Category Archives: hardware

Added ATI HD 5670 Graphics card to PC

As I wrote about before My desktop, an HP P6230Y, even with a quad-core chip, the AMD Phenom II X4 810/2.6 Ghz, the Windows Experience Index is just 4.5 due to the low score of the main board graphics (with shared system memory).

The Card

I installed the “HIS HD 5670 IceQ 1GB (128bit) GDDR5 PCIe Display Port (DirectX 11/ Eyefinity)” graphics card. I’m not a gamer, so I picked an average performance video card. My big requirement was noise, I didn’t want to hear another fan. Second was multi-monitor support. Based on reviews the card made by HIS fit the bill.

Catalyst Install Manager Issue

Installing the card was very easy. Open the case and gently push it into the slot, then attach the monitors. Boot, and get a standard VGA screen. Now install the graphics drivers. Oops! They fail. Trying to uninstall any drivers fails. Looked at Process Explorer, but no driver is running. Downloaded the latest driver. Nope. Of course, the error info and Windows Event log are useless unless you have all that arcane knowledge of Windows internals.

Time for web search. The first link had the answer! I followed the last suggestion, using the command line approach.

Experience

Did it make a difference? Wow! Everything runs faster, even things I did not think would make a difference. Now even streaming video services, like Hulu, YouTube, and NetFlix are faster and more reliable. Based on this experience I think even for non-game PC a good graphics card is essential. My son tried Modern Warfare 2 on it. Even he was floored with it. On high settings, the graphics were great and game play was smooth.

Keeping my fingers crossed that the card is ok, just had it two days. Connected it to two monitors with DVI and HDMI connectors. 23″ and 24″ monitors. If I had a DisplayPort cable and adapter I have another monitor I could also attach.

Result

The Windows Experience Index for Graphics is now 7.0:

  • Memory (RAM) 8.00 GB: 7.5
  • Graphics ATI Radeon HD 5600 Series: 7.0
  • Gaming graphics 4083 MB Total available graphics memory: 7.0
  • Primary hard disk 522GB Free (686GB Total): 5.9

Whats with that low storage score, 5.9?

Cons

I noticed that when changing media streams, like one youtube clip to another, there is a momentary glitch on the HDMI connected monitor (ACER P241w [whose text output is ugly]). I think its just Flash format, so far. Am thinking of sending the card back if its a card thing. So far, it could be:

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Cannot print to networked USB printer

So I solved the connection to old printer using a USB to Parallel adapter. Then I find that a laptop cannot print to that printer over the network.

This is where being able to read very quickly comes in handy. I found the solution which really just points to the actual solution here from Paul in Montreal.

I’ll just reproduce the post below, but removing some details about the authors system. It worked for me. Now my family laptop upstairs running Win7 can print to my USB attached HP LaserJet 4P on the PC in the cave downstairs. Thanks Paul!

Paul in Montreal

Posts: n/a
Re: Can’t connect to Network printer – Win98
Hello all,

I’ve found a solution (worked for my setup) that clears the printer offline
problem when printing from a Vista laptop PC over a home network to a printer
connected to a Windows98 desktop PC. I never had this problem with my XP
Home laptop accessing the printers on the Windows98 PC.

….

Here’s the fix:
1. In Control Panel, Printers, delete offline printers. If they wont
delete, it may be because there are pending print jobs in the queue. Open the
printer and Cancel the jobs.
2. In Printer properties, Ports tab, delete the previoulsy installed
printers (offline statuts) that appear as Client Side Rendering Provider
under the Description column. To do this, highlight the port, then click on
Delete Port button. Click Apply.
3. Restart your PC.
4. Now reinstall the printers as follows:
5. Open Control panel, Printers, and click Add a printer.
6. Click Add a local printer.
7. Select the “Use an existing port” radio button, and select LPT1: (Printer
Port). Click Next.
8. Install the printer driver. Mine were found in the list included with
Vista. Select the manufacturer and the printer. Click Next.
9. In the next window, accept the printer name or type in a new name. Leave
the “Set as default printer” box unchecked. Click Next.
10. Vista should now install the printer. A window should open saying
“You’ve successfully added printer name.
11. DO NOT Print a test page at this time, because nothing is connected to
the LPT1 port on the laptop. Just press Finish. The printer you just added
should appear in the Printers window.
12. Click ONCE on the newly added printer to highlight it, then right-click
and open Properties.
13. On the Ports tab, click Add Port…, select Local Port, then click New Port
14. When the Port Name window open, Enter a port name as follows:
computernameprintername
(replace computername with the name of your PC acting as print server, and
printername with the name of your printer). Click OK.
15. You should now have a new port listed on the Ports tab of the printer
Properties, but now the Description should be Local Port, instead of Client
Side Rendering Provider. Click OK.
16. Now you can go to the General tab, and Print a Test Page.

