Mar 082017
 

Firefox ESR dark logo1.) The end is near for modern browsers on XP and Vista

After Google had stopped supporting Windows XP with Chromium 50.0 (Blink engine 537.36 & JavaScript V8 engine 5.0.71), I wondered for how much longer projects depending on it would last on the old OS. Unsurprisingly, they started dropping XP / XP x64 pretty quickly as well, like Vivaldi, Iron or the new Opera to name a few. Firefox kept support alive however, but of course, the end was looming over our (=XP users’) heads all that time, and now the decision finally has been made!

Mozilla Firefox will cease to support Windows XP, Windows XP x64 Edition and all editions of Windows Vista starting with version 53. If you’re still on 51.0.1, you’ll be provided with not just one, but two consecutive updates:

 

The reason for this is, that the first update just switches your update channel from “Release” to “ESR” (Extended Support Release). ESR versions are also typically present on Enterprise Linux systems like for instance RedHat Enterprise Linux 5 and 6, etc. After a quick restart, the browser will offer the real, final version for XP: Firefox 52.0 ESR.

After the update, the first thing you get to see is the notification of support ending for Windows XP and Windows Vista:

Firefox is notifying the user of how Vista & XP are no longer going to be supported

Firefox is notifying the user of how Vista & XP are no longer going to be supported (click to enlarge)

A quick check confirms it: This is now Firefox 52.0 ESR:

Firefox 52.0 ESR reporting is version

Firefox 52.0 ESR reporting is version (Click to enlarge)

According to the [Mozilla foundation], security updates will be provided for XP/Vista up until September 2017, and the actual, exact EOL date will be fixed mid-2017.

After that, there will no longer be any modern browser support for XP (NT 5.1), XP x64 & Server 2003 (NT 5.2) as well as Vista and the first edition of Server 2008 (NT 6.0). That is, unless somebody provides patched builds, but I don’t think that’s gonna happen…

2.) Electrolysis / e10s

On top of that, I have reevaluated the functionality of Mozillas’ multiprocessing technology on Windows XP x64 Edition. I tried that before with some 50.x version and failed to have Firefox spawn multiple processes for multiple tabs. This is a feature that makes Firefox more crash-proof and faster as well. I’m happy to announce that it does work with Firefox 52.0 ESR though!

Of course, this is not officially supported, not on XP / XP x64, nor on Vista. So force-enabling Electrolysis can only happen at your own risk! To enable the feature, open about:config, confirm the prompt, and then change the following properties as shown, create them manually if they don’t exist yet:

browser.tabs.remote.autostart     [boolean]   true
browser.tabs.remote.force-enable  [boolean]   true
extensions.e10sBloc­kedByAddons    [boolean]   false
extensions.e10sBloc­ksEnabling     [boolean]   false
dom.ipc.processCount              [integer]   16

You need to be a bit careful with dom.ipc.processCount however; Each Firefox process might consume hundreds of megabytes, and with that property set to 16, Firefox can spawn a total of 17 processes, 1 master process and 16 child processes (=tabs). So tune that value to something your machine can take! If you spawn to many processes on a machine with just 2GB or 4GB of memory, you might run into swapping rather quickly!

Also, you need to test this with your plugins and extensions! Not every plugin / extension will play nicely with e10s! In some cases the browser may even crash completely, or have individual tabs crash. You have been warned!

To test this, open about:support and look for Multiprocess Windows. Depending on how many browsers you have launched, it should show something like 1/1 (Enabled by user) or 2/2 (Enabled by user). Or, just open multiple tabs, load web sites in them (yes, you have to) and watch Firefox spawn additional processes in Task Manager:

Firefox spawning processes on XP x64 thanks to Electrolysis having been force-enabled

Firefox spawning processes on XP x64 thanks to Electrolysis having been force-enabled

And that’s it! Enjoy your security updates for a while longer, and then welcome Firefox into the mausoleum that is Windows XP! :) It might be the last browser you’ll ever use on that platform…

Jun 032016
 

H.265/HEVC logoAnd here’s another x265 build for Windows XP and Windows XP x64, following [1.9+141]. As usual, these work on modern versions of Windows just as well. Again, built with Microsoft Visual Studio 2010 SP1 and tested for correct encodes for 8-bit, 10-bit and 12-bit color depth. The 8-bit test has been done using the x86_32 version, the 10- & 12-bit tests has been done with the x86_64 version. I’m not running complicated test suits on this, just a simple encode with manual output checking.

