Blog Entries tagged hardware
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ATI RS690+dualhead+resume from disk

Published: 2009-02-12 17:23 UTC. Tags: hardware linux

The ATI fglrx driver I run against my ATI RS690 chip in my dualhead setup definitely has its quirks. When resuming from disk, both monitors must be turned on when I press the computer's power button, or the X server will behave very odd.

Hard to describe what happens, but when moving the mouse, the whole desktop image is moved instead of only the mouse pointer.

Hardware! I hate hardware! I want all of it to be emulated in software.


Dualhead at home

Published: 2009-02-04 19:27 UTC. Tags: open source hardware linux syncmaster_204b
Dualhead setup

I upgraded my home workstation to Ubuntu 8.10 the other day. I was kind of worried that this would cause trouble with my X Window System setup. I've had major trouble with my Samsung Syncmaster 204b before, with its faulty DVI implementation being the major source of trouble.

My worries were well justified - no image on DVI after reboot. Tried connecting it via VGA, and that kind of worked - a slight fuzziness, which almost went away after pressing the auto-adjust button on the monitor.

I got tired of the monitor and decided to go for a new one - so I ordered a Benq FP241W 24" WIDE TFT. It's using the less common MVA display technology instead of the more common TN. This is supposed to mean that it's colours and viewing angle are superior to standard panel.

Thinking about it, I came to the conclusion that I might be able to stand a slight fuzziness on my 20" samsung if using it as a secondary panel in a dualhead setup. So, when the new panel arrived, I connected the 20" Samsung via VGA, and the new monitor via DVI.

With my usual luck, I got the same problems with the new panel as with the old one - problems syncing the DVI signal, with the result being that the panel went black.

However, after switching from the open source ATI driver to the proprietary fglrx driver, things started working, and using amdcccle, the ATI driver control program, setting up dualhead was really easy.

The result - a resolution of 3840x1200 at home. That's even slightly better than at work, where Opera Software have equipped me with a 19"+24" combo.

I'm not looking forward to the next Ubuntu upgrade, though. Sometimes, I just hate the X window system.


Running Squeezecenter on QNAP TS-109 II

Published: 2008-12-13 21:18 UTC. Tags: hardware turbostation squeezebox

I have now managed to get Squeezecenter running on my QNAP TS-109 II. Squeezecenter is the server a Squeezebox network music player connects to in order to get hold of its music.

Picture of QNAP TS-109 II

Since the QNAP TS-109 II is running on the ARMEL architecture, installation was a little bit tricky.

Squeezecenter is written in Perl. Let me state early that Perl is not my favourite programming language.

I installed the Debian package of Squeezecenter 7.3 available Slimdevices web. The package's architecture is all, which is not true - it contains Perl XS code compiled for i386 and amd64. This code won't run on ARMEL.

The Squeezecenter package also ships lot's and lot's of third party Perl modules, but they don't work on Perl 5.10 because of module version conflicts. I run Debian Lenny on the QNAP, and guess which Perl version is shipped with Lenny... Yep, Perl 5.10.

I found an excellent forum post by "bugfixer" at the squeezebox forums explaining how to get Squeezecenter running on Perl 5.10. Much of the information in this blogpost comes from that post.

The shipped perl modules are all available as Debian packages - with one exception - the libjson-xs-perl package in Debian lacks the file /usr/lib/perl5/JSON/XS/, so I had to copy that one from the version shipped with squeezecenter.

The squeezecenter Debian package also has a large amount of dependencis not listed in the package's metadata. And to add to the misery, it requires the perl package Encode::Detect, which is not even available as Debian package.

To avoid having to keep track of this mess, I created a puppet class which installs all dependencies, installs squeezecenter, and then removes all files which cause trouble. With that work done, I can reinstall squeezecenter and be pretty sure it will work. I did an upgrade of squeezenter today by downloading the new squeezecenter debian package, installing it, then ran puppet to move away all the offending perl classes - worked as a charm!

So, if you want a list of all packages required and all files that must be moved, refer to the source for my squeezecenter puppet class. That list will be kept more up to that than if I would list the info on this blog post.

I'll be back with some info on the performance when running Squeezecenter on the QNAP. I can say already that it's not blazingly fast..


