Remove the Penalty Runs signals from the attack

How many of the 14 umpiring signals can you name and recognise? Some are certainly more familiar than others. Top of the list is probably “out” – “raising an index finger above the head”. Next in line would be the boundary signals: “boundary four” being “waving an arm from side to side finishing with the arm across the chest” and “boundary six” being “raising both arms above the head.” These are familiar to even those with only a casual acquaintance with the game.

Next would come those familiar only to those with some knowledge of the game, including such gestures as “no ball” (“extending one arm horizontally”) and “bye” (“raising an open hand above the head”). Even signals such as “revoke” (“touching both shoulders, each with last signal the opposite hand”) are become more familiar, thanks to DRS. However, even amongst players, it’s surprising how some are unfamiliar with the signals, let alone the underlying laws.

At the bottom of the list in Law 3.14 come the rarely seen signals such as “new ball” (“holding the ball above the head”) and “short run” (“bending one arm upwards and touching the nearer shoulder with the tips of the fingers”). Considering that the occasions on which players would see these are few and far between, it’s excusable for your average player not to know them.

Scorers, of course, have to recognise all the signals, as their recognition or non-recognition may have a direct impact on the result – a short run missed, for instance, could turn a tie into a loss.

There are, however, two particularly troublesome signals that I wish to criticise. These are the signals for five penalty runs awarded to the batting and fielding sides respectively. To illustrate my point, can you, without checking, state what these are?

I’ll even give you the definitions for the two maddeningly similar signals:

  • “placing one hand on the opposite shoulder”
  • “repeated tapping of one shoulder with the opposite hand”

Can you determine, without simply guessing at random, which means the runs are awarded to the batting side, and which to the fielding side?

As far as I can see, there’s nothing that obviously associates either gesture with either team. The closest I’ve got is that “repeated tapping” might suggest hitting an object, and so could be loosely tied to the batting team. Weak as that may be, it’s better than the “placing one hand” on the shoulder that indicates awarding runs to the fielding side. Perhaps placing the hand around the ball of the shoulder could be reminiscent of gripping a cricket ball. Unfortunately, this could easily instead suggest ball-tampering, thus giving exactly the wrong idea of who the runs should be awarded to.
By contrast, several of the more common signals have a good match with the real world. It doesn’t take a genius to see, for instance, how waving a hand translates to “bye”. Even slightly more obscure ones like “boundary four” can be interpreted as the action for sweeping or pulling a ball to the boundary.

If a missed short run could alter a match result, then it’s clear that awarding 5 runs to the wrong team could have an even greater impact, leading to a 10-run error. Theoretically the scorers should check with the umpires; however, in real-life situations, things don’t always work out that way.

At this point I’d like to bring in some concepts from a field more associated with technology, that of usability. We can regard the umpire signalling as a system, the users of which are the scorer, umpire, and players. There are a few principles that bear on the design of these signals.

Of the famous 10 Usability Heuristics that Jakob Nielsen listed, two in particular seem to be violated:

“Error prevention: even better than good error messages [umpires alerting scorers to the incorrect score] is a careful design which prevents a problem from occurring in the first place. […] Eliminate error-prone conditions […].”
“Match between system and the real world: The system should speak the users’ language, with words, phrases and concepts familiar to the user […] Follow real-world conventions […].”

On both these heuristics the Penalty Runs signals don’t fare well. Their similarity causes confusion and their lack of reference to the real world makes them hard to decipher. Are they the best we can do?

Having said all that, I have no firm suggestions for what could replace them. Since a significant amount of their confusion is down to their similarity, I would say that only one needs to be replaced: the one that awards runs to the fielding side.

It’s tempting to incorporate the “five” element into the gesture, since, as of 2014, that is the number of runs awarded. Since it’s conceivable that the number might be altered by MCC at some stage, though, perhaps it would be best not to use it.

The best I have come up with so far is “raising a clenched fist vertically above the head.” The clenched fist would signify the ball, and the arm position would also suggest bowling, thus associating it with the fielding side. It should be possible for the scorer to differentiate it from the signal for “bye”, since the latter involves waving, and from “out”, since that specifies an index finger to be raised.

I’m interested to hear other suggestions on this topic. In the meantime, though, we have to be realistic – the signal won’t change. As a scorer, there’s no option other than learning the official signals, and learning them correctly.

