Archive

Archive for June, 2008

WiFi access in shopping malls

Yesterday I was out shopping with my mom in a mall called Constantia Village. It’s placed more or less in the heart of the Constantia suburb, with stunning scenery all round. The mall itself isn’t the typical big mall, it’s smaller and caters for more upmarket things generally.

I noticed that they have implemented a free WiFi zone through the mall, as I could pick it up on my Nokia N80 thoughout the mall. I don’t know how long the system has been in place for, but it must be over 6 months.

I was able to access a few test sites using my phone, after logging into their captive portal based system. It’s hard to judge speed when you are using a phone, since the whole feel of using internet changes when you are using it.

I find it an interesting concept though, the idea that just being in the mall gives you 50MB of data and an hour free. I’m not aware of any other shopping mall here in Cape Town that offers something similar. I imagine that if a huge place like Canal Walk tried it though, they would quickly run up a huge data bill. Plus with so many coffee shops offering it, I’m sure the channels would eventually get rather cluttered.

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Categories: General

Devil’s Peak wallpaper in Windows Vista

I noticed something that made me smile last night, so I thought I would share it here.

Last night I was playing around with Vista Service Pack 1, and after the age it took to install (partly my fault, as I should have copied the installation file to the hard drive and not run off dvd), I decided to just play around and see what was new.

I came to the part where I was playing with wallpapers, and I found a picture of Devil’s Peak and the Cape Town City Bowl at night time as an option under the “Vistas” catergory of pictures. I hadn’t seen this on Vista prior to the install so I presume it was added by it.

I just have this warm and fuzzy feeling that our city has had its photo added to an operating system used by millions worldwide. Guess I had a geek moment :mrgreen:

Network inventory using Spiceworks

Just wanted to drop in a quick post before I head off to sleep for the night. It’s rather cold here, so I’ll keep this brief. 🙂

If you are running a small to medium sized network, it often seems that things can quickly get out of control software wise. You lose track of what’s installed where, serial numbers, what’s been updated or removed. Then there’s the little matter of users installing software as well given the chance.

I discovered Spiceworks on a link in the www.edugeek.net forums, and after reading up on it, I decided to give it a try. My network is about 82 computers big, plus some network printer multi funtion machines. Initially I had some minor issues with the product, including slow scans, but as I kept using it, those bugs got fixed and new featured kept on coming. Once I discovered how to get the Windows Firewall to let Windows WMI information through, things got far better.

The information it has provided me has been invaluable. I’ve used it to actually be proactive, instead of reactive. I’ve ordered new toner cartridges because of it, cleaned out hard drive capacities, and removed ancient software that we no longer needed. As a bonus, it’s also picked up serial numbers for most of the hardware, so I’m able to keep better asset records.

Version 3 is due out very soon, and from what I understand it will have some awesome new features. However, it’s most awesome feature by far is it’s price: free!

It’s ad supported in its web interface, with the adverts being displayed pretty useful and relevant to the IT users using it. There is also a very big active community that shares knowledge on just about every IT subject available. There are some really really clued up people in there.

I am only scratching the surface here of this great product, so head over to www.spiceworks.com and see more for yourself. My only wishes for the ptoduct is that the speed of the scans can be improved, as well as the web interface made more speedy. I think the interface is using Web 2.0 technologies, but not every browser can handle that with good speed.

I can’t wait to see what version 3 has to offer 😀

 

Categories: Software

Dust and computers

Computers, or any form of electronics for that matter, and dust are not friends. Unfortunately, they seem to be in a “love hate” relationship, as electronics will always end up attracting dust.

At work, I’ve slowly started cleaning out various computers, mostly old Compaq Deskpro flatbeds. They have never been cleaned to my knowledge, and it shows. They are absolutely filthy inside, it’s just not funny 😕

I’ve discovered that there are 2 “kinds” of dust, one which is a fine brown/grey powder type dust, and one which is gray and fluffy. The grey one coats all the internal parts, and is a pain to remove, it nevers seems to clean off except with a wet cloth, which you cannot use on sensitive electronics. That leaves me using a soft paint brush, and when I get it, a can of compressed air.

