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Symantec’s PIFTS.exe

March 10, 2009 1 comment

Symantec released an update March 9th, 2009. This update was not given a digital signature to allow it to clear through Symantec’s firewall, so there was an alert that Norton was giving. The alert said that it didn’t know what PIFTS.exe was and that it could potentially be dangerous. And no, it was not dangerous.

Well this update has since been pulled by Symantec, however there are many search results in Google giving false information about PIFTS.exe. Most of them are malware / spyware programs attempting to get their claws into the unknowing public.

I am not going to talk about the forum problems Symantec was having. It’s not my place to write that story here.

I am just writing a quick note that PIFTS.exe is a Symantec update and there shouldn’t be anymore worries about it. Just don’t download any programs saying it will fix PIFTS.exe. If you did accidentally did download a piece of malware, then I recommend using Malware Bytes Anti-Malware program. It’s the one I use to clean up malware and other crud that shouldn’t be in systems.

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Dell Disables the Stereo Mix

July 10, 2008 1 comment

I have seen multiple reports of Dell disabling the stereo mix option or the wave option for recording. People who are attempting to record Skype conversations and such are finding that it will not work.

The reason it has been disabled apparently is because the RIAA has requested it to be disabled to prevent piracy and Dell has programmed their drivers to do so. I personally don’t agree to these terms and I won’t get into how disappointed I am with Dell.

Anyway, the link below will lead you to a resolution to the problem. I personally don’t have a Dell system so I can’t verify the functionality of the fix.

http://www.ekhoury.com/2006/08/25/sigmatel-stereo-mix-support-for-dells/

Guide: Install Windows without a CD-ROM or floppy drive

February 27, 2007 41 comments

Guide: Install Windows without a CD-ROM or floppy drive

There are many times where I have run across a system (mainly laptops) that I need to install Windows XP or Windows 2000, and the system doesn’t have a CD-ROM (or functioning CD-ROM). This is a method I have divised using another computer, that will help you install Windows on a system with no CD-ROM available.

Items you’ll need…

– Windows 98 or equivilant CD
– A floppy bootable with Windows 98 (you can get one at bootdisk.com)
– A seperate system with Windows XP (that has a CD-ROM and floppy)
– Working knowledge of Windows and some DOS (including fdisk)
– Adapter to convert a laptop 2.5 inch to a 5.25 inch IDE Adapter (if you are trying to install to a laptop)

1) So you’re ready to install Windows XP (or 2000) on a system with no working CD-ROM or floppy. The first thing you are going to want to do is make a bootable floppy with Windows 98. On this floppy, you need to format it so that it’s system bootable. If you go to http://www.bootdisk.com, you can download various bootdisk’s from various Windows OS’.

2) So you have your floppy that is bootable now. Using the windows 98 CD, you need to extract some files from the cabinet files on the CD (.cab files). Using the extract command in the CD, you need to extract the following files and put them on the bootable floppy. “himem.sys”, “smartdrv.exe” “format.com” “fdisk.exe”.

3) Next you will need to write an ‘autoexec.bat’ and ‘config.sys’ for the floppy. This will be relativily easy. With the floppy still in the drive, open notepad (or whatever editor you want) and write this in…

device=himem.sys

Then you can save it as ‘a:\config.sys’.

After you save your config.sys file to the floppy, next you want to write an ‘autoexec.bat’ file for the floppy. Open notepad again and write this in…

smartdrv.exe

…then save it as ‘a:\autoexec.bat’.

Your floppy is locked and loaded. It’s ready to prep your hard drive for installation.

4) You will need to take the hard drive that you want to install Windows to and install it to your working XP system. When you do this, you will need to boot to the floppy disk that you created. At the DOS prompt type in…

‘a:\fdisk.exe’

In FDISK, you will need to partition the hard drive and prep it so you can format it with FAT32.

