Laptop Deja Vu

image I was in the market for a new Netbook (to use with my new Clear WiMax connection) so I did some minimal research and found the Acer AO751h. It has a news (and slower) Z520 Atom processor, 2GB RAM, 160GB HD and a beautiful 11.6 screen with 1366x768 resolution (which is the same as most 720P LCD panels). It was on ‘sale’ at Fry’s for $469 with a bundled 2 year service contract. I would never use a service contract (‘I Void Warranties’ is a very fitting T-Shirt for me to wear) and the sales person insisted that the laptop would not be any less without the contract.

I purchased the unit, went out to my car and found the same laptop for $399 on Amazon. Even better, I found a similar version (1GB RAM, Win XP, Extended Battery) for $379. I ordered the $379 (a $20 RAM upgrade is well worth the extended battery) and made plans to return the $469 laptop in a few days.

Once home, I replaced the HD (via an easily accessible panel) and installed Windows 7.

From the start, the laptop speed sucks- very badly. Opening Firefox (3.5) is very slow, Flash on websites is very slow (Hulu is unplayable), and my when I tested WoW (all effects turned to low) I had to disable the sound as it couldn’t keep up (i.e. broken record sound). I was averaging 2fps in the non-populated areas of Durotar.

A lot of people will say ‘A Netbook is not made to play WoW’- and I would disagree. My initial Netbook (an Asus 8.9” EEE PC) was able to play WoW at around 5-6 FPS; my second one (Acer AO150) was able to play a little better (8-10)- but the AO751h was hitting a ceiling at 2 FPS (even when forcing the resolution to 800x600).

I happened to be in BestBuy a few days later and chanced upon the Gateway LT3103u; Very similar to the Acer (which makes sense as Acer now owns Gateway) with the same screen, keyboard, memory and HD configuration- but with an Athlon 64 L110 CPU and a Radeon x1275 GPU- and for the same price ($399).

Similarities between Acer AO751h and Gateway LT3103u:

  • 11.6” screen with 1366 x 768 resolution
  • 2GB DDR2 RAM
  • 160GB SATA HD
  • Large keyboard
  • 802.11b/g Wireless
  • 3 USB Ports
  • VGA Out
  • 10/100 Ethernet
  • Multi-in-One Card Reader
  • Multi-touch mousepad
  • Integrated Webcam
  • Easy access panels for HD, RAM and Wireless cards

Differences between the Acer AO751h and Gateway LT3103u:

  • CPU: Intel Atom Z520 1.2Ghz vs. AMD Athlon 64 L110 1.2Ghz
  • Video: Intel GMA 500 vs. Radeon x1275
  • Battery: 2200mAh vs. 5200mAh

Gateway is owned by Acer, so I would assume that some of their lines will have similar products. The screen, keyboard and basic layout of the two are almost identical:










The power bricks for two systems are identical (30W- 19.0v, 1.58A) and the batteries are interchangeable.

Moving away from the form factor/aesthetics, there is a pretty sizable difference in performance.

Windows 7 Rating for the AO751h:

The Windows 7 Rating for the LT3013u:


The limiting factor on both systems is the CPU, and the gateway Athlon offers about 20% more performance than the Intel Z520 CPU. The gateway also can offload some additional graphics rendering tasks to the integrated Radeon x1275 GPU. The Radeon does not have dedicated GPU memory, rather it uses shared system RAM (384MB default).

Both systems come system maxed with at a single 2GB DDR2 SODIMM.

I did a basic CPU+GPU performance comparison by filming the opening screen of World of Warcraft and putting them together with Adobe Premier:"

For comparable systems, the Gateway performance is MUCH better than the Acer; the trade-off is battery longevity- the Acer can use a 3 cell battery and obtain an estimated 4 hours of runtime (or 8 hours with the optional 6 cell battery) while the Gateway boasts about 5 hours with a battery that is twice the size (the included 6 cell battery).

This was a really tough decision for me as I wanted the Gateway, but I hate their support (see my earlier post on my experiences with my other Gateway laptop). In the end, the technological advantages has over-ridden my distaste for Gateway.

I have returned the Acer and upgraded the HD in my Gateway; if anyone is considering an Acer AO751h for the larger screen- go look at the Gateway instead…


Clear ‘Unlimited’ Plans

While leaving work yesterday, I received a call from 888-657-1456; it was an automated message from Clear to inform me that they had detected ‘unusual usage patterns’ on my connection that may be ‘affecting the performance of their network’. The message went on to express that this could be a sign of a computer virus or an unsecured wireless network.

Guess what guys- I signed up for an unlimited usage 6Mbps plan. I am using said plan to it’s greatest potential. I verified with the sales person that I would be using it 24x7 to watch movies, VPN to work, download ISO images and such and I was told ‘no problem’.

If the WiMax network is affected by my single 6Mbps stream, then Clear has some other issues it needs to address.

