HP Crapware Crosses the Line

I used to work for Xerox, I hide this not one ounce. One of the things I liked about Xerox most was their drivers – Lean, mean fighting machines, rarely any bigger than 10MB for the full driver.

Nicky got a new HP printer for Christmas from her Dad. I would have had him chose a Xerox Phaser 6115 MFP for us if it wasn’t for the extreme price tag on them, however the HP Photosmart series makes a good mixture of price and features for a home ‘power’ user.

HP seem to be the anti-christ when it comes to drivers. I downloaded the driver for the printer from the HP site. I would normally download the driver only package as this means you can print and it is much leaner and more stable, however the lean build isn’t even available for this model, so I was forced into the full package (also because I need to configure the networking on the device which can’t be done via the front panel) so instead I had to download and install the 180 MB package.

After several problems getting the software installed (due to the fact that HP’s installer package couldn’t handle the fact that I use a redirected home drive for my documents directory on H:) I managed to get it installed with some registry hacking.

Once the installation started I was watching it go through, I was watching the phases whir by and one of them offensively caught my eye – Yahoo Toolbar Customized by HP. This annoyed me no end, because I hate toolbars so very much because they are intrusive and 99% of the time not installed at my request such as this one. Yahoo is not my search engine of choice and never has been. If HP want to bundle the Yahoo toolbar then that’s fine with me, but at least give people the option to not install it.

Secondly, after the installation finished I noticed something else I didn’t ask for – A Windows Sidebar Gadget had been installed which allows you to drag and drop pictures onto it for instant printing. That’s a nice feature for someone who actually wants to use the printer, however I only installed this overweight bloated driver for the purpose of configuring the networking. Even though it may be a nice feature, this is again a feature which should be optional. Sidebar Gadgets can be quite intrusive at time (especially those shipped by TechGuys and PC World to name a couple).

I feel HP have crossed the line on at least three accounts here by not giving the users the choice they deserve and forcing junk bloat-ware upon it’s users, not giving users the ability to configure the networking in a lightweight fashion without installing the software and lastly for the damn software not working.

Now I have the software installed, I’ve spent the last 45mins trying to get the software to correctly assign the wireless network settings to the printer so that I can use it as planned to no avail. It would be faster for me to manually change the binary bits on the EEPROM!

HP – Make better drivers, smaller without bloat!

UPDATE 1
I just opened Internet Explorer to do something and discovered some monstrous and utterly real estate wasting piece of rubbish toolbar on the left side of the page view area has also been installed. Get real HP!

UPDATE 2
I managed to get the networking on the printer configured by setting the Configure Network application to Compatibility mode for Windows Vista Service Pack 2 and Administrator Mode in Windows 7. The irony here is that HP’s software claims to be Windows 7 compatible from the text on their website, but it’s obviously borderline compatible.

I have this morning been trying to uninstall the HP software from my machine now, as now that printer is on the network it is broadcasting itself via UPnP for all to see which I have to say is excellent (another post coming) but the shoddy software not only requires me to reboot for changes to take effect after the removal of each of the six components, but forces the immediate restart killing any open Internet Explorer tabs in the process – Rage ensues.

Media Companies Still Don’t Get the Internet

I have been looking around the web the last two days for information on WOL/WOW or Wake on Lan and Wake on WAN to help support my Windows Home Server deployment, and I found the blog of Andrew Grant which had some information about WHS Add-In’s so I was looking around his blog and found this posting:

http://www.andrewgrant.org/2009/09/23/media-companies-still-dont-get-the-internet.html

Entitled Media Companies Still Don’t Get the Internet, this blog posting of his pretty much summarizes my thoughts however I do think that he is missing the point that why didn’t his PVR record it!

Schools to Teach Online Privacy to Kids

I’m all for online safety and educating kids to be safe online, however I personally think that the government are the worst people to be showing kids this for two reasons:

  1. They can’t even keep themselves and our personal data safe – Hardly role-models.
  2. Opportunity for abuse (aka Propaganda).

/rant on

Point one hardly needs explaining but point two probably does. It’s happening in the USA already and it’s bound to happen here. The government, or should I say Peter Mandelson are so deep in the pockets of the recording companies that they practically are members of the family. We all know file-sharing is illegal in the the way government refers to it, but we also know that they tell us it’s a common cause of viruses and other nasty online critters. You can bet your soul that they will incorporate this into their teaches to try and scaremonger young kids into staying away from file-sharing, ultimately because the industries can’t adapt but that’s a different argument.