Here is the software for 32-bit and 64-bit systems:

As usual, the builds depend on the Microsoft Visual C++ 2010 runtime which you can download from Microsoft [for 32-bit systems] and [for 64-bit systems] if you don’t have it already.

This time around, it’s a pure binary release, giving you the x265.exe and libx265.dll. I think I’m gonna keep it that way. It’s meant for users, not developers anyway.

I’m thinking I might create a project page for this, so that all releases get consolidated on a single spot, that’d probably better than creating a new post for each and every build I’m pushing out. If I’m gonna do that, links to it will be added to each post regarding information about how to build x265 for WinXP+, and also to all binary release posts.

Such a page could also give you an avconv release on the spot, so you can work with all kinds of video input to your liking, given that x265 can only accept raw YUV video by itself. Just need to build a 32-bit version of libav as well then.

Oh well, have fun! :)

Update: All x265 releases have now been consolidated on [this page]! All future XP- and XP x64-compatible releases of x265 plus a relatively recent version of avconv to act as a decoder for feeding x265 with any kind of input video streams will be posted there as well.

Apr 192016
 

H.265/HEVC logoLike I said, I’ll keep doing these. Following version [1.9+108], here comes another build of the x265 encoder for Windows XP+ and Windows XP x64/Server 2003 x64+, this time it’s version 1.9+141. I’m not sure for how long the developers at Multicoreware are going to keep up support for NT 5.1/5.2 based operating systems, but for as long as they do, I’ll keep releasing builds for the old MS operating systems. Just keep in mind that I’m not running automated build & test systems, so I’m going to release selected binaries every 1-2 months or so. If you need a specific version, please just request it (or try and build it yourself, see previous posts).

Whenever Multicoreware does drop support I’ll still continue as long as it’s easily patchable. We can’t be sure of anything though, they’ve dropped deep color support (10-bit/12-bit per color channel) on 32-bit x86 platforms before, so…

Well, here is 1.9+141:

Once more, this has been built with Microsofts’ VisualStudio 2010 SP1 + yasm 1.3.0, and tested doing a 2-pass encode & quick output video verification for all color depths. Requires the MS VC++ 2010 runtime, you can get it here: [32-bit version], [64-bit version].

Feb 122016
 

H.265/HEVC logo1.) Giving you the binaries:

Just recently I tried to give the x265 H.265/HEVC video encoder another chance to prove itself, because so far I’ve been using x264, so H.264/AVC. x264 does a really good job, but given that the marketing guys are talking about colossal efficiency/quality gains with H.265, I thought I’d put that to the test once again. It was quite easy to compile the software on my CentOS 6.7 Linux, but my old XP x64 machine proved to be a bit tricky.

But, after a bit of trial and error and getting used to the build toolchain, I managed to compile a seemingly stable version from the latest snapshot:

x265 cli, showing the version info

x265 cli, showing its version info.

Update 2: And here comes my first attempt to build an x86_64 multilib binary, that can encode H.265 at 8-bit, 10-bit and 12-bit per pixel color depths. You may wish to use this if you need more flexibility (like using 12-bit for PC only and 8- or 10-bit for a broader array of target systems like TVs, cellphones etc.). It’s currently still being tested for a short encoding run. You can specify the desired color depth with the parameter -D, like -D 8, -D 10 or -D 12:

Update: And here are the newer 1.9 versions, built from source code directly from the [MulticoreWare] (=the developers) servers. I haven’t tested these yet, but given that I configured & compiled them in the same way as before, they “should work™”:

And the old 1.7 versions from the Videolan servers:

So this has been built with MSVC10 and yasm 1.3.0 on Windows XP Pro x64 SP2, meaning this needs the Microsoft Visual C++ 2010 runtime. You can get it from Microsoft if you don’t have it yet: [32-bit version], [64-bit version]. v1.7 tested for basic functionality on XP 32-bit and tested for encoding on XP x64. The 32-bit version only supports 8-bit per pixel, which is default for x264 as well. The 64-bit versions support either 8-, 10- or 12 bits per pixel. Typically, higher internal precision per pixel results in finer gradients and less banding. 8-/10-bit is default for H.265/HEVC. 12-bit will likely not be supported by any hardware players, just as it was with 10-bit H.264/AVC before.

You may or may not know it, but as of now, x265 cannot be linked against either ffmpeg or libav, so it can only read raw input. To “feed” it properly you need either a frame server like [AviSynth] in combination with the pipe tool [Avs4x265], or a decoder that can pipe raw YUV to x265. I went for the latter version, because I already have libav+fdkaac compiled for Windows to get the avconv.exe binary. It’s quite similar to ffmpeg.

