Amazing Wallpapers

I just wanted to drop two wallpaper links here that I enjoyed browsing:


New URL for my tech blog


I stopped updating this blog sometime ago however I kept on blogging on the new address I was hoping that Google will come up a with a tool to move the content from one blog to another but as of today I am not aware of any. I would like to do it once such a tool becomes available. In the meantime, I want to make it clear that this blog will continue to exist as a way to access older content but new content will be posted on



RIP: My Falcon Fragbox 2

I bought a Fragbox 2 gaming computer from Falcon Northwest last month. The first time I ran World of Warcraft on it, it felt awesome. Everything was incredibly smooth; I had all the settings in the game maxed up but I was never getting less than 60fps. I thought it was worth the ~$2000 and 2 weeks wait time!

Some specs:
MB: Asus P5E-VM Micro ATX Q35 Motherboard (AS-P5E-VM )
CPU: Intel Core 2 Duo E8500 - 3.16 GHz 1333 FSB ( INTC2E8500 )
RAM: Crucial 4GB (2x2GB) DDR2 PC2-6400 800MHz ( CR-4GBK2-6400 )
Video: NVidia 8800 GTS 512MB PCIE (NV8800GTS512 )
Storage: Seagate Sata 750GB HD 7200 RPM
ST50EFCS 500 watt power supply ( SS-ST50EFCS )

Two days ago, I was getting ready for Karazhan raid and suddenly my fragbox started to stutter. Everything became slow and at some point it became unresponsive, I was not able to restart it. So, I hard booted it by pressing the power button and all hell broke lose!

Windows failed to start. A recent hardware or software change might be the cause. To fix the problem:
1.Insert your installation disc and restart your computer
2. Choose your language settings, and then click "next"
3. Click "Repair your computer"
If you do not have this disc, contact your system administrator or computer manufacturer for assistance.
Status: 0xc00000e9
Info: Windows failed to load because the system registry file is missing, or corrupt.

I tried to reboot a couple of times hoping it would clear but it did not seem like the kind. So, after trying safe mode and every other option without moving an inch closer to booting into Windows, I gave up and attempted to reload Windows Vista...

Install seemed to go smoothly but after the reboot; same error showed up. As a last resort, I used the Recovery Disc that came with the Fragbox 2 package. Recovery stalled at 30% and I was prompted to either ignore the errors or abort recovery. I chose to ignore the errors but recovery did not go thru.

I attempted recovery again and to my surprise, it completed this time but no joy after reboot:

Windows has encountered a problem communicating with a device connected to your computer.
This error can be caused by unplugging a removable storage device such as an external usb drive while the drive is in use, or by faulty hardware such as a hard drive or CD-rom drive that is failing. Make sure any removable storage is properly connected and then restart your computer.
If you continue to receive this error message, contact the hardware manufacturer.
File: \Windows\System32\Winload.exe
Status: 0xc00000e9
Info: An unexpected I/O error has occured

At this point, I looked at the warranty document and was happy to see that this:

Falcon Overnight Service
Your Falcon Overnight Service Policy: How It Works
Summary: If your Falcon system should develop a serious hardware problem that we can't solve via telephone technical support, we will pick it up via overnight courier, correct any problem, and overnight it back to you, The Falcon Overnight Service covers any applicable instance within one year of the date of purchase.

So, I sent an e-mail to with all the details of the issue and steps I have taken and asked them to call me back...

That brings us to today. I called them to follow up and talked to a technician who suggested that I should open up the box and re-seat cables... OK, unscrewing a couple of screws and opening up a box is no big deal but I am sure many people may feel uneasy about doing this. They do not need to know how to do this...

Anyway, I went ahead and re-seat the cables which seemed firmly in place anyway and of course nothing is fixed. Falcon support also told me that I should run some hard drive diagnostics. So, I asked where I would get the diagnostic application and he said he will send me instructions.

It's been a couple of hours since the conversation but they have not yet replied to my e-mail with instructions. I called them up a couple of times already but keep on getting Voice mail. So, I left VMs...and waiting.... Arrrgh!

[ Update - 09/04/2008]
Apparently, Falcon Support team was calling me back...but they were not calling my work number instead of the number I left with them. Anyway, person I talked to was a soft spoken, very kind person. After sorting out the miscommunication, I agreed to follow the instructions to download a Seagate tool and use it to test the drive.

I reseated the cables on the motherboard side and re-ran recovery disc as they suggested; which resulted in the same error. Then I downloaded the Seagate Diagnostic tool from . 20mins after starting the diagnostic in "Long Test" mode, it stopped at 17% done. Waited for another hour but it was clearly not moving. So, I aborted the process and checked the logs which did not have anything useful about test.

I sent another e-mail to support detailing what I have done and the results. They called me back and and I said "I think at this point, I'd better ship it to you guys'. The sense I get from talking to these guys is that they sure would like to avoid shipping it if possible and work with you to fix it if you are willing to work with them, but they are not 'forcing' you to do that.

I was willing to work with them but I don't think anyone reading this should be worried if they are planning to buy a Fragbox from Falcon and would not be willing to do troubleshooting in case they hit a similar issue.