We have to remember that governments are the people who come out say that X shouldn’t be allowed to happen on the Internet and Y should be allowed and will try to pass laws to stop certain events (traffic) taking place (or moving around) even though everyone else in the world is aiming for net neutrality and understands that the Internet is an international place not owned by any one single nation to try and take control.

I think more does need to be done for kids and online safety yes – Hell, even a lot of adults need teaching but I think that the government and their so-called taskforces are the wrong people to do it. This needs someone who actually understands technology and how to use it properly and someone who is not affiliated with any of the industries or companies with an interest in how the internet operates.

I just read an article on the BBC News website (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/8365574.stm) about the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Center (CEOP) complaining that Facebook and other sites aren’t doing enough to protect kids? Well may I point out that 1) Facebook has minimum age limits on new accounts – The majority of kids using Facebook are contravening the terms and conditions of Facebook and should have their accounts terminated, 2) A simple visit to http://www.facebook.com/help.php will show you a hell of a lot of information regarding privacy, security and information to help you keep your personal data personal.

I get sick to the teeth of reading about and hearing about people that say Facebook should do more and that it’s the people doing the bullying’s fault, but 9 times out of 10 its actually the fault of the misdirection and under-education people leaving themselves open to abuse, and if that’s not enough then perhaps a visit to http://www.facebook.com/deactivate.php and close your account will solve all of the problems.

/rant off

The Case of The Failed SharePoint Server 2007 Indexing

As my LinkedIn profile will kindly tell you, I’m working on a SharePoint deployment for Vocera to replace our current aged and disorganised ECM (Enterprise Content Management) system.

I was very confused one day to discover during my proof of concept and design stages that the indexing and crawling in SharePoint stopped working. I originally blamed this on myself for moving from an internal model to a external model by making some changed to the Shared Services Provider (SSP), however I discovered today this is untrue.

http://social.technet.microsoft.com/Forums/en-US/sharepointsearch/thread/84f93fbe-f4a6-4683-b25b-b595b9006ad7

This most helpful Microsoft TechNet Social forum page explains how the cause is a .NET Framework 3.5 Family update that makes changes to the authentication model and providers in SharePoint.

Follow the instructions in the post from Sandeep Lad to resolve your issues.

Music Library Masterpiece: Part 2

As my music library undertaking continues to get the better of me, I thought I’d post about a few things that have happened since I last wrote anything:

1: FLAC Vs. MP3 and CBR Vs. VBR

I have spent a lot of time reading about FLAC Vs. MP3 and come to the conclusion (with the help of GoldWave and some Bandstop filters) that I can’t tell the difference between an MP3 and a FLAC file, but let’s be clear here. When I say MP3, I don’t mean some tatty old 64 Kbps file that was thrown together the day MP3 was invented. I’m talking about an MP3 which was ripped from a FLAC file at VBR –V0 using LAME encoder.

Using the Bandstop in GoldWave and some research online, I found that the MP3 has audio data all the way up to about 20,000 Hz, which is the point at which all I start to hear is echoes  and silence which means that the extra 20MB of disk space occupied by the FLAC just isn’t worth it.

I used to rip all my old stuff in CBR 320 Kbps until I read an article online discussing the finer points of CBR Vs. VBR which lead me to realise that VBR –V0 gives the same if not better quality audio for smaller file sizes due to the variable element of it. What I think mislead me with VBR in the past is that a VBR –V0 file reports in Windows as the average bit rate of the track and not the maximum. A Texas song I have here for example shows itself as 266 Kbps but the waveform within the file proves it has the same info as the CBR 320 Kbps file.

2: Stereo Vs. Joint Stereo

It’s too complicated to go into here, but basically LAME encoder uses the better of two algorithms which means Joint Stereo  is as good as the forced stereo.

3: I think I hate Windows Media Player – Still undecided though

From my last post you will know I’m taking a lot of time to get the 500×500 px high resolution artwork for all my albums so that they will look delicious on my Zune and possibly Windows Media Center or Xbox in the future. To my disgust today, I noticed that a lot of my artworks are now 200×200 px and that a lot of the AlbumArtSmall_??????????????.jpg files have returned. My only assumption is that this is the doing of Windows Media Center when I re-added all my music to it for the purpose of streaming to the PS3.

Not impressed to say the least. Although the MP3’s have the 500×500 px versions embedded still, the folder.jpg version is still important. The next step is to re-apply the high resolution versions and then mark them as Read-Only to see if this stops Windows Media Player changing them.

Music Library Masterpiece: Part 1

Do you ever get the feeling you’ve bitten off far more than you should chew?

