Armada M700 Battery Problems

Wowzers, here’s something unusual! I’m at Starbucks this morning, which isn’t really all that strange. The bizarre part is that I’ve got wireless access and a live laptop.

This is a four year-old Compaq laptop; I’ve replaced the batteries more times than I can count (I think laptop vendors count on selling batteries, like Gillette selling blades). Eric (that’s Eric H., my program manager) somehow was able to revive my dead laptop battery – it wouldn’t give me 5 seconds of life before, but now I get almost 90 minutes out of it. Don’t know what he did, but the little lithium-ion dude is back.

Not only that, but he also found a free wireless signal. Probably not provided by this Starbucks, of course, they’ve got their own T-Mobile. We’re guessing that one of the other shops here dropped in a Linksys station and didn’t bother to secure it.

Coffee, wireless, bloggin’ in the morning… I almost feel like Doc Searls. smiley

Of course, as the day wore on I found that perhaps that whole dead-battery-recharging thing wasn’t all it was cracked up to be – it failed again. Dead as the proverbial doornail, not able to take a charge at all.

Plugging it back in, I noticed that I was getting a 103 Charge Circuit Failure error message while it was booting. Scouring around the net didn’t find a lot, but I did find one reference for a different Armada to the same problem being resolved by “resetting the BIOS” (really resetting the CMOS, I believe).

That’s a simple procedure – Hold Fn down while powering the system on and repeatedly tapping the F11 key. The laptop begins to startup (green lights) and then powers back down. Do this at least 3 times, then let it boot. It’ll count all the memory and give an message about CMOS being wrong. Let it reset the amount of memory in the laptop, save the settings and exit.

Now it boots without the power cord again. The Windows XP power meter shows a fairly reasonable amount of time/power left (58%, 1:10 remaining as I type this). So I let it go, working and letting it run down again. Then plug it in & let it charge. After a couple of hours – and a good dinner – I unplug it and head out to the deck.

Nothing. No lights, no power.

All right, one more thing to try. I recall that I also saw someone mention that I should try taking the battery out for a few seconds. Hmm, actually in all that mess earlier – before playing with CMOS, I did take the battery out to try it in Eric’s laptop (where it worked, oddly enough). Ok, I’ll give that a go. Take it out, count to 10, put it back.


[later]Pretty quickly here I’m getting several hits each day via Google from people apparently in the same boat. If you’re having a similar problem and these steps help (or don’t), or if you have tried other things which help (or don’t), please let me know and I’ll add to this. email me

July 16th update: well, for me at least that “fix” only lasted 1.5 months – I’m getting the Charge Circuit Failure and pretty minimal charge lifetime again. I do not own this laptop any longer, so I can’t do any further testing.

OS X Hints for Windows Users

Ok, I’ve got some answers to some Mac questions that were bothering me. We can just make today Mac OS X Hints for Windows Users day, perhaps the first of several.

  • Is there a way to lock the desktop? When I leave my desk, I’m supposed to lock the system – Control-Alt-Delete, then Lock Computer (or WindowsKey-L on an XP system). Most appliations keep right on running (music players seem to be the exception; many stop playing while the system’s locked) but nobody can walk up and look at my data. I don’t see an obvious way to do this in OS X.

I got a couple of answers here from folks (Thanks Dave R., Smith K. and Gary H.). To me, the easiest is to merely require a password to come out of the screen saver or sleep mode.

Start System Preferences (similar to Windows’ Control Panel), then visit the Security applet and check the “Require password to wake this computer from sleep or screen saver” box. Then go to the Desktop and Screen Save applet and click the Hot Corners button. Choose a corner of the screen to use to manually start the screen saver. I use the upper right-hand corner; I don’t normally have a reason to be poking the pointer up there beyond the clock very often. Close System Preferences.

Now, before leaving the desk, give the mouse point a toss into the corner and the screen saver will start. When you return, you should be promted for your username and password before getting back to work.

