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July 2012 Blog Posts
No Windows 8 Boot Menu = bad

One of the ‘features’ of Windows 8 is that it boots so fast that you can’t actually get the typical F2/F8 boot menu to show when powering up.  Instead, you can, from within Windows 8, tell it to boot into a typical boot menu (where you choose to use last known good, etc.).  If for whatever reason your last boot into Windows fails, the boot menu will also show.

This is all great, but as my experience with trying to get Clear 4G to run on Windows 8 on a MacBook Air shows, this isn’t good enough.  Windows boots ‘just fine’ but because the keyboard is tied into USB, which Clear 4G kills, you end up at the log in screen with no ability to actually do anything.

Though I admit the connection is tenuous, this sort of fits into a mantra of mine “Don’t tell me what you think I need to do, just do what I want to do.”  Without naming names, I’ve run into a situation in the past where certain sites that I visit regularly don’t offer nice print versions of the blog posts that I read.  When I’ve tried to request that nice print versions be offered, I’ve occasionally heard various reasons for why I shouldn’t actually want print versions, but instead should do something else.

But, I don’t want to do something else.  At times, I like printing out blog posts so that I can mark them up with good old fashion things like pens and highlighters.  It’s how I roll.

So, it isn’t relevant to me when I read things (as I have) like “well, most Windows 8 users will never need to launch a boot menu using F2/F8 functionality.”  Fucking good for them, but there are times when you aren’t ‘most’ users.   Give me what I want.

posted @ Saturday, July 21, 2012 8:35 PM | Feedback (0)
A question of deep philosophical import concerning Taco Bell

Why didn’t they create a version of their Doritos Loco tacos using taco-flavored Doritos?

posted @ Wednesday, July 18, 2012 12:11 AM | Feedback (0)
Oops – How to brick a MacBook Air

In a previous post, I was all happy and whatnot about finally getting Windows 8 RC installed through BootCamp on my MacBook Air and with fully functional Clear 4G service. 

Now, the computer gods love nothing more than some snotty, arrogant person declaring victory to soon, and revel in any opportunity to bitchslap the bastard down.  Or something like that.  So, they gave me a good lesson in “um, you might want to think a little harder before doing that.”

I learned a couple of things here.  One, it is possible to (almost entirely) brick a MacBook Air.  Two, Apple’s Internet Recovery functionality built into OSX Lion actually works.  Sort of.  Three, when deciding to wipe a computer totally, you might want to backup the system first, in case it doesn’t go quite as smoothly as one might like or otherwise change your mind and want to go back.

To recap, when installing the Clear software, it uses some ‘Sierra Filter Driver’ or something that is unsigned, and Windows 8 doesn’t allow you to install/use unsigned drivers (well, there is a work around, but it doesn’t appear to alleviate the issue, though God knows at some point I’m going to try it again, because I’m an idiot).  I appeared to be able to get it to work by using Windows 7 compatibility mode, and wrote the previous post.

And then I rebooted.

The Windows 8 splash screen popped up.   It was live and not frozen (the clock would advance, and I could see the network connection get automatically resolved), but the trackpad didn’t work.  More importantly, an keyboard input was ignored.  Okay, that’s not optimal for a usability standpoint.  I can generally get around without a mouse if forced to, but no keyboard, that’s not good.  Multiple reboots got the same thing.

So, what would you do if you were faced with this situation?  Decide to boot from your Windows 7 DVD, wipe out all of the existing partitions, and restart from scratch?  Only an idiot would do that. 

My excuse is that it was after midnight, and it seemed like a good idea at the time.

Fast-forward a day, and same experience:  install Windows 7, upgrade to Windows 8, get trackpad working, install Clear 4G software, verify that it works properly, then reboot and find yourself at the splash screen.  And no keyboard or mouse support.

Oops.

Now, the best I can tell of what is going on is something like this:  once you reboot, the ‘nasty’ Sierra driver tries to reload itself as part of the entire USB stack.  Since it does it outside of any compatibility mode, it ‘infects’ all USB functionality.  Guess how the Apple keyboard connects?  That’s right, through USB.

I suppose at this point one could buy some keyboard/mouse product that connected through the magical FireWire/ThunderBirdBoltWhatever ports and try to get around the issue in the short run this way (I’m obstinate enough that I will probably try this at some point).

Instead, I decided to boot from my Windows 7 DVD and just reinstall that and work from there.  Except that no longer worked.  Hold the C key while rebooting and….either a total system lockup or it boots back into Windows 8.

Fantastic.  A nice shiny MacBook that is totally unusable.  Mad scramble to Google on other machines and….Internet Recovery, what is this?  You can connect to Apple Servers directly and once it verifies your computer (not sure how that is done), it gives you the ability to reload OSX onto your machine.  Awesome.

<digression>Just about every Windows system I’ve ever bought comes with recovery CDs to restore the machine to factory settings.  I’ve never used them, since I normally wipe those systems and rebuild from scratch.  Who knew the only time they would be useful would be on a system that doesn’t have them.</digression>

So, apparently, the only way I’ll be able to use my Clear services for now is by installing Windows 8 RC into Parallels, and using the Clear connection run from OSX.

