Saturday, November 20, 2010

Analysis Laptop

About a week ago, my ancient laptop decided to go west and left me frustrated and really angry. Here's the spec of my Acer Aspire 1501LMi:
  • CPU: AMD Athon 64 3000+, 64-bit CPU at 1.7GHz
  • Memory: 512mb DDR SDRAM, upgraded to 1gb a few years ago
  • Graphics: ATI Mobiltity Radeon 9600
  • Hard Drive: 60GB
I think the most surprising aspect of all of this is that the Aspire is nearly seven years ago. To be exact, as of today, it has been in operation for six years, seven months, and six days, give or take a few days. So the fact that it decided to kick the bucket is not an amazingly huge shock, but nevertheless, it's never nice to have a laptop crap out like that.

So I decided to try an extend the lifespan of the laptop a little bit since I can't spare the cash to do so at the moment. I went through a series of debugging tests to see what was causing it to randomly conk out without any warning.

I've always known about the heat issue with this laptop. To give you an example, I was sitting in my college course with my laptop on and typing away a few years ago when the laptop was still new. My neighbour had his lunch sandwich next my ventilator holes on the laptop. About 15 minutes into the class, he suddenly exclaims that my laptop's vents have baked his sandwich. The crust turned from crispy to warm and crunchy, like it just came out of an oven.

Anyways... I played around a bit and swore a lot and came to one conclusion: it was the hard drive. Now, I've backed up most of my stuff some time ago and kept the backup up-to-date, so I'm not too concerned about a dead hard disk. What was a problem though, was that I did not have an extra one lying around to try with. So I went off on the internet to search for a decent cheap hard disk replacement. I eventually found a Samsung 160gb 2.5" drive for no more than 50€ which is amazingly good. I also bought a HDD enclosure to make it into a USB drive in case it doesn't work internally anymore. That only cost about 10€.

So the HDD arrived the other day and I started to install Windows on it. Everything worked fine, and it went through the procedure faster than usual. I had to install with Windows setup on a USB stick since the stupid DVD drive packed up a long time ago and has been very unreliable since. Windows started with a nice welcome message which made me a lot happier. Then I started downloading the official drivers and files to support the laptop.

No less had I installed the graphics card driver did the laptop go into its usual "conk out without warning" mode again. Now I'm on my third fresh install, and I have discovered that the graphics card drivers are problematic. Thankfully there's something called Omega Drivers on the net. Some private individuals decides to support and extend the operational life of graphics cards. The drivers worked perfectly.

However, I've come up to a snag. The graphics is working, but I think that's the thing killing my laptop. Windows dragging is now jittery, and video playback is blocky and glitchy. If I go heavily on the display on my HDTV, then it really goes mad and kills itself.

Further more, I think I've also discovered a secondary issue which has been around for ages. I think the heat aspect is causing a lot more long-term damage than I expected. I've just been running a CPU core temperature monitor and it seems to operate constantly at 70°C. When the CPU load goes anything above 1%, the temperature shoots up to 80°C+. This cannot be healthy. On this machine, not mine, I'm running the same monitor and it's showing that both cores are around 50°C, lowest 33°C and highest just under 60°C.

Anyways I think I have no choice anymore. The Aspire is really out of its depth now. The only thing I can do is to find some cash to buy something relatively decent very soon. I think I'll also find a way to blow the Aspire up after all the years of frustration it has caused me since I bought it, under ill advise by a stupid family member, in 2004.


EDIT: And I've just discovered something worrying... A website says the Athlon 64 chipset can operate only up to a maximum temperature of 70°C. So this thing has been running above and beyond that for years... Goodness me.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Modern Air Travel

This morning, while I was reading the news, I came across an article on the BBC News website which featured the picture on the right with the caption below: "has some of the glamour associated with air travel disappeared?"

Such a great comment to reflect the modern day air travel industry. It definitely warmed the cockles of my innards on a freezing, cold and grey dawn.

Something has gone wrong in the past three or four decades. Air travel evolved from being a luxury where people dressed up for and airlines worked hard to give you everything possible, to something where it feels like we're all farmyard animals being mass transported around the globe.