Review: Antec P182 with Seasonic S12

Published: 2008-03-16 00:20 UTC. Tags: hardware review

A while ago, I decided to buy a new computer. I had three main requirements:

  • It had to be faster than my previous computer. As the old one was more than three years old, this requirement would not be hard to fulfil :-).
  • It had to be quiet. Very important!
  • It had to be reasonably power efficient. I try to keep my energy consumption down.

I've tested various ways of getting a quiet computer over the years, the most famous one being the beautiful red box described here. This time, I did however go for a more standard solution that involved less red paint..


After some research on quiet computer cases and power supplies, I ordered the following stuff.

Case Antec P182
Power supply
Seasonic S12-II, 380W
MSI K9AG Neo2 Digital
2x SAMSUNG HD321KJ in a Software RAID1 configuration
AMD Athlon X2 BE-2400 45W BOXED
2x 1GB DDR2 800MHz

The Antec P182

The first thing I noticed about this case when I collected it at the post office was that it is very heavy. Another thing I noticed when taking it out of its cardboard box was that when you knock on one of the sides of it, there's much less sound than when knocking on the side of a standard case. This comes from the fact that the sides are covered in plastic instead of being just steel, and I think it contributes much to keeping the computer quiet, as vibrations are less likely to travel through the sides of the case.

Opening up the case

Antec P182 left sideOpening up the case, a rather interesting construction is revealed. In the picture to the left, I've removed the lower drive bay, which normally sits in the area marked A. The power supply is mounted in the area marked B.

What is very interesting is that Antec has chosen to divide the flow of air into two distinct flow paths. There is the lower airpath where air flows from the front, through an air filter that can be easily removed for cleaning, then through the lower drive bay, via a 12cm fan that can be individually controlled via a speed controller attached to a small cable, and then finally through the power supply.

Then there's the upper airpath where air flows from the front, through a second washable air filter, into the upper part of the box exiting through one of two 12cm individually controllable 12cm fans. The two top fans are controlled by external fan switches at the back of the case, which allows adjustments of speed without opening the case. For my configuration, I run the back fan at its lowest speed. I have not connected the top fan at all.

Separating the air that flows through the power supply from the air in the rest of the box ensures that the power supply's fan doesn't have to run at top speed to move air that is hot because the processor or graphics card is producing heat.  This is a problem seen in many other cases - even when there's a quiet 12cm fan in the case that can move the hot air out of the box, the power supply fan runs at high speed because its heat sensor feels the hot air that passes through the PSU and acts accordingly, causing unnecessary noise. With the P182's solution, this doesn't happen - the power supply's heat sensor only detects the heat generated by the harddrives and the power supply itself.

The area marked with C is a special plastic slider that ensures that as little air as possible travels between the upper and the lower air paths, while still allowing cables to be run from the power supply up to the motherboard and other parts requiring power, and also down to the lower drive bay to power the hard drives.

The right side of the case

Antec P182 right sideOn the other side of the case, we see another neat feature - cable ties to keep cables running from the power supply to the motherboard secured.

Attention to detail

Antec P182, lower drive bayThere's a lot of smart solutions in this box. Here's one example - the ring used to pull out the lower and upper drive bays have a small plastic snap that keeps it down when not used - avoiding any chance of it vibrating causing noise!


Overall, I'm extremely happy with this case. It's high quality, and it's very very quiet! If you're willing to pay for quality, I definitely recommend this case.

Seasonic S12-II

The Antec P182 is sold without power supply unit (PSU). That gives the owner flexibility in finding a PSU that fits with the requirements.

Seasonic S12For my new computer, I choose a 380W Seasonic S12-II based on recommendations in a local forum. There are many power supplies specifying that the fan is temperature controlled, but in reality, many PSUs have really crappy fan controllers that keep the fan at higher speed than necessary, causing noise.

Like the Antec P182, the S12 has an aura of quality. It has a nice black finish, and the outgoing cables are neatly organized.

The PSU claims that it is very power efficient, which means that a lot of the energy going into the PSU actually comes out. This is not the case with cheap PSU's, where a lot of energy is wasted in the conversion from high voltage AC to 12 and 5V DC. The energy wasted generates heat, which has to be ventilated. So, an efficient PSU not only saves your electric bill, it also makes your computer more quiet! Seasonic S12, smart connector
Here's a really nice feature - the 12V standard connectors for connecting for example old harddrives, DVD readers, etc, are of a special make that are much easier to disconnect.


