Archive for the ‘Hardware’ Category.

Ikea Hack – Standing Desk

I made an Ikea Hack and fashioned together a standing desk out of two shelves and some legs.

I used the Ekby Viktor shelf for the large top shelf where the external screen is and the Ekby Laiva shelf for the stand for the laptop (or keyboard/mouse).

For the legs I need some with a reasonable height that were also adjustable so I could make one shelf fit under the other. I ended up using the Godmorgon legs which can go from 22cm to 25cm. Unfortunately they aren’t cheap and I needed 8 of them…

The prices are as follows: Ekby Viktor: 29DKK; Ekby Laiva: 15DKK; 8 Godmorgon legs: 400DKK. All in all 444DKK for a hopefully useful approximation of a standing desk that doesn’t take too much effort to set up and use.

Yes, the screens are dusty and greasy.

No, the two shelves aren’t exactly the same color (one is black, the other is black/brown).

Yes, the external screen is up too high when I am sitting down but I am considering using the laptop as the main display when sitting down.

I will however need a wireless mouse since there isn’t quite enough room for both the cable and the mouse since the USB port is on the right side. I can use the trackpad on the laptop if I need to but I am so old that I still prefer a mouse.

ikea_hack_standing_desk_1 ikea_hack_standing_desk_2 ikea_hack_standing_desk_3 ikea_hack_standing_desk_4

CyanogenMod on ASUS Transformer Infinity using Fedora 19

Today I decided to finally make the jump and install CyanogenMod on my ASUS Transformer Infinity.

It turned out to be really easy. I needed some Android tools (adb and fastboot) which are available in the Fedora repositories

sudo yum install android-tools

I made sure to take a backup of all the data I had on the tablet first (books, comics, pdfs, sound files, etc.).

Make sure that “USB debugging” is enabled on the device. On Android 4.2 and newer this requires going to “Settings/About tablet” and tapping “Build number” 7 times (I kid you not). This will cause “Settings/Developer options” to magically appear and “USB debugging” can now be enabled.

When rebooting into the ClockworkMod Recovery (by choosing the “RCK” icon on the boot screen) I had to go into the “Mounts and storage” menu and “mount /data” to be able to make backups and find the zip files.

Then I just followed the official CyanogenMod installation instructions. Remember to download the Google Apps as well to get Play Store, etc.

And that’s it.

Laptop: Vacuumed and updated BIOS

My laptop has been behaving poorly when it came to CPU speed management (it limited the maximum CPU speed to 800Hz for extended periods of time), so I updated the BIOS and gave it a good vacuuming to make sure dust wasn’t clogging up the fans and making the machine overly hot.

I ran a test consisting of indexing a stack of MPEG files using avidemux and playing a string of Flash videos from collegehumor.com – that usually brings the laptop to its knees. It is also very unscientific but I think it does the trick anyway.

To log some relevant information I made the following small script

#!/bin/bash

while true; do
    TEMP=`cat /sys/bus/acpi/devices/LNXTHERM\:00/thermal_zone/temp`;
    BIOSLIMIT=`cat /sys/devices/system/cpu/cpu0/cpufreq/bios_limit`;
    LOADAVG=`cat /proc/loadavg | awk '{ print $1 }'`
    CURRFREQ=`cat /sys/devices/system/cpu/cpu0/cpufreq/scaling_cur_freq`

    echo $TEMP,$BIOSLIMIT,$LOADAVG,$CURRFREQ;
    sleep 5;
done;

This takes the current machine temperature, the maximum CPU speed the BIOS will allow, the load average and the current CPU frequency and outputs that every 5 seconds.

I ran that script before the vacuuming/BIOS update with the laptop lid open, and twice after (with the laptop lid closed and open).

Here are some graphs. There hasn’t been an enormous change in temperature so I am inclined to think that the BIOS update is the prime cause for the ability to now go to full throttle all the time.

Upgrading the BIOS on a Dell laptop using Fedora 17

A warning: I don’t know what I am doing and this may brick your laptop. So proceed at your own risk.

I noticed that my Dell E4300 was behaving a bit strangely when it came to managing the speed of the CPU. Sometimes it would limit it to 800Hz for an extended period of time and obviously that made it kind of a pain to use. So I thought that maybe the issue had been fixed in a BIOS update (there have been 11 BIOS updates since the one I have on the laptop now) and here’s how I installed it using Fedora 17.

First we need the Dell firmware tools

[maxx@siamese ~]$ sudo yum install firmware-addon-dell

Then we need to figure out what BIOS version we are running

[maxx@siamese ~]$ sudo inventory_firmware
Wait while we inventory system:
 System inventory:
 System BIOS for Latitude E4300 = A13

Then go to Dell’s “Drivers & Downloads” page and look for updates for E4300 BIOS. I found A24 and downloaded the E4300A24.exe file.

Now to run that .exe file and extract the BIOS update we need to install wine:

[maxx@siamese ~]$ sudo yum install wine
[maxx@siamese ~]$ wine E4300A24.EXE  -writehdrfile

This should give you with a file called E4300A24.hdr.

Update the BIOS:

[maxx@siamese ~]$ sudo dellBiosUpdate -u -f E4300A24.hdr

And finally reboot. Upon booting the machine you should see a message about updating the BIOS.

