Retro Challenge 2015

I’ve entered Retro Challenge 2015!

My plan is to build a serial-connected receipt printer connected to a Commodore 64.

My goal is to print basic “Business Cards” on this receipt printer during various Exhibitions and/or presentations at Retro Computer events.

The project will be a kiosk-style interface that allows someone to print my basic publicly available contact info (Twitter handle, web address) by just hitting the space bar on the Commodore 64.  In addition, I will have a hidden option that prompts for password that will print my full contact info at my request (e-mail address and cell phone number).

To accomplish this, I want it to be fully retro, so I’m obviously using a dot matrix receipt printer.  After some research, I’ve chosen the Epson TM-325UD model M133A.


(My apologies for the stock photo, my printer has yet to arrive from the eBay vendor)


iPhone Exchange ActiveSync Battery Drain and Overheating Issue

I’ve struggled with iPhone Exchange ActiveSync and premature battery drain combined with overheating of the device.  The only thing I’ve found that seems to be the answer for me is at: (Corrected Link)

This link explains an issue with Calendar items causing continuous contact from the iPhone to the Exchange Server and gives instructions for fixing the problem.  It seems that the problem has a tendency to recur from time to time (as new calendar items are sent to you), but this process has worked to correct the situation when I run into it.

I would personally recommend additionally running the following reset afterward:

Settings > General > Reset > Reset Network Settings

Then re-sync with your mail server.

Dell Latitude E6400/E6500 Network Card Frustrations


The Dell Latitude E6400/E6500 and other computers based on the Intel Gigabit 82567LM network card will drop offline during power save modes (including when Windows is set to “Turn off the display”).  It’s an Intel Network Interface technology called SIPS, System Idle Power Saver.  It’s highly frustrating, especially because mapped drives may not reconnect upon restoration from the display blanking power saving mode.  I’m running this on the Nvidia version of the Latitude motherboard under Windows 7, but I’m guessing this same issue may apply to other versions of Windows including XP and Vista.

In certain versions of the driver, the settings are only exposed via the registry in a cryptic area.  Here’s the post I used to fix the issue on my machine:;jsessionid=1F068452291822CA757E55B5FEB8F5E5.node6COM#86530

Since the registry edit is fairly advanced/cryptic, HP has released a utility to do the modification automatically.  Apparently this utility works perfectly on all brands of desktop/laptop.

This took quite a bit of digging to find, so I’m archiving it here along with some keywords (specifically Latitude E6400/E6500) that might make life easier for others Googling for the same solution.

Gadget Protection – iPad Edition

Kensington iPad Sleeve

I found an awesome case for my iPad.  Check it out… Kensington makes the ‘Reversible Sleeve’ (7″-10″) with model/part number K62911US.  It’s designed for a 7 to 10 inch Netbook, but I eyed it up in the store and thought it might work.  Lo-and-behold, it’s a PERFECT FIT.  I’m very pleased.  It is very minimalist, protects well when throwing the iPad in a backpack and adds almost NO bulk.

I paid $5 (!!!) at MicroCenter, I’m sure it’s available nearly everywhere.  If the MicroCenter link breaks, it’s probably because they discontinued carrying this case.  That’d explain the cheap $5 price, too.

XBox 360 Headphone Adapter


When using an XBox 360 with a computer monitor that does not support audio (over either HDMI or using a DVI-to-HDMI cable), there is no easy way to get the audio out of the XBox.

You can use the original 360 Standard A/V cable, but it’s too large to fit on the back of the system when an HDMI cable is also connected.  This is easily remedied by removing the plastic casing from the Microsoft-Branded XBox 360 Standard A/V Cable.  You can then run the RCA plugs for audio into an adapter to convert them to a 1/8″ (3.5mm) headphone jack like RadioShack item number 274-0269.  Then a female-to-female headphone coupler like RadioShack item number 274-1555 will get you the correct gender of connection for connecting your headphones.  One issue, there is no volume control this way.  Add a headphone volume control like RadioShack item number 42-2559, and you are good to go.  This still leaves you with a big bundle of cable behind the system, and a bunch of excess connections (not to mention the exposed wiring from removing the plastic casing from the cable).  I have tested this method, and it works perfectly.  I actually did this as a proof-of-concept.  I knew from prior experimentation that headphone-level signals are usually “close enough” to line-level to be interchangeable and this proved true in this project.

