Wikipedia:Reference desk/Archives/Computing/2009 August 31

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August 31[edit]

Vista problems[edit]

It seems that my Vista computer activated some type of 'group policy' on itself. All of a sudden, I can't change the background, screen saver, or some of the settings that I know the Windows XP group policy editor used to allow me to block. I am using an administrative account, so I know that's not the problem. I don't remember using any other programs to block this. This is a Windows Vista Home Premium, SP1. Thanks for the help. —Mr. E. Sánchez (that's me!)What I Do / What I Say 01:10, 31 August 2009 (UTC)

Converting a pdf to pdb for Pocket PC[edit]

Hello, I have iPAQ Pocket PC h2215 with BibleReader from Olive Tree Bible software on it and I was wondering how to convert a pdf bible to pdb so I can use it on my Pocket PC; The pdf Bible if formatted on pdf in the two column way that printed Bibles usually are (while the BibleReader on iPAQ is not), and it has links that can be clicked to go to different parts of the document (like the table of contents for example). Ideally I would like to be able to use it with the commentaries/notes and other tools from Olive Tree that their Bibles work with, but the Bible I would like is only available on pdf and not through Olive Tree. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 07:15, 31 August 2009 (UTC)

Which of the following one is likely to succeed?[edit]

It seems to me that asking for a comparison of which of two computer site business models is more successful is a straightforward research question, entirely appropriate for this Ref Desk. If someone can get some stats on which of those two models has been most profitable for the web site owners, that would be a good answer. Also, whoever marked this question as inappropriate should sign their name. StuRat (talk) 15:25, 1 September 2009 (UTC)

Slowing down a mouse scrollwheel?[edit]

I've got a nice new mouse, finally retiring my Logitech iFeel after... geez, something like 10 or 12 years?

Anyway, I like it, except for one feature - the scroll wheel moves too easily. Often when I go to middle-click and open a link in a new tab it'll slip ever so fractionally at the last second and I'll miss the link I wanted and sometimes even land on another altogether.

Has anyone had this problem? Have you a good way to literally slow down the wheel's physical scrolling? I'm looking for more tactile resistance to the turning, not adjustment of the software settings. My old iFeel had a firm but not oppressive scroll wheel resistance level, this one spins and spins and spins...

Thanks, (talk) 11:01, 31 August 2009 (UTC)

I think only fiddly DIY techniques can fix this - mostly involving friction - why not return it for another type? In general mice don't unscrew very well. (talk) 11:59, 31 August 2009 (UTC)
As an alternative, could you define another mouse button to "open the selected link in a new tab", and use pressing the mouse wheel for some function which isn't dependent on the mouse position ? Perhaps it could be the "return to the desktop" button, for example (the same thing as Windows Key-M). StuRat (talk) 14:29, 1 September 2009 (UTC)
Wait 3 months (or maybe 10-12 years) and it will get so gunged up that it will have that resistance :). Seriously, you could try to dismantle the mouse I imagine (just a couple of screws on the bottom usually) and remove the small PCB to get access to the wheel, and then just put little elastic bands or rubber grommits (perhaps some adhesive tape- duck tape?) or something like that on the axle to add the resistance. Personally I got a new trakball a little while ago and it felt very odd at first but I very quickly got used to it, so I would maybe just give it a chance. SimonTrew (talk) 01:24, 4 September 2009 (UTC)

No picture on screen[edit]

I've got a PC that's a couple of years old. The other day, my LCD monitor was just blank. I didn't see what happened; I came upstairs and noticed the problem (I usually leave my PC on through the day). Tapping the power button on the monitor would briefly bring up the "no signal" message. I tried the obvious stuff (checking connections, rebooting system, etc.), then turned off the computer, unplugged the monitor from my ATI graphics card port and plugged it into the graphics port of the motherboard. Still blank, so I figured the problem was likely with the monitor, but brought it to work just in case. Connected to my work PC, it comes on just fine. My guess at this point is that my mobo has tanked somehow. The monitor works fine here and if it was the card, the monitor would work okay through the mobo graphics port, right? Am I missing anything obvious I should try? Matt Deres (talk) 12:35, 31 August 2009 (UTC)

