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Posts Tagged ‘Laptop’

Making you grateful for Windows Update

June 24, 2008 Leave a comment

Whilst periodic checking of a manufacturer or supplier for updated programs and drivers is useful, it is annoying when so little information is provided by the tool itself. Lets face it, this could mean anything:

At least with Windows Update there are brief descriptions with links to knowledge-base articles for further information. If you trust MS is being comprehensive in their notes.

Of continuing Tuesdays…

June 17, 2008 2 comments

Yes, granted the title to this post makes no sense and basically relates to nothing, but I thought it set up this post rather well. :) You see, this is just a brief post to apologise for the less than usual frequency of my updates in the last couple of weeks. Its been a bit of a busy time so I have slightly taken my finger off of the pulse of the various industries I follow. Since the majority of my posts are reactionary commentaries or rants or how-tos it follows I have not been writing much.

Also, the much vaunted laptop (dv2799) I bought a couple of weeks ago has now had to be swapped a third time!! The first time it had a strange RAM corruption problem in the GFX RAM and the second laptop I received had a poorly constructed USB header which shorted the whole thing out. *sigh*. Still third time lucky I hope, its a lovely laptop, its just a shame it is let down by dubious quality control at Hewlett Packard’s end.

So, stay tuned, I have by no means lost interest in my blog! :) For now, I leave you with the comedy genius of Simon Amstell.

Attack of the (EEE) Clones and the future of the EEE PC!

May 29, 2008 1 comment

Well, it has been a fair few months since the first ultra cheap ultraportable sublaptop was released by ASUS, namely the EEE PC – few thought this single, largely under-hyped launch would change the face of mobile computing in the way it has. Personally I am delighted, I am a fan of both gadgets and small portable devices like this. I tried out an EEE PC at PC world a few weeks ago and was impressed at the build quality and size. More surprisingly, I was impressed with the screen which was the main source of my disdain being only 7″ and having a non standard resolution of 800×480. One thing I could not try out was surfing the internet- which a device like this is primarily designed to do.

Before the hate mail comes in let me explain, whilst the unit is very capable for a variety of uses, many of those will be in the ‘cloud’ and as a result, reliable and efficient internet browsing is essential. Since most webpages are designed for 1024×768, the 1st generation EEE PC and even the second (900 series) to an extent, will always be lacking in my opinion. Which is a shame. I really want to buy an EEE PC, but I know such a purchase would be based on a long festering impulse rather than any real need or desire. I carry around my 15.4″ laptop whenever I need to do any computing away from my home and it serves me rather well. Of much greater interest to me is where ASUS goes from here. Whilst other companies struggle to release their own clone (more about this later) of the EEE PC, the engineers at ASUS are clearly scratching their heads wondering where they can take this platform from here. In my opinion, there are two directions ASUS can go.

Direction one : More more more more! In a way, ASUS have already indicated this is their intention with the 2nd generation EEE PC laptop, the 900 series. It has a bigger screen as well as a number of other refinements which are great to see, however they still do not bring the machine upto par with an ultra-cheap full-sized notebook. Given the two units sell at comparable prices here in the UK, there really is no incentive to buy the 2nd Generation EEE PC. This coupled with some of the better specced models only being available with Microsoft Windows XP is also short sighted. If ASUS continue in this direction, then we will see a similar development to Psion’s 5(mx) -> 7 / Netbook with a larger, similarly underpowered system being produced. Off the top of my head, I would predict either a 9″ or 10″ screen, 20Gb flash HDD and no doubt other tweaks. There is no doubt, if the screen is of better quality (i.e. resolution and dpi) and the laptop is not substantially more expensive, it could make for a great addition to the EEE PC range; however, I am more interested in Direction two.