When I first start running I read that listening to music over 130 BPM is ideal because the music helps to keep you going, whilst listening to low BPM music will slow you down. I discovered a great program called BPM Analyzer which scans your MP3 and WMA files and adds the BPM to the ID3 tag on the file.

My plan was to do this, and then create playlist based on music over 130 BPM, however I hit a problem. Some of my MP3’s wouldn’t scan. From a previous lesson with iTunes and MP3 corruption, I grabbed a copy of MP3val to validate the MP3’s for errors. Sure enough lots of MP3’s had errors, some of which couldn’t be fixed.

The big thing here though was what I noticed during the repair session – The filenames on my MP3’s where all disorganised not to mention the folder structure and tagging. My mission therefore was to organise and sort my music library.

Read the Full Post

Sky Player for Windows Media Center

It’s been visible for sometime, however today is the first day that the Sky Player functionality in Windows Media Center works. I’ve never used Sky Player online before so I had a bit of work getting my account setup and the rights to access our subscribed channels but after about 15-30mins I had it all working.

The UI is clean and mostly in-line with the style of Windows Media Center. Some elements such as the TV Guide I felt where not sympathetic to the Media Center UI and should be updated to give a better feel of integration.

Read the Full Post

Windows Home Server Review

Windows Home Server is not a new product by any means – It was first released to RTM in July 2007. Power Pack 2 is the current update release and Power Pack 3 has been in Beta via Microsoft Connect for some time with no clear release date in site still.

What is Windows Home Server?

Windows Home Server (WHS) targeted as SOHO markets for people with multiple computers, media sources and devices who want to centralize, share and backup their files and media.

Windows Home Server, commonly found pre-installed on devices like the HP MediaSmart Series of devices, which are small form factor computers which more closely resemble Network Attached Storage (NAS) due to their ability to house many disks.

Windows Home Server is no new operating system however. It is actually Windows Server 2003 Small Business Server (SBS) with a pretty shell GUI on top and a few modifications.

The design of WHS however is that you never actually access the server. The access is completed via the Home Server Console which is a GUI installed on client computers, which serves a double purpose. One, it provides administrative access to the server for someone in the house with the admin password. The second purpose is that it configures the client to work with the home server allowing it to access the shared media and files and to work with the backup features.

Read the Full Post

Microsoft My Phone Premium Service Pricing Confirmed

On a posting yesterday on the Microsoft My Phone forum, a worker from Microsoft confirmed that once the trial for Premium services ends that you can buy the service in full for $4.99.

There is no word on a UK pricing in the thread, but I have posted to ask this to them. The thread is here for anyone interested:
http://social.microsoft.com/Forums/en-US/MyPhone/thread/0a1b9a27-9c8a-433c-9eba-5f064f089f44/

The best bit for me is that this looks to be a one time only price, as my original concern was that this was going to be a monthly subscription service.

The fee will be payable via the Windows Marketplace either on the device or from your My Phone account online.

Let’s jut hope that they can fix the locate my phone feature for the Touch HD:
http://social.microsoft.com/Forums/en-AU/MyPhone/thread/5bf44059-ddb0-45cf-a069-45171293138a

Am I Overdue My MCSE

When I was previously working for Xerox I got into a great little routine – I would churn out an MCP exam to the tune of one every month or other month. This meant I was well on my way to achieving my MCSE, and with my MCSA already in the bag I had only two exams left:

  • 70-294: Active Directory
  • 70-298: Security for a Windows Server 2003 Network

When I moved to Vocera we all agreed that I could carry on with my training to complete my MCSE and maybe even aim to move onwards to an MCITP for Windows Server 2008 which suited me perfectly as I was planning this all along with or without backing.

It’s amazing how time blazes by you without a second thought until it dawned on me recently!

I was looking at my Microsoft Learning transcript just a week or so ago and I realised that it is now over a year since I sat my last exam – 70-350: ISA Server 2004. This made me realise how behind I have gotten, especially when you consider it may only be another year or so before the Server 2003 exam line is discontinued.

As a result I’ve got my butt into gear and this week I have taken one day’s holiday already, with another to come on Friday with the sole premise of training for the 70-294 exam. After Monday it’s all going well and I was achieving about 80% on the practice exams, so assuming all goes well after more studying on Friday I will be checking myself into the test centre on Monday afternoon to take the exam.

I think that finishing the Active Directory exam will be great weight lifted from me, because I actually started to study for this one prior to leaving Xerox, and having only one exam standing between me and MCSE, I think I should be able to master it up pretty quickly.