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Which Ashes host town boasts the best ground capacity to town population ratio?

Congratulations to Chester-le-Street and the Riverside Ground for hosting their first Ashes Test, an achievement the scale of which is all the more emphasised when one takes into account the small population of the surrounding town. Apparently the population of the urban area is only around 23000, which suggests one could fit almost all the residents into the ground. And the remainder could be given a Day 2 ticket.

The consideration of this ratio prompted me to check other Test grounds; is this favourable ratio challenged by any other ground? To keep the challenge within manageable proportions, I opted only to research grounds that have hosted Ashes Tests. Population figures are taken from 2011 official statistics, and generally apply to the greater metropolitan area (e.g. Greater Melbourne). Ground capacities are from Cricinfo.

Chester-le-Street, as expected, is far and away top of the list with a ratio of nearly 1 in 3 (note that the 53210 figure applies to its surrounding district). Next is Bramall Lane, which can safely be disregarded since it has not been used for cricket since 1973. The Exhibition Ground in Brisbane can be similarly overlooked.

Melbourne boasts the best Australian ratio, thanks largely to its massive stadium capacity; despite being the third-largest city (after London and Sydney), it has by far the highest-capacity stadium, yielding a ratio of under 1 in 40.

Bringing up the rear are Sydney and London. The SCG’s ratio of approximately 1 in 105 is still twice as impressive as Lord’s, with the latter coming in at around 1 in 272, and three times superior to that of The Oval, at 1 in nearly 348.

What would be interesting would be next to compare average ticket prices across the 13 grounds and investigate whether there is any correlation between population and price. With tickets even for Day 4 at Chester-le-Street at around £80, I would doubt any significant correlation exists for grounds in the UK, although Australia may well be a different matter.

Ground Home team Host town Capacity 2011 population Ratio (nearest whole number)
Riverside Ground England Chester-le-Street 17000 53210 3
Bramall Lane England Sheffield 50000 551800 11
Trent Bridge England Nottingham 17000 305700 18
Sophia Gardens England Cardiff 15000 324800 22
Old Trafford England Manchester 19000 503127 26
Melbourne Cricket Ground Australia Melbourne 100000 3999982 40
Adelaide Oval Australia Adelaide 31000 1263000 41
Headingley England Leeds 17000 751500 44
Edgbaston England Birmingham 21000 1074000 51
The Gabba Australia Brisbane 40000 2147000 54
W.A.C.A. Ground Australia Perth 24500 1740000 71
Exhibition Ground Australia Brisbane 26000 2147000 83
Sydney Cricket Ground Australia Sydney 44002 4627000 105
Lord's England London 30000 8174000 272
Kennington Oval England London 23500 8174000 348
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KB2836988 for Windows 8 may cause BSOD on some AMD chipsets

After a recent Windows 8 update, my computer refused to boot properly, but attempted an Automatic Repair, which was unsuccessful. The system would flash a blue screen of death and reboot with no more illuminating error message. I also encountered this when booting from the Windows 8 DVD – sudden blue screens with no error messages.

My Windows 8 installation is on a SSD on a system with an AMD chipset, and I had to switch the SSD to IDE mode access to get any sort of stability. After I did this, Automatic Repair had a longer attempt to fix it, but still ended unsuccessfully with a message informing me to check WINDOWS\System32\Logfiles\Srt\Srttrail.txt. Removing the SSD and examining this file on my laptop showed me the following error message:

Boot critical file E:\Windows\System32\drivers\amdsbs.sys is corrupt

Replacing that file with a fresh copy did not appear to help. To get Windows to boot properly, I had to boot to a command prompt (clicking the Advanced Options button from the screen with the Srttrail.txt error message) and use the dism.exe tool with this command:

dism.exe /image:D:\ /cleanup-image /revertpendingactions

where D: is the Windows drive.

After doing this and rebooting, on the next boot Windows detected a failed update and reverted changes. I was then able to enter Windows.

The update at fault appears to be KB2836988 and I suspect it may be causing problems with systems using the AMD 700 series chipset. Other people seem to be experiencing similar problems. We will see whether Microsoft do anything to address the problem; in the meantime, I’ve turned off Automatic Updates, and am avoiding that particular update for the moment.

