Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Foxconn GeForce 9600GT

At last!!! I can play games (at least a few!) in their highest graphics detail. This was a good deal from Barclays; Rs. 14,200/=. After so many queries to Gayan and Thusitha (thanks guys!) I decided to settle for 9600 instead of 9800 since it gave me a reasonable performance for a good price.

NVIDIA 9600GT/512MB/GDDR3/256bit/Dual DVI/HDTV-out

Vista performance score: 5.9
(They have provided drivers for 32bit and 64bit systems of XP and Vista)

Note. The card works on Ubuntu as well. When I enabled the desktop effects it automatically downloaded and installed the driver. So no problem there.

Foxconn GeForce 9600GT (OC)
(Note the "OC" sign, which means Over Clocked. This is supposed to give a performance boost but I don't know its long term effects)

This was a big one. It's about half the size of my motherboard! Just like Gayan, I had to remove my hard disks before plugging in the card to make room. They sure need to make these things less bulkier!

Power Input
I'm not used to graphics cards much. I had to separately supply power through the provided convector and it needed 2 power sockets. So a really power hungry device. If you have a server power unit like Thusitha the power unit has a separate socket for these kinds of graphics cards.

Display Outputs
The card only had 2 digital outs and one TV-out. They have provided 2 DVI-to-Analog converters. So I had to plug the monitor through that converter.

Game play
So far, I haven't been able to put my hands on latest games. But I tried NFS Carbon and Half Life 2-Episode One. Those could be run at full steam all settings maxed out very smoothly. A resolution of 1600X1200 and Anti Aliasing 4X seems nothing for the card on these games.

For the record, I thought of skipping NFS ProStreet and go for NFS Undercover. ProStreet seems a bit boring for me.

Here are 2 screenshots from Carbon and HL2-Ep01.

Screenshots of GPU-Z. Core clock is 600MHz (can be over clocked up to 1200MHz). Memory Clock is 1000Mhz (can be over clocked up to 1200MHz). Foxconn has provided a small tool for over clocking but it cannot control GPU fan speed.


Saturday, November 15, 2008

Performance Monitoring in Windows Vista

Most of us like to hate Vista! But with enough system resources and good device drivers, Vista can deliver a really smooth user experience. In addition to having a fancy UI, Vista includes some very powerful tools that system administrators can use to monitor system activity. These tools will help you to dig into system programs and startup lists and fine tune your system performance.

Windows Defender: Software Explorer

Windows Defender is a crappy tool which comes with windows to detect malicious programs. Due to its uselessness I have turned it off. But Defender has a tool called Software Explorer which is way better than using "msconfig" and "Task manager" to monitor running processes.

Go to Control Panel -> Programs -> Windows Defender -> Tools ->Software Explorer

Startup Programs

This gives a more clear and detailed view than "msconfig" tool. Since it has the ability to group Manufacturer wise, you can clearly focus on those no-name entries which could most probably be viruses.

Network Connected programs

This shows a complete list of progams has network connectivity. To view detailed information about network communciation, you can use the Reliability and Performance Monitor.

Performance Information and Tools

Go to Control Panel -> System and Maintenance -> Performance Information and Tools -> Advanced Tools (on the left pane)

These include some tools which give detailed performance information reports.

Reliability and Performance Monitor

Click "Open Reliability and Performance Monitor" in Advanced performance tools.

Network monitor showing connections made by uTorrent

This is one-stop place to monitor detailed system wide activity. You can monitor Network activity, Memory activity, Disk usage activity and so on. One interesting feature is that you can see details about all the open files and their disk access at any given time.

Files opened by every process and their read/write activity

System Stability Chart

Windows collects system statistics over time and keeps a history of events in the event log. Vista includes a chart feature which draws a chart over time which varies due to system changes.

Go to "Reliability Monitor" in the left pane.

Bootup performance monitoring in Event log

Event log includes detailed statics for application and services startup times (including Windows boot time) so you can identify which applications delays windows startup. Windows automatically notifies you if a certain application has taken an unusuall amount of time to start.