Direction two: No this is not some shadowy Orwellian organisation in the basement of a Cinema called “Freedom”* but rather, what my plan would be for the continuation of the EEE PC range. The expression “Stick to what you are good at” comes to mind, ASUS have found a niché which, in business parlance equals profit. More than that, by getting into bed with the open-source crowd, they have a lot of “value-add” through third party modders and hackers – one just needs to look at the number of Operating Systems that now have been run on the EEE PC to see this. In six months time, there should be a new EEE PC, lets call this fictional product the 71x series (so 711, 712, 713 and 714 to match current 1st gen model numbers) and put a higher resolution screen maybe in a 7″ or 8.4″ form factor into it. RAM options seem perfectly adequate at the moment, but allow the addition of traditional platter HDDs as well as the 1st Generation flash drives as options. The idea that, as higher capacities of flash discs drop slightly, they are immediately incorporated into the next generation of EEE PC device is frankly ridiculous, the cornerstone of the EEE PC philosophy was value – something ASUS seem to have forgotten with their 900 series laptops. Using the same flash hard drive capacities as the first generation (e.g. 2, 4 and 8Gb) or offering traditional platter harddrives (in 10, 20 or 30Gb sizes) would lower the price of the product whilst preserving the original fanbase as well as enticing new customers.

The only downside to direction two is the number of companies eager to get a slice of the pie. Recently,  DELL, HP and ACER added their names to the list of companies developing laptops for this formerly niché market. Whilst companies like Acer (in my experience) have never been particularly concerned over quality, others like DELL, HP, VIA are. Its not just these companies who are after a slice of the market, Elonex, MSI, OLPC and others have either expressed an interest in or have released comparable products. The question remains – stand still and possibly get left behind or innovate and put the price up. There is no easy answer, but I believe the EEE PC brand has a lot of clout for being both first and for being good quality. These two factors will keep ASUS onto of this niché market, provided they keep on track and continue to impress us.

On a side note, Cnet have a great side by side comparison that’s worth glancing at.

*Believe it or not, there actually was a secret Soviet KGB/GRU interrogation facility in a Cinema called Wolność (Freedom) in Krakow during the Communist era – its the kind of thing you just can’t make up. Apparently they always had a habit of playing their films a bit loudly there…

PC Recovery How-to

April 30, 2008 Leave a comment

This started off a reproduction of a leaflet I wrote for the company I work for. It basically attempts to answer the question : “How do I recover my computer” or “How do I run a system recovery” (and permutations there-of) in as few lines as possible. Because I am not constrained for space on here, I have expanded on it somewhat and will continue to do so, if you have any questions, feel free to comment and ask.

The reason for this procedure is simple – recovering your system to the ‘shipped’ or factory settings is the best way to clean your system. Over time Operating Systems (Windows is the worst for this) accumulate lots of rubbish. This can be in the form of zombie or orphan dependencies (e.g. .DLL or .OCX files in Windows that are no longer needed) miscellaneous and or useless configuration or drivers and even damaging or misinstalled components. Some retails can not take in laptops or computers for warranty repair unless a full system recovery has been performed first due to the high occurrence of non-supported software related problems being futily sent to manufacturers for hardware repair.

Please note, a full system recovery is NOT the same as a Windows Restore / System Restore point recovery or a partial system recovery. In some cases, Windows Recovery Environment (only on Windows Vista) can solve the issue although I mostly have found it time consuming and unhelpful.

Step 1: Back up all your data

When done correctly, a full system restore will completely wipe your computer. This means all your data (e.g. photos, documents, music) and settings (e.g. ISP / Internet, Web Passwords etc) will be removed. Please make sure you have a complete copy of all the data you wish to save on a external source (e.g. a USB Flash drive, USB Harddrive, CD/DVD, NAS etc) before you continue.

Step 2: Determining what recovery method your PC / Laptop uses.

Regardless whether the unit is a PC or a Laptop, it would have been shipped with a method for recovery. This can be in the form of backup CD/DVD(s) or preinstalled on the computer in a hidden ‘partition’ on the computer’s hard drive. You may have been required to create the recovery discs yourself when you first switched on the computer. If this was the case you normally would have been prompted. If you have not created recovery disks or something has happened to render your recovery partition useless, see troubleshooting #4.

Step 3a: Performing the Recovery with Recovery Discs

If your machine has (or came with discs) read on, if not, skip to the section 3b.

Put the (first if applicable) recovery disc into your machine and restart the computer. When the computer switches on, you may be presented with the option to ‘boot from Optical / CD / DVD / Media’, press enter (or the key specified) to do this.
The disc should now boot into the recovery mode. (If not, see troubleshooting #1.)

