Dell Model Numbering

Dell logowxyz where
w is the family series
x is the screen size
y is the model number
z is the type of device.
0 standard device
5 detachable (ie. tablet device)
9 convertible

So for a Dell Latitude E6640, that translates to
6 series
14 inch screen
4 model
0 standard laptop

Finding device drivers with the PCIDatabase

Imagine you have a “No name brand” Ethernet card, without a driver disk or CD.

You plug it into your computer, and Device Manager can’t find the drivers for it.  If you get the Vendor ID and the Device ID from the Hardware ID Property Field in Device Manager:
Device Manager

And then you take those ID’s; and do a search with the Device ID on PCIDatabase.com
PCIDatabase_Search

After you press Search, you get results like these:
PCIDatabase_results

You can see multiple devices were returned for Device ID 1681.  But if we check the Vendor ID, we can see we have a Broadcom 57xx Gigabit Integrated Controller.  So we can now go to the Broadcom site and grab the correct Ethernet driver.

Performance: Windows XP, the now “Classic” OS and Solid State Drives.

With my last post, I mentioned that there are 3 things you should do with SSD drives on Windows XP.  I left 4 other things out, because I honestly didn’t think they’d make any performance difference.

I was wrong.

With the Intel X-18M 160B drive I tested, I saw a sustained performance improvement of 3.3%.  And a maximum total performance increase of 12.6%.

What I did % cumulative improvement change over no changes
Turn off Windows PreFetcher.
Turn on Large System Caching
Disabled System Restore
+1.01%
Turned of NTFS Last File Access Date feature. +1.94%
New Intel SSD Firmware +3.38%
Partition Alignment    0%

“What about this 12.6% improvement?”, you ask.

I installed the Intel SSD Toolbox utility, and ran the SSD Optimizer option.  This option causes the SSD to perform a TRIM operation.  TRIM support is a good thing

To understand what TRIM support is, you first need to understand how solid-state drives work. SSDs use NAND flash memory to store and transfer information. This flash memory is created up of small "pages" and groups of pages are called "blocks." When you tell your computer to delete a page on the solid-state drive the page isn’t actually deleted – it is merely marked for deletion. This is because data can only be deleted in blocks. You cannot delete individual pages on an SSD. Later on, when you tell your computer that you need the space, the pages marked for deletion are grouped into a block and the whole block is wiped clean. This process slows down the solid-state drive when it is writing.
Top Ten Reviews – What is TRIM Support?

So, in other words, the TRIM command frees up the deleted pages on your SSD, at the time you run the TRIM command.  Over time, the amount of deleted pages will build up, and your drive performance will get worse.

Conclusion
Yes, it’s worth doing these changes to your Windows XP to support your new Solid State Drive.  If I had to rate what I’d do first, I would install the latest SSD Firmware.  And then run a “TRIM” command.  Partition alignment may work for some configurations, but made nil difference when I tested it.

Update: 7th Nov.  Updated post to include details of partition alignment results.

“PC won’t start”

The friend explained that their PC wouldn’t start up.

“Where do you keep it?”, I asked.

‘On the floor’, was the reply.

“You need to give it a clean, it’s full of dust.”, was my psychic reply.

This friend keeps multiple pets, dogs/cats/birds/lizards.  The poor PC was sucking all the assorted animal dust/fur off the floor, for the last two years, and finally gave up.

So they cleaned the PC, and it still wouldn’t start.  They passed it over to me to look at.  When I opened the PC case, the video card cooling fan looked like this:

dirty card

(yes, that’s dust which has defied gravity and managed to bind upside-down to the heat-sink)

So I pulled the PC apart and cleaned it.  Slowly re-assembled it, and it all worked.
(and the PC spent the next 2 hours applying Microsoft Windows updates, which it hadn’t done since May last year.)

When I gave the PC back, I noticed I’d missed a spot. Sad smile

Hand-held scanners are still crap, even at $99

Saw this advertised the other day:

HandyScanThis portable scanner is a magic wand that will scan and capture books, photos, letters and important documents.

Scans without the need to have a computer attached.
You can copy photos from someone else’s album, scan a borrowed recipe instead of writing it out laboriously by hand, or download text from reference books anywhere and anytime.

The device can store more than 30,000 pages when used with Micro SD cards up to 32GB (2GB provided) , and connects to your computer for easy drag-and-drop transfer.

A hand-held scanner was the first item on my 7 crap IT products I shouldn’t have brought post.  While the specifications have improved, and the size has shrunk, these devices still produce a sub-standard scan.

Instead, go and buy something like a Canon LiDE flatbed scanner.  I’ve been using them for years and are very happy with them.  A Canon LiDE scanner like this one perhaps:

Setting up wireless IP cameras–some further bits

Back on the 5th December, I wrote about how to setup outdoor wireless surveillance cameras.  I’ve had a couple emails asking questions, so here are the replies:

What do you get in the box?

WiFi Camera Components

  • WiFi Camera
  • WiFi Aerial
  • 110/240v –> 12v power supply, with US plug-type
  • US to Australia power adapter.
  • Ethernet cable
  • Mounting base & screws
  • Installation/instruction manual CD.

What was the easiest way to adjust the “camera view”?

Netbook and camera

I used a portable (WiFi-enabled) netbook to determine camera placement and to also help with final camera view adjustment.

Run into any unexpected problems?

