Category Archives: computer

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

Defraggler for Daily Defrags

After spending almost an entire weekend getting my Windows HDD defragged I learned a few good lessons.

1. The Windows “Disk Defragmenter” tool is inherently broken when compared to other options that actually defrag the drive.

2. Due to limitations of windows, if your files exceed ~1.7GB, they will stay fragmented in at least two parts and there is nothing you can do about it.

3. Daily execution of defrag is necessary for good system health.

I found a nice tool called Defraggler.  Though I expected miniature muppets to start singing something about a rock, I was not disappointed to instead find a defrag tool that actually works.  At first, I thought it wasn’t quite good enough, but after some reading I learned that excessively large files have to stay fragmented due to FAT32 limitations.

One of the great things about Defraggler is that the developers seemed to understand the need for a daily defrag.  The tool can be run with a “shutdown after defrag” option.  That is brilliant.

Another great thing is the ability to defragment files individually.  This was necessary for me due to the extended amount of time I went without running any kind of defragementation tool.

The visual defragmentation is nice too.  It takes me back to the early days of Norton System Tools.  I almost want to grab the popcorn and watch the little blocks change color.

Blackbox For Windows (bb4win) makes Windows Livable for Me

I actually kind of like the Windows paradigm, especially Windows XP.  Thank you, Xerox!

What I don’t like is the complete lack of ability to customize the appearance without getting something bloated like Windowblinds.  Even then, it’s more like skinning, not customizing.  I have been spoiled by the incredible flexibility of KDE (thanks folks!), and upon finding bb4win, my life got happier.

I find it amusing that I tried fluxbox on my ‘buntu machine, and didn’t fall in love with it in the same way.  I think that’s because I am happy with KDE.  I need to get some screenshots up, but the two best places for reference are…

1) Lost in the Box

2) Boxshots

FWIW, I run bbLean1.17.  There are some very talented people at Boxshots who make bb4win look darn sexy.  I don’t do anything incredibly fancy, but it works for me.

The number one feature I like about bb4win is bbkeys — being able to map key combinations to my heart’s content.  New message, minimize all, maximize, move to a new workspace, change workspace, etc.  The two I miss the most (broke a few revisions ago) are “maximize horizontally” and “maximize vertically”.  For some reason they haven’t been able to work those back in.

AltDrag also helps Window be more tolerable and bring ‘box functionality into Windows.  Alt+left-mouse lets you move a window around without having to grab the title bare; Alt+right-mouse let’s you resize.  Just like KDE, or fluxbox.  How nice.

Launchy makes Windows rock a bit more

While I’m not a big MS Windows fan, I do have to use it on a daily basis.  There are a couple of things that make it a much nicer place to be.  One of those things is Launchy.  I adore the new krunner in KDE4, and Launcy is a bit more like that.  No more crappy “Start > Run” dialog; if I want to type the name of an executable in my %PATH%, I’ll start a command prompt.

With Launchy I can type the name of the application and see options appear.  It’s like a search for the “Start > Programs” menu.

Very nice.

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"

Section "Module"
    Load           "glx"

Section "ServerFlags"
    Option         "Xinerama" "0"

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

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

Section "Monitor"
    Identifier     "Configured Monitor"

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

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

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

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

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

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.