Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Android telefoniga mobiil-Interneti jagamine läbi Wi-Fi

Seadmete opsüsteemid:
• Samsungi telefonis Android 2.3.6 (eestikeelse kasutajaliidesega);
• arvutil Windows XP SP3, mis on ingliskeelse kasutajaliidese ja Windowsi enda Wi-Fi tööriistadega ühendumiseks.
Mida teha, kui arvutil on ThinkVantage Access Connections

Artikkel eeldab juba nii Androidi-nutitelefoni kui ka Windowsi kasutamise oskust teataval tasemel.

Niisiis selgus kõige alguses, et nutitelefonis peab Wi-Fi ise samal ajal välja lülitatud olema.

Kõigepealt tuleb kindlaks teha, et mobiil-Interneti võrguseaded on enam-vähem korras:
    Seaded  
  • Juhtmevaba võrk ja võrk >
    • Mobiilsidevõrgud >
        Pääsupunktide nimed >
      • Elisa:
        (•) internet.elisa.ee
        wap.elisa.ee või mms.elisa.ee vms asemel.
         
      • EMT:
        (•) internet.emt.ee
        wap.emt.ee või wap2.emt.ee või mms.emt.ee asemel.

        Android nutitelefon võimaldab kasutada nii tavalisi Interneti-lehekülgi kui ka lehitseda wap-lehtedel. Nendel juhtudel, kus mobiiliteenuse paketis on mobiil-Internetile mahupiirangud, mille ületamisel tuleb oluliselt rohkem maksta, on wap-lehtedel lehitsemine odavam. Soodsa paketita kõnekaardi omanikele Android-nutitelefonis mobiil-andmeside ei soovita, kuna paljud teenused ja programmid soovivad automaatselt ühenduda ja kohe andmeid vahetada. Niisugused kõnekaardid sobivad rohkem WAP-lehitsejatega funktsioonitelefonidesse (sh Nokia mitte-Windows nutitelefonid), millega on oluliselt kergem oma Internetiliiklust reguleerida.

Edasi tuleb seadistada Wi-Fi hotspoti (Android 2.3.6-s värdsõna "kuumkoht") juurdepääsupunkt (AP ehk access point) —
    Seaded  
  • Juhtmevaba võrk ja võrk >
    • Modem ja kaasaskantav kuumkoht >
      • Konfig. kaasask. Wifi kuumkohta >

        Võrgu SSID (nimi, mille järgi leiad võrgu üles)
        [Kirjuta oma võrgu nimi. Lubatud on numbrid 0-9 ja tähed A-Z, a-z, sidekriips - ja allkriips _]

        Turvalisus
        Vali [WPA2-PSK]

        Parool
        [Kirjuta tühikuteta vähemalt 8 tähemärki, lubatud on numbrid 0-9 ja tähed a-z (küll mitte suurtähed)]

        [\/] Näita parooli
        — on valik näidata võrguparooli, mille võib Windowsi Notepadis üles kirjutada ja kohe mällu kopeerida (Ctrl+C).

        Vajuta [Salv.] nupule
         

Siiski otsustasin, et enne hotspoti aktiveerimist oleks kasulik mobiilivõrk (pakettandmeside) enne sisse lülitada (võib ka tagurpidi) —

    Seaded  
  • Juhtmevaba võrk ja võrk >
    • Mobiilsidevõrgud >
      • Kasuta pakettandmeside [\/]
        — Kui seda parasjagu vaja pole, ei pea see sees olema.
Nüüd aktiveeri hotspot:
    Seaded  
  • Juhtmevaba võrk ja võrk >
    • Modem ja kaasaskantav kuumkoht >
      • Kaasaskantav Wi-Fi kuumkoht [\/]

        Windowsis otsi Wi-fi võrk ja leia oma võrgu SSID. Vali see ja ühendu.

        Võrguga Ühendumiseks küsib Windows võrguparooli, tihtipeale kahe sisestusväljaga samas dialoogiaknas.
        Sisesta seesama võrguparool, mille oma Wi-Fi võrgu tarvis. Kui tuleb teine väli, siis sinna sama parool uuesti.
        Üleskirjutatud parooli saab kopeerida ja asetada (kleepida) võrguparooli väljale (Ctrl+V).

Ühendumine siis, kui Wi-Fi tööriistaks on ThinkVantage Access Connections

Tingimusteks Windows XP SP3 ja ThinkVantage Access Connections 6.01 (2013, ingliskeelne).

