Monday, August 18, 2008

Vista wireless networking

The Windows 2000 and XP machines work fine. The Vista machine drops and re-connects the wireless connection every 3-5 minutes or so, which is very tedious when trying to watch videos. These don't play on Win2000, and the XP box has its own problems with overheating in the GPU, so the Vista needs fixing.

After a brief descent into the usual circles of forum hell, where self-styled hacker doodz spread misinformation and the unfortunate ESL guys patiently try to make sense of it all: here's the short list of things to check.

Update Dec 2: I upgraded Vista to XP, but the problem persists. XP gives a few more things to try:
- used the Dell utility for wireless, and disabled the Windows WZC service
- disabled the Dell utility, and used the Windows WZC configuration for wireless
Also tried a static IP address, which improved the time taken for the initial connection, but it failed in the same way.
Dell 1390 WLAN mini-card, Broadcom 44/10x100 integrated controller. I'm beginning to think the problem is in the 1390 card, since that's the only thing that is different between this PC and the others that work.

The PC works fine at the library with an unsecured network. I tried turning off WPA-PSK at home, and now that works fine too. However I'm not prepared to run without security. 

Finally worked around the problem by disabling the 1390 Wlan card, and installing a USB wireless adapter. It's slightly slower, but at least it doesn't crash the entire network on a regular basis. It was a hardware problem, not Vista's fault at all. That hardly ever happens.. 

Update Aug 29: well, it seems the behavior is by design in Vista. It checks automatically every minute or two to see if there's a better wireless connection. That check will cause a lag in the wireless traffic, and in some cases a complete disconnection. Microsoft believes this to be acceptable behaviour. There are some little programs floating around that may work, try WLAN Optimizer or Vista Anti Lag, but neither worked for me. The only workaround is to buy a wireless bridge, aka wireless gaming adapter, and connect it to the laptop Ethernet port. Then disable the WLAN Autoconfig service in Vista.

Or, simply upgrade to Ubuntu Linux. First get the Live CD, which allows Ubuntu to run from the CD, without needing to install. This is a way to make sure the hardware is supported under Ubuntu. If that runs OK, test the wireless connection under Linux with this step-by-step. All being well, make a dual-boot system with Windows and Ubuntu. Follow the instructions here. Then, boot into Windows Vista when you don't have enough pain and suffering in your life: otherwise use Ubuntu.

Here's the list of other things to check in Vista, just in case something helps.
Change power options.. Start, search for Power Options, then proceed to set it to high performance for everything.


Try channel 11 instead of the default 6. This is set on the router configuration, and should be picked up automatically by the clients.
Both channels 1 and 11 do not overlap with the default channel 6; use one of these three channels for best results.


Turn off the 802.11 authentication.
1. Click Start, and then click Control Panel.
2.Click Network and Internet, click Network and Sharing Center, and then click Manage network connections.
3.Right-click the network that you want to disable 802.1X authentication for, and then click Properties.
4.Click the Security tab, and then, in the Security Type list, click No authentication (Open). Click OK.


Turn off network speed auto-detection:

Select Network Settings, either from your Start menu or from within Control Panel.
Right click on the connection that corresponds to your network card, and select Properties.
In the dialog that results, click on the Configure... button immediately below the "Connect using..." item that shows your network card.
In the dialog that results, click on the Advanced tab.
This is where things vary based on your network card. In the left-hand list will be a series of properties that can be adjusted. Look for a setting similar to "Speed", or "Link", or perhaps "Media Type". Click on that, and the right-hand "Value" dropdown list will probably have something similar to "Auto". If you click on that drop-down list and options include entries that look like "10mbs", "100mbs", and so on, you've found the right item. Change the setting from auto by clicking on the specific speed you've determined you want the network card to run at, and press OK (If the setting also includes a full/half duplex selection, full is normally correct.)


Update the drivers etcetera.
1. Verify that you are using the latest version of the wireless network adapter driver that is available from Microsoft or the wireless network adapter vendor. To obtain the version of the wireless network adapter driver that is installed, right-click the wireless connection in the Network Connections folder. On the General tab, click Configure. From the wireless network adapter properties dialog box, click the Driver tab. The version of the wireless network adapter driver is displayed next to Driver Version. If your wireless client is connected to the Internet, click Update Driver to launch the Hardware Update Wizard and search Windows Update for a newer version of the driver. Alternately, check the wireless network adapter vendor's Web site for a newer version of the driver.

2. Upgrade the router's firmware. Since our Dlink is way out of support, we have the absolute latest 2004 firmware already installed..

