Posts Tagged ‘laptop’

"Electronic Surgery"

I was preparing some Vista drivers for the impending migration when I noticed a BIOS firmware update available for my Samsung laptop. Decided to go for it & succeeded without any hiccups. Feeling adventurous, I decided to overhaul the physical innards of my laptop to clean the fans & reduce heat build-up. This proved to be a folly as I guess one is limited to a single brash act per night.

Notice the version number of the outdated firmware

The BIOS flashing is performed within a live Windows session

...& it is done

In short, I tore the laptop apart, failed to access the fan comfortably enough to clean it. And when I put everything back together again, the Touchpad & Bluetooth wasn’t working. Great, I damaged my system just when I was about to format it. After the initial panic, I googled around for solutions & more importantly, the service manuals of my specific system. After some examination of the printed labels of the components on my laptop mainboard, I cross-referenced the connection pathways with 3 related Samsung models’ (one of which is my model) schematics. With a more-or-less affirmative Bluetooth module part number. (technicians should find this term very familiar), I performed a “Google Image Search” for this part no. to obtain a visual confirmation to avoid “operating” & destroying another component by mistake. After I know visually what I’m supposed to work on, I went back to the schematics to trace the connection across the Printed Circuit Board. One time, I was very sure the components exist correctly on both the schematics & my actual laptop mainboard, but the layout on the schematics is foreign to me; it turned out I was looking at the inverse side of my laptop plastic shell & the whole inspection was upside-down literally. Once I set my orientation straight I was able to verify the integrity of the module’s connection, and by-chance, I managed to ID the disconnected cable of my Touchpad and all was fine again, expected for 4 broken keys on my keyboard (collateral damage?).

Let's split this unit open!

In the process of dismantling...

Again, I suspect Samsung service cte forgot to return some of my screws from last time

Read 5 Samsung notebook schematics from other models within the family before I chanced upon the right part number...

Next, I have to figure out the correct orientation of the pieces I have on my hands...

Finally found the elusive pathway of the bluetooth module

...& re-connect the dislodged Synaptics touch-pad cable.

Nope, I still didn’t manage to clean my fan. I will also not like to do this again. I supposed to broken keys will serve as a painful reminder the next time I’m feeling adventurous it is probably a sign to forecast the possible occurrence of an act of stupidity. Did I mention I have no electrical engineering fundamentals & half the time I was interpreting the schematics my brain was fuelled by instinct in place of logic?

It has been many days since my last blog entry. System re-format of my production laptop has been completed to a satisfactory level. In a way, it proves to be a major refresh in my experience with setting up new systems; as well as a (coerced) opportunity to archive, restructure & organize my critical data. Sometimes one really need a “scorched-earth” policy to decide which data to keep on-board the laptop, which data to re-locate to an offline/external volume & well, which data that you have been accumulating for no good justification at all. I encountered the inevitable “filename-too-long” issue with Windows’ file system, i.e. the folder-levels are too deep causing an absolute  file-path of >255 characters

Windows will prevent moving/deleting certain files & folders if they are buried too deep within a directory hierarchy

Well, some data has to be trashed; it is unavoidable. Nonetheless, migrating to Windows 7 also meant the revision of my “format.txt”, which is currently in its 5th edition. I’m considering whether to publish the contents of that document, but am a bit reluctant to do so due to the amount of hard work I’d invested in it on my own time, research & painful experiences. Even if I upload, it will be a “Director’s cut” per se, as the full uncut version will have more thorough explanations of why each step is performed at which point using which approach. I don’t think anybody will be keen to read the full-length article too.

UPDATE: I was looking for screen captures of this error & chanced upon this blog entry, which lead me to a Microsoft knowledge-base article that provides a work-around (this is not a real solution in my opinion; the issue still exists within the file-system) for older versions of Windows.

Discounting the amount of time to prepare for data backup & planning an updated version of the procedures, the time expended on the actual system migration is 2 days. The user interface of the Windows 7 platform simplifies & centralizes many UI elements which made many of my steps unnecessary; yet, in other aspects of the system control, most notably the “Advanced Power Options”, Windows 7 caters for a finer-level of manipulation:

I went through the entire configuration...2~3 times on different machines I setup

…which implies more time invested to tweak those. In addition, I abandoned Media Player Classic, Ahead Nero as well as Lavasoft’s Ad-Aware applications as the former candidate was replaced by a more streamlined candidate, VLC (after considering GOM Player, KM Player, SPlayer), and the later 2 apps elevated to the status of “bloatware”. Nero is replaced by ImgBurn, which after my roaming around in various non-affiliated forums, proved to be a more reliable disc authoring app specific to the Windows 7 platform (no offense to CDBurnerXP, which is remarkable on XP systems). The most troublesome of the whole migration is a customized Firefox environment & more in part due to, the migration of my music library to the new iTunes installation. In fact, the iTunes fiasco took the better part of the 2nd day of system migration.

