Burned by Vista

A few weeks ago some neighbors got married at home, surrounded by family and friends. I took a few photos.

Today I thought I’d burn a CD for them. My CD/DVD burner can burn CD-Rs at 48X, and I’m using good-quality 52X-rated media, so I figured it would take about five minutes.

At this moment, Vista is about 1/10 of the way through burning 60 files (about 275 MB) to CD. At its current place, Vista estimate that it will take a total of about 4 hours to complete the job.

That’s right. About four hours to burn less than half a CDs-worth of data.

Honestly…what is wrong with Microsoft?

[Around 2 hours into it, the novelty of seeing how long Vista would actually take wore off. I started over with Nero, which completed the same job in 2 minutes, 16 seconds.]

Make iTunes (mostly) work for multiple users on Windows

Been waiting for most of the decade for iTunes to become multi-user savvy? Yeah, me too. Since iTunes’ Windows support is (and will probably continue to be) a bit weak at the edges, here’s how to fool iTunes into playing nice with multi-user Windows installations.

To do this, we’ll need to do two things:

  • Move iTunes’ library and preferences to a common location
  • Fool iTunes into using the new library/preferences locations

You might think you’d do this using Windows Shortcuts. Unfortunately, Shortcuts are too “lame” (sorry to get so technical) to support this.

The solution is to use NFTS junction points, which are more analogous to Mac aliases and Linux symbolic links, and which you can easily find more about if you’re really interested. Otherwise, just download and install NTFS Link, a Windows shell extension that allows us to easily create NTFS junction points.

(Note: These instructions assume you’re using Vista. Since all of my readers are far-above-average when it comes to looks and intelligence, I’m confident that anyone using XP will be able to adjust system folder names and locations accordingly.)

First, open the Public Music folder, which you’ll find in your Public folder. You’ll want to keep this window around, since you’ll be dragging stuff in and out of it until you’re done.

Next, move the iTunes library folder. Open a new window to your personal Music folder, and move the iTunes folder to your already-open Public Music folder. Rename the moved folder iTunes Library.

Then, move the iTunes preferences folder. Open a new window to Username | AppData | Local | Apple Computer, and move the iTunes folder to your already-open Public Music folder. Rename the moved folder iTunes Preferences. (If you can’t see the AppData folders, open the Folder Options control panel, go to the View tab, and make sure Show hidden files and folders is selected.)

Finally, create NTFS junction points. Right-click the iTunes Library folder in Public Music, drag it to your personal Music folder, and choose Create Junction Here. Rename the junction point you just created iTunes. Now right-click the iTunes Preferences folder in Public Music, drag it to Username | AppData | Local | Apple Computer, and choose Create Junction Here. Rename the junction point you just created iTunes.

You’re done! Launch iTunes to verify that it works normally, then just create NTFS junction points for other users as necessary. Since iTunes isn’t multi-user aware it’s best not to run multiple instances of iTunes on different user sessions simultaneously, but you should find that iPod syncing, etc. will great.

What the heck is happening at ATI?

As a long-time ATI customer, it was ominous to see ati.com get redirected to a sub-domain of amd.com — a huge marketing/branding mistake, on the order of moving the Jaguar site to a tab under ford.com. (Ford owns Jaguar, for those who may not track that kind of thing.)

Since being absorbed by AMD, ATI has been stumbling from a quality perspective. It’s not clear if there’s a cause/effect relationship there, or if ATI would be having so many problems even if they were still independent.

Example: After upgrading to ATI’s Catalyst 7.2 drivers, my Media Center could no longer play high-definition video. I’d updated recently enough that I was able to connect the dots pretty quickly — the solution was either downgrade to Catalyst 7.1, or to trash Catalyst altogether (using Vista’s built-in driver instead).

Example: ATI’s latest Catalyst 7.3 drivers are causing boot-crash-boot-crash infinite loops for enough people (myself included) that it’s easy to find lots of ticked-off users. I spent many painful hours trying to figure out how I was going to recover from this one, so hopefully this tip saves other folks some time and pain:

  • Launch msconfig
  • Go to the Services tab
  • Disable Ati External Event Utility

(What’s really silly is that Ati External Event Utility is apparently pointless except under some rare and ill-defined scenarios, and that almost no customers would miss it.)

Example: ATI announced at CES that they would be shipping their ATI TV Wonder Digital Cable Tuner on January 30. And they apparently did, for a few days, but they had to halt shipments shortly thereafter because of bugs. Nearly three months later, the product is still awaiting approval from CableLabs.

So, what the heck is going on? Are the quality control problems really issues that normal, reasonably-thorough testing couldn’t have caught, unrelated to the AMD acquisition? Has the currently product line grown beyond what the QA team can handle? Is there an internal fight-to-the-death between now-redundant departments, regardless of the reputation cost to one or both brands?

It’d be fascinating to know, and I wonder whether I’ve bought my last ATI product. I do know that if ATI continues to fail me, AMD loses me as a customer, too.

Devil's in-box

Demonstrating that not all religions take themselves too seriously, today is known by Catholics as “Good Friday”. (“Worst…Friday…Ever” lost out as being too much of a downer since by the time we named it we already knew that it turns out pretty well, and “Ohhh, Great Friday” was ruled out as being a bit too snarkastic.)

As someone who went to Catholic school in his formative years, I say “Good for Catholicism!” I only regret that it took me so long to understand the church’s sense of humor. It explains a lot.

Even as a recovering Catholic, it still seemed like a bad omen to open Outlook and see this:

Devil's in-box

Outlook is a tool of the devil and it hasn’t stopped me before, but I think I’ll just close it and deal with my email tomorrow. Better safe than sorry.