Category Archive: Hardware

Aug 09 2013

Computer Cause Interference on TV

Have you ever experience that your Computer Cause Interference on TV screen? This is something that happened to me personally and it took me a while to resolve. First let’s start with my setup.

I had a Media Player connected to my TV to watch movies and listen to music. I decided to replace the media player with a full computer because the media player’s firmware could not keep up with all the new video file formats. So I built myself a new computer with a dedicated Graphics Card with a HDMI out so that I could connect it directly to my TV. Everything worked fine, but as soon as I switch back to my Satellite TV channels, all channels shows interference from the computer. This only occur while the computer was switch on. As soon as I shut down the computer the interference disappeared. I started to search the internet and found lots of “solutions” but most of them made no difference.

Computer Cause Interference on TV

Computer Cause Interference on TV: Things I tried

 

  1.  I moved the computer and the TV’s power plug so that they are not on the same multiplug so that they are in different wall plugs. (This made no difference)
  2. I wrapped the Coax Cable (from the Satellite TV Decoder) and HDMI cable (from the Computer) with tinfoil to make sure there is no signals between the two cables. (This made no difference)
  3. I moved the computer about 1.5 meter away from the TV to ensure that it’s not maybe the computer power supply that is causing the interference. (This made no difference)
  4. I moved all power cables away from the Coax Cable from the Satellite TV Decoder to prevent any power interference. (This made no difference)

Then I realised that if I leave the computer on and unplug the HDMI cable from the TV the interference is gone. This meant that the issue is not the computer nor the power cables. It’s something to do with the HDMI cable or the display itself.

I also realised that my TV makes a very soft humming sound when the HDMI cable is plugged in. Then I started to play around with the display settings on the computer. First thing I did was changing the Screen Refresh Rate on the graphics card’s display driver. That also made no difference.

Eventually I found the problem! I had the Display Resolution on 1920×1080. This was the default setting and also recommended setting as per the size of the TV monitor. I decrease the Display Resolution to 1360×768 and that solved the problem. I would suggest, if your computer cause interference on TV, start by decreasing the Display Resolution. I might save you a lot of time while troubleshooting the issue.

Jul 16 2013

Looking after my laptop battery

Almost every time I deliver a new laptop, the customer will ask me how he should be looking after the laptop battery. There is so many theories and myths and most of them are not true. Looking after my laptop battery is a very simple job these days, but 10 years ago it was a different story.

Laptop batteries have a short lifetime and it sometimes feels that it only lasts while the 1 year warranty is valid, but on the other hand, sometimes you get a laptop battery that lasts for 3 years or more. In this article, I will shed some light on some of the questions that you may have.

How to extend my laptop battery lifetime?

In the old days, that is about 10 years ago (in the technology world that is like 100 human years) laptop batteries were made of lead-acid or Nickel Cadmium. These Nickel Cadmium batteries needed to be drained and run down completely to extend the laptop battery’s lifetime and prevent that it build up a “memory” as some people call it. Today’s modern laptop batteries are Lithium Ion and do not need to be run down completely and won’t build up a “memory” as some people believe.

laptop batteries

You can even leave the new Lithium Ion laptop batteries in the laptop permanently and you can keep the laptop connected to the power outlet as long as you want. Your laptop battery lifetime will not decrease and the laptop itself will regulate that the battery charge until it is 100% fully charged and then the laptop will stop charging it until you use the laptop battery. This prevent that the battery is on continues charge, not that it will affect the laptop battery lifetime.

There are however some things that will reduce your laptop battery lifetime. Firstly, do not leave the laptop battery fully drained for more than a week. That will reduce its lifetime significantly, so rather keep the battery in the laptop and fully charged and plugged into the power outlet. Secondly, do not leave the laptop battery in extremely hot or cold temperatures like for instance in your car during daytime. That will definitely reduce your laptop battery lifetime.

