James Cassell's Blog

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

MATLAB R2007b on T61 with Vista

A week or so ago, I tried to install MATLAB R2007b. The program seemed to install without a hitch, but when I went to run it, the splash screen would pop up for a fraction of a second, then it would close, and the program would not be present in memory. I tried many things to get it to work, none of which were successful. The people at the computer help desk also had no idea how to get it to work. The good news is: I just figured it out.

The solution is to install MATLAB R2007b, then uninstall both Java 6 and Java SE Development Kit 6, restart the computer, then re-install them. This will usually require re-downloading the installation files.add an environment variable called "MATLAB_RESERVE_LO" with a value of "0" (zero). After doing that, MATLAB R2007b should run perfectly well.

I hope that someone finds this useful. The computer I'm running on is the Lenovo ThinkPad T61, issued by RPI.

Update (Oct 31, 2007, 01:23 EDT): Apparently my initial solution was a fluke, and only worked by some random chance for me. After I rebooted, it no longer worked. I found this new solution from a thread where someone else was having the same problem. Apparently, it affects "Centrino" processors, which I expect means that it affects Intel's mobile processors newer than, and including, the Pentium M. I would not be surprised if the problem also affected the desktop Core 2 Duo chips as well. One would think that they would catch these things during testing before they ship, since the setup is so common.

Update 2 (Oct 31, 2007, 01:39 EDT): MathWorks, the company behind MATLAB, has an official bug report and work-around. Unfortunately, you have to create an account to see it, but the same solution (though without an explanation) is provided both here, and in the thread I referenced earlier.

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Friday, October 26, 2007

nVidia Quadro 140M

When trying to play a 720p video file on my ThinkPad this afternoon, I found out how bad the graphics card inside really is. It would not play the file well. It would play with a very low frame rate, and the sound was jittery because of trying to stay synced with the video.

I really wish that they had included a better video card (as well as higher screen resolution, i.e. 1920x1200). I haven't yet played any notable video games on my ThinkPad.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007



Ever since I have been up here at Rensselaer, I have not had a proper pair of speakers. I did not have the time, nor the space in the car to bring them when my dad drove me up here in August. All music that I have listened to has been via the speakers on my laptops, or through headphones. I should mention that the speakers on my Alienware notebook are much better than average for a notebook.

When my mom came up to visit for parents weekend, she brought my set of speakers that I had left at her house. It is amazing how good they sound after only hearing notebook speakers for a few months. They aren't even very powerful speakers; they're nothing compared to the speakers in my dad's home theatre system, for instance. (I think they're like 21 watt speakers.)

Alienware Notebook

Recently, my Alienware notebook has been running very hot -- I mean to the point where I was getting stability problems. It got so bad that I couldn't even watch an entire episode of a TV show without my system crashing.

I the first thing that came to mind was that I might have applied the thermal grease incorrectly or after I replaced my processor shortly before coming up to RPI. On Friday, I decided to take it apart. Everything looked good as far as I could tell. I decided that while the computer was open, I would clean it out.

Armed with a few cotton swabs (Q-tips), some isopropyl rubbing alcohol, and some canned air (complements of my aunt and uncle), I started cleaning out the area where the fan was. I was quite surprised at the large amount of dust that came out. I started up the computer again, and low and behold: it ran much cooler.

I decided that if there were any way to test it out, it would be to run a graphic-intensive game. This was the perfect excuse for me to buy Steam's Orange Box, which includes Half-Life 2: Episode 2. I played that for about an hour at full resolution (1920x1200), and almost full settings. There were no longer any stability issues with my machine. It will probably be a long time before I get a chance to actually play and finish the game.

Because of this experience, if anyone ever has stability issues with a notebook computer, I will first recommend that he take it apart, and get all of the dust out.

Connecting to RPI's Wireless Network from Fedora

One problem that plagued me for several months was that I couldn't get my Rensselaer-issued laptop (hereafter, "ThinkPad") to connect to the wireless network here. I first tried with the GUI network tools that come with Fedora, but there was not a way to do it that way (that I could find). My next approach was to use wpa_supplicant, and connect via 802.1X PEAP-GTC. I thought this was my solution for nearly a month, but never could figure out how to do it -- a fact I attribute to the lack of documentation for configuring wpa_supplicant.

One day, I decided to post on the Facebook "Wall" of the RPI network asking if anyone was able to get it working, as I know that many people here run Linux. A few days later, I got a reply suggesting that I try the Cisco VPN client for Linux. I tried to do this, but is couldn't compile a kernel module, or some other non-sense that was way over my head. After researching this problem, I came across the mention of a program called vpnc. There were clear instructions on how to take a Cisco client configuration file, and extract the information necessary to get vpnc to connect to the VPN. At Last, I finally was able to connect to the wireless network from Fedora! The solution was to use vpnc, if I didn't make that obvious.

In other news, in my experimentation with Fedora, I got the original Half-Life to run with the proprietary nVidia driver through WINE, a Windows emulator for Linux. I was not, however, able to get any of the other games working. One day when I have some time, I may look into this further.

Desktop Computer

My desktop is once again, nearly out of disk space. In reality I have around 120 gigabytes left, but it is not continuous; it is spread over 9 disk partitions, which is not very useful for moving and saving DVD images. I have many linux images, and other large files on my desktop (which is I am basically using as a server).

As a result of this free space being fragmented across many partitions, I have been wanting to build a RAID-5 server with several terabytes of storage in one continuous blob. The main thing precluding my from doing so at this time is funding. Additionally, I don't know which controller I would get. I need one that is reliable, fast, and cheap. (I know that the saying is usually "choose any 2".) I would end up getting some large disks from NewEgg. I would also need an inexpensive case to house the whole thing.

I would probably set it up as a Linux server, and make the space available to Windows clients via the samba protocol. I have never set up such a server before, so it would be very interesting.

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Monday, October 22, 2007

Parents Weekend at RPI

This weekend at Rensselaer was parents weekend. There were several football games, for both of which Rensselaer's teams were successful. There was also a hockey game, about which I have not information. The only event that I really participated in was the Honors Convocation, in which I received the physical medal from the Rensselaer Medal Scholarship that I was awarded last year.

The Honors Convocation Ceremony was quite long, lasting about 2 hours. First, there was a procession in which all of the honorees, walked in followed by the important people of the institution. Six of the faculty were awarded some "highest honor", which sounded to me like tenure, but I didn't hear that word. After that, there were speeches. Eventually, they handed out the medals as each recipient walked across the stage, and shook President Jackson's hand. This part only took 15 minutes or so.

After the Honors Convocation was over, I took my mom and brother (who had come up for the event) on a tour of campus. My mom took a lot of photos of me, of which I may post a few here

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Saturday, October 06, 2007

The One Reason to Hate Windows Vista

I decided this evening that I wanted to watch a movie. I went to the library, and checked out a DVD. When I tried to play it, I got the following error message:

DRM: Data Restrictions Management. The one and only reason to hate Vista. If I had tried to play the DVD on an XP machine, it would have worked fine. There is no reason this message should be coming up. I could be somewhat understanding if it were an HD movie, but it's just a standard DVD. This was one thing that I had been worried about through the development of Vista. It was and still is a concern for many other people.

Vista is definitely a huge improvement over XP. There have been several occasions where I have asked someone why they haven't switched to Vista yet, and their response is simply, "DRM."

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