For now.

posted @ Monday, July 16, 2012 10:22 PM | Feedback (0)
Success – Windows 8 RC on MacBook Air using BootCamp

posted from Windows 8 RC running on a MacBook Air 2011 using BootCamp, connected to the InterWEB using my Clear 4G device.

In a previous post, I talked about the various issues with running Windows 8 RC on a MacBook Air.  All of the issues seem to be resolved.

Brief recap: I had tried to install Windows 8 RC on an older MacBook Air and faced a whole host of issues.  The main one involved a hard lock of the entire system within minutes of operation.

After successfully loading Windows 8 RC within Parallels, I decided, what the hell, let’s try it with BootCamp.  Parallels is nice, but you get the minimal memory which isn’t really suitable for what I use the system for.

I went through the same process of installing Windows 7, and then after installing the BootCamp specific files, directly upgrading to Windows 8 RC.

As always, the first immediate issue was getting the touchpad to work.  Windows 7 had no issue with it, but Windows 8 RC didn’t like it.  That is to say, I could get it to move the mouse and all that, but no right-click/secondary click support, which as you might imagine, was a show stopper.

As always, the exact steps I took are a bit vague, as I didn’t log them.  Essentially, it involved getting the BootCamp drivers to successfully override whatever Windows 8 thought the correct drivers should be, as if I tried to run the BootCamp install for the Multi-TouchPad directly, it would tell me the correct drivers were already installed, and not do anything.  What I did was to change the ‘HID-compliant device’ drivers to the generic ‘USB input device’ drivers, and then run the BootCamp install.  For whatever reason, that did the trick.

The next major issue was to get Clear 4G to work, which I’d never come close to on any other installation.  I downloaded the latest drivers, per the website, and got the expected warning/fail error message that the ‘Sierra Wireless Filter Driver’ was unsigned and verboten.  The Clear connection manager would launch, but you couldn’t actually connect to anything.  Within the manager, I noticed for the first time that there was a ‘look for updated software’ option, and it actually found an update.  So, I ran that, and it updated a bunch of stuff, and after that point, it recognized when I plugged in my USB device, and saw the network, but refused to actually connect.  Bummer.

Then, for the hell of it, I looked at the properties of the software icon and saw the compatibility option.  That never works, right?  But, what the hell, since I know Clear 4G works with Windows 7, I set it to run in that compatibility mode.  Lo and behold, the fucker suddenly worked.

So, as far as I can tell (it’s been an hour of testing stuff, so not exactly rigorous), I have an install of Windows 8 RC on my MacBook Air that is 100% functional.

Hmm, well, I use WHS, and I haven’t tried that out yet.  But so far, so good.

posted @ Saturday, July 14, 2012 11:52 PM | Feedback (0)
Partial Fail – Windows 8 RC on MacBook Air

note: I am composing this whilst running Windows 8 RC within Parallels on a 13” MacBook Air 2011.

Windows 8 is going RTM in August (or something like that), so I’m trying to get a very slight head-start and use it on a daily basis.  There are a couple of complicating factors for me here:

  • As the title of this post suggests, I largely use my MacBook Air now.  My ‘main’ developer rig, what with all the 27” monitors goes largely unused (and if I had a spare four grand lying around, I’d get a fully tricked out MacBook Retina Pro and probably use that, but I don’t at the moment, but I digress).
  • Though Parallels is nice, I prefer to use BootCamp so as to get access to all the hardware (especially, and mainly, memory).
  • I would try to slip into it by trying to upgrade one of my desktop systems, but as previously noted, the upgrade never works.
  • I use Clear as my 4G connection, so ideally, that would need to work.
  • Perhaps most importantly, I can’t really ‘brick’ my existing laptop, I’ve got too much going on.

I have an older MacBook Air as well (2009 or 2010, whatever the previous incarnation was), so I came up with the following ‘cunning’ plan:

  • Install Windows 8 RC on the older model using BootCamp, and configure it to my current specifications.
  • Use it for a while, ideally at least a week (more realistically, a few hours) to ensure that I can do whatever it is I currently do without any massive headaches.
  • Nuke the newer (though not the newest….don’t have a spare three grand lying around either, but I digress) model, rinse and repeat.
  • Then when Windows 8 RTM comes out and it turns out there is no upgrade path from the RC, rinse and repeat twice more.

As I am writing this within Parallels, you might guess there have been a wee few problems.  Good guess.  In some vague chronological order, here’s how the process has gone.

