGS LIKE THIS, it should be a revenue generator for everyone, not just a coalition of the willing. heheh

On the subject of cables, when it comes to Digital cables, a crappy cable will do 99% of the time. I have the crappiest RCA cable doing SPDIF duties for me, and it sounds perfect. With a digital signal, you either have a signal, or you don't, their is no fuzziness anymore WHATSOEVER.

When I first started delving into the Home Entertainment ground, I was very young and had my parent's JVC stereo as a bench mark. 4 foot tall speakers with 3 different sized drivers, 10 inch woofers, and a 100 watt RMS/channel amplifier driving them. One of my fonder memories as a kid was having a Goldeneye deathmatch with friends and cracking the shells of hardboiled eggs with that stereo. This was a 2.0 (2 speakers and no subwoofer) system. Nowadays, you almost require a subwoofer to get that kind of power, or an extremely high end amplifier.

I "upgraded" from a 25 year old 2 channel 50w/ch amp to this Denon AVR590, and I am very impressed with the sound levels at all decibel levels, except for the complete lack of low end. Do the amplifier makers just hand off the hard work of making a full range amplifier to the subwoofer makers? If yes, then why are speaker makers still making full range speakers??

A subwoofer and small speaker will almost never reach the sonic quality of a good full range speaker with a quality crossover. The main reason is this, a speaker of set diameter produces only a certain diameter of sound properly. The diameter of the diaphragm is inversely proportionate to the frequencies it produces well. So, large diaphragms produce low frequencies the easiset, and small diaphragms produce high frequencies. The ideal speaker would have an infinite amount of drivers (diaphragms), however since we cannot have an infinitely sized speaker, we try to use as many different sized drivers as possible to get the best sounding... sound. A popular speaker maker in the public eye, only has 2 different sized drivers for the entire system. As a result of this, there is a... complete lack of low end, but the manufacturer uses psychoaccoustics to mask this (rather well). Psychoaccoustics modify the sound as well, so you are not getting the full sound you expected.

My other point I have to make is this, the AV industry really needs to get more in bed with the computer industry (Intel VIVO and AMD LIVE) was a good try, but it needs to be presented in a easy to use light. UPNP AV (DLNA) is a shot in the right direction, however having a computer as the nerve centre of your home theatre is an experience unlike no other. When it works! It isn't only the hardware makers that need to try harder with this, the software makers and AUDIO FILTERS need to start working together. It is not easy to get all of your filters to do passthrough for a good receiver, but when it happens, get ready for pure sound.

Stop looking at computers as a revenue stealer, and more of a revenue generator. Imagine having a Windows MCE/Linux MCE interface, with massive storage (realm of 2-4 terabytes) where you can LEGALLY back up your OWN DVD's for your own consumption, play all of your purchased/ripped music that you own, with a iTunes like music/video store where you can buy more. I do not see how this a lose/lose situation for the Media industry and the AV industry.

Also, SCREW you MPAA for closing the Analog hole and making it impossible to record TV that you have paid the subscription for.

That is all,

PD

PS: See http://bigmacky.wordpress.com/2008/02/21/6-million-dollar-home-theater/ to see the stats on the theater in that photo.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Apple going to acquire ARM

I don't think I've read a news article that has pissed me off soo badly in my entire life.

Apple, is possibly going to acquire the UK chip architecture licensee ARM as discussed in this article : http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/04/21/apple_arm_acquisition_rumor/

This would be extremely bad for all mobile phone/device makers as a ridiculous amount of devices that you own are probably powered by an ARM based processor. ARM itself doesn't make the processor, however it licenses its IP to companies like Marvell, Qualcomm, and Freescale to make the chips.

Just looking around my apartment, my Router (Linksys WRT310n), Mp3 Player (Zune HD), TV (Sony Bravia), Phone (Nokia E71), and my Squeezebox Boom all run off ARM architecture processors. Since it only licenses its IP, if Apple acquires them it will enable it to cutoff its IP and all of those devices will have to be radically redesigned.

This news comes hot on the heels of newly announced Windows Mobile 7 phones which run ARM based Qualcomm Snapdragon processors that are extremely well designed and are a threat to Apple's iPhone. I don't even know if this deal will pass regulation as it will give Apple a stranglehold on the entire mobile electronic domain.

