Category Archives: Technical

Fluff, The Silent Killer



Processor and HeatsinkFluff can be a PC killer as I recently discovered, but the solution to the problem is straightforward.

As a true geek, I built my own PC, but it’s no speed demon with a mid-range quad-core processor. However, I’d been suffering from intermittent PC shutdowns that would always happen when I was at the PC and never when the PCs was on but not in use. It was very irritating because you’d be right in the middle of something and then you’d be dumped out. I put it down to buggy software.

Last week I started to rip a few DVDs for tablet viewing and every time the PC would shutdown within about 30 seconds of starting the file conversion. At this point I began to think that the processor might be overheating, forcing a shutdown before it was damaged. Upon opening the case, nothing looked particularly out of the ordinary; there was a bit of fluff but nothing you’d think of as being a problem. It was only when I looked more closely at the heat sink on the CPU that I saw many of the spaces between the thermal vanes were clogged with fluff.

Out with the vacuum cleaner and a good hoovering later, I powered the PC on and started a fresh rip. This time the PC didn’t shutdown and I was able to rip solidly for at least an hour without any shutdowns. Problem solved!

Tip of the Day – if you are experiencing intermittent crashes or shutdowns, open your PC and give your CPU’s heatsink and fan a clean with the vacuum cleaner.

And if any Americans out there are wondering what “fluff” is, I believe that you know it as “lint”.

Heatsink and fan picture courtesy of BigStockPhoto.com.


Upgrading My NAS…Yawn



Hard DriveLast weekend, I upgraded my NAS from 2 TB to 4 TB and it was all too easy. The NAS is a Buffalo LinkStation Duo but as the drives are mirrored, I only get half the total 2 TB capacity, i.e. 1 TB. I was getting pretty close to having the full terabyte of data on the unit, so I decided it was time for a storage upgrade. However, the last time I upgraded another model of NAS, it involved much chicanery and re-installing of firmwire via USB, so I proceed with trepidation.

Not so this time. It was mostly lots of waiting interspersed with a few minutes of activity, followed by first time success. Disappointingly little geekery was required.

Step 1. Buy a pair of SATA 2 TB hard-drive. The LinkStation already had Seagate drives installed, so I played it safe and bought some Seagate Barracuda drives. Wait a couple of days for drives to arrive in post…

Step 2. Backup the data from the NAS to an external USB drive. My favourite tool for this is rsync because it simply copies files (no archives or zip files) and you can stop and start the backup as you like. You can even keep using the NAS up until the last minute before running one final rsync to copy the latest changes over. Leave the backup to run overnight…

Step 3. Shutdown the LinkStation via the web interface.

Step 4. Remove hard drives, insert new ones.

Step 5. Power up the Linkstation and log on via the web interface.

Step 6. Format drives in turn. Configure as RAID 1. Wait for best part of a day while array synchronises….

Step 7. Restore data from external USB hard drive. Leave to run overnight….

Step 8. Job done!

It was pleasantly straightforward to upgrade the NAS and a big change from the last occasion I had to swap a disk. For sure it takes a couple of days to do the swap, but the time is spent shuffling data around, not actually working on the unit. Definitely a recommended upgrade.

[Disclosure: this is my personal NAS and not a review unit.]


Mionix and the Indestructible Keyboard!



From time to time you may feel like pounding your keyboard in frustration, but Mionix has actually invented a keyboard that makes that possible.  Now, we aren’t recommending that you take out your rage on an inanimate object, just pointing out that they claim that this thing is pretty much indestructible.

Every key on this new keyboard is mounted on a steel plate and rates for 50 million keystrokes.  What they are selling here is a long-lasting keyboard, not one you can hammer at will.  This keyboard, they claim, should last you 10 years.  The keyboard cable is heavy duty, and it even has a built in audio jack and USB.

In addition to the keyboard, Mionix also has a new mouse and mouse pad, both of which have some very unique and highly-tested features to optimize them.  The new keyboard carries an MSRP of $149.99, the mouse is $79.99, and mouse pads begin at $24.99.  You can find out more at Mionix.

Interview by Jeffrey Powers of Geekazine.

Support my CES 2018 Sponsor:
30% off on New GoDaddy Orders cjcgeek30
$.99 for a New or Transferred .com cjcgeek99 @ GoDaddy.com
$1.00 / mo Economy Hosting with a free domain. Promo Code: cjcgeek1h
$1.00 / mo Managed WordPress Hosting with free Domain. Promo Code: cjcgeek1w
Donate to the Show: Support this podcast

How to Prevent Traffic Jams



Traffic Jam If you’ve driven at all you’ve probably been in a traffic jam at least once in your life. If you live in the Northeast or around any major metropolitan area such as Chicago, Dallas, or Los Angeles you may feel like you are in one almost daily. Sometimes there is a visible cause such as a car accident or roadwork, but other times a traffic jam seems to appear for apparently no reason at all. Scientist and engineer have been studying this phenomenon for years. In 2007 ScienceDaily published an article explain how this can easily happen using a truck switching lane and therefore cause the traffic behind them to slow down below a critical speed. The traffic around the incident clears and moves forward however the problem rolls back like a wave creating the traffic jam. There is a good graphical representation of this at SmartMotorist

