TideLog Archive for the “Home Computing” Category

Unless you’ve freshly installed Ubuntu or Linux Mint Ubuntu & Debian Editions, you’ll probably notice that each time you boot up, the GRUB bootloader menu lists a bunch of previous Linux kernels which you can boot into. While this can come in handy for disasters – if you suddenly can’t boot into the new kernel after an upgrade – those previous kernels, images and modules are mostly just wasting disk space.

While you can manually go into Synaptic Package Manager, search for all the bits and pieces of previous kernels, and mark them for removal, here is a much easier method, thanks to Kana, she’s a Linux consultant and teaches me Linux using Mint, OpenSuSE and Debian. In a terminal, simply paste the following command, and it will remove all but the current kernel (if you’ve upgraded your system, or had an update with a new kernel, please reboot your machine before running this). It will also remove old graphics driver modules for old kernels, and modules related to VirtualBox if installed:

dpkg -l ‘linux-*’ | sed ‘/^ii/!d;/'”$(uname -r | sed “s/\(.*\)-\([^0-9]\+\)/\1/”)”‘/d;s/^[^ ]* [^ ]* \([^ ]*\).*/\1/;/[0-9]/!d’ | xargs sudo apt-get -y purge

Yeah, I know, looks like Geek hieroglyphics, doesn’t it? Kana said she studied the docs for Debian Packager and Apt to get all that! You will see some info about what is going on:

The following packages will be REMOVED:
linux-headers-2.6.35-22* linux-headers-2.6.35-22-generic*
linux-headers-2.6.35-23* linux-headers-2.6.35-23-generic*
linux-image-2.6.32-25-generic* linux-image-2.6.35-22-generic*
linux-image-2.6.35-23-generic*
0 upgraded, 0 newly installed, 7 to remove and 13 not upgraded.
After this operation, 586MB disk space will be freed.
(Reading database … 261863 files and directories currently installed.)
Removing linux-headers-2.6.35-22-generic …
Removing linux-headers-2.6.35-22 …
Removing linux-headers-2.6.35-23-generic …
Removing linux-headers-2.6.35-23 …
Removing linux-image-2.6.32-25-generic …

It will then generate a new GRUB menu, and when you reboot, you’ll see only the current kernel is listed. Kana uses this all the time, she says she’s never had any trouble with it 🙂 Aren’t geeky girlfriends cool?

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Western Digital make really good hard drives, but where their Elements, Passport and MyBook drives are concerned, they’ve taken a wrong turn. The 2.5″ versions all have proprietary PCB’s on the drives themselves, so there’s no standard micro SATA data and power connectors like you’d expect. The USB connector and LED, plus the interface controller, are on the single board as well! This means you can’t just take the drive out and connect it to another USB to SATA enclosure.

A lot of very modern WD Elements, MyBook and Passport enclosures are now also encrypted, meaning the data can only be accessed when the control board is functioning correctly. In this article I’ll show you how to recover data from a WD Passport (laptop sized drive) enclosure, if the USB connector gets damaged.

1. Disassemble the enclosure, remove the drive, then remove the PCB from the bottom of the drive using a Torx screwdriver.

2. Flip the drive board over, you’ll see the following capacitors. Remove them using a soldering iron or a heatgun, being careful not to overheat or damage anything:

usb-only-western-digital-drive-capacitors

3. Next you need to take a standard SATA connector from another drive, or from a parts supplier (eBay has them in droves, search for COMAX SATA connector). Once you have it, take a look at it, you’ll see long pins and short pins. All the long ones are GROUND pins:

sata-connector-ground-pins

4. From the back side of the PCB (the componentless side which faces away from the drive when fitted), you will see pins E71, E72, E73 and E74, these belong to the SATA data pins. The other four pins marked with a red square belong to ground pins:

usb-only-western-digital-drive-E-pins

5. Now solder everything together, using this pinout:

E71 – Tx+
E72 – Tx-
E73 – Rx-
E74 – Rx+

The SATA standard uses two lines, a positive and negative, for Data TX (Transmit), and two for Data RX (Recieve), each having a separate ground on the ground lines. Use my picture below as a wiring reference:

usb-only-western-digital-drive-finished-wiring

Now all you need to do is use a standard USB cable to power the drive (if your connector is broken you can try soldering the power lines of a USB cable to the port power pins), connect via SATA to your PC, and it should work. NOTE: This WILL NOT work if your drive uses encryption, as that runs through the USB data lines, because we’re bypassing it, it won’t work.

