Will technology ever catch up?

Archive for the ‘Hardware’ Category

Hardware: Intel Builds 80-Core Chip

Posted by cascadehush on January 22, 2007

Intel Builds 80-Core Chip That Uses Less Power Than A Quad-Core – News by InformationWeek:

Researchers have built the prototype to study how best to make that many cores communicate with each other. They’re also studying new designs for cores and new architectural techniques

This is the crux of the matter. How do you get a bunch of cores talking to each other when the number of possible communications paths increases somewhat exponentially to the number of cores. This creates a diminishing return, with each additional core providing less of a performance benefit than the previous one. And how does one design operating systems and software to take advantage of them.

I simply don’t think that the software will be there in the timeframe that Intel are projecting for their hardware releases.

The Superscalar architecture of the Prescott Pentium 4 CPUs was somewhat a failure because software was simply not built the way Intel had hoped. Likewise I suspect that Intel is going to have to stop creating more and more cores per chip, because the operating systems will not exist that can manage them.

Posted in Hardware | Leave a Comment »

Web: Google Trends – iphone

Posted by cascadehush on January 21, 2007

Google Trends: iphone
As of this writing, most people searching for the word iPhone on Google are from Greece. Or at least that’s what the graph looks like. I’m not sure what statistical methodology is used, it it’s some kind of pro-rata, per population thing… But that’s not the point.

Does Greece have terrible mobile phones?

Does no-one in Greece know how to get to the Apple site?

Has the Greek press given Apple particularly high-profile coverage but lacking in detail?

Are the Greek simply tech-savvy riders of the bleeding edge?

Or are there a lot of retired mobsters sitting on their yachts in the Adriatic with nothing better to do than search google for new ways to spend their ill-gotten gains?

Who knows.

I just thought it was a bit weird.

(Should there be any Greeks reading this, i’d appreciate any local insight you might have.)

Posted in Hardware, iPod, Opinion, Rant | Leave a Comment »

Hardware: Western Digital Data Lifeguard Tools error codes

Posted by cascadehush on January 9, 2007

Western Digital, like many harddrive manufacturers, provide a free diagnosis program. The Western Digital Data Lifeguard Tools will either report the drive as error free, or spit out an error code, which is meaningless unless you have the Diagnostic Error Codes.

I don’t know why they can’t just put those descriptions in the program. Maybe there was a time when they didn’t want the average joe knowing the specific nature of the problem. Maybe the program had to once fit on a 180k floppy disk and the error descriptions made the code too big. Maybe they were just lazy programmers. Regardless , it would be nice for them to fix the problem. These days we are mostly booting the tool from a CDR.

Posted in Hardware, PC | Leave a Comment »

XP: Finding and Installing Drivers, Part 1.1 – Via Motherboard Chipsets

Posted by cascadehush on January 8, 2007

N.B. This is a continuing series of articles about finding and installing drivers in the case that you either don’t have the original driver CD or choose not to use it. There is an introduction to this series as well as an section introduction about Motherboard Chipset.

VIA Technologies, Inc, without a doubt, have the best motherboard driver package. I can’t say whether they are the best chipsets, though most of my PCs have Via chipsets. I find them a nice balance between cost and performance.

4 in 1 Driver
The older motherboard driver package was and is called the ‘4 in 1 Driver’. It is recommended for systems more than about 3 or 4 years old. Personally I have had good results with this driver on quite old systems running Win98; so don’t feel compelled to track down motherboard specific drivers for some ancient hardware if you have already identified it has a Via chipset.

The 4 in 1 driver contains the following drivers

  • AGP VxD; necessary for proper operation of an AGP Graphics Card
  • ATAPI Driver for smoother running of your IDE device.
  • The ‘INF’ driver which sets up the power management
  • The PCI IRQ Miniport Driver, which is only necessary and only installs on Win98, to fix IRQ routing.
  • For NT only, the VIA IDE Bus Mastering driver. This is the only driver installed on NT.

