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prairiedog71's Blog


RAID in Action

   RAID is here.  Strangely enough with all the years working with computers, I've never dealt with an actual RAID setup before, so this was a first.  I got the controller, drive dock, and cable splitter all on the same day.  Stars must have aligned to allow Newegg & Walmart.com to deliver these at the same time, lol.
    The PCI controller is a 4-port Syba SIL3124 SATA 2 controller.  It came with 2 SATA cables.  The ICYDOCK that I ordered was perfect.  Placed a 160Gb Hitachi on top and WD 320Gb on bottom and slid the dock into the drive bay and no screws required.  I should have not ordered right angle SATA power splitter since the two drives were close enough together I could use only one on the 2 drives and had to use one from the power supply.  Once I plugged it all in and powered up, all was recognized.  Now, to make the 320Gb bootable by the BIOS, I needed to setup a Concatenation of that one drive via the controller before the System BIOS could see it.  Then I cloned the Vista system from my 120Gb WD to the 320Gb and reset boot drives and presto Vista now is running on the SATA2 disk off the new controller. 
     Now, I reconnected the 120Gb WD SATA drive to the new controller and set it and the 160Gb in a RAID0 configuration.  Chose this rather than JBOD even though the doubling of space is based on the smaller drive (223Gb total) since there is a performance boost in using this.  Using Hard Drive Sentinel it was registering the RAID disk as 110Mb/s where the individual physical disks were only pulling 60Mb/s.  It isn't as noticeable on a network connection from my laptop, but drive to drive local the speed is there.  RAID0 doesn't have any fault tolerance, so any drive failure means almost complete data loss.  But for the moment, this will work until I can add another disk.  I'll just have to watch and see how well the RAID0 setup holds up over the intervening future.

26 Days to go :)

  I use a program called Hard Disk Sentinel to monitor the older drives in my tower PC.  I've known that the eldest drive in the PC, a Seagate 60Gb IDE, has some issues from being in an overheating Compaq for a time when my sister had it.  When I first aquired it a year ago, it rated at 35% by the program's standard.  Now for the first time the rating dropped below 25% and flashed a red X over the temperature rating.  It now says it only has 26 days of life left.  I doubt that will be exact, but I was planning on pulling that drive soon anyhow. :)  I planned on adding a SATA2 PCI controller and putting two laptop SATA drives in place of it.  I will now just move on that sooner, so now I await the controller and 2.5" to 3.5" drive cage to be delivered.  The controller has RAID & JBOD capability so with Vista installed I can truly turn this machine into a File/Media server.  This means I can take all the extra files I've been storing on external drives and put it on drives in the tower.  I'll just have to experiment and find which RAID/JBOD option provides the best functionaility for my needs.  The nice thing is that the two laptop drives use less power than the IDE they will replace except I'll need a power cable splitter.

Tower Redux

     Found AGP card replacement, so now back with decent discrete video.  Decided to upgrade Windows XP on this machine to Vista since due to the age of the processor it cannot run either Windows 7 or 8.  Found old OEM business edition of Vista license and create ISO image for install.  Got it up and running and activated.  Then the 160 Gb Hitachi it was installed on decided to assert its SATA2 status and disappeared from the BIOS.  Had already found that the SATA controller doesn't have the ability to negotiate higher speed SATA drives to SATA 1 speeds in an attempt to install a 320 Gb WD that was replaced in my laptop.  The Hitachi is a SATA2 device, but had worked fine in the system even if it was not the system disk.  Luckily the drive is fine and I'm moving the image from it to the original 120 Gb WD SATA 1 drive that came with my laptop in hopes that it will not have any troubles.  I just have to nurse this aged hardware along another year or so since my phone has to be replaced first.
     Sad that phone technology has moved so quickly that the older models just cannot keep up.  My Droid3 is from 2011 while this desktop as parts from 2006 and the laptop is 2008.  Both are still viable PC's, but the phone is barely addequate as smartphones go.

Almost a Server

   Decided on a new case for the newer motherboard.  So bought a Cooler Master 430 which will have plenty of future room as needed.  Got everything up and running and my AGP card's fan died, so will be on the look out for a new vid card potentially.  Put an evaluation copy of MS Server 2008 SP2 on it and now is being regualarly recognized on the network.  Of course, it would be cheaper to just buy a brand new desktop, but everything in the sub $300 category is complete junk (sub par power supplies and anemic cpus that even my old Core2Duo could run rings around).  So, I'll just have to watch for a deal on a MB, CPU, RAM combination that would give me a dual core AMD or Intel, socket AM3 or 1155 probably for MB, and DDR3.  If I could get all of that for $150 or less with an ATX (not micro) board, it could be worth it.  For now, I'll limp along with this old system in the hopes that eventually the price will start dropping on newer components.

