Mar
24
2009
0

Drooling over the Dell Mini 9

New Laptop

New Laptop

Since I reviewed available netbooks about two months back several new options have opened up.[1] There’s the new Samsung NC110[2][3] and a slew of new Acer One’s.

However, none of them can touch the 4GB Dell Mini 9 on sale right now for $199 with Ubuntu.

I know I had earlier said that 8GB was too small for my purposes. I had even suggested that I was more interested in some of the other available netbooks over the Dell for this reason.  However, I want to make my next computer a Dell, true to my word.

The reason I’m considering the 4GB version where I was dismissing the 8GB version before is the incredible price and the purposes to which such a laptop would be put.  In order to do about 98% of what I need with a laptop, I could easily use a netbook.  On any given day I use:

  • Firefox for web browsing
  • Thunderbird for e-mail
  • Pidgin for instant messaging
  • FileZilla for FTP transfers
  • Notepad++ for programming/text editing
  • OpenOffice for word processing, spreadsheets
  • TightVNC for remote access

All of these programs are open source software and available for Ubuntu[4] and Windows.  So, in shopping for a laptop, I really don’t care about which operating system I use.  The 4GB Dell Mini 9 with Ubuntu could do all of these things – and for a $199 price tag.  Plus, with the Mini’s SD card slot, I could pop in an extra 16GB of memory for only $26.

  1. Photo courtesy of Ciccio Pizzettaro []
  2. The Samsung NC110 is the successor to the NC10 []
  3. A review of the NC110 I found helpful []
  4. An easy-to-use Liniux installation. []
Nov
24
2008
0

Calculator Update 11-24-2008

Calculator

Calculators

Last week a website user notified me of a problem he was experiencing with this website’s rating calculators.  He’s been a regular user for nearly a year now.  When he tried to perform a calculation the calculators would just show waiting indicators without showing the answer.  If he closed the browser window and reopened it, it would sometimes fix the problem.  To complicate matters, his coworker was having a similar problem.

Worst of all, this problem had been plaguing them for two weeks.  If you have a problem with this website, let me know as soon as possible so that I can track down the last change to the site to see if its causing a problem.

My troubleshooting went like this:

  1. Get a detailed description of the symptoms.
  2. Try to replicate the problem.
  3. Reiterate the problem to make sure I’ve got it right.
  4. While working to diagnose and fix the problem, offer a temporary fix (putting up a temporary site for their use).
  5. Look into recent changes in the website (going back two weeks).
  6. Since I couldn’t replicate the problem, ask additional questions.
    • Does the problem occur at a particular time of the day?[1]
    • What web browser and version do they use?[2]
    • What operating system?  When was the last update?[3]
      • Explain how to figure out their version of Windows and how to install update.
    • Do they have any third-party “toolbars” installed?  Yahoo, Google, MSN, etc toolbars.[4]
      • Ask them to temporarily disable or uninstall the toolbar.  Give them links to where they can re-download the toolbar software.
    • Do they single-click or double-click on buttons?[5]
    • Are other co-workers having the same problem?[6]
    • Do they have this same problem on different computers?[7]
    • Is the browser showing javascript errors?[8]
    • Ask them to try out a new browser. I recommended the PortableApps.com version of FireFox.
      • If the problem disappears, its obviously in their computer or network.  If the problem persists, it could still possibly be their network or the website.
  7. Above all else: KEEP THE CLIENT INFORMED.[9]

As of right now, one of this client’s co-workers has contacted me to say that he’s no longer having trouble with the website.

So, problem solved?  If not, let me know, alrighty?

  1. This would indicate a data bottleneck at the server.  Time to upgrade! []
  2. And, tell them how to find this information. []
  3. Have I mentioned how much I loathe Microsoft VistaSeriously, I think people should delete Microsoft Vista because its crap. []
  4. These browser helper objects are notorious for interfering with normal browser operations.  Worse, you can’t rule them out based upon when they were installed because they’re constantly downloading and installing updates to themselves. []
  5. Double clicks send two requests to the server – and might be confusing the browser. []
  6. Two computers on a single network could be a coincidence, a sign of a problem with the website, or a sign of a problem with the client’s network. []
  7. If not, its a problem with that computer.  If so, could still be a problem with either the website or their computers/network. []
  8. Tell them how to tell if there’s an error and how to give you the error code information. []
  9. They may not care for the constant updates, but they will know you’re on the case. []
Sep
23
2008
1

RIP Laptop 1-5-2007 to 9-21-2008

Sonic Screwdriver

Sonic Screwdriver

My laptop, a Dell XPS M1210, stopped working on Sunday night.

Symptoms:

  1. Totally unpowered screen.
  2. Computer will not boot from the hard drive, USB stick, or CD.
  3. Hard drive light indicator shuts off after 1 second.
  4. After 1 second, I cannot hear the hard drive spinning.

Tests:

  1. Do the LED indicator lights still work when I disconnect the power cord and leave the battery in?  Yes.
  2. Does the computer recharge said battery when the power cord is plugged back in?  Yes.
  3. Remove hard drive.  Insert new working hard drive to see if computer will run.[1]  No dice.
  4. While hard drive is removed, insert it into another laptop to see if that computer will run.  Yes.

Eliminated problems:

  1. Battery. The computer is able to use the battery to power the LED lights.
  2. Power jack. This is a common problem for laptops.  The AC adapter power jack sometimes becomes loosened over time and eventually slightly disconnects from the motherboard.  My computer is able to draw power from the power jack and recharge the battery, so the power jack is fine.
  3. Software. A new working hard drive does not fix the problem.
  4. Hard drive. Another laptop is able to boot using my hard drive.

Doctor Who

Doctor Who

Possible problems:

  1. Motherboard. The motherboard is the most likely culprit since (a) I can’t see the BIOS (Built In Operating System) boot screen when I power on the computer (b) the hard drive stops spinning afer 1 second and (c) motherboards going bad are not an uncommon problem.
  2. Monitor. I can’t rule this out as the problem or as a secondary problem.  A motherboard failure would explain the dark screen.  A monitor failure would not explain why the hard drive isn’t spinning up or why the hard drive light shuts off after 1 second.

Learning that the hard drive is not the problem is a mixed blessing.  While I’m glad that my hard drive and information is safe, it means there’s a much bigger problem. Hard drives are easy.  Insert screwdriver, remove hard drive, replace, rock on.

MacGyver

If the problem is something other than the hard drive, you can’t fix it with a screwdriver.[2]  But, I figured I’d give it a shot anyhow.  I’ve fixed laptop problems similar to this before – opening it up, finding a broken wire strip, fabricating a new part, and MacGyver-ing it back into the case.  Its extremely difficult, precise, and time consuming work.

I removed the hard drive again, opened my laptop, pulled out the keyboard, removed the monitor, blew out dust and debris, and visually inspected the motherboard without finding any obvious defects.  At this point, I need to turn it over to someone with the expertise and equipment to fix the problem.  :(

  1. Yes.  I just happen to have extra laptop hard drives lying around. []
  2. Unless you’re The Doctor. []

Use of this site constitutes agreement to its Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Legal Disclaimer.
Copyright 2007 - 2017 - PDRater – PD calculators and Jay Shergill
Powered by WordPress | Aeros Theme | TheBuckmaker.com WordPress Themes