Welcome to the QA Tech-Tips blog!

Some see things as they are, and ask "Why?"   I dream things that never were, and ask "Why Not".  
Robert F. Kennedy

“Impossible” is only found in the dictionary of a fool.  
Old Chinese Proverb

Monday, September 27, 2010

Gimme that Old-Time Religion! (er. . . Technology!)

And just when you thought it was safe to toss some of those old techniques out, they come to the rescue when the newer technology fails to deliver.

Case in point:
I have an ancient Palm IIIxe that I bought back somewhere around '99 or so, that I use to sync with Outlook so I don't forget Important Meetings - as I tend to get absorbed in what I'm doing - and this beastie makes a racket to wake the dead when I set a reminder.

Computers have come-and-gone since then.  Operating Systems have come and gone since then.  Technologies have come, flourished, and withered away since then.  Back when I bought my Palm III, USB ports were either not available, or very rare, so Palm used the Universally Available Technology known as the Serial Port for it's "HotSync" cable.

Now, ten or so years later, computers with RS232 ports are scarce as hen's teeth, (unless you just happen to be looking in my basement!), and USB ports have not only arrived with a vengeance, they've gone through (at least!) three technology revisions since then.

So, that brings us to today - where I am sitting here with my dual-core, 64 bit laptop running Windows 7, next to both my venerable IIIxe, and a newer Palm M130 I just received.

The Palm IIIxe has a serial hot-sync cradle.
The Palm M130 has a USB hot-sync cradle.
My laptop has never even THOUGHT of RS232 serial.

So, which one do you think I was able to get working?  If you guessed the M130, you'd be dead wrong, as crazy as that sounds.

Why?  The M130 requires a special, and very specific, USB driver in order to function.  Which, by the way, is true for all USB devices.  If your fancy new USB device has a device ID that your system hasn't heard of yet, you're just plain old Out Of Luck.  There's really not a doggone thing you can do, except pray that someone, somewhere, has written the driver you need.

When Palm's M130 USB driver was written, Windows 7 was not even a gleam in it's Daddy's Eye yet - and coding for a 64 bit operating system?  The DEC Alpha was about the only game in town - outside of something costing bazillions of dollars - and absolutely nobody even considered porting something as trivial as a PDA to a heavy hitter like the DEC Alpha.

So. . . Not only are there no drivers for this beast, there isn't even a good, bad, or ugly workaround for it either.

But "On the other hand. . . .!"
Several companies, including Best Buy, sell a USB to Serial adapter.  You plug one end into your computer, the other end into your serial device's cable, install a driver, and away you go!  That old 1200 baud Atari modem you have collecting dust somewhere can ride again.  Or that old EPROM burner, or embedded micro-controller development kit, etc. etc. etc.  All of that stuff that you lovingly laid aside when technology outpaced it can return to a new, useful, existence.

Unlike USB, RS232 serial is RS232 serial is RS232 serial.  Once you get down to that connector, everyone is equal.  Everyone uses the same seven signal wires, everyone plays by the same rules.  And even if a device was particularly fussy, there was usually a "tweak" or an "adjustment" to a serial setting you could perform to make it happy.

Now yes, you are right, these things don't have 64 bit drivers either.  However, unlike the Palm, the folks at Prolific - the folks that make the USB-to-Serial chipset - DID port the serial driver to 64 bits and all it took was a little judicious web-searching to find it.

Once the 64 bit drivers were installed, the port came up like a champ!  I was then able to install the original Palm IIIxe desktop sync software without a hitch.  Even the old '90's vintage sync-to-Outlook conduits they had back then installed and worked.  Worked with Outlook 2010 - the latest and greatest version too.  Looks like maybe the folks at Microsoft actually did something right for a change? :-)

So now, I have my venerable old Palm IIIxe, fully sync'd with Outlook 2010, sitting there all snug and warm in my pocket while the whiz-bang M130 sits and waits.  Waits for the brand-new SERIAL hot-sync cable I ordered for it; waiting so that it too can return to a happy and useful existence.

You just gotta laugh sometimes!

What say ye?


Monday, September 13, 2010

WindowsUpdate_80070103 - WindowsUpdate_dt000

Last post, I handed out one of my semi-famous "Hot Smokin' Weapon!" awards and I've been asked if I have a similar award for Stupidity Above and Beyond the Call of Duty.

Sorry.  I'm afraid I don't have one of those - at least not yet. . . .

If I DID have a "Smokin' Hole in The Foot" award, (Hey!  That's not a bad name!), today's post would definitely be a contender.

Today's post is about a Windows Update / Microsoft Update error:  WindowsUpdate 80070103 - WindowsUpdate dt000

According to Microsoft's KB article 952032:

This issue occurs if the following scenarios are true:
  • Windows Update or Microsoft Update tries to install a driver a second time for an additional piece of identical hardware such as a graphics adapter.
  • Windows Update or Microsoft Update tries to update a currently installed driver to an unsuitable version of that driver.
The "workaround" suggested by Microsoft is to "hide" the offending update so it does not get offered again.

. . . . Say WHAT?!

Strange, I thought that this was the entire reason behind Windows Update in the first place - it (supposedly) scans your system for needed updates, grabs them, and then installs them.

I would have thought it would have skipped it the 2nd time.  At least it caught itself and threw an error!

Oh, and by the way, if any of YOU would like to make naming suggestions for my "stupidity" award, please post them here and/or e-mail 'em to me.

What say ye?