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Mazda MX-5 mk.1 headlight bulb replacement guide

It’s remarkably dangerous to drive with one headlight out—not necessarily because it reduces your vision, but because it reduces your visibility to other road users. It’s all too easy to look like a motorcyclist, and hence a much narrower hazard, to a tired driver, with potentially lethal results.

It’s therefore wise to get a blown headlamp bulb changed as quickly as possible. On the Mark 1 Mazda MX-5 (Miata in the USA, Eunos Roadster in Japan), while it’s not as straightforward as on some cars, it’s nevertheless not a difficult procedure, as the following guide will show. I’d recommend the purchase of the Veloce Mazda MX-5 1.8i enthusiast’s manual (if you have the 1.6i, this version of the manual is preferable), which assisted me along the way. As for the replacement bulb itself, you need a 12V 60/55W bulb, such as this Lucas LLB472 bulb. I obtained one from my trusty local mechanic (thanks Gary!), who was even kind enough to drop it off at my house.

  1. Turn the lights off, and raise the headlights using the centre console switch.
  2. Remove the four screws, two on each side, on the sides of the headlight. These hold the plastic headlight surround in place. Be careful when removing them, since they each have two small washers on them.

    One side of the headlight assembly

    Mazda MX-5 headlight

    The other side of the headlight assembly

    One of the four screws to be removed. Beware of losing the two washers on each screw

  3. Lift the headlight surround away.

    Remove surround

  4. The screws that hold the headlight unit should now be visible. Be careful: there are three that hold the headlight in place, and two others that merely adjust the headlight beam. Don’t touch the latter, and be careful with the others, as I’ll explain.

    The screws to be removed are highlighted by green circles. Don’t touch the two screws marked with red crosses.

  5. You need to loosen, not remove, the three that are spaced roughly 120 degrees apart. When I first did this, I didn’t realise that I didn’t need to remove them, and indeed it’s quite tricky to remove them all, due to their positions. Just loosen them enough to allow the shiny headlight retention ring to rotate slightly, causing the screws to line up with the larger holes in the ring. Have WD-40 at the ready to lubricate them.

    One of the three screws to be slackened, in the locked position

    With the screw slackened, the ring can be rotated to this position.

  6. Rotate the retention ring and remove it. In my case, it had become stuck to the headlight unit, so I ended up removing the unit at the same time, as described in the next step.

    Remove retaining ring

  7. Carefully start to remove the headlight unit.

    Remove unit carefully

  8. The wiring loom will be connected to the back of the unit: disconnect it to release and remove the unit completely.

    The connector

    Disconnect connector

  9. Pull the dust boot off. Note any damage: if it’s no longer sitting snugly over the assembly, you’ll need to replace it soon.

    Remove dust boot

  10. Undo the bulb clip.

    Clip holding the bulb

    Unclip bulb

  11. Remove the bulb carefully.

    Remove bulb

  12. Install the replacement bulb, making sure you don’t touch the bulb with bare fingers—this can leave a residue on the bulb that leads to the bulb’s premature destruction. Clip the bulb in.

    Insert new bulb

  13. Reassemble carefully.

With your new headlamp bulb thus installed, you’ll be all set to get safely back on the road.

Posted in Cars, Mazda MX-5 | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Responses

Intoxicated With The Spirit: Keep Calm And Carry On Mankading

Newsflash: Sports player plays sport by rules of the sport. Cue massive outrage and moral indignation.

Anyone who’s been watching county cricket in the last 24 hours will instantly recognise the situation described. Stripped down to its bare bones, the Kartik-Barrow incident in the Somerset CCC vs Surrey CCC match looks comical. What’s all the fuss about?

In fact, it gets even more ridiculous. Since the bowler had delivered a prior warning, the newsflash becomes: Sports player plays sport by rules, after giving opponent bonus chance to play fairly. And it gets worse: Sports team captain apologises for playing by the rules.

So why the vehemence? By and large, it’s that old chestnut being invoked: the Spirit of the Game.

The Spirit of the Game is an essential part of the game of Cricket, officially codified in 2000, and is a key factor in setting cricket apart as special. It outlines the general attitudes that should rule the game and guide the way it is played.

