Kwakkelflap: tools for the IT pro

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

HP 48G RAM upgrade

One of the things on my desk that I use all the time is my old faithful HP 48G calculator. I originally bought it some 15 years ago when I was a student. The HP uses Reverse Polish Notation which works great. I'm so used to working in RPN that I simply hate using regular calculators. That's one of the biggest reasons I still use it today cause, let's face it, I don't do Fourier or Laplace transforms these days.

The only problem I had with the machine was that I purchased the "budget" version ($200 on a student budget 15 years ago wasn't exactly cheap) which had 32K RAM. This means it can hold only 1 program most of the time. Some programs don't even fit at all. But then I stumbled on this page which explains the process of upgrading the HP 48G to 256K RAM. I loved the idea, but I'm not the most skilled person when it comes to soldering SMD chips or any other delicate operation for that matter. So I was a little hesitant to do this cause there was a possibility of ruining my beloved calculator. But I figured I'd try anyway.

I stopped after soldering the 128K RAM chip cause that was difficult enough for me and they warn people that soldering another 128K chip on top was very hard. The result: a HP 48G with 128KB RAM and a very ugly front. I don't mind the front at all cause when people ask me what I did to my calculator, I have a very nerdy story to tell.

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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Best of 2007

Everyone has awards this time of year, so I thought I'd jump on the bandwagon and have my own. These are my own private awards for 2007.

Software Tools

1) Inno Setup
2) Perforce
3) VMware Workstation
4) Visual Studio 2005
5) Adobe Photoshop

Inno setup wins without a doubt. It's so easy to create an installer with it. 32bit and 64bit versions in one setup? No problem. A check to disable UAC in Windows Vista? Easy.

Games

1) Call of Duty 4
2) Bioshock
3) Command and Conquer 3
4) Fear: Perseus Mandate
5) Crysis

A lot of shooters in my top 5, and it's not even my favorite genre. It's hard to choose between Call of Duty 4 and Bioshock for the number 1 spot. Both are brilliant games with a great storyline and superb graphics. In the end I had to make a choice and selected Call of Duty 4 as the best of those 2 cause it has a great multiplayer experience and it didn't crash (Bioshock crashed once). Crysis might seem low on the list. Yes, the graphics are great, although I think the graphics off Call of Duty and Bioshock are better. There's only so much variety you can have on an Island (don't get me started about inside the cave). The gameplay was worse than the other games on the list. E.g. I didn't like how to switch suite modes. Why can't you use function keys (like selecting a different plasmid in Bioshock)? Also, I'm not sure why most people are raving about open environment and that they can choose what to do. It is not as open and non linear as they think. If you don't do task x, none of the games storyline will continue.

Albums

1) Amon Tobin - Foley room
2) Jerboa - Rockit fuel
3) Soulwax - Most of the remixes
4) Daft Punk - Alive
5) Editors - An end has a start

I simply love Amon Tobin. Jerboa is great (and probably unknown to most of you) so I recommend you check it out.

Movies

This wasn't very hard, simply because I don't watch a lot of movies. I think I've seen one with the family in the theatre this year, and it was a kid's movie. So I can only have a top 1:

1) Plop en de pinguin

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Monday, July 09, 2007

New development box, part 2

I've written about my new development box and the tech support issues I had when ordering. So now, I'll post the conclusion.

After the last problems with the box, I asked a full refund. I received my money after a week, and I was glad that it was settled. Of course, I didn't have the brand new system I was hoping for. So I decided to order a new system from a different shop. And this time, I decided to drive to the shop and install the new PC myself.

I changed my order somewhat. Prices changed since my last order (e.g. cheaper RAM) and I wanted to spoil the little child in me.

This is the new system I ordered:
  • Intel Core 2 Duo E6600
  • 4x1GB DDR2 Corsair PC6400 800MHz CL4
  • Asus P5B Deluxe WIFI-AP Ed.
  • WD 74GB SATA 10000RPM 16MB Raptor
  • Seagate 320GB SATA300 16MB
  • Asus GeForce 8800GTS 640MB

I don't need an 8800GTS. It's silly that I bought one. A regular DX10 card would suffice for me. Not that I'm having second thoughts, but it's probably over the top. The 4GB RAM might also be more than I need. But the price was good, and 2GB is standard nowadays so I thought it would be a good idea to buy more. Anyway, I forgot that I couldn't use the full 4GB in a 32bit OS, so I'd have to install a 64bit Vista.

Everything was in stock within a week, and after a 4 hour drive I got back home with everything I needed. Installing was a breeze (although I was a little scared of breaking the motherboard when installing the cooler). No problems with Vista 64bit either. Every driver was available. And a Vista score of 5.3 is not bad at all.

All that's left to do is install my development environment on Vista and I should be ready to go.

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Tech support, part 3

You can read part one and two on by following the links.

So, what happened after I contacted the shop? I shipped the box back, demanding that they should repair it within 10 days or send me a refund. And by repair, I mean change all components to new ones. You never know what else was hit by the harddisk. Yesterday, they've send me a mail to inform me that they shipped the new box. And today, the box arrived for the second time.

I opened the packaging and noticed a small dent in the case. Ah well, it's minor and I won't hold it against them. I opened the case and everything looked ok. So I plugged it in and started installing Vista. Everything looked great until suddenly the screen went blank again.

The PC started to reboot and I heard BEEEEEEEP - BEEP - BEEP - BEEP. One long and three short beeps. Turned the PC off and on again (reminds me of "The IT Crowd". Brilliant show.). BEEEEEEEP - BEEP - BEEP - BEEP. And that's all I get from it. Apparently, this is a problem with the video card or the memory (depending on your BIOS). My guess is the video card due to the screen going blank.