ThinkVantage Access Connections on suurepärane võrguühenduste haldamise programm, mille algselt arendas välja IBM, ning mille arendamist jätkab Lenovo. Access Connectionsi eelis on põhjalik seadistatavus, võimalus luua ja hallata asukohaprofiile ning neid eksportida ja importida ühest arvutist teise. Lisaks kergendab see võrguühenduste haldamist, eriti kui kasutusel on erinevad Windowsi opsüsteemid (XP, Vista, 7, 8, 8.1).

Niisiis järgnev eeldab, et arvuti peamiseks võrguühenduste haldajaks on Windowsi enda asemel ThinkVantage Access Connections (tavaliselt ingliskeelne), mis tuleb kaasa peamiselt ThinkPad sülearvutitega, aga võib-olla ka teiste Lenovo sülearvutitega. Teine eeldus on see, et näiteks kui on Inteli Wi-Fi adapter, siis Inteli Wi-Fi tarkvara ei ole aktiivne ja on maha installitud, kuid adapteri draiverid alles.

Kui hotspotiga nutitelefonil on kõik muud tingimused edukalt täidetud, siis üldine probleem on see, et ThinkVantage Access Connections programmiga ei ole võimalik peale võrguparooli sisestamist Interneti-ühendust saada.

Access Connections on küll palju funktsionaalsem, kuid teatud olukordades mitte nii paindlik kui Windowsi enda võrguhaldustööriistad.

Et kui juba läbi Access Connectionsi oli alguses püütud ühendust võtta, siis Access Connections on juba salvestanud asukohaprofiili, mis kannab mobiiltelefoni AP (access point-i) nimetust. Antud Access Connectionsi versiooniga (6.01) miskipärast ei õnnestunud toimetada äsjaloodud asukohaprofiili, millega ei saanud ühendust (selle ühenduse valiku puhul oli Edit-nupp tuhm). Seega äsjaloodud edutu asukohaprofiil tuli kustutada; Access Connectionsis on sellisel juhul efektiivsem käsitsi uue asukohaprofiili tegemine.

Lahendus seisneb selles, et Wi-Fi seadetes peab konkreetse ühenduse krüpteerimine olema AES ja mitte TKIP.

Kui avada Access Connections põhiaken (tegumiriba märkuste alal must arvuti, mille all juhtmed), siis minna Location Profiles (asukohaprofiilid) vahekaardile, millel ilmub asukohaprofiilide nimekiri.

Eeldusel, et vana ja mittetoimetatav asukohaprofiil on juba kustutatud ning käsitsi uuesti loodud, tuleb seadetes suhteliselt hoolikalt näpuga järge ajada.

Kui Location Profiles vahekaardi nimistus on leitud telefoni AP, valida asukohaprofiil ja klikkida Edit nupule. See kehtib siis asukohaprofiili kohta, mis on saanud eduka ühenduse ja mida saab toimetada.

Aknas Edit Profile: (asukohaprofiili nimi) valida "Wireless Settings" vahekaart.

Et kõik oleks kindel, siis ühenduse tüüp (Connection type) peab olema infrastruktuur (Infrastructure), "Wireless mode" on tavaliselt "Auto". Teisi seadeid (v.a. allolevad) tavaliselt muuta pole vaja.

Kui AP juhtmevabaks turvastandardiks on telefonis valitud WPA2-PSK (Android 2.3.6-s ainuke turvaline valik), siis Access Connections telefoni-wifi asukohaprofiili Wireless Settings vahekaardil on allatulev menüü "Wireless Security Type", kus valida
"Use Wi-Fi Protected Access - Pre Shared Key (WPA-PSK)". Lisaks klikkida Properties nupule, mille järel tuleb ette "Wi-Fi Settings" aken. Seal on järgmised võimalused:
Access point authentication, kus valitud peab olema WPA2-PSK
Data encryption: — Valitud peab saama AES ja mitte TKIP.
Pre-shared key on "Use 8-63 alphanumeric characters (0-9, a-z)"
• Edasi vajadusel sisestada uuesti võrguparool ja vajutada OK.

"Edit Profile" akna "Additional Settings" (täiendavad seaded) vahekaardil on tavaliselt linnuke
\/ Network security juures. Kui vajutada [Settings...] nupule, siis vastutustundlikul kasutajal on tavaliselt välja lülitatud failide ja printerite jagamine, Interneti-ühenduse jagamine, ning sisse on lülitatud Windowsi tulemüür.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Performance optimization of mobile sites

This is in reaction to a post on Google Plus complaining about why the BBC mobile site wouldn't serve large images to a phone that is capable of downloading and displaying them. (This is current practice on many mobile sites, as it were.)