This I can only provide as a 64-bit binary, as I’m not going to build it for 32-bit Windows anytime soon I guess, so here you go:

This was compiled with GCC 4.9.2 and yasm 1.3.0 on CygWin x64. To use the two together, add the locations of your EXE files (avconv.exe and x265.exe) to your search path. Then, you can feed arbitrary video (VC1, H.264/AVC, MPEG-2, whatever) to x265. An example for a raw H.264/AVC input stream using the 64-bit versions of the software:

avconv -r 24000/1001 -i video-input.h264 -f yuv4mpegpipe -pix_fmt yuv420p - 2>NUL |^
 x265 - --wpp --y4m -D 12 -p slower --bframes 16 --bitrate 2000 --crf 18 --sar 1^
 --range full -o video-output.h265

Or another, reading some video stream from an MKV container, disabling audio and subtitles:

avconv -r 24000/1001 -i video-input.mkv -f yuv4mpegpipe -pix_fmt yuv420p -an -sn^
 - 2>NUL | x265 - --wpp --y4m -D 12 -p slower --bframes 16 --bitrate 2000 --crf 18^
 --sar 1 --range full -o video-output.h265

Just remove the carets and line breaks to make single-line commands out of those if preferred. To understand all the options, make yourself some readmes like this: avconv -h full > avconv-readme.txt and x265 --log-level full --help > x265-readme.txt or read the documentation online.

2.) How to compile by yourself:

2a.) Prerequisites:

I won’t describe how to build libav here, but just the x265 part. First of all, you need some software to be able to do this, some of it free, other not so much (unless you can swap MSVC with MSYS, I didn’t try that):

  • [cmake] (I used version 2.8.12 because that’s roughly what I have on Linux.)
  • [Mercurial] (Needed to fetch the latest version from x265′ versioning system. I used the latest Inno Setup installer.)
  • [yasm] (Put yasm.exe in your search path and you’re fine. This is optional, but you really want this for speed reasons.)
  • [Microsoft Visual Studio] (Use 2010 if you’re on Windows XP. Supported versions: 2008/VC9, 2010/VC10, 2012/VC11 & 2013/VC12)
  • [x265 source code] (Enter a target download path and use Mercurials hg.exe like hg clone https://bitbucket.org/multicoreware/x265 to fetch it)

2b.) Preparation of the solution:

Usually, you would use cmake to have it compile your entire project, but in this case it’ll build Visual Studio project files and a solution file for us. To do this, enter the proper build path. In my case I’m using Visual Studio 2010, so VC10, and I’d like to build the 64-bit version, so with the unpacked x265 source, I’d enter its subdirectory build\vc10-x86_64\ and then run the generation script: .\make-solutions.bat:

make-solutions.bat preparing cmake for us

make-solutions.bat is preparing cmake for us.

There are several things you need to make sure here: First, if you’re on Windows XP or Windows Vista, you need to toggle the WINXP_SUPPORT flag. Also, if you’re compiling for a 64-bit target, you may wish to enable HIGH_BIT_DEPTH as well to get to either 10-bit or even 12-bit per pixel other than just 8. The 32-bit code doesn’t seem to support high bit dephts right now.

Then there is one more important thing; With CMAKE_CONFIGURATION_TYPES set to Debug;Release;MinSizeRel;RelWithDebInfo, my build was unstable, throwing errors during encoding, like x265 [error]: scaleChromaDist wrap detected dist: -2029735662 lambda: 256. Setting CMAKE_CONFIGURATION_TYPES to just Release solved that problem! So you may wish to do the same.

Make sure ENABLE_CLI and ENABLE_ASSEMBLY are checked as well, then click Configure. If you’re building with high bit depth support, you’ll be presented with another option, MAIN12. You should enable this to get Main12 profile support in case you’re planning to build a 12-bit encoder. If you don’t pick it, you’ll get a 10-bit version instead, staying within Blu-Ray 4K specifications. After that, click Configure again. Generally, you need to click Configure unless no more red stuff pops up, then click Generate.

2c.) Compiling and installing the solution:

Load the resulting solution file x265.sln into Microsoft Visual Studio, then right click ALL_BUILD and pick Build. This will compile x265. If you want to install it from the IDE as well, right click INSTALL and select Build. This will install x265 in %PROGRAMFILES%\x265\ with the binary sitting in %PROGRAMFILES%\x265\bin\:

Microsoft Visual Studio 2010, ready to compile the x265 solution generated by cmake

Microsoft Visual Studio 2010 with the x265 solution generated by cmake loaded, compiled and installed.

