Canonical Voices

Posts tagged with 'hardware'

Colin Ian King

Lost Circuits has written an in-depth article on hard disk media, covering aspects of HDD performance, such as transfer rates depending on the zone position (inner to outer diameters), discrepancies between internal transfer rates and benchmarked rates as well as the impact of track slew.

Some of the internal mechanical magic is also described, which helps explain how manufacturers configure their hardware and sector layouts to maximise performance. All very informative.

The website is slow, so be patient!

Read more
Colin Ian King

Hot Laptop

My Lenovo 3000N200 laptop has been playing me up. When I've been fully loading the processor or driving video hard it's been shutting down because of overheating. I suspect periodic SMIs are detecting an overheated CPU and the BIOS just stops the machine to avoid it turning into toast.

Suspecting that the latest 2.6.35 Maverick kernel was the cause I booted with a 2.6.32 Lucid kernel and that didn't help, so it didn't look like an obvious kernel regression.

Well, perhaps it's getting old and cranky - it's nearly 3 years old. Perhaps the thermal paste between the CPU and the heatsink is not working like it should. Since it was most probably a hardware issue I downloaded the service manual and got out the trusty screwdriver and opened it up. Lo and behold 5mm of dust had accumulated over the fan grill which wasn't going to help the poor machine offload all that heat out of the laptop case. I removed the fan, gave it a good clean and removed all the dust from the fan outlet grill.

After reassembly the laptop was good as new. Instead of rebooting at 95+ degrees Celsius the Lenovo now runs happily.

The moral of the story is that I should regularly service the fans on my machines. Cooking the CPU is something I would like to avoid in the future.

Read more
Colin Ian King

Makerbot - an open source 3D printer

This week I'm attending a Ubuntu Kernel Sprint and my colleague Steve Conklin brought along a fantastic gizmo - the Makerbot 3D printer. It is most fascinating watching it print 3D objects by extruding a thin ABS plastic trail of plastic in layers. It can print objects up to 4" x 4" x 6" - the imagination is the limiting factor to what it can print. Steve already demo'd it printing a variety of objects, the most impressive being a working whistle including a moving ball inside the whistle. It's not too slow either - it took about 25 minutes to print the whistle, which isn't bad considering the complexity and size of the object.

It's a cool piece of kit - doubly so because it's completely open sourced.

Read more
Colin Ian King

I acquired a 16Mhz 8 bit Arduino micro-controller development board last week from my colleague Steve Conklin. The Arduino is a cool little open source electronics development system and allows rapid prototyping - ideal for hacking up small controller projects. I downloaded the C toolkit and GUI development environment from and configuration was very simple and straight forward.

Basically, one can cruft up small C programs and download these to the board using a USB interface - the code is flashed onto the board so it can run stand-alone - sweet. Just compile, download and go!

Anyhow, today was my first opportunity to get some quality time to get hacking. I rummaged around in my loft and found a bread-board and a bunch of LEDs and resistors that I bought over 20 years ago and rigged up 4 LEDs to be driven from from 4 digital output pins. I quickly hacked up some code to enable the pin outputs and then drive the LEDs, see the video below:

The Arduino has a bunch of digital input/ouput pins and some analogue pins too - although I need to now read up about this to see what I can really do with this kit. Anyhow, thanks to Steve for getting this kit into my hands and walking me through the elementary stuff on how to select the right resistors so that I don't kill the LEDs and the Arduino; I knew I should have remembered all that basic electronics jiggery pokery when I did my Computer Science degree 20+ years ago...

My hope is to hook this up to various bits of hardware to enable me to do the usual debugging and hacking around. I've got various ideas of projects, such as an interface between my PC and my old Commodore 1541 disk drive, but I need to get some reference books out of my loft and do some more research before I get my hands grubby with real code.

What's neat is that I'm able to some relatively fast low-level 8 bit hackery without all that unnecessary OS nonsense making life more complex :-)

Read more