Archive for the 'Windows' Category

How To Shrink VMware Virtual Disk Files with Windows Guest

Feb 20 2013 Published by under Windows

While at home for reading week, I set up my development environment on Windows XP Professional, 64-bit. XP x64 was never meant to be run on real hardware, as it lacks driver support from hardware vendors. However, it was free for students and quick to set up with VMWare as I only had to enter the license key for an unattended install. I originally indended to carry around the virtual machine on a 8GB USB, but the hard disk file exceeded by a few GB. I managed to shrink all the files required to run the virtual machine combined down to less than 3GB. Here’s a quick run down of the process that requires about 1 hour for a computer to complete:

  1. Uninstall unused applications
  2. Delete downloads manually
  3. Clean out temporary files with CCleaner
  4. Shutdown virtual disk and make a copy
  5. Hook the virtual disk into slot2 and start the virtual machine Settings -> Hard Disk -> Add…
  6. Zero out unused parts of partitions on the copied disk with KillDisk wipe
  7. Shutdown virtual machine to work with the virtual disk file
  8. Defragment copied hard drive under Settings -> Hard Disk -> Utilities
  9. Compress copied hard drive
  10. Find the virtual machine working folder under Settings -> Options tab
  11. Replace the larger virtual disk file with the smaller one
  12. Create a zip folder of the virtual machine files, 7-zip is suggested

It’s easy to see why this process works, if you understand how file systems work. Because deleted files are still on the hard drive, they cannot be compressed in the virtual disk file. So the idea is to overwrite those unused sectors of the hard drive with zero’s. VMWare’s defragment collects zeros together at the end of the disk, and compress completely removes them from the virtual disk file, shrinking the file. If you’re making a clone of the virtual machine for later use, it is suggested to start the operating system again as it will detect hardware changes and reconfigure. Many of these steps take a few minutes to complete, so it is wise to have something else to do while waiting.

Update: Instead of using KillDisk, CCleaner has a wipe utility under Tools -> Drive Wiper. The default settings writes zeros over the free space. Compared to my method, it’s slower. One way to speed it up is to give the process realtime priority in the Task Manager.

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Installing Turnkey Rails on VMWare

Mar 04 2012 Published by under Windows

While working on the new Fiddle Salad, which required several languages with native Ruby compilers, I downloaded and installed Ruby on my Windows machine. Ruby by itself wasn’t a problem, but when I run gem install rails, some kinks come up, like missing a lib folder in a package. Then I moved on to installing therubyracer, which I guess is an optimizer, but it wouldn’t compile with mingw on Windows. After that, when initializing a rails app, it got stuck on bundler, which I used to install several packages. Like one user said on stackoverflow, Ruby isn’t meant to run on Windows.

So this morning I got ruby set up pretty quick. Just follow these steps:

  1. Download turnkey rails http://www.turnkeylinux.org/rails
  2. Install on VMWare Player
  3. Set Networking to Bridged
  4. Connect using SSH to the address shown after installation

That last part took a bit of searching on Google for me, because I expected a full Ubuntu installation, with GUI. But the download was only 253Mb. As I thought more about it, it made sense. I was glad how easy it was to set it up in a virtual machine. Once the VM was installed, I installed Rails with gem install rails and set up the build tools.

 Update: therubyracer is the Google V8 embedded within Ruby. There is a list of other engines here: https://github.com/sstephenson/execjs

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Benchmarking Browsers by Page Load Times

May 06 2010 Published by under Firefox,Linux,Windows

Recent comparisons of browsers focus on JavaScript speed. There are many ways to measure browser performance, including image load time, reloading from cache, start time, and css rendering speed. While Opera was in the lead a few years ago, it has been branded as the fastest browser again.

snapshot2
You should notice the ad on the left for Chrome. So which one is the fastest? I ran the tests on Linux and Windows.