EDIT (5/13/2010) (It looks like this never came to fruition, but I will keep following the issue)

Monday, March 29, 2010

Resurgence of Microsoft


The Resurgence of Microsoft

For a company founded in 1987, Microsoft has had quite a tumultuous history. Everything from justice issues, to the rise and fall of various competitors. The unfortunate benefit of defeating all of you rivals if you become complacent in respect to your customers. When Windows 95 came out, it was revolutionary (in the eyes of the consumer) for the time, however since then there has been nothing major to come out from the company in years. Except for recently. Any veteran of the tech world for the last 5-10 years can remember Steve Ballmer's rant of Developers, Developers, Developers, and he was right. As much as it pains me to use the word, but its recent ecosystem/brands XBox, Zune, Windows, Windows Mobile, XNA, Silverlight, have all come together to create some very compelling products. Even though Microsoft still cannot market their way out of their past, they are back to their nature of being on the cutting edge.


The Zune HD has been nearly overlooked by the consumer community as a whole due to a certain (i) device. However it is a better product in my mind because it concentrates on being a media player instead of a do it all device. Doing this enables it to be a superior media player. The interface is a complete break from anything to come out from anyone in the past and is extremely intuitive to use. The screen is beautiful being that it is a AMOLED based panel. There are two buttons, however the accuracy of the capacitive touchsreen, there is no need for more. The Zune marketplace is amazing in the fact that you can preview and purchase (if you live in the US) any song directly from the internet without using a computer at all! The simplicity of this system needs to be used to be believed. It has a fully functional (minus Flash for now) browser with a superior touchscreen keyboard to anything the (i) company as came out with.


XBox, in particular the Live system is the only platform that can tear a hardened PC gamer from his PC to use. The simplicity of selecting a friend and joining an in progress game is mind boggling. The system may have had its share of issues in the first rev of its systemboard (RROD being an example of this), the Live system redeems this and more. With the upcoming formfactor change, and the semi recent introduction of the Jasper board revision I believe/hope that the RROD problem has been resolved. The games being released for the XBox and the XBox arcade (area for indie devlopers and older games to be released for cheap) are another compelling reason to get on the XBox train. Now that the original XBox has been completely removed from LIVE, there is no telling where Microsoft will take the platform. The XBox is not just a gaming system, but can also act as the primary distribution hub for all of your media when connected to a dedicated server that serves DLNA compatible media. This includes most DIVX compatible movies, and MP3's/WMA's of different kinds. They can all be output at full resolution over the HDMI cable. You can also download music and movies using the aforementioned Zune marketplace and share them with your Zune account. You can also connect your Zune directly to the XBox and use it for ingame music (with games that support this feature, luckily most do)


The Windows platform has usually been rather reliable and user friendly, minus some hiccups (ME for example), but Windows 7 in particular represents the pinnacle of their user interface design while still maintaining legacy compatibility. This is an area where Microsoft needs to tread very carefully. They think they cannot alienate their enterprise customers, and they cannot alienate their consumers, or they risk losing them to competitors. However I think their viewpoint is flawed. If they were to completely give their user interface a once over, and let consumers decide whose UI is superior and easier to use, this would be a winning move. Their competitor has dropped legacy compatibility in the past and people still buy their products, so the concept can work. People adapt, and buy a superior product anyways. Luckily Microsoft is doing this 180° with their Windows Phone 7 design and using the revolutionary UI from the Zune HD to support their efforts. People are already taking notice.

An article about the recent history of Microsoft cannot go without mentioning Office 2007. After just completing a rollout for an enterprise level company, I can say that the transition from the menu based system of previous versions, to the icon based UI of O2k7 was rather difficult. This is a trial by fire for Microsoft for standardizing and changing UI's to be cutting edge. Your enterprises will fall in line. Custom applications will be remade for new technology, and it gives companies a chance/excuse to clean out unneeded plugins. The Ribbon as it is called, looks like it is Microsoft's new design language and is hinted at in the Windows 7 UI. Even a simple program like Paint has been reskinned with it. After using these productivity apps for more than a couple months, I think their UI has made things more efficient and other software companies will take notice and redesigned their 20 year old UI. The File, Edit, View menu is a holdover from the ancient Xerox PARC UI from which Apple and Microsoft copied to make their operating systems. It has been time for a change for some time. I am impressed with Microsoft's ability to shake it earlier than Apple has. Even though Apple wants everyone to look at their Object based dock for navigation, their legacy toolbar is ever present on top and will be for a very long time. It hasn't changed since the first Apple PC's. Since Apple is attempting to create a software as a service model for most of their stuff (iTunes, iPad) etc, I think they will move away from open PC's and Laptops completely.