What's Old, Can be Made New

     Won an auction while on vacation that included a motherbo.rd, cpu, and 2 Gb RAM.  The motherboard was a slightly newer and much more sophisticated Asus board from the same era as the one in my old Compaq.  Luckily, the board does work and includes some more modern extras like SATA ports, USB 2, and Firewire which for the time made this a real high-end board.  Now the trick will be combining the components of my Compaq with this board.  I put it in an old HP case and it does work there, but that case has no modern cooling capabilities, so it leaves me with 2 options.  I can (a) replace the board in the Compaq with this & hope that the front panel connector can be made to work and the power supply (Compaq proprietary) will work with this more standard board.  Or, (b) I can buy a new case and use of the generic 300 watt supplies I have.  The (b) option also allows for upgrades if I can get a hold of a SATA hard disk or a BluRay drive.  I'll have to sit on it for a little while and see if (b) is financially and physically (as I would have to carry it home from a store :) ) feasible.

Returns

     It is always amusing when someone returns a piece of computer hardware stating that "My computer froze up when I installed it."  I ask how old the machine was.  The answer, '98.  So, I tell him that this USB wireless adapter requires USB 2.0 or better and his machine would have USB 1.0 probably.  I knew this because I own an older revision of this same USB adapter and use it in a circa '02 computer with a USB 2.0 add-on card.  Sadly, the box the device is in doesn't mention that USB 2.0+ is required. :)

Router Fun

    In an attempt to set up a wireless bridge/repeater, I flashed my older N-class router with DD WRT firmware.  It is much better than the stock firmware on the Linksys E1200 I have.  I have it mostly working except you need to connect to a different SSID, so it isn't a seamless connection.  Instead, you must connect to the repeater separately and it will automatically forward the request on to the primary router.  I'll have to test it some more and hopefully find a way to make it connect when closer to the repeater automatically.

Windows 8

     I've been using Windows 8 Pro since it came out in October.  There has been much bad press about it even to comparing it to Vista.  Sadly, the press has a very short memory.  The true comparison is Windows 95 and 8.  There was much hype and ads about 95's introduction in attempt to foster sales and move people from Windows 3.1 to 95.  Like 95, 8 is a hybrid of sorts.  It is part Windows 7 and part a new design that owes its concept to phones & tablets.  In using it, I've found that performance is better than in 7.  It will take time for more apps to become available as developers ramp up.  Not much different than under previous OS's.  What makes 8 unique is that it has been setup so that it can run on a phone, tablet, or PC.  This is what will make it most successful in the long run.

Pesky Memory

   I've found out that my Acer will under no circumstances accept 2-2 Gb RAM Sticks.  I got a matched pair and still they wouldn't work together.  Oh well, so I returned them & got a new external disk that was on sale.  It is a G-Drive by Hitachi & 500 Gb.  So far it works very well.  I can at least take the old IDE drive I've been using externally out of service.
     Turns out that old (2004) IDE drive is in much worse shape than I thought. :(  I use a program called HDSentinel which uses SMART info to determine your drive's health.  Of the 4 IDE's I have, this one rates the worst. :)  So now I have 2 160 Gb in my 2002 Compaq.  The boot drive, a Western Digital is OK, but this Hitachi has had a complete surface wipe, so hopefully the reinitialization will hold it out a while longer.  The original 60 Gb for this system doesn't rate quite as bad, but it does have several weak sectors.  It is weird since in the 90's using IDE's, I rarely had bad drives, but I didn't have drives quite that old since IDE hadn't been around that long yet.   At least my SATA drives are all healthy.  I figure worse case scenario is that I can put one of the older laptop SATA's in this desktop using a PCI SATA controller or a SATA to IDE convertor. 
     In the meantime, I finally have plenty of drive space. :)  Now, I have 320 Gb in my Acer Aspire, and a 500 Gb external mobile drive.  I did find that the external was originally formatted in GPT format (for a MAC), so I had to not only create a new partition, but completely reinitialize the drive in MBR so that my old Compaq could use it as well.

Hard Disk, Too Fast? :)

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Taxes - It has been a while. :)

    I haven't had to file a tax return since 2000, so I'm a bit out of practice.  I used TurboTax software and eFile when they first came out.  Of course state eFiling didn't exist then.  Sadly over 12 years later, not much has changed.  You can file state returns electronically, but you still need new software every year which costs about the same $20+ depending on which brand you choose.
      This time I picked TaxACT because it was the only one to give you the State return & eFiling included for around $25.  Plus I got a 10% discount because of my job.  All the other brand programs require you to pay an additional amount for the state portion.  At least this time I don't have local tax for the town, but I may have county tax. :)  So, this should be an interesting experience.

