Bohl's Blog

my digital life

Moving on to Windows 8 - this time seriously...

I have been exploring and playing around with Windows8 for quite a while now - I had an installation running on VMWare and on a second PC inside a VHD. Now I thought it would be time to get real and install Windows8 on my main machine on bare metal and use it daily. I was not ready to say goodbye to my trusty Windows7-installation yet, so I went to buy a new harddisk and came back with a 256GB-SSD. I bought an SanDisk-SSD which was a special offer at €139,00. Not the best and not the fastest device, but should be a good value for the money. And, taking my experiences with the Intel-SSD into account, well... it can't get worse I suppose.

Now, the fun part of the installation of Windows8 was the fact that I am using Intel's RST on the Windows7-system - which uses the SSD to accelerate a normal HDD. And this is something you do not want to live without once you are used to it. It requires to configure the SATA-ports in "RAID-mode" instead of AHCI. Well, no big deal I thought... and went on to insert the Windows8-DVD. All went fine until...

 

I tried to delete, format and what-not this drive - to no avail. Finally, I managed to find the "log file" mentioned here (you need to bring up a command promt from the setup), which just read something like "cannot determine boot device" or so.

OK, next try was to install the Intel-drivers. Just download the "F6-drivers" and this gave me:

 

I don't know if the dialog is supposed to tell me that something went wrong (or that all is fine) - however, now the devices on the SATA-ports are gone. Still don't know why this didn't work...

So I went on changing the SATA-ports to "AHCI". My plan was to install Windows8 with AHCI-mode, then install the Intel-drivers, then again switch to RAID. This approach finally succeded, however... it took several attempts, and I don't know what was wrong when it didn't work. Several times the machine didn't boot into Windows8 with different symptoms like this one:

 

Maybe my motherboard or its BIOS is responsible for the troubles (it's an ASUS P8Z68V-Pro), it has proven to be somewhat stubborn before.

Finally, after switching this setting countless times

 

it now seems to work ok! Both Windows7 and Windows8 work and RST is also working ok.

One final mystery: Windows8 installed a beautiful boot-manager (in Metro Windows8-design), however - during the course of struggeling with AHCI/RAID etc. at some point I got this old-fashioned boot-manager:

 

However - since I got this boot-manager it works, so be it.

 

All that remains for me to say is: it would have been nice if Intel and Microsoft (and whoever is involved into this) somehow managed to put heads together and simplify this ACHI-RAID-mess.

 

We will see how Windows8 "feels" when used more heavily. The Metro-UI still feels a bit strange and alien on a desktop-PC, and I guess it will continue to do so. I will have to wait until the Windows-tablets hit the stores...

How to hard-reset the Packard Bell Liberty Tab G100 tablet

A while back I bought myself an Android tablet (Liberty Tab G100 from Packard Bell). Nothing fancy, just in order to surf the web on the couch and get some hands-on experience with Android. The device was not rooted, no custom ROM on it or so. Well, I am still really impressed by the value one gets for the money, but this post is not about the pros and cons of Android. Suffice to say (from my superficial end-user experience) that the software-platform has its rough edges and glitches.

Now, seemingly for no apparent reason, the device could not be turned on any more. It just showed the (animated) Android-logo for as long as the power-supply would last and that was it. Just this logo and nothing else. So, I read through the forums at xda-developers.com, learned at lot about the various bootloaders, custom roms, adb and what not. However - nothing worked for me. Booting into "recovery mode" by pressing Volume-Down and Power-On didn't help (now I got an Android-robot with an exclamation mark), and ADB I did not get to work. To cut a long story short, what finally made my day is a hint a found here. I am not sure what happened, but the device is workin again. So, here is how to "hard-reset" the device (all data is lost by this operation!):

  1. Power the device off
  2. switch the screen-lock button so that the red is not visible
  3. hold the Volume-Up button and press the power-button
  4. now, when the device starts to vibrate, release power-button and switch the screen-lock several times

Now, you should see some lines of text appear on the screen (just for a second or so in my case), and then the device restarts. If at first you don't succeed with this procedure, try again Foot in mouth. It took me several attempts, I am not sure how many times you have to toogle the screen-lock switch (or when exactly).

I am still curious what was causing the trouble in the first place. The only idea I have so far: the internal memory was completely full (I copied some movies erroneously into the internal memory instead of the SD-card). Should this have caused Android to completely mess up? Well, looking back to the times when computers had a keyboard attached to it, when they had a BIOS or something like this and you could boot them from a floppy disk...

Troubleshooting WebDeploy

I just had trouble connecting to my webserver via WebDeploy. Luckily, I found this web site which helped me to resolve this problem. In my case it turned out that the service "wmsvc" wasn't started - for whatever reason.

