Entries Tagged as 'Hardware'

Apple – Double or Nothing?

Yesterday Apple announced another record quarter in sales.  In fact, iPhone sales doubled in Q4 2009 (a good holiday present for Apple).

Tomorrow Apples announces a new tablet computer (at least that’s the rumor of what they will announce).

Google has a lot of ground to catch up with Apple in the phone market, and it certainly doesn’t appear that Apple is going to just stand by and wait for them.

I guess the one thing that Apples numbers show is that there is money to be made in economic hard times if you’ve got something people want.

Originally posted 2010-01-26 01:00:44.

D-Link DGS-2208 Eight Port Gigabit Switch

I ordered a couple of these from Amazon last month to make  my temporary network wiring a little easier until I can do some permanent wiring throughout the house.

They were very inexpensive, and had a rebate (limit two).

The newer version of these switches (hardware revision C) are Energy Star certified — they consume very little power, and produce almost no heat at all.

The bottom line is they work, and work well — are affordable to purchase, and reasonably eco-friendly.

Originally posted 2009-08-02 01:00:11.

Virtualization Solutions

On windows there’s basically three commercial solutions for virtualization, and several free solutions… wait one of the commercial solutions is free (well when you buy the operating system), and the other is partially free…

  • Microsoft Virtual PC (runs on both servers and workstations)
  • Microsoft Virtual Server (runs on both servers and workstations)
  • Microsoft Hyper-V (runs only one Windows Server 2008)
  • Parallels Workstation (runs on workstations)
  • Parallels Server (runs on both servers and workstations)
  • VMware Player (runs on both servers and workstations)
  • VMware Workstation (runs on both servers and workstations)
  • VMware Server (runs on both servers and workstations)
  • Citrix (aka XenSource)

For Intel based Mac you have commercial solutions

  • Parallels Desktop
  • Parallels Server
  • VMware Fusion

And for Linux you have the following commercial solutions, and many free solutions (Xen being one of the leaders)

  • Parallels Desktop
  • Parallels Server
  • VMware Player
  • VMware Workstation
  • VMware Server
  • Citrix (aka XenSource)

And for bare metal you have

  • Parallels Server
  • VMware

 

I’m not going to go into details on any of these, I just wanted to give at least a partial list with a few thoughts.

If you’re new to virtualization, use one of the free virtualization solutions.  You can try several of them, and many of them can convert a virtual machine from another vendor’s format to it’s own, but learn what the strengths and weaknesses are of each before you spend money on a solution that might not be the best for you.

Microsoft Virtual Server has some definite performance advantages over Microsoft Virtual PC… there are some things you might lose with Virtual Server that you might want (the local interface); but Virtual Server installs on both desktop and workstation platforms, so try it.

For Mac I definitely like Parallels Desktop better than VMware Fusion; but you may not share my opinion.  VMware claims to be faster, though I certainly don’t see it.  And I might add, that if you have a decent machine you’re running virtualization software on, fast isn’t going to be the number one concern — correctness is far more important.

Also, with each of the virtualization systems, hosts, and guests there are best practices for optimizing the installation and performance.  I’ll try and write up some information I’ve put together that keep my virtual machines running well.

For the record, I run Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 R2 (64 bit) on Windows Server 2003 R2 x64 SP2, and on Windows Vista Ultimate and Business x64 SP1; works well.  And I run Parallels Desktop v3 on my Macs.

For the most part my guests are Windows XP Pro (x86) and Windows Server 2003 (x86); I don’t really need 64-bit guests (at the moment), but I do also run Ubuntu, Debian, Red Hat, Free Spire, etc linux…

Like I said, figure out your requirements, play with several of the virtualization systems and spend your money on more memory, perhaps a better processor, and stick with the free virtualization software!

Originally posted 2008-05-18 20:25:18.

$35 Tablet PC

The government of India has unveiled a $35 tablet PC that they intend to use to replace text books in India.

