Friday, November 28, 2014

Economic Inequality is Incompatible with American Values

In a capitalist economy, money is power. This is why economic inequality poses a grave danger to American ideals: democracy, freedom, and equal rights. Over the last 35 years, economic inequality has already eroded our society. The federal minimum wage is $7.25, which is 24% less than 1978, adjusting for inflation. Yet the price of a Big Mac, for example, is 76% more than 1978, again adjusting for inflation. Someone's making more money and it's not you.

Using Linux as a Video Kiosk (and wrestling with VGA monitor detection)

After too many times of VLC crashing on a public video display, I decided to try the combination of Xubuntu and mplayer. After installing Xubuntu, I created the following shell script and added it to the startup through the Sessions and Startup preference panel:

mplayer -fs ~/Videos/Display.wmv -loop 0

Which will ask mplayer to play the video full screen and loop it forever.

Then I modified the settings in the Light Locker to never turn off the display, and disabled power monitoring in Power Manager. I also disabled all desktop pop-up notifications using the following command:

sudo apt-get remove notify-osd

This worked great except for two things: Xfce would only allow a max resolution of 1024x768 on any VGA connected display, which caused mplayer to play the widescreen video with bars on the top or bottom. So I tried this:

mplayer -fs -aspect 4:3 ~/Videos/Display.wmv -loop 0

...which filled the screen so the problem wasn't obvious. But the 4:3 aspect ratio would be problematic in any instance where Xfce did detect and use a widescreen resolution.
I knew the LCD panels could handle 1920x1080@60Hz, so I modified the script to use xrandr to specify, assign, and set a custom mode. Then it looked like this:

xrandr --newmode "1920x1080_60.00" 173.00 1920 2048 2248 2576 1080 1083 1088 1120 -hsync +vsync
xrandr --addmode VGA1 "1920x1080_60.00"
xrandr --output VGA1 --mode "1920x1080_60.00"
sleep 1
mplayer -fs -aspect 16:9 ~/Videos/Display.wmv -loop 0

I added the sleep 1 between the resolution switch and launching the video because I was worried that mplayer might get confused otherwise. This worked great, and because all of the video displays in question are going to support 1920x1080@60Hz, I could use this anywhere. I decided to force a 16:9 aspect ratio to ensure it would fill the screen, even if we changed the video.
Then I rebooted. The script ran, but the resolution did not change, and I was back to the black bars in mplayer. It occurred to me that xrandr was trying to change the resolution to soon after the initialization of Xfce, so I added sleep 5:

sleep 5
xrandr --newmode "1920x1080_60.00" 173.00 1920 2048 2248 2576 1080 1083 1088 1120 -hsync +vsync
xrandr --addmode VGA1 "1920x1080_60.00"
xrandr --output VGA1 --mode "1920x1080_60.00"
sleep 1
mplayer -fs -aspect 16:9 ~/Videos/Display.wmv -loop 0

That worked perfectly, even on a reboot. The lesson here to is to give the GUI time to load before changing the resolution.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

HP ProDesk 600 G1 DisplayPort Adapter Problems

Problem: An HP ProDesk 600 G1 computer will not recognize a monitor connected to the DisplayPort via a DisplayPort adapter.

1. Update the video driver from the HP website
2. Update the BIOS
3. Clear the CMOS (power off the computer, unplug the computer, hold the CMOS button on the motherboard for 5 seconds)
4. Use an HP DisplayPort adapter - I have specifically observed certain 3rd party DisplayPort adapters that refused to work with a ProDesk 600 G1 even after performing the above steps, just to have things work when I used a different brand of adapter. So if you need to, just order an HP brand adapter.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Outlook Crashes on Startup / mso.dll

Problem: Outlook crashes on startup, or after clicking the File menu, or anytime shortly after launch. Viewing error details in event viewer or reliability history indicates that mso.dll is involved.

Resolution: Go to Account Settings. Remove any listed Internet Calendars under the Data Files tab and the Internet Calendars tab. Alternatively, this can be accessed through Control Panel>Mail>Email Accounts.

Saturday, November 08, 2014

SSD Partition Alignment and Layout for Windows 7 and later

There are a lot of places on the Internet that describe how to use GParted to realign your data for an SSD. Unfortunately, they are primarily written for people with just one partition, which isn't necessarily the case for Windows 7 and later. They also don't mention the need to leave 10% free, unpartitioned space at the end of your SSD to assist the SSD in more efficiently writing data.

[Instead of the below, just use the align partitions option in the bootable Mini Tool Partition Wizard. It's just so much easier]

First, get the live CD image of GParted and burn it to a disc. Or use the instructions there to create a USB boot drive.

Boot to the disc, and follow the following instructions from Lifehacker for the VERY FIRST partition on the drive:

"...find your SSD in the upper-right dropdown menu. Select it, and click on your first partition in the menu. Hit the Resize/Move button in the toolbar. Change the "Free Space Preceding" box to 2MB, uncheck "Round to Cylinders", and hit "Resize/Move". (If you're using a newer live CD, check the "MiB" box). Hit Apply once and let it do its thing.

"Now hit Resize/Move again, and change the "Free Space Preceding" box to 1MB. Uncheck "Round to Cylinders" again, hit Resize/Move, then click Apply."

Before you go any further, or IF YOU SUSPECT THAT YOUR PARTITIONS ARE ALREADY ALIGNED, you can verify in GParted:

Right click the first partition and choose Information. The first sector should say 2048. Right click all remaining partitions and check the the first sector is evenly divisible by 2048. If so, skip the next paragraph.

Next, you will notice that you have unallocated space after the first partition and before the next partition. Use GParted to move all successive partitions backwards so they butt up right against the previous partition. The only unallocated space should exist right at the beginning (the 1MB you created earlier) and possibly at the very end.

Lastly, determine if the total allocated space at the end of the drive represents 10% of the drive space. If it does not, resize the VERY LAST partition (expand or shrink, as necessary) so that 10% of the drive space is left unallocated at the end. (If you have a Samsung drive, you can do this last step in Windows using the Samsung Magician software, through which you also optimize the OS and enable RAPID mode.)

If Windows does not boot after these procedures, check out GParted FAQs 14, 15, and 16 for how to use the Windows install disc to repair boot options.