Apple has recently announced and launched the iPad, and I believe this is a clear move that they are attempting to leave their current Desktop/Laptop based ecosystem. There is more money in the Software as a Service model, and it allows content providers unhinged access to everyone with an iTunes store account. As much as Apple has been lauded in the past for amalgamating existing technologies to create their products, I believe the iPad is their first recent misstep. They are forgetting the human element. Humans in general are lazy and want immediate access to content, which a device completely dependent on the cloud and is primarily media content based cannot offer. However, the Courier being a content creation device is immune to this effect.


During the last couple years, they have come out with some really revolutionary products, Surface, their first crack at creating a tablet standard Origami and most recently, Courier. The problem with all of these concepts is they cannot market them at all, or they leave the marketing to the OEM's. Surface just fizzled out due to mass expense (10k), and 3rd parties could not make up their mind around their tablet concept. The recent change is Microsoft has taken over hardware design and are thus a competitor to OEM's. Standardized hardware is a benefit in the mobile world as it allows developers (developers, developers) ONE standard to work around and create a superior product. The first Zune was a rebranded Toshiba Gigabeat mp3 player, and failed to gain much market significance. The 2nd revision was still a Toshiba device, but designed primarily by Microsoft and marketed at a ok level. However with their recent devices, Courier, Zune HD, etc, they have went all out and helmed every level of the path to market including the design process, branding, hardware, etc. They are at risk of alienating their OEM's (Dell, HP, Lenovo) however it is making the OEM's attempt to stand out on their own. An example of this is the upcoming HP Slate. This is a fully fledged tablet that runs a full version of Windows 7 specifically tailored by HP. Competition for innovation in the tech world is an amazing thing.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Ripping CD's to ensure quality

Hi Everyone,

Upon request I'm making this blog post on how to convert your CD collection to MP3 while retaining as much quality as possible. You need 3 things for this to happen, a quality made CD/DVD drive, Exact Audio Copy, and a recent compile of LAMEnc.

1) Figuring out if you have a good CD/DVD drive can be rather difficult, however brand is usually a good indication. ASUS DVD drives, Plextor CD/DVD drives, Pioneer CD/DVD drives, and Samsungs are usually pretty good. Plextor and Pioneer being at the top, and the rest of the brands I have listed in the middle, and the rest being low tier. If you are not sure who makes your drive, Exact Audio Copy can tell you this information.

Depending on the age and environment your computer has been in, it might be a good idea to clean the lens using a CDRW/DVD lens cleaner. This is not necessary, but will help extracting CD's where there is a lot of scratches. It will make the reads more reliable.

2) Exact Audio copy is a fairly straightforward program that has a lot of power user options so you can have full control of the burning process. You can get it from here: http://www.exactaudiocopy.de/en/index.php/resources/download/


Install the program, deselect the EBAY icon (if you wish), and open the newly installed application, let AccurateRip run its short test, then you should be presented with the main window. (example at the right) On the top left, is a selector for your optical drive, center right is where all the tracks are displayed. The rest of the info is fairly straightforward, CD title, artist, etc.

3) Now LAME must be installed. Lame (in my experience) has the best speed and audio quality. You can download the latest compile (as of 9/28/2009) from here http://www.exe64.com/mirror/rarewares/lame3.98.2.zip . Extract that zip file somewhere where you will remember where it is. This program needs to stay somewhere permanently. I just created a new program files folder for it to live. (C:\program files\lame)


4) Exact Audio copy needs to be told where LAME has been saved to, in Exact Audio Copy (EAC) click, EAC - Compression options... - External Compression tab. Make sure use external compression is checkmarked, and the program path is correct, like the picture on the right. Also make sure Parameter passing scheme is set to LAME MP3 Encoder as in the screenshot.



Where I have additional command line options, that is telling LAME at what quality to compress the data at. I would reccomend these settings, from left to right, these options mean:

-b bitrate (8-320kbit)
160 as minimum

-m stereo mode
s (Full stereo as opposed to Joint stereo which is great for low bitrate, but horrible for high bitrate)

-V Enables VBR and sets the quality setting
0 = highest quality, 9 is lowest (stupid... I know)

VBR is a technology which tells the the encoder to only use as much info as required. Setting 160 as a low bar ensures quality stays high for even the quiet parts. This saves hard drive space. If hard drive space isn't an issue, just set "-b 320 -m" without the "

-B max VBR bitrate
320 (Highest quality MP3 possible)

