Will technology ever catch up?

Archive for the ‘Hardware’ Category

PC: BIOS Guides

Posted by cascadehush on October 20, 2006

Here are a couple of good reference guides, if you are trying to decifer the often convoluted world of your PCs BIOS.

BIOS from A to Z – Tom’s Hardware
The Definitive BIOS Optimization Guide

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XP: Automatic Updates Warning

Posted by cascadehush on October 20, 2006

Microsoft has started including modem and LAN drivers are part of their automatic updates. Getting drivers from Windows Update has always been a very dodgy practice. Now it seems microsoft want to foist driver updates on users.

Modem drivers are especially tenuous, never change a driver if you have a working dial-up modem. LAN drivers should be less of a problem. I wonder how long it will be before tech support lines start getting floods of call from irate users who’s hardware suddenly stops working.

If you have Automatic Updates in XP switched to automatically install, now is as good a time as any to turn it off. I suggest you switch it to automatically download, but not install. Then you have a choice what goes on your machine.

N.B. It is possible that other drivers have been included in this new update policy, but so far I have only seen Modem and LAN drivers.

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

OSX: My Noisy Mac Mini

Posted by cascadehush on October 17, 2006

I have a Mac Mini. It’s one of the original PPC models, bought directly from Apple online. I had to pay for the memory upgrade from 256M to 512M (Sounds like ancient history) but it was one of the more reasonably priced options. About 2 weeks after I got it Apple decided to include 512M as standard. Such is life. It was my first Mac.

Anyway, the little beasty is quite noisy now that it is a little over a year old. The fan noise has been a little irritating for awhile but now it’s at the point where it sounds louder than a 3 year old desktop P4 PC. I am going to have to bite the bullet and open the case and clear out the dust. I do this with PCs all day long, but they have a handy feature called a screw, and you use this fantastic invention called a screwdriver. In combination these allow easy access to the inside of the case. Not so with the Mac Mini.

Smash World has managed to get the Technical Disassembly Documentation and a Disassembly Video both of which appear to have been leaked from Apple.

Some other articles of interest:

Macworld: Editors’ Notes: The Mac mini: Inside and Out:

The big question on many prospective Mac mini buyers’ minds is, “How easy is it to upgrade the RAM?”

Mac Mini Hacks :: View topic – Opening Mac Mini without Putty Knife:

loop the wire around the tab pull up securely until you hear the snap, the wire will be properly logged releasing the tab. Do this to all of the tabs.

I’ll be taking my own pictures, for whatever that is worth, so you’ll all get to see how it goes.

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Wii – Revolutionary Gaming on Evolutionary Hardware

Posted by cascadehush on October 6, 2006

» The Nintendo Wii is NOT the Game Cube. – Nintendo Blog:

The Nintendo Wii hardware is similar to the Gamecube, as A gaming PC is similar to a Windows 95 word processing computer.

If this is true, Nintendo could be doing something radical with it’s hardware by being conservative.  Each new generation of game console traditionally meant a completely different architecture.  It still remains the greatest arguement in favour of PC gaming, that you can run a wider range of older games on current hardware.

Whether Wii’s radical departure from traditional gaming will win out or not, time will tell.  If it does manage to carve out a niche, one can hope that perhapse Nintendo will continue the trend of using an evolutionary hardware platform that provides consistency for developers and backwards-compatability for users.

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Intel Buying nVidia… I hope not.

Posted by cascadehush on October 5, 2006


Rumors were flying today around Wall Street trading desks of a pending Intel buyout of NVIDIA

If Intel Buys nVidia, then we are headed down a path where the major components inside a PC will be made by 2 manufacturers and they won’t be interchangable. You either buy an ATi/AMD/Live box or an nVidia/Intel/Viiv box.

Of course it will never happen.  Even if Intel does buy nVidia, somewhere in the near future this little duopoly-in-the-making will fall apart somehow.  It’s just not how PCs are done.

The most scary thing about this is the potiential loss of the nForce motherboard chipset, which is the best chipset for AMD processors.

