Sims2 Fix on a Dell Inspiron 1525 vista video crash bang boom.

So let’s say that you’re my wife and you like to play the Sims. The Sims 2 in fact with a fair few expansions. Let’s say that your geek husband bought you a shiny new vista running dell inspiron 1525 and loaded up your transfered settings, neighborhoods and all and sure it loads the Sims, but it just won’t play. black screens that go nowhere, sound but no video, all of these can happen.

Let’s fix it shall we?

Dell’s drivers for the Intel 965 Chipset family are junk. We have had this computer for over 6 months now and they’ve done nothing to improve my opinion on this count. So what to do? ROLLBACK. And rollback to a nice old school HP driver to boot.

Go to one of these:
driver choice #1 apparently choice 1 is no longer working, so we’ll just strike it.
driver choice #2

Either should work just fine, the key is to find one of the drivers with Version: A.
Download the .exe and run it. It should extract the files to C:\swsetup. You’ll need to know this.

You can run the program from there, but it won’t help you, it’s HP specific. So what to do? Now that it’s extracted those drivers and such, let’s go to the device manager. You can right-click on ‘computer’ in the start pearl and click on ‘manage’ to get there. ‘Device Manager’ will be a choice on the left column. From there, expand the ‘Display Adapters’ and double click on your Intel 965 to bring up it’s properties.

Click on the ‘Driver’ tab and do the unthinkable. Uninstall it. Completely.

If your screen doesn’t just go black and freak you out, skip ahead a paragraph. If your screen is black and you’re freaking out. Restart the machine. It will load a simple VGA driver and you’ll see things crazy big,but it’ll be just fine. Navigate your way back to that miracle place where you uninstalled the driver, because we’re about to install a fresh proper one that is totally Sim-able.

Click on the ‘Update Driver…’ button and choose the ‘Browse my computer…’ choice, the hit the ‘Browse…’ button on the next page and navigate to that folder, C:\swsetup, make sure that ‘include subfolders’ is checked and bang on that ‘next’ button at the bottom.

It will now search out and install the older driver. Don’t be afraid if it goes black again after it completes, a restart will have you back in business. Mind you, you might have to adjust your screen resolution once you’ve restarted again, but that’s a small price to pay to be able to play the Sims again.

Home Theatre Fun.

I love my home theatre. It’s nothing terribly fancy, I don’t even have a shiny new LCD/Plasma/HiDef Television, but I do have an excellent surround sound setup and a great picture. I love it most because I really don’t care to go out to the movies these days. The convenience is the biggest feature of it all to me. The pause button probably being the strongest of these virtues. Have to go to the bathroom? PAUSE. Need a snack? PAUSE. Phone call? PAUSE.

Nothing against movie theatres, but i like to be at home whenever i can, cozy on my couch with my wife and dog, enjoying life and entertainment on my terms. Maybe if we had one of those movie houses where you could get a beer and a panini, that would be nice. I’ve always liked combination venues and fantasized that i might own a bowling alley/laundromat/pub. Or maybe an oil change/diner where your car gets routine service while you eat eggs, that sort of thing. But alas, such is not in my local realm.

So I have always invested in some components to make viewing at home more enjoyable, and It’s becoming more and more popular as well. Netflix makes DVD rentals a cinch, without late fees and a huge selection. You just sign up, pay them a monthly fee and create a rental queue online. They send you the first movie in your queue, and when you send it back, you get the next one. The closest warehouse is in White River, so the turnaround is excellent. I joined Netflix way back in 1999 thinking that they were onto something even then. Living in a trailer in Whitingham with my brother at the time, and having a ridiculously nice home theatre system was a pleasure. The ‘White Trash Palace’ we called it. Finding DVDs locally was near impossible and buying movies seems silly when you generally watch them only once.

Netflix has taken it a step further as of recent and made movies instantly downloadable for viewing on your computer or to a nifty little box that connects to your television. The selection is not as broad on this format as they are still working out licensing with the hundreds of companies controlling movies these days, but it’s coming along nicely and if you have high speed internet, it’s a fantastic option to be sure.

My wife and I don’t care for commercial television either, the key word there being commercial. I like plenty of the programming, but can’t be bothered with the constant ‘buy me’ interruptions that somehow are MUCH louder than the show that I was just appreciating. So we get entire seasons of episodal television on DVD. Sure we may be a season behind whatever it is people are talking about at the water cooler, but how many water coolers are there in Southern Vermont anyway? The only real pitfall to this is how hard it is to shut off a show like 24 or Heroes, knowing that the next episode is a click away, but it’s 2 a.m. and morning is approaching fast. Somehow we manage.