So, the BBC website is also serving developing countries, where the best mobile infrastructure consists of what in advanced economies is essentially legacy technology. For example, only this year did Pakistan begin adopting 3G.

Many sites are not necessarily willing to incur additional bandwidth costs, unless they were ready, willing, and capable of serving very large amounts of content (such as YouTube).

Another typical issue is with designers of lesser websites, who fail to optimize their content.

Mobile data connections incur charges for data, which can be substantial for people with limited budgets. Thus a major factor to consider when designing a mobile site with worldwide viewership is responsible data usage, which then requires designs that are made for the lowest common denominator.

Because when people must pay money to read a website, they will avoid those that are expensive to visit.

AFAIK, there seems to be no easy way for a site to automatically detect if a user is visiting through 2.75G (GRPS/EDGE), 3G or 4G. The best indicator is the user agent string, but that doesn't always tell if the phone is actually on the net via 3G/4G; only that the device is capable of such.

If phones were able to report through the user agent string that they're browsing via 3G/4G, or even better — if a device were able to report its download speed on a certain network/infrastructure, websites would be able to fine-tune the content served to their various visitors. Unfortunately, this would be ripe for abuse, if content providers began actively excluding devices with speeds and connections under a certain threshold.

Another point to consider is that when mobile phone users are tied to a limited data plan, they are not willing to download more than absolutely necessary. This being text, and more would be large images.

A solution could be for mobile users to select which connections they would want which version of site. If people have a limited plan, they'd want small content; if using a dedicated connection over Wi-Fi, they'd be content with bigger images.

There are some solutions (or workarounds), such as one based on cooperation between site and user by implementing cookies to select the lite or heavy site, if such functionality is offered. There are also apps for mobile devices.

Another possibility is for users themselves to specify which version of a site they want to visit at a time, especially if a mobile version is on offer.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Simple maths on image height

It has taken me a while to post new stuff, but since I finally got around to it, I'll post it anyway.

This time, the description of the problem is not in the lede, but hidden somewhere in this post.
I know there may be a much simpler way and I might have even thought about it after creating this post, but the following is just a way to express how I got to it. My best excuse is that I wanted quite a lot of precision and I found the following to be the best way.


Recently I got my hands on a very simple GPRS feature with only a WAP browser as its most advanced feature. It has 600 kilobytes of storage for small sounds and images, and I'd learned to use the WAP browser to download previously down-scaled photos as background pictures to customize the phone.

One problem that I ran into, is that the phone's default main screen UI text showing operator, date and time is in white colour, and this interferes with images that have white elements of it.
At that time I hadn't found out yet that I could customize UI text colour as well as add text shadows. The limited selection of colours, and text shadows made things legible, but not nice-looking, so I decided on keeping the white text.
Usually, this means that I'd only have to choose pictures with coloration that avoid the white colour. But recently I photographed a very beautiful event, and I wanted the phone to contain a picture of it, but in a way that much of the event would stay under UI text, with the sky above the event serving the function of a beautiful background to white text.

The final photo had to have the dimensions of 128x97 pixels (width x height) without the loss of aspect ratio.

I had previously created myself an XCF template image of that size in GIMP to be able to test the background image against the precise UI simulation before using mobile data charges to download the final and best version.

The precision was based on a "screen measure" image I'd saved in the phone to measure how many pixels the main screen text used up height-wise and how much of the background was free.

Out of a height of 97 pixels I measured 46 pixels that are used up by main screen UI text.

This is what I did in GIMP:
  • In the original large photo, I chose a baseline from the bottom of the selection from which I wanted to expand the selection upwards. The baseline was the lowest point from which I wanted to include information in the selection that would make it to the final image, small as it would be;
  • Then I cropped away the parts below the baseline and kept the rest of the photo. That way it was easier to select from the bottom.
  • After that, I raised the selection, but discovered a roadblock, because I didn't know how high I should raise it: I wanted the event to stay more or less just below main screen text, but in such a way that the text and the top of the stage wouldn't touch.

    The trouble, of course, was getting the height right. I kinda knew that trying to get it right 'by hand' just by making a selection and then testing to see how it looks would take too much time.
I knew I had the base information: 97 pixels height, 46 pixels reserved height at the top which I couldn't use, and 51 pixels that I had free.
Yes, I could have just downsized the big image with Shift+T and a 128x97-pixel layer above it to try and get the approximate right size, but that's not enough for a small image that has to be pixel-perfect.
I realized that it should be possible to get to the right height from the selection that encompassed the area that I wanted to stay below main screen text. This became the essential question.