Follow the on screen instructions. When imaging / recovery is complete, your computer will restart. Remove the recovery disc from the drive when prompted.

Recovery should be complete, follow any remaining instructions on the screen.

Step 3b: Performing the Recovery from a Recovery Parition or Image.

If your machine has backup software installed on the hard drive, please read on.

The process is very similar to the one discussed in section 3a, except there will be a short time window where a certain key combination will need to be pressed BEFORE Windows XP / Vista starts to load. If you see Windows XP / Vista start to load, you have missed the window of opportunity and should restart and try again. A PC or laptop system will go through the following steps whilst booting:

1) Video card POST *

2) Main BIOS Post (CMOS and Ram check)

3) Secondary BIOS POST (for RAID cards or some legacy 13h network equipment) *

4) Cycle through boot device order. At this point you might see a small white icon flashing in the top left corner for a moment.

5) Transfer execution to boot sector (MBR) of specified harddrive.

6) Windows starts to boot.

* Only applicable to some systems.

This key combination changes depending on the model and manufacturer but will be something along the lines of [alt]+[shift]+[F10] (for Acer PCs) or [F12] (for some Toshiba and HP models) etc. More confusingly, different manufacturers check for this key combination in different places. Acer tend to check for the keypress predominantly during stage 3 to 4 although some models exist which check for the key combination during BIOS POST (stage 2), HP base units normally check during stage 2 whilst their laptops wait until stage 3 to 4. The general rule is start pressing the keys when the BIOS shows up and keep pressing them until you get to the recovery partition. If your operating system starts to boot, simply restart and try again. CHECK with your manufacturer the key combination your system looks for.

When done correctly, it will take you to the recovery section of your computer. Follow the on screen instructions selecting, if asked, the full system recovery option. If this fails, please see troubleshooting #3.

Recovery should be complete, follow any remaining instructions on the screen.

Troubleshooting
For more detailed information relating to your specific model, please consult the manufacturer’s website or helpline.

#1 - Can’t Boot from Recovery Discs
If you are trying to run a recovery from a CD/DVD but it is not loading (booting) from the disc, you will need to make sure the CD/DVD drive is checked before the hard drive (containing the software issue) is read by the BIOS.

You will need to go into the BIOS by pressing a button almost immediately after the computer is turned on. This can be [F2], [F8], [F10] or [Del] depending on the specific model you have.

CAUTION, do not touch anything other than what is directed here.

When inside the BIOS, check the ‘boot order’ to make sure the CD/DVD drive is booted first. These drives can be called a number of different things, when in doubt consult the manufacturer. When you have changed the boot order, save the configuration into the CMOS and let the computer reboot.

#2 - I have lost my recovery discs / I didn’t back up my recovery software
Some manufacturers have a facility to send you replacement discs if you have failed to keep or create your recovery software. There may be a charge related to this service, please contact the manufacturer. (See #4)

#3 - Can’t Boot from Recovery Partition / Recovery from recovery partition fails
Some software problems (e.g. malware / viruses) can corrupt the built in software recovery. If this has happened, there will be no way to complete the software recovery and you should contact the manufacturer for further instructions. (See #4)

#4- Recovery partition destroyed / useless or no recovery option.
There is a more advanced way to perform a system recovery than using the built in recovery method. I would only reccommend this for more advanced users as it involves manually installing and setting up Windows (XP or Vista) and installing drivers by hand. You may also need to be comfortable manually partitioning your hard drive. This method will give you a better, more responsive system free of crapware / bloatware preinstalled be the manufacturers as well as potentially utilise wasted hard drive space.

With almost all Vista PCs (I will cover XP in a moment) you will receive a Vista Installation DVD. This DVD contains every version of Windows Vista and you can use it to wipe your computer and reinstall Windows Vista. The process to using the disk is the same as is outlined in Section 3a substituting the recovery discs for the Vista disc. Simply select the version of Windows Vista that came with your machine (you can install any edition of Vista e.g. Home Premium / Basic, Business or Ultimate but it will be limited to a 30 day demo) if you are unsure which version you have, check the side of your PC (or under side of your laptop) for your Microsoft Certificate of Authenticity (sometimes called CoA.) This brightly coloured certificate will not only have the version of Windows you are entitled to use written on it, but your Product Serial key as well – this will be important as it proves you are entitled to run the particular version of Windows and will be required during the installation.