Smith K.’s other suggestion is also a good one: Alternately, you can open up “/Applications/Utilities/Keychain Access”, and in the “View” menu for that app, pick the “Show status in menu bar”, and a padlock will appear in the right side of your menu bar. You can then pick “Lock Screen”.

  • How can I connect to a Windows (smb) file share? I was pretty sure that I remembered seeing somewhere that OS X made this a whole lot easier than back in the System 7 days that I remember. The Printer widgit was able to find my Windows XP-shared DeskJet just fine last night. I’m not sure where to look to find something similar to reach my files. (I do see what look to be domains & workgroups in the Finder’s network browser, but they’re all empty. Hmm, even in the printer widgit they’re empty. Interesting.)

version 10.3, aka “Panther”; I’m not sure that older versions had this particular function in the same place (if at all). When in the Finder, use the Go menu’s Connect to Server… item, which brings up this dialog box. You can click the Browser button and wander around, but in a large network it’s sometimes easier to just type the server name.

screenshot of the Finder's Connect to Server dialog box, described in the text

The original specification for the underlying set of protocols that are used in Microsoft’s file sharing is called Server Message Block, or SMB. You can see in the screenshot here that I’m only prefixing the server name with smb:// to make the connection. The one that I’ve added to my “Favorite Servers” list is a server name, when I connect to it I get a list of the file shares from which to choose. I also have a shared area that’s “hidden” from browsing; I can connect directly to that as shown by typing both the server and share names, like this: smb://cortana/vore$

When the connection’s made (after you supply a username and password, if asked to do so), the shared folder appears as an additional drive on your desktop. If it’s one you’re going to use a lot, you could create an alias so you don’t have to go though the whole Finder Go menu routine each day.

As for printers… well, we don’t seem to have the same option for connections here. In the dialog box (brought up by System Preferences, Print & Fax, Set Up Printers…, Add) I can only find an option to browse, not to type in a server and printer name. For some reason, I can browse to my server and find its printer when I’m on my home network, but can only see a list of almost completely empty domains on the corporate network. More research needed here. If I’m missing something, or there’s another place I should be looking, please let me know.

  • How can I capture an image from the screen, to put on my website or into a presentation.

While I was putting this together, I realized that I didn’t know how to get a screen shot. On a Windows system, I use Shift-PrtSc (or Alt-Shift-PrtSc) then paste into Paint. A quick IM to Paolo got the answer for us, and I then remembered the same keystroke from back in my System 7 days. Shift-Apple-4 turns on a selection cursor; you drag a box around what you want copied. OS X puts the copy right into a file for you, a PDF file saved on the desktop. I then pulled that into PhotoShop for some minor editing and saved it as a Jpeg file for the website.

There’s also something called Grab on my system (open the Finder, choose Appliations, then open the Utilities folder), but I havn’t explored it yet. What I don’t see is a basic Paint-type application; if I didn’t have PhotoShop here I’m not sure what I could use for simple image editing.

I think that’s enough for today. I’m sure I’ll come up with more questions as time goes by.

Enabling an FTP Server

Scott’s using Windows XP Professional and wants to know if he can have an FTP service running. Sure he can, and so can you. Microsoft included an FTP service with Windows XP, it just doesn’t get installed and enabled by default. Adding it to your system will let others, using an FTP client, connect to your system to transfer files.

Add/Remove Windows Components – Windows Components Wizard

  1. Start – Control Panel – Add/Remove Programs.
  2. On the left-hand side, choose Add/Remove Windows Components
  3. Select the entry for Internet Information Services (IIS) and click the Details button
  4. Check the box for File Transfer Protocol (FTP) Service, then click OK enough times to close all the dialog boxes.

