Aaron's blog

How to Fix "BOOTMGR is missing"

By aaron.axvig, 25 April, 2007

So you've got a shiny new Vista install on your desktop, and you're happily installing all of your favorite programs.  One of them requires a reboot, and begrudgingly you comply.  On startup you get an error message reading "BOOTMGR is missing.  Press Ctrl+Alt+Del to restart."  That could be a problem.

As near as I've been able to figure out, Vista gets confused when installed while you have a SATA drive and an IDE drive plugged in and powered on.  In my case, I had one of each, and was installing to the SATA drive.  The IDE drive was already formatted as NTFS (not sure whether that matters, but it might).  So when I installed Vista, it put the Windows files on the SATA drive, but somehow decided to put the boot files on the IDE drive.  It worked like this for a couple of reboots, but then stopped working, giving me the mentioned error.

Vista repair to the rescue, right?  Reportedly it works quite well for some things, but not this case I guess.  I tried the auto repair function that specifically looks for startup problems, but it couldn't find any.  There is a command line option though, so in I dove...

The idea is that some files are placed on the wrong hard drive and they need to be on the other one.  It just so happened that the command line I got though the repair interface gave me C:\ as the drive that had the boot files (incorrectly), and the D:\ as the main (SATA) drive that I wanted the files on.  To find out which is which in your case, just use the following commands (all quotes in this post are NOT part of the command, and the commands are NOT case sensitive):

  • "c:" to switch to the C drive.
  • "dir /a" to view all the files.  The "/a" switch is to show the hidden ones (the files you are looking for, listed below, are hidden).
  • "d:" to switch to the D drive.
  • "dir /a" to view all the files there.

Basically what you are looking for is the drive that has a BOOT folder with files in it, and also a file named BOOTMGR (not in the BOOT folder).  And you want to identify the drive that has the "WINDOWS" folder in it, as that is where you are going to copy those files.

As far as copying the files, just use the following commands:

  • "c:" to switch to the C drive, or wherever you determined the boot files to be.
  • "xcopy /h bootmgr d:" to copy the BOOTMGR file to the D drive, or whichever drive you need to copy them too.  The "/h" switch makes sure that it sees hidden files.
  • "robocopy c:\boot d:\boot /mir" to copy the entire BOOT folder from the C drive to the D drive, again switching the drive letters as you deem necessary.  The "/mir" switch mirrors the entire directory structure, and is necessary because the BOOT folder contains some other folders with files.

That should do it, provided you just saw a bunch of files and copy commands scrolling by.  Just to be sure though, you should test to make sure this problem isn't going to rear its ugly head in the future.  What I'm thinking of is that maybe the files didn't get copied right and it is finding some weird way to use the files that are still on the wrong drive.  So I would recommend unplugging all the cables for the non-OS drive and making sure that you are able to boot Vista completely and that everything is in order.  Then you can plug that drive back in safe in the knowledge that it is not using the files on that drive and you can remove it in the future without repurcussions.

(Note: Lots of information was derived from this Lifehacker post's comments, although my circumstances were a bit different and so my instructions are modified (mainly because those instructions copy the entire drive contents over, and I had data on the second drive that wouldn't fit on the OS drive).  Also, some thanks goes out to this post over at Scott Hanselman's blog.)

Server maintenance notes

By aaron.axvig, 23 April, 2007

Today I did some server maintenance.  That would be the reason you noticed the blog was down for 45 minutes or so.  (Who am I kidding, like anyone actually visits.)  The main idea was to add some RAM, but I also removed a HDD from one machine.

I have two servers, one of which runs the web stuff (all ASP.NET) and one which stores backups and other "files."  It also runs runs SQL Server.  This file/database server used to get really hot, since it was stuffed with 5 HDDs at one point.  I have since added a fan to blow across most of the HDDs and things have improved a lot.  It runs on a 1.2GHz Athlon and now has 384MB RAM.

The web server (and domain controller, and mail server, and anything else I throw at it I guess) is a 1.1GHz Celeron with 640MB RAM.  When I opened the case up on this beast to add some RAM, I noticed that this was now the hotter of the two computers.  In fact, nearly everything was so hot I could hardly hold my hands tight up against the parts (chassis, power supply, HDD, you name it).  This computer used to run fairly cool, so something was obviously up.

I added the RAM, fired the box back up, and promptly noticed that the power supply fan wasn't spinning.  There is no other fan in there other than the CPU fan (still chugging along), so there was little-to-none airflow through the case.  Amazingly it had been stuggling along for probably a month or two like this, in a very warm closet even!

I thought maybe the fan was just jammed and tried rotating it with a key, but it is very sluggish.  I imagine the bearing dried out and failed.  So now I have the computer up and running again, but this time with the case cover off.  I must say though, what a tough little machine.

The moral of the story: If the blog goes down again, you know what happened...

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WMP11 dual CD ripping and Laserjet 1012 badness

By aaron.axvig, 20 April, 2007

Well the title pretty much sums it up.  I just discovered that WMP11 can rip tracks from 2 CDs at once.  This pretty much maxes out an AMD X2 3800+, which just one CD didn't.  Curious, because iTunes will max out the processor on just one CD.  Oh well, maybe it's because iTunes was going to 128kbps MP3 and WMP is going to WMA Lossless.