Alternatively, if you are using Windows XP (or another Operating System like 98/95, NT, 2000, Server etc) you may need to obtain a Windows CD. I am not sure of the legality of this, but if you find a download somewhere online for a Windows CD image (I won’t provide a link) and install it using the Product Serial key provided on your certificate of authenticity, strictly speaking you are not committing piracy as you are entited to run that operating system on that machine. Because I am not a lawer, I do not know if such a proceedure would be legal and as such can not recommend it. You can always buy a new CD (OEM version) or go directly to the manufacturer for a replacement.

Once Windows Vista/XP (etc) has installed, you will have the basic framework for your PC / laptop. What will still be missing is the drivers and software. Drivers can be downloaded from the manufacturers website and should be done prior to reformating your computer. Some operating systems (XP and prior although to a lesser extent Vista as well) will need security software loaded onto them before you allow the computer to be exposed to the Internet. There are a number of free alternatives as well as commercial options.
Useful Contact Numbers (for the UK)

Sony 0870 240 2408
Acer 0870 853 1002
HP 0870 010 4320
Toshiba 0870 220 2202
Fujitsu Siemens 0870 243 4390

Try out the EEE PC (No purchase required!)

April 8, 2008 4 comments

It was great to see ASUS put out a free F/OSS SDK for individuals or companies to develop programs for their wonderful EEE PC platform, what surprised me was that not only did they release the tools (plus source and example code etc) but also the ISO images. Although of course, they are bound by the GPL license to release the source code, I didn’t think they would release the binary images as well.

What this means, is that anyone who is interesting in buying an EEE PC whether or not they have prior experience with F/OSS or GNU Linux can have the benefit of literally test driving the default Linux environment. Of course this is only one of the many x86 Operating Systems / distributions that will happily run on this platform but that is besides the point. Of course this guide is not exclusively written for prospective buyers of the EEE PC and I hope it is useful for anyone (e.g. software developer, geeks like me etc) who for some reason, wants or needs the EEE PC environment installed within a virtual machine.

In order to use the vmx and iso images supplied you will need a free bit of software – VMware Player. This is available for Windows and Linux. I should point out that there are better (completely) free virtualisation options available, VMware only provides VMware player for free which will happily ‘play’ premade images or snapshots of any type of virtual machine. QEMU (Windows/Linux) and Microsoft Virtual Machine are good examples.

Now, at this point I was in the process of writing a post detailing how to use the vmx and ISO files, however, because VMware Player is a rather crippled piece of software, there is no direct way (that I can quickly come up with) to get around this lovely error message :

The reason for this is simple, just like the real EEE PC, the Virtual Machine VMware is trying to boot off of its harddrive which is referenced in the vmx image provided by ASUS. Unfortunately what they did not provide was the vmsd file. As a result VMware Player will always fail and since it is only a featured stripped version, there is no way to progress.

UPDATE: You can use the purportedly free beta version of VMWare server to get around this, but by this stage I was fed up of WMware products.

So, what we need to do is start again with a different free piece of software, since I already had Microsoft Virtual PC installed on my computer, I decided to use it for the remainder of this how-to.

Fire up Virtual PC and Select ‘NEW’ from the console.

Go through the New Virtual Machine Wizard, selecting ‘Create a Virtual Machine’ and name it anything you like. I called my profile “EEE PC” and selected Operating System “Other.” This being a Microsoft product, there is no mention of Linux on here :)

You will notice that this only gives you 128Mb of emulated RAM, this of course is too little, but don’t worry for in the next stage we will be able to edit this by selecting “Adjusting the RAM.” Set this to 512Mb.

Next, we need to create a new ‘Virtual’ harddisk in order to emulate our EEE PC. By default, Virtual PC will want to create a 16GB harddisk. Since the 701 EEE PC only has 4GB (and the 700 has 2GB) for the purposes of this experiment, 2GB SHOULD be plenty. I however discovered that the installation fails unless you make the image at least 16,384MB.