Two:

  1. The WiFi cameras “reset” themselves every 4-7 days.  As both cameras reset at the same time, my guess is that the power to the house “drops” out.  A UPS will fix that.
     
  2. If you enable the “motion alarm”, and then hang clothes on the clothes line, do not be surprised if you receive 100’s of emails.  This is because the clothes on the clothes line are swaying because of wind.
    Now I remember to disable the motion alarm before I place clothes on the line.

Setting up wireless IP cameras

With Nikki coming to stay, I expected that she would have some “separation anxiety” issues.  I wanted to make sure she wasn’t fretting too much when I was not home.  So I though, the least I could do is set up a couple of “webcam” type cameras.

  1. Ideas I discarded
  2. What I decided
  3. Parts needed
  4. Problems along the way
  5. Lessons learnt
  6. “Ok, so you’ve babbled on, what do the installation images look like?”

1. Ideas I discarded

A PC with a WiFi card and webcams attached.
The drawback was that the webcam’s USB leads would be only a 1 metre long, limiting the placement of the cameras.

A commercial solution
All the solutions I looked at DID have wireless, but were not internet connectable/remotely accessible.

2. What I decided

While I was searching for cameras, I stumbled across one of these:
IP Camera

It’s a WiFi / Ethernet cabled outdoor IP camera, with 36 LED for night use.  But more importantly, it is self contained.
ie. it has it’s own computer.

This means it is able to do motion detection and then email the pictures(s) to a web site (via FTP) or an email account (via SMTP.

You can also “logon” to the camera and remotely view what the camera is capturing.

3. Parts needed

2 x Wireless Outdoor Waterproof Nightvision IR WIFI 36 LED IP Camera Network ($135.00)
(eBay tomtop_sales link above…  DealXtreme link here)
1 x 5 metre CCD Camera Power Extension Cable ($9.95)
1 x CCD Camera Power Splitter – 2 metre  ($13.95)
1 x Switchmode Regulated Mains Adaptor 12VDC 2.5A ($29.95)
6 x Nylon ceiling anchors with screws ($2.00)

4. Problems found.

The supplied power supply (12VDC 1.0A – US-type plug with adapter).
The adapter plug felt far too loose to me.  I could have held it together with a couple of cable ties or elastic bands.  I decided to purchase a replacement power supply (listed above).  At 2.5A, it allowed me to replace both US-type power supplies with one Australian-type supply.

Motion detection
If you enable motion detection, and the camera overlooks your clothes line, don’t be surprised if you receive a email every 30 seconds.  This will be because the clothes blowing in the breeze will trigger the motion sensor.

WiFi signals
I had intermittent dropouts when I was viewing both cameras via their web browser interface.  I’m putting this down to my old WiFi router.  Replaced it with a newer WiFi router and the problem went away.

Internet access to the cameras.
This was unreliable as well.  Replacing the WiFi router fixed this problem as well.

5. Lessons learnt

Speaking to lots of people gave me lots of suggestions and ideas.  Some of those were:

Power extension cables
(never knew these existed for 12V cables).

Set up an email account for each camera, and sync these to your phone.
So when motion detection is trigger, you receive an email with the images.
If you sync the email accounts to your smartphone/iPhone, you’ll get near instantaneous warnings.

Separate HTTP “web” ports for each camera
IP Camera - http portIn the picture left, I’ve highlighted that I’ve used port 45.  So the web address for this camera is http://192.168.10.98:45.

The other camera’s web address is http://192.168.10.97:44.

“Why the different ports?”, I hear you saying.
Well in the case of most home users, your ADSL modem is going to have only one “public” internet address.  Let’s say mine is http://118.56.23.34.  From the internet, the only way I can distinguish these cameras is via the port address.  So camera one is http://118.56.23.34:45 and camera two is http://118.56.23.34:44.

6. “Ok, so you’ve babbled on, what do the installation & images look like?”

Installation
IP Camera - installation -1IP Camera - installation -2

Day time and night time shots:
yard - day timeyard - night time

 

With thanks to:
Rebecca, Elyse, Aaron, Murray, Andrew, Allan & Adrian

Questions anyone?

I’m not going to miss this “I’ve bent a PIN” problem.

bent pinThis, pictured right, landed across my desk today.

The end user told me “I’ve bent a drive pin, can you fix it.”

‘Maybe’

The problem with trying to fix this kind of problem, is that one of two things can go wrong:

  1. the male pin snaps off as you try and straighten it, or
  2. the male pin breaks off, inside the (female) plug.
    And the end user doesn’t thank you for it, if it does break.  “That had a business report on it, with a critical deadline … “

Today, the God of Technology was with me, and neither 1 or 2 happened.  I sent the end user away with some terse words.

The strange case of the HP Presario CQ61 laptop

CQ61-135TUThe user reported,

When I use Microsoft Word, the keyboard randomly selected all text and deletes it.  This doesn’t happen when I use an external keyboard.

I’ve seen this behaviour myself.

The Presario CQ61-135TU is using Microsoft Windows Vista.

A number of IT folks have looked at the problem and not been able to fix it.  One chap managed to break a key off the keyboard.

There doesn’t seem to be any virus infections on the laptop.  The BIOS version is F.03, and the latest version on the HP website is F.23.  The problem does occur with a (Windows 7) WinPE boot disk.

So if it was my laptop I’d upgrade the BIOS version to F.23 and if that didn’t work, upgrade the laptop to Windows 7.

I’ll have to get back to the user and see what they want to do.