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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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Cape Wrath Trail: Ullapool to Sandwood Bay

Herein some words and photos of a recent walk from Ullapool to Sandwood Bay, in the far north of Scotland.

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Back in September 2003 I walked from Shiel Bridge to Ullapool, following the route described by Denis Brook and Phil Hinchliffe in their book North to the Cape. The book described a long-distance walking route from Fort William to Cape Wrath. I’d already walked from Glenfinnan to Shiel Bridge – roughly the first third of their route – and wanted to go further north. After an epic week walking through Torridon and Fisherfield I ended-up at Ullapool, crossing Loch Broom via the small Altnaharrie ferry in its last season of operation. A truly excellent week that I still look back on twelve years later.

The next day was Sunday, and, as there were no ferries to Stornoway on that day back then, there were no buses out either and I had a day to kill. I walked up one of the woodland paths behind the village, up the side of Maol Calaisceig and looked north. More mountains. Cul Mor, the Cromalt Hills, Cul Beag and Meall Dearg, maybe Quinaig. Not as high as the hills I’d passed through, but it looked very remote and romantic. I decided I’d come back and walk up to the Cape.

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This Summer, twelve years and twelve Summer walking trips later, I went back to Ullapool and went North. North to the Cape had evolved into the Cape Wrath Trail – a mostly better route that seemed to be getting increasing amounts of attention – and the gear I was carrying was substantially lighter than twelve years before. The hills were still there, waiting for me.

My route called for about fifteen miles per day; with stops at Duag Bridge, Benmore Forest, Inchnadamph, Glendhu Bothy, a loch near Arkle, and Sandwood Bay. Setting-off on Sunday, my plan was to reach the Cape the following Saturday, leaving the following day to travel home. The total milage would be just short of 100 miles over seven days. I had originally planned to finish at Sandwood Bay as I couldn’t find a way to get back from Cape Wrath within my time constraints. However, late in the planning process, I found a combination of minibus, ferry, and scheduled bus that would work. The timing was tight, so I decided to put off the decision and just see how things worked out.

I’m not going to narrate the walk in detail – solo long-distance walks are rarely exciting in that way – but the first three days went to plan. Here are some pics:

Loch Broom from Ullapool

Loch Broom from Ullapool

Loch Achall

Loch Achall

Loch Achall, looking West to Coire Dearg and Beinn Ghobhlach

Loch Achall, looking West to Coire Dearg and Beinn Ghobhlach

View East from Knockdamph Bothy

View East from Knockdamph Bothy

Riverbank, Glen Oykel

Riverbank, Glen Oykel

Camp at junction of River Oykel and Allt Sail an Ruathair

Camp at junction of River Oykel and Allt Sail an Ruathair

Camp at junction of River Oykel and Allt Sail an Ruathair

Camp at junction of River Oykel and Allt Sail an Ruathair

Evening sky

Evening sky

At Breabag Tarsuinn

At Breabag Tarsuinn

Gleann Dubh and Loch Assynt

Gleann Dubh and Loch Assynt

Inchnadamph

Inchnadamph

I arrived at Inchnadamph late on Tuesday afternoon. Curtains of rain were blowing in off Loch Assynt, and it rained hard all night. Fortunately I was staying in the Inchnadamph Hotel – my mid-walk reward – so I kept dry in the bar.

Next morning the hills were obscured by fog, and a strong easterly wind was bringing the still heavy rain in horizontally from the west. A dreich day. Reluctantly, I decided to take a alternative route to Glendhu bothy: following the road to Ardvreck Castle, a path from Acmore Farm to Loch na Gainmhich, the road again to Kylesku, and then the loch-side path to the bothy. After three days I was tired, and the prospect of a day on rough paths in the fog just didn’t appeal to me.

