Archive for the ‘Hardware’ Category

Dell Studio XPS Desktop Review

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009

Ok, I got the Dell Studio XPS Desktop about a month ago now.

It was my first Dell and I bought it to upgrade from my ca. 3-year-old 3.2GHz Intel Pentium Duo running Windows XP Pro. This machine had slowed down over the years, totally the fault of Windows. I finally reformatted the hard drives Manageand reinstalled everything (a total pain) but that brought the machine back from it’s knees.

The ordering process was easy enough, but depending on if I logged in as a private client or a business client, Dell’s website would offer me different configurations which were hard to compare. Calling Dell’s Hotline gave me the answer that ordering as a consumer got me the better prices. Business prices suck.

The configuration I got was:

* 2.66 GHz i7 core

* Windows Vista 64 bit

* 6 Gigs or RAM

* 1TB of Disk
* The 512MB ATIĀ  Graphic card.

That was it, easy peasy!

Then came the shock! Delivery was to be 50 days from the ordering date!!!

Holy shit, that totally pissed me off! A few days later I called Dell customer serive and was ready to cancel my order. I could not buy a computer that far ahead in the future. I needed the machine NOW, pronto, and was sure that by the time that period was over, Dell would already have cut pricesĀ  and a new and better model would be out.

Pleasant surprise, customer support said that the machine was being completed and would ship with the next day or so! Cool. I had the machine a few days later.

The machine I got was nice and compact. The side easily slid of to reveal the insides: nice and cleaned up. The harddrive is mounted vertically and there is room for a second one. So I installed my other 1TB drive on my old machine and it worked perfectly. I didn’t care too much about Vista 64 bit since I couldn’t find any good firewall software so I partitioned the hard drive and installed Windows XP Pro. I didn’t care about only being able to use 3GB of the installed 6GB. It worked well. Not quite as fast as I had expected initially but nice.

It was only after I ran my batch image resizer that I noticed the SPEED of the machine. What was going on? I look at the CPU usage history in the Task manager: HOLY SHIT! 8 processors were showing, at about 60% average usage and I could STILL WORK normally! No, they didn’t look like the snapshot below, they were really being used! Something similar happened when using Adobe Lightroom Export. Darn quick!

Why 8 Processors? There are 4 physical processors which turn into 8 through Intel’s Hyperthreading mechanism.
So this is the deal: If you’re just loading a single processor, you won’t really notice the speed this desktop has. Only when you have tasks which use several will the true muscle shine through. Same if you are using a CPU intensive task in the background which is loading one CPU to near capacity, you can still work normally on the desktop. Really nice!

One issue: The cooling fan ramping up like crazy for short bursts of time has been cured by the BIOS upgrade 1.0.12 which is downloadable from Dell. The Upgrade runs ins Windows and it totally painless and easy to install, so no reason not to. There have been more BIOS upgrades, get the latest from Dell here.

All in all, a nice machine and really beautiful for my long image batch processes which used to take all night are now done in less than an hour. Super Sweet!!!

Thanks Intel and Dell.

Resetting HP Q3964A Image Drum on 2550L Printer

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2008

My HP 2550L color laser printer has been serving me well for the past three years. The “imaging drum low” light had been on for a while when suddenly BAM, the printer refused to print anymore. “REPLACE IMAGING DRUM”. Crap. this part is expensive!

A google search revealed an interesting article on how to reset your image drum by just pressing a few keys on the printer on startup:

Nope, this DOES NOT WORK!

A search on E-Bay revealed Dubber Toner:

They sell a replacement chip for the drum for under $10 and a small shipping fee (cheapest by far). Replacing the chip is simple: it’s a tiny dark-greeish rectangle with two large square gold contacts. This is causing the grief. Pry it off with a screwdriver and stick on the new chip with the reel-off self adhesive strip.

DONE! Back in Business!
The drum works like new!!!

Now while I was waiting for the chip to be delivered (this took 2 weeks to arrive in Europe), I checked out the new printer offerings of Hewlett-Packard. The 3600N caught my attention. Interestingly enough, buying this new printer is cheaper than getting replacement supplies for my old 2550L:

- it comes delivered with FULL 4000-sheet toners!

- It’s a single-pass printer (all four colours get done in a single pass instead of four as in the 2550L), hence much faster
- Printer quality is better

- Much quieter than the 2550L

- Pro-style paper tray

- A real LCD-display instead of those horrible LED’s

- No printer drum: It’s integrated into each toner cartridge

- Ethernet connector: Use it as a network printer!
- Did I mention it’s wicked fast?!!

To summarize: I will use up all my supplies on the 2500L and then use my new 3600N exclusively.

Teac HD-15 Digi Drive Review

Tuesday, January 23rd, 2007

In a nutshell: I do not recommend getting the Teac HD-100 Digi Drive.

It works ok with memory cards of low capacity, but it’s pretty iffy in those situations where you cannot afford to lose even a single picture.

Having always relied on my laptop to store my digital pictures off camera, I stumbled upon Teac’s HD-15 (and it’s offspring offering over 100GB of hard-drive storage). It has slots for most media (XD is missing) and seemed simple and functional enough, so I bought a copy. All you can do is turn the device on and off (nice near-instantaneous readiness) and initiate a COPY by pressing a dedicated button. The device detects the card inserted and copies all it’s files onto the hard drive, displaying a progress indicator in percent. So well, so good. My field test during a three week trip to Brazil was to prove otherwise…


1) Does not display the data volume of cards filled above 999MB of data. It does copy the data, but I had the nagging feeling that it would drop stuff. The second time I copied a nearly full 2 GB SD card, I guess I somehow corrupted it’s hard drive. My computer refused to recognize it anymore.

2) Slow transfer: A nearly full 2 GB SD card took about 25 minutes to copy. I can’t begin to imagine how long a 16 GB CF card would take (although I doubt whether the HD-100 could handle it in the first place).
3) Beware the battery meter. It can jump from almost full to empty during the lengthy copy of a card. The device will just shut off. There is no feedback whether the data was copied successfully or not. The device turns off when you don’t use it for a short amount of time, so it’s very dangerous to leave the Digi Drive to copy your card unattended! When you look again, the device might be off, and you won’t know whether it copied the data or the battery petered out. Yuck!

4) Customer support is appalling. My email query to TEAC Germany was not answered at all.

5) No verification possible: There is no way to view the files on the Digi Drive except to connect a computer.

So all in all an appallingly insecure device. If you can afford to potentially lose your shots, it might be fine. But I’m reverting back to my laptop. If anyone wants my copy, drop me a line.