Moving into the cloud - some weeks later

Just an update of my experiences after I moved my email, calender, notes etc. into Windows Live.

All in all - I am very happy with it, works fine and it is a big relief no having to look after my own server.

I used the "public folders" of Exchange quite extensively in order to store short notes or some miscellaneous pieces of information. I moved that over to OneNote - works great and is highly recommended!

A couple of days ago there was an update for the Outlook-HotMail-Connector. Since I was quite happy with this version and it worked flawless so far, I thought that I might give the approach "upload emails via Outlook" another try. This wasn't a good idea, though. I imported some emails (maybe 2 MB or so) into Outlook, moved it into the Windows Live account and pressed "Send/Receive All Folders" - but nothing happened. The emails did not appear on the WindowsLive-email-account, and Outlook kept showing this: 

I allowed Outlook to work for a day or so - no progress, no error message, nothing (at least: no crash, with the previous Connector it used to crash for me after a couple of hours). The problem is: I have no idea how to recover from this situation - Outlook will not retrieve new mails in this situation. I tried to delete the newly imported emails and so on - to no avail. The only way in order to recover (that I am aware of) is to delete the account from Outlook, then add it again (and download all emails once more). This takes around 10 hours (not too bad for 10GB), but it works ok (or at least it used to work ok since I had to do this several times already).

OK, lesson learned, I will stick with WindowsMail. It is a pity that I will have to download all emails once more (this time with WindowsMail) until I can upload some new email-archives.

Moving into the cloud - mission completed?

Now, a couple of days later, my mission to move my emails, calendars, contacts etc. from my old Exchange-server into WindowsLive is completed. Or... well, almost.

First of all, uploading my email archive has kept me busy for quite some time. My workflow was: use MailStore Home7 in order to move the emails from old Exchange-server into EML-files, then import them into LiveMail and sync with WindowsLive. The trouble was that LiveMail is (frankly) quite unstable, especially when it comes to huge amounts of emails (with LiveMail I am refering to the desktop email client, not the WindowsLive service!). In one email folder I had something like 130,000 messages. LiveMail would import them ok, but when moving the messages into the WindowsLive account (or at some other occasions...) it used to crash. Several times the email store was completely messed up, in which case I had to download all emails from WindowsLive again.

 Just some impressions of how this looked like:

 

  

Nevertheless - Windows LiveMail was the vehicle which in the end succeeded uploading all my emails. And - WindowsLive itself remained all the time rock-solid, not a single hick-up or something, even when downloading the mail-archive from several clients at the same time.

Moving into the cloud cont'd II

Ok, this is going to be a long story I suppose.

First of all I have to confess that I absolutely love MailStore Home. I am sure that I would have gone crazy without this tool! The only issue so far: the free version works perfectly well for me, which gives me a bad conscience since it is worth its weight in gold!

I started to distrust this tool because half of my "Sent items"-folder had the date 1/4/2005 after importing it into Windows Live Mail (my workflow for upload is now: use MailStore in order to convert the messages into .EML files which Windows Live Mail can import).

 

In Outlook (or OWA) they looked ok:

 

So, I was suspecting that MailStore somehow messed it up. So I spent the better part of an evening looking for a tool which would convert the .PST-file into .EML-files - to no avail or... well over my budget. Then I got the idea: since the only application I have around that can import .PST-files is... Outlook, why not import it again into Outlook - and the problem was present there as well. So, the problem is already present in the .PST-file already, even though Outlook displays the correct dates.

Well, I have no idea what the problem is... but I found that all these messages which got the date 1/4/2005 started with the lines

The correct date appears several times in the mail headers, so I just fired up the compiler and wrote a program which would simply delete these two lines - and voila, success:

 

 

Btw - meanwhile I managed to export my calendar as well... This wasn't too easy - as all attempts with Outlook or Windows Live Mail failed. But... it can't be easier. In Outlook one has to export it into ICS-format - and then simply upload it on the WindowsLive-calendar website, just hit the "Subscribe"-button. Can't be easier if one knows about it... I haven't bothered investigating what gets lost on this way - at first glance it looks good.

Moving into the cloud cont'd

After all, my hopes that the upload would work better (=faster) with WindowsLiveMail were not in vain. I can definitely say that it is working much, much better with WindowsLiveMail than with Outlook. The only remaining problem - how to get the emails into WindowsLiveMail. No, WindowsLiveMail does not import the PST-files, or any other format that Outlook can export - afaik. MailStore Home 7 to the rescue, see also here.

I really hope that this was the last obstacle. I am really getting bored with this...

Moving into the cloud...

