Windows 7 Beta on the Dell XPS M1330 Laptop continued…

January 15, 2009

Last night I took the plunge and downloaded the beta release of Windows 7 and installed it on my Dell XPS M1330. This is the story so far:

Regular reads of my blog will know that I like to keep abreast of software and hardware developments as and when they happen and this is how I come to be writing this post from Windows 7. I am not a Windows fan but wanted to know what the new update is like and what Microsoft will eventually be asking customers to shell out more money for.

Ok, the install.

I went for an upgrade from Vista Premium at first which took an amazingly long time to complete, about 2 and a half hours. It ran fine, however the internet refused to work which I worked out was because Zonealarm was installed. So, rather than weed out any other conflicts I decided to do a fresh install, working out at about 45 mins in total. And yes, now the internet is working. Wireless works out of the box also, no drivers needed. Display drivers for the M1330 by Nvidia from Dell also work fine. If I have any problems with any other drivers I’ll be sure to post an update.

Windows 7 on the Dell XPS M1330

Windows 7 on the Dell XPS M1330

For the new features Microsoft lists as new / improved in Windows 7 I will refer you to this wikipedia article.

I will no doubt be referencing these in future posts on this beta release.

For the main part I notice only a few cosmetic differences after using the operating system, but that is only after an hours proper usage.  Battery life does however seem to be improved when running off it.

I am going to set up a special static page on my blog for listing software that works and does not work with this beta.

That’s about it for now, check back for updates as and when they happen.

Ubuntu Macbook

December 8, 2008
Ubuntu Macbook

Ubuntu Macbook

I have just finished installing Ubuntu 8.10 Interpid Ibex onto my Macbook using bootcamp and an Ubuntu install cd.

A rather snazzy update if I do say so myself, especially loving the art work during my first look.

For a full guide to this install look no further than the Ubuntu Community.

Ubuntu Macbook Booted

Ubuntu Macbook Booted

Windows Vista Service Pack 1

March 19, 2008

Vista SP1 is here.

I installed Vista from scratch today and then manually downloaded SP1 from the Windows download website.  The automatic install via automatic updates isn’t being rolled out for another week or so.

So what was my experience like?

Well Vista Service Pack 1 is a rather hefty download, weighing in at nearly half a gigabyte.  It downloaded within half an hour with my connection and then it was simply a matter of the install.  This went smoothly taking around forty five minutes again for the full install including configurations and reboots.  What else can I say?  It takes away the need for multiple updates and downloads with a fresh Vista install.  As for stability and other advantages?  Time will tell.

What I can say is that Vista is already downloading more updates for installation…..


December 30, 2007

So Christmas has come and gone, and I have a few updates / things I have read to add here. Well, more than a few…..

Top 10 Reasons Why We Procrastinate

Climate Change Performance Index 2008 Released, US #55

Israel visits US to convince to bomb Iran despite evidence

How much is a Million,Billion,Trillion?

Rolling Stone’s 100 Best Songs of 2007

China passed US as world’s biggest CO2 emitter 6 MONTHS AGO

European Team of Astronomers Say Gliese 581 May be Habitable

House Expected to Pass $70 Billion War Funding Bill

Sixty Foot Scroll of Bush Scandals On Display

U.S.’s Largest Solar-Electric Plant Goes Online (and its military)

Scientists: Time Itself May Be Slowing Down

The Mourning (PIC)

The Top Ten Technology Nostalgia

The Worst Films of 2007

What Should the Torrent Community do in aXXo’s absence?

Linux and Mac computers sweep Amazon’s ‘best of’ 2007

Ok, I think that’s me up to date.

Way too much for me to comment on though. Should be able to keep up again now the festive season is almost over.

Rock, paper or scissors

December 20, 2007


  • 22 December 2007
  • news service
  • Michael Brooks

YOU know the score: paper wraps rock, rock blunts scissors, scissors cut paper… It’s just a trivial way of making decisions about whose round it is at the bar, who gets the TV remote, that kind of thing. It’s something like tossing a coin, right?

You couldn’t be more wrong. Rock, paper, scissors (RPS) – also known as RoShamBo – is a startling game of strategy that reveals both the fickleness and the limitations of the human mind. There are RPS world championships worth big money, fiercely contested tournaments to find the best RPS computer programs, and heated arguments over which is the optimal RPS strategy. When millions of dollars have been made on the throw of a hand, it is hard to argue this is an insignificant debate. So, how do you win at RPS?

From a mathematical perspective, RPS is a function known as an intransitive relation, which means it creates a loop of preferences that has no beginning and no end, defying standard notions of hierarchy. Though each item is better than some other item, it is impossible to define what is “best”, and this makes it interesting to mathematicians. “It makes you think precisely about what you mean by ‘is better than’,” says John Haigh, a mathematician at the University of Sussex in the UK. “Context is everything.”

