Sidebar gadgets burning up your CPU in Windows 7?

I have a problem sometimes with gadgets malfunctioning and hogging CPU and memory resources.  They don’t display properly anymore either until I restart the sidebar process.

Fortunately, this is a known problem, and according to Microsoft, symptoms include: “Gadgets may appear as black squares, may appear to have vertical green lines down the center or may not appear at all and may have a blue exclamation mark next to it, or calendar gadget may display without dates

Microsoft has released two potential fixes for this problem:

Microsoft Fix it 50617 – “This package will change the registry value for Value data in the Zones subkey to 0 for you

or if that doesn’t do the trick, follow it with:

Microsoft Fix it 50618 which is designed to delete the extra (parasite) zone from the Zones subkey


Amazon cloud glitch highlights cloud fallibility

According to Computerworld:

“Amazon began reporting trouble on its Service Health Dashboard about 5 a.m. Eastern today [April 21, 2011]. At 5:16 a.m., the site reported connectivity issues that were affecting its Relational Database Service, which is used to manage a relational database in the cloud, across multiple zones in the eastern U.S.”

Many customers lost hosting ability in their EC2 (Elastic Compute Cloud), which is their pay-as-you-go service, and there were also problems with EBS (Elastic Block Storage) which is the storage back-end used by EC2 services.  When EBS has problems, data volumes for various customers become unavailable causing outages.  In this case, the outages were quite lengthy.

Amazon reported that they had a networking event which caused massive re-mirroring of EBS volumes.  EBS is a “protected data service” which means that your data is mirrored on several sites so it won’t get lost if one site goes down.  When links are broken between these servers, they must be re-synchronized when the links come back up.  This is known as re-mirroring.  Normally this isn’t a problem, but when a large number of volumes all try to re-sync at the same time, it takes up too much bandwidth and causes outages because the volumes take a long time to re-sync.  So, while you don’t lose data, you loose access to it for a time.

Many customers were blindsided by this and were scrambling to find some way to get their services back on-line.  People have a tendency to forget that cloud based services run on a datacenter, just like the computers they have in-house, and are subject to the same problems and outages.  While there are a lot of high-availability features, and it’s not your in-house people who have to solve the problems and keep things running, problems can and do occur.

What’s the moral of this story?  The cloud needs to be treated appropriately like any datacenter.  Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity need to be addressed just like the computers in your company datacenter.  Putting processes out into the cloud does not absolve you from that responsibility.  Hopefully, we’ll all benefit from this “wake up” call, and plan appropriately in the future.

Trekkies take note – watch all Star Trek episodes online!

GO HERE to watch all Star Trek episodes online.  This is a great archive and points to video sources all over the net.  They include ST Original series, as well as Next Gen and all the spinoffs!  WARNING: Not all of this is hosted in one place.  This means that depending on the episode, it’ll come from different sources.  Some of these sources are malware sources, so be really careful!

[thanks Michael]

Rocket Belt

Ok, maybe the water powered jet-pack wasn’t what you need.  Maybe you need to travel away from the water.  Finally – a company is producing these things.  Of course, it isn’t in our overly litigious United States (perish the thought!).  The big problem with these things is flight time – 20-30 seconds maximum, so if you are planning on using one of these to commute to work, it’d better be a short commute, and you’d better hurry!


Here’s a video of Isabel Lozano flying one of these new rocket belts: Windows Media 1.24 MB

Here’s her first flight (first woman to fly one of these!):

My friend Ellis – The Strange Game

My friend Ellis Cohen wrote a ton of songs this year, and we've been working on recording some demos of them.  He posted a few samples to ReverbNation!  Note that these are basically first cuts, they are raw and not polished (yet).  They'll be updated as the process continues, but they are definitely worth a listen.  He's really great at lyrics and writes some very profound, emotional, thought provoking, somtimes humorous, and personal material.  The band is "The Strange Game" and we started a website (more of a placeholder at the moment, but it'll get better).  The plan is to post lyrics and music of our first CD in its entirety… FREE!

We hope you enjoy!

MAME Project: Software

Once I was satisfied that the hardware was all basically working the way I wanted it to, I decided to take a break from construction and delve into the software.  My goal was to get the software to work with my jury-rigged control panel and prove to myself that I could create a machine which doesn’t take a computer-literate person to operate, and can be controlled without a keyboard/mouse.

First, I downloaded the latest emulator from – seemed like an obvious thing to do.  This worked, but had some issues with being controlled exclusively from the control panel.  I still had to keep hitting the ESC key on the keyboard, and that just wouldn’t do.

So, I went to the support section on and they have an article on there entitled “Configuring MAME for X-Arcade use – The Easy Way”.  Now that sounded good!  They recommend using a slightly different version of the emulator called “Mame Plus!” – no problem, I downloaded and installed it and it worked just fine, following their simple directions.  I did of course have to put some ROMS into the mame/roms directory (more about this later).

The nice thing about using this version, and the associated control files that come with it, is it’s set up nicely for the joystick/button setup that I have (same layout as the xarcade device).  When you run a game, it comes up with a warning screen telling you that you need to own the ROM files because of copyright issues.  Then, it makes you type OK on the keyboard to proceed.  With this emulator version & associated control files though, you also have the option of moving player 1 joystick left then right (it says on the screen to do this) instead of using the keyboard.

Another important thing is exiting the game.  To do this, you hit the ESC key.  Fortunately, with this software setup you can hold the “2 player start” button and push the right pinball flipper simultaneously to exit also.  Voilla!  Keyboard has now been rendered totally unnecessary for game play.  I decided that was an odd key combination, and I changed mine so that you press “1 player start” and “2 player start” simultaneously to exit.  I may decide that’s a bad idea at some point, but it seems good for now (besides, if you read the bit about the wiring harness, you might remember that my right hand fllipper button is not hooked up because the wire is too short, and I was too lazy to extend it).  I also went into the mame.ini file and manually disabled the game info screen that comes up when you first launch a game (after you say OK to the ROM police).  To do that, I changed “skip_gameinfo 0” to “skip_gameinfo 1”.

Here’s a useful article which lists all the options in the mame.ini file, and what they do: CLICK HERE

If you really want to use the latest version, instead of the “Mame Plus!” version from xgaming, then edit the mame.ini file and in the “core input options” section, make sure you have “ctrlr xarcade” in there.  That should do all the control tweaking for you.

While the mame/mame+ user interface (UI) is workable, it’s not very pretty, and not very kid-friendly (or grandma friendly).  So, I looked around for other front-end programs.  There are quite a lot of them out there.  The one I decided to download and try was Hyperspin.  I’m not totally crazy about this front-end, but it does give me the ability to prevent users from bailing out and ending up with a windows desktop.  Also, it makes the game selection process more game-like than the mame UI.  I learned quite a bit about managing it and getting the menu selection pared down to a usable list (instead of 6000+ games in alphabetical order).  I’ll share that stuff later on.  For now, I’m satisfied that I can make this thing turnkey and it’s back to the hardware!

Next up: Extending the wire harness

By Tim Posted in MAME Tagged