MAKE SURE THAT YOU DO NOT PARTITION THE WRONG HARD DRIVE! IT WOULD SUCK IF YOU PARTITIONED YOUR MAIN DRIVE AND LOST YOUR DATA!

When the disk is partitioned, get out of fdisk. You will have to reboot. Go ahead and boot back into the floppy disk.

5) Now you’re ready to format the hard drive. Let’s check to make sure you can access the drive. At the prompt, type in ‘dir C:’. You should see a message stating that the media is ‘invalid’. At this point, you know you are ready to format it. Type in…

‘a:\format c: /s’

It will take some time but when it’s finished, it should say ‘system transfered’. This message indicates that your hard drive is now bootable.

If you receive an “Invalid drive specification” at any point, then the drive was either…
a) not partitioned correctly or
b) the drive is not hooked up.

Next type in the prompt…

‘copy a:\*.* c:\’

It will ask if you want to copy over the command.com and a few other system files. Just say no to everything it asks. Everything else will copy over.

6) Next you need to remove the floppy from the drive, and reboot the computer back into Windows with the drive attached as a secondary drive. When you boot into windows, you should see the attached drive (drive D or something equivilant) Create a folder in this drive called ‘WinXP’. Next you want to put in the Windows XP disk into the CD-ROM. Copy the complete contents of the CD into the ‘WinXP’ folder you just created.

7) After the Windows XP CD contents are copied over, turn off the computer and remove the drive. Put the drive back into the system that you need to install Windows and boot it up. The system should automatically boot into a DOS prompt. Type in…

‘c:\WINXP\I386\WINNT.EXE’.

The next window you will see is Windows asking for the directory of the Install files. It should say

‘C:\WINXP\I386’. Continue the installation and you are set.

Most of this write up is from memory. If I misdirected a piece somewhere, please let me know so I can correct it.

Categories: How To:, Nerd Stuff

Guide to fixing a laptop power jack. A Do-it-yourselfer

February 15, 2007 148 comments

Fixing a DC power jack on your (or someone else’s) laptop can be difficult. Not knowing what you are up against is a sure sign that you won’t ever get it back together. However with the proper steps, repairing a DC Jack can be accomplished with little headache.

This is by no means an official super user manual. This write up is a check list and a general guide to help you replace a DC jack without having to purchase a new motherboard or a new laptop.

Disclaimer: I claim NO RESPONSIBILITY for anyone who fails in their attempt to replace a DC jack or any damage laptops can receive following this guide. I am just trying to inform others from the steps I have taken for DC replacement and the blunders I have performed myself.

0) As step zero, it is important to make sure that you identify a bad DC jack. If a laptop isn’t charging when it’s plugged in combined with a very loose power jack port usually indicates you have a bad DC jack. I have also seen DC Jacks that are just fine, however when looked inside, you see it has been physically destroyed on the rear end of the jack itself. Each case is mostly different, but you will run across 3 possible scenerios.

a) The DC jack has cold solders and it just needs to be resoldered (the most common).
b) The DC jack has been broken in unseen areas of the jack itself (common diagnosis is the wiggling of the jack with the adapter).
c) There is nothing wrong with the DC Jack and it’s an issue with something else onboard (uncommon, but it happens).

1) Do your research.

So you conclude that you have a bad jack. Find out what style or sort of power jack you need for the laptop. You don’t need to open the laptop to find out what type of power jack you need. Go to ebay and search for model laptop + dc jack. For example, if you have a Dell Inspiron 2300, search ebay for “inspiron 2300 jack”. You will be greeted with some useful results. Not only will it give you results for DC Jacks but they they look like in general. It would suck if you ordered a random DC jack that doesn’t even fit inside the notebook.

At this time, it would be best to check to see if the laptop powers on. If here is enough battery juice left, turn it on to ensure that the laptop works fine. It will be essential after reassembly which I will explain later

Some models like Toshiba Satellites will have a DC jack with different pin sizes. The pin in the middle of the jack will be a different gauge or different size. It’s crucial that you check to ensure that you get the correct jack size. Failure to do so will ensure you some problems when you plug in your Power adapter (ie: it won’t fit). When you receive your DC jack in the mail, fit it on the power adapter that goes the notebook to make sure that you received the right DC jack.