Anyway, the real issue that I wanted to quickly touch on is for those of you spending money on LCDs and Plasmas. There’s some confusion as to what to buy and why for a lot of people and I’d like to try and clear it up and simplify a bit.

Firstly, LCD vs. Plasma. Plasma equals better contrast and better off-axis viewing. (If you sit off to the side of the TV it will look better). LCD equals thinner, lighter and increasingly cheaper per diagonal inch. Parity is being realized between the two in regards to contrast, but my rule of thumb on that for today is easy. 42″ or smaller, go LCD. Larger? Go Plasma.

Secondly, 720p, 1080i, 1080p. Resolution is king. The key to understanding this is simple enough, the higher number is better. The ‘p’ is for progressive, the ‘i’ is for interlaced. Don’t buy the ‘i’ as it’s a faltering standard that nobody cares about. Between the 720p and 1080p there is a huge difference, but you won’t see it. Care to know why? It’s because Blu-Ray and Sony Playstation 3 are the only major formats that currently support it. DirecTV HD? 720p. DVDs? 720p. So why buy 1080p? Because it is gaining steam and all of the providers, be it satellite, cable, or otherwise WANT to broadcast in 1080p and will as soon as the bandwidth is available. The price difference is getting more negligible by the day. And if you’re into computer gaming and have a decent video card in your computer, you can hook it directly to the 1080p screen and it most certainly will look glorious. If you’ve seen those ‘Planet Earth’ documentaries (David Attenborough narrates them better than Sigourney Weaver by the way), they are absolutely STUNNING on blu-ray and really a must buy if you have the gear.

There are plenty of other sub-topics involving home theatre and really, just talking to a geek can help you to decide what you need and what will suit your space. As with everything technological, the prices drop constantly and pulling the trigger on this kind of stuff with the holiday incentives makes it a little easier to get into a great system for less. No matter what, I consider it a reasonable investment to put a few extra dollars into enjoying your time at home. In fact i highly recommend it, stay home and have a weekly family movie night with beer and panini.

Car Batteries. Battery Cars.

This is what I want to see.

Hybrid cars use batteries. Right now they’re kindof large for this idea, but that WILL change. Easily replaceable batteries is what I want. And I want the gas stations across America to be the changers. A universal battery size, that can be exchanged at a recharging station. For a fee of course. Because while making the batteries more efficient so that you can go say 200 miles without needing to plug in is excellent, but if there was a fresh battery available every 50 miles or so, life would be just fine…

Sex on the internet.


Okay, not really, but there sure is a lot of it. And it’s really pervasive. And freedom of speech is important, for sure, but freedom of lifestyle is pretty damned high on my list too, which includes the freedom to make things a little safer, especially in a family values sense.

I have a solution.

Yep. me.

Ready for this? It’s really simple. .sex instead of .com for all porn sites. Government regulaton. Not too much, but simple see. If you have pornographic content, you HAVE to use the .sex domain extension. Done deal. If you have porn on a .com, hefty fines, take the domain away, punch in the crotch, whatever.

The second part is equally elegant. A simple password on your computers web browser that allows access to .sex sites. If your kids don’t know your password, no porn. So easy. Go write your lawmakers…

Contact Your Rep
Contact Your Senator

This is by no means an original idea by the way, they have been trying to get the .xxx extension since at least 1999. But for some reason, the major opposition to this initiative is the Christian Right Wing folks and sadly, the Bush Administraton, which makes so little sense to me. Why leave the porn to the completely unbridled .com and .net’s when you can actually put it into a nice little box with control and propriety? Anyway, for the very few of you that read this, please go ahead and think about it for a little bit and please do go ahead and write your lawmakers to help get this back on the table. It’s complete nonsense for it to be continuously dropped.

I’m a Mac, and I’m a PC.

Mac, PC, what’s the difference?

Let’s bring it back to where this column belongs shall we? Back to basics. Operating Systems. Sounds exciting I know, but bear with me, I’m sure that I’ll be able to make an obscure reference at some point that at least makes you grin for a moment.

The operating system is the core software of your computer. Be it Vista, XP, Mac OSX, Linux, or GEOS on the Commodore 64, your machine has an OS and it needs to be your friend. It is quite literally the way in which the computer interprets and handles information, the language if you will, that your computer speaks most fluently. There are pros and cons to them all of course and right now is perhaps one of the more difficult times in personal computing history in terms of deciding which to make friends with.