(I didn't really need the width, because I'd use the template image to calculate the width of the selection using the Scale image widget by just inputting the desired height, given that 128x97 were already set as base dimensions.)

I do admit not being very proficient in mathematics. So I found a simple-to-understand online percent calculator and the default operating system calculator. After much trial and error (but hey :-) I got the right calculations and put them in the right order. Then to automate the whole thing so as to spend less time in the future, I proceeded to put these calculations into LibreOffice (I had to separately find out how to do percent calculations there), and eventually got to connect individual calculations into several formulae.

Yes, I am sure there are probably much simpler math formulae for these calculations, but the main one along with adjacent ones works as expected.

Then I turned to Google Docs, which is this awesome thing if you want to share interesting documents with the world,* and made the spreadsheet look nicer for embedding in a blog.

* Note that information that people want to keep private, secure, and in a cloud, should be kept with the companies that meet three criteria: that said companies are headquartered in countries that have strong respect for people's privacy, that the clouds they use are also located in those countries, and that said companies do not have operations in countries that do not respect people's privacy.

So here's the embedded document, and a link to it:
Calculating reserved image height from a selection

So, in the blue column 47 pixels from top of the image is reserved height; if I change it to 46, the other figures will change accordingly. The 'Input free height' cell is where I set the height of the selection that must include everything I want below main screen text; 'Total' is the total height of the selection.

After I get the total height, I use the 128x97-px template image in another window and the Scale image tool where I replace 97 px with the total height, move input focus with the tab button, and the Scale image tool will calculate the right width for me (if height and width values are connected, as in keeping the aspect ratio).

Then I changed the selection in the big image to that size, moved the selection around a bit, copied it, pasted as a new image, and then scaled the image down to 128x97 px. In the scale image tool, I only needed to change the height from 698 pixels to 97 pixels; the width — as the aspect ratio was correct — was then calculated to 128 pixels.

All in all, I had only four tries and not more. That last two consisted of moving the selection around in the big image to more or less center the stage that I had photographed. The right image turned out to be the one at the third try, when I compared the third and fourth tests.

Maybe in the future I'll provide example images to make a visual point of what I wanted to achieve.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Designing content for mobile phones

This one is a short one.

Now, every once in a while a developer has to test their content with a device that is not very widespread, but which form factor is. These are typically mobile phones that are older or just basic. No, not everyone has a smartphone; This may be because of circumstance, or necessity, or for just being a holdover who wants to avoid planned obsolescence on their device. There are millions of these devices in use and there's always a chance someone uses them.

Content in this case is not just a web page or a wap page, but also a background image, which has to fit the screen; or an image in a mobile web page which shouldn't be too large for a screen. So, a background image, which I'd want to fit right across the screen of a phone.

Yes, there are many web pages listing resolutions for numerous device models, and I've even seen several sites that attempt real-life representations of how a mobile phone would appear and look like without necessarily having to buy it, but that's not quite it, because the data is represented in the most convoluted manner, no matter how basic or fancy.

So the solution is this very nice collection of screen resolutions at
http://lab.artlung.com/screen-resolutions
— with corresponding phone models writ inside. These start progressively from the smallest ones at the top to the biggest near the bottom. Each screen resolution is formatted in its own block to the pixel size of what a corresponding device would have, and colour coded progressively from gray to red to indicate how many models each resolution is represented by. Most of all, its very, very simple and intuitive.

This is what I or a developer/content creator really would like to know, because this helps to determine either exact or, as required, the most approximate size of generated content. Often-times browser/user agent statistics don't always reflect the size of a customer's screen, so it's important to know what they are using and how they are seeing the resource that the customers are visiting.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Windows Update not working, error 0x8DDD0018

This can happen with Windows XP (Service Pack 3), but may not be ruled out for Vista and 7.

Windows Update error 0x8DDD0018, by which the Microsoft Update website now very helpfully explains that one or more of these services are not running:
* Automatic Updates
* Background Intelligent Transfer Service (BITS);
* Event Log

Even if all these services are running, and Windows Update refuses to run, then the culprit is the Windows Installer service not being active.

