Windows machines can’t use more than 3GB of real memory

Who would have ever thought we’d run into the 32-bit limitation. The long and short is that with all versions of Windows, 750MB at the top of memory is useless because it is used for I/O and if you have a 1GB video card, that is memory mapped, so that means you can use at most 2.25GB of real memory in most high end machines on Windows. Sigh. Now that is really a ripoff.

This is why the highest end Mac only has 3GB of real memory, you can’t use more with today’s Leopard, although the newest Santa Rosa chipset 2H2007 machines from Apple use PAE to get around this problem. Windows XP and even Vista don’t support it. Another reason to buy a Mac.

AppleInsider | Road to Mac OS X Snow Leopard: 64-bits, Santa Rosa, and more

“consumers are being scammed by [PC] OEMs on a large scale. OEMs will encourage customers to upgrade a 2GB machine to 4GB, even though the usable RAM might be limited to 2.3GB. This is especially a problem on high-end gaming machines that have huge graphics cards as well as lots of RAM.”

Boot Camp

John, Sam and Louie were wondering exactly how to install Base Camp on their computer. Chris Pirillo explains it well:

How to Install Boot Camp on OS X ~ Chris Pirillo

# Use Spotlight to search for _Boot Camp Assistant_. Ah, there it is. The first thing it will do is ask if you want to print the instructions. I don’t want to, so I’m just going to click through.
# Next, it asks how much space you want to partition for use of Boot Camp. Ponzi will be doing a lot in Windows, so I’m going to allocate 25GB of space. Click the button to partition, and wait a couple of minutes for it to do so. This is a hard limit as the hard drive is divided forever more into a Mac section and a Windows section. I’d say 25GB is good if you are going to put games on it.
# Once it has finished partitioning, you’ll need to grab your Windows XP install disc. Simply put that in and let it run through setup. Amazingly, Windows just detects the Mac as a regular PC
# After that is done… you’re going to need to pop in the OS X disc and update drivers and things for Windows to run. When you install Windows using Boot Camp, you won’t need to search the Internet for drivers or burn a disc. After you run Boot Camp, simply insert the Leopard DVD to install the necessary drivers. The Leopard Install DVD is a frankenstein device. It is a Mac disk for installing OS X and on Windows, it looks like all the drivers you need to use the Mac hardware

Windows Boot Drive Crash

Even when on vacation, you find computers everywhere. Someone asked me, “what do I do? when I try to start my computer, I get a boot drive not found”.

“Microsoft”: has a good discussion about what happens if you get Operating System Not Found or Missing operating system. The long and short of it is that you use Windows XP Recovery Console and then the fixmbr to update the master boot record if that is the problem.

There is also a good (finally!) discussion about all the “startup”: problems you can have.

This has got to be the scariest message ever created. What it means normally is that (best case), the boot all the way to your hard drive has failed. The later happens quite a bit with notebooks, but let’s hope for the best. “”: has the best explanation of what is going on. In short, it is normally that the startup files have been corrupted.

If you have a floppy drive (an ancient machine!), then you can create a boot disk

Punkbuster is hard to remove

This is some sort of anticheating software that you can’t really remove called “Punkbuster”:

Removing Punkbuster « Bucking the Trend

For those who want to really uninstall Punkbuster, the file PnkbstrA.exe is located in the Windows\System32 folder in Windows XP. Before deleting it, go to Start Menu -> Run -> type msconfig, then look at the Services tab. Uncheck PnkbstrA, and delete the file. That should get rid of the thing.

Apparently some online servers require Punkbuster to be installed, but there is an uninstall program you can download if you don’t like hacking with msconfig:

PunkBuster Online Countermeasures

To manually install/uninstall the components, users may use our PBSVC Setup Program. However, uninstalling the new service components will disable PunkBuster and may prevent playing on PunkBuster servers.

