Saturday, May 25, 2013

Sound Card Stereo Channel Mysteriously Dies

The left channel of my Sound Blaster X-Fi Xtreme Audio sound card decided to die.

I carefully smoothed my headset cabling in case a break had developed in the typically very fine stranded wiring of the headphones, and also tried removing the plug with an MP3 playing and noticed that only one channel was being played back, the right with the plug fully inserted, left if I just slightly unplugged it. Just in case I plugged the headphones into my laptop; perfect stereo sound, so something's definitely up with the card.  

I popped open the computer and examined the headphone jacks on the card. They appeared to be made of plain copper, and they seemed to have oxidation, much like an old penny.

I took a flat-bladed screwdriver from an eyeglass repair kit and carefully scraped away at the copper surface, revealing shiny metal underneath, then blasted away any residue with some canned air.

Now my music is once again in glorious stereo!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Sony SMP-N200 Streaming Media Player Review

This marks the 1-year anniversary since ditching DirecTV for the Sony SMP-N200 streaming media player.

The device features HDMI, optical, and RCA jacks, as well as an ethernet port.

So far, the experience has been great! Rather than paying around $900 a year for satellite, I'm paying just what I'd been paying before for internet, around $40 monthly, a decent compromise.

The interface of the player is very similar to that of Sony's Bravia series of TVs. 

The remote enables navigation to the various options and settings. A great thing about this little black box is that you can browse the web, grabbing either streaming video from YouTube and elsewhere, or just general browsing. However, one trick is to use a smartphone app, Sony Media Remote, so that you gain the benefit of a keyboard; trying to "type" using the Sony's remote is an exercise in aggravation, to say the least.

For over-the-air TV, a Winegard antenna hung up near the ceiling of the living room plus a signal amplifier has managed to pull in 8 stations, six broadcast in my immediate area, and two more from towers about 40 miles away.

With the Sony SMP-N200 I can also stream downloaded video over my home's wireless network. To do this, I first needed to enable Homegroup on my Windows 7 desktop PC, and then I installed Nero MediaHome to act as a server for the Sony. Most any popular encoding format (AVI, MPG, MKV, WMV, and more) can stream from my computer to my TV with very little effort.

All in all, aside from the clunky remote, I'd give it a solid 4 out of 5 stars for the money I've saved thus far over cable or satellite.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The "GenerateResource" Task Failed Unexpectedly

Shortly after setting up a RAM disk using the freeware version of Dataram RAMDisk to see whether Visual Studio 2010 might compile a huge solution faster, I began getting the following errors after relocating the system's temp files to the root of the RAM drive:
The "GenerateResource" task failed unexpectedly.
System.TypeInitializationException: The type initializer for 'Microsoft.Build.Utilities.FileTracker' threw an exception. ---> System.NullReferenceException: Object reference not set to an instance of an object.

I dug around and found numerous references to existing bug reports and a few workarounds. I tried unsetting the readonly file system attribute in my solution folder, setting the GenerateResourceNeverLockTypeAssemblies property in my project file to true or false to downgrade some security parameters, but ultimately it was the top answer here that did the trick.

I had set the environment variables for the RAM drive initially to just R:\, referencing the root of the drive. Apparently VS 2010 doesn't like this, so I simply created a new folder on my ram disk named TEMP, and then updated the environment variables accordingly:

Just to rule it out, and also because I hadn't rebooted Windows in a while, I also opened Control Panel => Programs and Features, and performed a Repair on Microsoft .NET Framework 4 Client Profile just in case the framework files might've gotten corrupted somehow, and then restarted.

Problem solved! Now on to see whether Joseph Fluckiger's experimentation which returned lukewarm results on performance of building to a RAM disk holds water for a solution with, say, dozens of projects.