Category Archives: Learning

Windows 10 Upgrade And Shenanigans

So I upgraded my Windows 7 machine to Windows 10 today. Some may say it was ill-advised, others say that it’s what you should do. What do I think? Well…

The upgrade itself took all of 40 minutes, that’s it. I started the program, it downloaded Windows, it installed Windows, and dumped me onto a shiny new desktop with all of my applications and files still intact. Sadly, the desktop was low resolution, in the middle of my monitor with borders, and I had no internet connection.

Great.

“Restart the computer!”, I thought. So I did. What did it get me, you ask? A sign-in screen that didn’t respond to my keyboard or mouse. Expletives occurred, and thoughts rambled through my head. It was troubleshooting time.

First I went with the obvious thing of unplugging all extra devices. All I left myself with was the keyboard and mouse. After a restart or two, I still had no response. Next was checking BIOS stuff to see if any changes to the USB settings would help. Nope. Then the Stupid Idea I Should Have Had First hit me. I moved the keyboard and mouse to different USB ports. Bingo! Working keyboard and mouse. Now on to the graphics driver.

As it turns out, the graphics drivers had reverted to the Windows basic drivers. As I still had no internet connection it was a trip to the wife’s laptop to download the latest Windows 10 drivers from NVIDIA. Those were transferred over via USB stick, installed, and I had a full working display again. Now on to that pesky internet issue.

My network was showing as Limited access. I had access to my local network, my NAS was showing and working just fine, but internet access was a no. I figured I’d see if updating the motherboard chipset drivers to the Windows 8 set would work (as Asus kinda stopped supporting my motherboard and have no intention of making Windows 10 drivers). Wife’s laptop again, download, transfer, install. Nope. Great. Much head scratching and a few web searches later and I stumbled upon a potential problem. Panda free anti-virus. I like Panda. It’s lightweight, free, and it consistently rates high on detections. The problem is that it installs a network driver called “Network Activity Hook Server LightWeight Filter Driver” which, as far as I can tell, is part of it’s firewall component. I don’t have the firewall component of Panda installed as it’s payware. The driver still wants to block things though, it would seem. A quick trip to the network adapter properties, and unchecking the box next to the filter driver, and the internet connection sprung to life. Getting better. Now to clean up.

I plugged in my extra devices and set to work making sure they were all working. It took a few fiddles to get my PS3 controller working with SCP driver, and a couple of devices needed reconfiguring, but it was mostly smooth sailing here. One last thing I did was run one of my favourite little programs, Snappy Driver Installer. This checks your drivers against current available versions online and lets you update them all in a single click. As it turned out, there were new updates for my motherboard chipsets, which it promptly installed for me. A quick restart later, and everything is up and running.

A few tweaks here and there, including setting up a Kiddie user for when little people are around and I don’t want them touching my stuff, and it’s complete.

That didn’t take much. Now all I have to do is see how good it goes. Already, I have to admit, I’m actually pretty pleased. Things are in relatively intuitive places, and the guff from Windows 8.1 is gone, or toned down to reasonable levels. I’ll see about writing a better viewpoint of it after using it for a while.

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In search of the perfect iced coffee

It’s that time of year again – you know, the time where it gets sodding hot and sunny. With sunny and hot comes thirsty and a desire for something cold. Iced coffee. Why not?

I don’t know why I got the itch for it, but something inspired me to make iced coffee. After looking around for decent recipes/mixes I’ve not really found one that seems perfect, you know? I quite like the idea of sweetened black iced coffee, but it’s hard to get right, and would most likely end in more failures than successes. Not that I won’t work on that, but that will come later. Instead I have a work in progress recipe for a nice white sweetened iced coffee. It will likely evolve but here it is right now:

For roughly two glasses:

  • 600 ml regular strength coffee
  • 30 ml vanilla syrup
  • 60 ml sweetened condensed milk

Make the coffee as you usually would, i.e. percolator, cafetiere/french press etc. and allow it to cool, then stick it in the fridge. If you’re worrying about ice diluting regular strength coffee, don’t. There’s a secret weapon at the end of the post that you’ll like, if you’re that worried.