The Spirit is meant to fill in in areas where the Laws may be unclear, or where there may be room for interpretation. Think of the Laws as rules, and the Spirit as a guiding principle.

The central idea is that of “fair play”. Players, and their captains, must be seen to be acting in a gentlemanly, sportsmanlike, and fair way to their opponents. They must not act in any way that brings the game into disrepute.

There is no problem with this. Indeed, it’s a most valuable standard to have available in a world where sports scandals seem to occur on a daily basis, be they accusations of drug taking (cycling), match throwing (badminton), or spot-fixing (cricket).

Within the power of the Spirit of Cricket lies a weakness, though. When some subset of the cricket-watching community dislike a particular action, it’s all too eay to call it “unsporting” and “against the Spirit of the Game”. Despite not having solid grounds for such forthright statements, the vague appeal to the Spirit nevertheless whips up popular feeling. All too often the media jumps on the bandwagon – even if the majority of viewers don’t think there’s been a breach.

When the banner of the “Spirit of Cricket” is hijacked by non-existent problems, it counter-productively diminishes respect for the Spirit.

So was there a breach of the Spirit in this case? It’s already been established that there was no breach of the Laws themselves (the MCC Laws taken together with the ECB Playing Conditions). Yet the media coverage, by and large, sought to suggest an ungentlemanly undercurrent, representing the Surrey captain as “contrite”.

The Preamble to the Laws, that seeks to capture the Spirit in words, is in fact very short. The key sections here are:

  • The Spirit of the Game involves respect for your opponents and the game’s traditional values. (Section 4)
  • It is against the Spirit of the Game to indulge in cheating or any sharp practice. (Section 5)
  • Each player must also avoid behaving in a manner which might bring the game into disrepute. (Section 1)

Let’s look at each of these in turn.

Respect for opponents and traditional values

Traditionally, Mankading has been seen as ungentlemanly, if delivered without warning. It should be stressed that this is simply a matter of tradition: the Laws do not consider this to be an instance of unfair play. Nevertheless, tradition holds that a warning should be given first. If such a warning is given, the bowler has given the batsman a fair chance, fair signal of intent, and therefore is not acting in an unsportsmanlike fashion.

Furthermore, tradition is always a slippery concept to appeal to. Admittedly Mankading may be rare in first-class cricket, but does that automatically make it unfair? Being out “obstructing the field” is rare. That doesn’t make it unfair to appeal when a batsman is guilty of deliberate obstruction. Alternatively, imagine that over the next seventy years, being out LBW becomes extremely rare. Would it be unfair to claim such a wicket in 2082, simply because it had fallen out of tradition?

The Preamble asks players to respect the game’s traditional values, not its traditions. There is a significant difference. Traditions may change, but values should stay the same. Mankading may be non-traditional – just as switch-hitting, Twenty20, and Dilscooping are non-traditional – but it does not necessarily conflict with the game’s traditional values of sportsmanship and fair play, especially when delivered with a warning.

Cheating and sharp practice

Mankading is clearly not cheating, since the Laws expressly allow for it. Is it sharp practice? Clearly not, when it is compared with the examples of cheating and sharp practice listed by the Laws: appealing when knowing the batsman is not out, advancing on the umpire, and trying to distract an opponent. Mankading gets a clean bill here.

Bringing the game into disrepute

To accuse an action of bringing the game into disrepute is a weighty and serious claim. For it to hold any water, though, such an accusation needs to be backed up with clear reasoning. For instance, the spot fixing of Amir, Asif, and Butt clearly brought the game into disrepute. The image of cricket was sullied, as the public was no longer able to trust the contests they witnessed would be genuine battles.

So how does a Mankad bring the game into disrepute? It seems ridiculous to place Kartik’s Mankading on a similar plane to spot fixing. How can Mankading affect the public’s view of cricket? Here’s a challenge: find a member of the public, present the opening “newsflash” from the beginning of the article, and see if he/she sees anything untoward in the situation. If anything, trying to explain the situation risks lending credence to the view of many that the game of cricket is insufferably stuffy and literally ridiculous, through its suffocating insistence on pointless minutiae, and totally unsuited to the modern world of sport.

Once investigated, the grand claims of “failing to uphold the Spirit of Cricket” shrink and collapse to a feeble “but I didn’t like what he did.”

