Category Archives: Computers

Linus … no piano, and old is GNU.

Ok, drifiting away from photography again …

This time it is about Linux.

Linux is an operating system that was influenced by Minix, which was based on Unix … ok, so now I have to explain about Unix … this was an influencial computer operating system based on Multics. So now I have to explain Multics … nah, go and google it yourself.

Just to give you Youts some reference with the old days of computers … here is a picture of the two guys who coded Unix (Ritchie and Thompson) … yeah that thing along the wall is the computer … and yeah they all looked like the Woz. Note that this was only 40 years ago.

Ken_Thompson_(sitting)_and_Dennis_Ritchie_at_PDP-11_(2876612463)

1048px-Heckert_GNU_white.svgLinux was created as a completely free and open source operating system with GNU applications … it was free for anyone’s use, unlike Minix.

Ah, GNU’s not Unix. Richard Stallman created the GNU project to bring a wholly free operating system to the public.

… back to Linux … it was released in 1991 and was created by Linus Tovalds.

Linus

Ok, that is not a great picture of him (2012), but it is an iconic image as it kinda represents a bit about his personality … he may not have been this way when he was younger.

Linux became a big hit with all the nerdy computer geeks of the time … cause it was free to use.

220px-Tux

He was also the one who thought the official mascot would be Tux the Penguin. … back to the story … I have been thinking about dual booting my laptop with Windows and Linux for while. I finally upgraded the SSD to a larger size, so now I can fit both OS’s. Now this ain’t the first time I’ve had multiple OS’s … I once triple booted OS-X, Windows, and Linux, so it should be easy this time.

Linux has always attracted me, probably because I starting computing with the green/amber screen terminal on a PET … umm, just recall The Matrix green text … so working with a console is kinda consoling (hey, I made a pun).

425px-Larry-the-cow-full.svgI previously been working with Gentoo (it is a Linux distribution and also a species of Penguin … though their mascot is Larry the Cow), but I thought this time I would go easy on myself and work with Arch. Like Gentoo, it is a minimalist style … but not so far as compiling everything from source.

Now Linux has come a long way in terms of compatibility with hardware, so it is so much easier to get a working Linux system … but there are still somethings that don’t work right out of the box … so here are my tips.

My installation is on a Dell XPS 13 9343 with a QHD+ high res touchscreen … which is an awesome laptop … that is currently running Microsoft Windows 10.

I suggest getting another SSD drive, with a USB enclosure and clone your existing Windows installation … just in case you really @$&% up and wanna go back to an easier life … and later on you can use it as a very portable backup drive.

240px-Archlinux-icon-crystal-64.svgPrep … look over the Arch Linux Wiki docs about installaton and also the detailed page for this model of laptop (though a lot of that could be tweaked after the install).

 

Step 1.

Get a USB to RJ45 ethernet adapter, cause the Broadcom wifi adapter will cause you issues (no network connection) … they aren’t expensive … and it is handy to have for other future purposes. Another suggestion is to buy an Intel AC-7260 wifi card and replace the crappy Broadcom … it is much more better in reception, and natively supported by Linux.

Step 2.

Free some space. The Windows disk management utility should be able to resize your partition. I just left about 100GB for my Linux install, even though I would not be using that much I though I may in the future install much more stuff if I liked it.

Step 3.

Install Rufus to create a bootable USB stick, and then download the Arch ISO file.

I had to set Rufus to use an MBR partition scheme in order to get my laptop to boot from it.

Step 4.

Boot the USB drive with the help of the F12 key at boot.

When you get the Linux bootloader screen you will really want to edit the Grub bootloader kernel entry and add the parameter: video=1280×1024 … otherwise you will get text soooooo small you will need to get out a magnifying glass.

Step 5.

On another computer or tablet, get to the Arch Linux installation documentation, and really follow it.

Modifications I made after finishing the install but before the final reboot …

Time Zone

Windows does not play nice with UTC, so I forced Arch to follow the Windows way … otherwise every time you reboot into Windows the time will be wrong.

  • # timedatectl set-local-rtc 1

Boot Loader

As I noted about the screen resolution, I edited the /etc/default/grub and edited it.

  • GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX_DEFAULT … I added video=1600×90
  • GRUB_GFXMODE=1280×1024
  • GRUB_GFXPAYLOAD_LINUX=keep

So you should be pretty safe after rebooting.

Have fun.

Windows update note.

If you happen to have deleted the little OEM Partion that sits behind the Windows C: partition (like I did) then be ready to rescue Grub with tiny text. When a major Windows update installs (like the October one) it will recreate that partion, and the next time you reboot you wil get a Grub rescue prompt. You will have to reconfigure the bootloader to use the new partitions.

This page has instructions to recover: Grub Rescue after Windows Update

One note was I searched for / instead of /grub2 to find the partion that my /boot/grub directory resided in (I did not create a separate boot partition).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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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