Sunday, April 16, 2006

After battling NTLDR, the next dragon is... Windows Activation?!!

Eh. So I've formatted the laptop, reinstalled windows, and now going through the whole hassle of doing every single update, installing every last software that is requireed to live a proper internet life. Someone should put all this stuff on a CD. Can label it something like, "eLife after the crash -- Getting back the basics". For one thing, I am super nervous about catching viruses while the lappy is in its current state.

But two big hassles so far. First thing is the IBM Wireless Lan card itself. It took me a damn long time just to figure out that the bloody thing doesn't support WPA - which is what I'm using on my wireless network. Quick research seems to reveal that the IBM card (and IBM is now owned by Lenovo) was made by Lucent (spun off from IBM?) which itself spun off Agere which then sold its card technology to Proxim. If that's complicated, the simple thing is this: No-one is supporting the card anymore, that means no WPA, ever! That's just downright silly.

Anyway, main beef today is with Windows, Microsoft and their Customer Service. Activation failed! Even though the Certificate of Authenticity is pasted right on the back of the laptop. It's not like a pirated copy, duh. So I had to call MS Singapore. The nice, shiny voice recognition system then made me read out a 45 digit installation ID, then told me it was invalid and read that 45 digit code back to me to verify, and then asked me to say "Customer Service" to get to a human customer representative. The system then played me some muzak, before, surprise, surprise... disconnecting me.

Okay, maybe it was a one-time thing. Try again, and essentially the same result, except that the muzak lasted longer. Wrote a stiff complaint note off to the website, and then tried again. This time I got lucky, managed to reach a living human being! (In some other country, doubtless.. Don't think anyone's working here on Sunday). And... she made me read out the 45 digit code too. So why did I key it in if you're gonna make me read it out again? Well, at least the code she gave me back was only 35 digits long and made everything okay again.

Pissed off with MS now. Maybe should consider moving to And also, more keen to get my MacMini now, just to avoid all this nonsense.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

What do butterflies eat?

The answer to the question..

Why? Because that's a question my niece asked me yesterday, which I didn't have the answer to at all! I think I thought that they didn't eat and they just die... but I was wrong, they do eat! Mostly liquid and vegetarian, though there is one which basically eats aphids, and another which can digest pollen. There's lots of other interesting Q&A about butterflies too..

Extended set of Q&A

Miharu Ramen

Lunch today at Miharu Ramen, Galleria Hotel, opposite Robertson Square. Hmm.. nice place, each bowl of ramen costs $10-$12 and they are totally non-pushy about just serving you plain, iced water. Which is good cos the dishes go very well with that! The ramen is of a special Sapporo blend, apparently the noodles are made with wellwater from Hokkaido and shipped frozen here, before being defrosted over 3-5 days.. and many of the ingredients are specially shipped in as well.

My dish: The Tokusen Shio, noodles in pork salt broth.. the broth tasted very very nice, and a bit reminiscent of maggi mee, lol.

Highlights: The noodles are really, really nice. Good texture and very tasty. The eggs are good too, they serve you half an egg with each of the main dishes but you can add more. The egg itself is cooked to a very exact timing so the yolk is still just a tiny little bit liquidy.. and the egg is soaked in soya sauce after cooking, so the white carries a hint of soya taste. The two taste elements combine very well!

Slightly negative points: The shio is "pork salt", so it's not surprising that it's a little too salty, though liberal amounts of ice cool water helps! Also, the soup base is very oily, really very oily... Lastly, my sister advised us not to add the bamboo shoots, which supposedly is super-pungent. No idea though.

Overall: I would recommend this place! Quite fast meals, ramen is supposed to be taken in ten minutes according to the chef. Supposedly the waiting time for lunch seats on weekdays is half an hour to an hour though, so that might make weekday work lunches a bit difficult.

Friday, April 14, 2006

NTDLR continues

So I thought I fixed it, but when Key tried to switch on the laptop, it has the same problem. Quick investigations using the enclosure reveal that the ntldr, files are being deleted everytime the computer starts up! A quick call to Junx establishes it might be a virus. So I scan it and detect several viruses, and the McAfee automatically cleans them: W32/Squirrel, W32/Oror.dll, W32/Oror-G@mm. And copy all the relevant files.

