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What's New Archives - 2001

Where the heck does the time go?  Two months without a word.

Actually, I have an excuse (yeah, sure).  I have been studying.  Really.

I decided that I wanted to learn C / C++.  I have no formal training in programming, but am pretty good with it intuitively, so I figured that a couple months hard work would put me somewhere on the road to understanding the finer points.  Not so!  I'm six chapters into Prentice Hall's C++ tutorial and will attest to the fact that this is no "walk in the park."  Trying to understand and memorize the "rules and definitions" has been enough to give me fits!

However, I will say that the more I learn, the more I want to learn.  Funny thing about learning - when we know a little, we boast - when we know more, we realize how little we knew when we boasted.  I'm at the point where I now realize I know nothing - but, at least I know the path to follow.

As for projects, there are lots of things that have sparked my interest lately.  The one that is getting the most attention is a multimedia computer for the family room.  Fast processor, heat pipe cooling, furniture grade wooden case (my wife would like that), killer sound (integrated with the home audio system), a nice "TV out" video card, lots of HD space, wireless keyboard and mouse (gotta have it from the couch), well, you get the picture....  It's still in the planning stages, but it sounds like fun.

Sometime soon, I hope.

With things getting back to a somewhat more normal pace, I've had some time to get a few things done.

I've put up a more or less finished version of the software I'm using to monitor the temperatures of my laptop.  You can find gp_TempL and a few more programs on the downloads page.

I also decided to do some clean-up on my laptop's disk drive.  This involved a bit of repartitioning and the re-installation of Red Hat 7.1 / Win2k.  This time I took the time to document the process.  You can take a look at a "cookbook recipe" for the dual boot here.

It's times like these when my messing with computers doesn't mean a hill of beans.

My best wishes go out to all who had loved ones affected by this act of terrorism.

Let us have patience in placing the blame and strength in dealing with it.

After some unexpected setbacks (Initially it didn't work!), I have temperature monitoring up and running on the Compaq 1800T.  To get the monitoring working, I had to remove the motherboard and solder to some *really tiny* traces.  This wasn't one of those "one afternoon" projects, but all's well that ends well.  You can take a look at the details here: Compaq 1800T Temperature Monitoring.

In other news, thanks go out to Pontus Fröessander and Thomas Demant for helping me with one of the challenges in writing software that is used internationally.  I hadn't allowed for the fact that some countries use a comma, rather than a period to separate decimals from whole numbers.  Anyway, my lack of foresight caused gp_Temp5 to give Floating Point errors when commas were used as the decimal separator.  There's a beta version of gp_Temp5.03 up if you have encountered this error.

That's it for now.

Before I get into taking apart the new notebook, I figured it might be a good idea to give it a "once over."  While I was researching notebooks, I devoured every review I could find.  I didn't find as many as I had hoped for on the Presario 1800T, so I thought I would add one of my own.  It's more of my impressions than a review, but it also chronicles my experiences with setting it up to dual-boot redhat 7.1.  You can take a look at the article here: Compaq Presario 1800T.

I hope to get started in pulling the 1800T apart this weekend and installing a 4 sensor temperature monitoring system.  With the ability to check the temps, I hope to do some re-testing of some of the cooler programs and see what I can do to improve on the cooling of this notebook.  Hopefully the next time you check back I will still have a working notebook.  ;-)

First off, many thanks to Alex, author of Motherboard Monitor, for adding some code to an upcoming version of MBM5 that will allow gp_Temp5 to write to the High / Low / Average shared memory function and thanks to all of you who helped me out with the beta testing of gp_Temp5.   We've covered all of the Windows Operating Systems (yes, even XP... for what that's worth) and it looks like it works as advertised.  Not too bad for my first foray into Delphi 5.  You can take a look at the article and download the program here: gp_Temp5.

In other news, I've ordered a new notebook - a Compaq 1800T. The research that swayed me to the Compaq almost took me to the purchase of a Toshiba instead.  On the plus side for the Toshiba is that it seems to be the only notebook I could find that actually came with a health monitoring chip on the motherboard.  I found this a little strange, seeing as processor temperature is probably even more critical in a notebook than in a desktop.  I ended up ordering the Compaq in spite of the lack of a health monitoring chip because the rest of the features out-weighed the lack of monitoring - and - judging from the service manual, I will be able to add enough of my own sensors (and gp_Temp, of course) to keep an eye on the heat.  Yeah, I haven't even gotten the darn thing and I'm already planning on taking it apart.  Well, what did you expect.  We'll see what kind of cooling performance this thing gives and if we can help it along a bit. ;-)

Well, it's entirely possible that one of these days I will make it back to the workshop and get working on the heat sink tester, but I got sidetracked again.