For years (must have been ten years I suppose) I have been running my own private "cloud", namely an Exchange2003-server. It was a virtual-machine running on a Linux-box. Over the years, I had used different hardware, different Linux-versions, but still the same virtual machine. For the last two years I had it happily running on an Intel-D510-board (Atom D510); which was real fun because of its low power-consumption. I was able to use Outlook-Web-Access through an Apache-Proxy, I loved the "Public Folders"-features, the calender worked flawless and I was really happy with it. The only trouble was: loss of power (or other crashes, but loss of power was the prevalent problem). If the server (for whatever reasons) came down there was always the element of uncertainty whether the virtual machine would boot up and operate again. Yeah, I did what I could in order to create backups, but it became clear very soon: I am not an Exchange administrator and lacking the resouce in both time and money to become one. With a lot of luck and a lot of twiddling I was able to keep it running for 10 years and quite a lot of hard shutdowns. Until recently... The virtual machine seems severly broken (it complains about something wrt ActiveDirectoy is broken etc.). Furthermore - the most recent backup of the virtual machine also has troubles, which is beyond me.

So, I decided, maybe it is time to give up with my private 24/7-home-server and move into the "cloud". The features and conditions of HotMail seemed to fit my needs, so I decided to give it a try. After all... who cares about privacy these days? I was always proud that my email archive is private and that I haven't lost a single email in those 10 years, but... is it still worth the effort, the hazzle and the costs? I do not have a good answer to this, I can just say - I am ready to give up privacy for convenience at this point.

My email archive is around 10GB and this should work with HotMail. I started with exporting my emails from Outlook into a pst-file. This went smooth - after finding the export-function, which hides on the File-Tab under "Open" and "Import":

 

I have to admit, this wasn't the first spot where I was looking for it...

Now, setting up and configuring the HotMail-account was easy. The hard part was (and still is) uploading my email archive into HotMail. At first it seemed straighforward - install the Hotmail-Connector for Outlook, then import the emails from the exported archive into the Outlook-HotMail-account - and hit "Send/Receive All Folders". This works like a charm, the problem is - the upload is very, very slow. Something like two or three emails a minute I guess. Furthermore, several times Outlook has crashed after working for a day or so uploading the emails. I have no idea why it is so slow - whether it is intentionally or if there is something wrong. I am now thinking of using my 24/7-private-cloud-server over the course of the next year in order to upload my email-archive...

Meanwhile I got the idea that uploading might be faster if I use Windows Mail. The trouble is just... there seems to be no easy way of transfering the emails from the pst-archive into Windows Mail. Somewhere I got the idea that I need some third-party-tool in order to achieve this - I am now trying MailStore Home. We will see if that works out (and if Windows Mail can upload the emails faster than Outlook).

All in all - so far not too pleasant an experience. What adds to the suffering - I have no idea how I can purchase a HotMail-Plus account (which promises no ads and more storage, and what is well worth the money for me). All I get is this error message (and I haven't found any address to contact or something):

 

no trouble with GetCommandLineW...

...but with VisualStudio. I put together a little test

int _tmain(int argc, _TCHAR* argv[])
{
    _tprintf(_T("argc=%i\n"),argc);
    for (int i=0;i<argc;++i)
    {
        _tprintf(_T("argv[%i]=\"%s\"\n"),i,argv[i]);
    }

    LPCWSTR szCmdLine = GetCommandLineW();
    _tprintf(_T("GetCommandLineW=\"%ls\"\n"),szCmdLine);

	return 0;
}

and ran it in VisualStudio with this commandline: 

 and the result is:

 

It doesn't matter whether it is built as a Unicode-character-set project or Multibyte-character set - the result is the same.

Well, if we run the application from good old cmd.exe, we get:

  

 So, it seems that VisualStudio is interpreting the percent sign - a % followed by two hex digits becomes a single character (with the ASCII-value of this two-digit-hex). A percent sign on its own or followed by a non-hex-digit is not interpreted it seems.

So, what can we do it we want to have something like %0d on the commandline? Easy, just type %250d (0x25 is the ASCII value of %).

BTW - in a .bat file one has to escape the % by another %, our example %0d now reads %%0d. 

trouble with GetCommandLineW

I noticed that ffmpeg has changed the handling of command line arguments (cf. release notes). It now uses GetCommandLineW - in order to get unicode text (e.g. for filenames), which is a good thing I guess. However, at least for me I cannot pass a percent sign ("%") on the command line any more, e.g. something like

winffmpeg -i test.avi image%5d.jpg

 

What I get from GetCommandLineW in this case is

 "S:\SVN\WINFFMPEG\Build\Debug\winffmpeg.exe" winffmpeg -i test.avi image].jpg

 

...which is not what I would expect.

I read through the insightfull articel here - but it does not mention that the precent sign is interpreted in some way.

Well, funny and I do not get it.

My first idea is to turn the exe into a unicode project - could this save us all this kind of trouble?