Deleting files on Windows that have names which are too long

Posted on February 6th, 2014 in Hardware & Software by andrija

Did you try to make a backup of your Steam games and ended up with a folder which name is so long that windows is unable to do anything with it? You can’t go into the folder, you can’t delete it or do pretty much anything with it? It turns out that Steam likes to do this if you select too “many” games to back up at the same time. A rather nasty bug. There’s a way to delete it without having to boot Linux or use non-free tools.

Open command line, go to the folder containing the file with the too-long filename and type dir /x. This will list directory content along with short filename versions. E.g. here is one of the lines this command might output:

08/05/2013  12:31 PM            80,216 QUICKT~2.EXE QuickTimeInstallerAdmin.exe

People who used DOS or older Windows will recognize this as the “good old” 8.3 filename format. The full file name is QuickTimeInstallerAdmin.exe and its short name is  QUICKT~2.EXE . Now simply type something like del quickt~2.exe and your file will be deleted. If it was a directory – which will be the case if you did a Steam backup – then type rmdir /s quickt~2.exe instead.

How to update Nexus 7 to Android 4.4 KitKat

Posted on November 16th, 2013 in Hardware & Software by andrija

Google apparently isn’t capable of letting everyone get their updates at the same time. Or even in the same week. Whatever their excuse (they do have one but I don’t buy it), there is a way to update manually. It isn’t easy, of course.

First you need to download and install the Android Development Tools SDK. Then you need to put your Nexus 7 (or whatever you have) into developer mode by tapping the build number in “about tablet” screen 7 times. Then reenter the settings menu and you will have new item “developer…” someething. In there, enable USB debugging. Then you need to connect the tablet to the PC, open a command prompt where you installed (or rather, unzipped) the SDK, go to the platform-tools folder and then run “adb devices”. You should get the “list of devices attached” and one more row with the serial number and name of your device. Of course, good luck having that happen. You may need to install drivers, which is a royal pain on Windows (but requires no effort on MAC or Linux). Some people have developed a separate universal driver (more like, a hack) which you can find here. I can’t vouch for its safety. Why can’t Google provide drivers for their own devices, at least, is beyond me. UPDATE: Google does seem to provide drivers but they aren’t automatically installed (plug and play my ass). You need to do the “classic” Windows driver experience which is going to devices screen (the old style one, not the new one) and find your device which should be having an exclamation mark.  Then, choose to manually install driver (which you can then select from the list). Find more on pdanet (google for it, I guess). Anyhow, once that is installed, plug in your Nexus 7 again and it will prompt you (on the tablet) to allow PC to connect in debug mode. Now try “adb devices” again and it should work.

Next, you should backup your tablet. See here. In short, use “adb backup –all –f backup.ab” where backup.ab is the name you wish to give to your backup.

And finally, download the 4.4 update from Google, for your specific device, in this case Nexus 7. Make sure to download OTA update, which is a signed zip file, not the commonly shown .tgz file – smartasses from internet cannot be bothered to explain this and Google cannot be bothered to show links to those either. Then, follow this guide. It should preserve your data but in case it doesn’t, you can use “adb restore backup.ab” to restore your tablet.

All in all, certainly a whole evening effort to get this done. Google really sucks at this.

FOV in games–why do some people get sick

Posted on December 19th, 2011 in Hardware & Software,Video Games by andrija

There’s an excellent video here that explains why do some games makes you feel sick (nauseated, dizzy or worse) while others don’t. If the screen you’re playing on doesn’t fit into your cone of vision so some of it end up in the peripheral vision, then your brain isn’t going to like it. Some people never have a problem but quite a few does.  Most often this happens in PC games as the monitors are ever larger yet stay at the same distance from our eyes. So, demand FOV control in your games – or play them from farther away. Another good reason to sit back and play with a controller, even on a PC.

Netbeans Tools –> Options Dialog Does not Show

Posted on October 14th, 2010 in Hardware & Software by andrija

I just had a very annoying issue – in my Netbeans 6.9 I was unable to open – or as it turns out, see the “options” window which is under the Tools menu and is obviously quite important. Not much info on the web so I am posting my solution here. If you delete the file api.properties (should be the only one in that directory) that is found in .netbeans/6.9/config/Preferences/org/netbeans/modules/options (and this is in your user home directory) and restart the Netbeans, you should be able to see Options menu again.

Turns out it somehow sets the window position outside the desktop space. My guess is this happens with dual monitor setup when one of the monitors is disconnected. Just a hunch but it would make sense.

