My computer (er-geek) life
Installing Windows Vista from a NTFS USB memory stick 
Saturday, November 8, 2008, 07:12 PM - Geek
Posted by Administrator
I spent a couple of hours on troubleshooting a Vista install from USB storage today, so I thought I'd just blog about it so I will lose less time next time :)

I recently bought a Dell Mini 9 netbook with Windows XP installed, and wanted to upgrade to Windows Vista. The Vista installation DVD obviously wouldn't fit in the optical-drive challenged netbook, so installing Microsoft's OS from USB sounded like the most pragmatic solution.

Unfortunately, Vista's installation DVD contains a large install.wim file weighing over 4Gb. Files this large won't fit on boot friendly FAT32 USB keys, therefore requiring a NTFS primary partition on the memory stick. Obtaining this partition is done as follows (on a Windows XP/Vista box):

(launch diskpart.exe)
select disk 1 (or your USB drive number, use list disk to get it)
clean
create partition primary
select partition=1
active
format fs=ntfs
assign
exit

Now that the drive is boot aware, we have to initialize its boot sector with the Windows boot manager (BOOTMGR), using the Bootsect.exe utility located in the boot directory of the Vista installation DVD. We have to tell the utility that our target drive is NTFS formatted:

bootsect.exe /nt60 f:

Since the Mini 9 only features a 16Gb SSD, trimming down Vista was almost mandatory. vLite is a free tool allowing you to do just that, by providing a relatively user-friendly UI for the Windows Automated Installation Kit to select only the Vista components you desire. I was thus able to trim down the Home Premium install to 5Gb instead of the standard 12Gb (!).

Now that the USB stick is fully bootable, just copy everything from the installation DVD (or your trimmed down install) to the root of the drive. Plug the key in the computer, boot from it and install away :)

Downloadable content 
Sunday, November 2, 2008, 02:20 AM - Gaming
Posted by Administrator
Downloadable content (DLC) for consoles have been widely available to gamers for over three years, the significant starting point for this delivery medium being the launch of Microsoft’s remarkably successful Xbox Live Arcade service for Xbox 360. The medium has now boomed and is reaching maturity. This service is available for all major gaming platforms: Xbox 360 of course, the Playstation Network for PS3 and PSP, the Wii Shop Channel, the soon-to-be opened DSiWare Shop, or even Apple’s iPhone App Store. I thought that I’d take some time today to write about why I believe this medium is an important part of the “next-gen” experience.

The online market has progressively grown from mostly casual games (Uno, Zuma, Pinball FX…), to porting classics (Ikaruga, Rez), and has now reached the point where high quality games such as WipEout HD or Braid are only available online. This last evolution further confirms the fact that the medium is coming to maturity, making some developers nervous about the quality/price ratio becoming increasingly high – which is good news for gamers. We can also note that along with DLC came game demos, which allowed gamers to easily try out games before spending their hard-earned money.

The thing I like the most about downloadable games tough, is that unlike most of their full-fledged (and fully priced) counterparts, they can be started, played and stopped all within a very small amount of time. I often turn on my consoles just to play a couple of PacMan C.E rounds, WipEout HD races, or a game of Ikaruga. Furthermore, and unlike traditional disc or cartridge based games, starting downloaded games do not require any fumbling through boxes, or any loading of physical media. Starting the game is dead simple: grab the gamepad and turn on the television.

Besides the aforementioned reasons that make DLC so compelling, there has of course been some abuse. The worst one to date being when Ubisoft started selling character unlocks for Soul Calibur 4, even though the unlockable characters were already on the game’s disc from day one. Although DLC enables the extension of existing games through new maps, items, or even campaigns; this very powerful feature will eventually turn out to be a let down as publishers will most likely start shipping stripped-down games, forcing players to pay a premium to get the full experience. One could also complain that a lot of DLC games hide their poor quality under the “casual gaming” banner, or that they feature meager online capabilities.