Hopefully, your test page will print. Then restart your computer to check
that the printer comes back online.

This procedure worked for me. Hope it works for you too. Good luck!

Updates
Sep 19, 2010: Now another older laptop does not connect to the new printer location. This one is a Windows XP and it complains about access. I guess this has to do with the laptop not having credentials on the printer “server”. This is not good, who wants to be the IS admin at home? I don’t get it, years of AI research, UI improvments, and more powerful hardware, yet still we are managing information systems like its 1988.

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USB to Centronics Adapter on Windows 7

I was using an old laptop’s parallel port to connect to my old but reliable Hewlett-Packard Laserjet 4P printer. Time to try an adapter instead. It works!

Parts:
1. Radio Shack part number 260-0184: Gigaware 6-ft. USB-A to Centronics Parallel Printer Cable.
2. HP P6230Y Desktop
3. Windows 7 Professional

The bad part. The adapter does not list Windows 7 as a supported OS. For Vista, the instructions say you don’t need the CD with the drivers. So, I just tried it. Put the cable in the PC’s rear USB port. Windows reports that the drivers installed correctly. The device is:
Name: USB Printing Support
Device type: USB controllers
Location: Port_#0001.Hub_#0002

Install Drivers
Now install a new printer using the Windows Control Panel, Devices and Printers. Of course, it did not work. Choosing LPT1 won’t work, obviously. But, there was no selection for a USB name in the Local Port dialog. Hmmm. Time to look for drivers maybe? I searched but did not find anything for this. Luckily I stumbled onto this forum topic “old printer won’t work this new computer“. Some people there had luck with setting the local port of the new printer to USB001. That didn’t work either, when I tried it said the port was already in use or allocated.

I removed all the printers that I installed trying to get this to work and tried again. I think my last attempt I still used USB001. Success! A test page printed. In the Printer’s Property page the Port used is listed as: USB001 Virtual Printer port for USB.

I think the problem was all of those failed attempts that did add the printer but incorrectly. Makes no sense. Anyway, I hope this helps someone in some way.

Now what to do with that old laptop? Reinstall the old WinXP OS so it can run at 1980 speeds at least.

Updates
12/17/2011: Printer adaptor still working great!

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Add 2nd hard drive to HP p6230y desktop

My old Laptop finally reached its end, too slow.  Looked into building a new PC but found a good enough PC:  cheap, quiet, and not slow.

I was going to document how to install the new hard drive.  I saw a few pleas on the web on how to do this with this particular system; if it is even possible?  Of course, the PC’s manual is useless and there is no info on the motherboard being used.  But, the new hard drive I put in did not work on first try!  Was it DOA?  Does this board or OS require complexity?

The PC

The HP Pavilion P6230y is nothing to write home about, but was certainly inexpensive and much lower then any build your own I was considering. Its lowest Windows Experience Index is a measly 4.5 due to its onboard graphics that shares system memory, and with a Power Supply of just 400W cannot accommodate a gaming graphics card.  Nevertheless, so far I have not experienced any lack of power.  The  AMD Phenom II X4 810/2.6 GHz quad processor and 8 GB RAM is enough to multitask to my hearts content.

The best part of this PC is that it is quiet.  Very quiet.  And, the Hard Drives it now has, contrary to people’s reviews on some hardware sites is quiet too.

BTW, why don’t hardware review sites list the noise from any system under review?

Jan 1, 2016: This PC just bit the dust too. I mention this in this post.
Replaced with another cheap PC:
– Asus M32CD
– Windows 10
– Intel Core i5-6400 CPU @ 2.70Ghz
– 8.00 GB RAM
– 1 GB HD

Windows Backup

Anyway, the built in Windows 7 backup has a hard time backing up to my NAS, an old noisy Infrant X6.  I backup to an external USB drive, but to be doubly safe I wanted to install a second hard drive to mirror the primary.  Supposedly, Windows 7 can do software based mirroring.

Mirroring or RAID

Why mirror and not RAID?  RAID is not really all that safe.  Sure the data is ‘safer’, but the data is now hidden in the RAID format, and if you lose the controller, its gone (no guarantee that RAID volumes can migrate to a new controller). 

Furthermore, you can’t take a RAID volume and use it directly in another non-RAID system. Not sure if this is also true for RAID1, mirroring.  Todo!