Seasonic S12-II is a PSU I can recommend.

Dear SonyEricsson...

Published: 2008-02-24 21:55 UTC. Tags: hardware

Dear SonyEricsson.

May I please suggest that you test your applications, for example the SMS and Phonebook applications, with a realistic amount of data added to their databases. This will lead to less frustrations among your customers because they won't have to wait for ages each time they want to read an SMS or find a contact in their phonebook. , It may even lead to customers buying another SonyEricsson the next time they need a new phone!

Best Regards,
\EF - Unhappy user of SonyEricsson m600i.

See also: Sony Ericsson M600i - First Impressions, last?


Samsung 204b + ATI Radeon 9250 SE - the saga continues

Published: 2007-11-18 19:21 UTC. Tags: hardware linux review syncmaster_204b

I've previously written about my adventures in getting my Samsung 204b, made in Slovakia, to work properly in 1600x1200 at 60Hz (short story: Can't be done due to bugs in their DVI implementation).

Yesterday, I decided to upgrade my home workstation from Ubuntu 7.04 to 7.10, and of course, the flickering screen syndrome came back.

After lot's of tests with many different options in /etc/X11/xorg.conf, I got some help in a local forum, and came to the conclusion that modifying xorg.conf doesn't help. Using the xrandr command does however offer a way to solve the problem.

I how have the following list of commands in my /etc/kde3/kdm/Xsetup (I use kdm to start my X server, if you use another display manager, adjust the path to one that makes sure the commands are run right after X server startup):

xrandr --newmode "1600x1200@55" 150.0 1600 1804 1996 2160 1200 1201 1204 1250 +hsync +vsync
xrandr --addmode DVI-0 1600x1200@55
xrandr --output DVI-0 --mode 1600x1200@55

Gosh. Seems like there's some kind of bug in the ATI driver in the 7.2 packaged with Ubuntu Gutsy, or perhaps in itself.


Samsung Syncmaster 204B [R] on DVI - don't try that at home!

Published: 2007-01-03 01:08 UTC. Tags: hardware linux syncmaster_204b

Note: This instruction is valid for the ATI driver included with Ubuntu Feisty Fawn (7.04). There's another entry on how to get it working in Ubuntu Gutsy (7.10).

I recently decided that it was time to replace my old trustworthy Nokia Multigraph 446XPro CRT display with a flatscreen. The 446XPro has server me well at various computers at home since 1998 (that's eight years!) but it was time for something less space-consuming on my desk. Also, I like the feeling of not sitting in front of an electron beam several hours a day.

My list of specifications for the replacement was rather short:

  • Must handle a resolution of 1600x1200 (I've been working with this resolution for many hours a day for the past 8 years, so I'm quite used to it)
  • Adjustable height
  • Reasonable price
After some research, I bought a Samsung Syncmaster 204B which seemed to be a reasonable fit given my specifications. As we'll see, the word Syncmaster is somewhat ironic in the name of the product... Also, it turned out that I got a Samsung Syncmaster 204B [R], which turned out to be very significant..

I got the screen just a few days after ordering it, and connected it to my graphics card, a ATI Radeon 9200SE, via analog VGA. After adjusting the vertical refresh to the recommended 60Hz, I got the display working, but with some distortions which made it hard to work with given the high resolution and the small font I use for displaying information. This was a disappointment. Obviously, the VGA decoder in the screen is not good enough to handle the recommended solution.

As a colleague of mine had similar trouble at work and solved them by switching to a graphics card with DVI output, I decided to go the easy way and buy a new graphics card, as the graphics card I had lacked DVI output. It turned out that the 9200SE was the very last card in the series that only had analog VGA output. My usual luck with hardware..

I bought a ATI Radeon 9250 as replacement and installed it. This gave me a sharp image. Yay! Or so I thought, because now, the screen started to go blank now and then with irregular intervals. It went completely black and then came back after half a second or so. Boy, that's irritating!

After many attempts, I managed to find the right words that made Google lead me right. This forum article led me to this forum article which describes the problem - it's a bug in the DVI implementation of Syncmaster 204B [R]. It can't handle the bandwidth. Gah! My usual luck with hardware..

