Funny Tech Support Problems

I made a trip down to the local IT support desk at my school so that I could get myself a login for the wireless network. The first question was “do I have my student ID card”, which I didn’t have on hand. The woman’s eyes glazed over and she assumed that this was going to be another case of pulling teeth with a stupid user fraught with aggravation. Thankfully I had my “official” schedule on me and it wasn’t a problem and in the end we chatted a little about how crazy tech support can be. Here is one of many such examples that came up:

– Hi, I want to log into the wireless but I don’t know my password
– Okay, go over to that computer and type in a password 8 characters long or more please.
– I’ve just entered my password and it didn’t take it! What’s wrong with your stupid system?
– Was your password at least 8 characters long?
– No, it was just four letters…

Apparently that’s a really common issue tech support at my school runs into – students are unable to count all the way up to eight… There are certainly much worse and much funnier cases of incredulous support calls where the lines of communication between the angry customer and the CSR are burned to the ground. Here are a couple of hilarious examples of just such cases from around the web:

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Tech Support Demotivational

Intel X25-m Gen 2 & OCZ Vertex Power Consumption

There has been a lot of debate among enthusiasts over which is better: the Indilinx-based OCZ Vertex (see my review) or the just launched Intel X25-m Gen 2 drives that use shiny new 34nm flash memory. It has been generally accepted that the new X25-m drives are very efficient all-round due to the advanced flash memory and Intel’s spec sheets which clearly show that it should use just 150mW under load. I’ve actually got both drives on-hand right now and am out to finally answer everybody’s question: which of these two drives uses less power and can Intel’s grandiose claims be verified?

Intel X25-m OCZ Vertex Power Consumption

Test Setup

The test setup for taking the relevant measurements was extremely simple: I put a relatively high-end Fluke 179 multimeter in series with the +5V rail of the PC power supply and the drive to be measured. To accomplish this, I cut up a male SATA power cable and set up the circuit such that the Fluke sat right in front of the 5V input of the drive. It’s also important to note that the only power supplied to the drives was from this 5 volt line which is fine because 2.5″ disks don’t use any other power. In order to get accurate power readings, it is also important to know the actual input voltage and so input voltage (the +5V rail) was measured using the same multimeter after the benchmarks had been run. Voltage must be measured because because power in Watts is Voltage * Amperes.

All readings were taken on the 10A current input on the multimeter. Measurements represent the maximum observed readings which is the same rating that hard drive manufacturers typically use. In most cases with SSDs however, average power is normally very close to peak power.

The specific drives used were the intel x25-m Gen 2 and the original OCZ Vertex flashed all the way up to firmware revision 1.30. For the purposes of comparison and just general interest, I’ve thrown in the results of a 2.5″ 80GB 5400 RPM Hitachi disk model HTS543280L9A300.

Now that everything’s all cleared up and out of the way, onto the results portion of the test!

Power Readings

Intel X25-m OCZ Vertex Power Consumption

I don’t know about you, but I think these results are pretty conclusive: Intel’s new drive is most certainly not using 150mW under load! In fact the drive is idling at 600mW while the highest reading I saw showed it using up to 2.4W while writing – 44% more than the Indilinx based OCZ Vertex under the same conditions! Moreover, the OCZ Vertex pretty much trashed the X25-m Gen2 under every condition we measured it under. The data speaks for itself and the results are plain and simple: the X25-m Gen2 is not the miracle drive that Intel claims it is when it comes to power consumption.

To help illustrate what this data means, lets make use of a couple of bar graphs to help visualize the actual differences:

Intel X25-m OCZ Vertex Power Consumption
Intel X25-m OCZ Vertex Power Consumption

Concluding Remarks

Once again, the data really speaks for itself: the Intel drive uses more power than the older OCZ using the Indilinx controller. I’m not sure if this trend holds true with other Indilinx drives, but I
have a sneaking suspicion they will all perform similarly. While certainly an interesting result, it may very well be disappointing to many who were expecting the Intel drive to be vastly superior to other models.

We’ve also been able to show without any shadow of a doubt that either of these drives will have benefits with regards to power consumption when compared to your typical 5400 RPM laptop drives as expected. Now finally I should mention that this isn’t to say the Intel X25m Gen2 is a bad drive – in fact the opposite is true; it just so happens that it isn’t the drive to buy if you want to save as much power as possible.

