Category Archives: Computers

Just a review … Dell XPS 13

Ok, I am at the end of selling off my restored stuff and getting a hold of some new things to fix …

Some time ago I got a used Apple MacBook Pro, cause I really liked their design. I have had many PC’s, typically running Windows and Linux … so getting a Mac was a natural progression. I first got a used MBP 13″, then picked up a used 15″. The 13 was my carry around, while the 15 remained at home.

My current primary laptop is a used 2011 MacBook Pro 15″ … I like it. It worked, though all computers and OS’s have their issues. I recently got rid of the 13″ as I got tired of carrying it around, and started the hunt for something smaller and lighter … which means getting either a MacBook Air 11″ or a MacBook 12″.

After a month of searching for a used laptop, I realized that the MBA 11″ is underpowered and is not readily available with large memory or SSD … and the MacBook 12″ is just tooooo expensive, though it looks like an awesome computer … so I researched other laptops.

What I found, and ended up buying, was the Dell XPS 13 9343 i7 (2015) … I need to replace my failed Windows 10 computer anyway.

I think the XPS line of laptops came from the Alienware acquisition. Alienware had some really cool laptops, and built a real sleek gaming 13″ model … and I think Dell wanted to continue that cool thing.

Spec wise, the XPS13 is something between the MBP 13″ and the MB 12″ … it looks as cool as the MacBook but packs a more powerful processor.

I was going to post a picture, but I didn’t think it would be good enough to emphasis its good looks … so you can view google -> Google Images Dell XPS 13 9343

… so what do I have to say about it? Welllllll ….

Pros: small, light, i7 processor, great 13″ touchscreen LCD.

Cons: shorter battery life, fixed memory, integrated graphics, pathetic wifi.

This ultralite laptop has the same footprint as the Apple MacBook Air 11″ … but it has a 13″ screen. How? Dell got rid of the giant bezel surrounding the screen. Speaking of the LSD, is has a crazy high resolution and it’s a touchscreen. I’ve never had a laptop with touchscreen capability, and I like it … almost feels like using an iPad.




Did some baking today …

Couple of weeks ago my old ASUS ROG G60Vx laptop started showing vertical red lines after booting into the Windows desktop … ok, lets try getting into the BIOS but I could not read anything on the screen … hmm, looks like the graphics chip is going kaputs. Time to look for a replacement video card.

Hunting around I realized that a replacement card is not going to come so cheap. Ok, not really a problem as we have multiple Windows laptops and MacBooks in our household.

I really don’t like disposing of things that could be brought back to life … so today I decided to try the old temp bake job. Typically the cause of graphics card failure is the soldering contacts between the GPU and the PCB. The technique of baking is to re-flow the solder and bond it back together.

I pulled out the PCIe graphics card, and preheated the oven. Solder typically has a melting point of 188C/370F, so I set it to 375F. I wrapped some tin foil to cover the surrounding parts, and also make some legs to elevate it. I placed this on a pizza plate ,that has holes in it, and left it in for 10min … then left it to cool with the door open. I noticed on the web about discussions concerning fumes from the PCB board … since my GPU is on a small board I was not too concerned.

Ok, so the baking is done … clean off the old thermal paste … get rid of some dust … boot up, and hope for the best … BONUS !!! I have a BIOS screen I can read, and no artifacts showing when I booted up into Windows.

Now for all of you others thinking of doing this … this is just a temp job, the soldering will fail again at some point in time … or you can over-heat the board too much and damage other components.

The logical thing to do …

Sooo, some time ago I decided that I needed a larger screen MacBook than my 13″ model … and also wanted a newer year that could support MacOS Sierra (2010+) … so I went on a hunt for one. I decided I should try to get one that was broken … yeah not a smart idea, but I also have experience with computer hardware … so I took a chance.

I did find one that met my requirements … but sadly there was a major glich. The auction description and specs were wrong, so now I have a MacBook Pro 15″ 2009 … the good thing is that I got refunded, and got to keep the notebook.

Ok, so first problem … MacBook immediately panics at book. I booted up with an external drive with Windows 10, and it booted. Hmmm, so possibly OS is corrupted. So, I reinstalled the OS … still get a panic. Swapped the memory out with the ones from my 13″ … and it booted without panic. Great. Bought a couple of 4GB DIMMs … one for each.

Now one thing … in my web research on MacBook panics, I kept running into the GPU issue. It appears that a number of models with a discrete GPU had manufacturing issues and over heating caused it to fail. I installed a temp meter and kept an eye on it … and many times the CPU temp got up to 100C just surfing the web with multiple tabs. I also ran a GPU stress test and did not notice any video failure. … anyway, I decided just to take this thing apart … because that is what I do (remember the toilet story).

Thanks to iFixit I got down to the heat sinks.

logicboardThats what the underside of the logic board looks like. There was dust bunnies on everything, including in the vents and fans. I cleaned up everything and put new thermal paste on.

Right now I have Safari open with two tabs, Lightroom, and the WordPress app … CPU temp is 69C and the fan is running at 2300RPM. Seems to be running about 10C lower in temp when scanning though my LR library … and most important is that the top of my thighs aren’t baking.

Not camera related … but I thought I would post it

So I’ve been distracted for a while.

My most recent distraction is my MacBook … HD crashed … got a new (old) MacBook Pro.

Spent the past week adding an SSD, and triple booting it … Yosemite, Windows 7, Gentoo Linux.

Gentoo was the hard part due to encounters with kernel bugs and especially the boot loader … but I did win, well I still have to figure out how to get the trackpad working in X.

One of these days I will get back to camera restoration.

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