Old Compaq

  Recently got sister's old Compaq from 2002.  She had so many programs loading on start up that saying it was slow is an understatement.  The original hard drive in it is in poor health and its replacement probably only has a few years left.  But it can have more memory than the older HP (1 Gb) and if necessary I still have a 160 Gb  & a 40 Gb I can install.  I can install Linux and see how well it will work from remote.

Ancient HP

    Who says you can't use a 12 year old computer for something?  I got a USB 2.0 PCI card for my old HP Pavilion desktop, so I could connect a USB Wireless adapter to it.  Using the MyWiFi hotspot capability of my Intel 6235 in my Acer Aspire laptop I can get the HP to connect using wireless.  Then using VNC or Remote Desktop, I can log in.  Plus I can share the 40 Gb drive in the HP and store music & video there.  So, the HP has become a media center of sorts. :)  Now if I can find a larger IDE drive that still works, I could give it a little more space. 
    Amazingly, it all works pretty well except that MyWiFi insists on using channel 10 which is in use by one of my routers. :)  So, I have to sometimes disable and then re-enable hotspot to get the HP to connect.

ExpressCard TV Tuner

     I won an auction and recently got an AverMedia HC82U NanoExpress TV Tuner.  It is in ExpressCard/54 format and has its own antenna, but is missing the A/V inputs cable.  It works with Windows 8 & Media Center and I can pick up most of the near digital stations except CBS for whatever reason.  It turns out that this is the Dell OEM version, so I'm not sure if it is supposed to be able to operate in Analog as well like it's more general cousin.  So far I can only get the digital part operational.  No analog FM radio or TV at all.  I hope I can at least track down the A/V cable.
    At least I can watch & record TV on my Acer Aspire now.  It requires about 5+ Gb to record one hour, so unless I get a bigger drive I will be limited in how much I can use it like a DVR.  The other downside is that it gets pretty warm when in use, but I haven't seen it affect the rest of the system as yet.

Windows 8 Pro

   Got this upgrade in the 32-bit version to upgrade Windows Vista.  Everything has gone fairly smoothly and well, except for where I caused the partition table to be corrupted & had to reinstall. :)  Most of my hardware is properly detected and working. 
    The only non-functionality seems to be the Bluetooth audio connection to my Droid 3 phone.  Windows 8 has some native Bluetooth functionality, so Intel is claiming that it's Microsoft's responsibility for this while MS implies it's Intel's.  I can see from several online forum discussions that I am not the only one having Bluetooth problems.  It boils down to the fact that while there is the native BT in Windows 8, it still falls on Intel and any other Bluetooth adapter manufacturer to ensure their hardware will work properly with Windows 8 especially current hardware as my 6235 WiFi/BT adapter is.
    I also found a site that allows you to reinstall the gadget sidebar that isn't in Windows 8 anymore.  If MS had this kind of functionality on the Start Screen, I'd be fine with that, but the Start Screen apps are very anemic at the moment and will have to wait for some folks to develop much better versions.  And there are very little in the way of System Info type apps for the Start Screen which I like to have.  I have gadgets of this sort I use to monitor my laptop at a glance.  Then I can see RAM, CPU, Network usage and temperature values & the battery & volume levels.
     On a positive note, Win 8 does have some nice features over Vista.  My Droid 3 when connected via USB now shows up with info on calls, voice mail, texts, battery, etc.  Also, all my other USB devices plug and play for real.  Namely the external Hard drives, thumb drives, DVD-ROM, etc.  I don't miss the Start Menu really as I just place shortcuts in a folder on the desktop for much of what I use and the others are either pinned to the taskbar, Start Screen, or available by clicking on an associated file.  The speech recognition does work fairly well.  I like the background setup for the desktop also. 
     I would recommend that anyone intending to use Windows 8 have at least two screens.  This way one can show the desktop at all times while you use the Start Screen on the other.  Also a touch screen would add more functionality, but I don't have one as yet. :)
     Performance-wise it does seem peppier than Vista and does boot & shutdown fairly quickly.  The Performance Index doesn't finish the testing on my installation, but I suspect that it has something to do with the Intel drivers for my onboard graphics.  Not much can help this except maybe a driver upgrade to WDDM 1.2.  This doesn't seem likely given the age of the graphics chipset. 
     So, overall I am very happy with the upgrade and already have done a backup, system image, & restore disk creation.
      The hardware that Windows 8 is running on is as follows:
Acer Aspire 5315-2698 with latest BIOS update 1.45
T7300 2 Ghz Core 2 Duo (replaces Stock CPU)
3 Gb RAM (1 Gb A-Data PC-6400 slot 0, 2 Gb Kingston PC-5300 Value RAM slot 1) both DDR2
160 Gb Hitachi Travelstar (replaces stock drive)
original DVDRW
onboard Webcam
Samsung 19" LCD 2nd screen
Intel 6235 WiFi/Bluetooth miniPCIexpress adapter (replaces stock WiFI)
external 160 Gb IDE drive in generic USB 2 case
external DVDROM/CDRW combo drive
Microsoft Wireless Desktop 2000 series Keyboard & Mouse