Check if laptop battery is charging

When your laptop battery starts to give you problems there is a couple of things to check first before you buy a new laptop battery. Put the laptop battery in the laptop and check the following:

  1. Leave the laptop plugged in for about an hour and then pull the AC adapter out. If the laptop dies or go into Sleep Mode the laptop battery did not charge. This still does not mean the battery is faulty. The problem can still be with the laptop AC adapter or the problem can be on the laptop motherboard.
  2. Next, leave the laptop battery out and only plug in the AC adapter. If the laptop starts up it means that the AC adapter is still working. So this leave us with two options. It’s either the laptop battery or the unit on the motherboard that charges the battery, that are faulty.
  3. Now, click on the little arrow in the right bottom corner next to the time to preview the application that is running in the background. There will be an icon that will show whether your laptop is connected to an AC adapter and the laptop battery is detected by the laptop. While the laptop battery is out and the AC adapter is connected you will see that the icon will show that the laptop battery is NOT DETECTED like in the picture below.

No laptop battery detected

Take the laptop battery that you think is not working and put it into the laptop while the laptop is on. Wait for about 30 seconds and then check the icon again. If the icon still shows that the laptop battery is still NOT DETECTED, your battery is dead and not even picked up by your laptop at all. It can also show PLUGGED IN, NOT CHARGING. In both these instances the chances are 95% that the battery is faulty. The only way to test if the charging unit on the motherboard is malfunctioning will be to plug in a new laptop battery and see if it is actually charging.

Testing my laptop battery

You can still take the laptop battery that seems to be faulty and test it with a Multimeter. This will take a little technical ability, but it does work if you want to make sure your laptop battery output is correct. This can only work if the battery is fully or partially charged.

Remove the laptop battery from the laptop and have a look at the writing on it. Take note what the output voltage on the battery is showing e.g. 9.6V, 10.8V, 11.1V, 14.4V. This reading on the Multimeter should be the same or very close to the same when tested.

Look at the connector on the battery. It will have at least five or more connectors/pins. The outermost of these connectors/pins will be the positive and negative. Now using your Multimeter, change the reading scale on the Multimeter to the 20V scale and connect the positive and negative prong of the Multimeter to the outermost connectors/pins of the laptop battery. (If the connectors/pins are too small for the Multimeter prongs, use a paperclip or thin piece of wire and hold it against the connectors/pins and then hold the prongs to the thin wire). The reading that will be shown on the Multimeter should be the same or very close to the output voltage that you noted down from the laptop battery itself.

Laptop battery and multimeter

If this reading is good than your battery output is correct and most probably working fine.

After you went through all the steps above you will be able to easily determine whether your laptop battery is faulty or whether the problem resides with the laptop or AC adapter.

Generally looking after my laptop battery is a very easy and quick task and most of the time it is the AC adapter or the battery that is faulty. I hope this article will assist you to solve your laptop battery issue and also to understand the lifetime of laptop batteries.

Oct 07 2012

Different RAID Configurations

When setting up a new server it’s very important to ensure that you have proper redundancy in place to protect your data and prevent down time. Lots of client asks me how the new server that they bought will protect their data against hard drive failure. The best redundancy option is to configure you server with the correct RAID configuration before you install your Operating System.

All servers has a built in Array Utility that you need to use to enable your RAID configuration depending on the amount of hard drives you have in the server and what performance and speed you require from the server hard drives.

I will explain the most common different RAID configurations that you will use in your new server:

RAID LEVEL 0:

RAID 0 configuration can be used if you require best performance and speed from your hard drives. I do not provide any redundancy and should not be used on any critical system as any hard drive failure will mean data loss. RAID 0 is not used very often because of the risks involved.

 

Different RAID Configurations

RAID 0 – Blocks striped, No Mirror, No Parity

Important features of RAID 0 Configuration

–          Minimum 2 disks

–          Excellent performance and speed as data blocks are striped

–          NO  redundancy as the data is not mirrored or no parity available

–          ONLY use RAID 0 on a NON-Critical Server

RAID LEVEL 1:

RAID 1 configuration provides excellent redundancy as the data is mirrored between two hard drives. With other words, the one hard drive is always a copy of the other drive and in case of the one drive fails the second drive will take over and all data will be current. This also provides for no down time in the case of hard drive failure.

Different RAID Configurations

RAID 1 – Blocks Mirrored, No Stripe, No Parity

Important features of RAID 1 Configuration

–          Minimum 2 disks

–          Good performance

–          Excellent redundancy because of the data mirror between the two drives

RAID LEVEL 5:

RAID 5 configuration also provide good redundancy but you need to have a minimum of three hard drives. Data gets striped between two of the drives and the third drive is used for parity. This enables excellent read speed from the hard drives but slower write speed because of the parity that needs to be written.