Please note that this does not create a 16GB file on your harddrive (although it can.) Instead it will create a small .vhd file which will increase in size and the amount of space inside this virtual harddive is filled, so make sure you have at least a gigabyte of real HDD space remaining. You can save this virtual harddrive anywhere on your computer but it would make sense to put it in the same folder you put the ISO image. Finish this wizard.

Select EEE PC and click ‘Start’ from the console. This is where the fun starts. Now you will see a console or DOS like window appear and try to boot, however it has nothing to boot from yet so click on the CD menu and select ‘Capture ISO Image.’

Selet the ISO image you downloaded from Sourceforge and using the Action Menu, click ‘Reset.’ The virtual machine will now boot from the virtual CD image (the ISO) and allow you to install the EEE PC environment onto your virtual computer. You will be asked to enter ‘yes’ to continue. Follow the instructions. Rather than present you with a GUI or any options, all you will see is the message “Starting to write (it should take approx. 5mins).” Give this some time, do not forget you are emulating a separate computer within Windows so this may take longer than specified.

NOTE: If you see any error messages than it is likely your ISO was corrupted during download. If you continue, you will see ‘error 17′ when trying to start your virtual machine. To check if you have a good ISO image, use a utility that calculates the MD5 hash of a file.

If your installation completed successfully then skip this section.

If not, then we now need to check the downloaded CD image. We do this by comparing the MD5 hash of your downloaded CD image (ISO), using a free utility such as WinMD5Sum (or use the built in command in Linux) and compare it to that of a complete, 100% good copy.

My MD5 hash of the file L701_EN_1.0.6.6.iso is 22056e798c26b16b1521707f9dd73a2c. If yours differs, either it is a different version or it is corrupt therefore useless, you will need to re-download the file from sourceforge. This happened to me first time round when I was downloading the image, the remote server in the sourceforge farm truncated my ISO a few kb short which was a bit frustrating. If you keep having this problem, try using a download manager,

Now, if everything went according to plan, read on.

After the reboot, you should be set! Your virtual machine should boot straight into the ASUS modified Xandros Linux operating system. Enjoy! Please post comments / feedback. If you have any issues getting this working leave a comment and I will do my best to help you. Other people have done the same thing also using Microsoft Virtual PC, as well as QEMU under Linux. I also managed to get this working via QEMU (using QEMU Manager and QEMU Windows Build 0.9.1)

A final note of caution, the speed and responsiveness of Xandros / EEE PC Linux inside an emulator (or more correctly a virtualised environment) should not be seen as an indication of the speed or responsiveness of the same software on real hardware. It might be faster (since emulation / virtualisation can be processor intensive) it might be slower (you may have a fast computer.)

EEE 900 and Desktop Series

March 29, 2008 1 comment

I have been holding off posting more information filtering through from the EEE camp until now. Most people are already aware that the 900 Series will be the second generation of the proven EEE brand from Asus. It uses the same form factor with some key differences in the hardware. Firstly, Asus have added a bigger (8.9″) at 1024×600 resolution TFT screen which is a welcome upgrade from the fairly anemic 700 series. On top of this, the screen will feature a touchscreen panel (previously added by a talented hardware hacker) despite Kevin Lin (VP Sales at ASUS) previously going on record dismissing the rumours that ASUS were looking into a touchscreen version. It is also likely the CPU will be upgraded although nothing concrete has been announced as well as rumours of GPS functionality in the future.

Not only that, but it appears multitouch, a technology highlighted by its wonderful implementation on the Apple iPhone, is also going to feature on the second generation laptop. This is likely to be limited to zooming in/out on photos as well as some page browsing tweaks. Apart from that, the 900 Series of EEE PC will also feature more flash memory (8 and 12Gb models being announced) as well as a hefty pricetag increase. According to ASUS, the RRP is likely to be around $500 when it starts to ship in a couple of months time.

Unfortunately, if what happened with the first generation EEE PCs repeats itself, we are likely to see the price tag of $50-80 more (especially in the UK and Europe.) The issue that concerns me here is that it slips out of the ultracheap ultraportable niche and starts to go head to head with cheap machines produced by the likes of Acer, Fujitsu Siemens and others. Whilst these machines are generally dreadfully underpowered, it is likely to dampen interest in the EEE 900 series which would be a shame.