Airplanes has to be one of the most significant inventions in the past century. The move from airplanes into mass transportation is even more significant. The world suddenly shrank, and we all became global citizens. A matter of hours and you can be on the other side of the planet. I think it's no more than 22 hours to really go from one side to the other these days. If the Concord is still around, half that time.

It's a real shame. I still think air travel should be respected. But not the airlines. They treat everyone, even people on higher travel classes, as badly as they could. This whole new era of terrorist activities made it even worse. We now have to be subjected to all sorts of privacy-invading and probably illegal searches on our most intimate body parts before being handed over to the airline staff.

Such a shame... I remember in the 80s when I was a child, that the air stewards were all dashing and charming (yes, I know most of them are gay, but so what? They did a damn good job on the planes and made it enjoyable for their customers), the air hostesses were gorgeous and specially chosen for their jobs to be good looking and well trained to service the paying customers.

What has happened? We get ugly, angry people on the planes serving us. Bashing us in the leg every 10 minutes with those trolleys. The food looks bland and disgusting to say the least. The seats are terrible and looking into a micro-screen for 10 hours is not my idea of enjoyment.

Bring back the old days!

Image source: BBC News

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix - New Champion

There we have it, a new Formula 1 World Champion: Sebastian Vettel! He finally clinched the title in a pretty boring race where all the top contenders were affected somewhat by the early safety car stint when Liuzzi crashed Schumi out of the race.

The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is really something quite amazing. The track doesn't seem to bring out much of a interesting race, but the way the place looks is just superb. It's one of those modern circuits created under the reigns of Bernie Ecclestone. The investment is quite tremendous and you actually have a massive hotel that hangs over the entire circuit. Definitely a move away from traditional circuits.

Schumi was nudged by team mate Rosberg in the opening few corners and ended up pointing in the wrong direction. Most of the mid-pack drivers managed to miss him but Liuzzi had nowhere to go and ended up on top and scraping Schumi's head through the cockpit. Quite a scary moment echoed by Martin Brundle during the replays.

After that incident, the safety car was sent out for about five or six laps, during which most of the mid-pack drivers took advantage and went for their mandatory stops. This eventually had a compound affect when Webber and Alonso went for their new tyres. They ended up behind "back markers" like Petrov's Renault and Alguersuari's Torro Rosso. Sadly for them, they stayed there which ruled them out of the championship race entirely.

The race ended up to be pretty boring after all the hype. Last weekend's race in Brazil was much more interesting and stirs up the blood a lot more. What a shame then, a great track but yielding not much for the entertainment aspect. The older tracks apparently shouldn't be ruled out after all. They are still really superb.

Big pity for Ferrari who were in the best position to win the Drivers' Championship this year. I'm not the world's biggest Red Bull fan, but they have done a sterling job to take both Championships in 2010.

That's it for Formula 1 this year. Once again I'll go into a few months of complete boredom... Boooooo!

Monday, November 8, 2010

New F1 World Champions - Red Bull Racing Team

While the aftermath of the Brazillian settles, let's have a quick review to see what happened this afternoon (or evening depending where you live).

Red Bull are champions in 2010 with still one race to go. It's a fantastic result for them, but not something I'm so thrilled about. I've never been RBR's biggest fan and their relative dominance this year made it a bit annoying for me. It's a bit funny, but I can't tell you why I don't like them. Maybe because I'm slightly too conservative in my approach to F1 - yes, I know that's bad. Good on them in any case!

The Drivers' Championship goes on to next week in Abu Dhabi. Vettel took the win followed by Webber and Alonso. Jenson Button is completely out of the running, and seemed to be taking it quite well. Hamilton still has a mathematical chance but he was quite realistic to say that he needs a bit of a miracle to get there.

Alonso still stays in the top spot in the standings with 246 points followed by Webber (238 pts), Vetel (231 pts), Hamilton (222 pts).

The race itself was really exciting with lots of overtaking along the pit straight and first two corners. A Safety Car period 10 laps to the end of the race threw an extra element into the weekend but simply ended up with a massive train of cars in the middle of the pack. They acted as mobile roadblocks for the front drivers but not as severely as it could have been in other tighter race tracks. Schumi inexplicably gave 6th to team mate Nico Rosberg claiming Rosberg has a better chance in the Championship. I still don't see the point, but so be it. Does it really make such a big difference to be 6th in the overall standings?