I’m a Mac and I’m a PC. Really, I am both. I have been a Mac user since the very beginning, but I am on a PC every day as well. This serves me particularly well considering my current profession of course but there are a multitude of reasons for my dual citizenship. I am not one of those adamant people who will tell you that one is better than the other or to get this one or that. I try and evaluate each individual and help them to make that choice for themselves. That said, my first computer was an Apple IIe and I’m quite sure that it is still in my parent’s attic, just waiting for the day when I get the urge to dust it of an fire up LOGO to draw little boxes on the screen, or maybe Wizardry, in which i attack orcs and the like. Some years ago, Apple began their life and dramatically increased their presence by making their computers available to schools at a huge discount. They optimized them for education by working directly with software developers in that field, so it stands to reason that many of my generations first computer experiences were on Apples. For the generation previous, your first hands on was far more likely in the business realm, where a little company called International Business Machines was making itself known as the foremost provider for enterprise computing needs. Incidentally, IBM was actually founded in the late 1800’s making tabulating machines or calculators as they are better known. When Apple launched their Mac line of computers in 1984, they were the first computer commercially available that used a mouse and a GUI or Graphical User Interface instead of a Command Line Interface. Command Line requires at the very least a fundamental knowledge of the code used in the system, whereas GUI allowed point and click simplicity to thrive. Without going too deep into history, we can say at least that Macs were targeted at the home user, educational and creative professional markets. They had early agreements with the graphics and audio software developers that helped them to remain the most prevalent computing force in those fields to this day. And from their inception, they have always antagonized PC users, first with their Big Brother Ads of 1984 and still evidenced by the current ad campaign.

PCs however held fast to their plan to offer more choice, lower cost and more business oriented software, retaining the strongest market share by far. In reality, while the ads make it sound as though their is a healthy competition going on, the truth is that Mac computers make up only 3.5% of the world market, but that is a slanted number to be sure and if we evaluate their share in American homes it increases dramatically. Regardless, that very fact is one of the best reasons to buy a Mac instead of a PC. Viruses and Malware plague PCs, and their hefty market share make them prime targets. No hacker wants to create a virus that at it’s greatest and most unrealistic potential only affects 3.5% of the market, so they target the big guy, the PC operating systems. When people say that Macs don’t get viruses, it’s not entirely true, but the threat is so minimal as to be non-existent.

Software wise, many people assume that things are as they always were and that a Mac is for play and a PC is for business, but this is no longer the case. In fact the parity between the two is only increasing. Many graphic artists use PC’s exclusively and many businesses run Macs from stem to stern. So what do I recommend to someone buying a computer today? It depends entirely upon your answers to a few simple questions. What are you used to? What are your needs? What do you want most?

To clarify a bit, if you are new to computing and want little more than email, internet and to share pictures of your children in the tub (Mom, please stop sending that around…), I generally recommend a Mac because of their intuitive operating system and out of the box software package that makes it incredibly easy to do just that. But if you’ve been using a PC for the past few years at work and it’s time for you to get a computer at home, then perhaps a PC is a better way, you’ll save money for one and Vista has a fine complement of software for pictures, video, audio and home entertainment. A Mac system costs more than a PC, that’s true. Very true indeed, but that ‘bling’ factor is there as is the lack of need to spend more on maintenance and virus software.

You’ll notice I said ‘Vista’ there. Some of you may have heard of it, and most of you probably heard that it’s horrible. It’s not, it’s fantastic. It really is, unless (and this is a big unless) you are using legacy software and need to keep running it. If you have an old printer that has somehow kept plugging along for five years, it probably won’t work with your new vista box, and if you’ve been using software for over ten years as some of my own family has, then the transition will require your geek relative to do a lot more work to make sure that you can still read the files that you created over time. Overall though, for home computing, Vista is excellent, and it’s built in software rivals that of Apple in a lot of ways. There were a multitude of problems initially, but the recent update has made Vista much more stable and compatible.

One more note is for the gamers out there. Let’s say that you’re 32 and running a computer store and you still like to go home and kill orcs and the like. Well, if that is indeed the case, then you need a PC. It’s not that Macs don’t play games, of course they do, but if you’re a ‘gamer’ then you’ll need a custom built PC or at least something beyond the computers available at Wal-Mart. Many games are being released on both platforms, but ALL of the best games are available on PC.

So what’s the difference? Not much, but what do i know anyway? I use my Mac for work and my PC for play, so I am hardly the stereotypical user. But if you are thinking about getting a computer, ask around, ask your friends and relatives, or ask a geek what they think. It really depends on your needs.

Colby Dix is the co-owner of Vermont Geeks and his 70 Warlock awaits the Lich King…

Pro Tools Stationary Pad Creates Copies

This is a Mac OSX workaround for the Stationary Pad functionality of Pro Tools. When you create a template for a session, life is good, but or some reason OSX is broken when you try and use it in the proper fashion. It constantly makes a copy of the template each time you open it and they are locked files and thus a pain in the arse to dispose of.