Happy Fathers Day

OK, I must be the only person who gives a visit to fix a computer as part of a Father’s Day gift, but some quick notes for making things easier for people who don’t want the hassle:

# “Autologon”: enabled. Before Windows got secure, with Windows 95, you didn’t have to worry about logons. Mac OS X works the same way. Use PowerToys to enable this with Windows XP. It’s an easy download.
# “Webcam”:,en. Get either a new computer, or buy a webcam. The Logitech QuickCam Fusion and its follow-on’s a cheap and easy. Just about $80 and then you can talk from your computer
# “Skype”: If you have abready bought broadband, then when you download Skype, then grand-dad just has to turn the computer on. Set it to automatically answer and then you just turn it on and you can see the grand kids!

Wallpaper Changer

I love how Mac OS X changes the wallpaper automatically. With Windows XP, there is a “Creativity Fun Pack PowerToys Wallpaper Changer”: that does the same thing essentially.

Like the Mac one, the main drawback is that it won’t search through lots of directories to find lots of wallpapers, so everything has to be in a single folder. Too bad!

Also it doesn’t scale correctly if the wall paper isn’t quite the right size.

dBpoweramp audible backup

If you want to backup your audible .aa files because you are worried about being away and not activating properly, here is what to do. I had forgotten how to do this but needed to remember because I lost my Windows XP installation:

# Find an old copy of the Audible Manager. The one I have is called ADMSetup.exe and is 798KB and is dates 27-Feb-2006. This allows any Directshow compatible player like Windows media player to play a .aa file.
# Install this, it might require some DLLs for some reason, but they are msvci70.dll and mscvr70.dll. Google for these and download them into c:\windows\system directory
# Now install dBpoweramp. Currently this is version 12.4
# Also install the dBpoweramp Directshow filter. This allows dBpoweramp to convert any thing that .aa can see
# File run %appdata%\dbpoweramp and you will see a file directshow.txt. Add the single line that just contains ‘.aa’ This tells dbpoweramp that there is a directshow filter that knows about Audible .aa files
# You should now be able to right click on a .aa file and you will see “Convert To”
# When you select, choose MP3 and pick 32Kbps CBR as the format and this will take the encrypted format (the so called format 4 in .aa speak which is really an encrypted mp3) and put it into the clear for backup purposes only.

C Drive is failing!

Yikes, one of our machines has a faiilng C drive. It is a great 74GB Western Digital 10,000 rpm drive, but I can’t defrag it. It won’t completel. Norton Ghost fails on reading sectors. When I try to chkdsk, it comes out fine, so something is wrong. Time to figure out how to migrate to a new drive.

Actually it is fine since this machine hasn’t been rebuilt for three years and it is very flaky with all the video and other stuff loaded, so I just need to:

# “Dynamic to Basic”: Convert one of the “dynamic”: drives I have to basic. You can only boot from basic drives and there is no utility to convert dynamic to basic. Sigh. Windows.
# Norton Ghost has a single disk backup, so I’m going to take a standard copy as well
# “Convert to Basic”:
Basically, you start Computer Management/Storage/Disk Managment. Then you right click on the drive icon (not the big white thing on right but the actual icon) and you will see Convert to Basic Disk

Windows XP Product Activation Key

Ok, I’m trapped away from my Windows XP CD, what do I do?

# If you want to know the current Product Activation Key, you can download the Magical Bean Key Finder (current version 2.01). As “Mike Devlin”: points out there are a couple of key viewers pre-SP2 and post SP2.
# If you want to change you PID, you can download the “Key changer”: which starts the Windows Activation utility so gives you a chance to change your product key.

BTW, one amazing thing is that there is a program called Belarc Advisor that ISPs give out. This amazingly will push a personal users “key”: out onto the public internet for all to see. If you get this Belarc thing, make sure to disable it, otherwise people could see all kinds of things like your key as “My Digital Life”: points out.


Dad gave me an old laptop to use. It is from 2004! So it needs lots of updating. First up is to get:

# “Java”: So that I can write programs
# “Dr. Java”: Which is a simple editor and program
# “Intel 2200 BG”: I couldn’t connect to Apple’s latest Time Capsule and my drivers haven’t been in updated in four years, so got the latest 11.0 version from last year.
* “Intel Pro100/VM”:*+XP+Professional&lang=eng&strOSs=44&submit=Go%21 The Pro100/VM is OEM only, so you have to download the Pro100/VE drivers, but these are made in 2003, so after five years, I hope there are some improvements.