Rant

Snow Surprises and Causes Crashes
12 October 2007 in Rant & Root | Comments (0)

Well, well, although the weather forecast has promised snow and minus degrees (in Celsius) for this week since last week, people are still surprised by the new snow. All Finnish news agencies and -papers have reported of multiple fender benders around southern Finland which got some snow and cold weather for today. It is amazing that people can’t seem to learn to adjust their tires and driving style to the weather, no matter what the weather forecast is promising.

But, all is not the average Joe’s fault. Finnish “temporary” tax on cars is ridiculous: it favors buying old, unsafe, CO2 spewing rust buckets with wheels rather than safer, newer, more efficient cars. Somewhat ironic is that the government cannot pre-announce any changes to the car taxation system, because the car sales are expected to plummet to zero and some car sellers may have to close up the shop. In fact, the worst part is that the tax on a car bought is 100%. Yes, you read that right. Buy two cars, get only one car. This is what the law on car taxation says, which even more ironically was supposed to be a temporary law when introduced somewhere around ten years ago.

The tax means people driving around in older cars are virtually risking their lives everytime they go out driving. Car crashes leading to death of the passengers have been increasing, and the police is saying: “Let’s put up more speed cameras!”. Yeah, since surely all the crashes are caused by speeding and not the old safety designs in what is the European Union’s oldest carpool. I even read something more evil: there is a possibility for the police to (in the near future?) measure the time it takes for a car to pass two speed cameras and calculate the time taken between the two points and deduce if the car has been speeding between the two points. So, no more overtaking slower gramps causing traffic havoc cruising too slow and creating miles of lines in their Volvos and Mercedes´ with that system in place?

I wonder if the one death that the slippery roads today caused could have been avoided if the owner had a newer car. (Of course, there is nothing safer than having brand new winter tires under the brand new car either and keeping your distance to the car in front.)

AnySee Can’t See Encoded Television… Or Maybe It Can (After Praying)…
13 June 2007 in Rant | Comments (0)

Introduction

This is a short story of the problems I had when trying to install a pair of AnySee tuner (Image from AnySee.fi website)AnySee digital TV tuners on Windows XP. Since I started writing this, AnySee has come out with drivers that force 64-bit Windows Vista to run in “Test Mode” thus enabeling unsigned drivers to run under Vista. However, I can’t get both terrestial and cable tuners to co-exist under Vista, and the Anysee viewer software is damn slow at times in Vista which (more or less) forces me to reboot into Windows XP for watching TV or use my belowed Terratec Cinergy T² to watch those free-to-air channels.

The Kill (Not As Told By 30 Seconds From Mars)

I bought a pair of brand new AnySees digital TV tuners just recently for viewing pay-TV on my PC for a very reasonable price. One for the terrestrial and another for the cable DTV networks. What is “a reasonable price” you ask? In my book it is: cheaper than a set-top digibox with integrated recording capabilities and conax card reader for those old CRT TVs – which will be rendered outdated very soon.

AnySee sayz: "You should reboot a computer!!"I knew that the AnySees wouldn’t work in the 64-bit version of Windows Vista that I’m running, but I had a copy of Windows XP Pro running on another partition that should be capable get the drivers installed. Proceeding to installing the cable AnySee first went quite fine. No errors, just hilarious engrish message when everything was done: “You should reboot a computer”. Right… Let me run to my neighbor and restart their computer, that should right about do it, no? ;)

You Want QAM With That?

Well, firing up the program without restarting worked just fine, as I suspected. Getting the program to find the channels was another dilemma. I don’t know what the reason is, but cheap set-top digiboxes are more than capable of finding the channels on cable TV. However, AnySee and Technotrend (which made some tuners for Hauppauge for a while) require you — the consumer — to find out:

  • the bitrate
  • the QAM
  • and each mux frequency

to get those channels found and working on your digital TV cable tuner. Strangly, this has never been the case for the terrestial digital TV tuners as far as I have seen.

To me, this isn’t scary, but to the Joe Average Consumer this looks broken. My cable company VLP (in Finnish) or VLT (in Swedish) has a page listing all the gruesome details that you need for digital TV tuners on computers: here in Finnish and here in Swedish. Just don’t get too dizzy with all those large numbers, ok? :D

Fast-forward to the TV channels scanned and working: things looked good. The picture quality was reasonably good, but could get better if I were allowed to choose the MPEG 2 decoders (like FFmpeg’s or Intervideo’s software decoders) but no, that isn’t possible. I inserted the card that my cable company requires one to have for some free channels — that you still pay for in the form of a stupid card fee — and waited for Eurosport to become decoded… and waited … … waited … Nope, nothing happened. :S I triple checked that the card was read properly by the program, and it was, the card number and the subscription data.

I knew that the card was working since I had tried it out using a borrowed digibox for the old TV sets. “Oh well”, I thought, “let’s try the other AnySee then”. After installing and this time restarting the computer, the terrestrial AnySee was up and a-running. Alas, the PlusTV card for the terrestrial AnySee rendered no decoded picture. At this point, I did what most other Finns would do: condemned the tuners to the extremly warm depths of the inner earth out of pure frustration.

Keep On Trying!

Well, giving up is for the weak. I decided to uninstall everything: the viewer software and drivers for the Anysees. Restarted (just to be sure) and started reinstalling all at once this time: first the cable driver and then the terrestrial. After the gruesome long waiting period and waiting for the channels to get found, the damn cards worked on both Anysees! :)

Alas, I can’t have them both connected to the computer and view both terrestrial and cable television at the same time since the AnySee viewer program gets them confused. That could be easily (?) fixed by the coders who make the viewer program, but I don’t believe that they read my blog anyways. :D

The alternative

Another option was to buy FireDTV firewire based digital TV tuners (that supposedly support HDTV already) but since my Acer Ferrari 4000 has only a 4-pin firewire port, that meant that I would have had to bring along another charger for the digibox and furthermore buy a common interface card so that my pay-TV cards would work in the digibox. (Yes, I’m using the word “digibox” to describe digital television box, which they essentially are.)

