Wood Hard Drive External Case Mod

A project log using the WordPress 2.5 gallery features for a external hard drive case made out of maple, which happened to be left over trimming from the remodeling of our house. Eventually it will be stained to the same color as the trim. Note that I had wanted to post this sooner, but the WordPress flash uploader was broken. Some how it magically broke more, allowing the old uploader to show up.

-John Havlik

Continue reading

Vostro 1400’s 5.1 Surround Sound

Believe it or not the Vostro 1400 does have built in 5.1 Surround Sound and can drive analog outputs for such a setup. The plug-order from left to right on the front of the laptop is front (green plug), center/sub (orange plug), rear (black plug). After plugging into the ports, go to your control panel, and open up the SigmaTel Audio panel. Under the “Jack Setup” tab right click on each of the jacks (which each should have a green check mark over if you have plugged something into them). In the pop-up menu select the appropriate setting. Then back in Control Panel go to the Sound Panel select the Speakers/Headphones option/device and click on the configure button, select “5.1 Surround” in the Audio channels list. Continue on through the setup and when done everything should work in full 5.1 surround goodness. Naturally, the on board sound isn’t as good as the sound from my X-Fi, but I don’t have the 5.1 breakout box for the X-Fi yet. Dell’s choice to place the audio jacks on the front of the Vostro isn’t the best of design choices as they get in the way of the keyboard a little bit. However, it really isn’t that bad.

I really wish all laptop manufactures would standardize on a common docking station interface which would consist of a PCI Express x16 connector plus an express card interface located in the port (plus power of course), which in the base station would allow for full sized x16 graphics card to be installed and either a normal PCI, x1 card, or express card to be installed as well, plus 4 or so USB ports on the dock. That way you can game with the laptop when docked (Geforce 9800GT anyone?) yet get the power benefits of having an IGP while mobile (I really enjoy my 5+ hours of battery life with the normal 6 cell battery).

-John Havlik

[end of transmission, stay tuned]

Creative X-Fi Xtreme Audio Express

A package arrived from ebay today, it was the X-Fi Xtreme Audio Express Card for my Vostro 1400. Hopefully I’ll be able to find the 5.1/7.1 extension for docking with my speakers. Sound wise, it’s much better than the on board sound, which through the internal speakers is not that great. It’s not that bad, but with external speakers the on board sound is much better, and the X-Fi is that much better. Vista didn’t automagically get things working right away (sort of disappointing since everything else just worked). Creative is now better with their driver installer as they allow just installing the driver without the other added software (read as more or less crapware). Software installation was quick and painless, required a reboot as I chose to install ALchemy. Some actual testing will occur later this weekend.

-John Havlik

[end of transmission, stay tuned]

Core 2 Duo X9000

What is fast? When in Vista you double click on Firefox’s desktop icon and it’s ready to go. When Thunderbird loads just as quickly. When Visual C++ 2008 loads even quicker. When MPLAB, something that usually takes quite some time to load takes the amount of time Firefox used to take to load. Intel’s Core 2 Duo X9000 is one fast beast. It runs at a slightly higher voltage than the T5270 when powering off of the battery (1.0375V vs 1.01V), but it does correctly clock down to 1Ghz when appropriate. Vista estimates the same battery life as with the T5270. Vista’s performance checker evaluates the processor as a 5.6, up 1 whole point from the T5270’s 4.6, additionally the memory metric went up a full point to 5.0 from 4.0. The only thing holding this back now is the X3100 graphics, but the purpose is not a gaming laptop so I can deal with that. Though I must say it does run Sim City 4 quite well.

Installing the chip was easy. The thermal assembly was held on with four screws near the processor and one near the heatsink. Finding my Arctic Silver 5 took longer than replacing the processor, this was mainly due to the remodeling that we are doing. I did a quick 20 minute burn in with CPU burn-in, one process for each core, and then shut down the laptop. The performance gain was not entirely noticeable until after letting it cool down for the first time. A few more CPU burn-in cycles and that Arctic Silver will get setup for better thermal conductivity.

-John Havlik

[end of transmission, stay tuned]