Now you can use the MMC to configure your newly-added service. Got to Start » Programs » Administrative Tools, then click Internet Information Services. This will load MMC with the IIS snap-in. Expand the entry for your computername, then for FTP Sites. Right-click the Default site and select Properties. Here you can configure what directory to use, what accounts to allow, etc. Also on that right-click context menu are Stop and Start.

To test the server, you can use IE or another web browser – just use the name of your system with ftp:// on the front of the URL instead of http://

Cheap Backup

I do fairly regular backups from my server to tape, but I normally carry around most of my documents on my laptop as well. Copying them to the server is a pain, since many of them havn’t changed and the Windows GUI doesn’t have an easy way to copy just the updated ones (and please don’t suggest the briefcase, I never have been happy with that). So here’s what I do use, that old favorite – XCOPY


cd "\documents and settings"\\vore\\"My Documents"
net use y: \\\\\myShare
xcopy .\\*.* Y:\\docs\\ /exclude:exclude.txt /y /d /s

/y keeps me from being bothered with any prompts
/d means ‘newer files only’
/s has it traverse subdirectories
/exclude has xcopy read a file, in my case called exclude.txt. That file has lines that keep this job from copying any music (why oh why is “My Music” inside the “My Documents” folder?) or pictures.



Open a command prompt (Start->Run->CMD) and type XCOPY /? to see all the options.

Disabling CD AutoPlay

Scott asked me the other day how to keep Windows XP from playing his CDs right away. CD AutoPlay, which tries to let you listen to or otherwise use your discs as soon as they’re mounted, is nice if you like it (like I do), but I guess it can be pretty annoying if you don’t. If you’re like my friend and don’t want Media Player or other seemingly-unbidden applications, don’t fret – they’re easily prevented.

Open My Computer (if you don’t have the icon on your desktop or in your Start menu, you can use Start-Run explorer.exe /n,/e,::{20D04FE0-3AEA-1069-A2D8-08002B30309D} to get there) and right-click on your CD drive’s icon. Select Properties and then the AutoPlay tab. For each type of disk (music, pictures, etc), you can choose exactly what you want to happen… including “Take no action.”

Users of Windows 98 or Millenium don’t have as many choices, but can visit Properties of My Computer, Device Manager and the CD drive’s Settings tab. From there you can un-check the Auto Insert Notification option. Just remember that you’ll need to refresh (F5) explorer windows when you swap discs.

[update: Doh! I keep forgetting TweakUI, but Tommy keeps me on my toes. TweakUI handles CD AutoPlay too. Much easier and less chance of error. use that instead.]

Moving Data to a New System

Ok, I’m mostly back now. I got a new hard disk and have moved everything (I think) over successfully. Windows XP’s file and settings transfer wizard worked pretty well, there were just a few settings that it missed. Most notably the settings for Outlook 2003. I’d say it was 90% successful, which is a lot better than starting from scratch.

Having done this twice last night (I was also replacing one of the home systems), I’ve got a few suggestions for others who use the Files and Settings Transfer Wizard:

  • First, take a good look through your system and note all the programs that you’ve got installed, then find the CDs or network pointers for them. Also make sure you’ve got any registration keys required for the software as well. The wizard does not move applications; you will need to re-install them on the new system.
  • Before you start the wizard, be sure you’re going to ask it to work as little as possible (it’s not exactly a speedy tool).
    • Move (not copy) all your pictures and music manually; JPEG files and, I think, MP3s & WMAs don’t compress so moving them manually is actually faster.
    • Clear IE’s temporary Internet files and any other application caches that you may have
    • Use the Add/Remove Programs control panel applet to get rid of any programs you don’t use any longer. Heck, go ahead and remove ones that you will be re-installing on the new computer anyway (especially games, which are normally loaded with picture and sound files), just don’t let them delete your data.
    • Look through your old system’s hard disk for other files and applications that you’re sure you don’t need any longer and remove them.
  • Run the wizard on your old computer, to save the data. If you’re not running XP yet, you can just use the Windows XP CD and the wizard there will collect as much as it can from a Windows 95/98/ME system.
  • Install XP on your new system and – here’s the important part – create & log in with the account you’re going to use. If you’re on a corporate network, this includes becoming part of the domain and logging into your domain account.
  • Install your applications.
  • Now run the wizard again, this time as the “new” computer, and point it to the saved data. Once it’s done, it’ll ask you to log out and back in at which point you should have all your files and most of your settings back.