Try another monitor on your PC. And no, the integrated graphics on the motherboard usually doesn't work if a graphics card is installed.F (talk) 12:54, 31 August 2009 (UTC)
Would physically removing the card be enough (Win XP, SP3, if that matters)? Since I now know the monitor works fine, I'm not sure how trying another monitor would help. If I yank the ATI card, plug the monitor into the mobo monitor port, and still get no picture, am I looking at a bad mobo or will more be involved? I don't have another graphics card sitting around to do a swap. Matt Deres (talk) 16:24, 31 August 2009 (UTC)
A cautious yes. When I installed a new video card after having used the integrated graphics for a long while, it worked first time on the card. I would assume the same would be true if I was to remove the video card and use the integrated graphics again.
Without being able to see what you are doing, makes it pretty difficult to find out what is wrong. First step would be to pull the video card and see if you get the POST/BIOS screen through the builtin graphics. Enter the BIOS screen and see if there's anything to change with no video card present. Of course, if it's still all blank then suspect the motherboard. Astronaut (talk) 22:13, 31 August 2009 (UTC)
I'm still getting nothing; the screen simply remains blank. Perhaps more importantly for diagnostics, I can tell that the system startup is not working correctly either. As it booted up, I was listening for the usual pops and clicks my box makes at startup and it just didn't sound right at all. I can't see exactly where it's falling down, but the startup function is obviously not loading correctly. Matt Deres (talk) 12:09, 1 September 2009 (UTC)
The good news is that it sounds like you've eliminated the monitor, which is often the most expensive component of a computer these days. Next, I suggest physically inspecting the graphics card and motherboard for any signs of physical damage. Go over them very carefully, with a magnifying glass, as the signs, if visible at all, can be quite subtle, just a little dark spot by a connection, say. Also, did you smell anything burning when you first noticed the problem ? StuRat (talk) 14:21, 1 September 2009 (UTC)
No, but that doesn't mean anything. My tower is under my desk and whatever happened, happened while I was out of the room for ~ an hour. I'll give the graphics card a going over tonight, just to be on the safe side, but the fact the monitor still didn't work when I tried the integrated video and that the startup sounds are different/missing, I'm not optimistic. For the hassle of replacing a mobo, I might as well get a new tower and, as appropriate, scavenging my old 'puter for its various bits n' pieces (to use the technical term). Matt Deres (talk) 16:45, 1 September 2009 (UTC)

Snow Leopard Java[edit]

What version of java does Snow Leopard runs?

Open a terminal and type "java -version" (talk) 13:33, 31 August 2009 (UTC)

That only answers the question if the OP is actually running Snow Leopard... -- (talk) 14:13, 31 August 2009 (UTC)
see (talk) 14:56, 31 August 2009 (UTC)
Says you can run different version 1.4,1.5 etc if you want. (talk) 15:01, 31 August 2009 (UTC)

Syncing 2 Computers[edit]

I'm a college student, and I have noticed that while my "normal sized" laptop is perfect for my dorm desk, it is a little bulky when it comes to classroom desks and carrying it around. I came across a very good deal on a mini-laptop, and thought it would be nice to have my normal laptop to take home, view videos, and work on projects on; but the mini would make note taking a breeze without compromising space. The only down side is keeping my computers synced. For instance, if I take notes and save them on the mini, be able to access them on my normal laptop when I get back to my dorm.

