28 June 2006

Mumbling....Mac OS X...grrr

Mac OS X got upgraded to 10.4.7 today. The update page starts with the text "Meet the world's most advanced operating system. Again. Instantly find what you’re looking for. Get information in an instant ....". I have been trying to get the inbuilt clock to show the time in 24hr format (in window mode and not in menubar on top right). And this most advanced OS can't do the simple job of showing me time in 24hr. If I check the Use 24hr clock option not only it continues to show time in 12hr format, but the option to show the AM/PM indicators is also available!

I don't know how they rated OS X as the most advanced OS but I do know that my Linux box has no problem showing time in 24hr format and neither does the lame Windoze XP! Apple, should I expect a 10.4.8 update to get this easy functionality in OS X?

27 June 2006

Bell+Domain Name Registration

I stumbed upon Bell.ca domain name registration page from one of those enticing google advertisements. I was surprised to see that Bell also offered domain name registrations. So out of curiosity I went browsing around to find what they charge for the domains. I think Bell is full of surprises as the domain name pricing on their website was a huge surprised. They charge CAD30+tx (atleast 34.50) for .ca, .us, .com, .net, and .org domains! You can easily browse around for domain name registrars and find a few which will offer much better prices with some where you can buy the domain name for around 4 years with the amount you would pay Bell!

Bell does not seem to believe in bulk selling discounts. They will charge you the same CA$30*10 = CA$300 if you register your domain name through them for 10 years. The biggest surprise was that of the pricing of the .info domains. Registring a .info domain for 1 year costs CA$60! I wonder who would to and register a .info domain with them when 1&1& is giving it away for free. Go get one now, only a few days left.

26 June 2006

Silencing your PC

Over the last few weeks I had noticed somewhat unusually loud humm coming from my desktop personal computer (PC). I thought it might due to the warm weather and the PC being running all the time. It runs 24/7 due to the fact that it also run apache and hence is my web server. As it had been more than a few months, I thought giving it a good cleaning session wouldn't hurt. After I was done, I was pleasently surprised! The loud humm was almost inaudible thanks to the cleaning routine I used. Read below how to keep your computer's temperature down and reduce the noise it creats with adding any additional hardware.

Before we start with the details of how to clean the PC, consider this as a warning that if you do not know how to open it up and dismantle its parts do seek the help of an experienced friend. You should be careful when touching different parts of the PC as there is always a change of getting an electrical shock. The most important thing to take care is that the PC should be grounded at all times as a precautionary measure in case you touch a live wire or if there is a discharge of static charge. Grounding of the PC can be achieved by keeping the power cable attached to the PC and turning the power supply switch to OFF position.

Tools Needed

  • Ear buds (Qtips)
  • A fat(#10 - #12) sable hair brush (for fans)
  • Vacuum cleaner
  • Screw driver (usually philps head)
  • compressed air can (if you don't care about dust flying and settling around you)

Cleaning the Case

Open up the computer case and carefully suck the dust from the body of the case without touching the components of the computer. Most important places are the crevices besides the CD/DVD/floppy drives and any air flow vents on the front panel. Back panel vents should also be cleaned by sucking all dust from there. This cleaning is important because it helps the air flow from the inlet (usually front panel) to the outlet (back panel).

Processor Fan

The processor fan is THE fan which keeps your computer running all the time. If that dies (usually due to dust), the CPU temperature will rise as heat dissipation due to forced cooling by the fan is absent and the computer will stall when the temperature rises above a certain limit. Take out the fan by disconnecting its cable from the motherboard and clean it with the brush and keep the vacuum cleaner running near it to suck all dust. When you are done, there should be no dust sticking on the fins or the frame of the brushless DC fan. Before putting the fan and the housing back in its place, carefully suck the dust if any from the heat sink attached to the CPU. Dust is a bad conductor of heat and hence should not be left on the heat sink or for that matter anywhere on the motherboard or other devices.

Power Supply Fan

Be very careful while opening the power supply. Make sure you disconnect it from the mains when opening it up. The power supply fan should also be cleaned the same way you cleaned the CPU fan so that there is not dust on the fan. Also check the grill in front of the fan and make sure it is dust free. Suck dust if any from the power supply unit if any. Below you can see the images for the power supply fan (before and after cleaning).

Power Supply fan - Before
Power Supply fan - After

VGA Card Fan

These days the video cards usually have a fan seated on the video processor. If you see a lot of dust on the fan, think about cleaning it up but carefully. Cleaning the video card fan is the most demanding task in this routine. I say that because you will have to take the video card out and then unscrew the delicate fan from the top of the processor. As VRAM chips are present near the video processor, you might accidently hose your card if you have static charge. When you are done cleaning and remounting the fan, use the ear buds to clean the dust around the video processor carefully.

Reconnect all the components and wires that you disconnected during the cleaning process and close the PC. Boot it up after connecting the peripherals and compare the sounds the fans make after the computer runs for about an hour or so. You should also make sure that there is ample space around the PC so as to give it ample "air to breath".

What we have accomplished here is that we have made the air flow path as clear as possible by cleaning the case. The fans in the cleaned state are more efficient. Dust on the fans decrease the air flow and hence slows the cooling. As a result, the computer tries to increase the speed of the CPU fan. Increased speeds lead to more wear and tear of the fan and also produces a louder humm. Dust is also the leading cause of failing fans and hence removing it is in our favour.

CPU Heat Sink - Before

CPU Heat Sink - After

A layer of dust on the heat sink acts as an insulator and hence reduced the heat loss. Removing the dust from the heat sink as is important as from the fans. But in case you want to fry the processor, you could leave it on ;)

After following the above process, the humm created by my PC was reduced so much that I had to go and place my ear near its back panel. The cleaning process should be repeated every 3 or 4 months to keep the computer working efficiently. People do keep their places clean but forget about their PCs. PCs need cleaning as much as your household so as to keep them in proper working condition.