You probably want to hang on to the old computer for a couple of days, just in case you realize something you and the wizard both missed.

What Time Is It, Redux

Last summer, I wrote about keeping Windows XP’s clock in synch with other systems on your network and with the “real world.” Here’s a tidbit on a simliar topic.

Network administrators who have Unix, Linux or other systems on their networks are often asked about NTP – Network Time Protocol. If you’re using Windows Server 2000 (or, I presume 2003), you can have good news for your users without spending money or scrounging the net … you’ve already got the software you need. Before you do this, though be sure to understand NTP Etiquette.

Start up regedit add a DWORD entry named LocalNTP to
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\\SYSTEM\\CurrentControlSet\\Services\\W32Time\\Parameters, set it to 1 to enable and restart the server so the change takes effect. Easy. #include standard_registry_disclaimer

I’d like to think this setting is exposed through a UI element somewhere in the control panel or an MMC snap-in, but I havn’t found it yet (if you see it, please let us know). See also John Savill’s FAQ which makes it look like you can use the net time command.

Internet Explorer Satus Bar

Would someone please help me find the setting to turn IE6‘s View->Status Bar on by default? HKEY_Current_User\\Software\\Microsoft\\Internet Explorer\Main\Show_StatusBar is already set to yes but that doesn’t make a difference for new windows.

[later: a solution from stef in comments: “Open up My computer. View -> Status bar Tools -> Folder Options Under the View tab, choose ‘Apply to All Folders'” Thanks!]

[much later: this may be finally fixed in Windows XP SP2]

Backup Early, Backup Often

Jonny started searching and realized that he already has a backup program for Windows XP. Now, he asks, what are all these options and what should I do with them?

Windows XP's Backup program, Backup Type options

Backing up your data files is important, and for some people so is saving space. The backup program here is giving you the option to do both. What Microsoft’s calling a normal backup here is more often referred to by computer professionals as a full backup – it’s going to copy everything. It’s also going to mark those files as having been backed up. That mark is important, and is cleared any time that a file is changed. That way, if you want to save space on your next backup, you can choose incremental. An incremental backup only copies the files that have been changed.

A standard strategy for backup, then, is to perform a full backup once each month and an incremental each week, onto different media. That way, if you need to restore, you start with the full back and then add on each of the remaining weeks. Of course, you’d be best served by having two complete sets of media and alternating them: Month1 full, Month1 Week2 incremental, Month1 Week3 incremental, Month1 Week4 incremental, then Month2 full, Month2 Week2 incremental, Month2 Week3 incremental, Month2 Week4 incremental. Then start the cycle all over again. That way you’ve always got a complete set, though perhaps a little old, in the drawer. And if you’re especially careful, the drawer is in a different location just in case.

Backup gives you two other options as well, not used by as many people but good for the making extra copies. A copy backs up everything, but doesn’t mark them as having been backed up. Differential just copies the changed files, as incremental does, but doesn’t mark them.

So, XP users, you’ve got a backup program and it gives you plenty of options. Now it’s up to you to keep your data safe. Next week we’ll talk about what data you’ll want not to forget.

Scripting the Guts of Windows

MSDN’s WMI Scripting Primer: “Microsoft® Windows® Management Instrumentation (WMI) is Microsoft’s best-kept secret, or so we’ve been told. Be that as it may, make no mistake; WMI is Microsoft’s primary management enabling technology for Windows.” Via WSH you can use VBScript or other scripting languages – including Perl – to get to many of the internal workings of your Windows systems.