Dan's Data letters #44Publication date: 9-May-2003.
Last modified 03-Dec-2011.
I have an Inno3D Tornado GeForce2 MX. The card has a small heat sink and fan on it. The fan has begun to make a rather irritating noise. I tried taking the fan off and noticed that the heat sink becomes uncomfortable to touch, so I put the fan back on.
Since there are some Geforce2 MX cards that do not come with a fan, I was wondering if this fan is frivolous or if it is necessary for normal operation.
Also, if the fan is necessary, is it possible or worth the time to repair it myself? If I have to remove the glued-on heat sink, how should I do it?
If it comes with a fan, it probably needs a fan. If you've got lots of case ventilation and the ambient temperature isn't terribly high then you can get away with fanless operation - if the card overheats, it'll just hang the computer, not die. It's also possible to install a larger passive heat sink to replace a small heat sink and fan, though surgery on video cards can be tricky if the original heat sink's firmly glued on and not just held on by a couple of spring pins.
You can't really fix the fan; by the time its bearings are making a noise, it's unlikely to be saveable. You can extend its life a bit by oiling the bearing, but once they're noisy, they're usually past help.
So you need a replacement fan, but finding one may be mildly annoying. Any fan that'll fit on the heat sink will work, but unless you want to power the fan from a motherboard header or PSU plug (which is possible, of course) then you'll need a five volt fan; regrettably, the stock fan won't be a 12 volt unit.
Small five volt fans can be hard to find, though a decent electronics store ought to have at least a couple. Some 12V fans will spin from 5V, but small ones probably won't have useful airflow at that low a speed. It'd be a better idea to just stick a 12V 80mm case fan next to the card on the gimcrack bracket of your choice.
If you can get a 5V fan to suit, then you'll need to splice the old fan's power wires and plug onto the new one. If the old fan's power wires are soldered to the video card board, then you can splice the wires while they hang from the board.
If it comes to removing the stock heat sink, you're likely to find that the thermal glue holding it on is quite weak and brittle; you can usually just lever the sink off, using a bit of cardboard to protect the chip and/or board from the screwdriver, knife blade or other implement you're doing the levering with.
If you put the card in the freezer for a while before you attack it, the glue will be more brittle. You can put it in a zip-lock bag in the freezer if you like, but condensation's going to happen when you take it out, not when you put it in, so you really might as well just sit it on some newspaper in the freezer, and just make sure it's dried out before you plug it into a computer again.
Buy a can of freezer spray from an electronics store and you'll be able to make the heat sink a lot colder a lot faster, which may or may not help even more.
If the glue turns out to be strong, mind you, you can rip the chip clean off the board by trying this, freezer or no freezer. Thus will you join the proud ranks of computer equipment murderers.
Levering the heat sink up is a better idea than trying to twist it off, but I have no further info on the subject. I've removed video card heat sinks myself (usually, I admit, because the card had died of other causes already and I had a use for the heat sink elsewhere) and I've never ripped a chip off a board. But there's a first time for everything.
I'm starting to get annoyed at the lack of performance from the inbuilt graphics on my nForce1 motherboard. You've mentioned the GeForceFX 5200s that can now be bought for about $AU180. How do they compare in performance to the GeForce4 Ti4200, which is still selling for about $AU260?
The 5200's slower than the old Ti4200 (by about 20%, at most), but it has a full DirectX 9 feature set. That's really only of academic interest, since anything that does fancy DirectX 9 tricks on an FX 5200 will bog it down to slideshow speed, but it's still not bad for a budget card. The 5200 is therefore an excellent replacement for the GeForce4 MX, but it's not a mid-market card like the Ti4200; that's what the GeForceFX 5600's for.
For a performance comparison, check this review out.
I've been asked to provide a low-power FM station for a campground during an event I attend in August. I want to use a computer, and Winamp, to play the music, as it's much more flexible to be able to select individual songs or playlists than to try paging through them on an MP3 player. Plus, when I get tired, I can use DJborg to handle the process when I need to sleep.
The problem lies in the power equations. I have no idea how much battery power I'm going to need to run a computer, monitor and transmitter for 4x24 hours, over the long weekend. The smallest power supply I have access to is a 120 watt unit, and the computer with it is a 300MHz Duron, which I suspect is enough to handle Winamp and the various plug-ins without thrashing. I have a 300 watt inverter ready to use, and a deep-cycle marine battery. But the monitor for the computer is probably going to eat the battery alive.
I thought about buying a laptop, as it's about as expensive to buy an old one as it is to buy a flatscreen LCD monitor to use. Even then, I suspect I'll have to use multiple RV batteries to keep it running for the long weekend.
Do you have any advice about my situation? Ditch the desktop rig, buy the laptop? Buy a metric assload of RV batteries, and let 'em burn?