Benchmark Method

There’s nothing special about using JavaScript to detect when onload is fired by the browser, as long as the browser follows the convention that it is fired after the page is loaded. This used to be an issue I noted to the point of just using Firefox and ignoring other browsers. According to this article, it was fixed 2 years ago. So I took the benchmark from the site and ran it. Not surprisingly, Firefox came out highest on the score. Actually, that’s a negative score. Ideally, the page takes no time to load.

Linux

Google Chrome for Linux is different from the one for Windows, as the benchmark would load the first site for the first time, but could not time it nor reload it. Opera got stuck on MySpace once and kept adding more elements to the page, possibly due to an ad that is not usually loaded locally. I ran these tests on Sabayon Linux with kernel 2.6.30 (I expect 2.6.33 to be faster, since it has been patched with Con Koliva’s kernel enhancements). An interesting note here, not seen in other parts of the result set, is that Arora took longer to load pages on the first time, but was faster on all subsequent reloads. The total score for Arora comes second to Opera. On another note, Firefox with the same extensions, ran faster on Linux than Windows.

Firefox 3.6.3 Arora 0.10.2
Beginning Benchmark Beginning Benchmark
baidu.com.htm baidu.com.htm
692 1461
356 47
348 37
338 49
352 25
345 26
1046 26
356 27
344 28
356 27
Site Average: 453.3 Site Average: 175.3
blogger.com.htm blogger.com.htm
445 2408
285 202
283 205
269 206
272 197
283 197
262 200
271 190
262 194
259 193
Site Average: 289.1 Site Average: 419.2
facebook.com.htm facebook.com.htm
472 515
450 315
447 305
628 304
463 309
476 314
469 319
579 316
459 318
453 319
Site Average: 489.6 Site Average: 333.4
google.com.htm google.com.htm
123 84
109 21
96 20
108 21
102 21
106 21
94 22
91 21
94 22
94 21
Site Average: 101.7 Site Average: 27.4
havenworks.com.htm havenworks.com.htm
3639 4103
2587 217
2793 202
2598 202
2635 203
2614 203
2612 203
2594 204
2585 207
2572 216
Site Average: 2722.9 Site Average: 596
live.com.htm live.com.htm
305 413
153 101
154 79
157 82
152 74
159 84
160 74
166 79
143 76
149 89
Site Average: 169.8 Site Average: 115.1
myspace.com.tom.htm myspace.com.tom.htm
1429 1965
1230 759
1233 778
1235 764
1243 818
1229 753
1227 766
1275 775
1269 774
1224 769
Site Average: 1259.4 Site Average: 892.1
reddit.com.htm reddit.com.htm
604 586
557 399
542 397
541 392
523 404
513 393
766 400
521 385
533 386
525 382
Site Average: 562.5 Site Average: 412.4
wikipedia.org.htm wikipedia.org.htm
670 4110
242 36
232 49
231 34
470 34
232 31
236 30
229 32
227 31
239 49
Site Average: 300.8 Site Average: 443.6
Benchmark Complete
Score 705.455555555556 379.388888888889
First Page Load Average 931 1738.33333333333
Website http://gentoo-portage.com/www-client/mozilla-firefox http://gentoo-portage.com/www-client/arora

Windows

Not surprisingly, the winners on Windows were 32 bit browsers. Aside from the small speed increase due to smaller pointer sizes in 32 bit applications, I think Opera and Chrome are faster browsers, as they advertise. A surprising result is that 64 bit IE ran faster than 64 bit Firefox. I noticed that a while ago, but decided to stick with Firefox because it has add-ons. Iron is a stripped down version of Chrome compiled from source. It should be slightly faster, with the slimmer binary and no personal tracking features. I ran this on Windows 7 Pro 64 bit Version 6.1 (Build 7600).

