Computer Ease

Computer Ease
(archived) Technology News

>> news
This page documents random thoughts, observations, hardware and software reviews, criticisms, rants, anecdotes, tips, tricks, and discoveries by Blake Nancarrow. The notes here pertain specifically to information technology. They are dated and arranged in reverse-order, the newest items at the top.

2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 | 2005 | 2004 | 2003 | 2002 | 2001 | the '90s


Index of Postings

27 Nov - keep cool
23 Oct - up and up
10 Oct - media check
9 Oct - old Symbian phone
12 Sep - wobbly footers
28 Jul - no labels for you
6 May - untethered presenting
22 Apr - 2.5/4
15 Mar - nee Outlook Express
14 Mar - added 1 TB
5 Feb - one touch risk
4 Feb - "Robot: backup computer!"
18 Jan - have portal...

back to top

27 Nov 2008 - keep cool

Today I learned the importance of CPU fan cooling. Fortunately, I did not set anything on fire, burn myself, melt plastic, or destroy a processor...

About 3 weeks ago, I started to notice strange sounds coming from under my desk. There are 4 computers down there. But only 2 were operating (I run these computers continuously). It sounded like a fan was getting tired, bad bearing perhaps. But I couldn't tell if it was a CPU fan, system unit fan, or fan in a power supply.

Then, starting last week, I started having problems with my Pentium 4 computer, a.k.a. John Smallberries. I'd return home from a day's work and find the computer off. I'd power it up and all was well. Perhaps it was a power failure. They do happen surprisingly frequently in my neighbourhood. On checking my UPS log though I discovered there were no recently incidents. Strange.

Next morning, found the computer powered off again. Huh! Wonder if I have a wonky power supply...

That evening I pulled the cover off the case to see what was up. Everything seemed fine. Both fans running. I installed NextSensor and SpeedFan to monitor voltages. They also showed fan speeds and temperatures. Voltages seemed OK... I set a high temperature alarm and went to bed.

At about 4 or 5 AM, I heard an alarm! Ran out to the computer. It was still running but I noticed that the CPU fan was not spinning. Powered it down. Took the heat sink and fan off the CPU. The fan was seized!

I popped into Sayal and bought a similar 12 V, 1 amp fan. The new one was larger than the old one (Sunon MagLev kde1209ptvx) but I knew I'd be able to juryrig it to the heat sink. I chose this unit because it had 4 wires (black, red, yellow, and blue for volts, control, and data) the same as the old unit. That said, the plug was different. Needed to hack that...

With the new fan attached to the mobo, I tried powering up the computer: it immediately shut down! What?! The power supply has failed too?!

At work today I asked Shane, the IT guy, if he had an ATX power supply with a 20/24-pin connector plus 4-pin CPU connector. He handed me a 350 watt unit to trouble-shoot with.

I put this supply in and fired it up. The PC immediately shut down. I tried a couple of times. No joy. WTF?!

It was then that I touched the CPU clamp, wondering where I'd get the glue type compount to put between this plate and the heat sink--OW! Hot! The metal CPU cover was very hot. But I had only had the PC on for a few seconds! And suddenly the light bulb went off...

I attached the heat sink to the mobo. I attached my new fan to the CPU. Fired everything up. John Smallberries is back! Replaced the new power supply with my old one. It worked. Joy! Not a power supply problem. It was all to do with the cooling fan.

back to top


23 Oct 2008 - up and up

I saw a 1.5 terabyte (TB) drive on sale today. First time I've seen a consumer grade large capacity drive of that size. Less than CDN$200.

back to top


10 Oct 2008 - media check

With the recent aquisition of the Nokia 9500, and the included 1 GB MultiMediaCard (MMC), I've some new storage media...

Here's the updated media checklist, grouped by class, and with recent additions or updates italicised:

  • magnetic disks
    • 3-1/2" floppy diskettes (low density DD and high density HD)
    • 5-1/4" floppy diskettes (low density 2D and high density HD)
    • 9" floppy diskettes (without reader)
    • IDE hard drives (various capacities)
    • SCSI hard drives (various capacities, internal, external)
    • 5-1/4" removable hard disk cartridges (e.g. SyQuest)
    • Zip-100 disks (with drive)
  • magnetic tape
    • computer backup tape cartridges (couple of different types)
    • computer magnetic tape (reel, without reader)
    • video tapes, VHS (LP, EP, SLP speeds)
    • video tapes, Beta
    • a video tape, Digital8
    • cassette tapes (metal, chromium, and standard formulisations)
  • optical discs (and drives)
    • CD-ROMs
    • CD-R and CD-RWs
    • DVDs (region 1 and region 2)
    • a DVD-RAM for DVD-CAM (which I don't have a reader for)
    • CDs (audio)
    • multimedia enhanced CDs (A/V)
  • solid state memory cards
    • Compact Flash (CF) memory cards
    • SmartMedia (SSFDC) memory cards
    • Psion SSD RAM memory cards (various capacities)
    • Psion SSD Flash memory cards (various capacities)
    • a SanDisk cruzer mini 512MB USB memory stick
    • a SanDisk cruzer mini 1GB USB memory stick
    • a Lexar JumpDrive 512MB USB memory stick
    • a MultiMediaCard (MMC) 1GB memory card
    • a storage cartridge for Nintendo 64 game controller
    • a storage cartridge for Nintendo GameCube console
  • digital media players
    • Apple iPod (hard disk)
    • Samsung yepp (flash memory)
  • IBM mark-sense computer cards
  • vinyl "albums" (LP, EP, and 45)
  • identification cards with magnetically encoded strips (various)
  • 35mm slides and negative film
  • canvas
  • acetate film
  • paper
  • and my brain (when not too frazzled)

How many types of storage media do you have?

back to top


9 Oct 2008 - old Symbian phone

9500 smartphoneI received an old Nokia 9500 smartphone from a friend. He's not using it any more. Nokia licenced the operating system (v7.0s) from Symbian. I am interested in trying out the unit. It is intriguing using essentially the successor to a Psion Series 5mx.