Brilliant, another Dead On Arrival. At this point, I give up. I'm throwing in the towel. I filed another RMA right away and demanded a refund. No word from them yet. So stay tuned I guess...

Oh, I wouldn't buy from Cool Prices if you are looking for a decent shop. But maybe that's just me.

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Thursday, May 31, 2007

Tech support, part 2

Today, my new box finally arrived on my doorstep. However, suspense quickly turned into disappointment when I unpacked the box. Something was loose inside. I opened the case, and discovered that the harddisk was lying on the motherboard. Apparently, they forgot to use a screw to keep the raptor in it's place. I quickly checked for damage, and noticed that a power supply connector was broken and a part of the case was broken. Also, 1 RAM memory bank took a hit and the RAM wasn't connected properly anymore, and my SATA cables where no longer plugged in.

So I fixed everything and tried the PC to see if everything was working. It looked ok in the beginning, but suddenly after 1 or 2 minutes during Vista setup, the video was gone. Opened the box and noticed that the fan of the 8600 didn't work. Apparently, it also took a hit from the HD.



So basically, everything except my DVD writer was broken in one way or another. I closed the box and put it back in it's packaging. I contacted the shop, and I wonder how they will react. I'm VERY close to asking a refund and spending my money some place else.

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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Tech support (warning: rant ahead)

In my previous post, I talked about buying a new development box. Well, I'm still waiting for it. What happened?

I ordered the PC on Thursday, the 10th of May. I made sure to choose components that where in stock. I payed by wire transfer immediately.

After a week, they informed me that they received the money. This should have been on Monday or Tuesday, but whatever. The problem? They didn't have the power supply, the 8600 and the dvd writer in stock. Worse, the dvd writer had an unknown delivery time. I don't understand why a shop doesn't pull the items from stock when an order is confirmed? What good is a stock quantity on the web site when they don't update it? I don't care what brand the dvd writer is, so I quickly send them an email and asked them to swap the writer for another one. It was the same price, so there wasn't any problem.

Another week passed, so I send them another mail. Apparently, the power supply also had an unknown delivery time. It was the only thing missing. I was kind of mad that they didn't tell me this before. But I decided to wait a little longer. The power supply was a popular brand so I thought it wouldn't take much time.

A few days later, they confirmed that the power supply would be in stock the beginning of June. I decided that I wouldn't take my chances and I've waited long enough. So I changed my order to a different power supply that was available. The new one was a little more expensive, so I'd have to do another wire transfer. They couldn't use my Visa for the order. I informed them that I don't want to pay for the power supply when someone else could still order it and it could be out of stock again before my money arrived. But they told me they'd take it out of stock and keep it for my order. Also, I didn't want to wait another week with the wire transfer before they install the power supply and ship the box. I hate waiting. But they didn't like that.

Apparently, they don't trust their customers to pay another $20 when they already paid $1400. I would understand this if it wasn't for the following: it's been almost 3 weeks, and everything is cheaper now. That means that I could cancel my current order, and order everything with the new power supply for the same amount! So a few mails went back and forth. They suggested a screenshot of the wire transfer confirmation would be ok. Of course, I made the transfer immediately and I couldn't do that anymore. So there is only one thing left to do: wait another week for the wire transfer, then probably another week for the shipment.

Do I like their tech support? No. Will I be ordering a second time from the same shop? No. Will I advise a colleague to buy his new PC at their shop? No. Did I learn a lesson about support? Yes.

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Friday, May 11, 2007

New development box

I'm using a P4, 1Ghz, 512 MB RAM for development and testing. Not a bad system, and I can run Windows XP just fine. The problem is that I'm having trouble running VMware properly, and I certainly can't run Vista to test. So I was using my wife's laptop (A 2GB RAM dual core system) to test my applications. After a long time of agony and despair I finally gave in. It was time to put my old desktop to rest and buy a new system.

The new system looks like this:

  • Intel Core 2 Duo E6600 (S775, 2x2.4GHz, 4MB, 1066MHz FSB, Boxed)
  • Asus P5N-E SLI, nForce 650i (ATX, PCI-e, Sound, LAN, SATA II, RAID, 1394)
  • Kingston 2GB DDR2 PC6400 800MHz CL5 HyperX Dual Channel Kit
  • WD 74GB SATA 10000RPM 16MB Raptor
  • XFX Geforce 8600 GTS 256MB DDR3

That should be enough for a long time (I hope). Now, the waiting game begins till the system arrives at my doorstep.

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Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Welcome back, Commander.

Some of you know that I'm a gamer. Well, not actually a gamer, I just like to play games. I don't have the time to game more than a few hours a week. As a result, the Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars game I preordered was still lying in my desk as I was finishing F.E.A.R.: Extraction Point (a game I recommend to anyone).



But I had some time off last weekend, and some of my friends coaxed me into playing C&C 3 online with them. I warned them that I haven't played it yet, and the last RTS game I played was Red Alert (so it was a while ago) but they just wouldn't take no for an answer. So I installed C&C3, ran the update, joined the game they created and got my ass handed to me after 10 minutes. Now I could justify this be telling you I didn't know the interface, which is partly true (e.g. I didn't know where I could build turrets). Worst of all you had to RIGHT CLICK to order your units to go somewhere or attack something. I was used to left clicking, so half of the time my units where standing there feeling rather bored while my base was under attack. But I think that there is also another reason: the game is extremely fast compared to older RTS games. And the options list is extremely big. Everything can be upgraded to extra features. It feels like you have to do a million things in a very short time. The learning curve is a lot steeper when you compare it to Red Alert. Or maybe I'm getting too old for this kind of thing? Anyway, it will take some time to get my skills to a decent level. And if I compare the time I need with the time I'm willing to spend in a week, then it will probably take me a few years.

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