Archive for August, 2009

Can’t create Notes in HP TouchSmart? Check your user account name

August 31, 2009 8:25 pm

Several users of the HP TouchSmart software suite have reported that they are unable to create certain kinds of notes in the HP TouchSmart notes program. I had an opportunity to investigate this issue today on an actual customer unit. The investigation details, while quite interesting to some, shall remain for some future post, perhaps. Here’s the conclusion:

If the user account you’ve created contains the ampersand character (aka. “and” symbol: &), the Notes application can’t save the “sticky” note kind. To-Do list notes are not affected by this problem.

The symptom is that you draw on the sticky note and then tap the Done button. Now the Done button will gray out, but the note won’t be saved and the creation surface won’t disappear. Only a tap on the Cancel button will make the creation surface go away (and without saving the note).

A workaround, if you want to use that Note feature, is to create a new user account that does not contain the ampersand (&) symbol. Renaming the user account is not enough, since the initial creation sets up certain things that can’t be changed later on. (After creating the new account, most of the user data needs to be copied from the old account to the new account so documents, pictures, etc. are available under the new account. For example everything from “c:\users\old&problem” needs to go to “c:\users\new-no-problem”.)

Until a proper fix can be developed and published, this is the only known workaround, unfortunately.

Microsoft also had an OS code-named “Tiger”: OS/2 1.3

August 7, 2009 8:24 pm

As evidenced by this scan of one of the setup disks:


(Someone was cleaning up a bunch of old floppy disks at work. I happened to come across them because I needed a floppy for updating the BIOS of a really old laptop.)

Just an interesting little factoid for your geek trivia…

Why are you not a member of the ACCU?

August 6, 2009 9:36 am

ACCU Home page

You may never have heard of ACCU, the Association of C and C++ Users as it was originally called. It is a volunteer organization, consisting of programmers who care about programming. The ACCU publishes two magazines, both devoted to raising the standards of programming everywhere: C Vu and Overload. On top of that they organize a conference every year, where some of the top names in C/C++ programming (and many other software development fields) come to speak and mingle with programmers from all around the globe.

I was introduced to the ACCU several years ago, when I first came to Silicon Valley, and still renew my membership every year, even though I don’t attend the local ACCU-USA events anymore. Yes, there is a local “chapter” of the ACCU in Silicon Valley, and they have monthly events that you can attend for free. I had the good fortune of hearing Bjarne Stroustrup speak once (plus going to dinner with him and the rest of the attendees afterwards, and even getting to exchange a few words with him in private.)

C Vu Volume 21 Issue 3 Cover     image

At one time I also co-hosted an event for the ACCU, and I think it is this personal connection that has kept me going as a member, even though I’ve not been much directly involved since. What keeps me hanging on now are the two excellent journals, which are largely ad-free and contain almost nothing but passionately written articles and code samples, demonstrating how to become a better programmer.

If this is something you strive for, I highly recommend checking out the ACCU and encourage you to become a member. Even if you live in the United States or elsewhere outside the UK.

Running Windows 7 RTM on REALLY old hardware

August 3, 2009 8:43 am

How old? How about a laptop shipped in 2000, a Dell CPx H450GT:


Obviously this is from before I started my current job… One of the benefits of my current job is being able to verify soon after RTM that the Windows 7 bits you can obtain “out there” have not been messed with. Anyway, let’s see how it looks:


There’s no display driver for this system’s ancient ATI Rage Mobility M1, so it runs in standard 800*600. Thus the black frame inside the physical bezel. On to the desktop:


No sound driver, either. I think it’s an ESS Maestro 2 or something. I haven’t really spent a lot of time looking for drivers. This system used a Xircom RBEM56G-100 multifunction Ethernet/Modem CardBus card for network connectivity, and as you can see there’s also no driver for that (“x” over the network icon in the notification area.)

Okay. On to some system specs:


A 450 Mhz Pentium III. 256 MB RAM. Naturally, Windows 7 wouldn’t normally install on something as low end as this, but there are ways around that. They involve making a bootable USB drive, copying the Windows 7 install files onto it and then messing a little with a hex editor and winsetup.dll.

Now the most interesting part: actual performance of the system:


Not too shabby. Only 28 processes and it’s able to run with 256 MB with 87 MB Available. The processor curve looks pretty normal too. Mind you, this thing probably won’t be able to run much else than a browser, but since I didn’t look for network drivers I don’t have Internet access from this system anyway.

Well, there you have it. A really old laptop, running Windows 7. Pretty cool. Great job, Microsoft!

I was going to try this on two other systems I have lying around (collecting dust) as well, but one of them failed with an ACPI Stop error 0x000000A5 (0x0001000B, 0×50434146,…) which, after some digging, turned out to mean that the BIOS on this system didn’t follow the ACPI specs of the FACP table. More digging into the BIOS showed that the length entry in the table (and the table length itself) is supposed to be longer than it is, although it actually is as long as the table entry says. The other system is so old that it doesn’t have the ability to boot from USB, and the CD drive is unable to read CD-R discs, so it’s more trouble than it’s worth. It’s only got a PII 400 MHz and 192 MB RAM, too. That would be really interesting to see running Windows 7.

So, maybe Windows 7 really can breathe new life into old hardware. This may be a little extreme, but anything from within the last five years should probably do just fine. If it follows the ACPI specs and can boot from USB or CD/DVD, that is.