So, is there a way to sync these two computers without a constant hassle?Hubydane (talk) 14:00, 31 August 2009 (UTC)

always save to a 4GB USB thumbdrive? (talk) 14:14, 31 August 2009 (UTC)
There are about a million programs and different ways to synch netbooks and other computers. There are a lot where you can designate a given directory as something to be common across both, and upon reconnecting them (probably over a network) they will sort out which one is the most up-to-date. -- (talk) 14:18, 31 August 2009 (UTC)
Possibly the easiest approach is to use a thin client methodology. Save no files on your netbook - only use it as a terminal to remotely access the main host. VNC, Terminal Services Client, and a variety of other free utilities allow you to set up your laptop as a server and your netbook as a client. You should take care reading about proper setup to make sure that you don't have any uninvited users on your network. In general, though, this is a suitable solution and scales nicely (you can use N computers to connect to the server and access all your stuff, if you're ever at a friend's house without your netbook, etc.) Nimur (talk) 15:19, 31 August 2009 (UTC)
This technique makes you absolutely dependent on your host computer. If you lose internet access, or something bad happens to the host, your laptop becomes virtually worthless to you. APL (talk) 16:07, 31 August 2009 (UTC)
Valid complaint; on the other hand, if something happens to your laptop, your host is perfectly fine (data is intact and security is uncompromised). Call it an "engineering trade-off" that needs situation-specific consideration based on your actual usage pattern. A hybrid approach may be best, with certain critical applications and documents available on both server and client. Nimur (talk) 17:18, 31 August 2009 (UTC)

Is it running windows? If it's just for study stuff, I'd install Live Mesh on both machines, it's fantastic, no fuss no user intervention after the set-up, it just works (5gb limit which should be fine for studying) and you also then access your notes and other stuff wherever you are via the web. Moreover, if you are working on a paper, you never have to worry about losing it because a copy will be stored online. --Cameron Scott (talk) 15:43, 31 August 2009 (UTC)

Alright, I'm liking how the thin client sounds. Tell me more? —Preceding unsigned comment added by Hubydane (talkcontribs) 01:15, 1 September 2009 (UTC)
See our article Remote Desktop Services, for Windows. This is built into the operating system; you don't need to download or install anything, you simply need to configure it. Here is Microsoft's tutorial for setting up the utility on the server and host. There are alternative softwares by third-party developers, such as VNC, if you choose not to use the Microsoft tool (or if your version of Windows is an academic or "home" license - which disable the remote connection server). If that is the case, you can either upgrade your software, or attempt to circumvent this limitation and manually enable the server (there are some tutorials on the web which show how to do this). Nimur (talk) 18:00, 1 September 2009 (UTC)

How do I know if my version of Windows is compatible?Hubydane (talk) 22:57, 1 September 2009 (UTC)

Component price behavior[edit]

I'm doing some research on how mainstream desktop component prices behave in the months after a product is introduced, and the timeline for product updates. My main focus is ordinary hard drives but the same might apply to memory and some other components (eg optical drives) as well.

I'm looking for data or indications on this. Ideally some site that I can look up components (specific models of hard drives for example) and see how their sale price dropped over time.

Most pricing sites seem to only show current or latest price not historic pricing information though I'm sure I have seem a couple somewhere online.

Any ideas if such a site exists? FT2 (Talk | email) 17:18, 31 August 2009 (UTC)

If you want specific models of products, you might have to track that data yourself. General trends are available for historic products, usually categorized over a particular relevant spec - this site catalogs price per byte for hard disks with a few data points stretching as far back as 1956. Nimur (talk) 17:22, 31 August 2009 (UTC)
It stops long ago; I'm after street price data on recent and current products too (late 2008/Q2 2009). Ideally a price site that when you select a product, displays its current street price info but also a mini graph of its historic street price over time. FT2 (Talk | email) 18:13, 31 August 2009 (UTC)
I've seen price graphs on various review sites (for graphics cards at least) - I'm now trying to remember where I saw them. I'll have a look... (talk) 18:52, 31 August 2009 (UTC)
This is the sort of thing I've seen [1] - see top/right - I've seen similar graphs on other websites - seems to be automatically generated. There's a better known site that uses them - but unfortunately I can't remember what it is.. (talk) 19:03, 31 August 2009 (UTC)
I suggest contacting a major retailer like, and simply explaining your project. You may find them willing to help if you make it clear that their contribution will be adequately thanked in the intro/citations of your final report. It would be trivially easy for them to give you a dbase dump of their retail prices for the past X months. (talk) 01:24, 1 September 2009 (UTC)

