WordPress… you, too… show me the stuff!

Right. Do you remember when I said about images found in blogger blogs and how to download them in their full size. Yeap, that’s the one.

Getting images from wordpress blogs is much easier!

I have an example, this one:

I used this image in the live usb multiboot tutorial post. Its url is this one:

https://simplehacksnreviews.files.wordpress.com/2011/12/linux-usb.png?w=133

Just pay a little attention to the url. Filename and extension is quite obvious, so is… the width! That ?w=133 thingie. Its so easy now to just remove it from the url:

https://simplehacksnreviews.files.wordpress.com/2011/12/linux-usb.png

And you go directly to the full size!

Virtualbox Showcase on Dell XPS 17

Now that my Dell Machine has a lot of RAM (8 GB) and hard disk space, it is quite easy to run 4 virtual machines at the same time, each one utilizing 1 GB of RAM, 2 cores and/or threads, 3D acceleration with 128 MB of video RAM. Windows XP also has 2D acceleration on. Arch Linux also has guest additions installed with GNOME 3 performing almost perfectly. By saying almost, I mean, it has awkward full screen behaviour. It might be a bug in GNOME’s virtual box support.

All of these and still having almost 2 GB free. And not only that, I am also running Vuze torrent client (a.k.a. Azureus), Skype, Opera, Clementine and various backround programs.

In the screenshot you can see four VirtualBox machines, Arch Linux, Backtrack 5 R1, Backbox 2.01, Windows XP Performance Edition

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Look at the top of my current desktop, the Core Temp gadget:

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Bellow a screenshot of the Windows Task Manager, Processes tab:

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What is your success with VirtualBox, or VMware?

One week with my brand new Dell XPS L702X – Review Part 2, the software

My previous post was about the laptop’s hardware. In this post I will write about the preloaded software that comes with it, drivers and the possible updates someone can install.

So, the laptop comes with the all-known Windows 7 Home Premium Edition in its 64-bit version. I ‘ve searched more than enough for finding a machine with no pre-loaded OS, so that I can install something I choose. I want to have Linux installed in the machine, why not give me choice? Is it so difficult to have a mechanism with a choice on the machine’s first run presenting the user which OS he/she could choose? They can do it, but its not profitable! We cannot be the ones who broke an agreement with M$, right? Now the machine is worth at least 100 USD more, just because of this f*** Windows licence!

Flame mode off…

What else does it come with it? It has Microsoft Office Starter, Roxio Media Creator Starter, PowerDVD by Cyberlink, Dell Webcam Central, Dell Backup, Dell Stage Remote, Dell Support Center and finally AccelerometerP11, a free fall protection of some kind, i don’t know yet how it actually works. Further information bellow.

Microsoft Office 10 Starter is a stripped down free version of the popular office suite by Microsoft. Being a stripped down version means you don’t get the full capabilities of their expensive suite and it has, you guessed it, ads!

Roxio Media Creator Starter is for burning various optical media and PowerDVD is for wathing Blu-Ray and DVD movies. I ‘ve tested PowerDVD so far with a Blu-Ray movie and I liked how it worked. No noticeable lag between disc layers whatsoever.

Dell also provides some other tools like Backup, Stage Remote and the support center. The backup software is after what its name says, it back’s up data. This tool has a backend from Nero. I uninstalled it, because I use Dropbox for the most important files and manual backup for other things. I also use Acronis and Clonezilla for Windows and Linux backups respectivelly. Stage Remote is a strange utility. It allows remote control of the laptop via bluetooth from an Android based device. Haven’t used it yet, and disabled automatic run with ccleaner. Finally, the Support Center is an important utility. It is responsible for managing the back-ups made with the Back-up tool, plus, thanks to PC Doctor, it provides extensive information for the hardware and runs tests both quick and thorough to assess the condition of the various hardware components. If you are looking for the machine’s service tag, this is the tool that provides it. Also, do not forget to register your machine with Dell’s registration tool.

Now for the drivers part. Thanks to Dell’s excellent support center and web site, finding updated drivers is very easy. So, go to the Dell’s support center, I have already chosen the appropriate models for you.

The most important driver updates are for BIOS, USB 3.0 controller and the nVidia graphics card.

BIOS:

The latest version as of February 6th, 2012 is A16:

http://www.dell.com/support/drivers/us/en/usgen1/DriverDetails/DriverFileFormats?DriverId=J9M3M&FileId=2851908595

Changelog:

  1. Update BIOS and EC to fix AC adapter can’t be detected with probability.
    – Add re-try mechanism between EC and adapter PSID.(Re-try 3 times every 500ms to extend detection time for Adapter plug-in)
  2. Disable Div2 spread spectrum for error or failed to copy files from external USB 3.0 devices.