2) Prepare and gather the tools you need. Make sure you have the right tools for the job.

– Screw Drivers (different sizes and shapes)
– Paper
– Pen or Pencil
– Packaging Tape
– Soldering Iron (and soldering essentials)
– Volt meter (to check continuity)
– Basic electronics and soldering knowledge

Make sure you have different types of phillips screw drivers, flat headed screw drivers, hex screw drivers, torque screw drivers, etc. If you have never been inside your laptop, then you don’t know what to expect.

3) Visual overview and time to get to know your laptop. This one is I consider an important step, but it can easily be missed.. Before I am ready to disassemble a laptop, I always look at every single screw hole, removable piece and potential issues. It’s just a practice that I myself perform to help me remember where the nooks and corners are. Take about 5 minutes to sit down and rotate the laptop around and look at it in more detail.

Time to get started…

4) Remove the external devices. By external devices, I am talking about the Hard Drive, Battery, PCMCIA devices if you have any, etc. When you remove these devices, you will see screws in new places and it will obviously make it easier to access the laptop when disassembly occurs. The CD ROM from a laptop, most of the time, cannot be removed at this point. When you start removing screws, it may be easier to remove the CDROM later but not in the beginning.

5) Disassembly and documentation of your steps. This is where the paper and pencil come in. The super duper most important tactic you need to perform during the disassembly process is the documentation. I cannot emphasize enough the need to document where every single screw location and size.

The most general place to start disassembly is on the bottom of the laptop. It has the most accessible screws. Generally what you want to do is draw on a piece of paper a rough diagram of one laptop. Draw one side of the laptop per page. On the diagram, label where screws are located on the laptop. Be as descriptive as possible about the location of the screws and their location. Here is a general example of a diagram.

When you remove screws, use the tape to stick them near the hole where they came from. In case the tape fails, the diagram you draw will assist you in putting them back where they belong. Document the order in which pieces are removed. Another solution (and what I personally do) is to collect all the screws from a section, tape them in a little bundle and stick them in a notable location.

Some laptops have only 2-3 sizes of different screws. There are many laptops that have many different sized screws. Take the time and document where each screw comes from. IBM Thinkpads are nice. They actually have a sticker that shows the label of screws and screw sizes. It comes in handy. Some Toshibas also have a label next to screw holes and give you unique identifiers.

Once again, it’s essential that you document each step you take during the disassembly of the laptop!

6) Handle with care. The Plate connector beneath the LCD is the most fragile piece of the laptop disassembly. That’s why I gave it it’s own mini-section.

It’s the most fragile because if you force to plate too hard, you will snap or damage it. Some models have it just tied down by a few screws underneath the laptop. Most models have a snap action to it. It comes in handy to use a very super duper thin flat head screw driver to probe the plate. If the screw driver bends too much, then it’s time to probe in a different section. Please be cautious when doing this. A good place to probe is on the hinges where the plate overlaps next to the LCD hinge. When you start pulling up on the hinge from the corners, it will start exposing the parts underneath it.

(Note: The LCD display will not have to be disassembled fully. Just the cord and hinges can be removed alone. You do not have to get into the insides of the LCD.)

7) Motherboard access review. You’ve disassembled the laptop and you have the motherboard in your hands. Look at the DC jack and it’s connection to the motherboard. The most common issue I see with DC jack failure is cold soldering or failure in the solder itself. Most of the time, the jack can be repaired by re-soldering the current DC jack in place. Some of the time, the DC Jack itself is damaged and needs to be replaced.

8 ) Replace / Repair the DC Jack. If the DC Jack needs to be replaced, use your soldering iron to heat up the solder from the DC jack and remove the old jack. If you have a DC jack with hooks or curves in the connector, good luck. I know how much it sucks removing this type of DC Jack, but with some patience and persistence, it can be done. When the DC Jack is removed, go ahead and solder in the new DC Jack into it’s slot.