From Microsoft's trouble-shooting document, found here:
Wireless Auto Configuration is Enabled and a Third-Party Wireless Configuration Tool is Installed
Windows XP Wireless Auto Configuration provides integrated support for wireless networking and helps automate wireless configuration. Wireless network adapters also provide a wireless network configuration tool. If the wireless network adapter driver supports Wireless Auto Configuration, installation and use of the network adapter vendor's configuration tool is not needed. To test whether your wireless network adapter supports Wireless Auto Configuration, right-click the wireless connection in the Network Connections folder and then click Properties. If there is a Wireless Networks tab, your wireless network adapter supports Wireless Auto Configuration.
Note: there are no third-party configuration tools for Vista. Only the WLAN Autoconfiguration Windows service exists, which is broken as noted above.


If the SSID broadcast is disabled on the preferred wireless network, clever old Windoze might be disconnecting from the network in order to use a different network that is broadcasting its SSID. We do broadcast, so that isn't the case here, but just for completeness..

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

5430 triathlon

1.2 mile swim, 56 bike, 13.1 run.
35:06, 2:38, 2:08 for 5:23 finish.

Heading out the door at 4:30 am, I contrived to smack the left quad into a doorknob with sufficient force to bring tears to my eyes. Limped to the car, pondering the three pains to start the race with - quad, bursitis in L heel, and some strange tendon (Flexor hallucis longus I think) in the R ankle. Oh goody.

I'd tapered carefully for this race over 10 days, and it really paid off. The warmup run was the best I've had in a decade or more, felt light strong and fast. Unfortunately the rest of the day was all uphill from there. Swim heads straight into the sun, past the orange round buoys and turn at the yellow triangular ones, which is better than the usual undifferentiated markers. The previous wave had orange caps that matched the buoy's colour perfectly, so route-finding was a bit tricky: the small round red head in the near waves looked a lot like the far buoys at times. Calf cramped briefly at one point, after three sighting strokes and kicks for the route-finding provoked it. The two guys drafting off me were a bit ticked off, but I didn't lose much time. Out of the water in 33:50 which seemed slow: general consensus at the finish line was that it may have been a couple of minutes long.

The bike starts out with a long steady almost invisible climb, 350 feet over 4 miles. The low point of the course comes a few miles before this on the second loop, making the climb more like 500 ft over 6 miles, even better. It's always discouraging to be grinding out 15-16mph on an apparently flat road. Patience and humility are called for but I do not heed the call. Actually I thought I was being very conservative on the bike. Even after the previous 3 weeks at sea level, breathing was easy; I could have passed the talk test at any time. One guy rode by and said 'time for new shorts, dude'. Lycra gets transparent as it ages: but the shorts had looked fine when I put them on in the dark at 4am. At the finish I asked Julie, 'so how bad is it ?' and turned around. She dissolved into helpless giggles, so I guess it was pretty bad. I apologise to everyone behind me..

After the grind, a series of rollers, fun and nothing serious. Then a screaming descent at 40+, whee. Here as elsewhere on the course, anything over 30mph meant tucking into the aero position and relaxing. I was surprised at the number of people I coasted past while they were pedaling furiously on the descents.

There was a strange little dogleg at one point down a side road, with an unexpectedly narrow turnaround. The girl ahead of me went wide, into the dirt, but recovered back onto the tar. I had the first inadvertent unclip of my cycling career while going about and looked down at the pedals instead of thinking. The girl by this time had stopped, so I successfully jammed the front wheel firmly into her rear wheel gears (ooh baby) and came to a halt. Of course I fell over on the side that was still clipped in, head hit the tar with a startlingly loud whack, then someone ran over it. Luckily the long tail of the aero helmet deflected the wheel away from the cranium as such. It was a curious sensation, like a dog had grabbed the helmet and given it a good shake. That evening my wife wanted to know how I'd managed to get lovebites on the back of the neck. My story was that they were tiremarks and anyway I didn't even know the bike in question, think I was able to sell it.

A burst of profanity to relieve the immediate emotional distress, apologised to the girl I'd rammed, and off again bleeding only lightly from the knee shoulder and elbow. Later I discovered this had also cracked the rear wheel cover. There was a lot of equipment damage for such a slow-motion crash. Still, no bones broken. Hopefully it won't show up on YouTube. By now I was up to six pains, the three I'd started with plus shoulder cramps and bleeding, on top of the general systemic effort which I never really feel as pain. So that's OK.

The rest of the course is rather pretty, two-lane roads through farm country with the mildest of rollers, very enjoyable. Halfway in 1:18 which was faster than I'd expected: this probably meant I'd gotten the pacing wrong. Oh well. Second lap was mercifully uneventful except for getting yelled at for going slow at the turnaround. Brother, I have the scars.