3.) Running it:

Now we can feed x265 some raw YUV files like this, after adding x265.exe to the search path:

x265 encoding a raw YUV file to H.265/HEVC

x265 encoding a raw YUV 4:2:0 file to H.265/HEVC (The options given to x265 may actually suck, I’m still in the learning process).

Or we can use a decoder to feed it arbitrary video formats, even from MKV containers, like shown in the beginning. ffmpeg or avconv can decode pretty much anything, and then pipe it into x265 as raw YUV 4:2:0:

x265 being fed a H.264/AVC bitstream by avconv

x265 being fed a H.264/AVC bitstream by avconv.

And that’s it! Now all I need is some 18-core beast processor to handle the extreme slowness of the encoder at such crazy settings. When going almost all-out, it’s easily 10 times as slow as x264 (at equally insane settings)! Or maybe I can get access to some rack server with tons of cores or something… :roll:

Update: All x265 releases have now been consolidated on [this page]! All future XP- and XP x64-compatible releases of x265 plus a relatively recent version of avconv to act as a decoder for feeding x265 with any kind of input video streams will be posted there as well.

Jun 272015
 

Corsair Logo #2This is just a minor update after [part 2], but anyway. My old workstation (the one I’m migrating away from) just broke down a few days ago, so I had to do something, and quickly. Since I still don’t have any disks for my new RAID-6, I had to pull the existing RAID array from my old box and attach it to my new workstation in a hurry. It does look quite ugly too, with the RAID lying around on the table beside an open Lian Li PC-A79B. This is not how it was supposed to be, but well… In the meantime I found out that it was my Tagan Piperock 1300W power supply which broke down (Built by Topower by the way). Sad, because I liked it for its sturdy metal screw-on modular plugs, but well. So the machine now sits in its final location, it just doesn’t look too good at the moment:

"Helios" RAID-6 array emergency migration

Now the new machine has to host the old “Helios” RAID-6 array. Not quite as planned (click to enlarge).

In any case, I wanted to play around with that new Corsair “Professional Series Platinum AX1200i” of mine, which is a fully digital power supply unit featuring an I²C port. With that, you can hook it up to Corsairs Link [Commander], or you can use the dongle provided with the unit and hook it up to an internal USB header on your mainboard. Here’s a crop of a photo previously shown, this is the dongle:

The Corsair Link dongle

The Corsair Link dongle.

Now what this actually is, is a [Silicon Labs] – or Silabs in short – I²C to [USBXPress] bridge chip. So it’s not using the same USB HID device class of the Link Commander, but a completely different protocol, which is also why we’re tied to using the Corsair Link software. The free software project [CorsairLinkPlusPlus] won’t work with it at all as it supports only the Link Commander itself.

Having said that, I can’t use the Corsair Link software – which uses .Net 4.5 – on XP x64, it just won’t work on the old OS. The drivers that come with the device though are from Silabs and DO support XP and XP x64. The USB vendor ID was changed from Silabs to Corsair though, so it’s not 10CE:1C00, but 1B1C:1C00, making it impossible to install original Silabs drivers. But that’s ok, what Corsair’s shipping with the power supply works just as well.

You may not wish to install the whole Corsair Link software on XP just to get the drivers though. So I have isolated the drivers from the package for you to install them separately. The Hydro water cooler driver is also provided, but you don’t need it if it’s just for a power supply like in my case:

But, while you can install the dongle, you can’t talk to it, lacking the userland software for that. Now when I said “how to run Corsair Link on XP x64” in the title, I have to admit I was lying a bit. Because what I did was to virtualize the dongle using Oracle VirtualBox 4.2.26 and then run the Corsair Link software on a Windows 7 x64 virtual machine. Now, before launching that, the XP x64 host systems device manager will show this:

Corsair/Silabs dongle installed on XP x64

Corsair/Silabs dongle installed on XP x64.

Just so it’s handled automatically for every boot of my Windows 7 VM, I created a USB device filter in the virtual machines’ settings:

VirtualBox Corsair Link Filter

VirtualBox USB filter for the Corsair Link dongle.

Now when you start up the VM, VirtualBox will grab the device and replace it with a device called “VirtualBox USB”, thus making it unavailable on the host machine. Just install Corsair Link in the VM, and everything will work nicely:

Corsair Link, virtualized

With the USBXPress dongle virtualized properly, we can run Corsair Link on a Windows 7 VM, controlling the host machines’ power supply (Click to enlarge).