The best (old) PDA for me?[edit]

I'm considering getting a PDA to play or tinker with during long journeys. I do not want any mobile/cell phone capabilities, so I expect this means getting an older PDA second-hand from eBay, particularly as I do not want to pay much money for what will be basically a toy. I would like to have a simple basic-like language I could program, I'd like to be able to read Gutenberg texts, and I'd like to be able to play freeware games on it. I hate rechargable batteries, so I want one that runs off normal replaceable batteries. I'd prefer an operating system that is common enough and flexible enough to have lots of freeware available for the PDA. Does anyone know what brand or model of PDA I should buy please? Thanks. (talk) 20:46, 31 August 2009 (UTC)

Your last point, the "common enough" thing is the clincher (it's the best criterion - it means you get something that exceeds its designers modest goals for it). An old Palm should cost very little on eBay, and even the black and white ones are good. Many (all?) Gutenberg books are available in Plucker format for Palm, and it has a number of programming languages, from basic to a free C compiler toolchain. Some Palms have rechargeable batteries, some have AAAs. -- Finlay McWalterTalk 21:30, 31 August 2009 (UTC)
I have a Palm Tungsten T5, and I'm very pleased with it - despite its rechargeable battery. Previously, I had a Palm III, AAA batteries (a very long battery life) and B&W screen but still pretty good, thought TBH I think you might find its 2MB of memory and increasingly difficult-to-find accessories quite limiting. Astronaut (talk) 22:02, 31 August 2009 (UTC)

Blue Screen of death[edit]

Resolved: — neuro(talk) 17:01, 3 September 2009 (UTC)

I recently denied a reistry change accidently and now I cant run normal mode, everytime it reloads normal mode i get the blue screen of death. I dont have any restore points to do a system restore and i've scanned with spybot, I was told to right click the spybot icon in the bottom right to select an option about registry changes blocked but on safe mode with network this isnt available. Any ideas? Many thanks.-- (talk) 21:33, 31 August 2009 (UTC)

A little more info would be useful. So, which registry change did you deny, which OS, what were you trying to do at the time you denied the change, which software gave you the chance to deny a registry change in the first place? 21:57, 31 August 2009 (UTC)
This is what it says in problem reports
Files that help describe the problem (some files may no longer be available)
I have an inspiron 530, windows vista home basic Service Pack one. Intel(R) Core(TM)2 quad CPU Q8200 @ 2.33ghz 2.33ghz, 3GB RAM and 32 bit. I think it was mcafee that blocked it but i cant be quite sure since i didnt actually mean to confirm blocking it. One of the blue screen errors is 0x (then a few 0's not sure how many)8e and the other one is the same but with 50 on the end. At the time i wasnt doing anything on my computer it was just running msn and itunes, probably firefox too. The last thing i remember doing was unzipping a compressed zip file with winzip if this help.-- (talk) 22:10, 31 August 2009 (UTC)
Can you get any clues from Mini083109-06.dmp, sysdata.xml, Version.txt? Googling for these specific errors provides lots of ideas. Astronaut (talk) 22:31, 31 August 2009 (UTC)
Upload the minidump somewhere (it will be in %SystemRoot%\Minidumps) and I'm sure someone will take a look at it. I don't have Vista symbols installed, mind. — neuro(talk) 06:24, 1 September 2009 (UTC)

Hey Guys, I managed to sort out the problem with my computer. Not after lots of problems though. All works fine now, no thanks to the guy who didn't set it up properly :) I'm not sure how to close this query, any takers? Thanks for all the help :) —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 08:18, 3 September 2009 (UTC)

Hacking a computer, but it's my computer[edit]