Click "View performance details in the Event log" in Advanced performance tools.

Ok that's the lot. Using these tools you can administer your system to identify any unwanted activity. And with better hardware resources and drivers, I think Vista is a better OS than XP. User experience wise and system administration wise.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

4GB RAM issue with 32 bit Operating Systems

I recently upgraded my old desktop and came across with this interesting issue. This would be useful for many of us since most of us are still using 32 bit operating systems. Just take this article as an early warning.

Upgrade configuration:
  • Intel Core 2 Duo 2.66GHz, 1066FSB, 3MB L2, E7300 (arround Rs. 14,000/=)
  • 2GB x 2 RAM (Dual Channel, 800MHz) (arround Rs. 3800/= x 2)
  • Intel DG31PR Motherboard (arround Rs. 7500/=)

This issue I had was having 4GB of memory. Well, I've reached the maximum addressable memory limit of 32 bit systems, right? So I should be able to use all 4GB as memory. But unfortunately, that was not the case. All I have is 3.2GB of memory on 32 bit Windows XP and 32 bit Ubuntu 8.10.

So where did my memory go?
Theoretically, the 32 bit systems are limited to 4GB of addressable memory. The problem is you can't allocate all those 4GB address space to RAM alone. Many other devices connected to the mother board (including the memory in video card) are mapped to the same 4GB address space. So there should be an address range dedicated to address those devices. So you are left with only 3.2GB of RAM address space.

According to what I've read from the internet, you have to use a 64 bit OS (I'm planning to put Vista 64 bit on my one) to utilize the full RAM address space. There's another facility called "Physical Address Extension (PAE)" provided by the motherboard to allow applications to address more than 4GB of memory on 32 bit systems. But I'm not clear about what it does and it seems to have it's own issues with device drivers.

Things to keep in mind
Maybe I have spent too much on RAM! Anyway having 3GB RAM this way is better than having 2GB and 1GB RAM sticks since dual channel gives you performance advantage. It won't be a problem at all if you are going to use a 64 bit OS (that's what I'm going to do). If that didn't work due to any reason I'll have to be stuck with a 32 bit OS and 3.2GB of RAM. Anyway that also should be enough for most current games.

more on this later...

As Gayan has pointed out, 64 bit OS alone cannot support more than 4GB. The motherboard should have a feature called "Memory Remapping" to map device memory addresses above 4GB (see first comment). It appears my motherboard doesn't support that feature. So 3.2GB is more of a hardware limitation for me.

Update 2
I tried adding /PAE switch to XP 32 bit. It still showed me 3.2GB of RAM. Maybe in the background it's using all 4GB or whatever. Anyway, Vista 64 bit SP1 seems to have fixed the problem. It showed me 4GB RAM after I installed it. I hope this would be the end of my problem.

Update 3
This is how it is shown in Windows 7 RC 32bit. Avoids user confusion and easilly understandable.


Saturday, November 1, 2008

Ubuntu 8.10

Well, well, well, after a series of posts on iPhone, here's one for Ubuntu 8.10. I just went through a quick trip to see what are the new features that is directly noticeable (other than those small small version number changes!)

Tip: You can make Ubuntu interface significantly nicer by making changes to system font sizes. In laptops "Subpixel smoothing" works great. These settings gave me a nice professional look for the overall interface.

  1. Wallpaper is definitely better than Gutsy.
  2. As usual, networking is faster than windows.
  3. It took my laptop's ATI X200M video driver automatically. Desktop effects enabled. (I like that)
  4. My sound card is also working fine. (Skype runs well)
  5. Nice softer look in Human theme.
  6. One click Shut Down menu. (I love it!)

  7. A Shut Down dialog box is available via System -> Shut Down

  8. Revamped Network Manager 0.7 (I wished they didn't)

    This is a total disaster. Hey, I can see and edit my MAC address and MTU! Wonderful ha! I know so many home users who needs to see the MAC address of their NIC. Last time I checked, lot of users were having problems with packet fragmentation problems and MTU. I take it that changing the IP address is not so important! Because it's in the 3rd tab! After MAC and after 802.1x security. This will make things really easy for novice users!

