Atomic I/O letters column #36Originally published in Atomic: Maximum Power Computing Reprinted here August 2004. Last modified 16-Jan-2015.
Atomic's review of the Gigabyte GN-WLBZ201 USB wireless adapter got me thinking. If it can have its drivers stored on the device, why can't everything? So long as Windows can autodetect removable drives, shouldn't any device be able to boast this functionality?
Personally, I think it's a great idea. At home we have several printers, a scanner, and other external devices, and I am forever losing the driver CDs. It would be easier if all these devices had onboard memory which contained the drivers. If the drivers ever got updated, then they could be downloaded and just copied onto the device, over the top of the old ones.
There are of course some negatives. CDs are cheap and onboard memory isn't. I'd be happy to pay an extra few bucks to save the hassle though. I really think Gigabyte is on to something here.
There's a lot to be said for this idea, but there are a couple of problems with it as well.
Problem one, which probably isn't a big one, is that average users might be confused about their printer (or whatever) giving their computer a new "removable" drive.
Problem two is that a lot of devices would probably need a surprising amount of storage on them. Printer and scanner manufacturers, in particular, are often guilty of producing multi-megabyte "driver" suites that contain a bunch of extra software only peripherally associated with the driver. Flash RAM is pretty cheap these days, but the thick end of ten freakin' megabytes for each OS supported by the device (Win9x/ME, Win2000, WinXP, Mac OS 9.x, Mac OS X...) still adds up to a fair bit of the stuff, and some "driver" packages are a lot bigger.
Now, perfectly good "64Mb" CompactFlash cards (real formatted capacity about 61Mb) are selling for less than $US20 delivered these days, which over the lifespan of a cartridge-hungry inkjet is as nothing. But printer and scanner manufacturers seem to be convinced that consumers care a lot about the initial purchase price; this argument actually holds water, in the case of scanners. Either way, they don't want to make a $US120 printer instead of a $US100 one.
Especially if it causes them to get lots of calls from puzzled people who can't find this new "E drive" their computer suddenly seems to have.
I have a Leadtek A340 TD GeForce FX 5200 with TV out. I use the TV out on a regular basis for watching movies and surfing the net, as it is great being able to have two screens open at once. Occasionally I've wanted to have my screen mirrored onto my TV for playing games and so on, but in the nView manager it doesn't say I can do that. I'm wondering if I need the a newer version of nView, or if it's just my card.
Also, what is the highest speed I can overclock my P4 2.4C with the standard HSF?
Nvidia's drivers have been able to do TV/monitor display mirroring for some time now, but there's a 1024 by 768 resolution limit for TV displays, and the same applies to "cloned" displays.
Make sure both the TV and the monitor are enabled, set them both to 1024 by 768 (or less), set the monitor to be the primary display and the TV to be the secondary, and then set nView display mode to "Clone", and you should be in business.
(Nvidia have a bunch of downloadable AVI tutorials for nView.)
It also won't hurt to upgrade your drivers, if you don't have the current version.
Regarding overclocking your 2.4C - how fast it can go with the stock cooler depends on your motherboard, your case ventilation and your RAM, but the 2.4C's a great overclocker in general. If you've got a well-ventilated case and the ambient temperature isn't too high, you might well be able to hit 3GHz or more with the stock cooler.
The 2.4C doesn't come with one of Intel's copper-cored high end coolers, though, so if you're trying for a better than 20% overclock, you'd do well to upgrade to a nice copper-heat-sink Thermaltake or similar mass market overclockers' HSF.
I'm planning to get a Wi-Fi card, because I've read recently about Wi-Fi hot spot access and how it provides a way to get free Internet access at quicker than ADSL speeds. Do you know if there are any catches to this so-called free Internet access, and can you recommend any Wi-Fi cards?
There are still some free wireless Internet "hot-spots" here in Australia and elsewhere in the world, where you don't need to set up an account to use the network, but the word free should really be in quotation marks for most of them. They generally service places like pubs and cafés where you're expected to buy stuff while you surf.
There's also free access in places that're even more expensive to be in - luxury hotels, airline club lounges and such - but that's probably of even less interest to you.
There's been a bit of a dot-com-ish bubble associated with this. People with the following business model:
1: Set up free hot-spot
...who are now realising that free wireless in your café is much more likely to attract a few nerds who'll nurse one cup of coffee for an hour while they play Counter-Strike, or browse Hungarian rabbit porn, or otherwise scare away the normals. It's hard enough for companies to make money from wireless Internet access when they charge for it, let alone when they don't.
Assuming you know somewhere that has an unrestricted wireless network, though (on purpose, or accidentally...), it's generally possible to connect to it from outside the area it's meant to serve. You'll probably need a directional antenna to do this.
If you're not comfortable with the idea of juggling a laptop and a chunky antenna in your parked car, though, you're unlikely to find this very practical.
On the plus side, the 802.11b hardware needed to connect to a wireless LAN (or create your own) is now very affordable. Decent off-brand PCMCIA and PCI 802.11b cards can now be had for less than a hundred Australian bucks.
About 15 months ago I was given a Panasonic CF-35RJJ8CAM laptop computer, for which all I needed was a power supply to get it up and running. Panasonic Australia referred me to their spare parts distributor in Parramatta, but all they said was that you can't buy that part in Australia.
I e-mailed Panasonic USA about buying the power supply, including the part number I found on their Web site, and got no response. They don't ship outside the USA, anyway.
Please help me. I have no one else to turn to!
I've banged my head on a few Panasonic support pages now, and given up - would it kill them to let you search for a model number and then download a spec-sheet PDF file?
Anyway, what you need to know is the voltage and current rating of the AC adapter, if it's the usual simple DC type with a two-terminal barrel plug on the end. With any luck, the power adapter specs will be in the manual and/or stamped on the back of the laptop, and you can of course just look at the socket to see what kind of connector it uses.
If it's some weird multi-terminal job then you're probably out of luck, but if it's a normal laptop power adapter outputting something between 15 and 20 volts DC, with a barrel plug, then you can buy a generic replacement.
Is there any way to get Windows XP to automatically rename a bunch of files in consecutive order? I tried selecting a heap of them and giving them the same filename and the result was:
Whereas I would prefer something like:
Any help would be appreciated.
I don't think you can bludgeon XP into doing this natively, but there are a number of file renaming utilities out there that'll do what you want.
A good freeware option, which puts flexible file renaming and several other features into the standard right-click menu, is rjhExtensions.
I'm moving to a new place soon and will be getting ADSL (256kb) at the new place..
The problem is, will I still get the same speed (100kb download avg) and ping (sub 100ms) on a wireless network (802.11b - maybe 802.11g later) as on a corded network?
Yes, provided you've got a good signal, and you're not sharing the one access point with a bunch of other users. 802.11-whatever that's trying to deal with marginal reception or lots of users can give quite woeful performance, but in normal situations you should have plenty of bandwidth, and the wireless connection will only add an imperceptible three milliseconds or so to your ping times.
Is it just me, or are the MPEG artefacts on some live digital broadcasts, like the cricket on Channel 9, really bad? I don't get why they should be so bad - surely they could invest in a nice realtime MPEG encoder?
If a TV image is full of compression artefacts all the time, that's probably because it's had to be squished down to fit through a pretty narrow pipe as it's bounced off a satellite, or whatever. Perhaps it doesn't need to be that small all the time, but they don't know when they might lose bandwidth or have to switch to their backup pipe, and have thus set their constant bit rate encoder to use a rate that'll always work.
If the image goes to Lego only now and then, then it's just a transient error. Small glitches are often much more noticeable on digital signals than analogue ones.