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XP: Finding and Installing Drivers, Part 1.0 – Motherboard Chipset

Posted by cascadehush on October 4, 2006

N.B. This series of articles assumes that, for whatever reason, you either don’t have the original driver CD or choose not to use it. This is often the case if you work in a PC repair shop (as I do) or you have acquired components second hand. The introduction to this series is here.

Whether you are building a PC or reloading an existing one, the first thing you should install after the operating system are the motherboard chipset drivers. These drives are associated specifically with the northbridge (where applicable) and southbridge, rather than any other chips which may be present on the motherboard to provide other functionality such as audio or networking.

Motherboard chipset drivers are easy to overlook. Device Manager may not flag them as missing. They are responsible for the smooth running of your IDE and SATA drives, USB Ports and AGP slot. If you are wondering why your hard drive seems slow, or your new graphics card is not performing well, perhaps you are missing your motherboard chipset drivers.

The main motherboard chipset manufacturers all have sets of drivers which can be installed on almost any brand of motherboard. All you need to do is identify the chipset and you can select the appropriate drivers.

You can often identify the chipset manufacturer by looking at the southbridge, which is usually visible. (The northbridge is often covered by a heat sink so it is not visible.) You may also be able to guess the chipset from the model name, although this requires some experience. It isn’t a guaranteed method since some motherboards do not have their model name clearly marked and not all motherboard manufactures use an easy to follow naming scheme. Another way is to use a utility. I use CPU-Z and/or AIDA32. CPU-Z is quicker or this purpose. AIDA32 will become indispensable later on, since it provides much more information.

Remember, for most cases you only need to know the chipset manufacturer. The specific chipset is rarely necessary. There are 5 major motherboard chipset manufacturers, SiS, VIA, Intel, nVIDIA and ATI.

The following installments in this series will discuss, in turn, the different motherboard chipset manufacturers. Links will be provided to the driver packs.

Posted in Drivers, Hardware, PC, Troubleshooting, Win9x, Windows XP | Leave a Comment »

XP: Finding and Installing Drivers, Part 0

Posted by cascadehush on October 2, 2006

Whether you’re reloading Windows or adding/replacing hardware, you are probably going to need drivers. Windows XP has a large number of drivers built in. Sometimes these default drivers are best, but sometimes they should just be viewed only as a temporary solution.

You may have a driver disk that came with the hardware. Often these drivers are useless, but occasionally they are essential. If your hardware is from some obscure manufacturer you may not be able to download a driver. OTOH, drivers are often updated so it’s usually worth searching online for more recent versions.

You may find drivers that are provided by the manufacturer of the hardware, such as Gigabyte, Asus or MSI. Often these are just re-packaged drivers written by the chipset manufacturers, like VIA, SiS or nVidia. You need to decide which driver you should be looking for.

The Device Manager can help you identify which drivers are missing, but it can be deceiving. There are some motherboard chipset drivers which aren’t necessary for the system to function, but without them the system will not perform optimally. These drivers are not flagged by the Device Manager as missing.

I’ll be discussing all of these issues in a irregular series of posts, along with specific details, personal experiences and general principles. When it’s all done I hope I will have compiled the ultimate current guide to finding and installing drivers for Windows XP.

The series continues with Part 1.0 – Motherboard Chipset Drivers.

Posted in Drivers, Hardware, PC, Troubleshooting, Win9x, Windows XP | Leave a Comment »

Overclocking PC RAM

Posted by cascadehush on September 6, 2006

I recently overclocked my RAM in a PC I use for music production, which is both CPU and memory/disk intensive. I’d never done any overclocking before. I didn’t push the RAM much past it’s rated settings, because I was a bit mystified over whether I should be aimiing for lower latencies or higher frequencies.

Tight Timings vs High Clock Frequencies is a mildly interesting article on PC RAM overclocking which really ends up going nowhere. Still, it trys hard to be balanced, and factor in all considerations.

In the end the article comes to the conclusion that the performance difference is marginal either way and that memory speed doesn’t impact on performance as much as you would think. This is rather odd, since traditional wisdom is that the CPU spends a lot of it’s time waiting for memory read/write operations.

Still, they actually did the experiment and ran the benchmarks. And the moral of the story is probably that you should try as many different settings as you reasonably can and find out which provide the best performance on your rig.

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