I didn't know it supported wireless LAN access! I've connected it to the linksys wireless router. Wow.

I set up the Messaging client to access my e-mail. Wirelessly. Wow.

I heard it support OGG music files. Wow.

This might be the next platform for me. When I can no longer buy old Psion's from eBay...

back to top


12 Sep 2008 - wobbly footers

What happened to Microsoft's footers in PowerPoint 2007?! Things do not work right.


back to top


28 Jul 2008 - no labels for you

If Microsoft's human-computer interface research showed that people tend to not click on buttons if they are not labelled, then why did Microsoft remove the wording from the Start button in Vista and not include a label for the Office Button in the Office 2007 applications ribbons? Speaking of which, why did they not keep the "file" term?


back to top


6 May 2008 - untethered presenting

AMP03US_accessories_b.jpg (13776 bytes)I delivered a presentation at the Ontario Science Centre. The coordinator asked if I wanted to use the wireless presenter device. Looked interesting but I chickened out. Didn't want to try some new tech in the middle of a public presentation.

Still, it was intriguing. So I snooped around the Targus Canada web site and learned that they had a couple of related products. I decided on the same one used at the Science Centre (model AMP03CA); I didn't need (or didn't want to pay for) a voice recorder nor other doodads.

Came with battery and a little protective fabric sack. The receiver plugs into a USB port and does not install any software. Nice. Pull it out when you're done. The red button is for a red laser pointer. The bottom silver button is for the "black screen" toggle when running PowerPoint. Slick. I love this little unit! It is immensely satisfying being able to walk about while presenting.

back to top


22 Apr 2008 - 2.5/4

Best Buy had a blow out on RAM. $40 for 2GB. I bought 4 GB for my John Smallberries machine. Of course, some combination of the motherboard, Intel CPU, BIOS, or Windoze operating system does not recognise all 4 GB.

Still, Windows XP Media Center Edition Version 2002 reports 2.5 GB. And that's over 100% more than what I had...

The best part of this arrangement: free shipping from Best Buy.


Perhaps I can move the "old" RAM over to the Linux box...

back to top


15 Mar 2008 - nee Outlook Express

Was helping out a client with their migration from an old HP computer (running Windows 98 and Outlook Express) to their new Acer computer (running Windows Vista and... something else!).

It's clear that there's a new internet e-mail application included with Vista. It might also handle calendaring and tasks and other things. But it has the same look-and-feel as Express.

So, the question is, why did they rename it to Windows Mail?

It really makes me wonder what the hell Microsoft is doing...

Are they trying to confuse absolutely everyone on the planet?


back to top


14 Mar 2008 - added 1 TB

wdmybook.jpg (2759 bytes)Connected the new Western Digital My Book (Home Edition) 1 terabyte (1 TB) external drive to a Windows machine in my home office network. It was immediately recognised, as expected. I saw the data I had backed up from Malcolm's machine. I launched the built-in application which allows the installation of the software provided by WD.

I was getting conflicting information as to whether the backup program, Memeo AutoBackup, is available for free or trial. Inside the installer, it does not say that it's trial. Turns out it is.

That's cheap of Western Digital!

To hell with them. I'll back up the data myself.

back to top


5 Feb 2008 - one touch risk

j0299913.wmf (7216 bytes)It occurred to me today that purchasers of one-touch external hard drives might be operating under false security.

Sure, these drives making performing regular backups so easy that you have no excuse for not doing them.

Yes, they make backup more convenient then disc-flipping with your DVD burner.

This will help in those situations where we permenantly delete a file by accident or, more importantly, corrupt a file.

But this will not help in fire, theft, or lightning...

Don't forget to make periodic backups and get them off-site.

back to top


4 Feb 2008 - "Robot: backup computer!"

Learned of a hard drive backup robot called drobo. Available at TigerDirect here in Canada for $606.

Expensive unit, for home use. That said, it is much cheaper than business-grade RAID cabinets.

I really like the swapping convenience of the 4 drivers and on-the-fly rebalancing.

On to the wish list!

back to top


18 Jan 2008 - have portal...

I was trying to find a solution for keeping tabs on weather, sky conditions, late-breaking astronomical news, and RSS feeds from Sky & Telescope, when I revisited a web site I had heard about earlier.

I had read a favourable review of PageFlakes from PC Magazine. It's an oddly named web site but I immediately liked the look and feel of the DIY portal site. I enjoyed how you could easily change the layout and colour scheme.

Tonight I gave it a good run with it. Increasingly, I realised it was really good. Really, really good.

flake2sml.jpg (87238 bytes)

And then I realised the big reason why I will continue to use this... You can access you own personal portal page from anywhere on the planet!

back to top



This page was last updated on 26 February 2013.
Copyright © 1995-2013 Computer Ease. All Rights Reserved.