Many have described the software as buggy and crappy, but for me it gets the job done. All I wanted was to change the behavior of the unit, disabling its passive mode at low loads. While a nice feature, the internal thermal probe reports temperatures of up to 60°C at 300W load with the fan sitting still, and I don’t quite like that. I don’t see why it is needed to artificially accelerate the aging process of the PSUs electrolytic capacitors like that, so I set the fan speed to 40%, resulting in slightly short of 800rpm. Very silent, and good enough even for high loads. I now get down to 28-35°C depending on ambient temperatures without perceiving any additional noise. It may reach 40°C on really hot days I guess, but that’s a lot better than 60°C.

Just sad that we can’t define a complete custom fan curve for this unit, based on load or temperature readings. It’s possible with system fans when working with the Link Commander, but not for this one.

Naturally, virtualization also works if you’re on Linux or BSD UNIX or Solaris or whatever. It’s cumbersome, yes, but if you need it only to tell the PSUs firmware to keep the fan spinning, it’s ok. You don’t need to keep the software running, that’s the sweet part. The settings will be stored in the power supplys’ firmware directly.

Only downside is: You need a Windows Vista/7 or newer license for that of course. But maybe we’ll see some free software in the future, people are working on it, that much’s for sure!

Now let’s hope part 4 of this log will be my new hard disks, because I’m really starting to run low on disk space already…

Edit: Part 4 should now be ready, because my new 6TB SAS drives are here. However, instead it turned out to be quite the disaster, which is why [it’s part 3½ instead]. There are some preliminary benchmarks for you to see however, at least something. ;)

Sep 062014
 

The Grim Dawn logoGame compatibility is generally becoming a major issue on Windows XP and XP x64, and I’m not even talking about Direct3D 10/11 here. Microsofts own software development kits and development environments (VisualStudio) come preconfigured in a pretty “Anti-XP” way these days, even if you intend to just build Direc3D 9 or OpenGL 4 applications with it.

There are examples where even Indie developers building Direct3D 9.0c games refuse to deal with the situation in any way other than “Please go install a new OS”, Planetary Annihilation being the prime example. Not so for Grim Dawn though, a project by a former Titan Quest developer which I [helped fund] on Kickstarter a while back. In their recent build numbered B20, an issue arose that seemed to be linked to XP exclusively. See this:

Grim Dawn B20 if_indextoname() Bug

Grim Dawn B20 if_indextoname() bug, in this case on a German 32-Bit Windows XP. Looks similar on XP x64 though. © by [Hevel].

More information can be seen in the corresponding Grim Dawn [forum thread], where I and others reported the issue, determining that it was on XP only in the process. That thread actually consists of two issues, just focus on the if_indextoname() one. This is also documented at [Microsofts MSDN library].

The function seems to be related to DNS name resolution and is a part of the Windows IP Helper API on Windows Vista and newer.  if_indextoname() does however not exist on any NT5.x system, which means Windows 2000, XP and 2oo3 Server which includes XP x64 and there is no fallback DLL. My assumption is, that this happened because of the newly added multiplayer netcode in the game.

Now the interesting part: After me and a few other XP users reported the issue starting on the 30th of August, it took the developers only 3 days to roll out a hotfix via Steam, and all was good again! I believe nowadays you can judge developers by how well they support niche systems, and in this case support was stellar. It may also have something to do with the Grim Dawn developers actively participating in their forums of course. That’s also great, as you can interact with them directly! No in-between publisher customer support center crap, but actually people who know their stuff, ’cause they’re the ones building it!

So I’d like to say a big “Thank you, and keep up the good work!” here!

May 242014
 

XP Hex hackingJust when things went crazy enough with my backporting of Server 2003 updates to Windows XP Pro x64 Edition, here comes the next “bomb”! User [MasterOf486er] on the [Voodooalert forums]German flag posted a link to the well known German website Winfuture, which focuses primarily on all things Windows. And they describe a way of hacking up Windows XP 32-Bit to act like a Windows Embedded POSReady 2009 system, [see here]German flag! Those so-called “POS” or “Point of Service” systems are typically airport terminals, train/subway ticket vending machines or ATMs and other systems running in Kiosk modes.

And Windows XP based POSReady 2009 systems are supported until [2019-04-09]!