I don't think you've got a 300MHz Duron. The slowest Duron AMD ever made was the 600; a 600MHz Duron would definitely be up to the task. One underclocked down to 300MHz would probably be able to handle it fine as well.
An ordinary small CRT can be counted on to suck an easy 50 watts, probably more than 70, and more than 100 for older models. That's about as much as the whole rest of the PC is likely to draw. So yes, some kind of LCD screen is a good idea. You could set a CRT monitor to go to standby after a very short period of inactivity, of course, which'd help.
To find out what the system draws, just stick an ammeter with a suitably high amp range - a regular multimeter with a 20A range would do - in-line with one of the leads from the battery to the inverter, and do some stuff. It's likely to work out at under a hundred watts, with CPU and drives all working.
Buying a laptop is not a bad idea. You'd get greatly enhanced portability, considerably reduced power consumption, and an integrated battery to save you from interruptions of the external power. Losing external power would still stop the FM transmitter, of course, but at least the computer wouldn't shut down as well.
A laptop fast enough to run Winamp should also have USB ports, so you can hang a big cheap external drive box off it if the internal drive hasn't enough capacity. USB 1.1's more than fast enough for compressed digital music purposes.
You will need multiple huge batteries, but only if you resign yourself to not charging the things on site.
One-box, no-hernia option: Get a little pull-start generator. They're not nearly as awful as they used to be - good brand name units these days are reasonably quiet, don't fountain oil all over the place, and you can get them with sine-wave inverters that won't toast anything. 1kW is about the lowest power you can find (this one, for instance; it has both 120V and 12V output). Expect to pay around $US800.
Uglier but much cheaper option: Put a voltmeter on the battery you're taking, and whenever it's looking a bit flat, hook it up to your car battery with jumper leads (use the fancy leads with an in-line spike suppressor, if you've got a modern vehicle and you're nervous about toasting its engine management computer). Then start the car and let it idle; the car's alternator will happily charge the other battery.
To avoid plugging and unplugging, you could also buy an RV battery isolator (or something fancier), which'd let you leave the deep cycle battery connected to your car battery constantly. The isolator allows the car alternator to charge the deep cycle battery, but prevents the car's battery from being flattened when the engine's not running and something else is drawing power from the other battery.
There are other charging options - solar panels, wind generators, a very large array of hamster wheels - but you'd need a pretty big apparatus to keep up with the draw of a desktop PC, even with an LCD screen.
I am wondering if you can provide some information about the multi-monitor capabilities of a totally generic PowerColor (yum cha) Geforce3 Ti200 video card. It has both VGA and DVI connectors, and when I hook up a second CRT monitor using a DVI-VGA connector I can only get a second copy of the main display (both monitors show the same screen). Is this all it can do?
If all it will do is just send the same display to both connectors, is there a PCI video card you would recommend using to add true multiple display capability?
GeForce3s do not support "TwinView", showing different things on the two screens. Cloned displays are all they can do.
There are lots of cheap options for a secondary video card; they can just be a bit hard to find these days. Hunt through the online flea markets for PCI TNTs or TNT2s, ATI Rage128s, or a Matrox G200 or later, for instance.
I'm very interested in the Lian Li PC-6070 case.
Aluminium, three fans, slide out motherboard tray (the usual Lian-Li features) plus the claim to be a quiet case, due to the sound absorbing materials and design.
Given that my wife complains about the noise our current PC makes, if this case lives up to its claims, then I can assure domestic harmony.
I'll check one out when I get a chance, but I'm not expecting miracles. It's not terribly expensive (by Lian Li standards), though, so it wouldn't hurt to try it.
A lot of the noise from modern PCs comes from the fans. Quieter cases generally just have lousier airflow, and damping the side panels makes little difference, unless you damp them much more heavily than with a few millimetres of heavy foam (which is what the PC-6070's got). The much heavier pads used to damp panel rattles in big car stereo installations would probably make a real difference.
To quiet airflow noise, you could try a foam-lined baffle arrangement behind the case, and/or sound absorbent material on the floor, wall and desk-leg surfaces around it. Proper "egg carton" tiles if you want to look cool, old blankets if you don't care.
I have a problem with my new digital still camera. It's a Sony DSC-FX77. It's a brand new model; it actually went on the Sony site several days after I bought it. The previous version is the DSC-F77 - no "X".
The difference between the two is that the new model that I have (with an X) has Bluetooth Basic Image Profile (BIP).
Cool, I thought. So having read your review of the Billionton Bluetooth USB Adapter, I bought one of those as well.
I installed the adapter, it works fine. I went through all the rigmarole of setting up the camera s Bluetooth stuff. I even used the MANUAL! Not something I do very often, but I knew that this was going to be a headache; I could sense it before I even started.
I went through getting the devices to discover each other and that went smoothly. Wow, I thought, maybe it's all going to be OK!
