Monday, January 31, 2011

Links for January 2011

Friday, January 21, 2011

And the winner is...

After problem with MSI X430 described in earlier post, I kept shopping. There were few interesting contenders. By chance I saw in the shop a ViewSonic ViewBook Pro VNB131. I didn't even consider a ViewSonic to be a company to consider notebooks from, but they keep providing surprises. The screen immediately catches attention - it's truly bright and vivid, unlikely washed-out generation of current inexpensive notebook screens. And in around 1.6kg they managed to cramp even easily-replaceable DVD. Which is a brilliant ... drawback, in the same way as big battery in notebook is ;-). DVD in my nx9420 is amost dead now, hardly reading every 5th disk I put into it (which is rare nowadays).

Well, anyway, VNB131 is outstanding device (they even promise all-aluminum frame), exactly of that type that you notice, keep in mind, and when finally you want to get one few months later - oops, it's no longer around. The reason I skipped it was that I got idea of L335 performance, and looked up Core2 ULV (used in VNB131) performance - it turned out it's not much better than 5-year old Toshiba M200 which I have. As I got idea taht i won't get anything decent for $500, I decided to shell out more, but get something noticeably powerful than even nx9420.

And the winnder was Asus X34F, which just recently got into stock around. X34F is a strange device, there was no info about it on Asus site. No reviews on the net. Googling just gave lot of pricelist hits clustered for some locality, giving good, though sometimes controversial specs. After extensive research, it turned out it's a U35F spinoff for these localities. Afre finally spotting an instance in a physical shop, I've ordered it and it seems everything is right with it. Funny thing, scrolling with touchpad again doesn't work with Ubuntu 10.10 (device otherwise sells with just FreeDOS). But I have high hopes and trust Asus not to stick films advertising 2-finger scroll on an unsupporting touchpad. Just Linux driver needs upgrade or maybe hacking. After all, I already fixed (thanks to forums) hang-on-suspend issue which at first occured.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Samba and iptables UDP broadcast issues

Have been having issues with browsing Samba from Windows boxes or vice-versa for years, like me? No wonder - just google for "ip_conntrack_netbios_ns". See? It's not documented or even mentioned that that kernel module must be loaded for NetBIOS broadcasts to get thru firewall, except for one recent post, even though the issue was raised and solved 5 years ago: .

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Notebook MSI X430 (aka X420 aka X410) - Big Disappointment

So, I've been shopping for notebook for some time - my current work model, HP Compaq nx9420, has been failing me for like 1.5yrs now, with its lid hanging on just one corner (the steel support plate in there broke, nice job, HP!). I also grew pretty tired to carry it's 3.3kg around, so was shopping for subnotebook. So, criteria was: minimal weight, workable screen size (12" is kinda small, 14" is kinda heavy, those are extreme bounds), budget price (also tired to shell out a grand+, especially that nx9420 shows that no matter how much you pay, you have strong chance to get budget quality nowadays).

I had Acer Timeline t3810 (or something close) in my shopping list, but was swamped by real world, so when I came closer to actual shopping - oops, that model is no longer available. That's another trait of modern hardware market - it's not like good stuff gradually becomes cheaper and better stuff comes in, it's like good stuff being replaced by more expensive and mediocre one.

So, I started looking for another replacement, and I found MSI X430. Gosh, it was brilliant. They cramped 14" in 1.5kg - there was/is no competitor in that regard. Battery life was crap (~2hrs), but that's actually brilliant engineering thought. Because laptop battery doesn't last "X or Y hours", it lasts untill next hot summer - when it completely dies. So, it makes little sense to pay lot for large battery which will anyway die soon. So, thanks to that nice crappy battery, X430 costed just $500 (my ideal upper bound for a contemporary piece of technical stuff), it made decent weight to of course. The performance wasn't great, but at least it had latest AMD X2 which has come to these vicinities, L335.

Guess what - when I started to actually call shops, it turned out the model went out of stock like a week ago. Yes, it was on hot sale the whole summer, and boom, suddenly there's only X410 & X420 which are less performance and/or much more pricey. Well, I waited a bit, and oh, miracle - one shop got it back.

Got it in a day, just to find out that:

  1. Max amount of memory ambgiously (not explicitly) mentioned in the docs is 2Gb. Come on, this is not netbook, which 2Gb?? And it doesn't have dedicated RAM cover to easily try 4Gb module - would need to disassemble it completely (either void warranty or go to service center - with what - 4Gb SODIMM I purchased not knowing if it works or not?)
  2. Booted Ubuntu 10.10. Got complete mess on the screen, more specifically torn off signal sync. Remember how old CRT TVs looked with broken row sync heterodyne? I couldn't even imagine that effect can be so faithfully reproduced on LCD panel! I was able to found just single report of someone else facing that, did some hacking, found a workaround, and then thanks to DRM driver people found easy solution. So, well, that DRM/Ubuntu issue, though, taking into account all points above and below, MSI engineers outwitted themselves too. (Support for such funky videoadapeters, as in X430, will be (was) fixed in next kernel version).
  3. One final point which really put me over the edge and made me return the thing. Its touchpad doesn't support scrolling. Well, to be exact, it does, in a following manner: you have to tap at top right corner to scroll up, somewhere near bottom right corner to scroll down. So yes, you had to target the tap, and target pretty carefully, requiring an eye-look. How that compares with familiar blind swipe near the right side? If that sounds like a petty complaint, you've got to use that yourself! Remember, I started all ecstatic about the box, and that dissatisfaction grew subconscious ways. It's like making you walk on the knees. Many people would say "So what? Connect any mouse you like, voila!" Well, but I'm buying a subnote to be light and lean and not carry extra stuff, and still being able to use it comfortably. If to start bringing around crutches everywhere, why bother with lack of selection, higher price, lower performance of subnote? Well, I started to drop into any notebook shop I saw in city motion and know what - all notebooks out there have sane touchpad scrolling, newer ones brag about multi-touch (2-finger) scrolling with stickers, couple of MSI models were the only ones with such brain-dead scrolling. I finally made a search over the Internet. And found dozen-of-pages hate-topics regarding MSI's touchpads. People go by any length to do something with them, like soldering out that thing and solder in normal touchpad.
So, the last issue and discoveries regarding it really freaked me out. What vendor's attitude could be regarding putting unusable and disturbing human interaction hardware into otherwise noticeable models (again, not all MSI notebooks are affected, it seems that subnotes are primary target). The most realistic would be "models are cheap, hence cheap hardware". But that's some $5, really, and that difference makes the computer unusable! So, simple answers don't cut. The must be some conspiracy theory. Like, MSI bought those broken touchpads in millions for $0.5 each, and puts them out to clear stock, wildly ignoring user complaints. Or MSI was bribed by touchpad vendor. Or that they have attitude like "We make few cool points, so no matter what other crap we put there, you'll buy it".

No, I will not. I'm not keen on returning stuff, but that box went back to the shop. And I even wrote this blog post ;^).