The reason is because I invest heavily in smart playlists, which meant I must retain my play & skip counts and individual song rating for my sole library. It is further complicated as I have both music within my “iTunes Music” folder, “My music” folder as well as podcasts and AppStore applications for my iPod Touch. As if life wasn’t hard enough, I’m moving to a different Windows system as well as a new version of iTunes (version 9). Windows XP (old system) & Windows 7 have different directory hierarchy for the “User documents” location;

The "My Documents" folders that we are so familiar with, have shifted location in Windows Vista & Windows 7

iTunes 8 & iTunes 9 have different ways of structuring their “Home” folder as well:

This is how my "iTunes Music" folder was organized originally

iTunes 9 way of structuring its Home folder

In short, because of the way I store my music & moving to a new Windows’ & iTunes version, in order to retain my music library, it takes *some* “due diligence”. As this point in time, I wish to credit 2 authors for which this iTunes migration will not be possible. The 2 tips are:

#1. “How to use a few playlists to eradicate broken links in iTunes library”. Comment: this one is really smart: link

Btw, some smart guy managed to accomplish this in less playlists than the original author of the tip, BUT! I encourage one to review my response to his tip:

[Damn! I lost my response to the smart guy’s updated method!]

UPDATE #1: found my response in an email somewhere. Here goes:

[Anyway, here’s the more relevant findings:

With regards to “UPDATE January 2009” on your tip pages contributed by Josh Watson, although right-clicking while holding down “Shift” key makes the “Delete” menu item appear in the smart playlist, clicking delete does nothing. I tried twice on my Smart Playlist, “Missing Files”. No activity whatsoever. In the end, I used your method, i.e. “To get around this, I selected all tracks in my Missing Files folder, did Files\New Playlist from Selection (since it won’t let you drag & drop the dead tracks to a playlist), and then deleted them from there.” to delete the orphan files from a static playlist.

With regards to the same update as above, specifically this section:

“Also, you need to add the following rules to the Dead Files list:
“Podcast” “is” “false” –> or it will include podcasts
“Kind” “does not contain” “Audible” –> or it will include audiobooks (nearly deleted mine!)
“Kind” “does not contain” “MPEG” –> or it will include vodcasts (nearly deleted mine!)”

I feel that it is ‘okay’ to let podcasts remain in the Missing Files, because ultimately the individual podcasts that remained ‘captured’ inside the Smart Playlist, ‘Missing Files’ will still be orphan files, & I have no idea why anyone wishes to retain entries of broken/orphan podcasts in their library. In addition, I have a ‘hunch’ that ‘MPEG’ is NOT the only type of video file supported in iTunes, hence even filtering out ‘MPEG as a Kind’ may still delete someone’s video files, although, again, I have no idea why someone wishes to keep broken entries of video files in their library UNLESS the video is already on their iPod & they wish for the video to remain on their iPod.

With regards to Lee McKay’s update on Sep 2009, his method of using 2 playlists does not have the ability to catch/filter out/pin-point orphan video files/podcasts, because of:

“2) Make a smart playlist called “Missing Files” with the rules set as ” ‘Playlist’ ‘is’ ‘Music’ ” and another rule set as ” ‘Playlist’ ‘is not’ ‘All Live Files’ ””

That’s all from me. & thank you for the smart tip.]

#2.“How-to-edit-iTunes_library.xml-to-reflect-new-music-file-path-then-corrupt-fresh-iTunes_library.itl-to-force-iTunes-to-regenerate-new-iTunes_library.itl-from-updated-iTunes_library.xml-to-retain-metadata-from-old-iTunes-music-library”. For a better understanding of this tip, pay extra attention to Part II of this article.

Nonetheless, I have to re-subscribe to all my podcasts as well as re-sync all my iPod Touch applications upstream due to my own negligence. Can’t blame nobody but just have to embrace the situation & move on.

UPDATE #2: Anyway after performing the iTunes migration & restoration, in my opinion, iTunes method of organizing multimedia definitely has room for improvement. As cloud storage plummet in costs, I suggest that each individual has his iTunes media, be it music, videos, ipod applications, etc., stored perpetually in the cloud, managed by his iTunes account. This way, any re-installation of iTunes due to technical circumstances, can be totally encapsulated from any impact to his media. Upon the fresh installation of iTunes, he just needs to login to his account, & all his previous media will be accessible. Likewise, friends can showcase their favourite songs, movies, etc., on each other’s PC simply by logging into their account on their friend’s computer. Isn’t this way more user-friendly?