Warning: Some motherboards have very thin rings around the DC Jack connectors themselves. The older sony Vaio laptops have them. If you heat the solder too hot or too long, these rings come off. When that happens, you might as well call it game over. These rings connect the DC Jack to the motherboard using extremely thin connections. The rings are vital to the DC Jack connection to the motherboard.

When you get the new DC Jack in the slot, you have the option of putting hot glue around the corners of the new DC Jack. It’s an option to prevent the DC jack from getting bumped and pushed too much from the AC Adapter. It’s just added strength. Just don’t over-do it if you decide to put some on.

BE CAREFUL ABOUT THE CHIPS AND ELECTRONICS AROUND THE DC JACK!

I have destroyed chips on laptops because I was not careful when I was de-soldering and soldering. A sharper soldering iron is a better tool than a blunt rounded soldering iron. Trust me on that.

9) Test your continuity. It sounds impossible, but you can test to make sure that you connected your DC Jack correctly. Most volt meters have a continuity checker on them. Check to make sure the grounded section of the DC jack properly grounds, and if possible, check to ensure that the positive pin on the DC Jack is properly connected to the motherboard. You can do this by touching some of the diodes on the motherboard close to the jack. You will know if it registers.

10) Reassembly with a little faith. This is the moment of truth. If you documented your disassembly well, then it will be your roadmap to reassembling the laptop. Start reassembling the laptop in the reverse order in which you disassembled it. Make sure you plug in every little cord, and ribbon back into your laptop. Disassembling the laptop again because you forgot a wire or ribbon is just annoying to the max.

11) Testing the laptop. Test the battery first to make sure that the laptop turns on without the DC Jack. There have been a few laptops that I have worked on that didn’t turn on after I reassembled it. It sucks, but it does happen. Sometimes you damage something during the whole process, but with caution it can be avoided.

Once you verified the laptop turns on with battery, then go ahead and plug in the DC Jack. First sign it works is the “Battery charging” light turns on and you know you have a successful replacement. At this point you can turn on the laptop and your job is complete. If your laptop doesn’t turn on .. well.. go back to step 4 and 5 and go from there. It can happen, but I haven’t seen it too often unless there are more problems with the laptop than originally thought.

I hope this gives you a general idea on how to replace a DC jack on a laptop. It’s not a perfect guide and I will edit it as necessary to clear the rough edges up.

Categories: How To:, Nerd Stuff

Ruby on Rails derailed by unknown creature.. film at 11.

January 25, 2007 1 comment

It’s so damn frustrating when Ruby on Rails does not want to cooperate. I started working back to the rails4days pdf that helped me start the basics into RoR and even that pdf doesn’t cover the problems that I am having. I think the problem may lie with the fact that my plural versions of the names of my databases are not the same. That’s the only thing I can think of…

Scenerio:
I have created a MySQL database called “ruby”. Inside this database is a table called “tacops”. I populated ‘tacops’ with the proper fields that I want populated inside the scafford that I will create later on (scaffold :tacops). Anyway, i put in the directory rails ‘tacops’. Something I probably should have named ‘ruby’ but doesn’t matter at this point (at least I don’t think so). I have Apache pointing into that directory (c:\www\webroot\tacops\blah blah blah). I ran the controller script, the model script and the scaffold scripts. I edited the controller script and added “scaffold :tacops” line into the script to activate the tables for rails. When I go to the site, it just tells me “uninitialized constant Tacop”. I ran every scenerio I could think of to correct the issue, but I think ruby has a problem when i name my databases plural instead of singular. The problem with that is the notification system I want to impliment is tacops. It’s not plural but alas Ruby think’s it is.