You may get some “USB device not recognized” errors. Try connecting the SATA drive to a SATA hotplug port, connecting the data cable first, then the power, once Windows has started. Hotplug ports are usually purple or orange, it depends on the board manufacturer, Gigabytes are purple.

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I saw this topic being discussed on Sony’s own forums the other day, and I had such a massive laugh! If the people who claimed to be PS3 repairers ACTUALLY knew anything about electronics, the world would be in serious danger! One guy posted about his cooling fan ramping up to full speed when he turned the console on, you should have seen the responses. They ranged from, “Ooh, your PSU is dying”, “You’re about to get the YLOD!” and most laughably, “Your CPU/GPU needs reballing!”

These people obviously don’t know as much as they claim, all those supposed causes are NOWHERE near the real cause. I’ll go into some real electronics knowledge to help people here. The fan ramping up on a PS3 or an Xbox is caused by the temperature diode being faulty.

In computers, the chip temperature is measured by a temperature sensor. Usually it’s a diode, mounted under the chip. On some standard PC motherboards, if you look in the middle of the CPU socket, you’ll see a blue lump on legs, this is the sensor diode.

    Types of diode

There are two types of temperature diode. A Negative Temperature Coefficient (NTC) diode is a diode whose resistance DECREASES as the temperature rises. So, when the chip is at full temperature, the resistance of the diode is at 0. The other type of diode is a Positive Temperature Coefficient (PTC), where the resistance STARTS at 0 when the chip is COLD, and goes full when HOT.
The control chip uses this resistance value by converting it from a resistance value to a temperature value, to set the fan speed, and to shut down the system if it’s too hot by sending a signal to the chipset. The converted value is also used by temperature monitoring apps and software.

It is all the same in automotive scenarios, with the engine temperature and radiator cooling fan, the same ramp up symptom occurs due to temperature sensor failure.

    Failure

When the diodes fail, each type of diode fails in a certain way. An NTC diode normally fails stuck at 0 (zero) resistance, meaning the system thinks the chip is really hot (because the cold reading should be full resistance), when in fact it is still cold, so the fan will ramp up as soon as the system is started cold. It may also result in shutdowns, even though the chip isn’t hot because the fan is running full tilt.

A PTC diode starts cold at 0 anyway, so the system won’t panic at first. However, the controller will soon realise something is up when the CPU starts reporting high loads, but the temperature is still reading 0 instead of a higher value. The fan will not increase speed in this case, so the temperature will rise sharply, resulting in an eventual shutdown. This will cause solder damage if the problem isn’t fixed, but it doesn’t happen BECAUSE of solder damage!

See, nothing to do with YLOD, try going to electronics school, kiddies 😉 When you switch a PS3 on and the fan kicks up to full speed then down again, that’s the system running a sensor and fan control test 🙂 If the fan stays on full on cold start instead of slowing down, you have a sensor issue 😉

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They’re using the term Cloud to make it all sound so fresh and new – but it isn’t really. People have been storing files over the internet since the internet itself started, by using FTP. It’s the very technology that is the reason websites work. I’m shocked at how many cloud storage companies are popping up, then charging extortionate rates for web space! Google for example, want $99.99 a MONTH for three Terabytes (3TB) of space! This works out to over $1,118 a YEAR!