The forum articles says this bug appears only on Syncmaster 204B [R], and only on models made in China. The latter seems not to be true, as mine is made in Slovakia.

There's a workaround - by lowering the vertical refresh to 56Hz, the problem goes away.

I'll do what I can to get a new screen without this bug anyway.

Here's my xorg.conf I use with the Radeon 9250 and the Syncmaster.

Sony Ericsson M600i - First Impressions, last?

Published: 2006-11-28 14:05 UTC. Tags: hardware review

Got a new phone at work today, a Sony Ericsson M600i. It's a 3G phone. Unfortunately, our cellular network provider (Tele2) requires you to change SIM-card to a new one when you want to use 3G instead of just GSM. The SIM-card has been ordered and will probably be in my hands tomorrow.

Eager to begin playing, erm, I mean working. with this new toy, erm, I mean "critical tool for my working environment", I tried to insert the GSM SIM-card I already had. It seemed to work well.

However, after a while, I noticed that the symbol for network coverage was going up, then down, then up, then down. Also, initiating calls only worked 1 out of 10 atttempts.

I phoned (one of the ten attempts) to the customer service, and they were quite sure the problem is that the phone simply doesn't work well with a GSM card.

Gah! How hard can it be to make a phone that works with GSM SIM-cards? I'm just asking! If the SIM-card says that it's just GSM, then use just GSM, and don't try to get 3G access. Grr!

On the same level of stupidity, it seems like you need to have a SIM-card inserted into the phone to be able to access anything else than the welcome screens (and possibly the emergency number, 112). That's very well thought out, since you also need a SIM-card to be able to transfer contacts etc. from your old phone to your new one via Bluetooth or IR. So, if you only have one SIM card, you have no simple way to transfer your contacts.


Apart from that, it seems to be a nice phone. I'll probably be back later with some more reviews of its functionality. Hopefully, I'll be able to synchronize it with some desktop application on Linux.


First Impression - Samsung ML-2571N B/W Laser Printer

Published: 2006-10-18 20:32 UTC. Tags: software hardware review

Me and my girlfriend ordered a printer a few weeks ago. Today, it finally arrived.

This is a Black&White Laser printer with network capabilities.

Network Capability

Why network capabilities? Because it's reliable! I'm running a Linux workstation at home, my girlfriend has a Windows XP box. I don't trust her machine being up, serving the printer when I need it. She doesn't trust my machine being up, serving the printer when she needs it. She's probably right :-). This poor machine is a bit experimental.

So, to avoid any computer-related trouble, we bought a printer with network connectivuty that could easily be hooked up in our little apartment-network. The printer speaks 100Mbit/s ethernet and was configured to get an IP via DHCP at start. Excellent!

Size and Weight

It's a nice little machine. It's very lightweight, so there's no trouble keeping it on a shelf above the screen. It's also quite small, so there were no trouble finding a place to put it.


Very fast! It prints in no time!


Oh.. well.. it's a black&white printer we'll use for documents, and as far as I can tell, it prints good enough for that.

Linux Drivers

This is where the, ehm, "fun" begins. I do have quite a lot of experience in printing on Linux, especially with CUPS, so I do have some opinions on how Linux printers should behave and how to install them.

When it comes to this printer and its Linux drivers, I'm both impressed and quite unimpressed.

I'm impressed, because there is official Linux support, and not only for Red Hat Linux 7.3 or some other ancient distribution, but for all kinds of distributions.

I'm not impressed, because they have missed quite a few things, and the installation procedure is far from obvious and also full of bugs.

When you insert the CD which claims to contain Linux drivers, you are at first impressed that they ship a autorun file for Linux. Then you are less than impressed by the fact that they have missed the fact that many modern Linux distributions mount CD's noexec. This of course makes the installation fail ungracefully.

Fortunately, I'm experienced enough to understand this, so after remounting with exec, I started the installation program Linux/

This fires up a QT-based installation program that first tries to locate a locally connected printer. In my case, it didn't find any such printer since the printer is connected via the network and not via USB or parallell port. It then gives the opportunity to search for network printers. Being curious, I fired up a ethereal to see how it did that, and found out that it broadcasted for printers using, I think, SLP (Service Location Protocol). Clever use of standard protocols! It did find the print after a short while. Impressive!

