Notes on the February 2007 Meeting

We were to have a presentation by Peter Coburn on Struc Plus and the new precast concrete modules, but unfortunately he was unable to make it to the meeting tonight. So we will attempt to reschedule the presentation, probably to the April meeting.

Two main presenters this evening: Zoltan Toth and Peter Godfrey

Zoltan Toth
It’s kind of nice that we feel that we can bring our little domestic issues along to Vicaug meetings! One of Zoltan’s children had been given an old PC to play games and such on, but it came with no install discs or instructions. The old PC was in need of a serious tune-up, of the kind that Zoltan is so good at. One of the tasks facing Zoltan was a complete re-format and reinstallation of its Windows XP operating system.

The computer contained a couple of special bits of hardware, like a TV tuner card. Of course, there was no obvious identification on it and no way to know what the model number or even the manufacturer is. Still, the card was running well, so obviously the required drivers were installed and configured correctly. The problem was, of course, that once the hard disk was reformatted, these drivers would disappear so the card would cease to function.

What we need then, is a way to copy the drivers that are loaded on a computer to a safe place, so they can be reloaded after a format.Surely, there must be a way to do this, but Windows XP doesn’t provide it. So Zoltan jumped onto the Google search web site and looked around for an answer.

Apparently, there are a number of programs claiming to do this. Naturally, Zoltan was looking for free ones – why pay if you can do it for free? He found five programs and tried them all. Three of them failed to find all of the third party drivers. Zoltan wasn’t concerned about the Microsoft ones, since they are on the Windows install disc anyway. One of them (Driver Max) didn’t find the TV tuner, so was not suitable for this exercise. However, it may well work for you.

This left Zoltan with two programs: Driver Magician Lite (<http://www.drivermagician.com/Lite.htm&gt;) and
WinDriversBackup (<http://www.download-by.net/system-utilities/other/9817,windriversbackup-personal-edition,dl.html&gt;)

These programs both found all 3rd party drivers and copied the files along with a .inf file suitable for installation. Just browse to the .inf file in the “Add Hardware” wizard and it all goes in. Each driver is written to its own folder. This is a great way to collect all your drivers into one place for a future reinstall.

Our recommendation is that you download at least both programs (maybe all five) and check that you have a full set of drivers backed up before you reformat.

After giving us the rundown on driver backup, Zoltan showed us a useful free program called VM Ware. You’d never guess it from the name, but VM Ware is a program designed to run multiple “Virtual Machines” on one computer. This means that you can even run multiple operating systems on the one computer and control what access each virtual machine has to the computer’s resources.

Zoltan uses it at work to load multiple versions of different operating systems on the one computer. If a customer calls up and says he has a problem with the software running on, say, Windows ME, service pack 2, then Zoltan can quickly call up that virtual machine and see how it goes. Thus, one computer can take the place of twenty! Much neater.

Another really good application for VM Ware is as a “sandbox.” This is in effecf a computer which is isolated from the rest of your system. It can be a real, physical computer or it can be a virtual machine. With VM Ware, you can quickly call up a virtual computer within your main system, use it to test some odd software and then blow the machine away when you’ve finished.

Finally, a huge advantage of VM Ware is the price – it’s free! There are paid versions with more power and features, but the free one is all you need to do the above jobs.

Peter Godfrey
I won’t take up a lot of room in the blog here, mainly because, since I was the one doing the talking, I wasn’t the one taking notes! Anyway, my presentation tonight covered the continuation of the session presented last December.

In the December session, we looked at standard AutoCAD (non-dynamic) blocks and their capabilities, uses and quirks. After that, we saw how you made a standard block into a simple dynamic one. So, tonight’s presentation built on that knowledge and we looked at more sophisticated techniques of creating dynamic blocks.

There are plenty of references to the creation of dynamic blocks – both online and in the AutoCAD help system, so I won’t repeat the details here. If you were at the meeting and missed something, do feel free to ask me at the next meeting, between sessions. We went through the techniques of making dynamic blocks using each of the parameters and actions available for dynamic blocks, complete with examples of each. These included the stretch, scale, rotate, flip, alignment, visibility and lookup parameters.

There was a fair bit of interest shown in the brief glimpse of the Bit Torrent network shown before the December meeting, so we thought it would be beneficial to have a more thorough look at it. Bit Torrent is a network of computers connected together by means of the file sharing protocol known as Bit Torrent. There is a huge amount of software and also entertainment, such as movies, music and TV shows, out there. To access this you need a Bit Torrent client program which manages the connection to and from the other computers in the network. There are several free ones around: the one I use is called Azureus. You can get this from http://azureus.sourceforge.net

The client program needs to know where to find the other computers in the network and to know which ones are carrying your chosen download. This information is contained in a “torrent file.” That is, you need a torrent file in order to find your download. Torrent files can be found on web sites that you can find in Google. Some of these include (in no particular order)
The Pirate Bay http://thepiratebay.org
Torrent Spy http://torrentspy.com
Torrent Reactor http://www.torrentreactor.net
Torrent Scan http://torrentscan.com

We had a look at what was available by searching, using the keyword “AutoCAD.” It can be scary! Several pages of various flavours of AutoCAD were listed as available for download. I’ll make no comment on the legality or even the morality of this, just to say that, yes, it’s available.

As always, more information is available by Googling the words “bit torrent” and “Azureus.”

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