Given the interest among mathematicians, it was almost inevitable that computer programmers would get involved and try to produce the ultimate player. According to game theory, the optimal strategy is straightforward: make your throws random. If no one can guess what you’re going to play, they can’t devise a winning strategy against you. That may sound like a simple thing to do, but it isn’t – not even for computers – as David Bolton, a programmer for a finance company based in London, has demonstrated.
Bolton, an RPS enthusiast, has been running a computer RPS league on The competitors supplying their game-playing code come from as far afield as the Philippines, South Africa, Sweden and China, and their programs, or bots, use a wide range of strategies. Surprisingly, the least successful bots are those that seem to make their choice based on nothing more than random numbers. “These all tend to be at the bottom of the league,” Bolton says.

The explanation must be that these poor performers are not truly random. If there are any patterns at all, well-programmed bots will pick them out – and work out how to exploit them. Iliatsi, currently the leader in Bolton’s league, has 10 strategies to deploy against its opponents, analysing their previous moves, for instance, to find a pattern and thus work out the most likely next move. Iliatsi, created by a Greek programmer, looks set to win when the championship winds up this month.

Though competitions between programs are a challenge for the programmers, they are of limited interest to everyone else, says Perry Friedman, who created RoShamBot, one of the first RPS bots. Computer RPS players are simply too good. “It’s much more interesting to find games that play well against people,” Friedman says. So when Friedman created RoShamBot, he deliberately refrained from making it invincible. While the program is powerful, its charm, he says, is that it doesn’t just mash you into a pulp. You can play against RoShamBot at

Since graduating from Stanford, Friedman has worked as a programmer for IBM and Oracle and as a professional poker player. In the latter pursuit, playing RPS against other humans has been a big help, Friedman says, because live-action RPS teaches you about the peculiarities of human thought. In RPS, the golden rule is to be unpredictable, but without extensive training humans are hopeless at this. “People tend to fall into patterns,” Friedman says. “They tell themselves things like, ‘I just went rock twice, so I shouldn’t do rock a third time, because that’s not random’.”

Worse, people tend to project patterns on their opponents. “They see patterns where there are none,” Friedman says. This, he adds, is a major source of complaints in online gaming: when players lose because of something they perceive as a too-lucky dice throw, say, they think the computer they are playing against must be rigged. “What are the odds double-six came up right when he needed it?” players ask. The thing is, as Friedman points out, “They don’t notice all the times it didn’t come up.”

If you are going to win at RPS, Friedman’s advice is to think – but not too much. Of course you want to randomise your throws, but once the game is under way you should look for patterns. If your opponent is human, the chances are he or she works – consciously or unconsciously – with a sequence in their head. Spot it, and they are toast.

Another tip is don’t throw rock in your first game. This strategy won the auction house Christie’s millions of dollars in 2005 when a wealthy Japanese art collector couldn’t decide which firm of auctioneers should sell his corporation’s collection of Impressionist paintings. He suggested they play RPS for it. Christie’s asked for suggestions from their employees, one of whom turned out to have daughters who played RPS in the schoolyard. “Everybody expects you to choose rock,” the girls said, so their advice was: go for scissors. Christie’s acted on this expert tip, while rival auction house Sotheby’s went for paper – and lost the business.

Scissors is still a good starting throw even if you are playing against someone experienced: they won’t go for rock because that’s seen as a rookie move, so the worst you are likely to do is tie. Once things are under way, different techniques come in. You could try the double bluff, where you tell your opponent what you’re going to throw – then do it: no one believes you’ll do it, so they won’t play the throw that beats the throw you are playing. Then, if your mind goes blank, play the throw that would have been beaten by your opponent’s previous throw: some kind of subconscious activity seems to encourage players – especially those who are not feeling at the top of their game – to aim to beat their own preceding throw.

When all else fails, the rule is “go with paper”, because rock comes up more often than it would by chance. In 1998, Mitsui Yoshizawa, a mathematician at Tokyo University of Science, studied throws from 725 people and found that they threw rock 35 per cent of the time. Paper came in at 33 per cent and scissors at 31 per cent. Facebook has an online game called Roshambull which has logged 10 million throws in over 1.6 million games. Here the statistics are 36 per cent rock, 30 per cent paper and 34 per cent scissors. “Players clearly have a slight preference for rock, and that affects the distribution of all the plays,” says Graham Walker of the World RPS Society. This pleases him, since it shows how winning something like the world RPS championship involves skill, not luck. “Given people’s preference for rock, it is impossible to claim that RPS is a game of chance,” he says.

So there you go: if arguments over which TV channel to watch are a regular feature of your holidays, now you know how to get your own way more often than not. Do a little study, practise against an online trainer, then, wide-eyed, make what looks like an innocent suggestion: shall we settle this with rock, paper, scissors?