I received an email notification this morning informing me that my address was updated on my clear account. I logged in and found that a ‘!!Read Acct History!!’ message had been added beneath my name.

I think I will have some fun calls with Clear over the next few days. :)


Google Analytics slowdown with Firefox 3.5

For the past few weeks I have noticed that several websites will hang while opening in Firefox 3.5 and the status page will display:

Contacting ssl.google-analytics.com…

This can go on for a few seconds- causing tabs to freeze until a response is obtained. I did a quick search and found a fix by adding the following to the c:\windows\system32\drivers\etc\hosts file:

# [Google Inc] www.google-analytics.com ssl.google-analytics.com

In addition, a few other host file tweaks can cut down on the advertisements from Google in other web sites: adwords.google.com pagead.googlesyndication.com pagead2.googlesyndication.com adservices.google.com imageads.googleadservices.com imageads1.googleadservices.com www.googleadservices.com apps5.oingo.com

My Digital Photography Chronology

I purchased a Canon D10 today and I started thinking of the different digital cameras I have purchased in the past ten years; eight total- starting with a humble 1.3MP Olympus (purchased for a trip to Seattle) and going on through the various point-and-shoots and DSLRs (most purchased for the past 8 years of Dragon*Con).

Not counting camera phones, these are all the digital tools I have used to supplement my visual memory over the past decade:

Circa 1999

Olympus Camedia D-450 Zoom

1.3 MP CCD
3x Optical Zoom
1.8” LCD Display

16MB SmartMedia Card

My first digital camera!

Given to a friend that gave it to another friend; still working! (but a bit hard to find SmartMedia cards).
Olympus D-450Z
August 2003

Fuji FinePix S5000

3.1 MP CCD
10x Optical Zoom
Optical viewfinder, 1.5” LCD Display

512MB XD Card

Gave to a friend and still working. Added a 1GB XD card.

July 2005

Casio Exilim EX-Z750

7.2 MP CCD
3x Optical Zoom
2.5” LCD Display

1GB SD Card

My first camera that could record movies (MOV).

Given to a friend that uses it as their primary point-and-shoot cmera

June 2006
Casio Exilim EX-S770

3x Optical Zoom
2.8” LCD

2GB SD Card
August 2006
Canon EOS Digital Rebel XT

DSLR; 18-5 5mm
Optical viewfinder; 1.8” LCD Display

2GB Compact Flash

My first DSLR; picked up 75-300mm, 50mm and 28-135mm lenses

Given to a friend as an xMas present
August 2007
Canon SD870 IS

3.8x Optical Zoom
3.0” LCD


Upgraded with Eye-Fi Explore 2GB WiFi card
My primary point-and-shoot camera
November 2007
Canon 40D

DSLR; 28-135mm
Optical viewfinder, 3.0” LCD

4GB Compact Flash

My current DSLR; 28-135mm IS walk-about lens, 75-300mm zoom, Speedlite 430EX
July 2009
Canon Powershot D10

12.1MP CCD
3x Optical Zoom
3.0” LCD


Purchased for use in outdoor/wet environments

Still deciding on the AKT-DC1 accessory kit for $90 from NewEgg, or a $16 Zeikos floater

Waterproof Camera

I went Kayaking yesterday, and I was clever enough to bring a zip-lock back to protect my old Sony DSC-T50 camera. I was not clever enough to realize that this camera still has enough weight to sink like a rock if it falls out of the Kayak. 15 minutes into the trip I hit a little rough water and the camera was lost… (oh well- it was a camera that was given to me as the original owner had a replacement and no longer wanted it- easy come, easy go!)

If anyone happens across this camera in the Chattahoochee river, please email me the pics and feel free to keep the camera. :)

Photo 1: PowerShot D10I am now considering a replacement Canon PowerShot D10 waterproof camera- along with the Canon AKT-DC1 accessory kit. It is not the smallest point-and-shoot camera, but it is rated to a depth of 10m (33ft) and is much smaller and more ‘reasonable’ than spending $180+ on the WP-DC17 case for my Canon SD-870IS. It is also rated to survive a 4’ drop (which is a rating that I have accidently tested with a former Casio camera- with unsuccessful results)

After reading a few reviews, this camera may be good for both in the water and as a general point-and-shoot:

I have a few things to return to Fry’s today so I will probably swing by the camera department and have another hands-on look at the D10. Looks like I may need to plan a few more kayaking/canoeing/tubing weekends!

Blackberry Bold Replacement Screens

My roommate dropped her Blackberry Bold a few months back and cracked the screen; I tried to find a replacement by swapping out the screen with another device that had a similar issue- but I was answered only with a garbled-up LCD display. I tried a second time with a different screen and I received the same results- a white screen with vertical red and blue lines.

Today i discovered that there are in fact three different LCD screens for the Blackberry Bold:


It turns out the screen that my roommate needs is the 001/004 version- which I am assuming is the oldest version.