USB External Drive Freezing and Stuttering on AMD 785G in Windows 7

Posted on December 24th, 2009 in Hardware & Software by andrija

The other big problem I was having with my new PC is actually much worse than the first one (eSATA hotplug issue). Unlike that one, here I have no idea what was causing the problem. Basically, every time you plug in an external USB drive, no matter which one, the results are unpredictable. It may work for a while but try to copy a file to or from it and after some time it would freeze. Not just slow down or temporarily stop while cache is being drained, but freeze for several minutes. The PC itself would still run although if you tried to force the copy to stop it might just stop working as well.

Now this was really serious: since I wasn’t able to use eSATA effectively I needed to rely on USB for backups – and I wasn’t able to! So I tried to work around this and bought an enclosure with both USB and Firewire. Guess what, the Firewire was even slower! I can’t recall if it was showing the same symptom – I think so but I am not sure – yet the result was just as bad.

This is where firmware flash comes in, as I was sure there was some sort of interrupt sharing problem and those are usually solved by firmware flash. But for the longest time I wasn’t aware there was a new firmware. At any rate, eventually my Corsair Xtreme 64G drive died and things got put into motion…

But the problem remained after clean install, firmware flash and setting of drives to AHCI. So in the moment of desperation I decided to replace the cable. At that point, I also realized USB cable was plugged into a hub. I am pretty sure I tested this both with and without hub and it never worked well. Yet now after replacing cable and plugging the drive straight into a motherboard USB port, drive was finally working correctly! It took me months to sort this out! And I am not sure is it a combination of issues or a single issue – I believe it must be a combination since I’d imagine I used a few different cables plugged into various ports during all these months. I just took a five to go back to my desk and plug in the “old” cable and – guess what, it’s still working. It does appear to be a bit slower – say 25MB/s compared to 27MB/s – but this may well be a statistics fluke. So, the hub connection then? No matter, I guess for now it appears to work so I’ll keep it plugged in and don’t mess with it.

Unresponsive SATA Hot Plugin with Windows 7 on AMD 785G PC

Posted on December 24th, 2009 in Hardware & Software by andrija

I have had serious issues with hard drives on my main PC for months now. First was the issue when using hard drive dock. The way it worked on my old PC was like this: with the dock turned off and eSATA cable plugged into it and the PC, you plug the hard drive into it and then turn on the power to the dock. PC should automatically recognize it – and it would, on my “old” Intel P35 motherboard. Not on my “new” AMD 785G motherboard with Phenom II 955. Well, I wasn’t expecting it anyway seeing as I was running my SATA ports in “Native IDE” mode.  The idea here was that since I was using an SSD drive (plus a regular HDD) I needed to run it as “native” in order to get TRIM instruction to work. TRIM support is what you need in order to prevent SSD performance deteriorating over time; if you don’t know why and how, hit Anandtech’s legendary article on the subject.

Anyway I wasn’t really able to use external dock to a great extent or, frankly, at all. A drive would only get recognized if it was plugged in and turned on before the PC itself was turned on. There was a trick one could use, where if the PC was sleeping you would be able to do the deed. Since sleep/wake cycle is much faster than a full shutdown/restart, this wasn’t too awful. But you couldn’t remove the drive while PC was running either – unpredictable results would occur. And often I’d either forget to put it to sleep or would have a reason to not want to put the PC to sleep (ongoing download, music conversion or whatever). So this was a big pain.

Due to my SSD dying recently, I had to reinstall Windows so I took the opportunity to set BIOS to AHCI. Unfortunately it didn’t go as smooth as it should have. I first tried to restore drive from a 10-days old full image and while that worked (more or less), the system would only boot if the drive was set to native IDE; set it to AHCI and poof, blue screen during boot. I thought this was because I replaced SSD with a HDD but no. I got Intel’s SSD and restored image to it, and the result was the same.

I decided to update BIOS. For some reason I thought there was no BIOS updates for my Gigabyte motherboard but lo and behold, they were all the way up to F5 while mine was still the original F1. I had big hopes because I had big problems (in addition to this hotplug, I had major dropout issues with USB, Firewire and keyboard not being recognized at boot time, all addressed in upcoming posts). AHCI looked much nicer – and faster – in BIOS this time ‘round but it was still giving me the blue screen.

So I did a full reinstall from scratch, using AHCI and F5 BIOS. Yay, it worked. Of course, I had a blank slate of a system. But to add insult to injury my eSATA was still not working!

Now I was getting nervous. I knew I probably needed to install chipset drivers but I was avoiding it because unlike AHCI I was definitely sure that only the virgin Microsoft SATA drivers supported TRIM. If I install AMD drivers, no more TRIM. Right?