The solution is quite simple. Double Clicking on the file, NO GO, Use the Open… menu command from PT HD, NO GO.

But when you drag the template over the PT icon in the dock… VOILA, no extra files, just a new session with your settings. So nice.

I Hate Text Messaging

I really do. I don’t mind them that much really, what I really dislike is the fact that phone companies have increased the cost per text message so blatantly and offensively that it costs me extra when someone sends me a message that I did not request and can not refuse.

So how do we fix this? God knows the companies aren’t going to let you ‘turn it off’ so here’s my workaround. Vonage. I have a vonage like at home, I like it. That’s the number I give to people. I forward that number to my iPhone. They try to send text messages. Sorry. No go. They try to call… RING RING. Easy peasy.


Unwanted Microsoft Office Virus Scan

So when you open documents in Word or Excel, does it request a virus scan an take seemingly forever to load?

In the case of a vista machine running AVG 8 virus software, this is how it’s fixed.

run cmd as administrator
cd to C:\program files\avg\avg8

type ‘regsvr32 /u avgoff2k.dll’


bang. AVG no longer tries to scan every document opened in word. If you have resident protection on this is not a problem at all.

Computer Security For The Online Shopper

Computer Security For The Internet Shopper.

So we’ve all heard about how dangerous the internet is and how much everyone wants to steal your identity, right? I don’t know why they’d want my identity, how many people are insane enough to want to live in the woods and have five jobs anyway? But when we speak of that in particular, ‘identity theft’, we’re talking about someone stealing your personal information for malicious purposes. Namely a credit card number or password that gets them access to say, your bank account, or in the case of the great TJ Maxx scandal of last year, 45.7 million cardmember’s information was compromised. That’s no joke, 45.7 million people.

So what do we do? First relax. A lot of fuss has been made, and for legitimate reasons, but that doesn’t mean that the computer is any less safe than shopping at your local market. The safest way to shop online is still with a credit card. In the event that something does go wrong, you are protected under the federal Fair Credit Billing Act. You have the right to dispute charges on your credit card, and you can withhold payments during a creditor investigation. When it has been determined that your credit was used without authorization, you are only responsible for the first $50 in charges. You are rarely asked to pay this charge. But for those of us who like to shop online, and I am certainly among you, the most important thing to look for when shopping is a secure website. This is made obvious by the inclusion of https:// in front of it’s address instead of the http:// found everywhere else. Sometimes you’ll find that the https:// does not show up until the site is actually asking for information and that’s just fine, so long as it shows up before you hit the send button. It is also evidenced in most browsers by a lock symbol. In Safari on a mac, it’s in the upper right corner, in Firefox, it’s on the lower right corner, and in the newest version of Explorer it’s right in the address bar, which goes so far as to turn green if the page is secure. Many sites say that they are secure, but unless it has that ‘s’ for security after http, they’re lying. Tell them I said so and don’t even think about giving them a credit card number much less an email address that they will invariably send emails to advertising how much bigger all of your parts can be.

Beyond the ‘s’, what else can you do? Sign up for an account with Paypal or Google Checkout. They are both widely accepted, trusted, and free. They offer excellent security in that the vendor never even sees your credit information, just a payment to their account. That’s secure. What else? Let’s make that horrific junk email slow down a bit by creating a purchasing email address. Using a free email address from Yahoo, Gmail, or Hotmail is a great way to add security. Just sign up for an extra one that is NOT the email you use for friends and such. Use it to sign up for coupon codes, offers and the like. You can still check them for payments specifically or for the coupons you may have just received that will save you $1.23 on that lifetime supply of toast you’ve been thinking about.

So let’s take it further, shall we? Research the site before buying anything. I’m not saying call all of your friends and get their opinions, but I rather like websites that are rated by real people, that made real purchases. Where can we find this information? Well, here’s a shopping tip for you. Use Google. ‘Google Product Search’ to be specific. Search for any old item you may want to purchase on google, and then hit the ‘shopping’ link at the top of the page. You’ll notice that the merchants that come up in the results have seller ratings. That’s just good common sense to spend the extra dollar with the vendor that has 3000+ positive remarks instead of the 4 people who said that ‘Carl seemed okay…’ at the competitor. There are lots of other places to research your purchasing; has excellent product reviews and vendor reviews. Once I bought my wife a camera at Circuit City, but not before going over to the computer section to look up the camera’s review on cnet. True story. But that’s not security, that’s just educated shopping, which is about as secure as it gets.

And so we end this weeks column feeling safer and happy in our consumerism. Just remember to never give out your social security number and tell them as little information as possible. They don’t really need to know what color your shorts are do they?

Colby Dix is the co-owner of Vermont Geeks and buys far too many things online.