Archive for June 2009

Beware of products made by ATI

June 28, 2009

ATI makes computer video cards also known as graphics cards. They also make computer motherboards.

I am not sure how good thier motherboards are but their video cards are crap.

They don’t work reliably under XP. Now this could be entirely due to XP but there is nothing on the ATI literature that warns of imcompatibility with XP.

Over a period of several months I have tried using two seperated ATI video boards in a computer running XP. One board is a 7500 series the other board is a 9520 series. Both boards appear to work at first then develop problems causing the computer to hang while in the middle of a video display. A movie. A movie on CD or a movie over the internet through a service like Netflix, or a movie out of an mpg file on a hard drive. Matters not what the source, the display freezes and the movie stops playing.

We do not have this problem with an older Nvidia graphics card.

We have researched the problem trying to decide if it were hardware or software related. It has been recommended that we try new ATI drivers. Maybe even replace the current ATI cards with newer cards.

In our search for solutions we found that ATI has been taken to court on some class action suit involving dissapointed customers. When we discovered that we pretty much put the lid on the box lableled ATI.

No more ATI anything. Now like I say It might be that XP is at fault, or the drivers may be flakey. It could also be that both ATI cards I have are faulty. It could also be that there really is a tooth fairy and a santa clause.

No, companies who publish software that does not work cannot be trusted to publish software that will work in the future. Granted, everyone deserves a second chance. ATI can have that second chance just as soon as I get my money back for putting up with their first chance screwup.

On the litigation against ATI I have no idea who is at fault if anyone. I don’t care to know. It is enough for me to know that ATI has made enough customers mad enough to bring litigation against the company. That tells me ATI does not qualify as an approved vendor in my book. There are too many other options out there. ATI is not the only maker of graphics video cards. There are others out there and when I last checked, Nvidia graphics cards worked without any problems.

So no more ATI junk.

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Sears Direct Parts

June 25, 2009

I have an EZ walk behind Craftsman Lawnmower. It is a Sears frame with a five horsepower Honda engine for power. It is self propelled, hence the EZ walk behind title. It is front wheel drive which is not a very smart design because it tends to tilt backwards when the collection bag fills up with grass clippings. Backwards tilting allows the front wheels to lift off the ground and the EZ walk behind becomes the Hard-to-Push behind. So we don’t use the bagger and cut the grass frequently enough to avoid bailing the hay that would be left after a mowing. Without the bagger it becomes a decent mulcher as long as you don’t let the grass get too high.

With all its faults this mower is one of the best mowers I have ever had. That could be because all the other might have been crap.

The sears mower is about 3 years old. The engine shows no signs of weakening but the front wheel drive quit driving. So it became the Hard-to-Push behind all the time.

Had trouble finding parts for the thing. Google has evolved into a next to useless search engine. Seems the folk that pay Google the money get top billing. Never mind that they don’t have parts for the Craftsman mower, they do have the money to bribe Google into wasting your time with faulty search results. Course that might be improved by picking better search words. So we might not be able to give Google and greed all the credit but the search results have been wanting of late. Come to think of it if I am clarevoyant and able to pick really good search words, like Sears Direct Parts, then I don’t need Google at all. Either way Google looses.

I finally did find the correct place for Sears parts. A place that acutally recognized the model number of my mower and sent me to the correct parts list.

The original cost of the mower was $300. That was three years ago and about $100 more than I wanted to pay. I recently saw a very similar mower at Sams the other day. Rear wheel drive this time but it also had a Honda engine and a $300 price tag. So paying $50 for repair parts was not such a bad deal until you consider it only go you a couple of brass bushings, a geared shaft, a gear for the drive shaft, and an oil plug. Cost 10 bucks to have that stuff shipped to my door for a total of $50. Still, it was cheaper than buying a new mower at $300. It was also cheaper than the $60+ rebuild kit they offered. That 60 bucks was for parts only. It would have cost $70 to get it to your door. At $70 we are getting closer to the tipping point where it would make sense to go get the new mower at Sams for $300.

The best news is that the repair worked. Took about an hour to remove the wheels, shaft, and gearbox; and another hour to put it all back togther. Now if you can get paid $100 bucks an hour (take home) at a REAL job, you might not want to do this repair, but I have more time than money.