From issue 2635 of New Scientist magazine, 22 December 2007, page 66-67




The science behind everything….

I love these articles that are about nothing really, but are still so interesting you read them.

Maybe I’m just sadder than i originally thought.

Linux on the PS3

December 12, 2007

Finally got ‘a round to it’.  And it was pretty simple, at least for the main part.

Lost all my game data though, because I was too stubborn to back everything up when told I had to before partitioning.

Anyways, like I say, was pretty simple following the guide here.

The trouble came with the wireless, but I sorted it after a kernel upgrade and a few other tit bits which I found on the above sites forum.  Took a lot of digging though, mainly because I’m rather lazy and impatient when it comes to down to it with technology (I see women nodding everywhere at this male trait), rather hands on than a reader.

So, it’s done and I have ubuntu on the PS3, however its the wireless file sharing that really did me in, and yep, its still not up and running.  Ah well, something to work on and at least I can play Dvix films from a usb stick.

Onwards and upwards.

My Project

October 17, 2007

It’s been a while since I’ve built or created something physically constructive.  The previous statement can be read in many ways lol.

I’ve been looking at buying an arcade machine or fruit machine for a couple of months and after weighing up the cost I’ve decided to build one myself.  It will be based on the ‘mame’  platform and a full sized realistic case design.   Something along the lines of this:  Stand Up Version.

We’ll see how I get on and update here.

Carbon Off Setting Makes Us Carbon Neutral

September 19, 2007

Well, I’ve been looking at how we in this household can become carbon neutral and it’s about to happen.

I have found out our average KWh for both sources of energy we use, gas and electricity. Then calculated it into a yearly amount rounding up generously, (I don’t want to say that we are carbon neutral and not actually be there for whatever reason).

No one in the household drives and flights will be calculated and added and offset if and when we take them.

So what happens next? Well, with the total figures I can use an online calculator to convert the KWh into an actual CO2 output number. Then we offset by investing in a place or a couple of places that will do the offsetting. Some of the schemes include:

human energy


wind energy

rainforest restoration

efficient stoves

efficient lighting


The way this works is the money we pay in a yearly lump sum is used in these example schemes to ‘offset’ what our house produces in the way of CO2.


This along with me being vegan, Olly my partner will be going vegan after our baby is born, as it isn’t the right time now for a major diet change obvious reasons (hurry up CJ!), our recycling schemes and also the switch to ‘green’ energy, (a little bit more expensive than normal but well worth it), should mean we are really doing our bit as a household for the environment. There is always more to be done though and I’ll be doing it….

 How does our ‘green’ energy work?  Well simply put all the money we pay for our bills is put into the production of energy from wind farms.  Although obviously we don’t get all that what it means is the amount of energy we use is produced by a wind farm and  distributed through the energy grid.  So in theory this household’s power is all from wind power if you can look at it like that.


If you live in the UK and would like details of where and how we are offsetting feel free to contact me, a google search does just as well at turning up offsetting schemes for UK and non-UK residents.

Linux On A Laptop

September 9, 2007

Well I did intend this to be more drawn out and informative but it seems the days of long drawn out complicated linux installations such as the ones I used to do using RedHat are long gone as are the problems with most drivers unless you are using a wireless internet connect, in which case the PCLinuxOS support forum is most helpful, so this will be short and sweet….

Ok, I have used a few Linux distributions over the past few years but have settled on one that I like due to it’s simplicity. It’s called PCLinuxOS and I have been using it since and during it’s long period of being a Beta. The final release is out now by the way and that’s the one I have used.

Minimum system requirements are as follows:

  • 8 GB of free disk space
  • 512 MB of memory
  • a CD or DVD drive
  • a network card (NIC)
  • a high speed internet connection (for new software and updates)

At this point I have to do the normal warning that is done with most things you do with your computer these days. Make sure you have any important data backed up. The risk is minimal until we get down to the juicy bits, which I sign post well in advance, but I don’t want hate mail! Onwards then…..