UPDATE: An excellent video review from CeBIT2008 of the new EEE PC can be seen here.

Briefly I would also like to mention the EEE ‘desktop’ PC which has been rumoured for a while. Engadget are running a story with some leaked pictures purporting to be the EEE desktop, although ASUS have not confirmed such a product range is even in development let alone released any rough specifications. As an early prediction, I do not think these ‘slimline’ desktops will do particularly well. Laptops were a different story, they presented ‘light’ mobile computing without the encumbrances of price and weight. In a market filled with low power desktop PCs, the only thing that could make the EEE desktop systems competitive (and desirable) would be a crazily low price tag (~£100, maybe £160 tops) because otherwise they are simply trying to take a slice of another niche market which already has some hungry wolves circling.

Vista SP1 – A reflection

March 23, 2008 2 comments

It is interesting how perusing or glancing at the popular tech topic currently doing the rounds on wordpress can give an insight into the impact such announcements (or software/game/hardware/press releases etc) are having on the general public. Its all well and good reading about something (in this case Vista Service Pack 1) from recognised tech insiders such as Paul Thurrott, it is far more telling to read about the experiences everyone else is having.

Here are a selection of headlines from the last few days,

Vista wreaks havok on some PCs, users complain (anti Vista blog), My Nightmare trying to upgrade to SP1 (Insightful look into incompatible drivers), Vista SP1 update not showing up is for your own good (Reasons why SP1 may not be available yet for some people), SP1 Now available, Delayed, Delayed, Delayed, SP1 Day two (interesting positive feedback from a user), Hell has frozen over (overexcited user).

And guess what? Its not (entirely) the usual doom and gloom and has become almost ubiquitous when it comes to reports about Vista. Vista Service Pack 1 has come a long way since internal betas handed out to the Microsoft beta testers. These poor guys must have been feeling particularly abused this time round if the early write ups are anything to go by. With several restarts required to complete the process (and a few hours) these so-called tech elite reported back their thoughts on the process and as you can imagine, even the most staunchly pro-Microsoft of them has a few ‘choice’ comments to make.

But anyway, fast forward to now and you will see in your Windows Updates Vista Service Pack 1 waiting patiently for you to let it into your digital home. Software and hardware compatibility is good and the lengthy installation process has been slimmed down dramatically to a single reboot after completion. Inevitably it won’t go that way for everyone with some users reporting issues with certain drivers. To Microsoft’s credit, a fairly comprehensive list of drivers that have issues has been published and I have reproduced the list below.

Realtek AC’97

For x86-based computers: Alcxwdm.sys – version 6.0.1.6242 or earlier
For x64-based computers: Alcwdm64.sys – version 6.0.1.6242 or earlier
SigmaTel

For x86-based computers: Sthda.sys – version 5.10.5762.0 or earlier
For x64-based computers: Sthda64.sys – version 5.10.5762.0 or earlier
SigmaTel

For x86-based computers: Stwrt.sys – version 6.10.5511.0 or earlier
For x64-based computers: Stwrt64.sys – version 6.10.5511.0 or earlier
Creative Audigy

For x86-based and x64-based computers: Ctaud2k.sys – version 6.0.1.1242 or earlier
For x86-based computers: P17.sys – all versions (This was originally a Windows XP-based driver.)
Conexant HD Audio

For x86-based computers: Chdart.sys – version 4.32.0.0 or earlier
For x64-based computers: Chdart64.sys – version 4.32.0.0 or earlier
Display drivers

Intel Display

For x86-based computers: Igdkmd32.sys – versions between and including driver 7.14.10.1322 and 7.14.10.1403
For x64-based computers: Igdkmd64.sys – versions between and including driver 7.14.10.1322 and 7.14.10.1403

Unfortunately, I am the (not-so) proud owner of a Ac’97 soundcard in my primary laptop so it looks like I may have to fish around for drivers (AGAIN!!) to get my laptop to work properly with Redmond’s latest offering. The issues here are not Microsoft’s fault. Infact, as several tech insiders have noted, Microsoft was beating the drum about drivers to ODM/OEMs for months prior to Vista’s (and SP1’s) release but when the moment came to deliver, most manufacturers did not come to the party.