Off the bike in 2:37 feeling not too bad at all. Sat down to get socks and shoes on and use an asthma inhaler which was wholly supererogatory, as I never got anywhere near oxygen debt in the entire race. L'affaire doorknob hadn't hurt much on the bike so I'd forgotten it. Now it appeared that I couldn't lift the left leg at all. This didn't matter much at first since the right leg wasn't coming along too well either, but I'd rather hoped to be able to start running after a mile or two. Quoth the raven, Nevermore: thirteen miles of survival shuffle is what it took. I've run over a hundred marathons, trail marathons and ultras, and never had to gut it out for such a long time. It was absolutely the hardest race of my life. My personal worst for a half-marathon in competition was 1:36, after basic training in the Army when I'd bulked up to 180 lbs ('bulk' is a euphemism, there was a fair bit of blubber in there too). Well, I just shattered that mark.

The run route here is lovely, dirt road around Boulder reservoir in the prairie with grand views. The fine weather we'd had all day persisted, good cloud cover, warm but not extravagantly hot. Best weather in years for the 5430 and I couldn't take any advantage of it, boo hiss. Shambled along kicking up dust, tried to 'run' between aid stations and walk the aids but couldn't even manage that. I'd never known it was possible for me to 'run' and go so slowly. The first lap took 56 minutes meaning even my worst-case time goal was out the window. The Gatorade, Coke, water and gels were not mixing well in my stomach by this stage, lots of sloshing and gurgling going on, with shooting pains to add to the other six. I skipped taking the next gel at the half-hour since I just couldn't face (or stomach) it. This produced a swift retribution as the pace dropped to about a 25-minute mile, forced the gel down at the next aid station, after which I was able to pick it up to nearly 10min/mile, woo-bloody-hoo. In the end I just relaxed and enjoyed a fully-catered walk around the res to finish in 2:08 for the run, 5:23 overall. Shameful.

Met Julie at the finish and commiserated on our races. We found shade in the beer tent (mmm) and sat down, but didn't have the strength to get up and actually fetch a beer. Julie's friend Kim was kind enough to get our beer, thank you oh thank you..

One thing I'd do differently in the alternate universe where I'd try this again, is to use trail shoes like the Montrails for the run. The rocks and pebbles in the dirt road had tenderized my feet quite effectively by the finish. Another is to eat some solid food on the bike, instead of just gels. Panini are what I'd try, recipe below. It's possible also that I drank too much for the mild weather.

After six weeks without a bike ride but some good swim and run training, plus some 30-odd (some of them extremely odd) years of marathoning, I'd hoped to be able to fake the run after taking the bike easy. Turns out it can't be done, 56 miles of bike ride even at a relatively easy pace will turn the run legs to jelly. This is not news I suppose, but I thought I could do it. Hah.

Note later: Mike Ricci had this to say on another 5430 race report,
"My thinking from seeing this time and again, is that being in that aero position for 2+ hours (when you aren't training like this) tends to really fatigue the hip flexors so when you get to the run, you feel like it's much harder than it should be. I am betting that's one of the reasons the run didn't go as planned."

Thanks to Barry Siff, Mr 5430tri, for yet another fine race. Thanks to all the wonderful volunteers, in particular the girls in bikinis at aid station 2 on the bike, though the guy in a bikini there I could have done without: oh my eyes.

Receipt from though I can't find it on the site anymore:
Panini are usually made with white bread after the crust is removed. This reduces sandwich size so it can be eaten in three or four bites.
Traditionally, the bread is toasted. Then one side of each piece is quickly touched to a flat saucer of white wine. This is done to add flavor and, the Euros believe, it aids digestion. The wine seeps in to make the bread soft by the time it's eaten. Starting with untoasted bread could result in a very mushy sandwich.
Inside is butter, cream cheese or a soft cheese like Brie, and jam. Honey is favored by some riders. On cold or rainy days or for long races in moderate temperatures, soigneurs might add a slab of ham.
The resulting sandwich is wrapped in aluminum foil to keep it protected, fresh and moist so it's easy to eat.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

On Mt. Kandili

Uncle Dino wanted to know if I got paid for all the running and swimming I was doing on vacation.

I am paid in the red coin of the sun going down,
the notes of waves susurrant in the pebbles
which cannot be counterfeited;
the figs ripening and the wind that bears their scent
chattering of cicadas,
goat bells in the olive grove, behind the monastery,
cool sweet water from the mountain springs;
the wages are good enough.