Category Archives: hardware

Recycle Electronics (part 2)

Finding the information to support my previously mentioned rumor about computer “recycling” in China and the toxic side effects was not all that hard to find.

My point here is to create some or more awareness.  There are many sources that point to the great possibility that our recycled nasty bits of electronics do not end up cleanly disposed of.  Worse, our thrown away nasty bits of electronics very likely pollute our environment.  Much like how we should think about where our food comes from, we should think about where our toxic junk goes.  Look up a place like BoxQ, but do your homework on where they send their stuff.  Our effort in recycling toxic electronics goes beyond finding a place to do it, and includes understanding the whole process to make sure we aren’t paying to dispose of our items safely only to have them disposed of unsafely.  From a consumer model, that’s a rip-off; from a responsibility model, that’s irresponsibility through laziness.

Now I get to put my money where my mouth is and do this research on BoxQ.  I will certainly make another entry about those results.  They make a lot of claims about responsibility of their disposal methods and not shipping overseas, but there are few actual details around what they mean by that.  For example, it is important to determine if they hand over the components to refineries that responsibly handle the process; not doing so would invalidate their intentions.

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Recycle Electronics

A friend recently asked me about this, so I think this makes an excellent first nugget on the topic of Green Living & Computers.  Another good post should be my definition of that concept, but perhaps actions speak louder than words.  To that end…

Many of our electronics contain materials that are very harmful to the environment if we simply dump them in a landfill.  Sure, it’s easy to throw out something as mundane as a broken remote control, but even the printed circuit board in that will minutely pollute the water table.  In other words, it pollutes the water we drink (and some of us fish or swim in).

Enter recycling places such as BoxQ in Georgetown, MA.  The benefit of being responsible ultimately costs us — you have to pay to dispose of your electronics.  However for the price of that disposal fee comes a clean conscience in knowing that you have disposed of something toxic responsibly.

Follow-ups I can, or should, make to this post are:

  1. My thoughts on Green Living & Computers
  2. Investigate rumors of “recycling” facilities in China (etc.) where they bear the burden of the toxic waste at our expense

dual head, twinview, and xorg.conf

In the latest installment of my dual monitor saga, I will share my xorg.conf.  I have an nvidia card (boo and hiss all you want), and I learned that their neat configuration tool will not, under any coaxing, update my system configuration.  I had to save it to a separate file, consult my Dick Tracy Decoder Ring, and then hand edit my xorg.conf.  The following is what I ended up with and successfully have dual-head working, on boot, with compositing, and no GPU fan running like a turbo jet.

Section "ServerLayout"
    Identifier     "Default Layout"
    Screen      0  "Screen0" 0 0
    InputDevice    "Keyboard0" "CoreKeyboard"
    InputDevice    "Mouse0" "CorePointer"
EndSection

Section "Module"
    Load           "glx"
EndSection

Section "ServerFlags"
    Option         "Xinerama" "0"
EndSection

Section "InputDevice"
    # generated from default
    Identifier     "Keyboard0"
    Driver         "kbd"
EndSection

Section "InputDevice"
    # generated from default
    Identifier     "Mouse0"
    Driver         "mouse"
    Option         "Protocol" "auto"
    Option         "Device" "/dev/psaux"
    Option         "Emulate3Buttons" "no"
    Option         "ZAxisMapping" "4 5"
EndSection

Section "Monitor"
    Identifier     "Configured Monitor"
EndSection

Section "Monitor"
    Identifier     "Monitor0"
    VendorName     "Unknown"
    ModelName      "HP 2509"
    HorizSync       24.0 - 94.0
    VertRefresh     50.0 - 76.0
EndSection

Section "Device"
    Identifier     "Configured Video Device"
    Driver         "nvidia"
EndSection

Section "Device"
    Identifier     "Device0"
    Driver         "nvidia"
    VendorName     "NVIDIA Corporation"
    BoardName      "GeForce 7900 GS"
EndSection

Section "Screen"
    Identifier     "Default Screen"
    Device         "Configured Video Device"
    Monitor        "Configured Monitor"
    DefaultDepth    24
EndSection

Section "Screen"
    Identifier     "Screen0"
    Device         "Device0"
    Monitor        "Monitor0"
    DefaultDepth    24
    Option         "TwinView" "1"
    Option         "TwinViewXineramaInfoOrder" "CRT-0"
    Option         "metamodes" "CRT-0: nvidia-auto-select +0+0, CRT-1: nvidia-auto-select +1920+0"
    SubSection     "Display"
        Depth       24
    EndSubSection
EndSection

I also found a neat tool called nvclock which turned out invaluable for  being able to monitor my card as well as overclock anything I want to on it. Very neat!


notebook drive adapter for a desktop

Due to esoteric circumstances, I was left holding a 500 GB notbook drive.  Things could be worse, but for the same price I could have ended up with a lot more storage.  That, however, is an entirely different story.