The package runs on any version of Windows from 95 to XP (32 bit only) and is smart enough to know which are the appropriate drivers for your hardware and OS.

The current version is 4.43 and was released on 25 October 2001. Don’t let its age fool you. It is a stable, mature driver set. Download the Via 4-in-1 Driver

Hyperion Pro
Sounds impressive. Well, perhaps not. But this is the name for the current package of drivers. I guess the name 4 in 1 was getting a bit silly since there were 5 drivers included, of which you would get 1, 3 or 4 drivers depending on your OS.

The Hyperion package include similar but updated drivers to what is in the 4 in 1 package, with the important addition of the SATA drivers. As of this writing the latest version is 5.10a which was released on the 8 September 2006.

The Hyperion package is for Win98 through XP and Windows Server 2003. Both 32 bit and 64 bit versions, where appropriate, are included. As with the 4 in 1 package, the installer is smart enough to know what drivers are required.

You can download both the Hyperion and 4 in 1 drivers from VIA Arena.

A Note about RAID Utilities
Now here is a fact worth noting. Many SATA drivers give you the option of installing just the driver, or the driver plus the RAID utility. I recommend that you DONT install the utility, just the driver.

The RAID utility is not necessary, and is usually just another annoying taskbar icon.

If you have a Raid 1 or 5 array where a drive fails, you usually have to go into the BIOS or RAID BIOS to run a utility to re-build the array. (after replacing the faulty drive, of course). Whilst the array is being rebuilt you can’t use the PC, but it is the quickest way to re-build the array.

However, with the utility installed you can rebuild the array inside Windows, which means you can still use the PC whilst the utility re-builds the array. Your PC will probably be slow, and the array will likely take all day (maybe all night as well) but at least you have access to your email and play Freecell.

So if you really, really, must rebuild the array with Windows loaded, install the utility then, and not before. The uninstall it when you are done, or at least remove it from the line-up of programs that run whenever you start Windows.

Posted in Drivers, Hardware, PC, Troubleshooting, Win9x, Windows XP | 9 Comments »

PC Website: BoxGods.com

Posted by cascadehush on January 4, 2007

BoxGods.com – Worship the Machine
PC Case, Cooling and related hardware reviews. Also covers case modding.

Posted in Hardware, PC | Leave a Comment »

Hardware: Digital V6 KVM over IP

Posted by cascadehush on January 2, 2007

Digital V6 – The Engine of Innovation:

Kaveman is a revolutionary remote server management tool to remotely control servers, either over the Internet or your local network. Kaveman fully emulates a screen, keyboard and mouse, giving the user complete control over the attached computer.

I have no clue why the idiots who created this website can’t just use normal english.

This box is a single port KVM to remotely control any PC or Mac over a network using VNC. The would get a lot more hits from googlers if they’d use language like that.

There is nothing revolutionary about this device, it seems like a no-brainer to me. The focus on server management seems shortsighted. Any server should already have remote management in software. Of course KVM stuff is usually considered high end and is often ridiculously overpriced given that there are quite good, often free, software alternatives.

As a PC tech I regularly wish for a plug and play means to remotely control a PC temporarily. This would appear to be the answer. It’s a pity that it’s just too expensive.

Intel are introducing vPro which will build this type of thing into the motherboard. This would be nice, except I’m not a fan of Intel chipsets, and don’t like intel motherboards. Plus there are the security implications. Having your PC open to remote control even when it is switched off, before the OS is loaded, even being able to change BIOS settings… I don’t like it.

What would be nice is a cheap KVMoIP device that us techs could use day-to-day. Surely someone could manage that. Perhaps someone has, let me know if you find one.

Posted in Hardware, Opinion, OSX, PC, Security, Troubleshooting | 3 Comments »

Mac: Upgrading the Mac Mini – Core 2 Duo CPU

Posted by cascadehush on January 1, 2007

Merom Mac Mini Hack:

The purpose of this page is less about bragging (I certainly wasn’t the first to upgrade the processor in my Mac Mini) and more about describing my experience with the upgrade – both from a performance perspective and from a “lessons learned” perspective.