More pics:

Achmore Farm

Achmore Farm

Achmore Farm

Achmore Farm

Deer near Kylestrome

Deer near Kylestrome

Camping at Glendhu Bothy

Camping at Glendhu Bothy

Leaving Glendhu Bothy

Leaving Glendhu Bothy

Glendhu Bothy is in an amazing setting – fjords and “Wagnerian” come to mind. The bothy was empty when I arrived, and I camped outside as I tend to do. Later three Danish students arrived and we got a fire going using some driftwood I’d carried-in from down the loch. We talked late into the night.

Loch Inchard from Badcall

Loch Inchard from Badcall

At Kinlochbervie I attempted without success to contact the Cape Wrath minibus. My “plan” called for me to leave Sandwood Bay at first light and walk eleven miles over pathless  terrain to get to the Cape Wrath lighthouse in time to meet the second and last minibus back to the ferry at West Keoldale. I knew that the second minibus only ran on request, and if there were enough passengers making the round-trip – which seemed unlikely given the poor weather conditions. Since I couldn’t guarantee not to end-up stranded at Cape Wrath I decided that the walk would end at Sandwood Bay.

And it turned out that Sandwood was a fitting end:

Sandwood Bay

Sandwood Bay

Am Buachaille sea stack, Sandwood Bay

Am Buachaille sea stack, Sandwood Bay

Sandwood Bay

Sandwood Bay

Sandwood Bay

Sandwood Bay

All in all, a magnificent week of walking that was more varied than I’d expected. I still regret detouring in the middle of the week, but on balance I think it was the right decision given the conditions and circumstances. It is possible that staying in accommodation at Inchnadamph, instead of camping, led to me making the decision too easily – but I see no point in second-guessing myself. I was there and I walked the miles. I have some great memories. And I’ll be going back to the far north next year.

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Found UX: Train doors

Train door control buttons. Doors close automatically, so why put the close button at the top and make them so similar? And how does the colour coding help?

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Aftermath

Now that the result is known, some thoughts about the Scottish independence referendum:

1. I consider myself a friend of Scotland. I go there at least one a year, to walk and backpack in its beautiful landscape, and as a nation it feels to me like a better place than England. Going there is not like “going home”, because it isn’t my home, but it has something of that quality about it. This probably shows how easily Scotland is romanticised, but its also how I feel about the place.

2. I was, and still am, broadly in favour of Independence for Scotland. Which puts me in the company of just over one and a half million Scots – a place I’m happy to be. Independence would likely have been a tough ride, economically, for a decade or so. But the referendum was a decision for centuries, not the near future, and I think it would have turned out well in the end.

3. But we are where we are, and politics continues because it never goes away. Around half of the adult population of Scotland, and four percent of the population of the UK, felt and still feel that the UK is no longer their home. Something has to change. A significant proportion of those voting no did so because the Prime Minister promised further constitutional change. Without it, it seems fairly clear to me, the result would have been yes. Constitutional change has to happen, and it is going to have to be a bit more than-who-gets-to-vote-for-what in the London parliament. If serious change doesn’t happen, the UK government loses its legitimacy and authority over Scotland. Totally.

4. There will be a UK parliamentary election in on 7th May 2015. The legislative programme is no doubt already full of measures to charm the voters, and Tory MPs are pushing back against the Prime Minister’s promises. Combine this with the fact that many Scottish Labour supporters will have voted yes and may be feeling rather let down by Labour’s opposition to independence, and we could be seeing a lot more SNP MPs in the Westminster parliament next year. Making Alex Salmond a potential kingmaker in the (likely) event that no party has an overall majority.

5. Anecdotal evidence suggests that younger people made up a large part of of the Yes vote. For some, particularly sixteen and seventeen year-olds, it will have been the first time that they voted. Many have been politicised to some degree by the intense and emotional nature of the campaign. I don’t know how they are feeling this morning, but I suspect that a large number feel let-down not only by politicians but also the older generation – who they may feel voted No out of fear. Whether they turn to anger, political activism, or apathy is too early to say. But the Westminster political system has become optimised for a largely apathetic population, and it will not welcome change.