Firefox 3.6.3 Opera 10.52 Iron 4.0.280 Internet Explorer
Beginning Benchmark Beginning Benchmark Beginning Benchmark Beginning Benchmark
baidu.com.htm baidu.com.htm baidu.com.htm baidu.com.htm
863 720 783 835
409 12 9 42
402 12 7 44
407 11 8 44
385 12 9 38
391 11 8 42
407 12 9 38
403 11 8 41
401 12 9 36
405 11 11 42
Site Average: 447.3 Site Average: 82.4 Site Average: 86.1 Site Average: 120.2
blogger.com.htm blogger.com.htm blogger.com.htm blogger.com.htm
398 220 333 220
143 72 38 90
140 69 38 85
138 73 38 85
140 70 41 86
140 72 37 75
150 70 42 76
140 72 36 72
140 70 41 73
138 72 37 85
Site Average: 166.7 Site Average: 86 Site Average: 68.1 Site Average: 94.7
facebook.com.htm facebook.com.htm facebook.com.htm facebook.com.htm
476 267 273 356
397 289 128 275
368 224 133 282
489 222 129 283
359 223 127 280
356 222 127 287
353 223 125 280
453 232 126 281
363 227 125 288
352 222 128 277
Site Average: 396.6 Site Average: 235.1 Site Average: 142.1 Site Average: 288.9
google.com.htm google.com.htm google.com.htm google.com.htm
135 40 21 70
70 13 11 52
70 14 11 37
70 13 10 46
70 14 10 37
70 14 11 48
70 14 11 43
70 13 11 34
70 14 11 36
70 14 11 50
Site Average: 76.5 Site Average: 16.3 Site Average: 11.8 Site Average: 45.3
havenworks.com.htm havenworks.com.htm havenworks.com.htm havenworks.com.htm
4024 867 736 2325
2863 655 279 2232
2873 659 278 2231
2866 665 280 2259
2852 700 282 2291
2855 663 285 2480
2880 650 276 2297
2930 668 280 2251
2866 666 277 2225
2860 654 279 2233
Site Average: 2986.9 Site Average: 684.7 Site Average: 325.2 Site Average: 2282.4
live.com.htm live.com.htm live.com.htm live.com.htm
254 280 235 125
95 75 38 132
95 78 42 131
107 75 38 125
98 77 39 137
96 77 40 125
96 74 40 104
96 74 40 99
96 74 39 115
95 76 38 103
Site Average: 112.8 Site Average: 96 Site Average: 58.9 Site Average: 119.6
myspace.com.tom.htm myspace.com.tom.htm myspace.com.tom.htm myspace.com.tom.htm
1253 1489 1573 2032
927 1377 3451 1287
928 1541 1131 4756
1535 3978 1902 1749
958 1111 1710 1436
941 1080 1622 1152
928 1103 4948 1918
924 1081 2927 1222
952 1388 1713 1230
930 1049 3505 1260
Site Average: 1027.6 Site Average: 1519.7 Site Average: 2448.2 Site Average: 1804.2
reddit.com.htm reddit.com.htm reddit.com.htm reddit.com.htm
552 246 259 541
425 166 167 463
424 163 165 483
418 164 167 478
608 164 166 478
429 165 166 480
424 165 166 485
422 165 166 481
432 164 167 495
425 164 167 483
Site Average: 455.9 Site Average: 172.6 Site Average: 175.6 Site Average: 486.7
wikipedia.org.htm wikipedia.org.htm wikipedia.org.htm wikipedia.org.htm
1105 726 955 967
166 78 34 260
164 66 33 255
163 66 34 262
163 66 32 253
165 67 32 260
163 71 35 258
164 72 36 256
162 71 33 267
163 71 34 256
Site Average: 257.8 Site Average: 135.4 Site Average: 125.8 Site Average: 329.4
Benchmark Complete
Score 658.677777777778 336.466666666667 382.422222222222 619.044444444444
First Page Load Average 1006.66666666667 539.444444444445 574.222222222222 830.111111111111
Website www.mozilla-x86-64.com/ http://www.opera.com/ http://www.srware.net/en/software_srware_iron.php

Conclusion

Opera beat all other browsers, just with its default settings. A little more tuning of redraw rate and memory use could improve the score. I expect the real results when browsing to deviate. Chrome and Firefox has DNS prefetching, Firefox and Opera have pipelining. To improve that DNS fetch speed in Opera, you can set your system to use OpenDNS to resolve domain names.