The title sounds strange, but it'll make sense in a moment. My stepfather recently passed away, and his computer is just collecting dust downstairs. Neither my mother nor I know the password to his account, which is the only one. Now, my stepfather was a simplistic computer user, so I doubt the password was anything too complicated. However, I've tried the easy guesses like his name or birthday or combinations thereof. Playing the guessing game probably isn't going to work here, so how do I render his computer usable again? Would I have to install a new operating system? Or perhaps there's some legal way of cracking the password?--The Ninth Bright Shiner 22:14, 31 August 2009 (UTC)

You could try Ophcrack. It's quite complicated, but it gets the job done. Dendodge T\C 22:35, 31 August 2009 (UTC)
It would help if you told us what os the computer has. Many (all?) windows variants have weak password encryption so there exist linux live-cds dedicated to cracking windows passwords. Windows also tends to have a default admin account with no password you can access by hitting F5 or whatever during boot. Google knows. Also, unless you find your stepfather's private files or some propietary software he had installed interesting, making a new install is the safe+simple solution. -- (talk) 22:35, 31 August 2009 (UTC)
If it's an Windows NT/2k/XP/Vista operating system, try this. You'll need to burn the ISO image to a cd on another computer, then put the disk into the computer at start up and follow the on screen instructions —Preceding unsigned comment added by I7085 (talkcontribs) 22:39, 31 August 2009 (UTC)
I agree, the NT Password Editor is the easiest way to clear out the old administrator password and get access to the computer again. It's faster than reformatting, faster than any other Linux boot CD, more effective than Ophcrack. It's all text-based, but it's the best solution for getting access to a Windows computer that you don't have the password for. Everyone who posted after this, you should give this disk a try. Indeterminate (talk) 06:25, 1 September 2009 (UTC)
Assuming it's running Windows, when the login window comes up, press Ctrl-Alt-Delete and type in a username of "administrator" with a blank password. It's quite possible he never changed the default admin password (so many people will leave it blank) and then you can either change his password or just access the files that way. Failing that, it's not possible to find out what the password is (unless he actually turned reversible encryption on and that's extremely unlikely), but you can easily reset it using many tools (Google "Windows password reset"), my personal favourite being here. Another option is to simply open the computer up and plug the hard drive into another computer (either via a USB adapter or direct to the motherboard) and then just read the files off. Hope this helps and sorry to hear of your loss. ZX81 talk 22:39, 31 August 2009 (UTC)
The original question does not make it clear whether you want to preserve the old data or not. If you simply want to get the computer operational again, and permanently remove all its old data, you can easily reformat and reinstall the operating system. If you hope to recover the data, you can probably just boot a Linux Live CD (like one from Ubuntu). This can boot the PC into a "read-only" mode and access the hard disk. It is not likely that the disk or its files are encrypted, so you should have access immediately; the files can be copied somewhere safe and accessible without ever knowing the user login password. This is the easiest procedure, and can take as little as a few minutes (if you already have a Live CD disc). If the PC's hard-disk does have encryption or user-account file permissions,; or if you intend to restore the computer "as-is", with all its currently-installed programs and settings, then you will need to restore the original operating system and its login authorization, as mentioned above. Nimur (talk) 23:47, 31 August 2009 (UTC)
Booting a Linux 'live' CD is certainly the easiest way - that lets you read the Windows data off the hard drive and put it someplace safe - then you can reformat the drive, reinstall Windows and be good to go. However, not everyone knows enough Linux to be able to do that without a ton of help - so failing that - you need a second Windows computer. Pull the hard drive from your stepfather's PC and mount it as the second hard-drive on your other PC. Assuming you can log into that second computer with admin privilages, you can copy off all of the files you need to keep - then put the drive back into the original machine and reformat/reinstall Windows. All of these things are VASTLY simpler than trying to 'hack' the account or guess the password. SteveBaker (talk) 05:13, 1 September 2009 (UTC)
Why is everyone skipping over I7085's post mentioning ntpasswd? It is much simpler than booting from a Linux livecd and messing around with what is likely an unfamiliar OS for the OP. — neuro(talk) 06:22, 1 September 2009 (UTC)
As soon as I said that, in came Indeterminate. :) — neuro(talk) 06:26, 1 September 2009 (UTC)
I would feel uncomfortable using such a tool on my own system; I would not recommend it to a novice user. A modern live-CD is very easy to use, and will give access to the hard-disk, which is all the OP seems to want. Cracking passwords is a fun trick, but mucking around with registries and binary files using unvetted third-party software sounds like a surefire invitation to malware, corrupt data, and trouble. The Live CD approach has the benefit of reliable sources - Ubuntu is widely used and tested, and general consensus is that its live CD is free of malware. Nimur (talk) 06:37, 1 September 2009 (UTC)
Er, just about every single piece of software that comes with an installer nowadays installs registry entries, and I doubt that three people would be here singing its praises if it were prone to malware and corrupt data. I have not heard personally of the latter happening, but I would say that it would be a good deal less confusing to a novice user than a linux livecd.