    And it has absolutely NO MEMORY at all. It doesn't save any of my network settings. Is this a joke? This screenshot shows my 'ifconfig' output and IPv4 settings. The IP address and subnet masks were all set here moments ago! When I reopen the network manager settings are all gone. It's better if they send a fix for this but this is certainly not the way to handle major releases.

    It's significantly better if they kept the old Network Manager. But they just upgrade for the sake of upgrading.
  9. USB Startup Disk
    Now you can create a CD image of Ubuntu on the USB drive very easily and use that to install ubuntu.
Well that's what you see at the first glance. The only bad impression I had was the new Network Manager which is not good at all! It seems Shuttleworth is taking good features from "Apple" GUIs and integrating with Ubuntu, which is a good thing. The new shut down menu is like the one in MacOS X. And the new Disk usage bar in the installer look like the one in iTunes.

This is the iPhone disk usage bar in iTunes:

That's it. Share your experience!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Having fun with iPhone OS 2.0

It's been a while since I posted an article. During this time, I've upgraded my old 2G iPhone to 2.1 software update and filled it with so many commercial AppStore games and apps (for free of course!). In this article I'm going to show how to get any app you want from the AppStore for free, and install them in your iPhone. Here are some of the few:

"Note: Installing cracked apps on iPhone is illegal. But admitting it doesn't make it right. I know I'm doing a wrong thing. But can't be helped. These apps are just so cool! We should at least appreciate the developer effort they have put."

Cro Mag Rally : Uses your iPhone as a steering wheel. Very nice graphics and music.

Kroll : 3D fighting adventure with stunning graphics.

Nanosaur 2 : Takes iPhone's 3D graphics to the limit. Control a flying cyborg bird through stunning and beautiful worlds.

A word on iPhone 3G

I'm using an iPhone 2G. For Sri Lankans, iPhone 3G is still a bit far. It's not officially available in Sri Lanka. If you have someone in US, they have to buy it with AT&T connection. And even if you managed to get one, there's still no SIM unlock available (see iPhone-DevTeam blog for 3G unlocking updates). For differences between iPhone 2G and iPhone 3G buying procedures read the bottom part of my iPhone3G article.

Information on this article applies to both iPhone and iPhone3G.

I found lot of information from the web regarding this cracking and other procedures. So if you can't find anything from my blog, internet is very rich with so many resources regarding the iPhone.


First, I assume you have jailbroken 2.1 software version running in your iPhone. If you don't know how to do it, search the internet. Or I may post an article regarding that if I have time. The process is really easy thanks to iPhone-Dev Team. They are the people who deals with iPhone cracking and unlocking.

You should also have some knowledge on SSH. If you don't know, get someone to assist you.

(Obviously, iTunes 8 must be installed)

Part 1 : Creating iTunes account

For this method to work, you should have downloaded at least one application (free or commercial) from the iTunes AppStore into your iPhone. This is what I did:
  1. In your PC, go to iTunes and create an iTunes account.
  2. It will ask your credit card information. You have to give them those details, but there is no initial charge unless you buy some product later on.
  3. After creating the account, go to AppStore and download any Free application. (If you have Wi-Fi, you can also use your iPhone to go to AppStore and download it)
  4. Sync that application with your iPhone.
Now we are ready to go ahead.

