Matt's Blog

Archive for the ‘Computers’ Category

Another 2GBs and a Fan

Wednesday, March 19th, 2008

Yesterday, I posted about my new computer, and today I decided to add to it a bit. I went to NCIX and bought another set of OCZ Gold 2x1GB RAM and an Antec Tricool 120MM Blue LED Fan (pretty much the same as the ones that come with my case). Which means my computer is now rocking 4GBs of RAM. It seems to start faster now, and is overall a bit speedier. Obviously I can run a lot more programs at once now. Right now, for example, I’m running my usual programs and a virtual copy of Vista (with a GB of RAM for it) without any slow downs what-so-ever. :)

The fan goes on the left side of the case, with the airflow pointed inward, right at my Video card. The only thing is, Antec only sells these fans with clear bodies, which sorta clashes with the black case and the other black fans. But, I guess it doesn’t matter all that much.

Windows Vista Service Pack 1 Released

Tuesday, March 18th, 2008

Windows Vista

Today, Microsoft released Service Pack 1 for Windows Vista to the public. I’ve already installed it, and there’s not much that is noticeably different, most of the changes are under the hood. I installed SP1 with no problems, and it seems to be working well. So far, the only thing I’ve noticed that is visually different is the Start Menu. But, the only difference is there is no longer a Search button, which makes the Start Menu just a little bit shorter. Here’s a comparison of the Start Menu on SP1 (left) and on RTM (right) (click for a larger view:

Comparison of Start Menu in Vista SP1 (left) and RTM (right)

Service Pack 1 is currently available through Windows Update as an optional update, if it determines your computer is ready for it. Make sure to install any drivers or updates Windows Update wants you to install, and then SP1 will probably show up (you’ll have to click Check for Updates again). Alternatively, if SP1 isn’t showing up (and you’re sure you have everything required to install it) or you want to install it on multiple computer, it can be downloaded here. When installed from Windows Update, the download size will be smaller, because Windows Update will only download what’s necessary. Microsoft has said that SP1 will become an automatic update in about a month.

New Computer

Tuesday, March 18th, 2008

Back in December/January I built myself a new computer. Not that there was anything wrong with my old computer, I just wanted something more powerful. So, I went to NCIX.com, and order the parts. Here’s what I built my computer with:

The case comes with 3x120MM Antec TriCool Blue LED fans (2 in the front, 1 in the back) and an Antec TriCool 200MM fan (no LEDs) on the top (you can’t even buy 200MM fans!). The power supply is energy efficient, and powers everything just fine. The motherboard has everything I need, and works great. The processor is awesome, and amazingly overclockable (more on this in a sec). The memory is fast, and shiny (literally). The graphics card runs Aero perfectly, and runs Call of Duty 4 well. The hard drive and DVD writer is fast, and work.

This setup is definitely fast, and it managed to completely install Vista Home Premium in about 15 minutes (running stock).

After I installed Vista, I started to overclock the processor a bit, and managed to get it to 3 GHz, stable. It runs at almost the same temperature as when it was stock, since I set all the fans in the case on their highest setting (which also cools down my room, which will be a nice feature in the summer :P ).

Here’s my Windows Experience Index scores:

Windows Experience Index Score

With the exception of the Graphics card, they’re excellent scores.

I also decided to order a 64-bit disc of Vista, which I installed, and have had no problems with. :) Since Microsoft doesn’t sell retail 64-bit versions of Vista, if you own a retail copy of Vista, you can buy just the disc (not a serial number) of the 64-bit version of Vista (it’s around $15 w/ shipping, I think). You can find out more about it here

Here’s some pictures of my computer:

Computer - Left Angle View

Computer - Left Angle View - No Flash

Computer - Front Fans

Computer - Inside

As you can see in the above picture, cable management wasn’t a priority while building this computer. :P

Differences Between the Samsung SyncMaster 226BW, 226CW and 226NW

Sunday, March 9th, 2008

Samsung SyncMaster 226

Samsung makes some great computer monitors, but their 226-model line is just confusing. There’s currently a 226BW, 226CW and a 226NW for sale. These monitor’s are all 22 inches, have the exact same body and have the exact same dimensions. So, what’s the difference between these different models? Well, I’ve dug into the technical specifications to find out.