On the plus side, when I was purchasing the system, they refused to add a second hard drive as the configuration was fixed and they were not willing to modify it. Now that I encountered this issue, I asked the support person if it would be possible to buy a second 750GB Seagate drive from them and would they install it for me. He said yes and told me they could even install a drive that I would ship them if I had any extra. I am waiting for them to confirm the price. I hope it is not too much above market price.
[Update - 09/24/2008]
So, it took Falcon a week to fix issue(s) on my Fragbox 2...
  • First they replaced the Seagate 750gig hard drive and added the second 750gig I bought from them.... During testing, they found out that issue did not disappear.
  • Then, they replaced motherboard. During test, they realized that one of the RAM chips were defective although it had passed RAM test.
  • After replacing RAM, all went well and they installed Windows, updates drivers etc. Falcon creates a Recovery disk. So, that disc did not get created successfully at first but second attempt was successful. Oh, they also print a funny custom DVD cover with my name on it :)

They kept me informed via e-mail updates all along and I told them that although I could not wait to get back on my Fragbox, I would rather a bit and have it tested thoroughly, which they do and at the end they send a list of all checks they performed.

Of course, it sucks that my Fragbox had all these issues only after 2 months but it's clear that they are using the best parts and testing it; so cannot blame them for that. Now that I have a second drive on it, I will be able to use it not just as a gaming (ie. World of Warcraft) computer but as my main workstation at home replacing HP workstation xw6000.


Vista Tweaks

I just encountered a forum entry that talks about tweaking Vista and has an extensive list. Some of them really useless crap in my opinion but there are lots of interesting and useful tweaks also... Eg. Activate hidden admin account by typing
net user administrator activate:yes
net user administrator "your pwd" activate:yes
Take a look!


Search Commands from Microsoft Office

Woot! I never liked the ribbons as it made it more difficult for me to find out when I was looking for a command. I found myself going to help and searching many times.

Well, help is here. Microsoft seems to listen! In their site, they released a new toy called Search Commands, which makes finding command in office very convenient. Try it out, if you are one of those users annoyed by ribbons.


Best Programming Language To Learn

I think it was 1988 when I learned my first programming language: Basic. I will never forget the first day when teacher wrote I = I +1 on the screen, and for a second it made no 'matheatical' sense at all :) I liked Basic!

Anyway, most Engineering applications were written in some variation of Fortran then, so that's what I learned in college. I never really liked Fortran. At the time, Computer Science students were learning Pascal, Turbo Pascal was very popular. One of the students who was very good at it gave a couple of us free lessons and that's how I learned it...

Then, when I started to work at 1993, I realized that 'Excel' (version 4, then) was 'the' application that was used for everything around me. Accounting was using it as well as Engineering teams. So, I learned about Macros and later VBA, which made life so much easier! At some point, I jumped from VBA to VisualBasic.

When 'Web Master' became a cool term, I learned about html and ASP. That was a nice combo and helped me do a lot of cool stuff around year 2000.

Later on, when I started to dig into Unix/Linux world, it became clear that Perl would help and together with shell scripting; it did in a big way when automatic tasks in Unix! Although I became proficient with VBScript/WMI scripting, ActivePerl is still my preferred choice in Windows b/c of it's spectacular power with regular expressions (Well VBScript became better with regular expressions and introduced "Dictionaries" (Hashes) yet I don't think it matches Perl).

So, I was thinking what to do next? Java has been out there for quite a while. I was interested in PowerShell but became disillusioned with version 1. AutoIt3 seems interesting but not super easy or intuitive. I keep on hearing about Python (check out this link for some resources) but I am not sure if it adds much on top of Perl...

That's why, I was quite interested when I saw the subject on LifeHacker. There is a lengthy discussion about it. Take a look if you are interested...


While waiting for GDrive

Still waiting for highly speculated Google GDrive to become available... In the meantime, seems like a nice try...


Have Phun!

I just saw a cool science tool named Phun. Here is what it is 'about':

Phun is a Master of Science Theises by Computing Science student Emil Ernerfeldt for supervisor Kenneth Bodin at VRLab, Umeå University. The solver is based on work by Claude Lacoursière
Phun is meant to be a playground where people can be creative. It can also be used as an educational tool to learn about physics concepts such as restitution and friction.

Watch out this pretty cool video and you will love it too...


Vista - Cannot Open Control Panel (Fixed)

World of Warcraft was giving me headache yesterday. FPS near Ogri'la was only 4fps, although lag was not too bad (~150-200ms). So I decided to disable addons, defrag HD blah blah. I was also using procmon from sysinternals to see if there was anything hogging Vista...

I noticed SearchIndexer was a bit troublesome and stopped the service. While there, I went thru the list and disabled a couple of other that did not seem useful/applicable. One of them was "Software Licensing".

Software Licensing Service Description:
Enables the download, installation and enforcement of digital licenses for Windows and Windows applications. If the service is disabled, the operating system and licensed applications may run in a reduced function mode.

Apparently, if you disable this service you cannot open Control Panel. It looks like it's coming up but then disappears immediately. Enabling/starting service fixes the issue...