The Laptop Per Child project (OLPC) developed a $200 durable notebook prototype in 2005 that’s designed use in schools in developing country and has plans for a $100 tablet.

India, though, has created a computing device that costs less than most text books, and the government will further subsidize the cost.

In a country where electricity is a scarce commodity in many regions (the tablets will have a solar power option for use in rural areas) they seem to have a much better grasp on the concept of leaving no child behind and creating a technologically empowered generation ready to perform the jobs of tomorrow.

The US leaves no child behind by simply holding everyone back to the level of the underachiever — easy to understand why we’re becoming a third world nation.

Originally posted 2010-08-01 02:00:31.

Promise NS4300N NAS

I’ve been a reasonably big fan of Promise in the past; their PCI IDE cards worked well, their PCI SATA cards worked well, their 16 Channel SATA2 RAID5 PCIe cards worked fine, and their NAS box seemed like a really good buy.

When I first got the box almost two years ago it worked fine; it had a few issues (like the lack of hard drive spin-down, even though there tech support insisted it had it)… but in general it was a reasonable buy.

A week ago I invested in some 1.5TB Seagate SATA2 drives to upgrade my Promise, their web site indicated that the new firmware that was just released supported the drives so I felt fairly confident in buying them.

Well, the answer is, you can four 1.5TB drives in the box, but you cannot use more than three of them in a RAID array… seems like maybe they never tested it with four drives (wow — a four drive NAS not being tested with four drives).

What happens i that you can build out all the drives, put content on them, but when you reboot — the box complains of file system errors and the only thing you can do is start over — losing the content of your RAID (I hope you haven’t depended on your RAID actually being fault tolerant… if you have you’re SOL).

I figured yeah, this is a bug, I’ll just file a trouble report with Promise and get an ETA on a fix.

I submitted the trouble report (after having to go through way too much of a hassle to setup an account there), got a confirmation email that indicated I’d get a response within one business day…

Let’s see, that’s been almost a week ago — and I don’t have an ETA on a fix, I don’t have any response from them (not even one that says that they’re looking into it — aware or it — or anything).

Let’s face it, if a vendor can’t meet the low-bar expectations they’ve set by actually providing a reply within one business day, what confidence should I have in them that they will ever be able to actually fix the problem and maintain reasonable quality.

All I have to say is that I’m glad my last two RAID controllers came from one of Promise’s competitors — and I guarantee you my next RAID controllers and NAS boxes will likely not come from Promise!

Originally posted 2008-11-20 12:00:04.

USB Hard Drive Adapters

 Everyone’s making them and they come in really handy…

 Basically they’re devices you can use to access a bare hard drive.  Most of them supports PATA and SATA 2.5″ and 3.5″ drives (though some vendors require a bunch of adapters to do it).  The APRICORN DriveWire unit is clean and simple and priced around $30 (use a price search engine) or less.

I was so happy to find these units that I purchased two of them and gave away my previous ones made by another vendor.

If you’re going to routinely swap drives on and off a computer, and don’t want to spring for an external case you might be better off with a hard drive dock also available for about $30, but they don’t support PATA (PATA is not hot swapable).

If you’re going to use these units to upgrade a computer’s hard drive, remember Acronis TrueImage is a great tool (you can find shareware and OpenSource tools as well — but TrueImage is well worth the price and has many additional features that you’ll likely find useful).


APRICORN: DriveWire – Universal Hard Drive Adapter

Originally posted 2008-12-29 12:00:32.

Windows 7 on a NetBook

Tonight’s project was upgrading my MSI U120 NetBook from Windows Vista Home Premium to Windows 7 Home Premium.

I put the disc in the external USB DVD drive, booted into setup, prepared the 500GB Seagate hard drive (I upgraded the hard drive to 500GB and the memory to 2GB right after I got the NetBook) for a single partition installation using diskpart (I had Acronis TrueImage Home on the NetBook, but I decided I didn’t want to put that on my new installations), and let it go…

Setup did it’s thing; rebooted, started up and then I ran the updates… and to my surprise every single device was functioning perfectly — including the web cam which Windows Vista needed me to install a driver manually for.