Only, when I switch on the laptop again, the files are no longer automatically deleted, but... the computer can't seem to run .exe files anymore! It actually asks me what to use to open .exe. The files themself run, if I open some random file and specify word or excel or whatever then the word or excel will actually run. Silly, no? Whole of control panel is also down with some rundll32.exe is missing error, even though the file is right there in the folder.

Pissed off with the virus, so since I've got her files backed up I'm gonna reinstall windows. But silly bird that I am, I forgot to bring along the power cable. Quick check on symantec website reveals that Oror-C@mm and related viruses will insert themselves in the registry to make them run with every exe, so maybe that's the error. Damn. I can't seem to get this problem solved.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

NTDLR is missing

Key's laptop went down yesterday, with the error "NTDLR is missing". Couldn't even boot. At first we feared the HDD was dead, and Junx suggested that I could try recovering the files using a 2.5" HD enclosure hooked up to my PC.

So I bought the enclosure from Audio House.. a $20 piece of equipment, basically just a little aluminium case, a cable, and a small piece of circuitry. (As to why Audio House: I was going to office which is near Liang Court. And as to why working on a Sunday, I'll blog about it once I know what the IT staff at company have to say about this particular piece of sillyness).

My first problem: taking out the HDD from the laptop. Never done this before, the closest was when I stripped apart my own Acer laptop to try to fix the lines on the display. Unscrewed two panels and discovered that neither looks like the HD. Took a step back, looked at the thing and decided that the HDD should be the little block next to the battery. But I couldn't find the button to release it!

In the end, googled a hardware manual from internet, found a product manual from Compaq. Figured out which screw to release the HDD (but I still had to pry the disk out with a screwdriver!) and then stuffed it into the enclosure. I really mean stuff, because the case was just exactly the size of the disk. Took a lot of stuffing!

Backed up her files, copied the files "NTLDR" and "NTDETECT.COM" from my root.. it's weird, the error is NTDLR but the file is NTLDR! weird weird.. Stuffed the HDD back in, and it works! Phew.. saved a couple hundred in maintenance costs.. Junx, owe you a treat d00d.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Wild wild wet

Went to Wild Wild Wet with Key and Xp and Nekki on Saturday, was fun! We've been quite lucky with rain, first on Friday which was the only non-raining day the whole week, then with Wild Wild Wet where the rain receded, so that the theme park opened at 4pm.. By the time the park was almost due to close, we were just about sianz. Rides were fun, particularly the group rides (the Samsung, that was fun!) and the Tsunami. All in all, it was worth the time since we had free tickets. If we had to pay $12 for it I might be a bit disappointed.

A bit worried for Key.. her knee is hurting more and more. Well, soon be seeing a specialist, hope it's nothing serious.

As an aside, there's the basketball arcade game that we used to play in Taiwan every day we were there... it's at the arcade in DownTown East! A little bit expensive, because for the arcade, you gotta buy a $2 non-refundable deposit on the card with the value, and each bball game costs $1.05.. weird number.. Still, the cool thing was, there was this awesome girl playing the game. In Taiwan, the best we saw was this guy who would pick up the ball with right hand, toss it to the rim, then left hand, toss to the rim, and so on. That guy was accurate plus fast!

But this girl, she was shooting with both hands but at an unbelievable rate of like 2 shots every second! And extremely accurate too, it's more like watching a factory line then a game! End result, 600+ points... what a sight!

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Why Watson's Tissue is so thin

Choon Leng was saying that he didn't like Watson's tissue because it was so thin it kept tearing when he wiped his face. Other than uncomplimentary comparisons between his face and sandpaper, the other thought that struck me was one of the small lessons from the Undercover Economist:

Basically, the tissue is designed to be lousy, so that you'll buy the slightly higher quality brand of Watson's tissue right next to it, that costs twice as much. The cheaper one is for the price-conscious people, and the expensive one is for people willing to pay a bit more. Now, the funny thing is, the cost difference between the two brands is probably much smaller than the price difference, and it may cost less than 5cents for Watson's to improve the quality of their tissue, but they won't, otherwise they won't be able to make you pay lots for the other pack anymore!

It's part of this strategy where they deliberately sell one cheaper product to the price conscious, and the higher quality but even more highly marked-up product to the price-insensitive.

(The example given is actually like, the Safeway Select and other housebrands which are sitting right next to the expensive Post cereals and Free Range eggs, where they purposely pay for bad packaging that makes you think the product is dodgy, but I've found that in Singapore I don't really notice the difference, whereas in US and UK I did!)