In our next meeting we will be looking at current and emerging technologies for accessing the internet at high speeds from home. These should cover current ADSL and ADSL2+ offerings for Internet via the phone lines together with cable modems and the technologies soon to be with us including VDSL/fibre to the cabinet and fibre to the home.
We also hope to cover some of the techniques used to make things more secure for us day to day such as smtp-auth and TLS encryption of sessions, and the issue they can cause us with older software.
Our last meeting was an evening of hardware upgrades by Michael, the main part of which was to upgrade the hard disk of Frank's laptop in order to verify that larger disks would be detected and work correctly.
Michael began by removing screws holding the external cover of the hard disk bay to reveal the drive in a removable caddy with a tab to slide out. By pulling the tab, the drive was easily removed and to replace the drive the caddy needed to be unscrewed from the old disk and attached to the new drive.
ASUS who manufacture Frank's laptop had informed him the motherboard could be subject to a 160GB limit on disk size, but this was not fully certain and so we would try to fit a significantly larger drive to verify this. Michael had a spare 320 GB SATA hard disk, which was perfect to test the theory!
To proceed with the physical replacement Michael swapped the caddy from the original 120 GB disk to the new 320GB disk and replaced the drive and cover into the laptop.
Upon booting the laptop it was quite clear the drive was detected correctly at its full size of 320 GB by the BIOS which was a good sign. To fully verify the system the plan was to restore one of Frank's backups to the new drive and boot Windows.
To do this we booted the laptop using an Acronis True Image restore CD.
Once True Image had booted the Restore Data Wizard was run. Unfortunately selecting either of Frank's backup files on his external USB disk gave an error about corrupted archives. We diagnosed this as Frank's restore CD being version 11 while the backups were created with the newer 2010 edition, fortunately Michael had the correct CD.
Selecting the tib backup file worked correctly with Acronis 2010 and were able to recover to the new 320GB drive with the MBR installed, extending Frank's backup of a 64GB partition to the full 320GB.
Michael discussed how it is often beneficial to upgrade the capacity of a laptop drive to avoid carrying external disks for such things as image libraries, or iTunes/music collections. Also upgrading to faster drives particularly on laptops can offer increased performance through increased rotation speeds, larger cache sizes, reduced seek times etc.
Also nowadays you can consider solid state flash based drives (SSDs) which can potentially have much faster read/write speeds but are currently significantly more expensive. One concern is still the limited write cycles of the physical flash memory although this is improving all the time and you must avoid defragmenting the drives as this will significantly reduce the life.
Upgrading the RAM can also improve general performance by reducing swapping if memory to disk or to allow more applications to be run simultaneously. On desktops and many laptops DVD drives can be upgraded, perhaps to DVD-RW or even Blu Ray.
In theory more extreme upgrades can be performed even on laptops e.g. the CPU to a faster core2duo for instance. However in a laptop this would normally require a full strip down and may not be viable. On a desktop from most system builders using relatively standard components you can often find the motherboard manuals online to find the processor specs that are supported and an upgrade is relatively trivial. If the desktop is for example a Dell the BIOS is more specific and may be more difficult.
Restore of Frank's PC succeeded, but the system would not boot. Using the "Ultimate Boot CD" we were able to set the active partition on the drive correctly and then the restored XP system booted correctly and confirmed 241GB of Free Space!
As a rule of thumb you should check the manufacturers for compatibility, but this cannot be taken as given (as we proved on the night with Frank's laptop upgrade). There were specific limitations e.g. the mid 90s 137GB BIOS limitation for hard disks.
Finally to end the evening Michael upgraded Frank's Memory by adding a 2 GB PC5300-DDR2 module in addition to the standard 1GB giving a total of 3GB. BIOS and XP both correctly recognised 3GB and performance was also improved.
Apologies for last months write up on Frank's laptop. Here is a reply he sent by email to my article.
Sorry, chaps, but the item on Magic Defragging, under Software Updates, was significantly out of order.
First, it may work on installed SSDs, but definitely not on removable SSDs. It is primarily intended for normal rotating HDs, on Windows. Also SSDs have to be given consideration for their shortage of re-write lives.
Second, its main benefit is that it works continuously in the background to maintain the HDs in a state of defragmentation which is adequate for the efficient working of said drives and
accessing files. For the doubters, manual defragmentation can be run, but I have found no benefit in doing so. Comparison with the state of defragmentation as reported by the MS utility shows no requirement for action by the latter!
Thirdly, install it, make the settings from Settings menu and forget it. It will pop up once a week with a report on how much fragment movement it has done. Close the window and forget it again. For those that worry if it is still doing its job, there is an active icon in the bottom-right-tray showing what it is doing. It displays: "no defragging left to be done", or "active" when there is no other activity, or "paused" when there is other activity (for example if you just move the pointer).
The price for new customers is 9.99 GBP. I got Version 1 free from a magazine-sponsored download. Version 2 was a "special promotion" at about a fiver. Version three was again a nominal amount. At the price, I think it was probably the best buy I have made.
My thanks to Michael for an excellent informative evening on upgrading laptops and to Frank for trusting us to do the upgrades to his machine!
Our next meeting on Broadband technologies promises to very interesting both those interested in broadband now and also the technology around the corner in the quest for ever faster speeds.
|"Broadband technologies" including SMTP email encryption
|"Tips and tricks in Windows/Mac/Linux/RISC OS-
and what is the function of the Registry?"
|Social Evening - Venue TBA
|Digital Photography and How to manage your photo collection
|Gareth et al
|Slide show evening
|"How to rebuild a RISCOS machine."
-making one machine from parts of two Risc PCs.
|Gadgets and Party evening
|Social Evening - Venue TBA
|Gigabit Networking , USB2 & 3
|AGM plus Games
Meetings are now on the Third Wednesday of the month unless otherwise stated.
Our meetings are held at the Bourne Vale Social Club, Halifax Road, Ipswich IP2 8RE , for a map and other details please see the website. http://icenicomputerclub.users.btopenworld.com
The first visit is free and subsequent visits for non - members is £2·50. The membership fee is £20 due from the AGM date in April, but may be reduced for those joining late in the year.
Continuing our publicity for EAUG events, there is now a full list of meetings up to the end of the year on their website.
Tea/coffee/biscuits usually available.
Visitors pay 2.00 GBP for the evening, which is deductible from the normal joining subscription if you decide to join at a later date.
See the Membership page of the website for more information:
Meetings are at the Great Baddow Village Hall, on the second Tuesday of the month
opening at 7:30 p.m. for a start at 7:45 - 8:00 p.m.
For directions see below (note the new web addresses)
More on this next month. The have moved premises and also changed their name.
"ICENI does not have any Insurance cover for computers or other equipment so please be advised that you bring machines to the club at your own risk."
However many household insurance policies will include cover away from home often with no increase in premium. (Ed.)
If anyone would like a copy of the CD of our old newsletters this could be arranged.
I am open to suggestions on what people would like to have included in the website.
Our website URL is
http://icenicomputerclub.users.btopenworld.com as a virtual domain,
it can also be reached using http://www.btinternet.com/~icenicomputerclub
Email to: firstname.lastname@example.org