Sort of looking forward to mowing the lawn again. Just wish it was not so hot. Funny how the grass does not need mowing in the winter when it is cooler.

The Monitor in the Dell

June 21, 2009

This time it is a monitor, not a farmer.

I have wasted the last two days messing with a video computer problem. I am trying to get an ATI dual monitor video card to work with my XP system so I can watch Netflx movies on my standard NTSC ANALOG TV.

I recently started using a Dell E171 LCD monitor with my XP system. Been doing that for several months. Running the monitor and as secondary monitor, an old large screen analog TV. Those Neflix movies just look better on the large screen TV. When you take the computer generated audio and video and feed them to a video modulator, you can watch the results on TV channel 3 or 4 depending on which you set up. Computer monitors are for doing computer things.

Well, a few days ago the Dell monitor began complaining about the video it was gettting. ‘cannot display this video mode’, was the error message on the screen of the monitor. I knew it had to be a software problem since the hardware had worked fine for some time before. I deleted and re-installed the ATI drivers for the 7500 video card. No change. Same message and only on boot up. Once windows loaded the ATI drivers, everything was fine. Trouble was I could not see what was happening at boot. Not that the boot messages were critically important but I rely on them for information as to possible problems. It is nice to know that the BIOS still recognizes the correct amount of ram memory and the hard drives I have installed.

I tried a different ATI card, a 9520, same result. Then I tried a Nvidia Geforce 2, 400/400mmx. That card worked fine but I could not get the resolution on the TV to be greater than 800X600. A resolution of 800X600 did not fill the TV screen fully from side to side.

There are plenty of posts on the web about the error message I was getting but no solutions. Lots of suggestions. No solutions and most of the suggestions were from folk who obiously did not know anyting about computers, monitors, software or hardware. I don’t understand why people insist on showing the public that they don’t know what they are talking about. I thought only politicians did that.

Well, the Nvidia card was not going to work for me but it was tempting to go out and buy a new and better Nvidia card that would do the job. However, I stopped being tempted when I looked at the prices.

Back to the drawing board. Maybe sleep on it.

I finally came to the obvious conlusion that the problem was not so much in the computer as in the monitor. The error message was being generated by the monitor. Too bad. I liked the 17 inch screen that the Dell was providing. Of course you did not need a 17 inch screen to display the error message and if that was all it was going to do I didn’t need the monitor either.

Out with the Dell and in with a ViewSonic VE155b. Hey, the ViewSonic worked just fine with both ATI cards. How about that!? Once again Dell comes up short. Oh well the Hell with Dell. No substitute for going with quality in the first place.

So my solution to the problem was to find a monitor that did not complain about asking to be a monitor. ‘Cannot display this video mode’, then what good are you!? I could understand if I were trying to display the video on a hard drive, that would probably not work. But when a device whoes sole purpose in life is to display video, when that device stops displaying video, it is time to find something that will do the job.

I did not junk the Dell like I should have. It is working in a less demanding application doing things that are not as complicated as displaying variousl video modes.

I am not sure why the Dell has this problem. Could be it is sick, but it is not worth any more of my time to try and find out exactly what is going on. I suspect if I knew why Dell sells monitors that do not work all the time, I would just get really, really mad.

AT&T Ding Dong

June 17, 2009

We live in Richardson. We have been using AT&T Uverse for over a year now and are happy with it.

Richardson has had an ordinance forbidding door to door solicitation. This covers any and all solicitation including Girl Scout Cookies and Boy Scout Fertilizer.

Folk in our part of town have come to consider the ringing of doorbells to be some form of emergency. Neighbor having a heart attact sort of thing.

Imagine my surprise and displeasure when some fool claiming to represent AT&T Uverse rings my doorbell and starts asking questions as though he has every right to do so.

I can sort of see this happening once but this was the second time in a month. If it happens again I am doing a citizens arrest on the fool, calling 911 and holding his ass until the cops show up.

Hopefully the folk at AT&T marketing will grow a brain and stop acting like fools. Their foolishness is making me doubt an otherwise decent service.

First off, we have been customers of Uverse for over a year now. We do not suffer fools kindly. We do not need the Uverse pitch man coming to our door unannounced, trying to sell us something we already have, then trying to verify certain personal information starting with our address. He actually wanted to verify our address even though he was standing on our front porch!