I ‘ve applied this update and I also noticed an improvement in the usb emulation issues. I ‘m talking about these slow POST boot-ups when several usb devices and hubs are connected.

The usb 3.0 controller driver is also buggy. In the beginning I noticed some usb 2.0 devices when connected in the USB 3.0 ports where not recognized. I applied this driver and now I have no issues at all:

http://www.dell.com/support/drivers/us/en/usgen1/DriverDetails/DriverFileFormats?DriverId=R317222&FileId=2731121777

Its called Renesas driver and it also provides a diagnostic tool.

Now for the nVidia drivers:

For the moment, I ‘ve installed the official drivers. In the future I might try unofficial, enhanced ones. Go to the nvidia’s official support site, I found for you the appropriate link here. You don’t have to download separate driver for either 3D Vision and Optimus.

Further performance improvement can be done with a very nifty free tool called TweakNow Powerpack 2011. I found it over at Softpedia. It has several tweak options and cleanups, etc. If something is done by mistake, fear not, all changes are backed up. What I first did is disabling many autostart programs and services, resulting in a much shorter startup. Go to the “Windows Cleaner” tab -> Startup Manager.

I disabled:

  • Intel (R) Turbo Boost Technology. It is only a monitoring tool not the driver itself. I replaced it with Core Temp. Be aware that this tool has adware, meaning that the tool itself doesn’t have but the installer does, so be careful when installing the tool to decline any programs you might not want.
  • All of the Adobe startup programs. I don’t need quickstart, its a memory hog.
  • BDregion,  Desktop Disc Tool, NeroLauncher, PDVD9LanguageShortcut, RemoteControl9, RoxWatchTray, SunJavaUpdateSched. All safe to disable.
  • IntelTBRunOnce, also safe to disable
  • Stage Remote. Safe to disable. You can start it on demand by choosing it from the menu. Is there anyone who likes to autostart it? Be my guest.

You can also disable some other tools, like Intel PAN (this is for managing Intel’s SoftAP) and Bluetooth Tray Agent if you don’t need them, but I left them on.

About the AccelerometerP11. In order to protect the PC and the data, Dell has installed a sensor which measures acceleration. If the machine fall down, the sensor is activated and triggers through the software to move the HDD heads to a safe position and guard itself from an impact. Quite important if you ask me.

For protection, I installed Microsoft Security Essentials. TBH I haven’t used any antivirus software in years, but now that my machine has a lot of memory and processing power, its not a big deal. After all MSE is very transparent and lightweight, as it uses many libraries already provided by Windows itself.

That’s it! Now enjoy your new Dell XPS machine.

One week with my brand new Dell XPS L702X – Review Part 1, the hardware

Lots of things have changed in my life in the last two months. Most of these are about my computing life and free time avocation. Besides my loose blog maintanance and moderation duties in the greek spasto.net forum. which is about ethical hacking, security news and the Backtrack Linux distribution, something new has come to my possession.

Those of you who read the article’s title have already guessed what this post is about…

TA-DA!!! A brand new Dell XPS L702X! An Intel Core i7 2670QM based , nVidia GT555M  equiped 3GB dedicated,  loaded with 1 TB dual hard drives and 8 GB of RAM, along with a 17.3″ glossy FullHD LED screen, all of these encased in a top design aluminium based chassi!

All I want to do now is to share with you my current experience with this nice and powerful piece of machine, so that you might consider it as an option for your next purchase, get some ideas, or whatever you might relatively need.

First I would like to show you the specs, so that you can get a taste of the machine and start thinking about it:

  • Maker: Dell
  • Model & type: XPS 17 (L702X)
  • Part Number: DLNBXPS0514
  • CPU: Intel Core i7 – 2670QM (2.20GHz – Turbo Boost 3.10GHz, 6MB Cache, 5 GT/s DMI)
  • RAM: 8192MB (2x4096MB) DDR3 1333MHz, up to 16GB maximum memory (4-Sockets)
  • HDD: 1TB (2x500GB) 7200rpm, up to 1.5TB with dual drives
  • VGA: nVidia GeForce GT 555M 3GB dedicated
  • Monitor: 17.3 WLED Glossy FHD 1080p – 3D Display (1920×1080) Widescreen, with Truelife
  • Optical Disk: Blu-Ray ROM με DVD±R/RW DL Drive
  • Pre-loaded OS: Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit GR/EN
  • Extras: 2x Usb 3.0, 2x Usb 2.0, 1x eSata, LAN 10/100/1000, WiFi Wireless-N 1030, Bluetooth 3.0, 9-in-1 Media Card Reader, 1x Mini DisplayPort, HDMI port 1.4, 2x Headphone audio jacks with SPID/F support, 1x Mic-in, Waves MaxxAudio 3, JBL 2.1 Designed & Certified Speakers, WebCam 2.0Mpixels, TV Tuner, Integrated nVidia 3D TV Play Technology, with a built-in 3D Vision IR emmiter
  • Battery: 9 Cell Li-Ion (90 Wh)
  • Weight: 3.36Kg

