Category Archives: Computers

Why I(we) wear headphones while working

I’m not ignorant and I do like talking to you, honest. But getting into the flow takes time and noise interrupts in. Music in the background has always seemed to help block out the annoying thing. Its why in the early morning or late evening, so much more work is done. Sure you know yourself, you may be in work from 9-6, but you really only get about 2 hours of good work done. And now here is why. provided a pretty good but basic enough explanation of the brain and how it works in sections. Combine this with what I knew previously, and it makes a lot of sense.

While programming part A, the voice in your head part,  is running away with itself, swapping variables and the like, part B, the thinking part, is looking ahead and coming up with that creative code block you are about to write. Part C, the hearing part, is being kept nice and busy by the music coming in stopping other noise coming in and ending up in the thinking part. Because when it gets to the thinking part, it is like a big freight train hitting a mountain, it derails and looses all its cargo. You start down the hill on another track, what it was you heard and the further you go, the more you’ve left behind. And just like that big freight train, it takes a long time to get back up to speed on the hill, and you have to pick up all those information bits that you lost before.

Subscribe to your own blog. Really!

So today while working through some of the normal morning tasks, I started checking on the latests news. If you aren’t using it already, Google Reader is quite invaluable. I wish I could keep all the articles in it forever as you never know when you will need to find something older. It is why some of the tech newsletters still come through via email, but I’ll probably switch some of them soon.

Anyway, I decided I’d subscribe to my own blogs, both this one and the web hosting company one I write for. Low and behold, I noticed that one of them was only displaying a summary of the articles, a big no no if you ever want anyone to actually subscribe to your blog.

Even more shamefully, I had to Google to find the option to fix this.

For reference, it is in Settings -> Reading. “For each article in a feed, show”.

Google clicks on their own adwords links?

Through a few of the sites I have interactions with, there are a number of adwords campaigns that are running. Strangely, why tracking some of the incoming clicks, we noticed that at last one of the clicks came from within Google itself. And what is more, it appears to be legit going on the browser type of “Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows NT 5.1; SV1)”.

Perhaps Google tests these things manually, who knows. Guess I’ll just have to continue digging through the logs and see what shows up.

For reference, IP in question came from

OrgName:    Google Inc.
OrgID:      GOGL
Address:    1600 Amphitheatre Parkway
City:       Mountain View
StateProv:  CA
PostalCode: 94043
Country:    US

NetRange: -
NetName:    GOOGLE
NetHandle:  NET-74-125-0-0-1
Parent:     NET-74-0-0-0-0
NetType:    Direct Allocation
NameServer: NS1.GOOGLE.COM
NameServer: NS2.GOOGLE.COM
NameServer: NS3.GOOGLE.COM
NameServer: NS4.GOOGLE.COM
RegDate:    2007-03-13
Updated:    2007-05-22

OrgTechHandle: ZG39-ARIN
OrgTechName:   Google Inc.
OrgTechPhone:  +1-650-318-0200

Outlook 2007 – ctrl+enter to send mail warning box

The debate on having this shortcut is long on going so I’m not going to get into that. But I use it and it saves me loads of time. When it gets disabled it is a right pain. Personally I like the warning box to pop up too which is not possible to restore unless you edit the registry.

It took some diff’ing of the registry but the key you want to undo either clicking never show the box again, or changing the settings in the Advanced E-Mail Options, is under

Delete the CtrlEnterSends key and it’ll bring back the warning box when you restart outlook.

Dell overheating problems, Windows Search and Acronis restore

So it seems that Dell or more so nVidea have some over heating problems with some of the gpus. My D630c had been running really hot for quite a while and the fan was going a bit nuts during windows startup until last weekend… when the system decided to put random characters onscreen and die. As with all things, the laptop booted up fine on the Tuesday when I called Dell however running the system diags did reproduce the problem. While testing further, a hard drive problem popped up so they agreed to change the disk. When I mentioned about the heat problem, I was quickly put on hold for a few minutes, then they came back and said they were replacing the motherboard and fans. A quick Google did show up a few things about the failling GPUs.

Anyway, Dell did replace everything and things are working fine since. The replacement harddisk is a bit louder than the last one but it works so I’m finally getting back to normal. It has taken nearly a week to get everything restored, mostly due to Acronis being unable to restore large files individually. It kept getting stuck about 1.8G into the large files in my laptop. Doing a full disk restore worked fine.