Overall, DLC is a great addition to the gaming experience. It enables quick and cheap gaming scenarios, extension of existing software, and helped make game demos ubiquitous. Let's just hope that the medium is going to go the gamer's way by not being just another way to pay for what should already have been there in the first place.

Slightly changing subject, I was very pleasantly surprised to learn that Suda 51 was hard at work on a sequel to his latest game, with the announcement of No More Heroes 2 Desperate Struggle. It looks like the first game wasn’t as much as a failure as it was portrayed to be, and gamers can only rejoice that novel and politically incorrect games still have a chance to be published.
The great watery outdoors 
Thursday, July 31, 2008, 06:22 PM - General
Posted by Administrator
I have been a regular swimmer for quite a while now and apart from getting me back into shape, diversifying my activities also had some nice side effects. I'm definitely used to chlorine water and indoor pools, so when a colleague asked me if I wanted to practice in a nearby lake I have to admit that I was a scared off at the idea. But then I thought that I might as well make the best out of my professional engagement which takes me away from home to the south of France for several days at a time, every week.

Although it may have sounded like a bad thing at first, but the splendid summer weather of Montpellier makes the travel quite enjoyable. So it is under a blazing sun that I put myself into the water, and started to swim towards the shore ahead. Several differences struck me: first and foremost not being able see the bottom of the lake made me feel very uncomfortable (ok: scared) making me swim much faster than usual, tiring me very quickly. There were also no guiding lines and I quickly noticed that I just didn't know how to swim in a straight line when front crawling - not to mention that swimming for several hundred meters at a time without being able to stop is completely different from the 50 meters, well delimited corridors I'm used to. After getting more comfortable with this new environment, I can now fully enjoy being outdoors, in the water, practicing my favorite sport in much greener surroundings. I just can't wait to go there again next week!



Note: ducks are less afraid of people when they are in the water ... one of them just wouldn't get out of the way while I swam into it :)

A few days in Redmond 
Wednesday, July 2, 2008, 07:11 PM - General
Posted by Administrator
I just came back from 14 days of training on the Microsoft campus in Redmond. The experience was, simply put, amazing. We were close to one hundred participants from all over the world: 37 different practices were represented, ranging from South Korea to Saudi Arabia, Greece and Argentina just to name a few. Having so much diversity and being together everyday for over two weeks generated a tremendous amount of interesting conversations, and resulted in the rare occurrence of a professional network based on friendship. On the education side, we learned quite a bit on MS methodologies, terminology, and company culture; but as the facilitators told us, one of the major goal of this event was to get to know people and benefit from our differences, which we all did with the greatest enjoyment.

Being on the campus for so many days is a very rare occasion for most overseas employees. I therefore took my chances and on a late afternoon after a day's training, I ventured briefly to building 40 to meet some people from the product group. The group is made up of the teams that make the software I use everyday, so I thought that it just might be the occasion to meet some of its members in person. To my surprise, they were glad to set up a meeting during which we openly discussed how the products were used in the field, and how we could improve customer scenarios. Their openness and technical-abstraction levels were very impressive to say the least, but I guess these are traits I will have to get used to within the company.

Even though I'm now back in France, a few thousand miles away from the headquarters, I feel that I am now part of a smart and dedicated community. And I love it.

Another blog 
Wednesday, May 14, 2008, 09:27 PM - Coding
Posted by Administrator
I've recently opened another blog at http://blogs.msdn.com/luc. It is written in French, and is dedicated to the technical stuff I do during the day (as well as at night when closing in on deadlines ;)

On an unrelated note, my previous employer received a flattering letter from one of its client about the software we took several years to develop. Despite the fact that I no longer work there, it really means a lot to get recognition for the work accomplished. It's too bad the team didn't get much internal recognition until now, when most of the people that have made the project possible are now gone separate ways. Why is it that techies are so often forgotten?

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