Vista - Still Bluescreens

After installing Vista SP1 RC1 and moving Page file to a different hard drive, I was finally not able to get rid of BSODs when computer was idle...

After a coupel of weeks, unfortunately freezes and BSODs came back. The last one I had said something like:


STOP 0x00000050 (0xFFC000000,all zeros,0x964E0FB3, All Zeros)...

Apparently, Microsoft has a hotfix for this. There is an article titled "Error message when you start a Windows Vista-based computer: "STOP: 0x00000050 PAGE_FAULT_IN_NONPAGED_AREA" ( )

However, this article mentioned issues during startup, which was not really my case. I kept on looking and found another KB article: about STOP: 0x00000050.

From I get the feeling that one of the drivers is not playing well with vista. I ran c:\windows\system32\verifier.exe to see if it will be able to help me pinpoint the issue.


SysPro Policy Reporter

A colleague showed me this cool free tool called "Policy Reporter".

Policy Reporter makes it much easier to understand how Microsoft implements Policy Processing, which is not really transparent...

It reformats the log provided in %systemRoot%\Debug\UserMode to give a more meaningful display.

It provides a Tree structure on the left which shows major events reported in the Log. Selecting an entry in the tree structure displays that section of the log in the view window.

It also has a "Performance History" tab that loads Group Policy Performance information from the registry, including the time taken to apply the policies and what policies were applied.

It also has some other nice features such as 'Search' and 'Export to Excel'.

Note: You must activate Verbose logging to get detailed information. Policy Reporter assists in doing this.


Windows Vista SP1 RC1 Issues

One of my computer is locking up almost every day. I leave it alone at night, when I come back in the morning I see it BlueScreened. I googled "Stop 0x00000077" or "KERNEL_STACK_INPAGE_ERROR" and tried to find something that would explain my BSOD with Vista to no avail... and decided to try Vista SP1 RC1.

I downloaded the stand-alone version and tried to install it. It bluescreened half way there after half an hour or so (well, it said SP1 update can take hours in the screen so half an hour is great).

I tried on my other Vista machine and it even did not get that far. Then, Microsoft refreshed RC1 and I decided to try it again as my Vista keeps on locking up.

So, I browsed to Windows Vista Service Pack 1 page, and downloaded Windows Vista SP1 RC Refresh (Build 17128) – released 01/11/08. When unpacked it has 3 files in it. I ran the cmd, which entered a registry key that enabled me to see an Update for Vista SP1 Control Panel > Windows Update > "Check for Updates".

Update actually installed 3 files, rebooted. Then I went back to Windows Update and clicked "Check for Updates" but it did not find anything. I waited and tried a couple of mins later. This time it finally found SP1 RC1. I clicked install and it froze on me after a few mins.

I tried a couple more times suspecting that whatever issue was causing my lock-up , it was preventing update from finishing. And Windows Update was able to finish the download but it failed to install it. Error code: 80070005. Unfortunately Vista help did not list this error code.

After some search, I realized that many other has seen the same issue and the only solution I saw was Aaron Stebner's blog entry. Apparently, MS messed up permissioning and Windows Update does not have enough permissions to write some reg keys/files.

I followed the instructions mentioned. I do not know if this will work for me yet. I will post a follow up later.

[Update - 01/21/2008]
I ran the script from Aaron's page. It did a lot of things but failed to reset permissions on 7 keys. I rebooted and tried again, it kept on failing. I also tried running SP1 update but it too failed...

I looked into the error Kernel_Data_InPage_Error, I was getting. I had the following error codes: 0000007A (0xC020BF84, 0xC00009C, 02a266860, 0x82FE130D)
ntfs.sys - Address 82FE130D base at 82EF8000 Datestamp 47214597

So, there are 4 block of error codes:
1st set is about Lock Type (0xC020BF84)
2nd set is the I/O status (0xC00009C)
3rd set tells us about Current Process when BSOD occured(02a266860)
and 4th set mentions the memory code where error occured.

As per this article at MSDN, my issue was 0xC000009C, or STATUS_DEVICE_DATA_ERROR, is typically due to bad blocks (sectors) on the hard disk.

As my Page File was in C drive, probably there was some bad blocks in the C drive. Unfortunately, chkdisk did not help. So, I moved the page file to my other drive.

No lockups since then. And to my surprise, Vista SP1 RC1 installed successfully today!


Bill Gates last day at Microsoft from CES 2008

Earlier this evening Bill Gates gave his final Microsoft keynote at the 2008 CES show in Las Vegas. Throughout the keynote he made many references to what he will do with his free time once he retires from day to day operations at Microsoft. It turns out, Bill has big plans in addition to his foundation after all.

read more | digg story


Disposable Web Accounts

So, we are in 2008 now. After taking the final two weeks of 2007 off, I am back to work and catching up with e-mails & diggs. As I was looking at the most popular technology content in the last month, I noticed the subject above.

5 “DISPOSABLE” Web Accounts to Keep Your Identity Safe is the actual title of a wonderful post from

BugMeNot was already one of my favorite firefox addons. I especially liked "" service...