From the numbering scheme, I would guess that there is also a forth screen type, but no one on eBay is currently selling the ‘004/004’ model.

I am not sure why RIM would make different screen models for one device- and why that these screens have identical electrical connectors but different display protocols.


Google Voice Allowing Phone Number Changes – For $10

I logged into my Google Voice account to change a phone number and I noticed a ‘Change Number’ option next to my current Google voice number. I signed up for Grand Central a few years ago and I was issued a phone number in the 229 area code (Albany, GA)- which was not local to Atlanta, GA.

I clicked the link and was informed for a one time fee of $10 (via Google Checkout) I could change my number!

During the selection, I was able to select an area code and a 'phrase’ that Google would search for in the available numbers (such as area code 404 and ‘STFU’). It returned a number I was happy with so I approved the $10 charge- and now I have a new number! :o)

The old number stays active for 90 days- just in case someone is still using it.


Now if Google Voice will just add in Fax capabilities (and open up to the general public).


Clear WiMax Follow-up

I have decided to keep Clear; the final decision to cancel my DSL is now in question (do I really need two 6Mbps+ lines to my house?).

I am disappointed that Clear does not offer a reasonably priced Static IP option ($10/month is not acceptable). However, it does appear that my external IP as remained unchanged since I started using the service about a week ago. The DHCP lease time is 24 hours- so perhaps as long as I do not go offline for more than a day I will continue to renew with the same IP (which makes sense if it is typical DHCP). The Dynamic DNS options offered are very inadequate (DynDNS, Dyns.cx and ZoneEdit) as well.

That said, I ran into my second issues with Clear: They do not have a SMTP server. The two email addresses provided with each account by Clear are actually Google Mail accounts- so if I need to send a message out from an application on my server (Such as GeoVision alerts), I need to authenticate and send it out to the Google SMTP server: the problem I have is that Google only accepts SSL SMTP (on TCP port 465) messages and my application cannot use this. As a work-around, I am using a legacy Yahoo account (which had POP/SMTP before Yahoo started charging) to route my out-bound email alerts.

Configuring the modem to co-exist with my current router (D-Link DGL-4500) was fairly easy: log in to the router (default at http:\\, password is ‘motorola’), disable the firewall:


and setup a DMZ IP address for for the one your router picks up from the modem:


The above two steps will take any traffic from the external IP address and forward it to the WAN interface of your internal router.

This configuration allows me to control external port access/forwarding for my GeoVision camera system, access my internal webcams, monitor/control my home alarm system and RDP to my desktop from remote locations (most of them from my G1 Android phone).

An alternative would be to configure the port forwarding in the router to the system you need in-bound access to from the internet:


I need a wireless router for my wireless devices- and I want to keep them on the same subnet with my PCs and servers- so I chose to use the router behind the WiMax modem (double-NAT is not THAT bad).

I am still trying to find the 5 bar Nirvana to see what speeds I can obtain. I have found that an unsteady 5 bar (i.e. toggling between 4 bars and 5 bars of connectivity) is much worse than a solid four bar. The router appears to need to re-negotiate each time the signal strength changes- causing large dips and spikes in download bandwidth.

Unlike the XOHM Zyzel WiMax Modem, the Clear Motorola WiMax modem does not have any connectors (SMA, TNC or N). I purchased the WiMax modem, so I decided to take it apart to see if there are any antenna interfaces. The modem has no external screws; the bottom held on exclusively by plastic snaps:


Careful use with a plastic putty knife was all that was needed to open the bottom an reveal the router board:



A careful inspection found what appears to be two SSMT Mini Coax connectors in the top of the board:



I am not sure if this was designed for an additional antenna, but I am toying with the idea of finding two SSMT Mini Coax to SMA (or N) male connectors and making some holes in the modem casing to mount these through. Once I have accessible antenna connectors, I could then order an external antenna to see if I get a better signal. :)


xBox 360 Transfer

I picked up a used 120GB HD for my xBox 360 and suddenly realized how much a pain-in-the-ass xBox 360 data transfer is (unless I buy a new 120GB with the HD transfer kit); I had a 64MB memory cartridge and well over 600MB of data to transfer- so I would need to fill the card 10 times and swap HDs on the system between each transfer…

I ended up buying a 512MB memory cartridge for $30 from GameStop. I then sat down to to copy game/save/themes/etc files from my old HD (one-at-a-time) to the memory card, shut down the system, replace the HD, and copy the files back to the larger hard drive (one-at-a-time).

I filled up the 512MB with as many things that I could fit and decided to use a xBox360 transfer cable that I purchased a while back. Using instructions from MaxConsole, I was able to setup divers for the reader to work on Windows 7 for use with Xplorer360 and create a full backup of the memory card contents to my PC (just in case I ever need it).

And a few hours later, I have a larger HD on my 360 (and I actually found a few old game saves I thought I had lost on my 64MB memory card)!