Scott Hanselman

Fixed: The Synology NAS with Plex Server and mismatched version numbers

February 4, '14 Comments [15] Posted in Bugs | Musings
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I am a HUGE fan of Plex. Plex is a server you run combined with both a great HTML5 web app and some awesome native clients. Plex has clients for iOS, Windows Store, Windows Phone, and on and on. Best yet, the Plex Server can run not only on your spare computers, but also NAS (Network Attached Storage) devices like Synology, Netgear, Drobo, and more.

Last year, Plex came to the Synology DiskStation. I have a Synology 1511+ NAS and run everything on it from Minecraft Servers to Plex to using it as a giant 5TB NAS to storing my Time Machine backups and Windows 8 File History. I also run CrashPlan headless on my Synology.

Synology has an ersatz App Store that allows you to easily install all sorts of stuff to your Synology NAS, like phpBB, Plex, Git, and more.

Plex installed on Synology

However, I personally (and others) have found this feed of packages to be either updated not very often, or when it is updated, versions don't line up.

If I can be slightly critical of Plex for a moment, they are fairly aggressive about keeping their client and server protocol versions in line. This means if you aren't keeping your Plex Server reasonably up to date, one day you'll startup your iPad Plex app or Windows Plex app and be told that server version is too old. It's a little jarring.

The issue for me happens when I go to the Synology to update and there's no new update. So the client is saying "you need version x+2" and all I see on the Synology feed is version x.

Plex example on a Microsoft Surface RT with Windows 8

Here's the gotcha, and why I'm writing this up for you. You can use the Manual Install option (as seen in the top picture) then visit https://plex.tv/downloads and manually upload the .SPK file for Plex to your Synology server.

If you don't uninstall Plex first - that's the one that you install from Synology's feed originally - then you can get yourself into some very weird versioning situations where Plex thinks one version is running and the Synology thinks another as seen in the screenshot below.

Plex Version Numbers not lining up

This has been discussed in the forums for almost a year now with no clear answer or solution.

Again, here's what I did:

  • Uninstall Plex from the Synology Package Manager
  • Download Plex from https://plex.tv/downloads
  • Use Manual Install to install the new SPK to Synology

I hope this helps someone. Be sure to check out Plex, it's a joy.


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About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. I am a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Fix: External Mouse freezing on Lenovo Laptops with Synaptics TouchPad

December 17, '13 Comments [15] Posted in Bugs | Tools
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I'm just blogging this to make sure I remember it, but also to help others who might need this fix.

I recently noticed that my external Microsoft Arc Touch Mouse would freeze every few minutes. I'd be moving it, then the mouse would just stop. It was extremely annoying. I recently upgraded to Windows 8.1 so my first reaction was to assume that something broke because "stuff is new."

However, I sat down and thought about the problem and noticed that if I moved the TouchPad on my laptop after the external mouse appeared frozen my external mouse would be responsive again. Something was disabling the mouse as I was moving around. I figured it was the Palm Check feature of the laptop's touchpad, meant to disable mice whilst typing fast. Turned out during a recent driver upgrade it was set to Maximum. I turned it down two notches and my mouse freezing problem was solved.

Hit the Windows button and from the Start Screen type "mouse." You want this one, not the "metro" or fullscreen mouse settings.

image

If you have the Lenovo or Synaptics drivers, select the UltraNav tab...

image

Then Settings...then  PalmCheck. Put it a few notches below Maximum.

image

I hope this helps. I'm starting to realize that most all of my frustrations with touchpads and mice on Windows are related to poor defaults and settings in the 3rd party drivers, and now I check those first when I have issues.


Sponsor: Thanks to Aspose for sponsoring the blog feed this week! Aspose.Total for .NET has all the APIs you need to create, manipulate and convert Microsoft Office documents and a host of other file formats in your applications. Curious? Start a free trial today!

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. I am a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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CSI: Visual Studio - Unable to translate Unicode character at index X to specified code page

June 8, '13 Comments [17] Posted in Bugs
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A crazy internal error from Visual Studio

A customer emailed me a weird one. I tend to have a sense for when something is up and when an obscure thing will turn into something interesting.

The person says:

...mysteriously most of my projects refuse to build.  "The build stopped unexpectedly because of an internal failure... something about unicode... blah blah"

There are a few messages out there on the web about it -- even a really old hot fix.  What's the best way to proceed with the VS team / MS?  Is there anyone actively interested in glitches like this?