UPDATE #2a: I believe the preceding implementation will resolve 2 additional problems. Having your account, profile/configurations stored in the cloud means that any system format will have your podcast subscriptions & auto-delete preferences restored seamlessly when your new system is up & running. Furthermore, although most savvy users are currently shifting their music collection off to an external volume, such volumes housing large collections of multimedia are usually non-portable 3.5″ external hard disks or even NAS devices. So if I want to synchronise my music while I’m outside with my netbook (& to a lesser extent, remove finished podcasts), I can’t do it without lugging my external storage along. If my media is actually stored in the cloud, I can sign into the same iTunes account/profile on my netbook (or any number of disparate devices) & still synchronise my iPod “properly” against a single media source (instead of having any nasty surprises as compared to if I sync one iPod against a few different external volumes of media, if that is even possible).

So besides the iTunes issue, all the rest of the system migration is not as tense as my previous system migrations; I guess my attitude towards this whole aspect of my life has become less anal-retentive”. Happily enjoying my Windows 7 Ultimate system for the time-being (except when I write this entry I was actually on a plane). Oh btw, did I mention what happened to my laptop right after the decision to migrate it was made? To find out more, read part 2 of this “holiday special”.

I recently wrote an email to an acquaintance of me asking me for advice on an upcoming purchase of a laptop. I suppose he’ll be committing this purchase at the PC Show 2008 & tailored my response to him accordingly. Since I invested some due effort in composing the email, I figure why not post the contents up here, to act as a reference for those who’re trekking the same path soon too? As follows (in blue):

Hi uncle T,

I hope you still remember me. I recalled you mentioning to me that you’re going to purchase a laptop and you asked me for some pointers. The PC Show is at Suntec from 12th – 15th Jun (next week) and before I can recommend you any models that I come across there, I hope you can answer some of the questions below, so that I roughly know what you want (please include the replies in your email response):

Budget: common budgets include $1800, $2500, but just like me know how much u willing to fork out.
Purpose: a general computer for everyone in the family to use at home, or for one for your kids to bring to & fro school?
Misc: any gaming to be done? You intending to pair it with a LCD monitor? etc

Actually, if this computer is never intended to leave the house, I will really suggest you buy a desktop PC instead, as the same budget, when used to purchase a desktop PC, can afford significantly better specs as compared to buying a laptop.

So do let me know your requirements for above, so if I notice anything tailored more towards your needs I can point it out to you.

Now, for the general guideline:

Avoid Acer and Samsung, Sony. Acer laptops have a very very bad reputation of using components that fail very easily and frequently. As for Samsung laptops, well, I personally use their laptop and cellphones and both product sport extremely lousy battery life. I guess the only things you can buy from Samsung are monitors. Then unless you have money to throw, Sony’s laptop are beautiful BUT extremely overpriced (you can just compared a Sony laptop and another brand’s of similar spec, the Sony one will be way more expensive). But if you are prepared to splurge, Sony laptops’re beautiful. If you’re going for Apple MacBooks, erm, buy any time also no problem, Apple DUN give discount at shows, at most they throw in freebies.

I will always advise against buying anything on the 1st day, personally I will go down on the 1st and 3rd day. 1st day I go down to do recon, see the intital prices and what models’re available, 3rd day I do the actual buying. I dun wanna wait till the 4th day (last day) as the things I wan may actually be sold out, and the crowd on the last day is a lot worse than the 3rd day. If u wanna go on 3rd day, it is better if u already know what you wan, and just check, buy and go. Very hectic and chaotic to do shopping on 3rd day. So I always use my information collected online, or from the 1st day, where all the potential buyers’re still working.

As for more laptop-specific details to note:

For processor, choose those with the processor number T7xxx, T8xxx, T9xxx. Anything lower than T7xxx, i.e. T5xxx, is meant for more prolonged battery life as opposed to performance. Then the T2xxx is the older “Core Duo”, not “Core 2 Duo”. T9xxx is highest end, most performance oriented, and also price-est, so if your laptop never leaves the house and is permanently plugged into AC, you can use this. For all other general purpose, T8xxx is the sweet spot, between battery life and performance. Note: these denominations’re a class range of processor, they’re NOT the exact speed, so it’s “correct” to see the processor specs written as “T8xxx x.xGHZ”.

Then dun settle for anything less than 1GB of RAM, better if they offer to double it to 2GB for free, or if it’s within ur budget, go for it. And personally, if it’s down to 2 almost similar systems, if one of them offers Windows XP Professional, take it. Windows Vista is, to put it gently, “issue-matic”. It’s my personal preference to stick with XP, but I tink most systems out there is forced by Microsoft to come with Windows Vista. If u getting a Windows Vista system, 2GB of RAM will be really really really “needed” for acceptable performance.