T7300 Installed

   Just installed this.  Everything went well, but will have to wait 25 hrs or so to see if my thermal compound job is good enough. :)  It is a better performer than the original CPU by far.  More testing is definitely needed to see how much better.  Also, now I know, the 5315 is a GL960 chipset, so 3 Gb is the most RAM possible.  Oh well.

CPU Upgrade

    Finally took the plunge and ordered a used T7300 Dual Core to replace the Celeron in my laptop.  It was only $10 with shipping, so couldn't resist.  Now of course I'll see how much I remember on CPU replacements. :)  I've done plenty of changes on desktops over the years, but never a CPU on a laptop.  Luckily, I found an online instruction for my brand & model.  It looks fairly straightforward.  You open the same panel you would to access the RAM, remove the fan (3 screws), the heatsink/heatpipe (4 screws), then you can change out the CPU.  Of course, I'll have to clean off any thermal compound residue and reapply.  I purchased a tube of Arctic Silver for just that purpose.  Plus I can finally see whether the board inside is a GM965 or GL960 chipset since the heatsink extends over the chipset as well. 
    The nice thing is this CPU is a front-side bus 800Mhz instead of the existing 533Mhz of the Celeron.  So, everything else should see a speed improvement as well.  From what I have read about the Acer Aspire 5315 series, the T7300 is a common replacement for the stock CPUs and while the FSB is 800Mhz, the RAM will only top out at 667Mhz.  This is OK since the 2Gb SODIMM is only that fast.
    On another note, I found that even though I acquired an extra Kingston 2Gb SODIMM, same speed to match the existing one.  They would not work together because either the laptop doesn't support 4Gb only 3Gb (maybe, depends on chipset) or the fact that the old is Kingston Value RAM and the new is Kingston Platinum Retail has significance in how each operate electrically.  I've experienced similar finickiness on the part of RAM & motherboards before when I had a dual CPU Tyan Tomcat III board years ago.  It had 8 SIMM slots and could only have RAM in certain configurations if you wanted to fully populate all the slots.  Now it is possible, I'm experiencing a similar occurrence.  The KVR will work with the 1 Gb A-Data 800Mhz, but only with the 1 Gb in slot 0.  The KPR will work with neither and only works by itself in slot 0.  Not sure why, but can only speculate that it has to do with how it is recognized electrically by the system.  I'll wait and see what chipset is really under the heatsink when I change CPUs and if there is really a GM965 under there then I'll just have to hunt for another KVR 2 Gb and hope they work together.

Intel 6235 WiFi

   Got this yesterday, and it works Ok with Win8 drivers and all.  Of course, since Intel is annoying it doesn't officially have drivers for Windows Vista.  So, I installed the version meant for Windows 7.  Weirdly, they do work although Intel's WiFi software won't work (different versions 14.3.x software, 15.1.1. drivers) and the drivers make Windows a bit unstable.  It does work though.  Now, I just have to wait out Windows 8 release and get it.

   Update:  I downloaded openSUSE 12.2 64-bit and installed it in place of version 12.1 and it detects and uses the Intel 6235 just fine.   I even got to test out the Bluetooth connection to my phone today since the Internet service was down half the day, so while in Windows Vista, I synced the Acer to my phone and used it's 3G connection for Internet service to check on why the main cable service was down.  Slow, but it did work.  Of course if my phone supported a Bluetooth version higher than 2.1 it would have been faster. :)

WiFi (2 adapters, Not what I Intended :) )

