Updated ATI Radeon Drivers and now Picture is off the sides of my TV set

I have a Samsung LN52A650 TV on which I view Netflix and other assorted broadcasts via my Media PC. The PC itself is a Dell Inspiron 530 to which has been added (swapped really) a Radeon HD4670 graphics card. For the best possible picture and sound I use an HDMI connection. This was the reason for the updated video card, the one that came with the Dell in the first place did not have an HDMI out.

The operating system is still Windows Vista 32-bit which I have had no real issues with in spite of the many complaints that I’ve heard about Vista over the years.

The other day I saw that there were software updates outstanding so I allowed it to go ahead and apply a bunch of security updates. Under the optional updates section I saw that there were updated drivers for the video card so I let that go ahead too.

After upgrading I found that all edges of the screen image (at 1920 by 1080) as viewed on the Samsung were cut off. I first experimented with my computer’s display settings in case any were set back to some kind of default state during the upgrade and found that everything was still set up correctly. Being more of a moving forward rather than a falling back kind of guy, I went to the ATI site and manually downloaded and installed the most current drivers for my OS/Video card (dated 11/17/2010 I believe). This also had no impact.

The solution was straightforward. For some reason my TV was overscanning the incoming image. I suppose the older drivers must have been outputting a signal for which this was necessary?

Anyway, on the the TV, go to Menu > Picture > Picture Options > Size . The setting was showing 16:9, changing this to “Just Scan” solved the problem. As an added bonus the PC image displayed on the TV looked absolutely amazing clear. Obviously the difference from whatever was going on with the 16:9 setting to the 1 to 1 pixel matching that “Just Scan” allowed.

Merry “Cat”-Mas

Michelle was out shopping last week and, on impulse bought one of those little hats and beards for our cat Phoebe. You know, the ones that you see in the store, look at the person next to you, roll your eyes and say “Who would be weird enough to actually buy something like that. Now you know.

I personally harbor the suspicion that cats mark all of the indignities heaped upon them in daily life and then, when you least expect it, exact payback at a time of their choosing.

Phoebe Santa MontageIf I’m right, our little photo session with Phoebe should result in retribution of Biblical proportions sometime over the holiday season.

For your enjoyment, here is the finished product. The top center picture is the best of the pictures we managed to snap of Santa Phoebe. The one under it is one that I constructed from a simple portrait of her and about 30 seconds of searching for hat and beard images across teh Intertubes.

The surrounding images represent the majority of the shots from that photo session. They *do* make her look worse than she was. They remind me of the Hairless Cat episode on “Friends”.

Automating Encryption of Financial files

I’m not the most paranoid person in the world, but I *do* believe in safeguarding my critical files. If my computer is ever compromised I like to ensure that as much as possible, all of my personal information, financial records, etc. are encrypted.

To this end I make use of TrueCrypt. This is such a useful utility that I have also gone ahead and made a donation to support the author. I *highly* recommend you get TrueCrypt and use it to safeguard your own information.

I’ve created a batch file which I execute whenever I want to use Quicken that will mount my encrypted volume, open Quicken, then dismount the volume when Quicken exits

Part of TrueCrypt’s mandate is to try to also thwart folks from figuring out what files you’re using by not updating the timestamps of volume container files when they’ve been modified. I don’t need quite this level of protection, but in command-line mode I can’t get away from it.

My nightly backup solution depends upon timestamps in order to determine what should be backed up. Of course one thing I don’t ever want skipped in my nightly backup is my financial stuff.

So I found a great little Freeware Touch utility written by Steve Miller. It is a part of his “Win32 Console ToolBox 1.0 (Item 10)”.

My final batch file looks like this and works like a charm. It will mount my volume on the Q: drive, prompt me for my password, run Quicken, dismount the drive then update the modified timestamp for me.

“C:\Program Files (x86)\TrueCrypt\truecrypt.exe” /v c:\nameofmyquickenvolumehere /l Q /q
“C:\Program Files (x86)\Quicken\qw.exe”
“C:\Program Files (x86)\TrueCrypt\truecrypt.exe” /d Q /q
“C:\bin\touch.exe” /m c:\nameofmyquickenvolumehere

But would Rob and Laura Petrie approve?

It’s truly amazing to watch the ongoing evolution of our culture.