The machine even seems to run a little faster — though honestly I had no complaints with Vista; but I just use this machine to browse the web, email, and GPS, often from a cellular data connection.

The Atom N270 processor is is a little light weight for many tasks, but for what I use my NetBook for I’m quite happy with it; and quite pleased with how easy it was to install Windows 7 on the machine.

I really wish I had a touch screen PC to try out Windows 7 on… but that will have to wait until those come down in price [a lot] more.

One word of advice if you’re in the market for a NetBook — make sure that you can put more memory in it, while you may not have the fastest processor around, more memory and a faster hard drive will definitely give you much more performance.  Also, many of the newer NetBooks use a new generation of Atom processor which actually has fairly beefy performance.  But remember, if you need to use your NetBook for long periods where you don’t have access to power — you’ll have to weigh performance against power consumption for longer battery life.  For me, my NetBook is primary used in my truck or temporary accommodations — so power is always near by.

Originally posted 2009-11-27 01:00:38.

SFF-8484 to 4 x SATA Cables

I just purchased a Dell PERC 5/i (basically an LSI 8404) RAID card off eBay and I needed to purchase two SFF-8484 cables to connect it to my SATA hot swap bays.

There seems to be a great deal of confusion on eBay from vendors that have these cables — many of the vendors just don’t know what they have; and it’s important to know, since there are two different cables fitting the general description — and they are not interchangeable.

The cable I needed could be identified by a Trip Lite part number S502-01M or an Adaptec part number 2167000-R (discontinued) or a StarTech part number SAS84S450.

The description should contain the key phrase that the cable is used to attach a SAS (or SATA) HBA (Host Bus Adapter) to individual SATA drives.  The description should not mention anything about hooking up a SATA controller to a SATA/SAS back plane.

What’s the difference in the cables???

Well, the SAS controller to SATA device cable is straight through; the SATA controller to SAS back plane has the RX and TX swapped… and generally speaking there’s not a lot of call for the SATA controller to SAS back plane so those will be the least expensive, and the most prevalent on eBay.

The sellers who do know what they have, and advertise it as such want a phenomenal price for the cables (they’re only $19.99 on Amazon, buy the two you’ll need and they ship free)…

Do your home work and ask your questions before you commit to buy on eBay — particularly if it’s from China or Hong Kong (it’ll take several weeks to get the item, and returning it will be half the price you paid).  While Amazon’s gone down hill a great deal recently; it’s still easy to return, and in the long run you might save both time and money.

SFF-8484
Tripp Lite S502-01M

Originally posted 2010-11-13 01:00:28.

Color Nook

Barnes and Nobel showed it’s color Nook Tuesday in San Francisco – the press seems to like it; 15.8 oz, 7” screen, 8GB storage (plus uSD slot), WiFi, uUSB power, Android based…  available for pre-order on 19 Nov.

Not clear that you have access to Android marketplace, but it sounds like it (since there were references to installing games and such on it)… this could be real competition for the iPad (and the Kindle).

Barnes & Noble Nook

Originally posted 2010-10-26 20:00:42.

ASUS Eee PC

ASUS has release a series of “thin client” devices that they call the Eee PC, it comes in three basic models (the Eee PC Surf and Eee PC look identical, but the Surf versions apparently aren’t easily upgraded; and then there’s the Eee PC 900 which has a larger display).

The Eee PC Surf is available with either 2GB or 4GB; the Eee PC is available with either 4GB or 8GB — both have a 7″ screen.

The Eee 900 is available with either 12GB (Linux) or 20GB (Windows) and has a 8.9″ screen.

All of the use Intel processors… for more information just go to ASUS, and I’ll save you the pain of going through their cute presentation:

Eee PC  Eee PC Surf & Eee PC

Eee PC 900  Eee PC 900

Originally posted 2008-05-18 21:41:35.