It’s a sad thought that by attempting to drag the Spirit of Cricket in where it isn’t being violated, that very attempt can contribute to a lessening of respect for that Spirit. Spectators, supporters, and the media all have a responsibility to not abuse the Spirit of the Game, and play fairly with players who are playing fairly. Captains should not be bullied into believing they have committed an error, simply because a vocal section have expressed their displeasure.

So Mankading must stay. Batsmen should be kept honest (to recycle a cliché in a different context). And both players and onlookers, in their respective ways, must respect the Spirit of the Game.

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Report: West Indians recall that winning feeling

West Indians (335-4, 50.0) beat Middlesex CCC (107-9 all out, 31.0) by 228 runs

Wednesday 15th June 2012
By Liam Cromar at Lord’s

Gayle may grab the headlines, but it was Dwayne Smith and Darren Bravo who made the strongest cases for selection, as the touring West Indians crushed an inexperienced Middlesex side by upwards of 200 runs. Of late, the sensation of completely dominating a match has been rare for this side, but today everything clicked into place. Even the English weather smiled upon the West Indians.

It’s probably fair to say that the most anticipated innings of the day was Chris Gayle’s first back in West Indian colours. He quickly showed himself to be in fine form, reserving especial punishment for Murtagh, who toiled away from the Media Centre End, only to watch Gayle dispatching him for leg-side boundaries with typical lazy disdain. For all the early fireworks, though, he did not last as long as would have been hoped, holing out to deep mid-wicket for a relatively modest 38. Perhaps the IPL dial needs to yet be turned down a notch or two.

The real work of the innings, therefore, fell upon nos. 3 and 4, Darren Bravo and Dwayne Smith. With the pitch appearing totally innocuous, batting was simply a matter of not getting too excited and making silly errors. Smith and Bravo hardly offered a single chance in their century stand. As the innings progressed into early afternoon, the foot was increasingly pressed down on the accelerator, as the pair, already progressing at a healthy 4- or 5- an over, launched the West Indians towards a mammoth total. Smith, when only four from a century, finally made an error, driving straight at mid-on; he nonetheless received a standing ovation from the Pavilion. Pollard, in at 5, made 18 quickly, but didn’t last long, leaving the two Bravos to complete the final touches. Not that they were delicate touches: Dwayne Bravo raced to 40*, while Darren Bravo (112*) reached his century and then completed the innings with a flurry of sixes, including one off the last ball, leading his team to an imposing 335-4.

Middlesex’s reply, by contrast, started badly and got worse. Stumbling to 15-2 in 7 overs, they continued to lose wickets, and at 38-4, were already out of it. Davey (24*), together with Smith (16), put up a little resistance, avoiding Middlesex the ignominy of a double-figure total, but Smith fell in Gayle’s first over. Having somehow got away with apparently reverse-sweeping Gayle straight to slip – Sammy injected some humour into the dispute by signalling for a TV replay – Gayle sent the next ball through his defences, bowling him to provide a certain moral justice. Gayle also went on to remove the new batsman in the same over, showing rare animation in his celebrations. The double strike left Gayle with impressive bowling figures on his return – a double-wicket maiden.

To be fair to Middlesex, their side was certainly not a first-string XI, having chosen to field several youngsters in preparation for the T20 tournament, and not having their England stars Morgan and Finn available for selection. They would, nonetheless, have hoped to resist better; Stirling, for instance, after his CB40 122-ball 119 on Sunday, would have hoped for better than 1, although his bowling figures were exemplary (7-0-26-1). Murtagh, also, after his call-up to the Ireland squad, would not have been happy with his ten expensive overs (10-0-75-1). The worst moment, was, sadly, when their young bowler Robbie Williams dived onto his shoulder for a catch and had to be helped off the field, suffering a broken collarbone. Middlesex will hope he is able to recover quickly from his unfortunate injury.

A group of West Indian children in the Compton Stand, having been chanting “Bra-vo” during the Bravo-Bravo partnership, apparently heard my companion’s muttered injunction to ‘at least be specific’, and switched to a chant of “D, M, Bra-vo”. Sterner tests will be ahead, but they, the Bravos, the rest of the West Indian supporters, and the West Indian team themselves, will take heart from this fine performance.