The Commons

Most of the features in these models are the same. Here’s a run down of the common features between these monitors:

  • 22 inches
  • Maximum resolution is 1680 x 1050 pixels
  • Brightness is 300cd/m2
  • Dynamic Contrast Ration is 3000:1
  • 2 millisecond response time
  • Viewing angle is 160 degrees/160 degrees
  • 16.7 million colours supported
  • Plug and play supported
  • No speakers or USB hub
  • Wall mountable using the VESA 100mm standard
  • High gloss black finish with silver bezel
  • Same dimensions

The Differences

The only real differences between these models is in the technical details. Here’s the run down of the differences between the Samsung SyncMaster 226BW, 226CW and 226NW:

  • The 226CW has a Static Contrast Ratio of 1000:1, while the 226BW and 226NW are 700:1
  • The 226NW only supports a D-sub connection (also known as analog or VGA), while the 226BW and 226CW both support D-sub and DVI in
  • The 226NW does not support HDCP (since it doesn’t support DVI in), while the 226BW and 226CW do
  • The 226CW has a maximum power consumption rating of 50 watts, while the 226BW and the 226NW have a maximum of 55 watts
  • The 226CW has a wider colour gamut (I believe Samsung has labelled this as “MagicSpectrum”) than the 226BW and the 226NW

Conclusion

Basically, the main differences are that the 226CW has a higher Static Contrast Ration, the 226NW does not support a DVI connection (and because it that, it doesn’t support HDCP either) and the 226CW has a wider colour gamut. The difference in power consumption isn’t much at all, so it probably shouldn’t be affecting your buying decision.

If you want to compare these monitors yourself, take a look at the 226BW technical specifications, 226CW technical specifications and 226NW techical specifications.

Which one should you purchase? Well, it really depends on what you want to use it for. For normal office work, the 226NW would work well, since it has just D-sub and is cheaper because of it. If you’re using it for graphics-related stuff (gaming, photo/video editing), I’d go with the 226BW or 226CW. Between those two, it’s hard to say… I’m not sure if the whole controversy with the 226BW is still going on, nor if all 226CW’s have Samsung panels in them. However, I would go with the 226CW, just because it has a few small advantages over the 226BW. I own a 226BW, and it’s great, so I imagine the 226CW might be a bit better, but both are great choices.

Root of Windows Activation Problems Found?

Wednesday, October 24th, 2007

Remember back in July when I had those activation problems with Vista? No? I didn’t think so… Anyways, Vista had suddenly said it wasn’t activated and that it was genuine (which is crap, since I bought it legally). This actually happened once (or maybe twice, I don’t remember) more after that, too.

Well, it appears that APC Magazine (I’ve never heard of it before…) has figured out what the problem might be.

You see, when Vista is installed on a computer, it detects what hardware is in the machine and creates what I like to call a “hardware sum”. This is now the base sum. Whenever you change the hardware in the computer, Vista decides how big the change is and remembers that. If your current hardware sum becomes to different from the base sum, Vista deactivates itself. This is all done to prevent piracy. They don’t want you to take an image of your machine and put that on another machine. Which is actually a good way of trying to prevent piracy… Okay, so I did install a new graphics card, and maybe because I use multiple flash drives and other USB-based devices, it just decided that the hardware was too different, and deactivated itself.

But, it gets even more interesting. There’s a major flaw in the way Microsoft implemented this. Instead of using the id from the hardware (which isn’t necessarily unique), it gathers the sum from the details of the device drivers. So, when you install or change hardware, the sum changes, that’s fine. But, even upgrading your device drivers can cause the sum to change! Because the details of the driver can change version-to-version and most people use drivers by Windows at first and then upgrade them to drivers from the manufacturer, the sum can change. Which, when combined with actual hardware changes, could be enough to change Vista to deactivate itself.

This seems like a viable explanation for why this happened to me. But, the only hardware change I had made then was a new graphics card. So, maybe I updated some drivers at one point… Although, Asus hasn’t released any Vista-compatible drivers for my motherboard yet, so the only way actual hardware (not USB-based devices) drivers could have been updated would be through Windows Update and they would be Microsoft drivers (and you would like they wouldn’t change the hardware sum)… Also, the activation window didn’t have everything that it should have on the Phone page. it should have had numbers that I would have to give to the support rep, which would allow them to give me a key that would reactivate Vista. Plus, after a few restarts, Vista went back to saying it was activated and genuine.

APC Magazine says that Vista developers are working on fixing these problems… Hopefully they do and use a better way of getting a hardware sum then device drivers…