The hack is rather simple, all you need to do to make your 32-Bit Windows XP act as an Embedded POSReady 2009 machine is to add the following to your systems registry:

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00 

 [HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\WPA\PosReady]
 "Installed"=dword:00000001

I have prepared a .reg file for your enjoyment, that you can just download and double click as Administrator after unpacking:

After entering the data to your registry, re-check Windows Updates, and you should be getting the goods! As always, you’ll have to do this at your own risk, no guarantees for anything from my side. But for now it seems to be working for people on XP 32-Bit!

Please note, that you might be violating Microsofts Windows XP EULA by applying this hack, so you’ve been warned!

Edit: We now have an official statement by a Microsoft spokesperson regarding the POSReady hack. As always, take with a grain of salt. [Source];

“We recently became aware of a hack that purportedly aims to provide security updates to Windows XP customers. The security updates that could be installed are intended for Windows Embedded and Windows Server 2003 customers and do not fully protect Windows XP customers. Windows XP customers also run a significant risk of functionality issues with their machines if they install these updates, as they are not tested against Windows XP. The best way for Windows XP customers to protect their systems is to upgrade to a more modern operating system, like Windows 7 or Windows 8.1.”

They do have a point there though. While we got an IE8 and .Net update, even the lightweight shell library update, there is no guarantee that every hole will be plugged, as POSReady 2009 systems are reduced feature set XPs after all. Also, the updates are naturally untested on regular XP machines, so there is risk. Still, I consider running XP in “POSReady 2009” mode being a better option still, when compared to just run it in “08th of April, 2014” state.

May 032014
 

Internet Explorer logoAs I have… well, “reported” in my feverish delirium on the 08th of April, support for Windows XP and Windows XP Professional x64 Edition has ended on that very day. So how is it exactly, that I can now look at this:

Microsoft patching an IE security flaw for Windows XP x64 SP2

Microsoft patching an IE security flaw for Windows XP x64 SP2 as reported [here] and on several other sites despite official support having ended on 2014-04-08.

So what’s it gonna be, Microsoft? We now get the “super critical” ones, or the ones that get that [very special kind of media attention] – it’s not every day that the U.S. department of homeland security tells XP users to switch browsers after all – and the others you drop because official support has ended? Sure, this flaw is critical, allowing easy remote code execution by presenting malicious websites to any version of Internet Explorer, all the way down to IE6, which by todays standards is a completely neolithic browser. And even IE6 on XP gets the update, which is hilarious even for a die hard conservative Windows user like me.

Well, Microsofts Trustworthy Computing TechNet blogger, Mr. Dustin C. Childs [wrote on his weblog], that we shouldn’t be expecting more. Quote:

“[…] We have made the decision to issue a security update for Windows XP users. Windows XP is no longer supported by Microsoft,and we continue to encourage customers to migrate to a modern operating system, such as Windows 7 or 8.1. Additionally, customers are encouraged to upgrade to the latest version of Internet Explorer, IE 11. […]”

-Dustin C. Childs, Microsoft Trustworthy Computing

Of course they would say that… Plugging the worst of holes while not raising any hopes is probably the right strategy from their point of view. It seems that there is still too much XP out there for them to handle by refusal only.

I wonder though, will something like this happen again? Was Windows 2000 not provided with the fix because it’s considered too ancient when compared to XP/XP x64? There is no really reliable standpoint here, so we’ll have to wait and see. More information and downloads follow:

  • [Download] security update for KB2964358 for Windows XP x86 for offline installation.
  • [Download] security update for  KB2964358 for Windows XP Professional x64 Edition for offline installation.
  • Microsoft [KB2964358 knowledgebase article].
  • Microsoft TechNet [Security Bulletin MS14-021] providing more extensive information about the flaw and severity ratings for all browser versions (IE6-11) for all operating systems said to be affected, plus information on how to undo the ACL modifications that were provided as a quick fix before the real patch came out.

Of course, if you have automatic updates turned on, you don’t have to download the files from above, that’s just for the distant future after Microsoft will have switched off Windows Update for XP altogether.

Oh and, as always, there is one thing that you could also do: Just don’t use Internet Explorer. There are enough other options these days.