Part 2 : Copying the patch file to iPhone
  1. Download and Install DiskAid for Windows. (Needs .Net Framework 2.0)
  2. Download This Zip will contain a file called "MobileInstallation". Kepp that file.
  3. Connect your iPhone to the PC.
  4. Open DiskAid... It will detect your iPhone and display the files inside it.
  5. As shown in the image, choose "root folder" from the drop down list.
  6. Click OK for the warning message that will be displayed. (Do not mess with the files in the iPhone. Otherwise it'll corrupt the file system and you'll have to restore the software again)
  7. Go to the folder: System --> Library --> PrivateFrameworks --> MobileInstallation.framework
  8. Inside that folder there will be a file named "MobileInstallation". We are going to replace that file with the file you downloaded above.
  9. Rename the MobileInstallation file in DiskAid into MI_backup or something..
  10. Now drag and drop the MobileInstallation file in the Zip archive you downloaded into DiskAid window.
  11. The file will be copied in to the folder you were in. It should be something like this:
  12. Create a folder named "Documents" (with a capital 'D') in both these directories:
    • root\Applications
    • root\private\var\mobile
  13. Now close DiskAid.
Part 3 : Changing file permissions with SSH
  1. Connect the iPhone to the internet through your Wi-Fi network.
  2. Go to Cydia application in the iPhone.
  3. Tap "Reload" button on the top of the screen.
  4. After reloading, search and install "OpenSSH".

  5. To do the next few steps, your Wi-Fi network should allow your PC to connect to the iPhone through the network. If it doesn't, just connect it through a personal Wi-Fi connection with your laptop.
  6. This is the tricky part:
    You should install an SSH client to your PC and change the file permissions on the iPhone as shown below. There are multiple ways to do this, I'll tell how to do this on another post.

    • /System/Library/PrivateFrameworks/MobileInstallation.framework/MobileInstallation
      Set permissions to : 775

    • /Applications/Documents
      Set permission to : 777 (recursively)

    • /private/var/mobile
      Set permission to : 777 (recursively)
  7. That's about it. If you don't know how to use SSH, get some help from the internet.
Part 4 : Downloading games and applications

All iPhone/iPod applications from AppStore has the extension ".ipa". So many users have uploaded cracked applications in various file sharing site. So we can download those files directly without paying to the AppStore.

  1. Go to AppStore and check for any games or apps you like. For example one of my favourites is "Cro Mag Rally" racing game from Pangia Software Inc.
  2. Go to This file sharing site has so many .ipa files.
  3. Search for something like "cro mag ipa" (put "ipa" at the end).
  4. It will display various results. Download anyone of them. You'll get a .ipa file.
  5. After downloading drag and drop that file into iTunes. It will appear in Applications area in iTunes.
  6. When you sync your phone, you can chose what applications to be installed in Applications tab.
That's all. Here are some of the games that I've installed:

Here are some games and application that I really enjoy:

SpeakEasy : Voice Recorder
Photogene : A feature rich image editor
AquaForest : An interactive physics simulator. Emulates real world object behaviors.

Asphalt4 : Racing game
MotoChaser : Fun motor bike racing game
Spore : A game from EA. Control an evolution of a creature. (Cool graphics)
Scrabble : From EA

There are thousands of apps and games in the AppStore. Just search for what you want.


Sunday, July 6, 2008

Getting GPRS/EDGE on the iPhone with Mobitel

If you are using an iPhone (2G version) with a Mobitel connection, this is how to add GPRS/EDGE settings to the phone.

  • Go to Settings -> General -> Network -> Edge
  • For the APN, type mobitel3g (don't mind the '3g' part. This is the network name they are using)

That's all. No user name or password is needed. Now try going to safari and opening a web page.

GPRS/EDGE signal indicator
On the status bar, if you see a rectangle to the right of signal bars, that means you have GPRS. If there's an 'E' on it, that means you have EDGE signal.


Installing 3rd party applications on the iPhone

iPhone users in Sri Lanka are obviously using unlocked iPhones. Mostly they maybe using it only for phone-like purposes. This article is for people who are interested in customizing the phone and making full use of it by installing custom applications.

Note: Information on this article applies to only iPhone 1.1.4 software version. I haven't tested this on any other versions.

