HP Elitebook 8440p overheating

HP Elitebook 8440p overheating

You can get used 8440p laptops pretty cheaply because HP Elitebook 8440p overheating is rather common. Symptoms of overheating include unexpected reboots, shutting down, and bluescreens.

The problems with the cooling system are unfortunate. They have nice keyboards, they’re easy to work on, and they’re reliable otherwise, so they’d be nice laptops if they didn’t overheat so much. Here’s how to improve their cooling so you can get a bargain–buying off-lease business laptops is a great way to save money.

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A DVR without a subscription or monthly fees

What if I told you that you could have a DVR without a subscription that worked with free over-the-air antenna-based TV, and it cost less than $35, saving those monthly subscription fees month after month?

It’s called the Mediasonic Homeworx HW180STB. If you want to record and time-shift television without loss of quality and without paying a fortune in subscription fees, it’s a tremendous value. You have to provide an antenna–which you can even make yourself–and USB-based storage, but it means you can get whatever capacity you want, and if you fill up a drive, just get another one.

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The Feit Electric G25 LED globe from Costco

I spied a 3-pack of LED globe bulbs at Costco last week, priced at $20. This is a ridiculously good price on LED globe bulbs–typically I see them at $15 apiece at the home improvement stores. After verifying that, I picked up a package to try out on my next Costco run. While they aren’t the best LED bulbs I’ve seen, they’re easily the best deal I’ve seen on LED globes, and I’ll be buying more of them. Read more

Tradeoffs at the low end: Cores or Cache?

I’m looking at building myself a new PC for the first time in years. That’s a little bit of a misnomer though. Today, building a PC can mean bolting as few as two components into a case and connecting four cables. Building PCs in the 1990s was a lot more difficult. I remember in 1994, during one of my first builds, someone walking past in the hall, looking at the mess of cards and cables, and asking, “How do you know which one goes where?”

Today, the assembly is pretty easy. Figuring out what to buy is harder. In 1994, the differences between the various flavors of 386 and 486 chips available was confusing, but it all fit on an index card. Mainly the difference came down to the amount of memory the chip could address (386) and whether it had a math coprocessor (486). Beyond that all you really had to worry about was clock speed. Back then the research took 30 minutes and the system took hours to build.

Today there are two chip manufacturers (down from four) but they both have half a dozen product lines. And nobody really talks about clock speed anymore. That’s fine because clock speed was a crude measure of performance, but is throwing numbers like 560 or 840 or 965 on the chips really any better? Today the research takes hours (if not days) and the system goes together in about 5 minutes. Shake the bag right and it could just come out of the bag fully assembled.
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New life for a Compaq Presario S5140WM

I’m fixing up my mother in law’s Compaq Presario S5140WM. She bought it about five years ago, a few weeks after her daughter and I started dating. It’s been a pretty good computer for her, but lately it’s been showing signs it might be overheating.

I took the shotgun approach, replacing pretty much everything that I would expect to be at or near the end of its life at five years.Since we seemed to have a heat problem, I picked up a better copper heatsink/fan for the CPU. The copper heatsink promised to lower the temperature by 5-10 degrees on its own. Since I rarely get more than 3-4 years out of a CPU fan, this was pretty much a no-brainer.

I also picked up a Seasonic 300W 80-plus power supply. I doubt the machine will put enough load on the power supply to actually get it to run at peak efficiency, but I also figured an 80-plus power supply would probably be better built and more reliable than a more traditional power supply. Seasonic is hardly a no-name, acting as an OEM for a number of big names, including Antec and PC Power & Cooling.

Finally, of course I replaced the hard drive. Being a parallel ATA model, I was limited in choices. I bought a Seagate rather than a Western Digital, because I’ve had better luck with Seagate through the years, and Seagate has also absorbed Quantum through its purchase of Maxtor. Maxtor admittedly had a couple of rough periods, so say what you will about Maxtor, but every Quantum drive I ever bought still works. I have a Quantum drive I bought back in 2000 still working in my computer downstairs. Yeah, it’s slow and loud, but it’s been ticking away like a Swiss watch for 8 years, in almost constant use! Maybe some of those Quantum engineers worked on this Seagate. To Seagate’s advantage, they do offer a 5-year warranty on their drives, which is really good, considering the conventional wisdom on hard drives used to be that you should replace them every three years because they’d fail soon afterward. Unless the drive was a Quantum, that is.

The question is whether I just clone the old drive onto the new drive, or install Windows fresh on it. I know if I do a fresh installation, the thing will run like a cheetah, free of all the useless crud HP installed at the factory. The question is how lazy I am.

After buying a new hard drive, power supply and CPU fan, I’ve sunk nearly $120 into this old computer. But it’s an Athlon, faster than 2 GHz, so it can hold its own with a low-end computer of today. The onboard video is terrible, but I solved that with a plug-in AGP card. It has 768 MB of RAM in it and tops out at a gig, but since she mainly just uses it for web browsing, 768 megs ought to be enough. I’ll keep my eye out for a 512MB PC3200 DIMM to swap in just in case.

