It’s alive (again!), pt.2

PC and laptop on my desk
The remarkable thing is that this photograph was taken about two months ago and the scene is almost exactly as it is today: laptop on desk next to PC! Only now I have a new keyboard.

The relief

Well, praise the Lord! Thank you for all your prayers and positive vibes today: my PC is once again in the land of the living, and I didn’t even have to swap motherboards or buy a new CPU, which was my greatest fear.

The culprit

It turns out that the culprit was a dodgy USB connection to my Belkin SD/MMC/CF card reader! As soon as I unplugged it the PC moved on from its unhealthy pause at the Power On Startup Test (POST) page and booted as normal. Very weird.

Even weirder is that the PC happily boots now that the card reader is plugged into another port on my Belkin USB 2.0 hub. Belkin vs. Belkin, huh!

The method

I was pleased with how I worked it out.

  1. I unplugged all the peripherals and then removed my CPU heatsink, cleaned it up a bit, applied some new heatpaste and attached a new heatsink and fan, on the off-chance that it might be a heating problem. The AMD Athlon XP Thoroughbred CPUs run hotter than the sun!
  2. I plugged in the mouse, keyboard and one monitor and rebooted — it loaded fine. Success!
  3. So I plugged everything back in again and rebooted … it hung again at the POST.
  4. I said “Bah!” loudly.
  5. So I unplugged all the peripherals again and it rebooted fine.
  6. So I knew that it must be a peripheral that’s interrupting the boot sequence and started to plug in each peripheral one by one. Plug in, boot up. Repeat.

I’m mightily relieved I can tell you.

The lesson learned!

And so, do you know what I’m going to be doing this evening? Backing everything up to DVD and then going online to investigate new PCs and network storage.

WordPress 2.1 released

The new design for the WordPress login
The new design for the WordPress login

The latest version of the WordPress blogging / personal publishing software tool has just been released: WordPress 2.1 Ella. The current 2.x releases are being named after jazz musicians: the last was called ‘Duke’, after Duke Ellington; this one is called ‘Ella’, after Ella Fitzgerald.

Generally it’s faster, slicker and the underlying code is tidier and happier. A few cool new features include

  • Autosave,
  • Switch instantly between WYSIWYG and HTML code views while writing posts and pages,
  • Export your blog to XML to import into another blog (or simply to back it up) and
  • Specify which page to use as your frontpage instead of just the latest news items.

I’ve just checked it out on my test server and it’s looking great. I can’t wait to get it installed … once I’ve resurrected my PC. (See previous post for details!)

My PC has died, pt.2

A sad, dead PC
A sad, dead PC

Not even two months from the last time that my PC died it’s done it again this morning. Once more I’m gutted and PC-less.

I’d left it to do a defrag overnight — the software automatically shuts down the PC once it’s done — and when I got up this morning discovered that it hadn’t shut down. That happens sometimes, so I just did a reboot via the Windows Start menu. And that was the last I saw of it in a working state.

Once more it gets stuck at the Power On Startup Test (POST) screen. It may be a CPU problem (again), it may be a motherboard problem. I don’t know until I can get my hands on it this evening and gently dismantle it. What I do know is that I could do without this sort of hassle, I’ve got various bits and pieces of work that I’ve promised I’d get to people this week.


Troubleshooting networks: changing node type

Network cable

Last Friday at work I was determined to solve a problem that we’ve had since I arrived in May 2006. It was to do with our network: why could my colleague Steve connect to my PC but I couldn’t connect to his?

Why had it taken us until Friday last to get around to troubleshooting this problem? Because it wasn’t until then (eleven days before the public release of Microsoft Windows Vista) that Steve upgraded from Windows 2000 to XP, and as we share so much data between us it felt quite important to finally nail this problem.

We’d done the usual things:

  • Made sure that printer and file sharing was switched on
  • Checked firewall settings
  • Ensured that we were on the same workgroup

“That’s really odd,” I said. “Why can you see my PC and connect to it but I can’t see or connect to yours on the network?”

And then I remembered that I’d said that very same thing about my newly installed laptop back in the autumn and the problem had been to do with network node types. (Of course!)

Were we using two different (and presumably incompatible) node types? A quick trip to the Command Prompt (Start > Run…, then CMD) and ipconfig /all gave us the answer we needed: yes. Steve’s PC had “Peer to Peer” while mine said “Hybrid”.

Here’s what we did to change Steve’s PC to “Hybrid” which solved the problem:

Windows XP: Changing Network Node Type

If you want to explicitly configure the Node Type:

  1. Run the registry editor and open this key: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\System\CurrentControlSet\Services\Netbt\Parameters
  2. Delete the DhcpNodeType value if it’s present.
  3. If the NodeType value isn’t present, create it using type: DWORD.
  4. Set NodeType to 1 (Broadcast), 4 (Mixed), or 8 (Hybrid).

For details, see this Microsoft Knowledge Base article:

A quick reboot (or simply disable the “Local Area Connection” in Control Panel > Network Connections, and then re-enable it) and all was fixed.

(This post is as much for my own reference in the future as to help others.)

Update (Windows 7)

Wednesday 28 October 2009

This has just solved an issue I had with Windows 7 not showing my XP machine in its network folder.

RSS icon for Windows

RSS logo

If you’ve been pottering around blogs and news websites over the last couple of years you will no doubt have come across the abbreviation ‘RSS’. RSS stands for any one of the following, depending on which technology you are using:

  • Really Simple Syndication (RSS 2.0)
  • Rich Site Summary (RSS 0.91, RSS 1.0)
  • RDF Site Summary (RSS 0.9 and 1.0)

What is RSS?

Essentially, it’s a way to publishing frequently updated content, such as news, podcasts or blogs (like this one), in such a way that the content is pushed out to applications (called ‘feed readers’) so that a user can automatically access the content of his or her favourite sites without having to manually visit each site in turn.

Think of it in terms of e-mail. With e-mail you don’t go round each of your friends in turn and ask “Do you have any mail for me?” Your e-mail program simply logs into your mailbox and downloads all your latest messages. So it is with your RSS program, but instead of one mailbox it quizes all the news feeds to which you’ve subscribed and downloads all the latest content.

(Read more about RSS on Wikipedia.)

Standard RSS Feed icon

A while back a standard feed icon was designed and adopted by the Web community. It looks like this:

small RSS feed icon

You can find out more about it and download the image in a variety of formats, sizes and colours from But one format that you won’t be able to download from there is the Windows .ico format.

I use the excellent FeedDemon RSS reader software, which like all Windows software has its own unique application icon. But I wanted to use the standard RSS feed icon for it on my Quick Launch bar, so I created my own Windows icon file offering the icon in a variety of sizes (16×16, 24×24, 32×32 and 48×48) and colour depths (256 colours, True Colour and Windows XP format).


Please feel free to download it, use it, adapt it for your own use.

small RSS feed icon Download RSS Feed icon (Icon, 40 KB)


This icon is intended for personal use, and should be used according to the Mozilla Feed Icon Guidelines.