Well it turns out my brand new Intel SSD did not come with firmware supporting TRIM anyway! What the?! The thing was delayed for months because of that and now that it’s finally back in stock, it’s still using old firmware? I had to deal with this as well, now. Funny enough, flashing Intel SSD firmware involves booting off a CD into a custom DOS-like OS. And it didn’t recognize my SSD until I reverted BIOS to “Native IDE”. Anyway, I flashed it, turned AHCI on again and it booted up fine. At least some good luck, I’d have hated it to end up with a wiped drive or much worse, a RMA-ready one.

trim is a go

Once in the Windows 7, I ran the CrystalDiskInfo and it was showing TRIM as supported (before firmware update, it didn’t – that’s how I knew something was up). Now does this mean TRIM is supported by the drive or that it’s supported by the whole chain (OS, drivers, drive)? I do not know, but after finally installing chipset AHCI driver (available from Gigabyte or AMD itself), it was still showing TRIM as supported. I’ll take my chances for now as the worst that can happen is that the drive gets slower over time (and there’s a lower boundary of how slow it can get so it’s not a disaster by any means).

And on the plus side, after installing AHCI chipset drivers, hotplug of eSATA drives is  working like in good old times! Plug in, turn on – it’s recognized in seconds after spin-up. Turn it off, OS recognizes the fact and removes it from the drive list cleanly.

How to Access Windows 7 Shares From Network

Posted on December 12th, 2009 in Hardware & Software by andrija

There are many articles on how to get  non-Windows machines to access Windows 7 shared files but I found it the hard way that there’s always something amiss. So here’s my take on it.

First, if you have the ability to use Homegroups – then use them. While right now this is limited to networking between Windows 7 machines (and perhaps some other Microsoft devices), it’s the way of the future. Homegroups are simple to set up, (probably) secure and most importantly, they just work. No messing with user names, machine names, domains, workgroups, NETBIOS and God knows what other arcane Windows networking lore.

But if you have to access Windows 7 files from a device such as O!Play media player or another linux box, then you might have to work at it.

It would be good if you could restrict access only to authenticated users but I was not able to do so or find any guide that allows it. Therefore only anonymous access will be allowed which is very convenient and very insecure. So bear in mind that there’ll be little to no security on those files that you allow access to. Therefore only share stuff that is intended to be public using this method. I.e. share your multimedia but don’t share your private financial documents and serial numbers and such. Or if you do make sure you’re on the private network.

You can use Homegroups alongside “classic” shares – that’s what I’m doing, with the intention of eventually retiring classic sharing, though I have no fantasies about that happening any time soon.

Go to folder you want to share using Windows Explorer and right-click on it, select properties. Go to Security tab and click “Edit…”. Now click “Add..” and type “Everyone”, click “Check Names” and then “OK”. In short, add “Everyone” to the list of “users” that can access this folder. It may already be there, depending on what are you trying to share.

Now we need to let Windows 7 know that “Everyone” includes anonymous. There actually is “ANONYMOUS LOGON” “user” defined but I was not able to get it to work. So be aware that from now on everything that has “Everyone” in its security list will potentially be available to anyone who can see your PC regardless of whether they have any kind of account on it. To do this go to Local Security Policy – just click on the Windows button and start typing in the search box, you won’t even have to type more than 2 letters before it shows up. Alternately you can go to  Control Panel, open System and Security, Administrative Tools and then Local Security Policy. Anyway, go to Local Policies, Security Options and scroll down to “Network access: Let Everyone permissions apply to anonymous users”. Set this to “Enabled”. Don’t close this window, we’ll change a few more options.

Make sure that Restrict anonymous access to Named Pipes and Shares is disabled. Alternately, you can let it be enabled and then manually enter all shares you intend on being available anonymously using the “Shares that can be accessed anonymously” setting. This might provide better security.

Next, Sharing and Security Model for local accounts should be set to Classic.

There are several other settings that should not be touched if they are at their defaults. Those are:  Accounts: Limit local account use of blank passwords to console login (should be enabled), Network access: Do not allow anonymous enumeration of SAM accounts and shares (disabled).

Make sure Guest account is disabled.

Now go to Control Panel, Network sharing, Change advanced sharing settings. Turn on network discovery, file and printer sharing and public folder sharing (you might not need it but the music and video I want to share are in the public folders). Finally, turn off Password protected sharing.

Now reboot and you should be able to browse your

Windows 7 PC and access folders you designated as shared to “Everyone”. A few things to note: changing settings through Local Security Policy can cause a change of options in the “Advanced Network Sharing” so you should do those changes last. E.g. password protected sharing tends to get turned off often in my experience. You also may need to first stop sharing folders and remove “Everyone”, to start from a clean slate so to speak. If you use Homegroup sharing you might end up “competing” for privileges on some folders so you may not keep removing/adding Homegroup – e.g. right-click, “share with…’”,  “Specific people…” and so on.

