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Windows 10 display driver headaches

Some notes on upgrading a not-very-new laptop to Windows 10. Only even potentially interesting to people with a computer that has a Radeon 4xxx GPU.

Over the weekend I finally upgraded my laptop, a Toshiba Satellite L505-144, to Windows 10. I bought it about five years ago and, with just a 8GB memory upgrade, it still does everything I need – and reasonably speedily. Nevertheless, this is legacy hardware. The Windows 10 upgrade assistant said that it was compatible, but I anticipated problems. I still remember upgrading to NT4.0.

My suspicion was almost misplaced. The upgrade process itself was very smooth and I fairly soon had a machine running Windows 10. Smart looking too. Fairly quickly, though, I realised that there was a black border around the visible display area, which wasn’t using the full surface of the HDMI monitor (a 1920×1080 Iiyama). In this case the graphics hardware was an AMD Mobility Radeon 4500. Some quick googling revealed that this is a relatively common problem with some GPUs, which default to an underscan mode which is visible as a black border around the screen, and a poor quality image. The easiest way to change the underscan is to use AMD’s Catalyst Control Center software to tweak the GPU. Unfortunately, Catalyst Control Center doesn’t work on Widows 10. It just doesn’t. Believe me, I tried everything.

In the best Windows tradition, the solution turned out to involve hacking the registry as described here in the AMD forums. I found a whole lot of maybe solutions, almost solutions, and just plain wrong solutions before I found that forum post – and so this blog post is mostly just an attempt to give it a bit more Google juice for those Radeon 4xxx users who come after me. And some notes for myself in case I ever have to do this again.

Also, if you’re upgrading from Windows 7 I would strongly advise using the Display Driver Uninstaller to revert to using the Microsoft Basic Display Adapter. Then download and install 4xxx drivers for Windows 8 (which has a similar enough driver model to work on Windows 8). I used this one for x64. And if you read the release notes you may be amused to learn that AMD doesn’t even support the Radeon 4xxx on Windows 10. So no new drivers for you. Ever. Someone should tell Microsoft.

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Virtual

Some time ago, while explaining the concept of virtual memory to a work colleague, I remembered something I’d seen about twenty years earlier…

Between July 1988 and September 1989 I worked at an IBM research lab in Winchester, Hampshire. This was the industrial placement part of my four-year computer science degree. I was about 20 at the time. The industrial trainees inhabited a basement room with small, ceiling-level windows that were at pavement height in the street outside. High up on one wall, near the ceiling, someone had blu-tacked a piece of paper that (from memory) read:

If it’s there, and you can see it, then it’s real.

If it’s not there, and you can see it, then it’s virtual.

If it’s there, and you can’t see it, then it’s transparent.

If it’s not there, and you can’t see it then it’s gone!

Someone had crossed-out the ‘ne’ part of ‘gone’ and written a ‘d’ above it. I never felt the slightest inclination to correct this.

__________

The paper seems to have been a home-made version of an 70’s-era IBM poster explaining virtual memory. The lab was the IBM UK Scientific Centre, a really fun place to work, and which seems to have closed in the early 1990s when IBM was having financial problems. While the world thinks that these global problems were the responsibility of the then-CEO John Akers, I can exclusively reveal that they were entirely caused by UKSC management allowing induistrial trainees unrestricted access to the stationary cupboard. I still have a stapler.

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Installing 64 bit itunes on 64 bit Windows 7

This has been driving me mad for the past couple of days, and I wanted to give the solution a little Google-juice in case someone else encounters the same problem.

If you’re trying to install the 64 bit version of itunes on the 64 bit version of Windows 7 and you’re finding that the installer just won’t run, even if you’re running it as administrator, then try downloading it using something other than Firefox. I don’t know why, but if I download the installer in Firefox then it just silently exits immediately after I run it. If I download it using ie8 then it works fine. Weird.

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Being Mobile

Yesterday I bought a T-Mobile G1 – the “Googlephone”.

I haven’t had much time to play with it yet, but it seems like a great piece of technology.The broadband access to email and maps, the user-interface, and the general build quality are very good. I hear it also does phone calls. I hope to have more to say about it later.

But there’s a story here.

Some time in early 1998 I read the following on David Bennahum’s (now long-defunct) Meme mailing list:

8:30 am, mid-April, standing on the platform of Track 3, waiting for the Times Square shuttle to take me to Grand Central Station. About six hundred people are queued up, clustered in blobs along memorized spots where we know the subway doors will open. Most are just standing. Some are reading the morning papers. I’m downloading email through a metal ventilation shaft in the ceiling. I point my wireless modem like a diving rod toward the breeze coming down from the street above. I can see people’s feet criss-crossing the grate. If wind can get down here this way, I figure packets of data can too.   (Link)

He was describing his experience of mobile, wireless internet connectivity using Palm Pilot with an attached (bulky) Novatel Minstrel modem. This image stuck in my mind. I had had net access since the late eighties as a student, and limited access at work (I’m a developer) since about 1993, but always tethered to a desk. This mobile internet idea was cool. I decided that I had to get some of this.

In late 1998 I bought my first mobile computing device – a Philips Velo 500. This was pretty curring-edge at the time: about as big as a thick paperback, it ran Windows CE 2, had a monochrome LCD display with a green backlight, and a “chicklet” keyboard. Crucially, it also had a built-in 19.2kb/s modem, and built-in browser and email client. I had great fun plugging it into phone lines and showing people “look… email… web…!”. It wasn’t all that impressive, though, and it was too big and heavy to fit into a pocket.I didn’t yet have a mobile phone, and the Velo wouldn’t have connected to it anyway. All in all, not really what I’d imagined.

In late 1999 I bought a Palm Vx. This was a significant improvement. Even with its tiny 33.6kb/s modem clipped on it would fit comfortably in a jacket pocket. I bought some third-party brower and email software. Then I got a mobile phone with an IRDA modem, and suddenly I could sit in Starbucks downloading my email like a proper alpha geek. For a couple of years that was my primary personal email system. It was slow, though – GSM data runs at about 9kb/s. Also, making sure that the phone stayed in line of sight with the Vx was awkward. But it worked.

By 2004 I had acquired an HP 4150 PDA and a GPRS phone. This was more like it! The 4150 had a colour screen with decent resolution and the Bluetooth/GPRS connection was quite fast. It was annoying that that I had to fiddle with both devices to turn bluetooth on before accessing the net, the data charges were pretty steep, and I now had two devices to carry around. The main problem, though, was that Windows CE was just plain awful to use. Hmm. Still not right.

So now I have this G1. It has a high-resolution screen, okay keyboard, always-on broadband, and its fairly small. Its my fourth personal generation of mobile internet device, and it finally seems that it might be what I wanted back in 1998 – although I didn’t know what that was at the time. We’ll see.

(I still have the velo and the Vx.)