Cracking the iPhone
There are places who unlock the iPhone. I don't know which method they use but this is what I did to unlock my iPhone.
  • Download and install iTunes.
  • Download and install ZiPhoneGUI for windows (requires .Net Framework 2).
  • Connect the iPhone to the computer.
  • Use ZiPhone to crack the iPhone. Only one really easy step is needed. Just click the button!
ZiPhone GUI :

When talking about phones, people only refer to unlocking. It's the same with the iPhone too but "Unlocking" means making it possible to use other mobile service providers. With the iPhone, unlocking is only one part of cracking the iPhone. To make the full use of it, you have to "Jailbreak" it. ZiPhone does this automatically for you.

The term "jailbreak" is used for cracking the iPhone OS. The iPhone OS is shielded from outside world. Files in it cannot be edited or seen by the outsiders. Hackers use a procedure called Jailbreaking to get access to the entire operating system running on the iPhone. This means breaking the jail in which the OS is imprisoned. After that anything can be done to the OS like modifying and installing files. The iPhone can be accessed from a computer through the USB cable or Wi-Fi.

Open source community
Because of the ability to access the iPhoneOS and the architecture of the OS is so elegant, a community has been born who began writing open source software for the IPhone, even before Apple introduced the iPhone SDK. Other than that, official apps which are based on the Apple SDK will begin to arrive from the July 11th (but they won't be free).

There are thousands of applications written by various people for the iPhone. I have mentioned a few of them on a previous post. Here, I'm going to explain how to get access to them and install them.

Software sources
Open source community use concept called "software sources" in software installation. A software source is a place which contains a list of software applications. A company may introduce its own software source to list its own applications. So to install an application, you need the corresponding source for it.

Installing software
If you cracked the phone using ZiPhone you automatically get an application called "Installer". I don't know about other methods but just look whether you have that application installed. Then you only need to have internet on the iPhone. For that, you can use GPRS, EDGE, Wi-Fi or 3G(iPhone3G only). To get info about getting GPRS/EDGE on a Mobitel connection, see this post.

Installer is an application that manages 3rd party software installation on the iPhone. It can manage install/uninstall and update procedures very easily.

Install the software using the Install tab. Applications are categorized in groups like Games, Multimedia etc... Here, you have a group called "Sources". Install the sources inside it. After that, the installer will have access to those software sources as well. The Installer will display a message like "Refreshing sources". This means it's refreshing the list of available software from the sources. After refreshing, the list of software available to you will be much larger and updated. Go to other categories and install the software you like.

Sometimes after refreshing, you receive updates for applications which are already installed on your iPhone.

Installer needs sources to pull software. By default Installer comes with a set of sources specified. So it have access to software provided by those sources only. By manually adding sources to the Installer it checks for software from a broader range of providers. You can do that by going to the "Sources" tab.

Here you can see what are the sources that Installer have access. You can remove them if you don't need them. You can also add them manually. Usually if you visit a web site of iPhone software, they will specify a URL to be added as a source. You can type that URL here and add them to Installer.

For other tips of useful software and patches for the iPhone, see posts iPhone Tweaks and iPhone Games.

CAUTION: Installing buggy 3rd party application may reduce the stability of the iPhone. Install them at your own risk.

iPhone Games

Here are some of the games I have installed on my iPhone. This is on 1.1.4 firmware and you need have Installer app installed on the iPhone. Jailbreaking and installation procedure is available on this post.

Raging Thunder
An accelerometer based car game. You have to use the phone itself as a steering gadget. Graphics are nice.

A 3D alien shooter. Unfortunately the demo has only 1 level. Other than that, it's really exciting.

A game which requires the use of your brain. Flip the box using your finger to accomplish the goal.

Really cool and gives you the natural feeling of moving cards using the finger.

This is somewhat hard for me to play. The computer is really intelligent.

Make continuous blocks of gems. Really cool. Flip the gems using your finger.

The classic wooden table game. Use the iPhone as a tabletop. Tilt the phone carefully to move the ball to the target without falling into the holes.

Move the bat using to bump the ball back and hit the bricks.

A nice pool table.

Tetris with cool colors.

Here are some great OFFICIAL iPhone games which are to be released with the AppStore on July 11th. Unfortunately they will not be available to Sri Lankans and will be costly too.


Super Monkey ball