After a quick search on my favorite gizmo site I found an 2.5″ to 3.5″ adapter that would let me mount this in my desktop.  Very nice.  I now have this drive being happily used in my primary machine instead of neglected on a shelf; or depleting my wallet more with a restocking fee.

My one nit of this adapter is that it did not come with rubber washers or grommets.  They would have been invaluable in securing the drive to the bracket.  However, a quick trip to my hardware store remedied that quickly and cheaply.


Dual-Head and Graphics Cards

I now have a dual-head configuration using an HP 2509m and a Samsung SyncMaster 204B.  I am certainly enjoying the extra space though I am still sorting out how to get KDE to handle some things nicely — like when I start a program from krunner, I’d like it to start on the screen where krunner appeared, not the active screen as determined by the last active program.

A mere nit.

I thought I was going to have to replace my graphics card because running two monitors hooked up with one on DSUB and one on DVI caused the GPU fan to run constantly at max speed.  Connecting them both with DSUB works normally — though I notice compositing is temporarily disabled, so we’ll see what happens when that is re-enabled.  However, I now have knowledge of a utility called nvclock and it is most useful in monitoring and setting certain features of the card.

So the good news (for me) is that I can keep my card.  I am increasingly thankful for that since it has a unique collection of features.  The eVGA nVidia 7900 GS KO has a 256 bit memory interface with a mere 256M of RAM, but it is GDDR3.  Getting out of this card and into a true upgrade will cost me more than I want to pay right now.

My next task is to raise the hutch on my desk to admit the second monitor under it.  A little bit of carpentry to keep me entertained among the technology.


eSATA Issues

In general, I think eSATA is a good idea.  I even think it is funny because it reminds me of the old days when workstations and Macs were expanded with external devices like removable HDDs, CD drives, FDD units, etc.

However, there are three key issues I have with eSATA

  1. fat, inflexible cables make cable management — and the following issue — a substantial challenge
  2. weak connectors with no kind of meaningful retention clips — USB grips more firmly than eSATA does
  3. poor hot-mount support under Linux — it works nicely under MSFT Windows, but so poorly under Linux

I’d love to find a resolution to all three of those issues.


Monitor Arrival HP2509m

My new monitor arrived yesterday and I am very impressed at how smoothly Kubuntu handled recognizing the new resolution automatically.  Very nice indeed.  I have a few nits about the monitor, but I am going to wait so I can also state how I resolve them.  I do not believe any of them are critical to the point to make me get rid of it.  (Incidentally, that would probably be at a profit since I paid $35 for it — thanks to Verizon — and even selling it at a steal would put me ahead.  I am still tempted since I would ideally get into another 1600×1200 monitor and thus end up with a 3200 x 1200 desktop…  beats 1900×1080 by just a bit, eh?)

A nice thing I will say immediately is that my fonts seem a little crisper.  That’s very nice.

Anyway, my brain is now hatching a strange and lunatic plan to maybe use my old monitor and have something wild running.

1600×1200 . 1900×1080 . laptop screen
/ switch \ / switch (monitor) \ / |
fronk (vga) archon (vga) . archon (dvi) laptop (vga) . laptop (built-in)
. synergy

That madness needs a little explanation.

  • I have 3 machines:  fronk, archon, and my work laptop.
  • I have a KVM switch to toggle between fronk and archon; I can set that up to use the 1600×1200 monitor.
  • I can use the DVI connector on archon’s video card to feed into the new monitor.
  • I can connect the laptop to the new monitor using the VGA out.
  • I can use synergy to share my keyboard between archon and my laptop.

So what I could do it keep the 1600×1200 monitor between archon and fronk.  I can then share the 1900×1080 monitor between my laptop and archon.

The upshot is the following:

  • working hours:  archon on the 1600×1200, laptop on the 1900×1080 and built-in 1900×1200 — and I get to use a real keyboard and mouse, hopefully fostering better posture.  I should still be able to control things like my music player just by moving the mouse back over to the 1600×1200 monitor thus returning focus to archon.
  • personal hours:  archon gets both — and I get a HUGE amount of monitor real estate
  • working on fronk:  I am trying to turn fronk into nothing more than a file server.  However, sometimes I need to check the console to resolve boot issues (like accidentally bumping the eSATA cable and causing drive mount issues).

It’s a mad plan, but sounds like fun!