And besides all that, since this Compaq has a standard micro ATX case, if 1 GB starts to feel too cramped, I can swap in a new motherboard/CPU that can take however much memory I want. And the power supply is already ready for it.

But as-is, I think this computer has at least another three years in it.

Umm… Don’t water-cool your power supply

I saw a thing on Slashdot this morning about water-cooling your power supply. One word: Don’t.
I’ve worked inside a power supply twice–both times to replace a dead fan. One time I touched a heatsink that picked up a charge from somewhere–either a voltage regulator or a capacitor. Anyway, it really didn’t feel good. Beyond that, it made me jump.

Not a project you want to undertake if you don’t know what you’re doing. And if you do know what you’re doing, you probably already know it isn’t something you want to do be doing. Anyone who uses the word “electric” to describe something pleasant has obviously never experienced anything electric flowing through them.

I’ll pass, thanks.

Heat compound and reliability

It’s known by many names. Heat sink grease. Thermal compound. Heat sink compound.
It comes in tubes or syringes. Cost varies from a buck or two to twenty. The cheap stuff is plain old grease. The expensive stuff is made of exotic materials including silver.

Everyone agrees compound makes heat go from the chip to the heatsink above better. Everyone disagrees over what’s the best to use. Holy wars ensue. Feelings are hurt. Egos are bruised. Money is wasted. Passive voice annoys.

Dan’s Data did a comparison of four different compounds. He also included two rather unconventional–ahem–substances. What did he find does the best job of conducting heat between a CPU and a heat sink?

Toothpaste.

Dern. I was rooting for the Vegemite. (At least the Vegemite beat out Arctic Silver.)

I’m sure you don’t believe me, so you can read about it… I won’t give you the URL just yet. Dan’s point was that there’s no measurable difference between different things people use as thermal compound. So there’s very little point in paying $20 for a syringe of exotic compound. Being a tightwad and using a glop of toothpaste isn’t a good idea though, because it’ll dry out too quickly. Plus it’s apt to cause other problems. But there’s nothing inherently wrong with the $1 stuff. The real key is–against conventional wisdom–using a thin layer of the stuff you’re using. Remember preschool, where we all thought since a little glue holds things well, a lot of glue must hold it even better? Same principle. A little dab’ll do ya.

This was certainly the most amusing hardware story I’ve read in a long time. Give it a look.

I’ll be back with adventures of my own tomorrow.

How to pad your resume while meeting chicks.

Padding your resume while meeting chicks. I got a phone call last night offering me just that. Seriously. I didn’t hang up or ask to be taken off the calling list because it was a friend. Not a male friend with a harebrained, sleazy scheme. It was Jeanne. So it was a female friend with a sleazy scheme.
I guess it helps to know Jeanne. She has the distinction of being the only female friend who’s ever offered to lend me a copy of Playboy. She said she bought it for the articles. One of those articles was an interview with some film hunk. Another article was an interview with Aimee Mann. But I think it was all a diabolical plot to see what it would take to get me to read a copy of Playboy in front of her.

This time, Jeanne’s plotting to get me to serve on a committee. She tells me there are virtually no males on the committee. “Sixty to one, Dave! With odds like those you can’t lose!” she said.

Didn’t I hear someone say that about the Red Sox earlier this year?

Let’s change the subject to something more cheerful. How about if I list my qualifications?

1. I’m a male of the species homo sapiens.
2. I’m a sucker for dogs that are smarter than my former landlords my eighth grade science teacher the creeps who dated my sister when I was in college. That’s not every dog I’ve ever seen, but it’s a sizable percentage.

Gatermann says this is the most pathetic thing Jeanne’s ever asked me to do. And yes, Gatermann was there when Jeanne conned me into reading that magazine in front of her. (Yes, I gave in. I had to know what Aimee Mann had to say about Jewel, OK? And yes, her interview was just that–an interview.)

I serve on several committees, few of which work as well as I’d like, so it’s probably a good idea for me to participate, just to see if anyone else knows how to make a committee work right. The time commitment is small, so it just makes sense. In a sick sort of way.

Or maybe you can just say I’m easily finding ways to justify padding my resume while meeting women.

Harry Connick Jr. One of my coworkers pulled out a package he’d just received from Amazon. “I ordered two Harry Connick Jr. CDs,” he said. “This is what they sent.” He whipped out two CDs. They got that much right. But the CDs he received were (drum roll) The Bee Gees and LeAnn Rhimes.

He talked about how much he likes Harry Connick Jr. and how he has two tickets to go see him in some faraway city and he’s bringing a date.