Click OK

5) Now we must configure EAC to your CD/DVD drive. Ensure there is an audio CD in the drive and click EAC - Drive Options - then the detect read features button. It should be able to tell you what features your drive is capable of by running a couple tests. Click OK. Extract one of the tracks of your CD to anywhere on your desktop by right clicking Track01 , click Copy Selected Tracks, Uncompressed, and select your desktop, ignore the filename for now. Wait for it to finish and open it in your favorite audio program. WAV/PCM is standard and should be able to be opened by any player. If it sounds ok, then we are ready for the next step, if there is no audio attempt to to go into EAC - Drive Options - Drive Tab, and click on the Spin up drive before extraction. Rerun the test, copy selected track, uncompressed, and select your desktop, if that works, we are good to go, if not, then you might have to play with the options more.

6) Now we are ready to rip! Click EAC - FreeDB options, enter anything in there in the format name@domain.com. It does not have to resolve. This is part of the CDDB registration process. Click Database - Get Information From - Remote FreeDB. All of the title/CD information in the main window should be updated now. Ensure if it is a Various Artists CD that the option is checked before progressing. Now select all the tracks, right click, copy selected tracks - compressed.... find where you want to put the tracks, create a folder, whatever, and select SAVE.


7) You will be then presented with an extraction window (shown on right) it will show you the progress of your rip. If the drive encounters any bad sectors, it will begin C2 error correction (if your drive supports it) it will reread the sector a predetermined amount of times, and get the average of that sector. The red lights will progress until the average is reached. This process can sometimes take a long time, but it is worth it when it restores previously unreadable CD's. Since we are using LAME to encode our tracks, when each track reaches 100% you will be presented with a very "cool" looking command window showing you the progress of the MP3 encode process. A bar graph will display how many frames of the MP3 were encoded with what bitrate. Frames are pieces of the MP3. If it is a quiet track there will not be a lot of high bitrate frames, but if it is a loud/detailed track, the bottom end of the bar graph will be much longer than the rest. When the entire rip is finished and you click OK you will be presented with another window that will let you know if your copy was successful or not. If any of the tracks has a quality of below 95% it may need to be reripped. Just try to rip the individual track again, you may get a different result.



8) Test your rip! Enjoy the fruits of your computer's labor!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Klipsch Ultra 2.0 hack

I was bored today, and lately I've been having to clean out the volume control/potentiometer on my 2.0 speaker set from Klipsch with contact cleaner every couple months. This is no way to operate a quality set of speakers. I've done a bit of research and it seems that it is a flaw in the quality of the volume knob.

Here is a pic of the poor functional speakers ready to get mutilated hehe.



I decided that since I'm opening it up again, and I have a 100 watt amp (50RMS/channel) whose sole purpose in life is a headphone amplifier, why not try to make the speakers passive, and powered by that amp. One of the speakers is already passive, but has a darn RCA plug for a connector. The question was, do both of the speakers have proper crossovers like regular speakers, or is the slave (one with no amp) just a straight connection to the drivers. Luckily for me, both of the speakers have RCA jacks, so I could make a special cable to go from the amp to the RCA plug. My second worry was if the crossover was integrated into the amplifier PCB on the master. After exploratory surgery (seen below) both of the speakers have proper crossovers and minus the PCB (and the RCA port on the master) they are virtual twins inside. There is insulation that has been removed at this point.

Pic of slave



Pic of master (you can see the amp and volume on the bottom)








Now I was able to essentially ignore the slave, as it is wired correctly to be connected to an amplifier. Time to concentrate on the master. Remove the PCB stack. You might have to remove the crossover (do not break connections though) in order to have more "wiggle" room. This is accomplished by the silver screws in the middle of the copper inductors (circular strands of copper). Do not remove the insulation on the sound/DSP PCB as it is needed later. I removed the DC power converter part of the PCB as seen on the right, it is the PCB that is sandwiched on top. 3 screws and 3 sets of pins require removal to get rid of this part. Screws are removed easily, however the pins can be a bit difficult, I used a set of wire cutters and they did the job well. Be VERY careful with the set of pins closest to the volume control, cut them cleanly as they are needed later.















Now that the sound/DSP PCB is removed, and those pins are intact, it is time to wire up the drivers in that speaker. Remove the cable connecting the crossover to the power PCB. DO NOT cut off too much cable as I'm sure it would be a pain reconnecting a wire to the crossover. As I have highlighted in the pictures to the right, the path from the RCA jack (that is supposed to power the passive speaker) is very plainly marked, and connects to the 4 posts that I advised you to be careful with earlier.