Once the coffee is nice and cold, get your favourite blender and pour in all your ingredients. Blend. It should mix up well and end up with a nice froth on the top. If it doesn’t… blend more.

Grab a glass and fill it with ice. Plenty of ice. Don’t be shy. Pour the coffee mix over the ice, and give it a good swill around to give it a chance to really get nice and cold.

Drink. Enjoy.

Secret weapon:

Coffee ice.

Yep, you heard. Coffee ice. It’s a simple solution if you’re worried about the ice diluting down regular strength coffee. Most iced coffee recipes you see online talk about using double strength coffee, which is just plain silly. Most people will need to dilute double strength a good way before having a palatable drink. So regular it is. While you’re preparing your coffee, after letting it cool, but before putting it in the fridge, pour some of it into ice trays to put in the freezer. It’s that simple. I would highly recommend buying separate ice trays for this though, as the ice cubes go somewhat sticky and make a huge mess of the trays.

But yeah, that’s it. Secret weapon is ice cubes made of coffee that won’t dilute coffee. It’s really that simple. 😀

This whole recipe is a work in progress, so I’ll update it if I figure out different measurements, or ingredients. Enjoy. Comment if you have any suggestions etc.

Wireless Xbox360 controller on a PC, without the commercial dongle

Update: I updated the post to mention using two 1N4001 or equivalent diodes instead of just one. Two diodes in series take the voltage down to almost exactly 3.3V, which is the required voltage for the RF board. I also added actual photos of the wiring now, as I’ve redone it (hence the messy wires from re-soldering Etc.)

Update 2: It seems that syncing is impossible directly from the RF module and PC, but if the wireless controller you use was already synced with the RF module, and hasn’t been re-synced with another Xbox since, it will work. However, I am working with another modification I found which adds LED and sync enable functions by means of a serial connection with a PIC16F628A μC. You can find the related forum post here: Link (and see how my thrown together version of it looks [here] and [here]. Messy, I know :P).

Update 4: Alternative means of syncing mentioned in the comments by George.

Update 5: Further testing on alternative syncing method shows how non-play & charge kit compatible peripherals can be synced -without- a microcontroller. Thanks, Pat.

Yesterday I had a thought – I don’t like having a wire to the Xbox360 controller I use for games on my PC. As I’m tight on cash right now I figured I’d have a quick look around to see if there was a way to use a wireless controller on the PC without going out and buying the official wireless transceiver. I was thinking that there may be some other RF transceiver that could be modified or adapted to work with it. As it happens, there -kind of- is.

Now if you’re like me, and have a spare wireless controller sitting around, it’s likely you have a dead red ringed Xbox 360 sitting in a cupboard. This is the key to getting the controller working with a PC. The wireless transceiver in the Xbox can be made to work with a little modification. Well, I say modification but I really mean little more than soldering a few wires and altering a .inf file. Let’s get on to it:

What you’ll need:

  • Dead/Red Ringed Xbox 360 you don’t mind cannibalising.
  • Any old USB cable you don’t mind cutting.
  • Two diodes – a couple of 1N4001 or equivalents will do. Basically it’s just there for a forward voltage drop WHICH IS VITAL (unless you don’t mind burning the board out and killing your USB controller).
  • A soldering iron.
  • Solder.
  • A brain.

Taking the Xbox 360 apart:

I’m not going to reinvent the wheel here. Anandtech.com has a perfectly good explanation of how to do this. Take a look here: http://www.anandtech.com/show/1864/inside-microsoft-s-xbox-360/3

Pro tip: Instead of a small plastic knife that they say to use to ping open the case, you can either buy a tool for it, make one out of an old CD/DVD spindle cover, or just rip the damn thing open with a screwdriver (after all, it’s dead right?).

The part you’re looking for:

It’s the board on the front of the machine where the ring and power button are. It’s held on by 3 screws, so be sure to pop the little plastic part off to find the third screw. Don’t go trying to pry it off like I almost did. Once the screws are out it just unplugs. And that’s your part.