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Report: Young sets up comfortable Gloucestershire victory

Middlesex Panthers (157-8, 26.0) lost by 5 wickets to Gloucestershire Gladiators (161-5, 22.2)

Monday 7th May 2012
By Liam Cromar at Lord’s

Middlesex’s start to the CB40 season proved less auspicious than their positive County Championship opening, as their total of 157-8 proved insufficient against a Gloucestershire side keen to make amends for their 1-run defeat against the Netherlands.

Riding high after the previous day’s Championship win over Worcestershire, Middlesex made four changes. The two England players Strauss and Finn made way for two other internationally-capped players, Stirling of Ireland and Collymore of the West Indies.

The start was delayed by rain arriving later than anticipated, and with the match reduced to a near-T20 26-over thrash, the Gloucestershire captain inserted Middlesex in moist and cloudy conditions. Denly and Malan struggled against the opening pair of Saxelby and Gidman, only scoring 21 runs in the 5 overs of the first Powerplay, but started to cut loose against the change bowlers. Both openers survived sharp chances, however, Denly edging through the hands of slip for a streaky boundary, and Malan’s jab back to McCarter not being taken cleanly. Denly soon departed, as he, after crunching McCarter’s first ball through the off-side for four, found his stumps rearranged the next ball.

Young, bowling from the Media Centre end, proved the most incisive weapon of the Gladiators, severely restraining the Panthers’ ability to score in the middle overs, setting back the Panthers with three key wickets. Malan was the first to fall, slicing to mid-off. Dexter never looked entirely at ease, and was lucky to survive a top-edge off Young, as he attempted a premeditated slog-sweep to leg from a ball far too far outside off for the shot. He failed to capitalise on his escape, succumbing shortly thereafter to Young for 9. Stirling consolidated with a useful 25, but looked disappointed with a tickle to the keeper. Young was chosen to deliver 6 overs, as opposed to the 5 permitted to the others, and finished with excellent figures of 6-0-26-3.

Middlesex batsman hits a ball into the off side

Late runs for Middlesex

Rebuilding from 90-5, Berg (23) and Simpson (29) averted total collapse, joining forces to see Middlesex to an average 157-8. With bowling the Middlesex strong suit, however, 158 would not be an entirely straightforward chase for the Gladiators.

As it turned out, though, despite the first-over wicket of Dent, who was trapped LBW by a Murtagh delivery that straightened back into the left-hander, Gloucestershire got off to a flier. Howell and the New Zealand international Hamish Marshall put on 53 in partnership, in just 5.2 overs. After Marshall was dismissed, there was scarcely any letup as Gloucestershire raced to 89-2 in just 10 overs, with Middlesex looking powerless to stem the flow of runs. While Rayner and Crook both struck in their opening overs, Gloucestershire, in reality, were never in trouble. The initial onslaught had reduced the required run rate to an easy 4 or 5 an over, and continually improved.

The latter part of the innings meandered on in a markedly different fashion to the beginning: although the big hitters Marshall (33), Gidman (26) and Williamson (9) had all departed, the run rate was such that singles were all that were needed, Gloucestershire finally crossing the finishing line against the bowling of Denly. The number 3 Howell was still present, remaining unbeaten on 45.

While only a limited number of findings can legitimately be extrapolated from a 26-over game, Gloucestershire leave Lord’s with no obvious weaknesses, aside from perhaps an odd propensity to falling LBW, particularly in the first over of a new bowler’s spell. Middlesex have rather more to work on, in particular their middle-order batting, and their opening-over economy rate.

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Sony Vegas 8.0 and mp4v files may conflict with QuickTime 7.6.8

Sony Vegas 8.0 projects that use mp4v files may not display the video properly, presenting only audio with a black screen. It appears that QuickTime 7.6.8 causes the problems. In my case, the .mov files, which originated from a camera phone, would play fine in VLC, but not in Windows Media Player.

The solution is to uninstall QuickTime 7.6.8 and install QuickTime 7.6. Unfortunately, this does mean you lose the updated security features of 7.6.8; one hopes Apple rectifies the situation in a future release.