In other news, I've been learning a lot about PCL-5, PCL-6, PCL-X, and lots of other printing goodies.  As with most occasions in which I learn a lot about computers, this means something is broken.  This time it's my damn HP Laserjet 1012 and a lack of reliable functionality in Vista.  I don't feel so bad though, because lots of people have the same problem with XP too, which is even "officially supported."  What a POS, and HP, what a POS for not fixing this problem (printer is easily thwarted by complicated PCL commands from what I could tell).

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Vista = Traitor

By aaron.axvig, 11 April, 2007

Oh Vista, what were you thinking?  When you wanted to restart after applying updates, I carefully asked you to remind me in 4 hours to restart.

Why did you restart on your own after 4 hours?  Did it ever occur to you that if I leave you doing something overnight I **might** want you to finish doing that without a reboot in the middle that stops everything?  Thanks a lot.

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WMP11 and DivX: not close friends

By aaron.axvig, 11 April, 2007

I'll admit it, I have some DivX files on my computer.  Anyways, I use WMP11 to view them, courtesy of the DivX codec.  This codec is external to WMP11, and comes with its own little nifty tray icon (quite annoying if you ask me).

So I was watching WMP11 generate thumbnails for the movies, and it was taking quite a while.  Further inspection revealed the DivX tray icon flashing in and out of existence every few seconds.  It seems that WMP11 starts and stops the codec for every movie that it processes.  Pretty dumb.

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A WPF application idea

By aaron.axvig, 4 April, 2007

I was thinking the other day.

(Whenever I talk about how I was thinking sometime, I think of the 101 Dalmations animated movie.  The two crooks, Horace and Jasper are sitting in their car, and the fat one says, "You know, I've been thinkin'..."  The skinny one promptly bops him on the head, and say, "Now what have I told you about thinking!  I'll do the thinkin' around here.")

Anyways, no, I don't want to tell you about a 101 Dalmations WPF (Windows Presentation Foundation) application that would be neat.  It's actually a type of game.  I think any game in this genre would be conducive to using the WPF framework.

And the winning genre is...Space Strategy.  Also known as Explore, Expand, Exploit, Exterminate games, or 4X for short, these are the ones where you start with a home star system and expand with colony ships to other star systems, which you in turn use to gather resources and construct more colony ship, etc. etc. until you have a massive army and you annihilate the other players who are trying to do the same thing faster than you.  Some of the more popular titles are the Master of Orion series, the Space Empires series, and Alpha Centari.

So why do I think this type of game could be well done in WPF?  Well, they are mostly dialogue driven, and don't use any fancy 3D graphics.  So if you made all the menus fade in with scaling effects and such that would be pretty cool.  But besides looking cool, it would scale better to different size monitors.  From what I've seen, the interfaces of these games have so many buttons and different things to click that they have a rather fixed arrangement.  This would make things look significantly different on an ultra-high resolution, for example.  With WPF, all your graphics would be vector based, and the game would be able to fill a large screen without running the monitor at a non-native resolution.

Also, WPF seems to be pretty flexible (powerful) with layouts.  So it would be pretty easy to do customizeable toolbars, I'm thinking, or even something like the ribbon interface in select Office 2007 applications where the appropriate buttons come sliding in, depending on whether you have selected a planet or a ship.  (You should see the menu in Space Empires IV.  There are over 40 buttons on the top of the screen, always there.  They do have a decent solution in that only the ones you can use at any given time light up, but there is always room for improvement.)

Whether such a game could actually be economically written in WPF I really have no idea.  I imagine it would require a computer roughly along the lines of something capable of running Aero Glass to get anything playable.  And whether programming such a beast would be fun (a lot of angle brackets for the XAML) is doubtful, but I suppose designing one in C++ is also not too exciting.

Just another idea I thought I would throw out there.

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WPF/E applications: latest reason to have 2+ CPU cores

By aaron.axvig, 1 April, 2007

In the course of satisfying my blog-reading addiction, I came across this nifty litle rock-paper-scissors game.  It is done in WPF/E, basically Microsoft's version of Flash[1].  So there are animations all over...

Which brings me to realize why we need more processing power.  My poor Pentium-M 1.6GHz processor pretty much died while the application was running.  That's right, my processor was maxed out by a rock-paper-scissors game.  The past few year's worth of advances in the fine art of computer programming sure are great.  I can envision a time when I'll need a core to animate the start button, another to animate the background (already implemented in Dream Scene), one to make all my desktop icons slowly revolve around in a complex spiral so that the ones I'm most likely to use at a certain time of day will be in the center at that certain time of day (you KNOW that would be super-sexy), another to index everything constantly (I think I need a separate HDD for the indexer actually, 'cause it's always keeping mine busy), and another to actually respond to what I want it to do.