So Scientist have known what happens in a traffic jam for awhile, the question is how can they be prevented. There are three types of traffic flow. Free flow, where traffic is flowing at the maximum speed allowed. Synchronized flow where because of the traffic density the vehicles move at a slower but still constant speed. Finally there are jams where speed drops to zero when traffic density reaches a certain unknown threshold. So how do you prevent the third circumstances. One possible solution is to have vehicles to talk to each other through an automated system. If you have been in a traffic jam you will quickly recognize that most people have one of two reactions the first are the defensive drivers who leave more space between them and the vehicle in front of them then necessary. The second group are offensive driver, the  kind that drive up so close behind you that you can see the spinach they had for diner. What you want is for vehicles entering the traffic jam zone to act more defensively and enter the problem zone slower and those in front to leave the jam quickly causing the traffic jam to dissolve.  What is the best way to do this, one possible solution is to have cars talk to each other. They could share their speed and position to the cars around them. As cars in front of them slow down this would hopefully convince the cars coming up to the area to slow down also. Meantime the cars in front of the congested area would leave faster, keeping the flow going.  This is the idea that is discussed in a Technology Review article published by MIT.

There are of course several problems that need to be resolved for this to work. First is security you want to make sure you have a system that can’t be hacked. Second at this point it is unclear how many cars need to have a system installed for it to be effective. Also systems that are manufactured by different companies need to be able talk to each other. Finally people have to actually use the information that they are provided in the way they are suppose to. As more and more cars enter our highways both in the United States and around the world developing technology like this becomes increasingly important. This type of technology is still in its infancy, but if it becomes reality, it will have far more impact on productivity and the economy, then any social network.


Smashing Magazine’s 5th Birthday



Smashing Magazine is celebrating its fifth birthday and as a wee treat, has prepared a “Best of Smashing Magazine” ebook and is giving it away free. The articles are all about web design, Photoshop, typography and user interfaces (or the user experience as it seems to be called now).

It’s no lightweight either – there are 409 pages of beautifully prepared material packed with information and examples. The first article, “30 Usability Issues”, makes interesting reading even if you aren’t a web designer. By being more educated about design, as a consumer you can be more aware and critical of websites and other media. Did you know that the Macintosh logo is an example of the Law of Pragnanz? No, neither did I but you’ll have to read the article to find out what it means.

Other articles include, “Setting Up Photoshop for Web and iPhone Development”, “What Font Should I Use?” and “10 Principles of Effective Web Design”. There’s the occasional overlap between the articles but it’s never repetition for the sake of it.

The ebook is available from iTunes or for .pdf, .mobi and .epub formats, direct from Smashing Magazine. Warning – it’s 55 MB download as it contains all three versions of the ebook.


Lenovo Think Centre A63 Computer System Giveaway



It is very important that you listen to my podcast on July 2nd as within that show will be instructions on how to win a Lenovo Think Centre A63 Computer System with dual screens. As you know I have been talking about this system in my show for a while now, and it is going to make a great computer for a listener of my show. The contest details will be announced within the show. Here the kicker the contest period is very short. I will announce a winner on July 6th so you will have to make sure that you download and listen to the podcast over the 4th of July Holiday weekend.

I will be talking more about the Lenovo Think Centre this coming week along with releasing a in depth review in preperation for the giveaway. In addition to our giveaway a host of other sites are giving away the same prize package. Check out the rest of the sites for more details timelines of their contest are listed below.


Talking to Phone Customers Before they go Over in Minutes… What a Great Idea!



Cell Phone Overage

Yes, there was sarcasm in the title. But the FCC proposed a really is a great idea. Tell people when they are about to hit their limits.

I remember when I got my first overage bill. It was $130 more than expected. While I was a bit perturbed, I understood and paid it off. Definitely took a hit in my pocketbook.

Of course I did have a Land line and my Nokia phone (which still was just for calling people) had only 250 minutes and $.40 a minute after. I also could walk 20 feet to the west and all of a sudden get “Roaming” charges. So going over on a plan was easy – in 1998.

Nowadays, the land line is gone in liu of Skype and Google Voice. The Cell is the primary contact for calls, texts, emails and facebook posts. I have an unlimited text and data plan and if I go over in minutes, I have a backlog of rollover to keep me safe. Then again, I pay $130 a month…

Stopping the Overage:

37 years after the first cell phone call was made, companies are finally realizing that someone might go over in their minutes. O.K, the FCC is realizing this and trying to make the phone carriers comply. If the user hits their limit, they get a message stating that.

The user then can choose if they want to rack up additional charges or turn their phone off until the next month starts. Wait – you can turn a phone off?

Similar but Sad: Data Plan overage

Vodafone in the UK – who nixed their unlimited data plan – announced they will be offering a free text service to warn people if they hit their limit. So those of you in the UK who watch their soaps or Dr. Who from the phone during lunch might not be able to watch more than 1 episode for the whole month.

Remember last year the Chicago Bears fan who watched the game from his netbook on a cruise ship? He got $3000 in overage fees for his wireless data plan.

It’s all about a text

I get texts from AT&T whenever my bill is ready; Or if I haven’t paid last months yet. I suppose it’s time of month to see that text message aga…. oh wait. Here it is. They are so eager to make sure you pay your bill, but not that eager to let you know if you stretch your limits.

Automation

It’s not like someone has to sit by their phone and text everybody that goes over “Dude: You’re hitting your limit.”. We have automated scripts that can do that. Just like my bank has an automated script to tell me when my account hits below…. oh wait. Just got THAT text message, too.

I totally agree on an alert system. I can’t log into the website everyday to see where I am in minutes. Then again, if I ever go over