This sort of insane action on his part makes me wonder if he really was representing AT&T or just a fool with an AT&T badge intent on mischieve.

I think AT&T should be aware of such goings on. If they really did send this guy out to do some canvasing, they need to go back and do some homework. Maybe research their records to see who their current customers are. Maybe research local area laws and regulations to see that they comply. In short, they need to begin acting like adults and quit harrasing their customers.

Impulse buying at the computer store

June 15, 2009

People often advise me to avoid those displays that are set up at the entrance to stores. They are usually sucker bait for impulse buyers.

Well, our local computer emporiun is no exception to this practice.

Looking for CDs to transfer some pictures from the iBook to disk and free up some hard disk space. Right next to the entrance/exit was a large array of recordable CDs. Containers of 50 for $8.99.

Hmm…seemed a little on the rich side so I went into the store to see what else they had. Found stacks of 50 disks for the special price of $4.99. Plastic wrapped but no containers. No problem, I have lots of empty containers at home. Can’t justify paying $4.00 for a container when the 50 disks are only $4.99.

Sure glad I am not an impulse buyer.

Drake LED pilot lights

June 15, 2009

Next to Collins, Drake is probably the better of the old boatanchor rigs. Not better than Collins, just better than anything other than Collins.

One of the more annoying aspects of using older tube type equipment is maintenance. The equipment rarely needs maintenance but when it does good parts are difficult to find.

A dead pilot light is one of these parts. The rigs can still be used with a dead pilot light. The dial and meter can still be read but there is something depressing about a dark radio even if it is still working.

The last time I replaced the bulb was about a year ago. I found a #47 bulb at Radio Shack. A year later it is dead. The original bulb had lasted over 30 years but it was not purchased at Radio Shack.

Six months ago I bought an LED flashlight. A real bargain at $3.50 even if it did have a super stinky plastic grip. Yup, made in China and they probably made the grip out of hazadous waste. Took about two minutes to remove the grip and throw it away. The end result was a nice little flashlight sporting 20 high intensity white LEDs.

The 20 LEDs were all connected in parallel and powered off 4-1/2 vdc from three AAA cells connected in series. No dropping resistors or other parts.

The LEDs were easily removed as they were soldered into a circular printed circuit card. I first removed one ring of six LEDs.

These LEDs were wired in paralled and powered from the 6.3vac pilot light supply with a diode in series with one power lead and a 50 ohm 1/4watt resistor in series with the other lead.

The LEDs were bright enough to provide sufficient reflected light to evenly illuminate the white diffusion screen originally used in the R4C receiver.

The LEDs were mounted on .4 inch centers with the row of six centered on a peice of surplus circuit board which contained plated thru holes on .1 inch centers.

This board was then mounted to a copper bracket and attached to a custom made pilot light bracket. A third section of copper was used to tie the copper bracket and the aluminum pilot light bracket together.

The physical arrangement was such that the LEDs were aimed at the underside of the custom pilot light bracket. The underside of this bracket was covered with aluminum foil acting as a reflector. The dull side of the foil was used as the reflector because the shinnier side resulted in hot spots on the white plastic diffuser.

No attempt was made to use the blue filter originally provided with the radio. The white diffused light from the LEDs was perfectly adaquate and seemed to provide better visibility than when the blue filter was used. Without the filter the dial looked as though is was illuminated by a cool flourescent. Bright and readable. No need for any strange filtering.

The illumination for the meter and Xtal switch window was provided using three additional high intensity LEDs. The finished overall effect can be seen in the accompanying photograph.

Now to do the same thing for the T4XC. At present the transmitter has some sort of greenish filter and old incandescent bulbs. It will be good to get it upgraded and looking like a real match for the R4C.

My Drake twins will soon be twins again.

Those not willing to give up the blue light may be interested in using Blue LEDs. Note also that high intensity LEDs are also available in red, green, and yellow. When using colored LEDs there is no need for a filter.

Goodbye Firefox

June 14, 2009

Version 3 of Firefox will not work with older versions of Windows. No reson given as to why. No explanation of why it is a good thing for the user to use bloated software that is not backward compatible.

So, I dumped Firefox when I found K-Meleon.

K-Meleon is faster loading and smaller in size and works with older versions of Windows