Posted in Computing, Software, Sony Vegas, Video Editing | Leave a comment

Adobe Flash Player 10.1 conflicts with ATI Sideport RAM

Adobe Flash Player 10.1′s HD hardware acceleration feature can cause a green-screen error when attempting to play online high-definition (and even some standard-definition) video, such as on Youtube and Vimeo. It appears that it conflicts with the Sideport memory found on some motherboard with integrated ATI graphics, such as the Asus M4A785TD-V EVO with its ATI HD 4200 chip.

The  "Enable hardware acceleration" checkboxThere are two workarounds, neither ideal. The simplest is to right-click the video, choose “Settings”, and uncheck the “Enable hardware acceleration box” found under the “Display” tab. This, of course, means that the whole point of the Flash 10.1 update—HD hardware acceleration—is disabled.

The other option, and in my mind the preferable one, is to disable Sideport memory in the BIOS. In the AMI BIOS for the above-mentioned Asus board, the relevant options are found under Advanced → Chipset → Internal Graphics → Internal Graphics Mode → UMA. Of course, this ‘solution’ is also irritating: the Sideport memory then becomes another feature paid-for-but-disused.

The best option, is, of course, dependent on Adobe/ATI (whether the problem lies with Flash or with the ATI drivers isn’t clear) updating their software to fix the clash. Here’s hoping they actually do fix it, otherwise the users—as so often happens—will be left feeling shortchanged.

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Running the L140 DVD-ROM from the hard disk

If, like me, you’re on the Open University course L140 En rumbo: intermediate Spanish, you may have been irritated by the fact that, despite the installer claiming to install to the hard disk, you’re still required to have the DVD in the drive when you want to perform the activites. Quite apart from the fact that it’s somewhat inconvenient to find and insert it every time, it’s also a major source of noise if you have a louder-than-average DVD drive. Since the DVD holds the audio files for the activities, this translated to significant whirring every time you’re trying to listen to, for instance, Spanish pronunciation…which is less than ideal!

You’ll be glad to know, however, that’s it’s possible to manually do what the OU should have done in the first place, and that is to have all the files on the hard disk, therebuy cutting out the need for the DVD-ROM. This should also benefit netbook users, who could then potentially dispense with carrying an external DVD drive.

A little technical knowledge would be helpful, though not essential. Advanced users will see that there are some quicker-but-less-easy-to-document ways of accomplishing some of the steps I’ve described. The usual disclaimers apply.

  1. Make sure you’ve previously installed the L140 activities as per the OU guidelines.
  2. Insert your DVD-ROM and open it to browse in Windows Explorer (it normally appears as your D:\ drive)
  3. The DVD-ROM should contain a folder called “assets”. You need to copy this folder (right-click and click Copy).
  4. Now browse to where the L140 files are installed. This may vary from computer to computer; on my Windows 7 system, the folder was C:\Users\Liam\AppData\Roaming\L140 DVD-ROM. I can’t say for sure what it is on Windows XP, but try looking in C:\Documents and Settings\Liam\Application Data.
  5. Paste the “assets” folder inside the “L140 DVD-ROM” folder you found in step 4. There are between 2 and 3 GB of small files to copy over, so this may take a while.
  6. For safety, you may like to backup the LocalVariables.js file (you may not see the .js part) in the “code” folder inside the “L140 DVD-ROM” folder.
  7. Open this in Notepad. To do so, open Notepad (Start -> Programs -> Accessories -> Notepad) and browse to the “code” folder inside the “L140 DVD-ROM” folder you’ve been looking at. (On my system, this folder is C:\Users\Liam\AppData\Roaming\L140 DVD-ROM\code.) In the drop-down menu “Files of type” click “All Files”. You should now see that this folder should contain a file called LocalVariables.js (you may not see the .js part). Double-click on it to open it.
  8. The second line of this file should start “var pathToDVD”. You need to alter it to be identical in every way to the line that starts var pathToRoot, except that it should start var pathToDVD. For instance, in my case, after alteration, the second line looked like this: var pathToDVD = 'C:\\Users\\Liam\\AppData\\Roaming\\L140 DVD-ROM\\';
  9. Save the file and close Notepad.
  10. You’re done. You should now be able to run the activities without the DVD being in the drive: in particular, the audio and video clips should play without problem.

Advanced users probably have already realised that the “assets” folder could actually be anywhere, so long as the LocalVariables.js file is altered to point to it. You could put it in your Documents folder or even on a USB drive instead.

Hasta luego!

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