Category: Tech Tips
Posted by: Joe
Recently I had trouble connecting to a WebEx support session. I chalked it up to a transitory glitch. However, today I was unable to connect to a WebEx webinar I really would have liked to have seen. One instance is an aberration, two is a pattern.

The symptoms I experienced are everything working as they seem they should when connecting to the meeting; however the actual meeting content window never appears on the screen.

I tried lots of things, including downloading the WebEx connection logger utility, uninstalling and reinstalling WebEx, and so on. It is worth noting that when troubleshooting, to manually end the WebEx process, the process name is "atmgr.exe" (32 bit). Nothing changed the issue at hand.

Checking Windows Event Viewer led me to the solution, however. Under System, there were logged dozens and dozens of Schannel 36888 "Red X" entries starting right as I began trying to join the Webinar.

Googling for Schannel showed that this service is related to TLS connection negotiation. So there must have been a failure related to this.

I then remembered reading about a new attack against TLS, called "The BEAST" by security researchers. Suggested mitigation was to check the "Use TLS 1.1" and "Use TLS 1.2" boxes in Internet Options per The Microsoft Security Advisory. However, I took the additional step of unchecking the "Use TLS 1.0" option.

As soon as TLS 1.0 was enabled again, the WebEx meeting launched immediately as expected. It appears that at the time of this article, WebEx services are not compatible with the later TLS versions.

11/11/08: Fun with FLAC

Category: Tech Tips
Posted by: Joe
Music enthusiasts understand that lossy compression formats such as MP3 are not an ideal way of archiving music digitally. Even if the MP3 is indistinguishable to the ears, additional format conversions or recompressions can result in noticeable quality loss. The solution is to losslessly compress the data. Lossless compression (the most common example people use daily is the Zip format) can be returned to its original form with 100% of the data intact. However Zip and other generic file compressors are not optimized for audio. Though there are several lossless file formats optimized for audio files, the most widely used is the FLAC (or Free Lossless Audio Codec) format.

In the article after the jump, I answer 2 questions that came up recently when working with some FLAC files (the latest Nine Inch Nails album generously provided free of charge by Trent Reznor). The first question is how to play the files using MPC-HC (my preferred media player) and the second is how to convert them to MP3 for playback on my iPhone.

There are two tools needed to accomplish these goals. For playback in any DirectShow enabled player (including MPC-HC and Windows Media Player), download the Open Codec Pack from Xiph.org. This pack will also add support for OGG, Theora and VP8 filetypes.

For conversion to MP3, there are lots of options. But a free, reliable option is to download the FLAC tools. Use these to decode the FLAC file to WAV, and then use CDEX or any common MP3 compressor to convert to MP3. Note that the "FLAC frontend" program seems to be best run in compatibility mode (Windows XP SP3) on Vista or Windows 7.
Category: Tech Tips
Posted by: admin
Many older wireless devices aren't supported under Vista. There is no technical reason for this. For the manufacturers it simply does not make economic sense to backport drivers and support to older devices (especially when they would love to sell you a new device).

One device that falls into this category is the Dell TrueMobile Wireless 1450 USB. This adapter is a quality 802.11g device and is available cheaply secondhand through eBay or Amazon. But it is not officially supported under Vista. Click read more to find out how I got it working under 32 bit (x86) Vista. I was not able to make the device work under 64 bit Vista, unfortunately.

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Category: Entertainment
Posted by: Joe
San Diego residents will want to rescan their over-the-air digital recievers as NBC has added Universal Sports on channel 39.3. The channel shows current and classic Olympic-type competition.


Category: Tech Tips
Posted by: Joe
You may have thought about, or already downloaded Flash Video Content (FLV) from the likes of YouTube or other sites. Recently I grabbed a concert video from the BBC (which is tricky for those not in the UK - which may be a subject for a future article). Now I was left wondering how to play the file in a fresh build of Vista Home Premium.

I found out a lot about flash video. To see how the playback was accomplished, click the read more link below.

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