Now, it is time to connect the crossover to those 4 pins. You want to connect the RED (signal) one to the TWO pins farthest from the rear. So do the opposite of what I did, hah. I don't have polarization issues on mine as I probably wired my custom Female RCA connector backwards as well on that speaker. I concede that I should have done research on the pinouts of male RCA jacks, but I did not. ON THE RCA JACK The pin closest to the rear is the signal pin, and the one farthest is the ground. Always remember to strip and tin your cables and do not apply solder directly to the iron, it should be done via heating the thing you want to solder, and making that heat melt the solder. Never rush soldering, it is what will make the hack last.
















Time for the annoying part, making the two custom RCA cables. Buy something like these to the right and solder them up as shown on the next photo. Note the low clearance on the ground connector and the edge of the plastic, be very clean soldering, or getting the threaded part of the RCA connector back on will be difficult. Yes, I realize I suck at soldering, but this was my first attempt at making it.















Now, test your wiring. Always remember to turn off an amplifier when you connect a speaker to it, just in case something is crossed (especially relevant in this sort of application). I would recommend not doing it on carpet as I did, but there isn't a lot of heat being generated on the crossover. So the fire hazard is low. Just don't touch the capacitors when it is playing something. If not, double check your solder connections.

Congratulations!, screw the crossover back in (an exercise with frustration) and the PCB WITH THE INSULATION back in the speaker housing. Connect them up to any regular amplifier and you are good to go. As they are horn driven, you might want to play with the equalizer a little bit. It is wayy more efficient at the top range than the bottom, so the treble might need lowering. Also, volume changes are drastic (again from the horn loaded design). These are my experiences, and I am using a 29 year old amplifier (older than me). Other than that, the sound is amazing, very punchy mid and semi low end (no sub) and bright highs. I will admit the bass response isn't what it was before, but thats fine, it was too muddy anyways. My amp isn't new enough to have this feature, but they would probably benefit from a speaker size change in the menu.

Enjoy your permanently fixed speakers!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

UPDATE: Insecurities on GMAIL and other services

Hello Everyone,


Google has enabled an option that allows you to automatically log into to HTTPS whenever you go to http://www.gmail.com, it will change it to https://gmail.com!!!


Please enable the following setting under Settings on the top right, and general. Go down to Browser connection, and click use HTTPS.


Thursday, July 17, 2008

Insecurities on Google Mail and other webmail services

Hi Everyone,

Well I was had, I accessed my gmail on someone's wifi on vacation without using SSL (https) and my password was swiped by a compromised router. It could have been on purpose, or whatever but I have learnt my lesson.



Gmail (and other online email services) has a flaw that enables any middle man between you and your provider to see your password and cookie information. HTTP by itself is not secure, and I think my password got swiped using a hotspot on vacation.

Please learn my lesson and don't do these things which together compromised my information.

Don't use Hotspots you don't trust,
Use Gmail and other online email providers with a https:// instead of http:// so that the connection will use SSL certificates (encryption)
Keep your contact lists offline when you can

Thanks,

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Windows 2008 Install Log

DISCLAIMER: this is not a how-to and do not try this out if you have limited experience with computers and windows or don't have experience with cutting edge software and its limitations with drivers. I will have no liability with what you do with this information. All software I will be using for demonstration purposes was attained legally. Using pirated software is against the law.

If something says IMPORTANT do NOT skip this or else you will be SOL.


Hi Everyone,

First "real" posting and what a post it will be. I had some extra time due to some vacation time and I saw that Microsoft was offering Windows 2008 to the public for evaluation. After seeing various reviews of how it was so much more efficient than Server 2003. For those that do not know, Server 2008 has the back end of Windows 7 and the front end of Vista. I thought I would dump it on my server computer and try it out. However I stumbled onto this site: Convert Your Windows Server 2008 to a Workstation! and was very excited to try it on my Gaming PC/Workstation. After seeing that most games (except Halo 2 lol) work perfectly and that it is compatible with Vista drivers I decided to load it on my machine. Vista familiarity and Server 2003 familiarity is a must for this install.