“That’s what you think those tickets are for,” I said. Then, in my best concert-announcer voice, I said, “One night only! The Bee Gees! With very special guest LeAnn Rhimes!”

He glared at me.

Speaking of annoying… I got mail from someone who claims to have invented the “compressed ramdisk” technique I’ve talked about here and in my book, said something at least mildly disparaging about Andre Moreira–one of the other Windows-in-a-ramdisk pioneers–and he says he’s patented the technique, and wants me to download a trial copy of his software and link to it off my site.

I e-mailed him and asked him to set the record straight. It sounded to me like he’s claiming to have invented the compressed ramdisk–something CP/M owners were doing way back in 1984, if not earlier–and he wants free advertising from me for his commercial product.

Now, I could be wrong about that. I was wrong about OS/2 being the next big thing, after all. But if I’ve got the story more or less right, then the answer is no.

Now how did CP/M owners do compressed ramdisks? You’d just put your must-have utilities and applications into an .LBR file, then you’d run SQ on it to compress it. Then in profile.sub–the CP/M equivalent of autoexec.bat–you copied the archive to M: (CP/M’s built-in ramdisk) and then you decompressed it. In the days when applications were smaller than 64K, you could put your OS’ crucial utilities, plus WordStar and dBASE into a ramdisk and smoke all your neighbors who were running that newfangled MS-DOS.

I rediscovered the technique on my Commodore 128 (which was capable of running CP/M) in the late 1980s and thought I was really hot stuff with my 512K ramdisk.

Anyone who thinks the compressed ramdisk was invented in 1999 or 2000 either doesn’t remember his history or is smoking crack.

SCSI! SCSI vs. IDE is a long debate, almost a religious war, and it always has been. I remember seeing SCSI/IDE debates on BBSs in the early 1990s. Few argued that IDE was better than SCSI, though some did–but when you’re using an 8 MHz bus it doesn’t really matter–but IDE generally was less expensive than SCSI. The difference wasn’t always great. I remember seeing an IDE drive sell for $10 less than the SCSI version. The controller might have cost more, but back in the days when a 40-meg drive would set you back $300, a $10 premium for SCSI was nothing. To me, that settled the argument. It didn’t for everyone.

Today, IDE is cheap. Real cheap. A 20-gig drive costs you 50 bucks. A 7200-rpm 40-gig drive is all the drive many people will ever need, and it’s 99 bucks. And for simple computers, that’s great. If it fails, so what? Buy two drives and copy your important data over. At today’s prices you can afford to do that.

SCSI isn’t cheap. It’s hard to find a controller for less than $150, whereas IDE is included free on your motherboard. And if you find a SCSI drive for less than $150, it’s a closeout special. A 20-gig SCSI drive is likely to set you back $175-$200.

Superficially, the difference is philosophy. The IDE drive is designed to be cheap. Good enough to run Word, good enough to play Quake, quiet enough to not wake the baby, cheap enough to sell them by the warehouseful.

SCSI is designed for workstations and servers, where the only things that matter are speed, reliability, speed and speed. (Kind of like spam egg spam and spam in that Monty Python skit). If it costs $1,000 and requires a wind tunnel to cool it and ear protection to use it, who cares? It’s fast! So this is where you see extreme spindle rates like 10,000 and 15,000 RPM and seek times of 4.9 or even 3.9 milliseconds and disk caches of 4, 8, or even 16 MB. It’s also not uncommon to find a 5-year warranty.

In all fairness, I put my Quantum Atlas 10K3 in a Coolermaster cooler. It’s a big bay adapter that acts like a big heatsink and has a single fan, and it also dampens the sound. The setup is no louder than some of the 5400 RPM IDE drives Quantum was manufacturing in 1996-97.

OK, so what’s the practical difference?

IDE is faithful and dumb. You give it requests, it handles them in the order received. SCSI is smart. You send a bunch of read and write requests, and SCSI will figure out the optimal order to execute them in. That’s why you can defrag a SCSI drive while running other things without interrupting the defrag process very much. (Out of order execution is also one of the main things that makes modern CPUs faster than the 486.)

And if you’re running multiple devices, only one IDE device can talk at a time. SCSI devices can talk until you run out of bandwidth. So 160 MB/sec and 320 MB/sec SCSI is actually useful, unlike 133 MB/sec IDE, which is only useful until your drive’s onboard cache empties. Who cares whether a 2-meg cache empties in 0.0303 seconds or 0.01503 seconds?

There’s another advantage to SCSI with multiple devices. With IDE devices, you get two devices per channel, one interrupt per channel. With SCSI, you can do 7 devices per channel and interrupt. Some cards may give you 14. I know a lot of us are awfully crowded for interrupts, so being able to string a ton of devices off a single channel is very appealing. IRQ conflicts are rare these days but they’re not unheard of. SCSI giving you in one interrupt what IDE gives you in four is very nice in a crowded system.

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