Friday, October 13, 2006

Finding a decent notebook... apparently impossible? I just want a notebook with a dual-core x64 CPU (i.e. Turion X2 or Core 2 Duo), WSXGA(+) 14/15.4" screen, reasonable spec which includes some reasonable graphics card. I guess I must be in the minority..

So far I have only found about four matches:

Samsung X60 MWM
  • Core 2 Duo T7200 2 GHz, 1GB RAM, 100GB hard drive, 15.4" WSXGA+ screen, ATI Mobility Radeon x1600.
  • ~£1100
Samsung X60 HWM
  • Core 2 Duo T7400 2.16 GHz, 2GB RAM, 120GB hard drive, 15.4" WSXGA+ screen, ATI Mobility Radeon x1600.
  • ~£1430
Acer TravelMate 8215WLMi
  • Core 2 Duo T7200 2 GHz, 2GB RAM, 160GB hard drive, 15.4" WSXGA+ screen, ATI Mobility Radeon x1600 .
  • ~£1550
Acer Ferrari 5005WLMi
  • Turion 64 X2 TL-60 2 GHz, 2GB RAM, 160GB hard drive, 15.4" WSXGA+ screen, ATI Mobility Radeon x1600, HD DVD-ROM.
  • ~£1550
The Acer models seem overpriced compared to the (first) Samsung model, £1550 seems like too much. But that's not exactly the main problem. Did I mention that none of these models are actually in stock on any UK website?

If you have any suggestions for a good laptop model that roughly matches my requirements feel free to leave it as a comment below. Lookout for an update when I buy my new laptop!

On-board audio - does it ever work?

I am more and more regretting my purchase of the M2N32-SLI Deluxe motherboard (over the Gigabyte GA-M59SLI-S5). Since I have started to use the on-board ADI1988b audio (after having to pull my Audigy out of the computer) I have noticed a slight intermittent problem: no sound. Yes, randomly (after boot-up) the rear line-out is not outputting any sound (although turning up my speakers to full volume yields some faint resemblance of what I should be hearing). However, plugging my speaker cable into the headphone socket on the front of my tower gets me sound again. Then plugging it back into the rear of my tower, and restarting the computer would also get me my sound back - as well as a "New audio device connected message" straight after boot-up from the AudioESP feature. Great...

So, judging by the message, I thought (naturally) that it was AudioESP at fault for this. I disabled it, but alas the problem has continued since. So for now I am stuck with plugging my speakers into the headphone socket, until I find a solution.

Also quite funny is how they include a file in the sound driver with the following line repeated again and again: "This is a "dummy" CAT file to take up space and pretend it is not useless". Hmmm... inspires confidence, doesn't it? ;)

Update: Seems to be a bug the the 4560 version of the driver. Reverting to 4530 fixed it.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

The Joys of Owning a Computer...

Asus M2N32-SLI Deluxe + XFX 7900GT + Zalman VF900-Cu = No Go

So, after my supposedly high end 7900GT fell to pieces, I thought it may be worthwhile investing in a Zalman VF900-Cu cooler for my warranty replacement 7900GT when it arrives (in the hope it would protect me against the fan failing again). So I check Zalman's website - great, its compatible with my 7900GT, so of I go to order the thing...

A few days later, everything arrives, so I put the card and the VF900 together. It was fairly straightforward and didn't pose any real problems. But then came installing the card into my PC - and I hit a big snag. It turns out the cooler is compatible with my card, but not quite my Asus M2N32-SLI Deluxe motherboard it seems! Behold the photo I took below:

As you can roughly see, the 4-pin 12V connector on the motherboard is now obstructing the screw/bolt on the back of the card, and the card will not slot in! Yes, great design on Asus's part by putting the 12V connector in such a stupid place.

In the end I had to sacrifice my Audigy sound card in the top PCI slot and put the 7900GT in the bottom PCI-E x16 slot. It is also now pretty much touching the PCI card in the bottom slot and causing bad heat build up there. Of course I don't have much choice - the stock fan is loud enough to be heard upstairs!

In summary, if you have the Asus M2N32-SLI Deluxe motherboard, and a 7900GT, don't even think about putting the VF900 on it! Hell, it's even a good enough reason to avoid the M2N32-SLI Deluxe board for me!

Friday, October 06, 2006

Mmmm... Toasted 7900GT for breakfast please!

So, you happily set up Vista RC1 to install and leave your computer alone whilst it does so. But when you come back, the monitor is off... strange. Computer doesn't seem to be doing anything, so you give it several minutes but nothing happened and you are left with no choice but to restart the thing. Lo and behold, monitor is on again, everything seems OK. You boot from Vista DVD just in case it happened again, but everything is OK so you restart. Sh*t! Monitor turns goes into standby again and then Vista starts booting. It takes ages - seems to still be installing, so turning computer off doesn't seem really like the smartest of ideas. After ~20 mins, computer reboots... hmm it reboots again... in fact it's rebooting continuously and not even POST-ing!

Yes, that is exactly what happened to me! My first thought was to try and clear the CMOS memory. So, I popped of the side of my computer to be greated by a sight: the heatsink had fallen off my beautiful 7900GT! I could not believe what had happened and I still don't now!

Apparently, the card massively overheated (probably the fan failed). We are talking of temperatures of possibly 200C in order for the solder to melt. So much for the card's overheat auto shut-down capability then! Very very luckily the heatsink hit the cable lying underneath it - otherwise it could have done a lot of damage!

Here are several photos for your amusement:

Melted plastic is always a good sign (Hint - look in the top-right of the photo). Not to mention the drips of solder!

Mmmm... toasty!

Canon i865 under Windows XP x64 Edition?

Yes, you can get the Canon i865 printer working on Windows XP x64 Edition with proper drivers :) It just takes some creative thinking... Here are the steps you can take to get this working.

1. Download a build of Windows Vista x64 Edition. I used build 5728. Build 5600 (RC1) is available here. Update: RC2 now available!
2. Install it in VMware or Virtual PC under XP x64 using shared NAT networking. You can install it without a Product Key and it will work for a few days. Virtual PC and VMware server are both free to download. I used VMware, but be aware - you may have trouble installing this build on VMware. The solution for installing RC1 under VMware can be found here.
3. Once Vista is up and running, open the control panel, enter classic view, and open the printers page. Choose Add new printer (on the top row), and select Local printer, on port LPT1. Now select the printer from the list (manufacturer: "Canon", printer: "Canon Inkjet i865"). Finally, set up the printer for sharing, by right clicking on it in the printers page, selecting "Sharing..." and tick "Share this printer".
4. You also need to set up Vista for sharing. For ease of use, from the Network and Sharing Center in Control Panel, its easier to turn off the "Password protected sharing". Make sure printer sharing is enabled too. It's also helpful if Vista and XP are both set on the same workgroup.
5. Next, from XP open Windows Explorer, access the Vista computer from the network. Right click on the printer and select "Connect..." This will install the printer driver locally on your XP installation. Note: Usually the Vista computer will be listed under "View workgroup computers" in My Network Places. If not, you can manually enter the name of the Vista computer in the form \\VistaComputerName in Windows Explorer.
6. Lastly, you need to set up the printer in XP. Simply select the "Canon InkJet i865" driver from either the Add New Printer wizard, or the printer's properties page if the printer was already installed using another driver.
7. You can delete the Vista virtual machine now if you wish.

I should mention there is an easier method of using the Pixma iP4000 driver. However, this has some disadvantages (no cartridge level monitoring etc.)

It's also not possible to just copy the driver from Vista in a more straightforward manner, because it uses Vista's UniDrv.dll as well.

Happy printing!