I wonder how I will sleep tonight will the reduced amount of humm to keep other noises masked during the night!

23 June 2006

Wrrroooommmmmmmmm - 2

Lots of cars, people, and smell of pot.



22 June 2006


Its going to be a noisy weekend.

18 June 2006

[Mac+Linux] Skype privacy bug

If you are a Yahoo! Messenger or MSN Messenger user (no I don't use their respective clients), what do you expect happens when you do not log-off from one machine and log-on with same username from another machine? The usual case is that the first session is broken and a new session is created with the second machine. Pretty normal behaviour as you might not want another person to read what you are talking about with your contacts and moreover you are not on that machine anymore. Guess what, it doesn't happen with Skype. Atleast not when you are behind a router and on the same network.

I noticed today that the session on my desktop (PC1->linux) did not log-off when I logged-in to Skype from another machine(PC2->mac) using the same user name. I was expecting it(PC1) to say that my session has been closed as I had logged on from another machine (PC2). Anyway, as I was just chatting with my contact sitting in the other room under the same network, I didn't pay attention. But it was when I went to PC1 to find a file that I noticed that the whole chat session was being copied on the screen of PC1 too! Imagine this if you are at a public place like a common computer lab in school. What happens if somone somehow guesses/hacks/steals your password. The person can happily logon using your username and password and sit back and see what you are typing and receiving!!

This behaviour of Skype (haven't tested on Windoze!) is critical privacy and security bug. This is a basic feature which almost all messaging clients have by default. Why can't Skype just kick off the user's first session and authenticate him again to start a new one? I don't know if Skype's Windoze version behaves like this. I hope they read this and get the so called "team" of Skype-Mac and Skype-Linux to atleast fix this bug even if they aren't coming out with new releases for Mac & Linux. With the slow development of Skype on Mac and Linux, this stupid bug and the emergence of "free" and open source Wengo(go check out their cute intro), I think I might not be using Skype for long.

13 June 2006

Whine for Mac Whine

There has been quite a discussion about the not-so-recently released Macbook Pro laptops generating a certain whine. People are writing about various circumstances in which the whine gets louder so as to be audible and annoying at the same time. I was following this particular discussion on the so called apple discussions (more rant about them later) and found out that the an earlier discussion had already been wiped off by Apple and another was simply blocked to disallow more posts.

For those interested in knowing different situations the Macbooks are whining, please read the above links. Users have detailed the experiences in detail there. My situation? Well read on....

Apple Whine: I refuse to register for an AppleID to write on Apple Discussions. Reason? Before allowing a user to post on their super moderated user forums, they ask the user to provide them with all their personal information to create an AppleID even if the user just intends to post and ask for help for a product Apple made! I checked for newsgroups and did find a few under comp.sys.mac.* but many of them are closed and are there for archival purposes only. The few which are open, I couldn't find much discussion going on there about the latest hardware. I guess that I have been spoilt by Linux with several places to ask for help even without having to register!

MBP Whine: My Macbook Pro (MBP) has been whining since day one. I have noticed that the whine is audible when on AC power (still have to check when on battery). The whine it seems is more when I'm doing nothing e.g. reading a web page. The more things I make the MBP do, the volume of the whine decreases. This probably shows that the more busy the processor is, less is the whine. Is it the processor which is whining? I don't know. But I'm sure that it is neither the screen which is whining nor does it come from the speakers. The whine seems to come out of the top right side of the keyboard though.

One interesting point: I was able to stop the whine if I kept the trackpad button pressed! In Firefox, this gave me the context menu which was of no use to me, but it did definitely stop the whine (or atleast made it inaudible).

I'm still experimenting the scenarios when the whine is there and when not. As I find out more stuff, this post will be updated. My other whining about the Macbook Pro (for which I should call Apple Support) won't be mixed in this post but in a separate one.

MBP Details:
MBP 15"
Serial W8612******
SMC Version: 1.2f10

3 June 2006

The Pirates are Back

ThePirateBay.org's servers were ceased by the Swedish police on 31 May and the website along with many other small websites hosted by the hosting company PRQ went down. The raid by the Swedish police is alleged to be done on the behest of the American corporate interests (RIAA, MPAA, etc.) through government channels. The fiasco is gaining momentum with some hackers defacing Swedish police's website along with Sony Music (UK) and Time Warner (Taiwan). Even the Swedish parlimentarians are asking about why/who ordered the raid.

In the meantime, TPB is already back online. Is ThePirateBay here to stay unlike Suprnova.org? It remains to be seen how the situation unfolds next week after the 1500hrs demonstration in Stockholm today. Long live the Pirates.

1 June 2006

Opera devs: Package Carefully!

I had to uninstall Opera 8.52 earlier because its executable was causing a problem with an X.org upgrade to 7.0. The executable was in /usr/X11R6/bin! Why would anyone need it in there? I think Opera's Linux team needs to get in touch with a DD(debian developer) and fix a time to get a crash course on how to package for Debian.

Today I installed Opera 8.54 again for some testing purposes and tried to start opera from the command line. No go! ~$ which opera tells me that there is no command available. On looking for opera in /usr/bin, I found out a wierd symbolic. Details below:

lrwxrwxrwx 1 root root 15 Jun 1 14:44 /usr/bin/opera -> ../../bin/opera

A symbolic link to /bin/opera ? I found a post about this on opera.com. But the post still indicates that the opera binary is in /usr/X11R6/bin! This is certainly not acceptable from Opera developers. I admire that they are packaging a wonderful product in a 4.0MB package(comparing to Firefox 8.1MB) but mistakes like the above are just not going to help their task of increasing the userbase on the Linux side.