I received many requests to make gp_Temp compatible with the shared memory function of Motherboard Monitor.   So... that's what I've done.  I now have a version, gp_Temp5, that will send the readings from either 2 or 4 - 10 to 200 k Ohm thermistors to MBM5.  This version also works in Windows 2000.

It has been run successfully on 95, 98, Me, NT, and Win2K, but only with a limited amount of hardware.  I would appreciate some more feedback on the program before I release it - so if you have a couple of thermistors in your part's box and want to give me a hand with the testing, please drop me a line at jim@benchtest.com, and I'll get a copy to you.

The rewrite of the software went well and gp_Temp is now gp_Temp4.  4 for the fact that it now supports 4 thermistors.  The interface has been cleaned up a bit and the code is definitely more solid.  I'm getting better at coding, slowly but surely ;-). The article is not very long, but has enough info (I hope) to get you up and running if you want to try the software. gp_Temp4.

 While I wait for some parts to arrive for the heat sink tester, I'm going to throw together a box out of parts from the "used to be expensive stuff and now it's just junk" bin.  I have a few AT cases with motherboards and a couple ol' P133's.  I want to run the temperature logger on a computer dedicated to just testing - and - after all, one can never have too many computers.

 Hmmm, I wonder how far I could overclock this thing.... 140? 166? 180 with a peltier...?  That'd be cookin'!

I guess it's been a while since my last update.  A while, darn... it seems like decades.   Since I last checked in, I have had a few, but decidedly time intensive projects going.  Due to my laziness in not keeping my home server patched as I should, the box got rooted by a "wanna be" hacker.  Rather than just look and learn, he/she/it accidentally or maliciously destroyed data.  I don't quite understand the mentality involved here, but judging from the files and scripts that I found and how poorly the kiddie covered his tracks, the smarts that got him into my box were not his.  However, whatever the method, he got in and my security was decidedly lacking.

 So, I have had the pleasure of a fresh install of RedHat 7 and ALL of the supporting software that up until the attack, had served me so well.  I was also forced to drop all other projects while I got much more friendly with the 3 zillion or so Linux security sites on the web.  While I am no stranger to network security, it is not the main focus of my life - though I am much more security conscious now than before the attack.  I guess that's a good thing.  Good for the learning involved, but unfortunate that it is necessary to have to guard against children who consider it a major accomplishment to run a script and trash a computer.  I guess that's enough ranting....

As far as cooling projects go, I have been working on the first step in building a heat sink tester.  That meant finding a logging thermometer that wouldn't cost an arm and a leg.  As fate would have it, finding a thermometer turned into building a thermometer and writing some Windows software to make it work.  As I am not a programmer by trade, writing the software took about 8 times longer than it should have, but the BETA's finished.  All in all, I learned a lot and ended up with a pretty neat tool.  The hardware is simple to build, and if all goes well, my software might even work ;-).  You can take a look at the project here.

Quickie update.  I wanted to spend some time playing with the new features of the Linux 2.4 kernel and didn't want to chance that my playing would take down my server, so I decided I'd dual boot the NT Box with redhat 7 and then upgrade the kernel on the fresh install.  I figured that as long as I was going to document it for my own help files, I might as well share it.  As with all of my personal help files, it's step by step - cookbook style.  You can find it here.

My son wants redhat 7 on his Win98 box, so we'll get that dual boot going in a day or two.  When we get it going, I'll post that one too.

Well, another project comes to a close.  Heat Pipe 2.2 is up and running on the NT Box.  I am pretty pleased with the performance at this point, but have some ideas for a heat pipe heat sink case that (at some point) I would like to build.  This, of course, would push my metal forming abilities a bit, but the possibility of using the case itself as a giant heat sink would be interesting.

The next project up is an attempt at an accurate heat sink tester.  I have been talking with quite a few people about what specifications and design considerations would be necessary for such a device and am ready to give it a shot.  Hopefully it will be more accurate than the last attempt.

Just a short post to say that Heat Pipe 2 is now cooling my NT box - and doing a fine job of it, I might add.  I've completed the tests and have some pictures.  All I need to do is write it up.  Hopefully I'll get the article up this weekend.

In the mean time, I have written a javascript calculator to help me figure out how many watts a processor consumes when overclocked.  I also wrote another that does the math for figuring °C/W.  Nothing earth-shattering, but it saves me some time.  The calculators can be found here.



Older What's New Archives - 2000