So buying two FireDTV tuners would mean (in the worst case) that I’d have to have to use 2 additional chargers, get 2 conax CI card (roughly 50€ a card), and at least one 4-pin to 6-pin firewire card. Not as comfortable as just bringing a USB to USB mini cable, which I tend to usually have along for my Nokia N91 and digital TV.

Dump Lotus Notes And Use Microsoft Outlook Instead!
3 July 2006 in How-To & Rant | Comments (13)

Man, anyone with a sense of good taste knows that Lotus Notes should be killed, enclosed in lead and sent to the earth’s core to melt. Why this radical distaste of Lotus Notes? Well, the major one is the hideous, out-dated, over-complicated, farce of a so-called user interface. (On second thought, maybe it isn’t such a good idea to send Notes to melt in the Earth’s core, since Notes might end up causing problems there… :D )

Anyways, here is my guide to getting Microsoft Outlook to get your mail, calendars and tasks in a Notes-Domino-hell environment:

Thanks

Thanks goes to the Magpiebrain’s guide Using Outlook 2003 to read Lotus Notes email. It helped me get started on installing the Notes Connector, when I was having problems with it.

Also thanks to Microsoft for releasing the Notes Connector. Without it, I probably would have gone mad from using Notes too much and letting it fragment the RAM into trillions of pieces. ;)

Requirements

You will need the following before proceeding:

  • Outlook 2003/2002 Add-in: Notes Connector
  • Microsoft Outlook 2003 (2002 might also work, but I haven’t tried it)
  • Lotus Notes installed (yes, sadly it needs to be installed and it can’t be uninstalled)
  • A great deal of patience…

What will work and what will not in Microsoft Outlook

Using the Notes Connector and Microsoft Outlook you will be able to:

  • read and send email
  • have real, good quality and integrated SPAM filtering
  • view, send and create calendar appointments
  • view, send and create tasks (called To-dos in Notes)
  • view other’s emails, calendars and tasks (depending on your access rights)

You will not be able to use the Lotus Notes Databases, but you probably can use them via Lotus Notes client when/if you really have to or alternatively use them via the Notes webclient (if your administrator has that enabled).

Before installing the Notes Connector

Before installing the Notes Connector, check that you do not have any installed hot fixes or service packs for Office 2003 installed. You can do this by checking the Add/Remove Programs (in the Control Panel) and checking the box for Show updates (if it is present in your A/RP) If update KB892843 is installed, remove it. If any service pack is installed, you need to remove the whole Office installation and reinstall it.

It seems like the update KB892843 doesn’t allow the Notes Connector to install properly for some reason and if you do uninstall the updates, you will see the following error message:

“Unable to open your default e-mail folders. The server is not available. Contact your administrator if this condition persists”

Oh, and if you do not have Lotus Notes installed from before, you really need to install it before installing the Notes Connector.

Installation Steps

  1. Close Microsoft Outlook and Lotus Notes if they are running.
  2. Install the Notes Connector (follow the on-screen instructions)
  3. Start Outlook up.
  4. Most likely the Email accounts wizard will start. Select “Add a new email account” and click Next
  5. NotesOutlook002.png

  6. Select “Additional Server Types” and click Next.
  7. NotesOutlook003.png

  8. Depending on your computer set-up, you might be presented with several server types. You want to click “Microsoft Office Outlook Connector for IBM Lotus Notes Domino” and then click Next
  9. NotesOutlook004.png

  10. You will now have to restart Microsoft Outlook for this account to start working.
  11. Upon starting Outlook, you will see this window (see below). If everything is filled in for you, then you are green to go and click OK. If one or all of the fields are emtpy, you really need to ask help from the administrator or help desk.
  12. NotesOutlook005.png

  13. You will now have to create a storage file for the account. If you have nothing against the settings here (you probably don’t have), click OK. Otherwise, change what you must and then click OK.
  14. NotesOutlook006.png

  15. Outlook will now ask you for your Lotus Notes password, enter it and click OK. And, while you are here, consider checking the “Remember password” checkbox which the silly donkeys behind Lotus Notes forgot.
  16. NotesOutlook007.png

  17. Ta-da! You should now be greeted with the sound of angles playing harps and the beautiful sights of Microsoft Outlook. You should also see an unusual toolbar at the bottom of your Outlook window where the Domino Mailbox status is listed. This will tell you if that Domino server again fell like dominoes or is still working (pun intended).
  18. NotesOutlook008.png

When Outlook has downloaded most of the email, calendar and tasks from the server, you should probably reinstall all updates and service packs to stay on the save side. Some of the updates will also make Outlook a bit faster to use, but by any means Outlook still beats the performance lights out of Notes.

Finally

Enjoy the website Lotus Notes sucks [Warning for lots of pop-ups!] and have a good laugh!

What Is In A Name, Java?
14 January 2005 in Rant | Comments (0)

Ok, so I’m supposed to download JRE (Java Runtime Environment) to be able to run a JAR (Java Archive) on my desktop PC running Windows XP. Well, naturally Microsoft isn’t allowed to distribute Java with Windows, so I go to the home of Java — Sun’s homepage — to download the JRE. I try my luck with the Downloads link and argghghgh, find a whole mess of information overload that almost gives me a headache. There are some links reffering to Java but no Java JRE to be found. :?


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