The Toasty Apple 
Wednesday, 17 June, 2009, 12:30
Posted by Administrator
During the day I like to watch Daisy via my MacBook Pro's webcam. It's really a simple setup -- I set up a Skype account specifically for "Puppy Cam" use and added my MacBook Pro to my LogMeIn Free account. Then, from work, I connect to the MacBook Pro via LogMeIn, dial my Skype account from the laptop, and enable video sharing.

The problem is that the laptop appears to get quite hot if I'm connected to it all day. It's no wonder -- Skype uses a ridiculous amount of CPU time when I'm sharing audio and video. As I type this, it's using between 64.5 and 80% of the system's dual-core CPU. I stream classical music for her using iTunes, and this uses about 4% of the CPU, which isn't much but you're still looking at 84% of CPU usage. This drove the temperature quite high -- north of 80 degrees C, I found out -- which is quite unhealthy for a laptop CPU.

I did a quick Google search and found that the acceptable operating temperature range for a MacBook Pro under load is 120 to 190 degrees F, but I'm pretty sure letting the laptop run for extended periods of time at the top end of that range is frowned upon. At the very least, I don't like doing that.

In response to this unhealthy behavior, I downloaded and installed the latest version of smcFanControl (free download at http://www.eidac.de/). This application allows a user to manually set their Mac's fan speeds. I noticed that the temperature jumped quite quickly when I started the video stream and, in response, I started increasing the fan speed. Bumping it up from 1800 to 2500RPM made an immediate difference, dropping the temperature from a toasty 78C to 72C which, while still quite hot, is much nicer. I turned the RPMs up to 4500 and this is keeping the processor at an acceptable 60C (140F) while introducing minimal fan noise into the audio stream.

Cranking the fan up to maximum speed, 6000RPM, results in marginally cooler temperatures, but not cool enough to justify running the fan at full speed all day. After 10 minutes of running the fan at max speed, the processor cools down to 56.1C -- definitely better than 60C, but much louder than 4500RPM.

You all knew I was a nerd, but you didn't know how far it went :)
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Defenestration Part Two 
Tuesday, 16 June, 2009, 21:17
Posted by Administrator
Back on 1st December I commented that Dell Latitude D830s should be thrown out the window. Today, my thoughts are the same. The fact that we have very little trouble with their replacements, all Latitude E5500s, reinforces this sentiment. It's scary that these came from the same company and are so different.

The quest to load these things with a stable operating system continues. Interestingly enough, we're using the same system on the E-series machines as we did on the D-series ones, along with the same updates and software packages. Softwarewise the laptops are identical (apart from hardware drivers), yet the E-series ones are so much nicer.

That said, I'd still take a horrifically beastly desktop over a fast laptop any day of the week. Maybe I'm just old-fashioned (look at me, talking about computers and calling myself old-fashioned) but I like raw power and upgradeability in my computer.
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War On Bushes 
Sunday, 7 June, 2009, 14:13
Posted by Administrator
If some people had their way, certain houses would be completely surrounded by bushes. Lawns would be replaced by bushes. Trees would be replaced by bushes. You wouldn't be able to pull into your garage without hitting a bush. You wouldn't be able to get your lawnmower into the backyard without having to step off the sidewalk to avoid hitting friggin' bushes.

The gratuitous use of bushes ends now. The bushes on the north side of my house have been removed -- they've been gone for weeks now. The bushes on the south and east sides are still present (and they'll stay there as long as it's raining, as it is now), but they're going. There are a couple of reasonable-looking ones on the west side of the house so they may be worth keeping -- but three bushes happen to look a hell of a lot more tasteful than a completely-surrounded house.
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CPX 2.0 
Friday, 22 May, 2009, 20:36
Posted by Administrator
We're heading over to CPX (www.cpxsports.com) tomorrow to have some fun ... by "have" I mean "shoot," and by "fun" I mean "people." Paintball ... what great stress relief! Nothing like running around and painting your opponents white.

I've upgraded the A-5s with response triggers, bringing the upgrade count to three -- the previous two upgrades were collapsible stocks and Apex-equipped barrels. They look pretty sweet, and when I tested them they appeared to perform nicely too. I don't have the response triggers turned up too high at all, so nobody needs to be worried about getting relentlessly beaten with 15 paintballs per second.

I wish I could take a barrel-mounted camera in there, but CPX doesn't allow those on the field and I don't have one, so that's not going to happen.
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Windows 7's XP mode 
Wednesday, 6 May, 2009, 20:41
Posted by Administrator
... so people are all up in arms about how not all hardware will support Windows 7's XP mode, griping about how Microsoft sucks and things of that nature. How very typical of the community to start bitching about this stuff.

Let me take a step back ... x86-64 hasn't made it into every household just yet, and the 64-bit operating systems that can take advantage of the architecture haven't fully filtered down to the consumer. The architecture first hit the market with AMD's Opteron processor (which targeted the server market), but it's been around since 2003. Hardware and software manufacturers have been given plenty of time to get their act together and ensure compatibility. Yes, I know there were previous 64-bit implementations, but let's see what happens when Joe Consumer buys an Itanium-based workstation and attempts to load his copy of Windows XP Home on there ... not gonna happen.

If something that has been around since 2003 can't make it into each and every PC-owning home, then AMD-V and Intel VT-x sure as hell won't either -- they came out around 2006. People who go out and buy a grossly overpowered machine to handle their Word docs, Youtube browsing, and Excel files are probably covered here and should be glad. But, as I said, if you go get a $250 clearance machine at a big box retailer that's probably been sitting on a shelf for 18 months, you're pretty much guaranteed not to have the latest technology.

With the above said, we can't say that all CPUs have the 64-bit extensions, and we also can't say that all CPUs have hardware-assisted virtualization capability. But if you want to use these features and you have a pile of crap computer, don't you think it's time to upgrade?

Also, if you don't want to upgrade, Microsoft Virtual PC has been available for free since 2006. No, it doesn't look as slick as Windows 7's XP mode, but it serves the same function and does so without the need for hardware virtualization support.

Anyway ... have fun chewing on my rambling there.
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