When I try to actually send pictures from the camera to the computer it tells me on its pretty little LCD screen that the Receiver Service is not available on the other device, i.e. the computer.
What did I do wrong? I've played with every setting I can find and nothing works.
I even spoke to Sony on their help line. This monumentally optimistic idea occurred after reading in the manual that to connect the camera to a PC, you should run "BlueSpace" on said PC. BlueSpace apparently comes standard with all Bluetooth equipped VAIO laptops. I don't have a VAIO Laptop. And BlueSpace doesn't appear to be downloadable.
Anyway, Sony's helpdesk told me that everything I needed was already on the camera. Which it quite obviously isn't, unless they've installed a copy of some Windows compatible Bluetooth software somewhere on the camera and not told anyone how to get at it. Yes, I checked the camera's Memory Stick, just on the off chance.
So I have taken to sitting in a darkened corner, sucking my thumb and casting withering glances at both my camera and my PC.
Please help me!
Sorry, no help here. Maybe some sympathy, if you look carefully. And have a good imagination.
The DSC-FX77, it would appear, does not (yet) work with anything but the special Sony Bluetooth software. I did a quick dig on the subject of the FX77 and found naught but people complaining about it not working with their existing Bluetooth laptop/phone/PDA/whatever. Not that there's a lot of discussion of it anywhere, since it's so new, but it indeed seems that Sony are not using plain vanilla Bluetooth.
This appearance is, however, likely to be incorrect; counterintuitive though it is, Sony are probably sticking to the spec just fine. Yes, it's everyone else who's wrong!
I was clued in to this superficially unlikely situation by a correspondent who works for A Big Bluetooth Company, who explained that the Basic Image Profile standard wasn't one of the 11 profiles included in the original Bluetooth spec, and was only officially published in November 2002. This means that BIP products are only now making it to market - the Sony camera being one of the first - and that older Bluetooth gear won't receive images from any of them until its software/firmware is upgraded.
PCs, for instance, ought to support BIP just fine when the Bluetooth "stack" they're using is appropriately updated; no new Bluetooth adapters should be needed, just a software update.
The situation here is not unlike the one with Microsoft and their Bluetooth mouse (as mentioned in this column), which only works with its own special Bluetooth adapter, which in turn works with pretty much nothing else - but that's just a software problem, too.
I've no idea whether that software will work on non-Sony machines, though. It might expect a particular Bluetooth adapter.
The well-hidden big red button marked "Work"
Buying a new CD writer, I found that its output could not be read by older CD drives.
After a lot of tests (and two boxes of CDs) I found the TAO/DAO parameter, which fixed my problem.
Why do we have such dangerous (stupid) options in new drives?
These aren't new options; they're actually very old ones. Track-At-Once is also known as multisession writing; it lets you write a disc in several installments. As you say, though, some old CD-ROM drives can't read multisession discs.
There's more information on this in the CD-Recordable FAQ, here.
I recently bought a 40Gb IBM Travelstar drive from an online auction (yes, strike one for me). The drive was defective (won't get recognized by BIOS or OS in an external case, in my workstation with a HD adapter or even in a laptop) and so I tried to get support for it from the seller. No dice. Returned emails. Returned letters.
No problem, I'll just go to friendly IBM support and they will make me feel warm and fuzzy all over... Nope. They too kicked me to the curb like a 10 dollar hooker.
Aside from expensive hard drive repair, what options do I have? I can't contact the seller, and the maker of the drive won't show me any love. Is there a way I can look up the serial number and model number to find the original seller or reseller?
Anyone want to buy a nice looking hard drive?
What options do I have? Well, you can throw it away, or you can take it apart, salvage the magnets and the pretty little platters, and then throw the rest away. You got screwed.
You can leave uncomplimentary eBay feedback about the seller, of course, but that's it. Used hard drives (I'm assuming this is a used drive...) are a chancy proposition at best, and when you buy one from an online flea market, you can't expect better support than you'd get from anyone else who's laid his wares out on a blanket. Some online dealers provide excellent support; most don't.
It wouldn't matter if you looked up the serial number and so on, since you don't have a contract with the entity that made the drive (which, just to make things more complex, was IBM, but now their hard drive division belongs to Hitachi). The drive's provenance is unknown, it can reasonably be claimed that its non-functionality is the result of some mistreatment (static damage, plugging in backwards, whatever) by a previous owner who couldn't get warranty support as a result, and nobody in the warranty chain has a contract of any sort with you, so you're out of luck.
Now, consumer protection laws work differently in different countries, and the drive may well be genuinely factory-defective and thoroughly eligible for a free replacement. But even if you managed to pin the auction dealer you bought it from down with a simple goods-not-of-merchantable-quality kind of complaint, you can't prove you didn't kill the drive yourself.
C'est la vie, I'm afraid.