You can do it yourself, so much cheaper by having your own server with a 3TB hard drive and the total cost will only be about $300! The best dedicated software out there is OwnCloud. It consists of a web system, and a client that you install on a PC or Mac, running Windows, Mac OS, or Linux. Both the web system for the server, and the desktop client are open source and completely free, plus you can give your friends and family their own free space by setting them up accounts and quota space!

Simply build a yourself an energy efficient small form factor PC. It doesn’t have to be the most powerful, as you want to be able to leave it running and not use too much power. An entry level Core i3 or i5 with Intel HD graphics is perfect. Even an older Core2Duo will do. The hard drive is the part that matters, as this determines the maximum capacity of your Cloud, so you want it to be high capacity but energy efficient. I recommend Western Digital Caviar drives.

Once your system is built, you can either install Windows or Linux, but as Windows is the easiest, we’ll go with this. Install Windows, and then install WAMPServer, it’s an all in one Apache, PHP and MySQL server package. Install OwnCloud, and a copy of the client on another workstation, and away you go!

Your own cloud server for 70% less than a cloud storage company! The only thing you need to look out for is running it on your home connection, some ISP’s don’t really allow web servers to be run on a home connection, check your terms of use. I haven’t gone into massive detail here as I was mainly making a point, it’s up to you to follow instructions, or drop me comments and I’ll help 🙂

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In the form of a Clevo M571TU. This thing is awesome! Greg bought it me as a Christmas present after I rebuilt a Toshiba Satellite A200 for him to replace his old Pentium 3 Inspiron. It’s a Core 2 Quad Q9000 mobile chip running at 2GHz, giving a total clock of 8GHz, 4GB of DDR3 RAM, a 4B Intel Turbo Memory card, 500GB Seagate (GRRRR!) hard drive that has power save clicking and lag issues. The PCI-E graphics card is a nVidia GTX280M 1GB, to finish off there’s a Blu-Ray ROM & DVD-RW drive.

All that for the knockdown pure burglary price of £390 excluding shipping, used on eBay! This monster will run rings round High Street laptops in the £0 to £900 bracket for the next 6 years. PC World can keep their £300 dual core i3 and i5 laptops.

I just hope the graphics card holds out. It is a 55nm chip and also a standard MXM 2.1 PCI-E card, so is easier to replace than the old Uniwill I used to have. It runs really cool at idle, here’s a HWMonitor screenshot of all the voltages and temps with the system warmed up to idle temperatures:

Midori (Clevo M571TU) Idle Temps & Voltages

The graphics card only seems to get as hot as 64 degrees so it’s quite cool. The cooling system is massive, the CPU and GPU have their own fans and heatsinks, unlike the Uniwill P55IM that had a shared heatsink and single fan. The M571 GPU block is huge, it covers the whole of the top of the card and has twin heatpipes so I’m hoping it’ll be fine. nVidia eventually owned up, and this G92b chip is one of the late 2009 revised ones, so I’m not too worried.

Heat stress happens with BGA technology anyway, the heating and cooling is just the way science works, doesn’t matter whether it’s AMD/ATi or nVidia, it will eventually fail due to BGA technology’s flaws, the solder balls will break. If the industry actually socketed their GPU’s we wouldn’t see issues. I have never in my 17 years of computers seen a pass-through soldered CPU socket actually fail and come off a board, even though the board warps.

I don’t like the Seagate drive on this. It’s a ST9500420AS and is a piece of crap. It’s a 7200RPM one but it constantly tries to park its heads every few seconds even under load, causing clicking and lag as it unparks and starts waiting for requested sectors to come round. Forums are full of complaints about it, and now I hate Seagate even more. The drive refuses any permanent power management turn off commands using HDDScan, and if you temporarily disable it it comes back on when the drive is powered off and on again!

Other than that this system is solid. 17″ screen that does native 1920×1200, solid built body, solid keyboard (same as the one in my old Clevo M670SU that I loved) and equally solid performance. Clevo know how to build a high end notebook, and I still can’t believe I got a 2 year old gaming laptop for £390 which was £1,400 brand new!

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