The reason is simply, it is not really cost effective. Take a computer you bought in the last few years (or Motherboard) and goto the manufacturer’s website and check the date of the ‘latest’ drivers (or BIOS.) Whilst these companies are fairly diligent during the product’s lifecycle, when they move onto something else, they stop putting out bugfixes or updates because it no longer makes commercial sense for them to pay their software engineers to do so. When Vista came out, many people had equipment (like me) that was designed for XP but could, with a fair amount of tweaking, run Vista very comfortably. The problem I (and many others) faced was a complete lack of native driver support for this hardware. I understand the problem, but I still think it is ridiculous. Microsoft did try to smooth this over by building in a compatibility layer into Vista to allow the loading of some XP drivers and while this helped a lot, there were performance penalties.

For now, I am not particularly fussed about SP1 so I will be sticking to vanilla Vista until either these driver issues are resolved (unlikely) or I get the time to find replacement drivers for my laptop.

Linux powered PCs dropped by Wallmart

March 12, 2008 Leave a comment

In a somewhat strange move, Walmart announced that, despite selling out stock of their pilot gOS systems, they would not be reordering stock. This effectively means Walmart have shelved the idea, officially citing too little interest. This is a huge shame as what Linux desperately needs on the desktop is some degree of representation. Who better than a major national retailer?

Of course, there are other issues not often considered. Whilst a well configured linux distribution is generally far more hardy than a Windows system, tech support is a key issue. Retraining people to deal with a fringe group of users is likely to be a cost retailers would not happily swallow. This is compounded because these cheap linux desktops are literally that, cheap. This means (I assume) the product margins would be much thinner than traditional desktops. It would be a shame if this is goodbye for popular, mass adoption of Linux PCs and with any luck it is just a temporary stumble. PC World are still selling EEE PCs at incredible rates and with the new 900 Series EEE pc around the corner as well as other exciting F/OSS systems like the cloudbook PC.

If anything, working part time in retail for the last few years has shown me the incredible jump in the number of laptops (and sublaptops) being sold over traditional desktop PCs. This has been reflected in part by the astronomical interest in the EEE PC compared to the more casual interest that was paid to the gOS PC. If the desktop market is over-saturated or in decline then inevitably it will be bad news for any new products unless they completely revolutionise the market. Lets face it, the adoption of Linux on the desktop hardly comes close to being this, especially compared to the advances Apple keep making. Outside of tech blogs, casual geeks and developing nations, the interest is minimal at best with Joe Public preferring to stay safe with that he or she knows.

Saying this, the possibility of explosive growth for Linux on the portable (or ultraportable) is good. The EEE pc has not succeeded because it is a linux laptop. It has sold hundreds of thousands of units because it is cheap and ultra-small. The fact that it runs linux has almost been pushed to the background. I do however hope this emerging market for cheap, F/OSS powered systems market expands quickly in the coming months and years, to quote Betruger, “Wonderful things will happen here, just stay out of my way…”.

Asus EEE Touchscreen Update

January 20, 2008 1 comment

Following the lead from the great Asus EEE PC touchscreen mod I wrote about back in December, rumours have been surfacing that ASUS is interested in taking this design improvement, possibly adding a bigger screen (fingers crossed after the “yes they are, .. no we are not” that occured in December) and updating their product line.

According to manufacturers, the extra bill of materials (BOM) would only be around $15 given the scale ASUS is requesting. Good news, as I want an EEE PC but have held off over concerns about the screen size, I certainly will be keeping a keen eye on this :)

EEE PC Touchscreen Mod

December 23, 2007 3 comments

A couple of days ago, jkk posted a fascinating (if light on the details) post about his project to add a touchscreen to the EEE PC.

He tantalisingly promised to post a tutorial within a short duration. Thankfully he was as good as his word and his youtube walk-through can be found below.

Its a shame he is not a bit more concise, but the video really does show the simplicity of the mod. There are a few things that remain unclear, firstly whether or not the left speaker is replaced / disabled by this mod and whether this makes the whole thing a tighter fit when closed.

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