Either way this shouldn’t cause a problem..right? I won’t get the chance to work on this issue on this database for probably another couple of weeks because I am being relocated to my old spot in the back area again. It has a win2k machine and I don’t feel like installing servers everywhere I go. I have 2 apache servers and ruby installed on both machines as well.

I’,m just a little frustrated today. That’s all. I just need to get my Linux box working with ruby but I haven’t put much effort into that either. Just another project..

Categories: Nerd Stuff

Steve Wozniak failed High School German

January 23, 2007 Leave a comment

So I went to a housecall yesterday to a gentleman who wanted his DSL from SBC Global hooked up. During the install process, I was talking to this gentleman and he told me that he used to teach High School German and (I think spanish). He went on and told me that one of his students used to be Steve Wozniak. described him as being an odd fellow. Never really cared about the class. He eventually ended up failing the German class all together because he was “monkeying” around in the class.

All together I think it’s really interesting information on someone we all know so well.

Categories: Nerd Stuff

Hello World

January 16, 2007 Leave a comment

Here’s the first post on this blog.

My recent project has been programming on Ruby on Rails.  The easiest part (for me anyway) was setting up MySql. I was playing with SQL earlier these past few months so it was rather natural on how SQL works. I’ve also been using a program called HeidiSQL which makes a graphical representation of SQL. It’s a really helpful program. Especially when it comes to moving tables, databases, etc. Until today, i’ve had Ruby on Rails on my computer at work. I was playing around with it trying to get the idea of how it works. I think I have an idea of how it’s run, however there are a few things I don’t like about it. I don’t know if it’s me that is having the issues or Ruby itself.

  •  – First, the problem I had was which database it was calling on.  When I selected a database, I had to manually change the location of it. This only occurred when I used the built-in Ruby Web-server. Apache seemed to be alright with it.
  • – Second, Ruby seemed to break if something wasn’t right. I had added a scaffold into the code and I accidentally gave it the wrong scaffold to use. When I corrected it, the code would not take. It still would not render the database into the server. Even when I restarted the server it would not take. I created a second project with ruby with identical code and it worked well. I don’t know what it is with Ruby, but it just seems finicky to me. I’m just hoping it’s temporary or just me as well.
  • – Third, there seems to be little documentation on learning about this on-line.  The tutorial I saw on-line (the pdf of Ruby 4 rails) is rather simple.  However, I wanted to learn about different parts and I had to go through myself and break stuff to learn what other parts of Ruby and Rails did for me.  It seems that you have to break something to see what it did.  I did learn from it though.  That is what gives me a better idea of how it runs.

It’s definitely a good start where I am.  I haven’t been too dedicated on working with it.  At work, I obviously have work to concentrate on, however I think I can get a working database setup in less than an hour.  It’s definitely some good learning.

Something that I am going to work on at home (when we move back in after the renovation), is getting Linux installed with MythTV.  My computer is dying and I believe it is a hardware issue.  If that is the case, i’m running a botched version of Vista Ultimate which obviously means that I will not be able to install it again.  I would either have to.. 1) find a legal copy of Vista (Ultimate or Home Premium) at no cost. or 2) install MythTV with my current setup. My problem with that is that I won’t be able to use certain proprietary programs for Windows in Linux.  I believe Wine may be able to resolve that, but I have had very little success in using it.  It will definately be a project I will be working with to get resolved. That’s a whole new article to write about too.

My friend and I went to (or tried to) go to MacWorld.  We had the tickets.. I even still have my badge.  The problem is, that he thought it started on Monday. Obviously, it started after Tuesday (The Keynote), but he thought the registration was the actual opening. Although it was eventful, it wasn’t a complete waste. We went to the Sony Metreon and tried out the Sony PS3. I do have to say that the PS3 is awesome. The graphics were the best I have ever seen. Although I won’t pay anything over $200 for it, it was nice to check them out. Especially on the 60″ Hi-Def TV. My friend and I made an agreement afterward to try and go to CES next year so we won’t miss out on anything again.

Anyway I think that is it for now. 🙂

Categories: Nerd Stuff