UPDATE: As I witnessed again yesterday, it looks like Homegroup networking is really not compatible with “classic” SMB file sharing. I have copied a file from my laptop to my PC via homegroups and suddenly my ASUS O!Play was not able  to access any folders; it was able to log in and see the list of folders but that was it. I had to: disable Guest account AGAIN, reboot, disable password-protected file sharing AGAIN but only after half an hour of fiddling with shares and their security settings. In summary, don’t expect to be able to use both methods of sharing at the same time. Read access may work but as soon as you do any writing to the “server”, it will have some of its settings reset. I hope developers start switching to Homegroups for Windows file sharing ASAP – it’s really a better, simpler method. I am not sure how open Microsoft is to this though as nothing but Windows 7 and Xbox 360 support it right now.

How to Play and Tag FLAC Files in Windows 7 using Windows Media Player (WMP)

Posted on November 18th, 2009 in Audio,Hardware & Software by andrija

If you are serious about music, you are probably storing it in a lossless format. Most popular choices are FLAC, Apple lossless (M4A) and Windows Media Lossless (WMA); there is also Monkey’s Audio which isn’t as popular. All of these choices have advantages and drawbacks. Both WMA and M4A are proprietary and the only tool that can create them is WMP and iTunes respectively. It is possible to get all of them to play on a non-windows machine, but it’s often quite difficult to do so. Even more difficult is getting them to play or stream to standalone hardware devices which is what you’d want to do at home. And support for portable devices is divisive to the max.If you choose FLAC as the best middle ground, you may want to at least be able to play it using operating system’s audio player. Windows Media Player is not a bad player but it does not support FLAC out of the box. Playing it is one thing, it needs to be able to display its tag as well as edit it. Here I will only mention how to get it to work.Download oggcodecs for your OS flavour – 32 or 64 bit. These are DirectShow filters that let WMP recognize FLAC and some other formats. Also download FLAC support, as this is what will actually allow you to play FLAC files. Finally, download the WMP Tag Plus. This one allows WMP to see tags embedded in FLAC files as well as edit them, and is the best of its breed as it integrates closely with the WMP.Now you’ll be able to deal with FLAC files as if they were any other support format (e.g. MP3 or AAC). One thing still does not work though – you won’t be able to stream FLAC to another Windows PC’s WMP or to a media extender. I haven’t had luck finding a solution for this yet.

UPDATE: as Ben mentioned below, if you use 64-bit OS, you need to make sure FLAC filters from Xiph get installed into a proper folder for 64-bit which is <system drive>\Program Files\Xiph.org because it will otherwise overwrite (or be overwritten by) the 32-bit version.

How to flash firmware of OCZ Agility or Vertex SSD on Sony Vaio Z laptop

Posted on October 26th, 2009 in Hardware & Software by andrija

In case someone does a google search and ends up here: I was able to flash firmware of my Vaio Z VGN-Z555DN laptop w/OCZ Agility SSD firmware to 1.4 using this convoluted procedure.

First you must flash laptop BIOS to R2168M3 (if using Vaio series 5); prior version might work too. Then use the hack to enable advanced menu in the BIOS – search for “Feature Enable” and VT enable on Vaio Z; you’ll need a USB stick with EFI/BOOT etc. Then after flash you will be able to enter BIOS (press F2 during boot) and enter advanced menu and change SATA mode to IDE. Now use CD or USB to flash firmware to 1.4. After that, you can again reflash R2170M3 (needed for graphics drivers in Windows 7). You will now again be in AHCI mode and you should enter BIOS again to enable VT as well if you wish. This downflashing of BIOS is needed because version R2170M3 removes advanced menu so it’s not possible to change AHCI to IDE.

This is still easier and faster than disassembling the laptop.

Monoprice Flat HDMI Cables do not Work

Posted on April 2nd, 2009 in Hardware & Software by andrija

Surprisingly enough, while Monoprice usually supplies great stuff at even better prices, they seem to have stumbled on this one.  So, their flat cables – of which I got two 3 feet and one 6 feet – do not work for me at 1080p or higher resolution.  I tried them from my laptop to a HDMI switch and from the switch to the 24" LG monitor (when driven by my PC’s 4870) and it did not work.  Neither of 3 feet cables worked.  I will try connecting my laptop to my TV to see if that works…  Incidentally, my laptop – Sony Vaio Z – does not like my monitor either and does not want to output at 1920×1200.  It claims it does but the picture is screwed up.  I can’t use newer drivers because of proprietary hybrid graphics switching.

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