Ask how many cells the laptop battery has, dun go for anything less than a 4-cell battery if you or your kids intend to bring the laptop out. The part-time promotors may not know this, get them to ask their senior staff.

Other things include weight: if u intend to bring it out, this is important to prevent neck and back strain (nowadays I also lazy to carry mine out). 2.4kg is just barely carry-able every day. But if got 2.1kg, even better. Why I stop at 2.1kg mark? Cos those that’re around 1.x kg, are likely to be ultra-portable laptops with emphasis on battery life and portability and offered marked DOWN performance. Do check when you lift the laptop up, is it with battery inserted or not.

As for screen size, if bringing around, 13.3″ widescreen is good (sweet spot for laptops you wanna bring around frequently), 14.1″ widescreen is mine, but then again, it means a physically bigger laptop = heavier slightly. Unless you intend to leave it at home, dun go for anything above 15″. Then there’s the question of reflective (glossy) versus matte screen, this one is your personal preference lah, glossy looks nicer but once out in bright daylight/sunny day, you gonna turn on the LCD brightness to view your screen properly. Matte is okay but “boring”. This one you have to see for yourself, At the booths, ask them to dim the LCD brightness a bit, for glossy screen, this slightly dimmed LCD brightness level is what you will see if you use your laptop out in a bright sunny day, but hey I’m not advocating glossy or matte, YOUR personal preference.

Before payment, ask if they can let your power up the laptop to inspect the screen for dead/bright pixels. If they dun, enquire if go home laptop got bright/dead pixel what’s the exchange policy. Also, if certain brands got offer extended warranty, do factor that as a good point within your consideration. How to inspect for bright pixels? Launch Microsoft Paint, fill the canvas with black color, save it on the desktop, as black.bmp/black.jpg, launch it, then zoom in on the picture. This more or less makes the pure black picture fill up the bulk of the screen, inspect for pixels that look NOT lit up, or flickering. As for dead pixels, use the same technique, but dun fill it with any color, just a white picture file. Then inspect for the same. You are looking for pixels that seems to be different from the neighboring pixels, pixels that flicker, pixels that always remain lit up even on a pure black picture. Think you get the drift. Of course, dun try this on every prospective model lah, try on the booth and the model you decided to buy, that way they more willing to let you play around, cos you preparing to pay already mah, if they really dun allow, ask about exchange policy, and at the very least when the promotor bring you one side to inspect the items in the retail packaging, power it up and manually use your eyes to spot lor. Get any accompanying family member to spot too. Though, frankly speaking, my method of using Microsoft Paint allows you to feel if the system is “zippy” enough for use or not…

Also open and close the lid, see if the model you are about to pay for, has properly working hinges or not.

That’s about it. Remember to ask about warranty/exchange policy. Keep ALL receipts. Note down the company and promotor’s name who served you. In case any issue, you still have a fourth day and a staff’s name to refer to, should you need to make exchanges. Oh btw, there may be many booths(actual companies, NOT the laptop brands) selling the same brands of laptops, so if the freebies/price bundled with a specific model is not to your liking, walk around, and see if other company got better freebies/or can give you better price. Case in point: when I bought my Samsung laptop last last show, 2 companies were selling Samsung laptops, in the end I bought from the one that throws in a Brother printer instead of the other which throws in a HP printer.

So do let me know your requirements (those that I mentioned at the top of the email), and once the price lists start flowing in, I’ll try my best to update you.

If you in the mood to read some more, check this 3 links out(1st link is a preview of the PCShow):

(Preview of the PCShow next week)
(Guide to laptop processors, scroll down to the portion about Core 2 Duo)
(8 Factors to Consider Before Buying a Laptop)

“Power is…”

Posted: April 1, 2008 by ralliart12 in 1-hour notebook, Quotes
Tags: , , , , ,

“the capability to extend the life of a dying entity. Sometimes power comes in 2 sizes. Power also comes in a cardboard box & cost $148”

Next major item, finally a new battery for my 1-hour laptop, & an extended one at that! My laptop has a very special feature: it can only last 52min(excluding boot-up consumption) on a single charge. Pretty cool eh, that’s why you always see me typing very fast in school.

I understand battery are normally not covered under warranty for most electronic devices, so I actually called Samsung up & hope that I’m able to buy, NOT claim one. But apparently they did not stock this model as it’s probably too old(my laptop’s a Core Duo, not the newer Core 2 Duo, nor Penryn). So when I saw this extended battery for $148 (yup no discount 😦 ) I pounced on the chance to order it.

Expect my feedback in a week’s time when I collect it. It’s capacity is twice that of the standard battery, & 4 times as much as MY current standard battery, which has a 50% wear level already…