  • First we will need to download and burn an iso file of PCLinuxOS which is basically a CD image, and simply put we burn that image as it is directly to CD or DVD. You can find the image file here. Select the download source nearest to you and save the file to a location that you know.
  • Ok, then we need to burn the image file to cd or dvd, the software, which is freeware, that I use is called DVDDecrypter. Once you have that installed you need to burn the ISO to the media such as a DVD-R or CD-R, you get the picture. DVDDecrypter is pretty self explainitory, however if you do run into problems Google is your friend. And if you are having trouble at this point, maybe the switch to linux isn’t the best thing to do right now. ( I do advise letting DVDDecrypter verify the write after it has burned, there is a tick box in the software which is hard to miss, after all it is a new Operating system you are installing and a faulty disk write can have unforseen consequences as well as the distinct possibilty that the disk simply wont work).
  • Once we have the PCLinuxOS iso burned to your selected media you can reboot your system with the disk in the drive. Don’t worry, before we get anywhere near changing anything on your current system I will let you know in advance. Once we are rebooteding the disk should automatically boot into a screen where you can select running the LiveCD. Running this basically means you will be running the Operating system from memory and DVD / CD and not interfering with your current set up on your hard disk. Once you have selected to run the LiveCD things should start happening on your screen until you get to an options section, this basically just sets up how the LiveCd should run. Everything should be pretty obvious as to how to proceed up until the network/internet setup section. If you are unsure how to proceed just go with the defaults, remember you are running off the cd / dvd and nothing is permanent.
  • So, there should now be a log in screen, log in as ‘root’, all the passwords and usernames are there. Remember that how the Operating System runs now will be significantly slower than when it is installed as we are running linux directly off the optical drive. Now’s your chance to look around and test things out, see if you like what you see, take your time and explore. If you don’t, just reboot and remove the LiveCd and you are back with your normal Operating System, you can always go back to the LiveCd at anytime of course if you have a change of heart. If you do like what you see however and have decided to take the linux plunge then there is an icon on the desktop labelled ‘install PCLinuxOS’ or some such other label. (I did the install a few hours ago and can’t remember the exact title 😀 ).
  • This is where we do start to make changes to the data on your hard disk, so remember the things you do from here can be irreversable and any data you value should be backed up long before reaching this stage. We aren’t, and I didn’t do, a dual booting linux install, one that is running Linux and Windows, maybe next time though, so all data that hasnt been saved from your harddisk now will be gone for good after this install. Still with me? Good. Because this is where it gets a little bit more interesting, nothing we can’t handle though right?
  • So, we have opened the install thingy from the desktop and have been presented with options. Balls, I cant remember what they are off the top of my head, be right back, just going to run the LiveCd again….. Ok. Choose the normal hard disk drive option, we won’t be installing to an external hard drive. The erase and use entire disk, we aren;t dual booting and this is the simplest install method of all. You will now get the customary warning that all data will be lost, which means what it says, so once you are ready click next. It will go ahead and format and you may be asked to reboot after it has done it’s stuff, so do as requested, remembering to keep the disk in the drive. Once you have gone through all the formalities of the reboot back to the LiveCD you will need to click the install icon again and follow the instructions given above up to this point taking into account what you have already done so as not to waste time doing the same thing twice, however this time you will be using the existing partitions when prompted.
  • At this point you should be presented with a selection menu, with labels such as hda1 and hda2 for example. One of these must be selected as / from the drop down menu and one can be selected as ‘home’ If you only have one choice to make instead of two then it must be / This is the part that used to trip me up back in the day. All Linux installs as far as I know need an / partition at least.
  • Go ahead and continue by clicking next. It should then ask you which partitions you wish to format, you can choose both but by changing the partition structure on the hard disk you have already made the disk clean for all intents and purposes, (if you are installing this on a machine already running linux then you will need to format both partitions), and you may have to run through the install procedure up to this point again by opting to format. So my suggestion is just to untick the boxes and continue. If you do choose to format, and you need to reboot and restart the installation from the LiveCd desktop, like I say refer to the previous instructions up until the point where it asks you to format then untick the boxes and click next.
  • Right, we should be at the point where we can click next to install. Go for it and off it goes installing shockingly enough. It isn’t a long install time by any streach of the imagination.
  • Once it’s done most of what it needs to another menu will open up for you to change and edit, this one is basically setting up what you will see everytime you boot your system, similar to the Windows menu you are presented with after a system crash, this one however will be one you see everytime. I suggest leaving the options as they are, the install system is pretty good when it comes to default options. So Grub with graphical menu and boot device /dev/hda (and your disk make) will suffice. Time before auto booting is good at 10 seconds too. Leave the tick box ticked as well. Click next.
  • Leave the entires on your boot menu on the next screen as they are too and click finish. Wait for it to finish doing its stuff and set your root password, this will be used for making changes to your system like installing software and other bits and bobs and is part of Linux’s robust security, wave goodbye to all the nasties attached to Windows usage. Click next and then set up a user account, this will be the one you use for day to day usage. The menu is self explanitory. Click done. Add as many users as will be using your machine clicking accept user each time. When you have them all added just click Done. Click Finish, and guess what? You have a linux machine. Reboot and it’s all yours…..
  • Was that really so hard?

Ok, that install was done on a Compaq Presario R3000, it should work equally well on any machine, laptop or desktop that fits the minimum specs required.

Have i missed something? Got something wrong? Do you have any suggestions?

If so just drop me a line via the comments on this post or via the contact me form available from the tab above.

Look out for more how to’s and also the little piece I will be posting tomorrow on the celebration of 50 years of space flight.

Buh bye for now folks.