Apr 082014
 

Windows XP dark age logoSince I love exaggerated drama, I’d like to tell you a little story today. One that repeats itself every now and then, but sometimes it just stirs up shit more than usually. Ok? Here goes: One day, in a relatively nice world (or at least some inhabitants would’ve called it that), there was a young maiden growing up. She was not alone though, but a member of a large family with lots of older relatives, and her name was Windows XP. Having Windows Me and Windows 2000 as her parents (although some voices claim the real father was a guy named “Neptune”, but nobody can prove anything) made her a nice young lass. Since she was the youngest of the family, everybody loved her! Ok, not everybody liked her modern looks, but luckily, mommy 2000’s GDI clothes fit her soon enough, so she was able to dress up more seriously when requested. While their world wasn’t the only one even back then, the family chose to largely ignore or shut out other worlds around them, and Windows XP couldn’t care less. Growing massively in popularity she was soon the hottest thing in her own world, much to her satisfaction of course.

Windows XP on the rise

Windows XP on the rise

Childhood inevitably coming to an end slowly, she grew up to become a 64-Bit operating system even, and being the only one of the family with that feature at the time made her mighty proud. She went a bit international even, and worked on both the x86 and IA-64 Itanium continents, albeit the latter sunk to the ground of the ocean a few years ago, but oh well. At least she could now offer some serious new things like GPT or StorPort drivers, having matured from NT 5.1 to NT 5.2.

XP grows up, all x64 now

XP grows up, all x64 now

When her first sister was born, a young fugly wench named Vista, all that Windows XP had to spare for her was a smirk. With Vista not able to reach XPs and XP x64s glory, she thought herself invincible and walked through her world head high, all peaches and cream! Those other worlds’ people, like Linux, BSD UNIX or even MacOS X she just belittled rather than anything else, so great was her popularity at home by now. By that time Windows XP had grown relatively mature though, and little would she know that the true danger did not come from other worlds really, but from within her own freaking house!

The then-new brat

The then-new brat

Her over-confident smile froze to ice quickly after the birth of her then-youngest sister, named 7. Windows 7 was prettier, had new stuff XP didn’t and nobody really cared about that IA-64 Itanium continent having been flooded anyway. All you hear about that is cynical laughter, as only fools like Hewlett Packard had built their expensive houses there to begin with. Sure, Windows 7 having an even more perfect body than XP she couldn’t wear those nice old GDI clothes that well anymore (they just somehow don’t fit quite so well), but who was to be in opposition to that these days? All older relatives and parents were long gone, and Windows XP stood alone, and it was then when she realized that the end was coming for her, far sooner than she expected, having ignored all the signs…

By all means, she just couldn’t do those fancy new Direct3D 10/11 tricks that 7 could seemingly just pull out of the hat without much effort while even looking good doing so. As fast as the rise came, as long as her reign was, from that point on, there was only one way. Down. Indeed, the grim reaper was coming for her. And well…

For most citizens of the Microsoft world, he paid her the one and final visit today.

Or at least, so they would believe… and indeed, the dusk *is* here, night *is* falling, and for her, there will be no real sunrise ever again. And so, as she stumbles across the graveyard of her ancestors, in tears of despair, suddenly they are calling her down into the icy depths with a wild roar and a cold grip!

The icy depths are calling her

Come down here, where you belong, bitch! Die, just like all of us died before you! (True story guys!!!11 This happened today, on the 8th of April in 2014, no shit! Oh and: Original drawing by [Ian Strandberg].)

So, will she escape from that perilous graveyard? And if so, what for? To live on confused, in a world she can no longer see clearly, whose inhabitants she partially can’t even talk to anymore, a world that had abandoned her? Some legends say, that certain operating systems may carry on forever, despite all odds. Surely she heard those weird stories of ancients from other worlds such as Xenix (a very, very distant relative that shared next to nothing with her) or even OpenVMS. Maybe she too can trick death one last time as she did before already, and find her a place that does not despise her. Could be that that place is right here on this very machine I am typing this on, who knows? ;) And there might be others, who do not fear her being the outcast that she now is.

As she crawls over the mossy walls of that cemetery gravely wounded, suddenly, a bitter grin flits across her face as an evil thought found its way into her mind. She hears herself laugh out load, hysterically even, at the joy of that very thought!

For just recently, a new sister was born. And her name was 8. And some say, she be pretty damn good looking too. Maybe one day, her old rival Windows 7 will join her in her eternal exile, sharing the same bitterness, as she will have seen her own new rival force her out of her own house. Now if that day ever comes, that grin’d go from ear to ear, that much’s for sure!

Two old ladies, detached from the modern world, smiling bitterly at their fate. Somehow, a comforting thought she pondered.

