Showing posts from 2014

13cu kenmore chest feezer real-world energy efficency

This 13cu ft. freezer (model 16342) was sold by sears in 2013, but does not currently seem to be in their catalog. It is/was made by Frigidaire; as far as I can tell they were the only one's to make a 13cu freezer; other company's just put their name on it. So far I like it, but that may be rather moot for you, if it's discontinued.Here I'm interested in how much energy it uses as a function of the ambient room temperature in our enclosed patio (much higher in the summer than winter), which presumably will generalize to other similar models. 

So, for the summer of 2014, which in San Diego was hot, hot, hot (80-90 highs), I measured it at 37 watts/hour, averaged over 33 days). That's 324kWh/year, should the efficiency stay the same year round. I'm betting, however, that it will need less electricity in the winter months, when the room is cooler, though.  The EPA estimate is 326kWh; I'm impressed that they are reporting what seems to be the upper bound. In 2014, however, when I measured over 82 days of summer, I found the watts/hour to be 54, or 476 kwH/year. Much less impressive.

In San Diego, with current electricity prices, that means the freezer will cost about $50 a year to run. I'll update this post once I've been able to test performance at lower temperatures.

software to record time-lapse video (garden/nanny cam) under windows xp

There are lots of reasons you might want to use a webcam to record time-lapse video. In my case it was to figure out what pest was eating my butternut squash and tomato plants in the garden. I used a 33 ft usb extension cable so I could place an old webcam outside near the plant, and connect it to my old netbook inside the house. In SoCal it never rains so I didn't worry much about the equipment getting damaged, but I didn't want to leave my laptop outside just in case.

I tried several programs. So far all have issues, so I'm open to suggestions. Here they are, sorted in descending order of usefulness (to me).

AVS Video Recorder (Free) worked very well for 30fps video recording with sound, but doesn't have any options to record video without sound, and at a slower frame rate. Mp4/AVC was supported, so the file sizes were manageable if I recorded at 360x240, but it was really hard to see what was going on at that resolution.

 Webcam/Screen Video Capture (free) looks real slick, and was able to detect my camera correctly. But it doesn't offer any way to change the fps, and the video formats it can record to are somewhat dated. Plus, the installer was very eager to install ad-ware, though if you read carefully it all could be bypassed.

NCH Debut Video Capture ($40) claimed to be free for home use, but actually only a 3-day limited time demo, and is useless after that period. If it weren't so buggy, this might have worked the best of what I tried, in that it supported arbitrary resolution, frame rates, and even time lapse (10 frames a second, 1 frame a second, or slower, all recorded to MP4/AVC). The killer, however, is that it seems to occasionally write corrupted video to disk, such that any attempt to read the file after the corrupted frame fails. A bit of a show-stopper, that. I think it had to do with dropped frames, but the demo expired before I could fully investigate. I tested version 2.00, maybe they will fix this someday.

Weeny Free Video Recorder - only supports windows media (8/9) and though it advertises custom frame rates, no matter what I entered it recorded at 30 instead. It did support my webcam, but the interface was very buggy, at least under WinXP. I'd avoid this one.

One meta program is ManyCam, which allows you to combine multiple webcams into a single virtual camera. But it didn't work with my old Intel USB Video Camera (failed with no error message). So I can't recommend it.

Pale Moon: an alternative to the FireFox 29 interface mess

Like many, I recently rebooted my computer only to discover that FireFox had updated itself once again. This time, the changes were, at the very least, cosmetic. I don't mean they were small, however; rather, the browser looks quite different (uglier) and more important to me, it forces the use of tabs, something which I've managed to avoid for the last few years. Force as in the tab bar is always open whether you want it or not.

My options: downgrade to Firefox 28 (the old interface) knowing that security holes would no longer be patched, or look for another browser. Chrome is a great alternative if you like tabs, but my goal was one window per webpage, so I looked farther afield. Or closer, perhaps: I found Pale Moon, a browser based on Firefox 24, with (some) security fixes back-ported.

The Pale Moon advantages:
  • The same look as Firefox 28 (and older) - yay, I can avoid tabs again!
  • Optimized for more modern processors
  • Features I don't use have been removed, so it should be somewhat more lightweight
Sadly, the experience hasn't been that positive.  Most notably, I've found Pale Moon to be unstable - in two days it has crashed hard once, and misbehaved to the point of needing to be restarted another time. Make that three times - it crashed again while I was composing this post (Of course, that might have been an attempt at self-preservation).

Now to be fair, I've only used it on one machine - WinXP 64. Maybe it is more stable on another setup. But I'm not going to give it another chance. In part that's because of another issue: Pale Moon is based on Firefox source, so Firefox bugs are also PaleMoon bugs. Thus, while no malware is going to target PaleMoon specifically because of its minute market share, anything written to target older versions of FireFox will also hit Palemoon (because it's not updated as fast as Firefox).