Windows Server 2008 Requirements


Processor: Minimum: 1 GHz (x86 processor) or 1.4 GHz (x64 processor) (2GHz recommended)
Memory: Minimum: 512 MB RAM (2GB or more recommended) (4GB Max (32bit)
Available Disk Space: Minimum: 10 GB (40GB or more recommended)
DVD-ROM drive REQUIRED


Here is the hardware that I have used

Asus P5KSE (P35 Chipset)
Core 2 Duo E4600
2GB Corsair XMS2
320GB Western Digital SATA running in Compatibility mode IMPORTANT
Creative SoundBlaster Audigy Platinum
EVGA 8800GT Superclocked
Pioneer 212D DVD-RW

Things I required IMPORTANT:

Driver CD for Systemboard with Vista drivers (did not detect NIC using built in drivers)
Active Internet connection
Legal copy of Server 2008 DVD Image from Microsoft.com burnt off with ISO Recorder (240 day limitation)
BACK UP YOUR DATA as this is not written like an upgrade.... and OS upgrades are unstable at best.

I STRONGLY reccomend installing this on a computer behind a hardware firewall/router as it is still new and Worms will be written for it soon enough. Anyone remember Blaster?


Installation:

First off, the install for this was as simple as the Vista install. Pop in the DVD you previously burnt off and boot your computer from it. Press Install Now , do not enter a product key if you do not have one, select Activate Windows, and next. Then click no to confirm that you haven't purchased the software. Then select the version of server 2008 you would like. I used the Standard option as it would probably have less overhead than the others. Click the checkmark, then click next. Read the EULA then click the checkmark and press next. Click on custom install and then select which drive you wish, it will probably be the one labeled Disk 0. Then just wait for the install to complete... can't get simpler than that.


First boot:

It will ask you to input a strong password right away. This needs to have capitals and numbers. EX: Password1 would work fine. DO NOT USE THAT, it is a rather common password. Then it will load the OS. Install what drivers you can from the motherboard driver cd, Network, Chipset, Sata, Onboard video, etc. Then you must do one of two things... disable IE secure mode, or download Opera/Firefox/Safari or else the web will be pretty much unusable. Then go to the manufacturer's websites to get the others, Nvidia.com, ATI/AMD.com, Creative, etc. Only start modifying server 2008 to look like Vista AFTER you have installed the proper graphics drivers.

Modification:

I then picked and chose which modifications I will enable from Windows Server 2008 as a Workstation. I installed/enabled Aero, Themes, Windows Audio, Game Controllers, Installed the Sidebar and Aero Cursors. I chose not to disable enforce strong passwords and require CTRL+ALT+DEL as they are common sense security precautions. Besides, I like the new locked computer screen.

General Use and Impressions:

Overall the OS is very responsive, sometimes more responsive than Windows XP. Aero is very pretty and allows you to do cool things like flip (Winkey + Tab), Active thumbnails on the taskbar, and Alpha Blended windows. If I wanted to just have a pretty OS I could modify Windows XP to look like Vista. However I wanted to use an OS to futher my troubleshooting knowledge and use a server OS on a regular basis. Filesharing is a bit unintuitive, you must use Advanced Sharing and disable Password Protected sharing from the Network and Sharing menu in the Control Panel. Enabling network discovery allows you too see other shares on other computers in your network and other computers on your network to see your shared folders.

Downfalls:

In Server 2008 and Vista the HAL is not directly acessible for sound use anymore. The new audio engine in Server 2008 and Vista requires some workarounds to use hardware acceleration in games and programs. Creative provides a program called ALchemy to provide hardware acceleration in older games. One thing I noticed is hardware acceleration in Winamp refused to work. Hardware acceleration enables duplicating the front speakers to the rear as well as provides a much better sound depending on the capibilities of your audio card. The fix requires copying the dsound.dll from the Alchemy folder (C:\Program Files\Creative\Alchemy) to your Winamp folder (C:\Program Files\Winamp). Close and reopen Winamp and be amazed at the difference. I have noticed Aero and the Sidebar use up a lot of memory and processor so I will probably be upgrading to 4Gb of Ram and a Core 2 Duo E8400 just to make things a bit speedier.

Please understand that this is not a regular OS and try to learn its ins and outs like I will be doing. The new Terminal Interface (Powershell) is amazing. Play around with it You will never really learn about an OS if you do not break it now and again.

I hope this helped a little bit, please leave comments.

Thanks,

Explanation

Hi Everyone,

I've been meaning to create this blog for a long time as a place to share my computer knowledge with the rest of the world. I deal with random computer issues day and night, and have had 10+ years experience working with Dos, Windows, and Windows server platforms. I will try to update this blog as much as possible.

Thank you for visiting :)