Lets assume now the machine is turned off. This is what you will first see:

Chassis is of quality made, aluminum encasement in both the outer shell and around the full with numpad keyboard. The latter itself has keys in an island style and glossy surface between them. Its layout is off-course the popular QWERTY and has a few hotkeys for various functions. Transition was very easy for me from my old Acer laptop and keys don’t need too much force to be typed. On the top, keys are touch activated and illuminated with a white light. Pretty nice if you ask me. No rough edges, no corners. Just like the spirit of the modern design directives. The touchpad is simplistic with two keys and a multitouch surface.

On the side it has the USB ports version 2.0 and at the back it has two USB 3.0 ports. At the back it also has mini display and HDMI port, ethernet port,kensington slot, antenna slot (for DVB-T).

The optical drive is a Blu-Ray Rom DVD super multi combo driver. I have already tested it  with a rented movie from my local DVD store and along with PowerDVD it offered crystal clear movie playback.

On the other side the express slot is seamlessly occupied by a card reader for SD, MMC and other various media (so called removable memory cards).

Inside it has an Intel motherboard with an i7, 4 Cores Processor (2670QM) rated at 2.2 GHz with its “turbo boost” at 3.1 GHz of maximum frequency. Hyper threading is also present so that “cores” reach number 8! It also has quite a lot of RAM with the GB being also 8! Maximum RAM can reach 16 GBs utilizing all 4 slots that are available. As far as I am concerned RAM is quite cheap so I might pretty soon upgrade.

Graphics is managed by an NVidia GeForce GT555M with dedicated memory of 3 GB of available memory. I tested just by pure curiosity the Second Life “game” at its maximum settings and FPS dropped down to 15-20 about at maximum resolution so I am quite satisfied by it. Reduced settings down to a more medium ones; frame rate was improved to a number 40+ about. I say the FPS roughly because I haven’t installed any FPS tool, yet. The graphics card is also capable of utilizing the 3D display and the monitor can reach 120 Hz of vertical refresh rate. The model I got, however, does not have the optimus technology, but I don’t really care about it.

The monitor is very bright and glossy, with diagonal of 17.3 inches. No dead pixels whatsoever and I am pretty happy with it, if I do so remember my Acer days. Native resolution is FullHD 1980×1080, optimized for high definition movies.

Further multimedia capabilities are provided by the intergrated hybrid Avermedia DVB-T/analog television card.

On top of the screen is an embedded camera and microphone for easy video conferencing and chat.

This machine is also nice to play music, speakers are very loud, also with a subwoofer, all  approved by JBL. All thanks to its Maxxaudio technology and Realtek HD.

Connectivity is also to its maximum potential with ethernet, intel wifi, bluetooth and options in other models include 3G connectivity, WiMAX, etc.

Internal storage is provided by dual hard drives with a total 1 TB of capacity.

Battery is a 9-cell, 90 Wh providing 3 hours and 30 minutes of moderate use. However I managed with 20 full recharge cycles to reach capacity of 92 Wh.

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And in mAh:

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Overall I liked it quite much and I am very happy with it. I wasn’t afraid to order it from the Internet without even touching it or feeling it and I trusted Dell for its offerings. And it worked for me.

My customized desktop (on part 2 the software):

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The best:

  • Its monitor. Very bright and colorful. Its LED after all.
  • Audio. Happy to listen to music all the time. Noises and scratches is just a thing of the past.
  • Keyboard. I am comfortable to type on it. Although I could really find useful a few more Fn hotkeys.
  • Good structure and design. Although when playing games temperature and heat can become present, however cooling is sufficient because I haven’t seen any temperatures above 62 degrees Celcius and the battery has a bulge so that air can flow at the bottom.
  • The battery capacity and design allowing the machine to breath fresh air on the bottom, while having a slight tilt to the front to allow easy typing.

The worst:

  • Leds for indicating hard drive usage are behind the monitor! Pretty bad and awkward! I didn’t like it. Was it so difficult to install these elsewhere? Dell, please?
  • The touchpad should have been just a little to the left. Sometimes when I type I accidentally move the cursor. I have to disable the touchpad in order to avoid this!
  • e-SATA/USB 2.0 powershare combo? Is it so difficult to have two separate ports for each one? Dell, please, once again!
  • Its original BIOS being buggy (USB emulation issues). An update however solves the issue.

What’s missing and could easily be included:

  • A pair of 3D, active shutter glasses. Most 3D TVs always bundle at least one pair.
  • A cleaning cloth. My 8 years old Acer laptop had one, why is it missing from the Dell machine?
  • I need more Fn hotkeys! Where the sleep button?
  • Why does it not have Optimus anyway?