One of the earlier TV shows I used to enjoy was “The Dick Van Dyke Show” which went out production about a year after I was born. In those days (on TV at least) a married couple would be seen to have separate twin beds and, if they dared to be on the bed together, it seemed they always had to have at least one foot on the ground.

There have been so many breakthroughs over the years, from finally admitting that women could be pregnant to allowing that maybe grown ups behaved.. well… like grown ups. At least in the privacy of their own homes.

Taryn Southern is an up-and-coming so-called “webutant” (or “webutante” depending how you want to spin it..) who is continuing to push the bounds of what we would consider acceptable in video media. I first took note of her when “Wrong Hole” made its debut about a year ago. She had already started to rack up a competent resume prior to that and her career has exploded since then.

Why do I care? I appreciate folks trying new things and experimenting with societal temperament. I also like entertainment geared toward adults – with language, subject matter and visuals that don’t patronize the audience. I also appreciate talented folks doing all of the above. I hope to hear more of her great voice in future projects.

Also, I’m a guy and I’m not dead.

This remix is, IMHO, a couple of notches above the original

Netflix prices increasing

I adore Netflix and have been using them for a couple of years now. I get the 3 DVDs (plus streaming) plan and that seems to keep up nicely with my needs.

I was somewhat dismayed to see that they’re increasing their prices, beginning in January by nearly 15%. From $20.99 to $23.99.

I’m hoping they are not getting too cocky as they dominate this marketspace. Blockbuster was downright abusive of its customers and now nobody gives a crap if they sink or swim.

The good news is that there is, literally, absolutely so much more content out there (free or otherwise) than I can possibly consume. My only dilemma is choosing which poison to pick. It’s all so very, very good!

Oakley Glasses warranty worth about as much as the paper it’s printed on

About a year ago I decided to splurge and get myself some Oakley glasses. I’m much more of a Sams Club fanboy for my glasses but I was looking for something that could provide good dust and wind protection while bicycling and most of my options seemed to involve glasses that could be best described as “goggles you’d find in grade 10 science class”.

Oakley GlassesEnter the Oakley Tightrope. Originally sold as sunglasses they are RXable and after MANY tries we managed to get the lenses ground correctly by sending the glasses to Oakley themselves. Throughout the process I was dealing with Pearle Vision (MERCHANTS FESTIVAL SHOPPING CENTER) and, as far as I could tell at the time, they did their utmost to get me situated. One thing that I noted while watching them pop the lenses in and out of my frame (something done quite often as they tried different lense curvatures) is that they did not even loosen the screws that supposedly secured the lenses therein. This gives me pause now as I deal with my current issue.

Oakley Glasses Upside DownFast forward to about a year later and I come to find the paint is actually flaking off of the glasses. Given that I’d blown $400 on these I was naturally miffed. I had checked beforehand on the web and could see that Oakley generally seems to be pretty good in the customer service arena concerning issues like this. So I brought the glasses back to Pearle Vision (dealt with Elena) and was told that it is unlikely that paint chips would be dealt with under warranty but they would check with Oakley to verify this.

A couple of days later Elena called and said they could ship the frames in to Oakley so they could be evaluated. A week after I dropped them off she called back to let me know that Oakley considers such chips to be “normal wear and tear” and would not repair or replace the frames. So now I have nice brown frames with the bonus that you can see silver (titanium?) shining through in places. I suppose I should be happy that my primary use for them is sports although I do enjoy wearing them to social events when I’ll be out in the sun as they have transition lenses in them.

Lessons learned:

1) My opinion of warranties is validated. They exist as a sales tool and do not serve any significant function after the sale except to make you feel cheated when you get repair work done on your own dime while the warranty is still in effect. I do not let a warranty factor into my buying decision, ever.

2) It is MUCH better to purchase inexpensive glasses frames and simply replace them if they have issues rather than investing in what should be “quality” frames. I’ve worn glasses from budget shops for 3 and 5 years at a time with no issues.

3) Not being an overly emotional person doesn’t help me at all when I’m working to sway someone to live up to their obligation. Next time I need to bring an excitable friend with me who can explode and yell and cause mahem until my need has been satisfied. The retail world caters to emotional wrecks.

Color me not impressed. My lesson has been learned. No more Oakleys for me.