Run services.msc and then start Windows Installer. Refresh the Windows Update website. #worksforme

Sunday, July 7, 2013

ID-kaardi tarkvara seadistamine modernses SeaMonkey lehitsejas

Modernse SeaMonkey lehitseja (näiteks versioon 2.6 ja uuemad) ning ID-kaardi tarkvara töölesaamine on omaette teema, mille kohta ma leidsin, et see vajaks eraldi käsitlust, sest kõik kohe tööle ei hakka. (Nimelt ID-kaardi tarkvara installer end SeaMonkey jaoks õieti ei seadistagi, seega osa asju tuleb käsitsi teha.)

Üldised tingimused, millega kogu krempel tööle õnnestus saada:
* Windows XP (SP2 või uuem; näiteks). Opsüsteemide suhtes tuleks olla siiski suhteliselt agnostiline;
* SeaMonkey 2.6 (ingliskeelne) — on tõepoolest vanem versioon, aga mitte nii vana kui 1.1.xx), seega SeaMonkey 2.xx;
* Oletame, et NoScript ei ole Firefoxis või SeaMonkey-s peal. (ID-kaardi ja NoScriptiga on veel täiendavalt igast jama.)

Nüüd.. eeltingimused peaksid olema sellised:

* ID-kaardi lugeja draiver peab olema installitud; soovitatavalt kõige uuem, mis vastavale opsüsteemile valmis tehtud;
* ID-kaardi tarkvara peab olema kõige uuem, juba peale installitud ning peaks näiteks Firefoxil töötama. Firefoxist veidi allpool, isegi kui tegemist ei ole kasutaja vaikimisi lehitsejaga.

Kuigi ametlikult on toetatud Mozilla Firefox, siis oletatavasti installib ID-kaardi tarkvara kaasaegne versioon EstEID Firefoxi plugina sellegipoolest Windowsi opsüsteemis pluginate üldisesse kataloogi. Sealtsamast kataloogist leiavad Gecko-põhised lehitsejad kõik pluginad automaatselt üles.

Tulemuseks peaks SeaMonkey' pluginate nimekirjas olema
EstEID Firefox Plug-in 3.7.1.1009
Kui see on olemas, siis on pool tööd juba tehtud.

Kui EstEID pluginat SeaMonkey pluginate nimekirjas pole, aga Firefoxis on, siis SeaMonkey-s peaks minema aadressiribal asukohale about:plugins — See peaks panema SeaMonkey ning teised Gecko-põhised lehitsejad otsima üles kõik olemasolevad ja võimalikud pluginad, mis opsüsteem pakub.

Siit edasi tulevad toimingud, mida Firefoxile tehakse automaatselt, aga mis SeaMonkey-s tuleb "käsitsi" teha:
  • Laadida PIN-koodi küsimise moodul turvaseadete hulka:
    Edit > Preferences > Privacy & Security > Certificates > Manage Security Devices nupp:
    Device Manager akna vasakpoolses Security Modules and Devices nimekirjas peaks olema
    Estonian ID Card
     Virtual hotplug slot
     OMNIKEY CardMan 1021

    antud kaardilugeja mudel ^ on Eestis üks levinumaid, aga võib olla ka mõni teine.
    Kui seda pole (milles võib SeaMonkey puhul suhtkoht kindel olla), siis
    * vajutada vasakult nupule Load ja
    * uues aknakeses pealkirjaga Load PKCS#11 Device sisestada
    * Module Name: väljale
    Estonian ID Card
    * Module filename puhul ma annan praegu ette mooduli asukoha, mille leidsin Firefoxist:
    C:\WINDOWS\system32\onepin-opensc-pkcs11.dll
    Selle rea võib sinna nii asetada või kasutada Browse nuppu ja leida moodul failikorjajaga niimoodi üles ja sisestada. Vajutada OK. Device Manager aknas peaks uus moodul nähtav olema ning vajutada OK. Preferences aknas vajutada OK. Teha SeaMonkey-le restart.
  • Edasi tuleb panna SeaMonkey-le kõik Sertifitseerimiskeskuse sertifikaadid. Need on saadavad siit:
    https://www.sk.ee/Repositoorium/SK-sertifikaadid/juursertifikaadid
    Põhimõtteliselt tuleks näiteks tirida sertifikaatide PEM-lingid uuele vahekaardile ja lubada igaühele autentimine vähemalt veebisaitidele [teine ja kolmas linnuke on vastavalt e-postile (e-mail) ja arendajatele (developers)]. Iga sertifikaadi puhul vajutada OK. Mõnedel juhtudel on osad sertifikaadid juba installitud ja SeaMonkey annab sellest lühikese teatega väikeses aknakeses teada. Teha lehitsejale restart.
Põhimõtteliselt peaks asi nüüd töötama.
Et järele vaadata, kas seadistus töötab, minna aadressile
https://digidoc.sk.ee
ja siseneda ID-kaardiga.