The other annoying issue is Windows search stops working in Outlook after installing Exchange Administrator. Easy fix however. Close Outlook, Run System32\fixmapi.exe. Open Outlook. Let the search reindex everything. You may have to open the Windows Search options, select Outlook, then hit rebuild on the index.

Dell Keyboard layouts – why do they change them

It used to just be a case where certain models didn’t have a keyboard I liked but others would, but now looking at the Dell site, none of the laptops have a keyboard I like. And it isn’t like I’m after some crazy combination. All I want is a machine with the normal Irish keyboard. Even Wikipedia agrees with the format. Same as my D630c.

We currently order Vostro 1510 machines as standard and this problem might have started when they messed up the keyboard having the whole bottom line in the wrong place but the current keyboard model is closer than anything you see on the website. Only difference is the left shift key is bigger, the right on is smaller, oh and the backslash (\) key is on the far right instead of the left. A completely useless layout for anyone who uses the keyboard all the time for coding or working on linux.

Worse than all this is the trend to make the Enter / Return key smaller like the american keyboards. For US people, fine, keep it small since they are used to it, but don’t go trying to force random keyboard changes on us. Hell even the XPS that is on my desk has another layout.

Edit: So the new Vostro 1520 has normal keyboard, or so it looks until you start typing. The bottom line suffers from a smaller than normal ctrl key meaning the left hand side keys (ctrl, fn, windows, alt) are slightly to the left. Not a huge problem and I’d take it over the older problem, but still a problem. Also the keyboards on this model as bouncy. Yes bouncy. Whole keyboard moves when you press the keys in the center.

Windows Virtual Server 2005 R2 Differencing disk size

I’ve been running Virtual Server 2005 R2 for a few months now stress testing it on a machine seeing where the limits were before real deployment. Machine is a P4 dual core with 4G of ram. It has 1 Windows 2003 server host and 6-8 XP hosts running at any one time. The main bottle neck seems to always be the harddisk. It just can’t keep up with things. When things are running the disk queue is a solid line across the top of perfmon. Before you say it, the VM’s aren’t running lots of disk actions and in fact if I reduced the number of VM’s and increased the ram, it’d probably drop the disk usage way down.

Anyway when setting up these VM’s for testing, differencing disks seemed to be the way to go. New VM’s took a matter of minutes to setup and getting running. Now that they are running for nearly three months, it is looking not so hot. Each VM has about 4G of space used inside their virtual disks but yet the master disk is around the 3G mark with the differencing disks being over 6G. Something really wasn’t adding up. Clearly a disk file should take up more space than the data on the disk.

Merging the differencing disk

First thing I tried was to merge the differencing disk. To do this, you inspect the disk, then under actions, merge the disk and choose a new file.

Compacting the disk

Once the disk was merged, it gave the option to compact the disk. Running this did nothing but waste time making the new disk no smaller than the original.`

The Solution

So after some googling and trial and error, the following steps seem to have worked and made the disks a lot smaller.

  1. Merge the differencing disk into a new disk.
  2. Mount the new disk to the VM.
  3. Boot the VM and defrag the disk using Windows Defrag.
  4. Mount the precompator vm tool in the VM. This tool is found in precompact.iso in the Virtual Machine Additions folder in your Virtual Server install directory. (Usually C:\Program Files\Microsoft Virtual Server\Virtual Machine Additions\Precompact.iso)
  5. Run the precompactor in the VM. (This does take a while to run)
  6. Shutdown the VM and compact the hard disk image as above.

All in all, I got near a 50% reduction in real space usage which brought it closer to what the VM’s are actually using.

Magpie RSS

So I’ve used MagpieRss for quite sometime. First used happened a few years back when I did a little work customising my own version of TorrentFlux. Someone back then introduced me to Magpie which proved much easier than using my own XML parser.

Anyway since then it has been used in quite a few places to auto update sections of sites. One of the recent “bugs” I’ve come across is where it displays the message below from time to time.

Notice:  Undefined property:  etag in on line 156

Anyway from the usual googling, there is more than one place that this type of message shows up. Annoying though is that this bug is fixed in the development version of Magpie and was actually fixed over two years ago.

Basic fix is to swap line 156

if( $rss and $rss->etag and $rss->last_modified) {


if ( $rss and (isset($rss->etag) and $rss->etag)
 and (isset($rss->last_modified) and $rss->last_modified) ) { 

On a side note, WordPress needs a nice way to handle code windows.