Anyways, back to the game.  I imagine if I had a real graphics card instead of an integrated POS the game wouldn't have run so slow, but it is still rather pathetic.  All of those fancy scaling vector graphics don't run so well without a real GPU.  Just the background gradient which slid up and down repeatedly would max out my processor.

Such is progress I guess.  I look forward to the future of sliding vector-based menus and animated backgrounds overlayed with 3 layers of transparent objects.  As long as I can "Flip3D" through everything I'll be happy. :)

And yes, I did win the match.

  1. As an aside, one nice thing about the WPF/E plugin for IE7 on Vista (possibly this is also true on other browsers/platforms) is that it didn't require me to restart my browser.

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Vista upgrade with Steam (Valve software)

By aaron.axvig, 23 March, 2007

I recently installed one Vista version (Ultimate) over another (Business).  I originally tried to upgrade from Business to Ultimate, but got a blue screen upon boot after the upgrade.  So I did a new install of Ultimate.  As you might be familiar with, the installer will put your old Windows installation in a folder at C:\Windows.old\.  It does this whether installing over XP or Vista.

How this relates to Steam is that I had Steam installed on my old Vista, and had quite a lot of content downloaded (17.5GB).  Unfortunately I did not use the backup feature of Steam to backup all this to a file before I installed Vista again.

Needless to say, I didn't really relish downloading that much stuff again (it's probably 10GB when compressed).  So I installed the Steam app from here, and then went digging in Program Files.  It looked like most of the data was in the folder "steamapps," so I copied that from C:\Windows.old\Program Files\Steam\ to C:\Program Files\Steam\.  One file was a duplicate between the two, and I DIDN'T replace that one.  Then I started up Steam, with my fingers crossed.  It showed all the games and trailers still there, but the games needed updating.  They each took less than 20 seconds to update, and I was off on my merry way.

So the short of it is that you can just copy the steamapps folder from one computer to another (probably you have to have the same Steam username on both computers though).  I haven't tested all the games yet, but Counter Strike: Source and Half-Life 2: Deathmatch do work, and all the other things I have are based off the Source engine anyways so will probably work.  I'll update this if I ever find a game that didn't make it through the transfer.

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Microsoft programmers: what are they doing all day?

By aaron.axvig, 23 March, 2007

According to this Wikipedia article, Windows Vista Beta 2 had 50 million lines or code, or about 10 million more than Windows XP.  That seems like a lot, right?  Well, take a look at these calculations:

Say there were 15 million lines of code added for the final version of Vista (I doubt many more than a million were added between Beta 2 and RTM, but I'll be generous).  Then say that they had 4 years to work on it, working 200 days each year (again, being quite generous with the numbers).  So 15,000,000/(200*4) = 18750 lines of code per day.  That seems like a lot.

But lets consider: Microsoft employs at least 60,000 people.  Let's again be generous and say just 1000 of those were actually writing code daily.  Do some division and you get each of those 1000 coders writing just 18.75 lines of code per working day.

What were those employees doing the rest of the day?  Here are my ideas:

  • Figuring out how to merge their source with everyone else's.  I suppose it is no small task to combine 15 million lines of source code from 1000 or more different programmers.
  • Planning features.  However, I suspect that there were several thousands of other employees doing this and other things like testing and graphical design.  I think my guess of 1000 coders should be somewhat close to how many people Microsoft had programming on their flagship product.
  • Quality control.  Microsoft does have their initiative to write super secure applications; maybe this takes a lot of effort.  I suppose if you write enough unit tests....

I would love to see some holes poked in these numbers or find a really good excuse.  Seriously, less than 19 lines of code per day?

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My spring break entertainment: monstrous computer fan

By aaron.axvig, 19 March, 2007

My brother and I took apart a microwave this past weekend.  They are surprisingly simple inside--just a capacitor, microwave emitter, circuit board and a really big fan.

All right, maybe it's not that BIG, but it is pretty cool.  It's actually a blower (alright, two blowers).  As such, it is lots more nifty than just having 15 120mm fans spread out in your case like some LAN party freak.  And my dad just happened to have brought home an old computer from work that he only wanted the hard drive from, so I had a case to hack apart.

One hour of measuring and Dremel work later, I had something that actually looked pretty decent.  As for powering the fan, it appears to run off of 120VAC.  So I hacked a notch in the case to allow passage of a power cable (of course I borrowed the old power cable from the microwave) and powered it up. 

Pros

  • Extremely high airflow.
  • Easier than water cooling.
  • Cheap (two wire nuts for about $0.20)
  • More 1337 than a Linux tattoo on your forehead.

Cons

  • Extremely loud.
  • Smells like a weird mixture of all the greasy food someone has cooked in their microwave over the past 15 years.
  • Is poorly placed in case, resulting in a lot of sucking and blowing but it's all in the wrong spots.
  • Blocks anything resembling a normal size add-in card.
  • Probably generates large and powerful magnetic fields inside the computer case.
  • Idles at 3+ amps.  In other terms, it easily burns 360 watts.

I haven't actually tested to see if the computer functions with this thing inside (I don't think there would be any problems other than magnetic fields, but I doubt even that will be an issue).  Here are some obligatory pictures:

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