Linux

Google Chrome for Linux is different from the one for Windows, as the benchmark would load the first site for the first time, but could not time it nor reload it. Opera got stuck on MySpace once and kept adding more elements to the page, possibly due to an ad that is not usually loaded locally. I ran these tests on Sabayon Linux with kernel 2.6.30 (I expect 2.6.33 to be faster, since it has been patched with Con Koliva’s kernel enhancements). An interesting note here, not seen in other parts of the result set, is that Arora took longer to load pages on the first time, but was faster on all subsequent reloads. The total score for Arora comes second to Opera. On another note, Firefox with the same extensions, ran faster on Linux than Windows.

After the Benchmark (you should decide which browser to use)

I measured the memory use!

mem

It looks Chrome and IE were designed for really cheap laptops. (They can’t run on old computers with Windows 2000.)

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Disable File System Access Timestamp

Jan 21 2010 Published by under Linux,Windows

Access time can slow down disk operations because it adds an extra write every time a file is accessed. This is most noticeable during boot when many files are read, and the access time located on another part of the disk is recorded. To turn off atime, just follow these steps
Windows: simply run “FSUTIL behavior set disablelastaccess 1” at the command line.
Linux: a few more steps are required, since the atime property is set per partition.

  1. vim /etc/fstab
  2. change defaults under mount options column to noatime

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Extending Windows Explorer Preview Pane

Jan 02 2010 Published by under Windows

The preview pane in explorer doesn’t work for many files, and I’ve gotten used to seeing a preview of pdf and text files in the file manager in Linux. PDF-XChange Viewer has an explorer plugin and comes with some PDF editing tools. To make preview work with other text files like those with a php extension, there is a tool called PreviewConfig. Here’s what the previews look like:

Preview Pane in Windows 7

Preview Pane in Windows 7. Click on the area highlighted to activate.

PDF Preview

PDF Preview

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Font Rendering Comparison

Dec 31 2009 Published by under Linux,Windows

After changing some font display settings in Linux, I wanted to test the changes. The specific change I wanted to test was the hinting level adjusted by pixel size. Hinting affects how sharp the edges of displayed fonts are. (Note that this is different from print appearance.) The article that got me started adjusting font display is a post on Planet Gentoo that I read a while ago. I noticed that there was a suggestion to use medium hinting to reduce fuzziness on small fonts. That was interesting, so I turned on full hinting for small fonts, hint medium for medium fonts, and hint slight for large fonts. You can see the result on the screenshot.

Linux

snapshot1

Medium hinting is set for pixel sizes between 7 and 11. As the size becomes larger, there are  noticeable color fringes on the edge of the fonts. That’s where hint slight comes in.

Now, there’s nothing fancy going on in Linux as all the settings can be changed in an XML file. So after adjust font in Linux, I decided to write a webpage to test the different pixel sizes.

<html>
<head>
<title>Font Rendering Test</title>
<style type = "text/css">
        .col1 {
            float:left;
            width:33%;
            margin-left:1px;
        }
        .col2 {
            float:left;
            width:33%;
            margin-left:1px;
        }
        .col3 {
            float:right;
            width:33%;
            margin-right:1px;
        }
</style>
</head>

<body>
<center>

<?php
$s = "";
for($i=97;$i<123;$i++){
    $s = $s . chr($i);
}

$font_families = array("Serif", "Sans-serif", "Monospace");
$n = 1;

foreach ($font_families as $font){
    echo "<div class=\"col" . $n . "\"style=\"font-family:" . $font . "\">\n";
    for($i=5;$i<22;$i++){
        echo "<p style=\"font-size:" . $i . "px\">" . $i . " px</p>\n";
        echo "<p style=\"font-size:" . $i . "px\">" . $s . "</p>\n";
    }
    echo "</div>\n";
    $n++;
}
?>
</center>
</html>
</body>
</html>

I happened to be using a computer running XP while I wrote this, so I decided to run the test on that computer, too.