Ambor.com has listed some very detailed benchmarks which should be of interest to anyone considering the upgrade in terms of bang for buck. Now all we need is a Mac Mini with a slot for a graphics card.

In fact, how about a just a Mac MoBo; a bare bones ATX Mac motherboard build to Apple specifications, that we could use with our own CPU, Ram, HD etc. It could come bundle with a copy of OSX. I know this gets away from the ‘mini’ aspect, but as a cheap Mac it could offer the best of both worlds.

One can dream.

Posted in Hardware, Opinion, OSX | Leave a Comment »

PC: AMD claims their CPUs will consume less power than Intel’s

Posted by cascadehush on December 7, 2006

AMD: New Chips Consume Half the Power of Core 2 Duo:

AMD’s argument goes like this: Modern desktop and notebook processors constantly scale up and down between full speed and an idle state, which AMD has branded “Cool ‘n’ Quiet”. At a given time, pushed to full load by an application, AMD’s chips run hotter and consume more power. But across a typical computing day—where a user might check his email or surf the Web—the processor idles more often then not. At idle, AMD’s 90nm Athlon 64 X2 consumes 7.5 watts. Its latest 65nm chips idle at 3.8 watts. By comparison, the 65nm Core 2 Duo idles at 14.3 watts.

So AMD have finally announced their move to 65nm chips. What is less inevitable is this spin they have managed to put on the new line of chips.

No doubt it’s a clever argument. I can attest to the benefits of ‘Cool n Quiet’. I can also tell you that whilst the feature is promoted on CPU boxes and the AMD website the instructions on how to enable the feature are obscure. It is not something that is enabled by default when you build and Sempron or Athlon based system.

The reality is that that even though it’s a nice technology, it’s not going to shift momentum away from the Core 2 Duo chips. Those people clever enough to understand AMDs argument will also know that Intel has a marked performance edge.

Posted in Hardware, PC | Leave a Comment »

OSX: Dual TV Tuner for Mac

Posted by cascadehush on November 1, 2006

123Macmini.com – News – Miglia intros TVDuo dual TV tuner:

Bundled with Elgato’s EyeTV2, TVDuo enables users to record TV, remove advertisements from recorded footage while watching live TV, access EPG data from the internet, schedule recordings, and export recorded shows to a video iPod or Mac applications such as iDVD

The TVDuo is a USB device that features 2 DVB-T TV tuners. Like many such tuners, it simply records the broadcast stream directly to disk. The advantage of this is simplicity, the disadvantage is you’ll need about 3GB for every hour of TV. It’s a good thing that harddrives are getting cheeper by the day.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Hardware, Media, OSX | Leave a Comment »

Vista: 2 Gigs ‘Great’ Says Dell CEO

Posted by cascadehush on October 31, 2006

TechWeb: Vista With 2 Gigs ‘Great’ Says Dell CEO:

Dell chief executive Kevin Rollins told Bloomberg News: “I think they tell you maybe 1 gig [gigabyte] of memory is okay. No. Two gigs of memory would be great.”

Well maybe, but I’m running Visa RC1 with 1GB of memory and a 3GHz Prescott P4 and performance isn’t an issue. I could even run Aero even though I only have an nVidia FX5200 based graphics card. I don’t run Aero because I mainly use this box for video playback and the graphics drivers can’t cope with both Aero and video at the same time. This is a driver issue that will be fixed in due course.

The system requirements for XP were always over-hyped. Most people have trouble with XP because they have bloatware on their system or are trying to run too many programs. You can’t blame the operating system when the bulk of memory and CPU time is being used by a bunch of (often) poorly written programs. You’ll find that most of the time XP itself is using a very small percentage of your CPU cycles and RAM to keep itself going.

There is always a sweet-spot, however. Whilst XP struggles at times with only 256MB, it runs very well with 512MB. I’m sure Vista will double those values, but I don’t think it will quadruple them.

Posted in Hardware, PC, Vista, Windows XP | Leave a Comment »