In the end, it's a shame. The interface and the web page rendering engine should be entirely separable, so that you can choose the best renderer (which presumably would be the same for pretty much all users) and the best interface (according to your personal preferences, which will likely differ from other people's).  Then it would be easy to keep the renderer up to date, and still be perfectly safe using an obscure interface. Perhaps this is how things actually are in some low-level sense, but there's no way for me to drag and drop a new rendering DLL into the PaleMoon app folder and thus have the latest and greatest security fixes.

Improvements on: Backup and restore Windows 7 activation status (Offline activation after reinstall)

This post is an elaboration of the necessary steps in order to backup Windows 7 activation status before doing a clean re-install and then restoring it back, with the command lines instructions to do the tricky parts. Note that a valid key is required; this does not support piracy, it just saves you from increasing the activation count on a valid key just because you are doing a clean install.
  1. Copy and save or backup the following activation-related files to external storage medium such as USB flash drive or portable hard disk drive: C:\Windows\ServiceProfiles\NetWorkService\
    Note: For 64-bit (x64) OS, C:\Windows\SysWOW64\spp\tokens\pkeyconfig\pkeyconfig.xrm-ms have to be backed up too.
  2. Retrieve and record the product key used to install and activate the current Windows 7 or Windows Server 2008 R2.
  3. Reinstall Windows 7 or Windows Server 2008 R2. When installation wizard prompts for a product key for activation, leave it blank (do not enter anything).
  4. In the newly installed Windows operating system, stop the Software Protection Service in Services.msc or with the following command (run in elevated command prompt): 
net stop sppsvc
  1. Navigate to the following folder:C:\Windows\System32\spp\tokens\pkeyconfig\
  2. Take ownership and give user full control permissions (alternatively add grant full control right click menu item) to pkeyconfig.xrm-ms file.
cd C:\Windows\System32\spp\tokens\pkeyconfig\
    takeown /f *
      cacls * /g users:f
        1. Delete the original default pkeyconfig.xrm-ms file, and replace with the backup copy.
        2. Note: In 64-bit (x64) operating system, also perform the above  actions in C:\Windows\SysWOW64\spp\tokens\pkeyconfig\ folder.
        cd C:\Windows\SysWOW64\spp\tokens\pkeyconfig\

        takeown /f *
          cacls * /g users:f
          1. Navigate to the following folder:C:\Windows\ServiceProfiles\NetWorkService\
          2. Take ownership and give user full control permissions (alternatively add grant full control right click menu item) to tokens.dat file.
          cd C:\Windows\ServiceProfiles\NetWorkService\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\SoftwareProtectionPlatform\
          takeown /f *.dat
            cacls *.dat /g users:f

              1. Delete the original default tokens.dat file, and replace with the backup copy.
              2. Restart the Software Protection Service in Services.msc or with the following command (run in elevated command prompt):
               net start sppsvc
              1. Register the product key for Windows 7 or Windows Server 2008 R2 with the following command (run in elevated command prompt): slmgr.vbs -ipk xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx
                Replace xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx with the actual product key.
              2. Windows will activated instantly, off-line. To check activation status, uses of of the following commands: 
                • slmgr.vbs -dlv
                • slmgr.vbs -dli
                • slmgr.vbs -ato

              Install any version of Windows 7 from a single DVD

              *note* This idea should work, but it doesn't quite. Suggestions welcome!

              Any windows 7 x64 DVD has all x64 editions on it, and a single file which tells the disk which version to install. Remove that file and the installer will helpfully ask you which version you want! Note: the same is true of a x86 (32bit) disk, for all 32 bit editions of Win7.

              The file is ei.cfg and while there are tools to edit the ISO for you, wouldn't you rather know that nothing else has been done to the disk? A simple solution I tried, but which did not work is to edit the ISO with a hex editor that supports large (>2GB) files and Unicode (since filenames are stored as unicode). The hexeditor HxD works great for this. You can legally download the ISO direct from Microsoft's partner here (or see here for a list of versions).

              What does work is writing the ISO file to a USB flash drive using Rufus, and then deleting the EI.CFG file.

              For those curious on how to edit the ISO directly (which as I said, doesn't work), read on:

              In theory, all you need to do is change the file name on the disk. Search for ei.cfg (as a unicode string) and the first instance found is the file name (at offset 9D430). Change the 65 at that offset to a 64 and now it's di.cfg. Save and you are done! If you want to check, open the ISO file with a viewer (such as 7zip) and verify that the ei.cfg is now called di.cfg (it's in the \source directory). This clearly changes the name of the file. If you write the ISO to a USB flash drive, the result is as intended; the dialog box opens during install to ask what version you want. But if you burn it to DVD, the result is that halfway into the install Windows fails and claims it needs a driver to read the DVD. So somehow this hack corrupts the UDF image in a way that windows cannot recover from. I also tried searching for later references to ei.cfg, presuming these would be in the code that loads the file; there was only one additional reference in unicode, which I changed to di; the install disk now works ok, but does not load up the menu where you can change the edition. So there must be non-unicode instances of the file on the disk as well.

              Note that this has nothing to do with bypassing activation. This just allows you to use a single disk to install any version you want. You still need a valid product code for the version you installed. 

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