My spidey-sense is tingling. First, when something says "internal failure" it means some fundamental expectation wasn't met. Garbage in perhaps? He says "most of my projects" which implies it's not a specific project. There's also the sense that this is a "suddenly things stopped working" type thing. Presumably it worked before.

I say:

"Have you checked all the source files to make sure one isn't filled with Unicode nulls or something?"

And says no, but sends a call-stack (which is always nice when it's sent FIRST, but still):

Error    1    The build stopped unexpectedly because of an internal failure.
System.Text.EncoderFallbackException: Unable to translate Unicode character \uD97C at index 1321 to specified code page.
at System.Text.EncoderExceptionFallbackBuffer.Fallback(Char charUnknown, Int32 index)
at System.Text.EncoderFallbackBuffer.InternalFallback(Char ch, Char*& chars)
at System.Text.UTF8Encoding.GetByteCount(Char* chars, Int32 count, EncoderNLS baseEncoder)
at System.Text.UTF8Encoding.GetByteCount(String chars)
at System.IO.BinaryWriter.Write(String value)
at Microsoft.Build.BackEnd.NodePacketTranslator.NodePacketWriteTranslator.TranslateDictionary(Dictionary`2& dictionary, IEqualityComparer`1 comparer)
at Microsoft.Build.Execution.BuildParameters.Microsoft.Build.BackEnd.INodePacketTranslatable.Translate(INodePacketTranslator translator)
at Microsoft.Build.BackEnd.NodePacketTranslator.NodePacketWriteTranslator.Translate[T](T& value, NodePacketValueFactory`1 factory)
at Microsoft.Build.BackEnd.NodeConfiguration.Translate(INodePacketTranslator translator)
at Microsoft.Build.BackEnd.NodeProviderOutOfProcBase.NodeContext.SendData(INodePacket packet)
...

OK, so it doesn't like a character. But a character in WHAT? Well, we'd assume a source file, but it's important to remember that there's other pieces of input to a compiler like path names, environment variables, commands passed to the compiler as switches, etc.

It says Index 1321 which seems pretty far into a string before it gets mad. I asked a few people inside and Sara Joiner says:

It looks like the only place in BuildParameters that we call TranslateDictionary is when transferring the state of the environment [variables] across the wire. 

Ah, so this is splitting up name-value pairs that are the environment variables! David Kean says "ask him what his PATH looks like." I ask and I get almost 2000 bytes of PATH! It's a HUGE path, it looks like it may even have been duplicated and appended to itself a few times.

Here's just a bit of the PATH in question. See anything?

\;C:\PROGRA~1\DISKEE~1\DISKEE~1\;C:\Program Files (x86)\Windows Kits\8.0\Windows
Performance Toolkit\;C:\Program Files\Microsoft SQL
Server\110\Tools\Binn\;C:\Program Files\Microsoft\Web Platform
Installer\;C:\Program Files\TortoiseSVN\binVN\???p??;C:\Program
Files\TortoiseSVN\bin;C:\PHP\;C:\progra~1\NVIDIA
Corporation\PhysX\Common;C:\progra~2\Common Files\Microsoft Shared\Windows
Live;C:\progra~1\Common Files\Microsoft Shared\Windows
Live;C:\q\w32;C:\Windows\system32;C:\Windows;C:\Windows\System32\Wbem;
C:\Windows\System32\WindowsPowerShell\v1.0\;C:\progra~2\WIDCOMM\Bluetooth
Software\;C:\progra~2\WIDCOMM\Bluetooth

See those ??? marks? That doesn't feel like question marks to me. I open the result of "SET > env.txt" as a binary file in Visual Studio and it looks like it's 3Fs, which are ? marks.

I think the text file was converted to ANSI

This makes me think that there's unicode goo in the PATH that was converted to ANSI with it was piped. Phrased differently, this text file isn't reality.

However, elsewhere in the Windows UI his PATH variable looks like different.

C:\Program Files\TortoiseSVN\binVN\�侱ᤣp䥠؉;

Sometimes that corruption in the path looks like this and you might assume it's Chinese. No, it's corruption that's getting interpreted as Unicode. Interestingly the error said the naughty character was 0xD97C which is &#0xD97C; � which implies to me that something got stripped out at some point in processing and turned into the Unicode equivalent of 'uh...' Regardless, it's wrong and it needs to be removed.

I ask him if cleaning his PATH worked and the customer just send me a one line response via email...the best kind of response:

========== Build: 12 succeeded, 0 failed, 0 up-to-date, 0 skipped ==========

Yay! I hope this helps the next person who goes aGoogling for the answer and thought they were alone. Thanks to David Kean, Sara Joiner and Srinivas Nadimpalli for looking at the call stack and guessing at solutions with me!