The final race should be exciting. Both of the Red Bulls seems to have pushed their cars to the limit towards the end of the race. They were lighting up the time sheets with purple after purple laps. The McLarens and Ferrari's Alonso also seems to have pushed their cars a bit to ensure they didn't fall behind. Someone might pull up short next weekend because of this. Watch this space, I think...

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Vuvuzela Power at the Publivores

In order to prevent someone else posting this without my OK, I thought I'll take it into my own hands and have a go at it. Yes guys, I'm talking about you lot! All of you know very well who you are!

Yesterday night was La Nuit des Publivores in Brussels, the second of the two nights they are holding this year. For those of you who don't know, the English translation of the event is "Ad Eaters". Basically they spend all night (from 8 PM until past 4 AM) showing adverts from all over the world. There are also a couple of comedians and on-stage activities in-between to keep everyone awake and interested.

The point of it is to make as much noise as possible. They generally supply some kind of noise makers to help you with that since shouting gets a bit tedious after a few hours. This year, I decided to revive my trusty Vuvuzela for the occasion and proudly display my South African heritage. Unfortunately, I was louder than anybody else in the whole theatre setting which attracted the attention of the presenters.

During the first interval, he came to my seat, grabbed my Vuvuzela and ran off to the stage proclaiming that he has rid the night of the ultimate noise maker. For me this is just pure jealousy on their part. Mine was bigger and better than every single person in that room! Anyways, I did tell my friends not to leave my vuvu lying around in the first place. I chased after the presenter and snuck up on stage to reclaim my prized possession. Sadly both the presenters and the cameras caught me.

This is what happened...

Brazillian F1 Grand Prix

After yesterday's shocker Qualifying which saw Nico Hulkenberg snatch pole from actual title contenders by one second, today's race is shaping up to be an exciting Championship showdown. The Williams driver, although not in contention for the title, made the right decisions in changing conditions and was able to out-do everyone else in the field.

When Qualifying ended, the excitement just kept on coming. Jenson Button's convoy, with him in it, was ambushed by armed gunmen in the slums next to the circuit. His police trained driver took avoidance action immediately to get them out of trouble.

The Championship situation looks a bit like this:

Fernando Alonso (231 points)

To win the Championship today, he must:
  • Win the race with Webber P5 or below
  • P2 with Webber P8 or below
  • P3 with Webber P10 or below

Mark Webber (220 pts)

He will stay in contention if:
  • Alonso is P4 or below
The others have an even harder job to do this weekend. Not to be missed!

    Tuesday, November 2, 2010

    Terror Alerts!

    A recent wave of discovery puts the world in a very awkward place. It seems that every single security measure put in place after 9/11 in the travel industry has been a complete waste of time. All that time we spend at the airports waiting for the authorities to go through our stuff and make sure we are not carrying bombs has had no effect in any way. The terrorists are still sneaking through and through. First the shoe bomber last year, and now they are going through the parcel delivery services and sticking plastic explosives in printer toners.

    Of course we, the normal civilians, all know what it means when terrorism strikes. We are normally the ones taking the subways, or busses, or planes when they get blown up or crashed into something. The best and most effective way to deal with terrorism is to ignore it and continue with life as it would be normally. Think of terrorists as a bunch of 2 year olds. All they want is attention. The more media coverage (like the recent parcel "attacks") and the more the government strives to cut off possibilities for terrorists to attack but making our lives worse all together, this is what fuels these infantile "douchebags."

    Just ignore it. People living and working in big cities know the risk. Some are more dangerous than others like New York, Paris and London. I half expect to see the European Commission in a smoldering ruin every night when I have to go past it. But if it happens, so be it. It will be horrible for a lot of people, including non-directly affected, but this is life in the modern world. It has been the same for decades before, nothing has changed.

    So stop trying to stop these terrorist by making our lives worse. This way, we will end up stopping travelling, and causing the economy to drop further, and then capitalism is over - terrorists win. Either you decide to send out a couple of nukes and take their entire caved up mountains out or you just let us live normal lives without further intrusions.