But after this, I'm unimpressed again. The installation program starts installing stuff. Yeah, that's right. Stuff. It doesn't tell much about what it's installing, and the manual ain't clear on that either. Too much magic.

When the installation program ends, I have two processes running as root doing.. I don't know! The printer has not been added in CUPS. If I try to print from my web browser, I get a well-designed but malfunctioning interface featuring a picture with the printer. I don't know how it got there, and it doesn't work - it tells me the printer is not started.

Oh, my. As usual, hardware manufacturers try to make everything so seamless and smooth that the result is that nothing works.

Here's my recepy on how printer manufacturers should support printers:

  1. Provide packages for the major Linux distributions with the PPD's and any CUPS filters needed.
  2. Provide a installation program that either installs the packages, if there is a package for this distribution, or tell the user a number of specified files will now be installed at a bunch of specified locations.
  3. Let the installation program locate and install the printer in CUPS.
  4. That's all, folks.

I uninstalled the whole thing (there was, and I'm happy and impressed by this, an shipped on the CD), located the PPD on the CD and copied it into CUPS' ppd directory, then restarted CUPS and added the printer via the CUPS web interface. Works as a charm.


A New Toy

Published: 2006-09-27 12:50 UTC. Tags: hardware

I just ordered a KiSS DP-588. It's a networked DVD-player with harddrive recorder. I have a colleague who has one, and he's very satisfied with it.

I'm afraid this will mean I'll no longer miss a single Mythbuster episode :-).

Hopefully it won't mean I spend more time watching TV, just that I watch more on TV programmes I really want to see.


Observations, 2006-09-22

Published: 2006-09-25 06:24 UTC. Tags: software hardware
  • The correct settings for talking to a Fujitsu-Siemens Primepower 250 (or a Sun VFire 250, or probably any sun) via the serial console port is 9600 8N1, no software handshake, no hardware handshake.
  • You know you're dealing with serious hardware when there's a setting for altitude in the system configuration. The Primepower 250 uses this setting to calculate how much the fans should rotate for a given system temperature.
  • Minicom does not handle UTF-8 xterm's or tty's very well.. LANG=C is recommended.

New Keyboard at Home - trying out the Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000

Published: 2006-01-21 21:13 UTC. Tags: hardware linux

I accidentally poured too much water into my old trusty MS Natural Keyboard (bought sometime in 1999 or so). Very sad, since I very much enjoyed it. I still use this kind of keyboard at work, though.

I tried to take it apart to let it dry, but unfortunately, it didn't help. Must be some corrosion somewhere in the layers of metal-covered plastic that keep track of which key was pressed, since only some of the keys are malfunctioning.

As a side note, the old keyboard had the text "Keytronics" printed on some of its internal parts.

Since I've really enjoyed this keyboard, I decided to try the new generation of MS Natural Keyboard, and tried a MS Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000 at a local hardware store. It felt nice, so I bought it.

I unpacked it yesterday, and to much irritation, the F3-F12 buttons didn't work at all, not giving any keycode back. Mumbling about Microsoft doing stupid things, I went to bed.

This morning, after doing some google queries, I found out that you must have the "F Lock" button pressed to get all F-keys working. Not 100% obvious, if you ask me.. but I guess that's what I guess for not following the instructions about installing the software before plugging the keyboard in. Not that I expect a Linux version of the software on the CD.. :-)

There are some keys on the keyboard that don't give any keysyms, including the zoom key in the middle. There seems to be ongoing work on a Linux driver for this hardware, that will enable this as well. All important keys do however work.

So, what about the ergonomics and feeling of the keyboard? Well, after typing a while, my initial impression is that I really like it. I've had to adjust my armrest's positions a bit to compensate for the slightly higher keyboard (I'm currently trying it using the piece of plastic that makes it higher in the end faced to me. It does make the keyboard look like an UFO, but it feels right!).

The feeling of each keystroke is quite similar to the old one, perhaps being a little bit softer. The space button is a bit harder to press down, and the enter key is a bit smaller, but so far, I haven't managed to hit it.

I usually don't enjoy products from Microsoft, being a user mostly of Linux and other UNIX derivatives, but their keyboards are very good.