News & Commentary


Amilo L1310G Upgrade

I was given an old Fujitsu Siemens Amilo L1310G for my 10 year old (Spencer).

I stuck with XP but reformatted the hard disk & reinstalled the OS to ensure the machine was 'clean'.

Immediately I had problems with overheating - the fan was working but I didn't think much of the venting. The casing had additional vents but these had subsequently been blanked off (probably for EMC as this area was covered internally with metal foil (to shield emissions).

   

I peeled back the foil, removed the blanking plate & then carefully trimmed the foil to just expose the vents. After fashioning a grill from aluminium mesh over which I stretched material from an old pair of tights, I fastened this is place with some (yellow) insulation tape & replaced the foil (which was still fairly sticky). I finally stuck on a pair of sticky feet to raise up the rear & improve the airflow underneath.

This sorted the overheating but it was still painfully slow.

I found the following link which seemed promising:
http://www.amilo-forum.com/topic,928,-CPU-Upgrade-For-AMILO-L1310G.html

First I sought to upgrade the RAM (from 2x256MB) to 2x1GB.

I bought RAM from FastFlashStore as this was mentioned in the article. However they didn't work (black screen) so I returned them for replacement requesting a different brand. Irritatingly they supplied the same brand again (which still didn't work). Therefore I returned them for refund & bought Samsung from Mr Memory, which worked fine.

I then set about finding a better processor & managed to secure a Pentium M 755 (2.0GHz) on eBay. Fitting this required removing the heat-pipe, which in turn required removing the fan assembly.

I didn't bother with the HDD but Spencer now has a very useable machine:

  • £34.00 - RAM from Fast Flash Store (didn't work - returned for refund)
  • £42.91 - RAM from Mr Memory
  • £27.49 - CPU
  • £70.40 - Total Spend

Or at least he did have - until my 9 year old (Morgan) accidentally squirted honey on the keyboard...


Not just an 'old wives tale'

My mother suffers from a condition known as 'restless legs' & my brother was subject to muscle spasms after a hip replacement operation. The doctors advised that this was simply something that had to be endured but an old friend suggested that Quinine might help & indeed it did.

Pretty much the only way to buy Quinine is as Indian Tonic Water, but this is widely available. My brother wished to prove the point & sure enough, on stopping the Tonic Water the spasms worsened & on restarting it, they improved again.


Wisdom

It never occurred to me that there was a psychological definition of wisdom but apparently the 5 crucial aspects of wise reasoning are:

  • Willingness to seek opportunities to resolve conflict.
  • Willingness to search for compromise.
  • Recognition of the limits of personal knowledge.
  • Awareness that more than one perspective on a problem can exist.
  • Appreciation of the fact that things may get worse before they get better.
Intriguingly, according to this metric, adult Japanese are naturally wise while adult North Americans acquire wisdom with age. Go figure!

My esteemed colleague says that the above definition is a load of rubbish & offers 2 alternatives:

  • A combination of knowledge, experience & intuition.
  • Knowing what to do in any situation without having to think about it.
Personally, I'd be happy to know what to do in any situation once I have thought about it...



Size does matter (thoughts on the financial crisis).

Who's got the problem:

  • If you owe the bank a thousand & can't afford the repayments, who's got the problem (you or the bank)?
  • If you owe the bank a hundred million & can't afford the repayments, who's got the problem (you or the bank)?


THE HIDDEN COST OF CHEAP CHINESE ELECTRICALS

Chatting to an old friend who runs a PAT testing company I innocently asked him why there wasn't a period of grace for new equipment, like MOTs for cars.

Reaching into his bag he passed me two IEC leads "One's good, the other fails the Earth bonding test - they both buzz through OK but one's a potential death trap."

I inspected them carefully - both carried Kite marks, used labelled cable & sported a plethora of approvals symbols on the plug & socket.

Eventually I spotted it, staring me in the face - on one lead not only were the plug Live & Neutral pins shrouded but the Earth as well!

Cheap copies sold to the unsuspecting for a couple of quid less than the real thing.

Next he produced a 4-way extension lead.

"The old ones - the ones you could open up - I rarely have a problem with those. These days they all tend to be sealed units but I've broken this one open so you can see what the problem is."

I could see that the manufacturer had continued to use the crimping head long after it was worn out resulting in intermittent connections.

A nuisance for Live & Neutral but potentially lethal for Earth!

"What makes it even worse is that people tend to daisy chain them & if the first one isn't Earthed then none of them are."

I've an idea that it might be better to pay a little more for a good quality product in the first place rather that pay someone to safety test it every year, but I can't see it catching on.