    Well, I thought I canceled the order for the 6235 & then ordered a 6230 on Friday evening.  About 2 hrs later both had shipped. :)  I guess the first seller after waiting 5 business days saw my cancellation request & decided to ship.  Weirdly I got the Intel 6230 first on the next Monday.  It's now Wednesday & am still waiting on the 6235 to arrive.  Not sure what I'll do with 2 adapters.  Chances of returning either are slim w/o restocking fees, or maybe at all. 
     I've got the Intel 6230 installed in my laptop.  After a little tweaking everything is working in both Win Vista & openSUSE Linux.  After looking on Intel's support site I've determined a few things.  One, there adapters require that WMM be enabled on the router to connect at N-class speeds.  And two, that they claim that unless your adapter is OEM installed they will not support it.  So, the question is what is different between a USB or PCI adapters & a mini PCIe or PCI internal one WRT FCC regulations when anyone can connect a USB or PCI adapter to their desktop or USB to their laptop.  I remember the issues between FCC Class A & B equipment from years ago (A for business, B for home use).  The reality is that the router puts out more interference than any adapter, so the FCC regs would be WRT them more so.  Also, they won't confirm or deny the hardware similarities between the 6230 & 6235 adapters.  There are no Vista drivers online for the 6235, but I suspect the 6230 Vista drivers will work with the 6235 until Windows 8 is released & I can upgrade.
      So, compared to the onboard Atheros G-class WiFi my Acer had, the Intel 6230 is much better.  It regularly connects to the E1200 Linksys at 130-144 Mbps.  This router isn't the most sophisticated N-class router for sure, but performance is good.  I need to obtain a decent dual-band one eventually, since going to 5 Ghz would make a serious performance improvement overall.  The Intel operates the WiFi light, but does not blink like the Atheros.  My suspicion is that either there was a registry entry or code in the Atheros driver, or even something hard-wired into the Atheros firmware to do this.  So, I'll have to tinker some more with it.  It works natively with Windows 8 RC edition so, it should work with Win8 when that is released.  openSUSE it will work, but only in non-NetworkManaged mode.
     Next, I'll have to see how the 6235 will work once it gets here.  If it will work properly, I'll use it since it is newer & supports Bluetooth 4.0 while the 6230 only supports 3.0.  I'll just have to see & then determine what to do with the extra one.

Newer WiFi - Update

     Now I know why I needed to read the fine print on ExpressCards. :)  A PC Card & a Express Card are not the same thing.  Duh, I should have known that.  Luckily, the D-Link didn't cost me anything.  Weirdly, my Mom's newer Sony laptop has neither type slot.  So, I decided to treat myself & just buy an internal card.   Now, I ordered both an Intel 6235 (WiFi N-class & Bluetooth 4.0) and the bracket to convert half-mini PCIe to full size mini PCIe.  I got the bracket already.  The other place hasn't even shipped yet.  When I asked them in an e-mail, it was "will ship & Meet Amazon's estimated arrival time."  Question is why wouldn't you ship something when you don't get paid until you ship?  If it is on backorder, then just say so.  If your personnel are overwhelmed with orders, then say so.  Either possibility is understandable, but if the first then I'd cancel and go with the older model 6230 which only has Bluetooth 3.0 capability.  Not that I have 4.0 devices or 3.0 for that matter, but why not get the best when it is the same price.  So, I'll wait until tomorrow and see what happens.
    Next will be a CPU upgrade for the laptop, but that may have to wait unless I see a really good deal on a T7300.  They are about $30 w/shipping right now, but I'll wait until I finish with the WiFi upgrade.  I figure a CPU upgrade may require an OS reinstall so I might as well wait until after Windows 8's release since I'll be doing a reinstall anyway.

1-20 of 21 Blogs   

Previous Posts
RAID in Action, posted February 20th, 2014
26 Days to go :), posted February 13th, 2014
Tower Redux, posted February 8th, 2014
Almost a Server, posted November 26th, 2013
What's Old, Can be Made New, posted August 25th, 2013
Returns, posted July 23rd, 2013, 2 comments
Router Fun, posted June 20th, 2013
Windows 8, posted March 19th, 2013
Pesky Memory, posted February 16th, 2013
Hard Disk, Too Fast? :), posted February 14th, 2013
Taxes - It has been a while. :), posted January 25th, 2013
Old Compaq, posted January 16th, 2013
Ancient HP, posted November 20th, 2012
ExpressCard TV Tuner, posted November 20th, 2012
Windows 8 Pro, posted October 30th, 2012
T7300 Installed, posted October 22nd, 2012
CPU Upgrade, posted October 17th, 2012
Intel 6235 WiFi, posted October 5th, 2012
WiFi (2 adapters, Not what I Intended :) ), posted October 3rd, 2012
Newer WiFi - Update, posted September 27th, 2012
Newer WiFi, posted September 19th, 2012
Computer Resurrections, posted September 19th, 2012

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