 

Different RAID Configurations

RAID 5 – Blocks Striped, Distributed Parity

Important features of RAID 5 Configuration

–          Minimum 3 disks

–          Good performance because of strip configuration

–          Excellent redundancy because of the distributed parity between the hard disks

RAID LEVEL 10:

RAID 10 configuration is probably the best RAID configuration because the drives are striped and mirrored and will provide excellent redundancy and excellent performance. It’s also the most expensive RAID configuration as you require a minimum of 4 drives.

 

Different RAID Configurations

RAID 10 – Blocks Mirrored and Striped

Important features of RAID 10 Configuration

–          Minimum 4 disks

–          Excellent performance because of striped configuration

–          Excellent redundancy because of the mirrored disks

–          Best configuration for any Critical Server if you are willing to pay a little extra

This is the most used RAID configurations, but there is some less popular ones too. You can read more about all the other different RAID configurations here.

Sep 29 2012

HP Proliant ML350e Gen8 Server has no SmartStart CD

With all HP Servers there would be a SmartStart CD that ship with the server. So you will unpack the server, complete the hardware configuration and then boot from the SmartStart CD. Once booted from the SmartStart CD, you will create your array configuration and then install your Operating System.

I received a HP ML350e Gen8 server that I need to configure and install for a client. I opened the box and was surprised not to find a SmartStart CD. The only CD in the box is a HP Documents CD with HP Support Documents on it. I could not understand how HP could forget to give me a SmartStart CD.

I decided to have a quick look at the HP Documents CD to try and figure out what is going on. On the CD I found a document called “Setup Poster” and this is where I found the answer.

HP went one step further with their 8th Generation Proliant Servers. The SmartStart CD is now integrated in the boot process so there is more CD to boot from. HP calls this the Intelligent Provisioning.

Here are the steps I took:

 

  1. Booted the HP ML350e Gen8.
  2. Halfway through the boot cycle there will be an option to press F10 to access Intelligent Provisioning.
  3. When the application has loaded, complete Step 1 and Set Intelligent Provisioning Preference.
  4. Then on the Home Screen, click Performance Maintenance.
  5. In the Performance Maintenance you can complete the Software Update and Firmware Update.
  6. You also need to open the Array Configuration Utility and setup your Array Configuration.
  7. Then go back to the Home Screen and click on Configure and Install.
  8. Once in the Configuration and Install screen, follow the prompts and select the Operating System that you want to install.
  9. You will be asked to insert the Operating System disk that you want to install.
  10. Now you will go through the process of installing the Operating System and configure your server.

The Intelligent Provisioning is a very helpful and easy application to use and with the fact that it is built into the server BIOS makes for much easier usage. The HP Proliant ML350e G8 and all other new Generation 8 Proliant Server use the Intelligent Provisioning. Well done HP!

Here is the Setup Poster as per the HP Document CD.

HP Proliant ML350e Gen8 Server has no SmartStart CD

Sep 03 2012

Pink line on Laptop LCD Screen

This is an issue that I get quite often and I had it again today. The client phoned saying that the laptop has a horizontal pink line on laptop LCD screen. The line can be horizontal or vertical.

Don’t even go through all the trouble trying to change the display resolution or even installing the latest display driver. This problem is hardware related and is mostly caused by the laptop being dropped or just normal wear and tear.

For starters I would open the laptop to reach the ribbon cable that connects the LCD display to the motherboard. You will have to look at the specific laptop’s service manual to know how to open and check the display ribbon cable. About 5% of the times it’s the ribbon cable that came lose because of the laptop being dropped or wear and tear.

But most of the time it’s worse that the ribbon cable. That means that your only solution will be to replace the laptop’s LCD display. I will then advise the client that if the laptop is out of warranty, buy a new one as a new LCD display can cost just as much at what the laptop is worth after it’s out of warranty. Some clients will want to replace the LCD display because of the laptop is still in a good condition, but then you run the risk of if they get other hardware problems the laptop will be cost you just as much as a new one.

So when your have a pink line on laptop LCD Screen, make yourself ready to buy a new laptop as this will most likely be the most cost effective way to fix the problem.

Here are some examples:

Pink line on Laptop LCD Screen

Laptop LCD Ribbon Cable

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