I’ve heard that using a vaccum inside a computer is a risky thing, unless it’s a specially designed computer vaccum. I have one of those as well, but unfortunately it’s not too effective.

The grey fluffy dust can usually be carefully picked up and thrown into the bin, but sometimes it breaks apart on you as you are lifting it up. giving you a little dust cloud of joy lol. Oh well, back to the paintbrush then.

Getting to the point of this post, the main things that I’ve seen dust do are as follws: heat your computer up, and make it more noisy. I recently cleaned out a Pentium D 3GHZ that was hitting 60+ degrees, even while idle, and causing it’s operator to get numerous alerts. This made no sense, as there are other ones at my work that do not do that. I opened it up, and I discovered enough dust to last forever. Gross 😡

Eventually, after giving it a super cleaning, I put the system back on. Temps dropped by 20 degrees to hover around 40 when idling, which was far better. The area the computer is in used to get a lot of foot traffic, which was not helpful when you had a horrible carpet nearby. Since it’s the reception area of a school, that area gets a lot of traffic, so it’s understandable that so much dust can form.

Of the Compaq’s I’ve cleaned out, most have gone very quiet afterwards. So quiet I can hardly hear them in fact. Dust clogs up the CPU heatsink, causing less efficient cooling. It also coats the blades of the fans(s), which again also causes a reduction in performance. When you are running small fans like those computers are, every little bit counts.

Anyway, my battle with dust is just starting, as I have plenty of targets to dust this coming week. Time to get a face mask when dusting lol.

Categories: Computer Hardware

Computer power supplies

This is a small piece of wisdom I learnt not too long ago concerning the power supplies of computers: you get what you paid for

I’m no electrician by far, and electrical terminology goes over my head. However, I’ve slowly started to learn more as I work with computers, more so the power supplies.

Manufacturers have gone to great lengths to hype supplies that have 500 or more watts of power. The packaging boxes are usually designed to scream this fact out to anyone looking at it. What they don’t say is that this is sometimes peak power, or is only rated to give that amount of power under very certain conditions.

About 2 years ago, I bought an el-cheapo 500w power supply for the computer I was building up. At the time, I just saw 500w, and I thought that I had to get this, as I was busy building a beast of a machine. The case had a 300w in that I had long since gotten rid of.

Now, this 500w model really looked solid, had plenty of pwer connectors, and was nice and heavy. The quality of the connectors was disproven when I put a hard drive in, and the top of the SATA connector broke off. 😦

To cut a long story short, I finished my computer, and was ready to power it on. That’s when the problems started. The multi plug strip I was using kept tripping our homes power supply. I thought it was drawing too much power but it wasn’t that as it turned out to be. My Geforce 8800GTX needs 30amps on a 12V rail, and the power supply barely gave that when both rails were combined. It also seemed unable to give my system a true 12v power source, as when I looked at stats in my motherboards BIOS, the 12v was reading 11 point something. I flashed my BIOS a few minutes later, and my computer wouldn’t start.

While not directly the power supply’s fault, I suspect that it damaged my board somehow. At that point I said no ways, not taking a chance here. I ordered a Corsair HX620W supply, which has worked like a charm, and then some. That is the best PSU I’ve ever seen or used. I plugged it into the same power strip, and I’ve had not one trip. So it appears something was wrong with the other one’s earthing or something.

At my work, whenever I look at the computers I built, I begin to understand how cheap some PSU makers are. If you read the labels on the unit, most are far less that the claimed rating, as it’s been “extended” to the rating. However, the computers they are supplying are not drawing heavy current, so it’s not the end of the world.

In short, I’m trying to say that if you buy, build or upgrade a computer, don’t cut corners on the power supply. It can make the world of difference. It, like the monitor, usually gets skimped on, yet these 2 are the most vital parts of a computer.

Categories: Computer Hardware

My first post :-)

Welcome to my first ever attempt at a blog.

I just decided to set one up on the spur of the moment, as I was a bit bored. I have some things I want to say, and I wanted a place to say them.

For now, this is just my first post. As time goes on, I’ll refine and improve features on the blog, provided I can figure out how it works lol.

Here goes nothing 🙂

Categories: Uncategorized