Saturday, September 20, 2008

Death of The Floppy Drive

Or not!

Update [Mar 7 2009]: Advanced timings corrected
Update [Feb 14 2009]: I finally got the machine to stabilize. The shop had given me 2 kits of different voltages and Corsair's support helped me tweak the box to stability. Muchos Gracias Corsair!

I got a new machine, with one of the extreme motherboards: EVGA nVidia 790i Ultra SLI MCP. It supports many features, including a built-in RAID controller, which is the focus of this post.

I assembled the box, and configured the BIOS to enable the RAID controller on two SATA ports. I reboot, configure a RAID 0 array, reboot again and insert the Windows XP Pro 64-bit with SP2 CD, and it couldn't detect the RAID array that I had just created.

Reading about this problem a few months back, I remember that I need a floppy drive (which I didn't buy for this new box) and a floppy diskette. And another computer, with Windows on it, to use the RAID floppy maker tool from the motherboard's CD.
I managed to salvage a floppy drive from another machine, which also happens to have a Windows partition (luckily). I copy the tool to it and use an old driver diskette. The tool formats the diskette and puts the drivers on it. Great, I'm good to go now.

Well, not quite. Windows Setup didn't see the drivers on the floppy, for some reason. So I take the floppy to the other machine, format it from Windows, and then copy the drivers to it manually (there was a directory of the drivers extracted). Windows happily saw the new drivers.

After installing Windows, I installed the drivers on the box from the mobo's CD. Then I install the driver updates which I had downloaded from the Internet earlier during assembly. The update tool detected that there were previous drivers, and the new ones will be installed on the next boot, and it rebooted, but never booted!
The "smart" update tool deleted the old drivers, which included the RAID drivers, rendering my array inaccessible. The only way to fix this is by booting to Windows Setup and run a repair on the existing partition, which I did. The Setup froze during file copying. I boot again to Setup and this time run a new installation.

There are two parties to blame here: EVGA, the motherboard manufacturer, and Microsoft, the Operating System maker.
1) Microsoft: Seriously, I'm using the latest ORIGINAL Windows CD, why the hell won't you update the Setup program to allow mass storage devices like USB Memory sticks? THIS IS 2008! 1995 Says hi!!!

2) EVGA: You soar losers! You could've included a floppy with the WORKING drivers on them! AND put a warning (even if tiny) on the cover that a floppy drive is required if RAID is to be used!
What if this was my first machine to be built? How the hell am I supposed to make the RAID floppy?!

And in case you're wondering, no, I didn't get to install Windows successfully yet (with drivers). Whenever I install the drivers from the CD, it reboots & the array doesn't boot anymore. 3 failed installations, 1 failed repair due to freeze & another failed repair due to driver installation.
I'm attempting a different approach: Create a striped array of ONE disk, install OS, then migrate using the software tool from the CD (read that it's possible from the nVidia RAID Guide).
I'll update on the result.

P.S.: The floppy drive is not dead, yet. You can thank Microsoft for that.

It finally worked!
1) Create bootable stripe array of one disk ONLY
2) Install OS to disk, using drivers from floppy -- reboot
3) Install drivers & programs from CD -- reboot
4) Install downloaded updated drivers and programs -- reboot
5) Use MediaShield program to migrate your array to a 2nd stripe disk (will take time -- DO NOT REBOOT!)

I had lockup issues where Windows would freeze randomly. After doing some search, I ended up updating the BIOS (from EVGA website) to P07, but the RAMs caused some lockups too, so I had to keep the clock settings to "auto", while manually setting the memory FSB to 1333MHz (it was detected as 1066) -- after consulting with Corsair, I've manually set the memory frequency, voltage, timing and SPP voltage.

Using 2 different kits of Corsair CM3X2048-1333C9DHX. The printed timings are: 9-9-9-24, but the voltage on the version 3.2 kit is 1.7v while the 1.2 version had its voltage rate set as 1.6v.

Stable settings: Confirmed on Feb 14 2009
Stable timings at 1066MHz are: 9-9-9-24 (2T)
Advanced memory settings (auto):
tRRD = 4
tRC = 27
tWR = 10
tWTR = 14
tFAW = 17
tREF = 7.7us
tRFC = 59

Voltage rate for SPP & Memory:
SPP = 1.40v
Memory = 1.80v

According to Corsair's support: Both memory kits are warranted up to 2.0 volts, so no need to worry. Also, Corsair support asked me to set the SPP voltage to +0.2 the default value, which is 1.5v but I tried 1.4 first and it was working fine, so I didn't try 1.5v.

BIOS flashing utility info:
For 132-CK-NF79-6A61MB02C-00     Date: 26/6/2008
Flash type: Winbond W39V080A Binary file name: nf79_p07.bin

After flashing new BIOS, when powering on, BIOS info:
Pheonix - AwardBIOS v6.00PG
6A61MB02 Release number 811N2P07
nVidia BIOS Version: 2.053.E8

MediaShield ROM info:
MediaShield ROM BIOS 9.85

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Mesh Networks and Traffic Jams: A Double-Edged Solution

Being stuck in traffic jam is horrible. Being stuck in traffic jam with only a radio & nothing to listen to but rap music, is terrifying!