I wanted something slicker that allowed me to connect my headphones (or computer speakers with 1/8″ stereo headphone jack) nearly directly into the XBox 360.  For some reason, NOBODY makes anything that can do this.  So I decided to build my own.

More details, including full build instructions after the break.

Terminal Server/Citrix User Registry Settings Installation Location

Because I can never find this section of the registry, and for some reason always take forever to find it in Google…

The location that Citrix and Terminal Server copy default registry settings from for each user is:

HKLM\Software\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Terminal Server\Install\Software


Notes on Compact Flash CF-IDE Booting, Windows XP (Embedded)

BIOS Boot Menu

I had experienced a bunch of issues in my various attempts at getting Windows XP (and other operating systems as well) to boot from a Compact Flash card installed as a hard drive replacement utilizing a CF-IDE Adapter.  I’ve read that CF-IDE adapters, and Compact Flash cards themselves can be very tempermental when utilized in this fashion.  Apparently there are a high number of Compact Flash cards that do not perform well in a UDMA mode.  While I still suspect that some of the hardware I tried was the culprit of the frustration, I was able to make a large portion of my prior attempts work properly (for use as Windows boot devices) by following some of the procedures outlined below.  I found a number of good tutorials, most of which are linked in the following post.  What I didn’t find was something that tied it all together in a concise fashion.  I will attempt to do just that in the following post.


Gadget Protection

I’m a gadget freak.  I also take protecting my gadgets very seriously.  For my reference, and yours, I’m going to list some of my favorite gadget protection product sites in this post.

I’m going to try my best to update this site more regularly.  I’ve got so many gadgets, laptops, electronics, etc… that I want to talk about!  Some of it is old, some of it is new, but all of it is interesting to me, and surely interesting to you!  Why else would you be here?

In the interest of full disclosure, this site is NOT advertiser supported, and you’ll note that there are no referrer links on any of these.  This site is funded by me personally, and these links are provided from one gadget lover to another.

Click on More to see the full list.


Modifying DWORD Registry Entries with AutoIt

I’ve just discovered something that may seem obvious, but considering I had a bit of a tough time finding the answer, I figured I’d post to potentially help someone else out that might be struggling with the same issue.

When modifying registry entries (potentially from a login script) using AutoIt Script, the RegWrite command needs numbers in the format 0x00000000 if you want it to write the number as hexidecimal.  It will not take just the number string like 00000000.  If you use the format 00000000, it will import the number as decimal, not hex.

For example, the following AutoIt script sets the current user Internet cache to 25 megabytes:

RegWrite ("HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Internet Settings\5.0\Cache\Content", "CacheLimit", "REG_DWORD", "0x00006400")
RegWrite ("HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Internet Settings\Cache\Content", "CacheLimit", "REG_DWORD", "0x00006400")

I had mistakenly assumed that the REG_DWORD would import as Hex, which it does not.  It defaults to Binary.  Now that I think about it, this makes perfect sense because it is exactly as RegEdit itself would work.

Debian – Issues with DMA/PIO detection when using CompactFlash for Boot

I was experiencing difficulties when using a Compact Flash card for booting a Debian install.

The errors I was getting were:

hda:hda: dma_timer_expiry: dma status == 0x21
hda: DMA timeout error
hda: dma timeout error: status=0x58 { DriveReady SeekComplete DataRequest }
ide: failed opcode was: unknown

… and they would repeat 4 or 5 times with about a 15 second timeout/delay between each iteration.  The device identifier would change each time.

With the help of the blog of Stefan Gustafsson, I was able to correct the issue.  He also walked me through my first Kernel recompile in the same post.  The link to his fix is:

Thanks Stefan!