  • Supposedly, you can install Windows 8 directly through BootCamp, but after spending a whopping 17 minutes or so trying to get that to work, I said fuck it, and instead installed Windows 7 on the older Air, and then upgraded directly afterwards (well, after loading the BootCamp drivers anyway).  <digression>When I was younger, I probably would have spent hours or even days figuring out how to beat the damn thing into submission, but I don’t have the drive for that sort of thing anymore</digression>
  • And immediately ran into an issue.  Though Windows 7 had no problems with it, the trackpad didn’t work.  At all.  Device manager showed it as being unable to load the device drivers.  Trying to uninstall and reinstall didn’t work.  Deleting the drivers from the system32 directory and manually running the .msi/.exe/whatever from the BootCamp drivers disk didn’t work.  IIRC, this is where I stopped when trying to get the Consumer Preview to work, as carrying around a USB mouse with a MacBook Air is rather stupid.
  • I don’t recall the exact sequence of events or steps that I took, but basically, some combination of uninstalling the drivers from device manager, deleting the drivers from the system32 directory AND deleting them from C:\Windows\System32\DriverStore\FileRepository (the mtm and mtp folders) finally allowed it to actually reinstall the drivers instead of pretending to.  A reboot or three later, and I had a working trackpad.
  • Knowing that it would likely fail anyways, I next tried to get my Clear 4G USB thingamabob to work.  Needless to say it didn’t, but it failed in rather interesting ways.  The first interesting thing of note is that it uses an unsigned driver called the Sierra something or other, and Windows 8 by default doesn’t let you load those.  Naturally, I ignored whatever warning it gave and it managed to break all USB functionality.  Oops.  Once again, I don’t recall the exact sequence of steps, but you have to go into the advanced settings and boot into something and type in something.  It’s something like this.
  • Even with that, I couldn’t get it to work.  It would say it was ready to connect after finding the network and then immediately fail.  Ok, that’s an issue.  I decided to just move on and start loading the stuff I really need (which is mainly Office, SQL Server and Visual Studio).
  • All of this was going swimmingly then suddenly, the OS started hard locking after a few minutes of use.  Mouse no move-y, etc.  Only recovery was to power cycle.  Every few minutes.  Okay, that’s definitely a show stopper, so I figured that was it, and put the old Air away.
  • Then yesterday, I saw this.  Turns out I wasn’t the only one with this issue.  So, I pulled the old Air back out, and logged in to install the updates.  With much difficulty, as the machine would till hard lock the OS every few minutes while downloading the updates.  Overall, it probably took about 5 or 6 reboots.  And then everything seemed golden.

Note the keyword ‘seemed’.  After an hour or so of no issues, the hard lock problem kept coming up.  Viciously even.  And so, it is definitely unusable.

So, I have Windows 8 RC installed under Parallels on the newer (though not newest, blah blah blah) Air, with the ‘nicely’ configured 1 GB of memory.  I guess I can load all of my normal software, verify my current codebases run properly on it, yada yada yada, and then try to install it blank on a new BootCamp partition, but if it still hard locks, it will be a waste of time.

Normally, I would use this as an excuse to buy one of the new MacBooks, but I’m trying to be more fiscally responsibly (God, I hate that).  And I want one of the new Microsoft Surface tablets, once they stop being vaporware.

posted @ Thursday, July 12, 2012 12:12 PM | Feedback (1)
Fail: Upgrading Windows 7 x64 Ultimate to Windows 8 RC

I’ve tried on multiple systems (either 3 or 4), but any attempt to upgrade runs for over an hour, and ultimately fails after one of the various reboots where you get the screen with the frowny emoticon saying it couldn’t be done.

On the bright side, it rolls back properly so you don’t have a hosed system.  Trying to find out the cause of the failed upgrade is a hoot.  You have to trundle through C:\$WINDOWS.~BT\Sources\Panther and other places.  It looks like there are multiple errors like:

    Error      [0x08038d] MIG    Failure while calling IPostApply->ApplySuccess for Plugin={ServerPath="%windir%\system32\migration\nlscoremig.dll", CLSID={36af497c-c440-4282-a59e-02ed63498b7c}, ThreadingModel=Apartment}. Error: 0x80004005

No, I have no idea what that means either. There are a bunch of them, and it looks like if the error count is greater than one, it rolls back. Not when it encounters the first error, that would make sense, but at the end of the entire process.

Fun.

posted @ Wednesday, July 11, 2012 10:21 AM | Feedback (0)
I’d almost forgotten how much I love ViewState

Working on a project that uses WebForms for the first time in what seems like a couple of decades.  I know I could merge MVC views into it, but for various reasons that isn’t an option.

The great thing about WebForms (and I mean that entirely sarcastically of course) is when you try to do something that appears to be even slightly outside the normal happy path, you run into the issue where the black box magic stops working so magically and you have to go muck around.  I believe the percentage of projects that end up going slightly outside the normal happy path is approximately 100%, but I digress.

So, I have a datalist.  I add custom user controls to it dynamically.  I want to persist the information of each user control to viewstate, obviously.  I use the magic Page.RegisterRequiresControlState(this) in the user control override saving and loading control state as required.  When adding these user controls to a panel, it all works magically.  Because you have to databind a source to a datalist, it appears to blow view state for the controls away.

No doubt it is because I forgot the proper place to blah blah blah the view state in the pipeline.  Like I want to remember any of that.

Of course, if an asp.net panel had a repeatlayout and repeatdirection, I wouldn’t have to worry about it, as that’s the only reason I’m using a datalist in the first place.

Whhhhheeeeeee!!!!!!!!!!!!

posted @ Wednesday, July 11, 2012 10:13 AM | Feedback (0)