XP

screenshot.1

XP, like Linux, does have color fringes, but they are less noticeable and appear at all font sizes.

Today, I booted Windows 7 to fill out a PDF form and print it across the network. I also planned to do some PDF editing using PDF X-Change Viewer. One thing that makes Windows different from Linux is that applications don’t have system-wide configuration file. PDF viewers have their own font rendering settings. Anyways, here’s what the fonts look like in Windows 7:

7

screenshot.1

Fonts in 7 does not have any rendering artifacts. Which is a reason people do notice the difference when they switch to another OS.

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Increasing mouse scroll speed in firefox

Dec 25 2009 Published by under Linux,Windows

This is easy in windows:

  1. hit start orb
  2. type mouse wheel
  3. hit first option
  4. set the mouse scroll rate

However, settings in Linux desktops such as GNOME and KDE does not directly set the scroll speed in Firefox:

  1. type about:config in Firefox address bar and hit enter
  2. make the following changes
  • mousewheel.withnokey.sysnumlines->”false”
  • mousewheel.withnokey.numlines -> 6 (default:3)

Scroll to see the changes

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Key Repeat Rate in Windows

Dec 22 2009 Published by under Windows

(7 or Vista) I noticed that while in Linux hitting the backspace key resulted in multiple hits in less time than in Windows. That made the keyboard on Linux more responsive as a single key appeared much faster on the screen. There’s also a way to turn this on in windows.

  1. In the control panel search box, type keyboard
  2. Hit the first option
  3. Drag repeat delay all the way to the right

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Time for the Flood

Dec 19 2009 Published by under Linux,Windows

Just finished my last exam and now’s the time to update all my outdated software!

The plan is to leave my XP installation that came with the laptop and wipe out everything else. Does that mean Atlantis will be destroyed and civilization has to be rebuilt again? (Who just asked that!) Not that Windows 7 Release Candidate has gone stale, it expires sometime next year. In the past 3 life cycles, I have focused on heterogenous software configurations.

  1. XP should have Spore and custom theming
  2. Linux distributions should be either user-friendly or technology focused (Ubuntu and Sabayon)
  3. Vista with Google Chrome and Gadgets

The basic principle behind this new installation is to keep every system I use consistent. This implies keeping the user interface the same. Several things to achieve this effect:

  1. FEBE and CLEO Firefox extensions to mass install all extensions and profiles
  2. Firefox as the general purpose browser
  3. Font smoothing (yeah Linux and XP have them)
  4. KDE as Linux desktop (the destop effects in Vista can be duplicated, and it’s closer to Windows desktop than GNOME)
  5. Speed up the slowest part of my user experience (loading a web page in Ubuntu)

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Python Development

Aug 08 2009 Published by under Windows

Just a few things to note on Quirks:

  1. IBM’s Eclipse x86-64 for Windows is hidden. I can understand that the majority of Windows users don’t care about x86 or x86-64, but why keep the download hidden so that there’s no way to find it through links on the website? Now, the x86-64 version works fine and requires Java x86-64. You won’t have trouble finding Java x86-64 for Windows. It’s a drop-down menu under Operating System.(… I doubt the one for Linux works.) If you google search eclipse 3.5 64 bit, you get Eclipse Downloads and Eclipse IDE for 64-bit Windows and 64-bit Java « LingPipe Blog on Jul 21. I’d pick the second choice.
  2. eclipse Python 3: Python Development with PyDev and Eclipse – Tutorial or Python development with Eclipse and Ant. Again, IBM’s links are outdated.
  3. Becareful, Don’t Look BACK! If you want to write code that can be used on most installations, you’d better write it in Python 2 and use 2to3 whenever you want it to run on Python 3. Try searching for it. You get junk. And more hard to spell stuff.

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