Täiendavad seaded:
Preferences > Privacy & Security > Validation
Aktiivsed peaksid olema järgmised seaded:
[\/] Use the Online Certificate Status Protocol (OCSP) to confirm the current validity of certificates;
(*) Validate a certificate if it specifies an OCSP server.
Need seaded ^ peaksid olema vaikimisi sees, aga igaks juhuks tuleks üle kontrollida.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

DataStore.edb and Windows Vista

This here is not so much an instruction, but a use case.

So I got me to look at a Windows Vista system that has been running for quite a long time. With just 1 (one) gigabyte of RAM.

At every operating system start, it would search for updates and the hard disk would thrash alot.

With Resource Monitor I discovered that the oft-accessed file was DataStore.edb, located at
%WINDIR%\SoftwareDistribution\DataStore\

DataStore.edb had ballooned to was the size of 325 MB.

The file is a log file in database format listing the history of all updates installed to the system, and also includes the current status of updates waiting to install.

Now, the typical solution[Yes, Citation needed] to this that I had been looking at on the interwebs has been to create a backup of this file and then delete it. After that, Windows Update won't list the history of all updates installed to the system, and that would be that. < Well, there's more than that :>

Before manipulating DataStore.edb, turn off the Windows Update service, because when that service is active, the DataStore file is in use.

esentutl

For a short while I thought that defagmenting this one file with a command-line tool called esentutl would be the solution, so I wanted to go on with it. The catch was that the tool would not be able to copy the defragmented file to its original location and yielding an error about it, saying that the defragmented TEMP file could still manually be taken to its original location, with the original file replaced. I didn't do it and left it at that.

By the way, the esentutl tool does not list where the .TMP file is located. I eventually found out that it was at the main user data folder of a logged-in user:
C:\Users\username

For a long time I couldn't put my finger on what it was that was not working, and then a month or two later it turned out that I had not been running the esentutl command in Administrator mode.

The full command for defragmenting the file went on like this:
esentutl /d %windir%\SoftwareDistribution\DataStore\DataStore.edb

So I launched Command Prompt as Administrator and the tool did its job as expected. So that was that.

But checking for updates in Windows Update took a lot of time anyway, and the hard disk still kept thrashing when checking for updates.

What happens when removing datastore.edb

Note that you will still have to back up the file, just in case...

Well, Windows Update then knows no history of previous updates and takes a lot of time to check for them. Maybe an hour. Or so, because I assume it will check updates file-by-file for nearly all present Microsoft software. Before, when the still-large datastore.edb file was there, it seemed that the check for updates actually took much, much less time. Since I didn't measure the actual minutes and did not compare, then I can't tell with any reliable numbers as to what the effect was with regards to differences in update checking times.

Anyways, after installing the updates, DataStore.edb was recreated and sported about the same size as before (over 315 MB). So, there is really no point in deleting the file.

Worse is, that there doesn't seem to be any built-in way to merge two separate DataStore.edb files into one cohesive database, if the older database were absent for a short while and another one created anew.

Then I just moved the recently backed-up datastore.edb back, and checking for updates in Windows Update took about ten minutes, including a reasonably minor database refresh on account of the May updates installed in the interim, which was not reflected there.

To avoid Windows Update thrashing the hard drive anyway, it's then best not to have the Windows Update service run with such a low RAM count at all (1 GB); perhaps with the exception of every second Tuesday each month.

So much for now.

28.04.2014 update:

I don't have that Vista computer at hand, or any other Vista computer in any useful proximity, so it's impossible to tell with precision where to optimize wrt Windows Update.

Point being that it's possible to keep Windows Update from checking updates at every startup by making changes in scheduling.
  • I remember there being a scheduler snap-in module in Windows Management Console, which feature-wise in Windows Vista replaced the Scheduled Tasks folder in Windows xp. The Task Scheduler snap-in is alot more complex and allows very granular configuration options.
  • Turning off automatic updates is useful for very experienced users. If the computer has behaved well, then I've usually set the Windows Update service to delayed start. Attempt this at your own risk. Even if the risk is low, it doesn't account for unintended behaviour, especially when making large updates, such as upgrades to Windows service packs.

I also hazily remember a separate update not advertised on Windows Update itself, that also must have improved the situation, if only a bit. The overall result was that the DataStore file was touched only when I launched the Windows Update program.