Standby Issues and some workarounds

Computers don’t die, they only fade away… to become household servers so it seems. A computer typically lasts me about 3-5 years of primary use before it becomes old enough where it just can’t drive the software and / or the operating system that I want to use. Then I tend to purchase an extra hard drive for it, toss on an FTP server and make it a backup server for the house. Having these computers all running would just be a waste of energy so I’m taking advantage of their standby abilities and, where possible, their Wake On LAN ability.

My primary machine an Alienware Aurora Desktop which, through Windows 7, offers a great modified standby feature called “Hybrid Sleep”. This is similar to the well known “Standby”  – meaning that the system will come back to life very quickly and pick up right where you left off.  The “Hybrid” aspect has the computer also dumping its memory to disk a la hibernation in case the power should fail. This causes the computer to take a bit longer to power down – and I don’t need to care because I don’t have to wait for this – but after a power failure restarting the computer also will bring you right back to where you left off without losing anything.

My former primary computer is now a media center PC in my TV room and it’s configured to go into hybrid sleep mode too after about an hour of non use.

My PC prior to that (a PowerSpec 8922) well.. it would be nice if it could work as nicely as the others, it just exists as a host my laser printer but it must be shut down and restarted as I need to print documents (see why below).

Whenever I’m finished using my primary machine, I hit the power button and it goes into Hybrid Sleep mode. I manually turn off the monitors since, even in “powersave mode” they consume about 20 watts apiece.  The power use is absolutely negligible once I’ve done this. Very early each morning, a scheduled task will run that will wake the PC, send a Wake On LAN command to wake up my Media Center PC and then back up my system. When complete both systems go back to sleep. When I get up in the morning I see the reports from the backup waiting for me and I know that all is well.

The Wake on LAN command is sent using a free utility from here. I just unzipped the executable into my bin directory, created a simple batch file that is executed by my backup software as a “program to execute before backing up” and the media center is up and running waiting for the backup process. It works like a charm. My wife’s laptop executes an identical batch file before it starts its backup as well and has no problems.


The PowerSpec 8922 (Running Windows XP) has the annoying habit of going into sleep mode and then NEVER COMING BACK. Whenever I print something I stroll to the back room and boot it up (it’s a 2004 vintage and does not have WOL even if it could come back from standby anyway). Window’s print spooler is patient enough to wait for the PowerSpec to start up and then continue with the print job. I have not been able to find a better solution for this. If the computer is put into sleep the power must be disconnected and reconnected to force it to restart and come back to life.

The Dell Inspiron 530 (Media Center PC running Windows Vista 32 bit) will not go into standby manually. If I click “standby” from the start menu or if I invoke standby by setting the power button to do so it will enter sleep mode and then, maybe a minute later wake up again for no discernible reason. So I just leave it alone and let the power setting time out after an hour and it goes to sleep just fine after that.

On awakening, the AlienWare Aurora Desktop (Windows 7, 64 bit) shows 4 issues:

– The Alienware Thermal controller will fail with the error: System.Net.Sockets.SocketException: An invalid argument was supplied

I have found no solution to this yet.

– Windows Microsoft .NET Framework dies, again indicating that “An invalid argument was supplied.

I have found neither any solution nor any downstream issues caused by this and so have not been motivated to resolve.

– Upon starting iTunes, it reports that the Bonjour service that it relies upon to share music (notably with my Roku sound bridge) has “been disabled“.

For this I created a batch file consisting solely of the following two commands:

Net Stop “Bonjour Service”
Net Start “Bonjour Service”

I then used the Task Scheduler to create a task that ran when it detected that the computer was woken up from sleep which executed this batch file and iTunes has been fine ever since

Begin the task: On an Event
Log: System
Source: Power-Troubleshooter
EventID: 1

– Firefox, if it was open, would be unable to connect to the internet.

Restarting Firefox corrects this (I picked up an add on for Firefox to do this via a button on the tool bar). But I became tired of this silly behavior and have since switched to Google Chrome and have fewer issues.

Clearly a lot more work needs to be done by either Alienware, Microsoft or both in sorting these issues out. For me, I’ve got workarounds that are satisfactory for me so I am not hampered by these problems. If there is a problem that I suspect may have something to do with the computer having been in standby, I will reboot it and see if that resolves the issue.