PS.: I have started to write this and do that graveyard picture with a fever at nice 38°C/100°F. As I have now finished this weirdo crap about good old Windows XP, the thermometer is sitting at 38.5°C/102°F and it’s getting seriously hard to concentrate and maintain focus. So parts of this “article” might be unusually strange (ahem) or contain errors. If so, my apologies. I think I can no longer focus on it now, I’ll have to go to bed. I just had to finish this trash first somehow, as the 8th of April 2014, the end of all Microsoft support for Windows XP and XP x64 only comes once! ;) Long live XP x64, against all odds (or just emigrate to Linux or BSD UNIX, probably better anyway)!

Apr 022014
 

ADATA logoIn the past, ADATA has been known for its budget series of solid state drives, but never really for any killer products. That place has recently been taken by the likes of Intel, Samsung and Crucial amongst a few others. Now it seems that ADATA has seen enough mediocrity and is reaching for the top of the line. Based on a Marvell 88SS9189 – just like the Crucial M550 1TB drive – the new ADATA Premier Pro SP920 boasts the same 1TB capacity, some 20nm Micron NAND, a SATA/6Gbps interface and a somewhat more rich kit than Crucial does, for roughly the same price.

ADATA Premier Pro SP920 1TB announcement

ADATA Premier Pro SP920 1TB announcement

While the disk is available in smaller capacities of 128GB, 256GB and 512GB too, only the largest ones with 512GB and 1TB will make use of the full potential of NAND flash parallelism, reaching 4k random read IOPS close to 100k and write IOPS close to 90k with read and write transfer rates beyond the 500MB/s wall. The good thing about this drive – just as with the Crucial m550 – is that we finally get some large SSDs for a relatively affordable price. But that alone wouldn’t really interest me that much, now would it?

The thing that really piqued my interest was the fact that ADATA decided to develop their own SSD toolbox, which comes in the form of a tiny, single “SSDTool.exe” file. The rather slim tool features most important features, the ATA TRIM command above all. So ADATA is now joining the ranks of the manufacturers backporting TRIM to Windows XP and Windows XP Pro x64 Edition as the fourth member, limited to Intel, Samsung and Corsair before that. I had to give that a try immediately of course, again on XP x64, see here:

Please note that since I did not really have any supported ADATA drive available, some functionality of the ADATA SSD toolbox naturally wasn’t available to me. But as we can see, all the important stuff is there, just like on other well-developed SSD toolboxes such as the one made by Intel. There are the OS tweaks, TRIM of course, host writes information, firmware update functionality, S.M.A.R.T. and secure erase. And it works just fine on XP / XP x64 as far as I can see.

If you want to check out which ADATA SSDs are currently supported by SSDTool.exe, please check out the [compatibility list] on ADATAs download page (just scroll down a bit)! Also, if you want to learn more about the functionality before installing, a [manual] is available.

Please note that Windows XP and Windows XP Pro x64 Edition are however not officially supported, so this is subject to change any time. This is also the reason why I decided to offer a download of the current version 1.2 of the toolbox right here:

  • [ADATA SSD Toolbox version 1.2] (use the checksums below to compare with the version provided by ADATA)
    • md5 checksum: 942b8920a1d3e97a4c33d817220eb1ff
    • SHA1 checksum: a996ccc8edae8916f7f7f2cf372d8527bd912015
    • SHA512 checksum: 0fe1e18c184c19dab83060351238043f18a47e570d8cab3139566490fe3c03f66a \
    • 38736527143a62167163f736d79eb14000b9ecc00a9482e0b4ed7dc6122bb9

So there you go! While this may not stay compatible to XP forever regarding future SSD releases, it should work just fine with the current ones, like the massive 1TB Premier Pro SP920! So besides Intel, Samsung and Corsair, this opens up a fourth option for steadfast XP users who wish to use a large and fast SSD!

Update, 2014-04-07: Just to make sure whether my assumptions were correct and to probe ADATA support, I actually sent them a request a few days ago, asking whether their SSD toolbox started up on Windows XP unintentionally, or whether support is official. Also, I asked if the thing actually really works with an ADATA SSD, since I didn’t have any around to test it. Now guess what…

ADATA support actually informed me, that they would need to ask the tech guys or whatever to test it out, as they were not aware of this. So somebody at ADATA actually fired up a Windows XP machine with an ADATA SSD, installed their SSD toolbox and tested its functionality. Just now, one day before the end of official Microsoft support for Windows XP ADATA let me know, that their tests were successful, and that they will update their manual on the website accordingly. Holy shit! Now that level of support I’d call awesome! Who else goes that extra mile these days? Makes the Premier Pro SP920 all the more attractive, at least for me. :)