Computers

 2009 by Brian Mork

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Here are some computer-specific articles:
Other articles written by by Brian Mork are also available.

Destroying CD-ROM Data

{Cooked DVD Image}

Pictures above are from a CDROM after 4 seconds in a 1KW microwave oven.  I think this is a pretty secure way of making the disk non-readable!  The CD-ROM starts cracking, sizzling, and sending out sparks after about 4 seconds in a 1KW microwave oven.  I wouldn't do 5 seconds.  You can also read about how to really destroy data permanently on magnetic media.

Acer One Netbooks Product Selection Comparison Guide

In 2009, Acer came out with some attractive laptop computers, both the 8.9" and 10.1" versions of the Acer One netbook computer. They use coded product codes of 3 leters, 3 digits - 4 digits. When I was shopping to compare which I wanted to buy, I couldn't find a concise comparible reference.  So I put one together. Here is an Acer One 10.1" Product Comparison Guide. Because it's a spreadsheet (.xls file written with Open Office), you can sort by whatever criteria you wish.

Acer One Battery Issues

I purchased a monster 9-cell battery for my Acer.  Good idea overall.  It gives 11-14 hours of operation!  However, it has a few operating quirks you might want to plan for.  About 50% of the time, while it's plugged in, the computer will suddenly say, "Your battery is critically low. Going into hibernate." and then it does so.  I think this is because the battery is so large that the charge circuit is not able to make it change voltage fast enough.  The computer logic senses no change in voltage, and assumes this is because it's too low.

What I've found is that when using the big battery pack, I have to run it without the A/C charger.  I let it get low to a warning message and then plug in the A/C power.  If you plug in power before the battery is worn down, it will go into hibernate mode after a few minutes. Once it is charging, I have to pull the A/C power before it gets all the way charged, or it goes into hibernate again. 

Another way of making the big battery work seems to be to boot up the computer on AC power with the battery removed.  Then, while the A/C adapter is plugged in, pop the battery back into the computer.  For some reason, this "jolts" the charge circuits back into sense, and the hibernate mode will not kick it until the next time the computer is power cycled.

Acer One Netbook Strange 100% CPU Load

I have owned an Acer One netbook, model AOD250-1165 since the fall of 2009.  Summer of 2011, for other reasons, I began to use the process monitor program from SystInternals.  The CPU power sometimes was run up to 99% while the computer was doing nothing!  It shows that the generic "system" process is using the CPU, so I can't determine any specific program that is guilty.

The CPU burden was really annoying to me because sometimes it ran idle at 99% CPU and other times it ran idle at about 5%.  Then one day, I was running the laptop remotely underneath my desk with a separate monitor and keyboard and mouse plugged in.  Everything booted up fine with the CPU at 5%.  Then, in order to keep dust out of the keyboard, I folded the lid closed.  Poof!  The CPU load went up to 98%.  What?!  I opened the lid, and it dropped back to 5%.  This behavior was repeatable.

Below is a screen capture of the situation.  I have the SysInternals "procmon.exe" in my startup folder, so it catches a little bit of boot-up activity toward the left of the data traces.  Note the top trace.  You can obviously see the big red rise in CPU activity when I closed the lid of the computer.  I couldn't hardly believe my eyes, so I closed the lid, and sure enough, it went back down.  Then I repeated, and it went back up.  No mistaking this problem.

BIOS-1.02-closed-lid-problem

I have never heard of such lid closing behavior before. Searching Google "acer one lid closed CPU load" gave some hits:
I went about upgrading the BIOS on my Acer laptop.  As of this writing (June 2011), the highest BIOS update available from the Acer website for my specific model is version 1.29 (which BTW includes an update saying something about stable battery charging, so I'm anxious to test my big battery charging issues again).  The reflash utility will complain if you don't have the A/C charger in place (see screen shot below, I'm not sure why the text of the caution was not saved as part of the screen capture).

acer-on-ac-power-to-flash-bios

I plugged in the A/C cord, and the reflash utility reported my prior version as version 1.02.  Total time to run the reflash utility was less than 1-2 minutes, after which it automatically shut down Windows and rebooted the computer without asking me. BTW, from the Acer website, you can also download a utility to determine what hardware you have on your computer.  For my computer, it reports Camera Suyin, LAN Atheros, VGA Intel, and Wireless LAN Atheros.

After doing the BIOS upgrade, I ran the SysInternals program again, and recorded the following data.  The big bump of activity along the left margin was the boot-up miscellanea.  Then I opened and closed the lid four times, for maybe 10-20 seconds each.  I was happy to see no noticeable effect.  The two mild increases in activity were related to other legitimate activity at the keyboard, so I'm happy to say the "problem has been fixed!"

acer-lid-problem-gone-bios-ver1.29

Internet Meets Board Games

For interesting computer marketing, visit one of my friends over at pijom.com; it will turn your world upside down!

MiFi Bandwidth Limits

Over the last few months, MiFi devices have become popular.  These devices connect to cell phone networks, however, they do no audio.  Insteady they WiFi broadcast an internet connection to one or more computers.  In order to not saturate cell networks, monthly bandwidth is limited to about 5 GB.  (Okay, a pet peeve of mine. Soapbox time.  This is NOT bandwidth.  Bandwidth has units of "frequency" or generically "some item per time".  Bandwidth could be 5 GB per month, but that corrupts the term to be a long term average.  Bandwidth is usually reserved for short-term burst capabilty of a communication path.  It would be more correct to call this 5 GB of throughput per month.)

Do you know how much internet activity represents 5 GB?  I did not.  I found a program from NetLimiter.com that has tremendously helped.  Two data grabs shown below.

data-volume-from-100-web-pages

The above data shows when I got on the web and randomly cruised web pages for about an hour, counting up 100 or so pages that I loaded.  Looks like this cost me 23 MB download and 4 MB upload, for a total of 27 MB.  A 5 GB/mo data plan would allow an average of 167 MB per day, so this is 16% of the "daily recommended allowance".

data-volume-doing-nothing-windows-xp

The above data shows what happened after I went to bed.  The 6th pair on the right is ignored in my calculations, because that's not a full hour of data.  Overall through the night, Windows XP averaged 8.6 KByte/hour download and 9.0 KByte/hour upload, for a total of 17.6 KByte/hr.  If you left the computer on 24-hr per day, this would be about 422 KByte, or  about 0.25% of your "daily recommended allowance".  That's really an irrelevantly small amount. Good.

However, be aware that the above background data graph does NOT include any automatic virus updates or Windows updates, etc. I use a Zone Alarm firewall and cut off such activities.  I will investigate further to find out exactly what these backgroun network data include.  In the meantime, here is a nascent summary of some typical user activities I have documented.  As I add more and more, this will give me a good feel for how much activity 5 GB represents.

network-loads-for-activities

My key for the above:

IdleWinXP/hr - leave Windows running over night for about 8 hours.
PickBook - log on an audio book site, browse through titles and pick one (but not download it).
100Pages - browse around for about an hour, select 100 random web pages.
Gphone/hr - talk on Google Phone for an hour.
Iso - download a 689 MB Unbuntu CDROM iso.

Here's an example of how you can use this chart.  Talking on Google Phone is about 14+14, or 28 MB total per hour.  A 5 GB per month data plan would allow 5000 / 28 => 178 hours of talking on Google Phone, assuming you do nothing else.


This page is maintained by Brian Mork, owner & operator of IncreaTM // It was last modified June 2010. Suggestions for changes and comments are always welcome. The easiest way is to contact me through the Internet.

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