Anyway, software RAID will be much bigger as systems get more powerful. Here is a recent article on Intel’s allowing this much easier.

The New Drive

Buying a hard drive is not easy.  Which is the best or most reliable? Reading the opinions can be confusing.  I read some reviews and searched the web for the definitive assessment.  There isn’t any.  So, I just settled on one after I hope was my filtering of bogus opinions.

The primary hard drive in this PC is a ST3750528AS Seagate Barracuda 7200.12 SATA 3GB/s 750GB Hard Drive.  The new hard drive is a Western Digital Caviar Black WD1001FALS-00E3A0 which is 1TB 32MB Cache SATA at 3GB/s.  This drive sells for about $99.00 Bare Drive, amazing!  I also needed the SATA cable and just in case, another power supply cable Y-connector.  I bought two SATA cables that were on sale.

Installation

Installing the new drive was easy.   You just need a lot of light and some manual dexterity to align the cables and gently but firmly get everything attached.  The PC case already has a slot for a second drive though you’ll need to purchase or scrounge for the screws to attach it to the cage.

I installed the drive, now the smoke test….

Turn On

Nothing.  The drive was not detected when I booted the PC.  Nothing in the BIOS screens.  Is the drive DOA?  No ……. !  Should I have listened to the reviews on NewEgg?

Troubleshooting

Fortunately, I am no stranger to hardware and so started my troubleshooting of the issue.   There were a few easy possibilities:

  1. BIOS settings
  2. Drive DOA
  3. Drive dip switches
  4. Windows configuration
  5. Power supply cable
  6. SATA cable

I booted the PC and got into the BIOS settings (I thought BIOS was history on PCs?).   Nothing I could decipher that had relevance.  There was stuff about the built-in RAID, but did not seem relevant.  Plus, some inscrutable settings.  Well, BIOS screens have not improved in the years since I last built my own homebrew (years ago).

Looked at the jumper pins on the drive.  According to the drive case docs and the WD web site, no changes were required.

The Windows 7 sites said the BIOS must detect the drive before Windows can do anything with it.  Makes sense, that’s how I thought it should work.

So maybe the power cable was bad?  Put my Fluke Multimeter on it.  Had the voltages.  Just in case, I took another cable coming from the PC case’s power supply, but still nothing.  Maybe its the SATA cable?

Switched the SATA cable (I bought two).   Nothing.

That leaves me with the only possibility that the drive is just defective.  One last test.  I took an external SATA enclosure I have, took out its hard drive, and plugged in the new one.  It works!  Now what?

I doubt its the power supply so maybe its the cable or the cheap motherboard really doesn’t support more drives.  I doubt a MB could be that cheap, especially since it has so many SATA ports.  But, I switched SATA cables, could two SATA cables be bad?  Ah, I know, I switched cables on the old working drive with the new cable, and the old drive stopped working!

How frustrating!  Its Sunday, but maybe I can find a cable in a bricks and mortar shop, like Staples.  They don’t have it, the local Radio Shack either.  Another store has it and it’s about $10.00.  The two cheap SATA cables I bought on line were about $2.00 each.  They have the Gigaware SATA cable and it works.  Lesson:  Don’t buy cheap junk.

I was planning to make this post a howto for this type of PC, but the SATA cable issue ruined it.  Now I don’t have the screen captures and the optimal steps.

Did I use Windows Active Drives to sidestep RAID1?  Nope.  Did a bunch of searching on this and it does not look reliable.  The PC comes with RAID already, but no documentation.  So, I still have not created the target configuration.  Needs more work.

Links

adding a SATA hard drive to the HP p6230y… where’s the power?:  http://h30434.www3.hp.com/t5/Hardware/adding-a-SATA-hard-drive-to-the-HP-p6230y-where-s-the-power/td-p/150976

Motherboard Specifications, H-RS880-uATX (Aloe)

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Fixing Fullscreen Multimonitor Display Using VirtualBox

On my dual monitor setup running with Windows 7 (and prior versions), if you have a full-screen video on one monitor and click on an app in the other monitor, the video stops running in full-screen mode.  There is a probably a fix for this; I even think I’ve fixed this before a few years ago.  But, instead of wasting time searching for that solution, I found that with a Virtual Machine, you can sidestep this issue.

With a Virtual Machine running in a PC you can run a video in full screen mode and still use the PC for other things and not have those pesky loss of full-screen mode when you click on another monitor.