When you are back at a shell check that the BIOS version is right:

[maxx@siamese ~]$ sudo inventory_firmware
Wait while we inventory system:
 System inventory:
 System BIOS for Latitude E4300 = A24

And that’s it.

ASUS Transformer failed to charge

This morning I wondered why there was so little battery left on my ASUS Transformer as I hadn’t been using it more than usual the day before. It turns out that the charger had gone wonky and therefore it hadn’t actually been charged the last couple of days.

At first I suspected a faulty cable and luckily I had come prepared for just this emergency and had a spare cable – however that didn’t make any difference (and the cable worked fine when I connected the Transformer to my laptop).

The charger itself is on of these blocks designed for use in multiple countries where you can take the plug part off and put on a different on.

I took it apart and on a hunch I decided to slight bend the two inside prongs a bit outwards. Put the thing back together again and now it charges again.

So be sure to try this if you ASUS Transformer fails to charge.

Asus Transformer

After waiting a really long time my new Asus Transformer finally arrived on Monday. At the bottom are some unboxing pictures.

There are many nice things to say about the tablet. It is light weight, the screen has really nice colors, the resolution is good enough to read comics and books. It is however a (very) glossy screen so it is only really useful inside.

The Android 3.1 interface seems very responsive and the few apps that take advantage of the screen size are a joy to work with – and regular apps work just fine for the most part.

A very bad thing in my mind is that it uses a proprietary connector (presumably to make it easier to dock with the keyboard (which I have not bought)). On top of that it does not present itself as a USB mass storage device but as an MTP device – thus making it difficult to transfer files. The easiest solution so far has been to install an FTP server on the tablet..

All that being said I am so far really pleased with my purchase – but I may still be a bit high from simply getting a new gadget. Time will tell if it turns out to be as useful and entertaining as I imagine.

The on-screen keyboard is quite useful (I have used it to write this blog post) however I have so far been unable to find a way to write for a longer period of time without hurting my wrists as there is no natural place to rest them without pushing all kinds of random things on the touch screen – so in that respect the keyboard dock might make sense (but then again so would a small laptop if the plan was to do a lot of writing).

In conclusion I am a happy customer and if you are looking to buy a new gadget make it an Asus Transformer.

 

Vacation part 3 of 4: Motion Sensor On The Cheap

One of the kids’ bouncing ball toys deflated and naturally I had to cut it open – it had blinky lights inside!. And how do you go about making a light blink whenever the ball smashes into something? Really, really cheap? You make a simple switch using a spring. When it hits the ground the spring bends thus closing the circuit. Pure genius in all its simplicity.

A Squeezebox is a fascinating thing

He stood like that for several minutes completely oblivious to what was going on around him.

Musings about new hardware

CPU Fan by eddie.welker. Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic.

For quite a while I have been thinking about a new fileserver and wondering why a basic NAS server had to be so expensive and still only have room for one or two disks. So here is my attempt a putting together a nice, quiet machine that could act as a fileserver and possibly also webserver and TV recording server (with a hardware accelerated TV tuner of course).

Intel Desktop Board D510MO: 575,00 DKK

2GB RAM: 369,00 DKK

AeroCool ExtremEngine 3T: 543,00 DKK

LC Power Super Silent LC6420 V1.3: 290,00 DKK

This all adds up to a price of 1777,00 DKK. This is about twice as much as the cheapest NAS solutions but they are limited to 2 disks while this solution has a lot more room for expansion.

Some of these parts may be found cheaper and some of them may not even be compatible with each other. But if I were to build a new machine something like this would be my starting point.

Then throw in 3 or 4 Samsung SpinPoint 1.5TB disks (at 574,00 DKK per disk) and you have a neat little server.

One thing I haven’t been able to find is a nice and simple way to boot from an SD card. I would love to be able to keep the actual hard disks as pure data disk – and being able to perform system upgrades (and rollbacks) by simply swapping in a new SD card would be really sweet.

Intel Desktop Board D510MO

Compaq Mini 700

The daughter is turning six on Thursday so I think it is about time she got her own computer. These days it makes a lot of sense to buy a netbook for the kids since they are relatively cheap, lightweight, and small.

So she will be getting a Compaq Mini 700. A pretty standard 10″ netbook with 80GB harddrive and 1GB RAM.

I have it all up and running Fedora 11 now – I just need to transfer her settings and bookmarks from the wife’s computer. I decided to start her out using Gnome with a one-panel layout on the left hand side of the screen. She is used to it being a the bottom, but on a screen this small you can afford to waste pixels vertically. When Fedora 12 goes gold I will probably play around with Moblin since it is better suited for netbooks.

I faced two problems in getting things to work. First of all the wired network adapter didn’t work. The solution is to specify acpi_os_name=Linux on the kernel line in /etc/grub.conf. Next up was getting the wireless to work. It is a Broadcom chipset, and requires some proprietary bits to work. So enable the rpmfusion repository and install the broadcom-wl and kernel-devel packages. On the next reboot a new kernel module will be compiled and the wireless should work.

Now I just need to develop a small, easy to use media browser so she can watch all her movies that are stored on the media server.