That said, I just realised the OP only wants to render the computer usable, not retrieve the data. It would most likely be quickest to just format and reinstall a fresh copy of Windows. — neuro(talk) 06:42, 1 September 2009 (UTC)

Wow. Thanks for the overwhelming amount of answers (and thanks for your condolences, ZX81). Busybodyness has prevented me from trying any of these numerous methods out, but I'm sure the task is plenty doable with the info I have now. It was the computer I was trying to restore, keeping the data a side-goal; when I leave for college in about a year, I'll be taking my laptop, so that'll leave a computer in the house. Thanks again everyone!--The Ninth Bright Shiner 15:12, 2 September 2009 (UTC)

Driver problems[edit]

I am using an Olympus digital voice recorder, which comes with its own proprietary software to upload the .wav files onto a computer. I have been using it with Windows XP, but we are getting rid of our 8-year-old desktop, and the computer that we are replacing it with has Vista instead. On XP, to get the device to work all I needed to do was install the software from the disk, and then when I plugged the device in all the drivers installed just fine from the CD. However, the drivers on the disk aren't compatible for Vista, so they released a software patch for Vista-32. Now, instead of installing the drivers correctly when I plug in the device, I get an error:

"Windows found driver software for your device but encountered an error while attempting to install it.
VN Series Device
The required line was not found in the INF."

What is going wrong? I don't know what an INF is or anything, so I'm at a complete loss. Thanks —Akrabbimtalk 22:16, 31 August 2009 (UTC)

I have such a recorder, and my advice to you is the same as to everyone proposing to install the proprietary software that came with their gadget - don't. Mostly (overwhelmingly these days) devices like mp3 players and cameras and voice recorders work as USB mass storage devices, for which windows, linux, and macos all have perfectly good drivers. If I just plug my olympus recorder in, it just appears as a disk. If you're seeing that error, it may be a botched half-install (with the incompatible drivers); so uninstall them fully (if they show up in the list). -- Finlay McWalterTalk 22:37, 31 August 2009 (UTC)
It is an older recorder, so it doesn't have simple drive capabilities, unfortunately. I have always had to use the software to get the files off of it, even when I had it working. I will try with the un-half-install-reinstall method. —Akrabbimtalk 02:42, 1 September 2009 (UTC)
An inf is a file which basically fills in the gaps by essentially telling the operating system how to operate the device. I would suggest redownloading, it sounds like your INF is kaput. If the INF was simply wrong, it would more than likely install anyway (but I'm not too sure on Vista, my main experience is with XP), but that line... it suggests something more complex. Or more simple, or something. Without seeing the INF, however, this is all mere speculation. That said, don't post it here (not that I think you would) due to the nature of presumptive copyright. I suppose you could probably copyright an inf. — neuro(talk) 06:20, 1 September 2009 (UTC)