The soldering part:

As you’re reading this and have an interest in it I’ll assume you know how to cut, strip, and tin your wires, so I’ll not bother with that part. Instead I’ll assume you’re sitting there with an RF board, a USB cable ready for soldering, a diode, and a hot soldering iron. Basically, follow the picture (click for bigger image):

xbox360_rf_module_wiringAnd make it look like this:

20110307_xbox360_rf_module_wiring_1

Beginner’s mistake/brain fart moment warning: Make sure the diode is the right way around.

I chose to cut the diode legs down a fair bit and soldered it off to the left of pin 1, along the bottom edge of the RF module. You might like that idea, you might not. It’s up to you how you solder it. I could have been neater, but I honestly didn’t see much point. I’m not going to make a project box for it or anything, and it’ll be hidden away somewhere so practicality > looks.

I will mention again that the diodes are ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY. The whole board runs on 3.3V while USB standard is 5V. The diodes that you put in series on the power line will lower the voltage to tolerable levels for the board – almost exactly 3.3V, to be honest (my multimeter is showing 3.34V). From what I’ve read in comments in various places the RF board likes to burn out quite spectacularly without a diode in place, taking the USB controller it’s connected to with it. I was paranoid enough about it to actually test the unit on my old Macbook (that I neither care about nor use) before trusting it on my main machines.

Once you have that all soldered up, you have yourself a wireless dongle for your Xbox 360 wireless controller, something like this:

xbox_wireless_controller_adapter_front

Congratulations. Now for the software.

The software part:

This bit isn’t all that scary. You just need to modify the .inf file that comes with the official Microsoft drivers to allow for the different PID of the RF controller of the Xbox 360. First, if you don’t have it already, download the Xbox 360 Accessories Software for your operating system from the Microsoft gaming software download site, and install it. Now, before plugging the RF module in, you need to do that modifying I mentioned. Head over to c:Program FilesMicrosoft Xbox 360 Accessories (or wherever you installed it to) and make a backup of Xusb21.inf before opening it in your favourite text editor (Notepad++ is nice for it’s ini support with collapsing headers etc).

The parts you’re going to modify are under the headers [MSFT.NTx86.6.0], [MSFT.NTamd64.6.0], [MSFT.NTx86], and [MSFT.NTamd64].

What they’ll look like/similar to:

%XUSB21.DeviceName.Wired%=CC_Install, USBVid_045E&Pid_028E
%XUSB21.DeviceName%=CC_Install, USBVid_045E&Pid_0719
%XUSB21.DeviceName.Wired%=CC_Install, USBMS_COMP_XUSB10
%XUSB21.DeviceName%=CC_Install, USBMS_COMP_XUSB20
%XUSB21.DeviceName.Jump%=CC_Install, USBVid_045E&Pid_028F

What you need to change them to:

%XUSB21.DeviceName.Wired%=CC_Install, USBVid_045E&Pid_0291
%XUSB21.DeviceName%=CC_Install, USBVid_045E&Pid_0291
%XUSB21.DeviceName.Wired%=CC_Install, USBUNKNOWN
%XUSB21.DeviceName%=CC_Install, USBUNKNOWN

After you’ve saved the changes, go ahead and plug in the RF module. Chances are it will complain that drivers can’t be found. Cancel out of the hardware wizard and head over to the device manager and find the Unknown USB Device, or whatever it is your flavour of Windows has decided to call it. You’ll know which one it is by the yellow !triangle! (and if you don’t have a clue what I’m on about, what are you doing trying to hack an Xbox component on to a PC in the first place?). Give the device a right click and update it’s drivers, but tell it you have a disk and navigate to the Xusb21.inf you modified. It might complain about unsigned drivers, it might not, but if it does just tell it to continue. At the end of it all you’ll have an Xbox 360 Controller for Windows device with a Hardware Id of USBVID_045E&PID_0291 in your Device Manager. If not, reboot.

After all that, try syncing your Wireless controller with the unit. With any luck you should have a controller showing in your gaming devices. Give it a quick test with the diagnostics, maybe calibrate it etc.

And you’re done. On to wireless gaming. (o/

Any questions feel free to ask in the comments below and I’ll see what I can do to help.