"Some of those unsafe IEC leads have turned up with hand written tested stickers on them - always insist on labels printed by the test equipment."

Photo courtesy of www.pattestingman.co.uk

   



iPhone vs. Palm Pre?
We’ve finally decided to join the debate; which is better?

Well if you hear your iPhone clunking around in the washing machine – don’t despair! Not being able to remove the battery is a big disadvantage but Richard’s phone cleverly powered itself down – do NOT attempt to power it on again until it’s completely dry. To accomplish this put it in a warm dry place for several days. Richard suspended his in a bag over a several Watt heater he knocked up for the purpose using a bench PSU & a few power resistors. He didn’t have a cloth or paper bag handy so instead used a plastic bag & put a sachet of Silica gel in too. He lost the camera but everything else was OK.

The Pre scores for its crunchy processor, proper keyboard & native video support - plus it's a much better size & shape for a trouser pocket.. The iPhone has better rendering routines, more memory options & is soon to be upgraded to pre-emptive multitasking, together with support for adverts within apps - I bet you can't wait.

To a certain extent it’s horses for courses – if you’re foremost an audiophile then the iPhone is probably for you but otherwise using the touch screen for text entry just isn’t fast enough. To me the best thing about the Pre is that it isn’t an iPhone, which now remind of BMWs – they used to be exclusive once too.

Incidentally does anyone have a theory as to why Apple is so set against plug-ins & code converters? Are they betting that if developers can’t develop one program for multiple platforms they will concentrate on the iPhone due to its current dominance? If so & they succeed their position will be unassailable. Personally I hope it backfires on them (anyone remember Netscape?).




The other side of Moore's Law...
We're all familiar with Moore's Law that "transistor counts double every two years" with associated improvements in processing power. We've been used to paying roughly the same for our PCs, mobile phones, MP3 players, etc while seeing steadily increasing performance year-on-year. However the gloomy economic climate has begun to see Moore's Law applied in a different way.

Witness the rise of the Netbook - primarily designed for browsing & email - these handy gadgets offer similar power to that of a PC a couple of years ago - but at a lower price. People are now happy to maintain current levels of performance & features but want to pay less for it.



Improving the Bottom Line
In the current economic climate there is predictably much focus on reducing cost. As a result of this, many small companies are actually booming as their lower overheads translate into lower prices, making them a more attractive proposition for newly cost conscious buyers.




Surviving the economic downturn
Consumers have pressed the pause button on spending – we know they will be pressing the resume button – we’re just not sure when. So it’s all about cash - some companies will need to hoard all they’ve got just to survive – others will be able to enjoy bargain prices. Redesigning older products can reduce cost of manufacture, often dramatically, while also adding value.

So which areas are recession proof?

  • Major purchases are on hold but part of this spending has switched to smaller luxury items, some of which are actually booming. Value products have naturally also seen an uptake – it’s mid-range items that are being squeezed hardest.
  • Burglaries are already on the rise so security products will recover well after an initial blip.
  • Burgeoning legislation will keep health & safety equipment strong in most areas.
  • Smaller purchases are likely to pick up first & expect consumers to be more value focused – price and quality.
  • Green products should continue to grow as will those that save money in general.
  • Products for the disabled will be another growth area with judges usually sympathetic to discrimination claims.
  • Predictably there is a lot of interest in "me too" products at the moment.


Cheap Electronics Add Value to Almost Anything
Electronics has now become so cheap that it can be used to add value to almost anything - even grocery products – witness one air-freshener that swaps fragrances periodically & another equipped with a motion sensor!




On-Shore Design with Off-Shore Manufacture
If you manufacture off-shore then on-shore design is by no means a guarantee of product quality. Test houses report frequent instances where poor manufacture or invalid component substitution have rendered UK designed products either unsafe (e.g. insulation class, ESR or ripple current rating) or unreliable (e.g. insufficient operating lifespan and/or temperature rating). You might consider not letting your manufacturer use equivalents for safety critical components but if you do, always request & check the data sheets.




God is in the Details
So many Chinese products (some of them otherwise pretty good) are let down by poorly translated instructions, lopsidedly photocopied onto a sheet of A4. Putting this right costs nothing & requires little effort but avoids spoiling the image of the whole product.




More Than just Electronics in a Box
Manufacturers have long being trying to convince us that their products are more than just snazzy electronics in a slick box. It’s always been true for mobile phones but here the service providers & hardware manufacturers have traditionally been separate. Increasingly manufacturers are providing services tied into their hardware. Established examples include RIM (Blackberry emails) Apple (iPod & iTunes, iPhone & App Store), Sat Navs (map & traffic updates). Nokia now sees it Ovi services division as key to future growth.



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