Any insights, Dear Reader?


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About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. I am a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Installing Helvetica Neue Fonts with Google Chrome on Windows considered harmful

April 17, '13 Comments [36] Posted in Bugs
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A few days ago, I visited the Xamarin.com website and noticed this. The word "Pricing" looks like "Prioing."

The C looks like an O in Chrome

It's not an illusion. It looks wrong in Google Chrome. See this zoomed-in shot.

The C looks like an O in Chrome

Here's the same menu in IE. Note the subtle"bites" that have been taken out of the g and s, but the c is OK. The hinting is OK, but the font is somehow "wrong."

It looks OK, if a little choppy in IE

I emailed support@xamarin, and mentally blamed Google Chrome as it's well know they've been having trouble with their Web Font rendering of late. In fact, Jin Yang (@jzy) had to abandon Montserrat, our Web Font of choice, for a more conservative one whilst doing the Hanselman.com redesign due to Google Chrome's poor font rendering on Windows. (It's lovely on Mac.)

I also happened to be at the Xamarin Evolve conference this week, so I mentioned it to the team down there, thinking they could pick another font.

Fast forward, and I'm on the plane, checking my email with Gmail Offline (the HTML5 offline version of Gmail) and noticed this.

These fonts look like crap too!

Helvetica Neue has messed up my Gmail Offline

What's going on here? What's changed? Doesn't it seem like "What's changed?" is the question we engineer-types ask the most?

Well, what's changed is that I gave a talk at Xamarin Evolve this week, and in preparation, installed Helvetica Neue. It's a lovely font and I think it worked nicely for my talk and looked great in PowerPoint.

Helvetica Neue is a nice font for presentations

However, Helvetica is super common font that is mentioned in Stylesheets - often explicitly when CSS is designed on a Mac - and Arial on Windows usually steps in as the replacement on Windows.

The Helvetica Neue font that I installed for my presentation is very poorly hinted (if at all) at small sizes like the one's being used. It's just not a Web Font, and while it's great for the giant sizes I needed for my talk, it's lousy for the web.

Both  IE and Chrome were picking up that my system had a Helvetica available on the system and used it instead. The Stylesheet said "hey, gimme Helvetica" and the browser said "Cool, here's one."

While it's obvious it would have major effects in retrospect, I had never realized that a machine-wide "common" font installation like this could mess up font rendering in my browser. I think the best solution (even though I'm deleting Helvetica Neue) would be to use an explicit Web Font in your stylesheets when possible rather than relying on a system font like Helvetica, even though they are the ultimate fallback. Any designers want to  weigh-in the comments?

Here's Chrome now on Windows with Helvetica Neue removed:

Chrome on Windows looks nice

And IE

IE on Windows looks nice

I hope this post helps someone who might bump into this font issue. My sincerely apologies to the lovely Xamarin employees who took my "bug" seriously! Thanks to Damian Guard for his Font insight!

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. I am a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Windows task manager shows wrong CPU Speed when using Hyper-V

April 11, '13 Comments [21] Posted in Bugs | Tools
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My buddy Damian and I both recently bought the Lenovo X1 Carbon Touch. It's got Intel SpeedStep technology so it changes the CPU speed dynamically based on load. These two laptops of ours are identical. However, here's Damian's Task Manager when mostly idle.His speed is 0.60 GHz

Here's mine.

His speed is 2.49 GHz

What the heck is going on? His CPU is reporting 0.60 GHz of a potential speed of 2GHz, indicating that the chip has chilled out. Mine is reporting "full speed ahead!" at a speed that it doesn't even support, 2.49GHz!

We went around and around on this for a while until we realized that I had turned on Hyper-V Virtualization for Windows Phone Development and my Ubuntu VM. He hadn't.

We installed CPU-Z, a low level and very smart CPU utility and got the truth. In fact, both machines are stepping down, but my Kernel is running within the Hypervisor and it's CPU speed is being reported incorrectly to Task Manager. Task Manager is showing the MAX speed, and not the real (Hyper-V virtualized) speed.

cpuz

lenovocpu

NOTE: CPU-Z is lovely but the Download.com wrapper that they put around it is evil spyware and you need to really pay attention when you install or you'll end up installing a bunch of toolbars. Be warned.

I hope this helps someone! It wasted 30 minutes of my life.

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. I am a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.