What if you could see traffic flow in real-time, before you leave and while driving? Sounds great, right? But what if you could see traffic flow AND be able to surf the Internet using the same inexpensive solution? THAT'S FREAKIN' AWESOME!

Let's get realistic: In the United States, it's possible to get traffic reports using GPS units. This is done by attaching an antenna to receive radio transmissions from the respective service provider (either for free or by subscription).

This solution has been debated to not provide information security, as the FM radio transmissions can be spoofed and forged, producing false reports. There's also the monthly fee you have to pay to the service provider.

Proposed Solution
What I propose here, is creating a distributed mesh network, which can be tracked in real-time and provides Internet access at the same time. Each node is a mini-router that is configured to search for similar nodes of the same network, forming a bond and a redundant, anonymous, decentralized network.

Real-Life Application
Deploy a mini-router from in each car and let it be pre-configured to join a network of the name "adrenalin" -- And let there be edge nodes (houses/flats/shops) with also a mini-router, but connected to the Internet.

Assume you're driving on an empty road and no one is in sight. Your router will not be able to connect with any node since none exist, and thus your path is free and there exist no traffic jam! (And unfortunately no Internet :( )

If you're driving in the city, there will be both cars and edge-nodes, hence your router will connect to one of these and you'll be able to see a topology representing the scatter of cars around, and you can determine congested routes and steer away from it, while at the same time, you gain the ability to access the Internet, thanks to the edge-nodes.

And guess what, the more jammed the traffic is, the more bandwidth is available for you to surf the Internet! provides a web-interface to see and manage all these nodes, and there exist projects to further enhance the application of these networks.
Go to the Network Status page and enter the Network Name as "test" (without double quotes). Leave the password field empty, and click sign in.

All mobile nodes (cars) are anonymous, and the edge-nodes can choose to be anonymous as well, protecting the privacy of people.

Solution Feasibility: Technicalities
* Each router has 2 interfaces: A public one and a private one. This means while your router is hooked to other routers, you connect to your own only, using a laptop or a PDA. The router has built-in firewall and encryption.

* The router runs on 5 volts only, and any car battery can handle it easily.

* If you have a computer in your car (carputer), you can hook it through LAN.

* The antenna is detachable, so it's easy to upgrade or relocate it.

Solution Feasibility: Mass Deployment
Let's assume this is a government sponsored project. When buying a new car, the person pays a subsidized sum to implement the mini-router along with the license plate fees.

According to, a pack of 20 routers cost $799; that's $39.95 per mini-router (almost 11KD). The government could sell it for 4KD, and 1KD fee for the license plate, so the total is 5KD!

Local ISPs can join the party by offering free edge-nodes that allow Internet access. They make profit by displaying advertisements in a frame at top of the page. The profit made can be split with the government, to make up for the cost of the devices.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

KFH Scam Sites

I was checking my ancient Hotmail (Windows Live) account and found an email in the "junk folder" from Kuwait Finance House (KFH) asking me to update my information. Well, the thing is that I'm not a KFH customer to begin with!

Here's a screenshot of how the email looked:

The registration link points at a scam website:
A quick whois shows that the site is not related to the legitimate KFH:

Legitimate KFH records:
   Administrative Contact, Technical Contact:
Finance House, Kuwait ebusiness@KFH.COM
Kuwait Finance House
Kuwait Finance House -Almorgab
Almorgab KW 24989
+965 2439211 fax: +965-2448107

Record expires on 07-Mar-2010.
Record created on 06-Mar-1996.
Database last updated on 6-Sep-2008 10:54:56 EDT.

Domain servers in listed order:


Scam KFH site:
Domain name:

Administrative Contact:
Whois Privacy Protection Service, Inc.
Whois Agent (
Fax: +1.4256960234
PMB 368, 14150 NE 20th St - F1
Bellevue, WA 98007

These are the email headers:
X-Message-Delivery: Vj0zLjQuMDt1cz0wO2w9MDthPTA=
X-Message-Status: n:0
X-Message-Info: bKPJ5fID7nvr4q44yl8SAb7jxAnprY7AZ6DqJRTR/ubhk5PinpoWw0lC+PS7sSN+C7H+SA5wb6lYG+N+qpiX3w==
Received: from ([]) by with Microsoft SMTPSVC(6.0.3790.2668);
Fri, 5 Sep 2008 21:30:05 -0700
Received: from User ([]) by with Microsoft SMTPSVC(6.0.3790.3959);
Fri, 5 Sep 2008 17:19:25 -0400
Subject: Update Your Records Please
Date: Fri, 5 Sep 2008 17:19:25 -0400
MIME-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: text/html;
Content-Transfer-Encoding: 7bit
X-Priority: 3
X-MSMail-Priority: Normal
X-Mailer: Microsoft Outlook Express 6.00.2600.0000
X-MimeOLE: Produced By Microsoft MimeOLE V6.00.2600.0000
X-OriginalArrivalTime: 05 Sep 2008 21:19:25.0567 (UTC) FILETIME=[12C0B0F0:01C90F9D]

Firefox users already get a warning that this site is a scam site:

Also, if you change the link to provoke an incorrect link, you get a crap page like this:

I'm surprised they're targeting Arabs now, after seeing the eBay and PayPal scam emails.

If you're an admin for an email server, you can block the IP of the sender as shown in the headers, or if you wanna pick it up higher, deny the whole subnet that the host has reserved.