Sunday, April 23, 2006

Late night Anatomy : Playing Dr. Hannible with my gadgets

Lately, I've been getting urges to dissect things; computer things to be more specific.

First involves an unsuspecting DVD writer and the second my first ever notebook that has always been a favorite item to show off at exhibitions or lectures involving gadgets.

My DVD writer has always been giving me trouble since I've got it a little under two years ago, during a visit to Singapore. Not only did it cost me about $120, it was very picky as to what DVDs was appropriate to play or write to.

For example, the first disappointment came when I was unable to write to any of the cheap "Melody branded DVD +R"” I had bought (25 stack). Then there were many accounts of (pirated) DVD movies, that I had to go back to return, only to find that it played well on the player or on my notebook.

Finally, just a few weeks ago, it completely stopped reading DVDs of any sort. At first, it seemed a little spin with a cleaning disc would do the trick, but that wasn't the case.

So I decided to rip it apart to see if I could get more personal with its inner workings as well as clean the laser by hand. I'll let the pictures speak for them self.

dvd001 dvd002 dvd003 dvd004 dvd005

Finally after putting it back to together, the result hadn't changed. While it no longer played DVDs it was happy to play CDs. This was abou the time my brother was also visiting from UK and wanted some DVDs written before leaving, so I ditched it and bought the same Sony DVD writer (newer model of course) for half the price, locally!

The decision to dissect my sony vaio notebook was really sudden and was purely because I "just felt like it"”! Actually, I've had put away my vaio, a much loved device, not to mention my first of the kind, for some time now. It has always been an inspiration and a triumph for the only OS - GNU/Linux that could make use of a crippled notebook that only worked for about 3 months, before the hard disk along with its controller failed. That is why, I always took this gadget along to captivate the audience of a notebook that had no permanent memory, with no apparent use, suddenly coming to life by using a floppy containing a few kilo-bytes of ether-boot code that enables it to boot off GNU/Linux completely off another machine lying on the network.

Sony (and apple) has made it difficult to remove their devices by packaging it ever more tightly. Unlike most notebooks, the vaio that lay before me, did not like anyone tampering with it to install a hard drive or even expand its memory. But tonight, I was feeling comfortable to finally remove a device that was never meant to be removed.

vaio000 vaio001 vaio003 vaio002 vaio004

vaio005 vaio006 vaio007 vaio008

It was a highly sweating journey through the process from dissembling to assembling. Though I was able to put it back together, removing the unwanted hard drive and making the device even lighter, reconnecting the touch-pad cable onto the motherboard proved impossible under the circumstances. I was working under limited space between the 3 millimeter thick cable that was supposed to just sit under a small plastic lock. Unfortunately I had broken one side of the plastic lock while snapping it out with my fingernails.

Other than that, the notebook worked as before and the following day I bought a 5-port USB that made it easier to plug in the USB floppy, thumb driver for extra memory and a USB mouse simultaneously.

Which device will I dissect next? Stay tuned.

Friday, April 07, 2006

ASUS center launch

Today I dropped in at the newly opened ASUS center and checked out some of the coolest hardware around. They had, what they proclaimed "The fastest desktop in this region", that was powered by a dual-core AMD 64bit processor and two very powerful ATI graphic adaptors, each having 512MB of video RAM linked together for a combined 1GB + 2 GPUs.
All this was placed inside a glass like transparent casing to reveal the beauty inside.

Unfortunately, I forgot to take my camera, and was too excited to even remember to take a (crappy) photo or two from my phone camera. Oh well, I've never been a press person (but I did go with an X-press person. Oh Hasmin, how could you forget?).

Photo by: Chamil. Check out more photos by him

Other than that there were some really crazy-sexy-cool notebooks and a few nice LCD TFT displays. The die-hard gaming barebones were also a killer to look at.

Anyway I'm grateful for Larry Adams, the COO (the koo!, how cool is that?), for inviting the LKLUGers to come and enjoy the opening. He was also kind enough to gift me with an awesome Xitepad(joypad with force feedback) and told me -- "You'll need this". What did he mean? Could it be a hint that he was going to help us beat the .NET guys at the Unreal Tournament challenge?

And so we left with a note -- "We will be back", with a couple of GNU/Linux LiveCDs and really put these machines to the test. After all, there really is no point running an inferior OS, when you've claimed to have the fastest desktops in the region.