This is my setup.  I’m running Ubuntu 10.04 LTS Linux distribution, code named Lucid Lynx, as a guest OS in Windows 7 using VirtualBox version 3.1.6.    The full screen video (in FireFox browser) runs in the guest OS.  Sites  used:  Hulu, netflix, YouTube.

Now this is why Quad Core processing rocks!

Addendum

1.  Not all apps experience problems with fullscreen mode:  See this faq at the multimon site.

2.  “How To Keep Flash Videos Full-Screen On A Second Monitor”  I didn’t try the suggestions at this site.

3.  Another link.

4. VirtualBox can read the host’s CD/DVD, however this is as a data source not a video or audio source.  shucks.

5. Oct 21 2010: Microsoft’s SilverLight can do full-screen lock and avoid this problem. It’s working on my system. Groovy!

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Will Smartphones and Smartpads become commodities?

By 1976 the portable calculator market was saturated with cheap low profit devices.  It was the quick advance in miniaturization, packaging, and manufacturing that brought the price down yet still allowed more features to be added.

Today the smartphone is relatively expensive and made affordable with lock-in plans and/or proprietary content channels.  This is exemplified by the Apple products like the iPhone.  However, as in the calculator business, the hardware will be further miniaturized and componentized so that any manufacture or a few OEM will be able to have a sustainable business model to make them.  The OS will become standard on some platform (Android?) as it is for PCs where Microsoft’s products are still predominant.  When this happens smart devices will become a commodity.

The cheapification is starting now. For example, Nokia is bringing out very cheap phones for the masses.

Of course, there will be niche markets for high-end or specialized smartphones just as there are now for calculators (like those with financial functions).   These will not be a big money maker.

Are there any new devices to take the place of smartphones and provide that profit margin again?   I don’t think so.   Many visions of mobile computing were made prior to the actual experience of an always-on network available wherever one travels.   Geek rapture was and is in Ubiquitous Computing where every surface could become your own personal console, you don’t lug around some device and the associated power supply issues.  With Virtualization technologies and high-speed wireless networks this is within reach, only the GUI breakthrough to make any surface interactive, a touch screen, is currently missing. Mobile projection devices, flexible membrane displays, and other technologies will make this happen.

Today’s techie sporting the iThis or iThat will be tomorrow’s dinosaur afraid to immerse their avataric selves into the telepresence of the social consciousness.

Links

Ten Essential… dirt-cheap voice phones
Android Sales Overtake iPhone in the U.S.

Ubiquitous Computing

 

 

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Dual-Screen, E-book Reader, Hyperlinking Text with Multimedia

“I would have made it into more of a a larger appointment book or day planner form factors.  It would come in ”

Wrote this a while ago.  Was in my drafts list.

Dual-Screen, E-book Reader, Hyperlinking Text with Multimedia

via Spring Design.   Now that is a relatively good design. Reminds me of the rumored B&N “Nook” reader.

I would have made it into more of a a larger appointment book or day planner form factors.  It would come in three sizes:

  • Pocket (89 x 165mm)
  • Journal (140 x 216mm)
  • Notebook (216 x 280mm)

These sizes and names are based on the Day-Timer product line.  Here is their size help page.  The ebook would open like a traditional planner and the left side would contain the Electronic Paper Display (EPD) and the right the LCD display.  The spine would have the smart buttons like another rumored e-book.

I think I agree with commentators that Apple will probably comes out with a real contender if they produce a tablet system.  Though this is not a given since the Android based systems will invariably grow into various form factors.  Reminiscent of the ubiquitous PC design despite Mac’s allegedly being better designs.   See this post:  “Large-Screen Kindle Won’t Mean Squat if Apple Tablet Arrives“.

Update, 1/27/2010: The iPad from Apple is out.  It is beautiful!  Supports EPub standard and Apple will open an IBookstore.  This changes the mobile market.   Here is a sample add on youtube.

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Can’t add a network shared printer to new Windows 7?

I had a problem installing my old HP Laserjet 4P printer that I can only access thru an old laptop’s parallel port (remember those giant cables!).   Could not do it.  Luckily Google search is so powerful, found help right away.   However, the page is on a Microsoft help forum.    I can certainly understand the page, but how can the “normal” end user do so?   I don’t think most can.  In fact, the page doesn’t really spell out how to perform the alternative process.  It’s an arcane ‘trick’ to install the correct 64bit driver, which then allows the network printer (32 bit driver?) to be installed.

With the billions Microsoft makes you’d think someone could take that information on the page and generate a solutions page, giving step by step instructions.  Or what ever happened to all that Bayesian Help System super technology?   Anytime I use the troubleshooter, its helpless.

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