Seagate Ships 2TB 6Gb/s Barracuda XT

Seagate is now shipping what they claim is the world’s first SATA 3 hard drive which sports 6Gb/s transfer rates – two times higher than the previous ubiquitous SATA 2 generation interface found on nearly all motherboards and drives today.Seatage Barracuda XT

What we know about the new Barracuda XT so far is that it has 64MB of cache while the industry standard is either 16MB or 32MB and has a total capacity of 2 terabytes, matching Western Digital’s highest capacity offerings. Seagate has also mentioned that the drive uses 500GB platters spinning at a full 7200 RPM, making this monster a four-platter drive. The areal density of the platters is known to be as high as 367 gigabits per square inch.

“Unlike other 2-TB [models] that run at 5400 or 5900-RPM speeds, the
new Barracuda XT drive is built on a full-speed, 7200-RPM, 4-disk
platform,” said Seagate spokesperson David Burks. “Further turbocharged with a huge 64-MB cache and the industry’s new,
high-performance SATA 6Gb/s interface, the Barracuda XT drive is
destined to set a new standard for high-speed desktop performance.”

Burks also went on to explain that the large 64MB cache was added mainly to leverage the faster interface transfer rate: “The XT’s 64MB cache optimizes burst performance and reduces data
throughput bottlenecks, so cache-efficient games and
applications, such as non-linear video editing tools, will experience a
real performance boost right out of the chute.”

While not strictly true as SATA3 has yet to see widespread availability, Marvell, a maker of drive controllers, has said that first-gen SATA 6Gbps controllers are already incorporated in some high end motherboards such as the Asus P755D Premium and the Gigabyte GA-P55-Extreme. What’s more, if you feel a real need for speed and are on a budget then you can expect expansion cards in the very near future which add the new controller to your existing system. The drive is of course backwards-compatible with existing SATA 1.5Gbps and SATA 3Gbps controllers, however.

The new Barracuda XT should be ideally suited for high-performance desktops or low-cost servers according to Seagate and will go on sale immediately for $299, roughly the same price as competing drives from WD which offer a slower RPM and the older SATA 3Gbps interface.

Zune HD Sales High

Microsoft’s new Zune HD sales seemed to be on track over the weekend and very high in fact according to Electronista. The Zune, which was launched Tuesday of last week is Microsoft’s latest attempt at digging into Apple’s market share.

Zune HD The 32GB model of the portable devices is backordered at Amazon for 1-3 weeks and the 16GB version seems to be close behind its bigger brother in that regard.

It also seems that Best Buy is sold out of both models and you’ll have no luck finding the 16GB unit at Fry’s.

That said, you’ll have no problem finding the Zune HD stocked at the Microsoft Store.

Unfortunately, you can’t find these things outside the USA and Microsoft currently has no plans to sell it internationally, yet.

If you want a little bit more information on Microsoft’s latest mp3 player, check out my earlier post about it where I mentioned that the Zune may very well give Apple a run for its money. Like you, I’m still excited about seeing some competition being brought to Apple; quite honestly it’s about time!

House Returns Tomorrow!

I don’t know about you, but I”m incredibly excited about House returning tomorrow on Fox in all its glory with a 2 hour premiere! As you may or may not have noticed, the show’s time slot has moved from its old time on Tuesday (that us fans affectionately called Hughsday) back to Monday at 8/7 central. All that to say don’t forget to set your DVRs and to tune in at the right time. In all honestly, that’s more than fine with me because it just means I get to watch House a day earlier!

House Returns

For anyone who doesn’t remember where we left off, Chase and Cameron finally just got married, but more importantly House was left in the loony bin for having hallucinations of Wilson’s dead girlfriend and Cutner. There was also the whole story of how House thought he’d come clean with Cuddy’s help, then it turned out his mind was making up the whole thing on him. Oh yeah, and he slept with Cuddy in his mind too, which was kind of a buzzkill. In all fairness, we want some real “Huddy” action, none of this made up stuff!

So there we have it. Don’t forget to tune into House tomorrow, and enjoy!

Here’s the official FOX page for House

Wiimote Touch Screen Built into Desk

Last weekend I spent a little time working on a project I’ve been wanting to do for quite awhile: adding touch functionality to the screen that I built into my desk about a year ago. While it’s cool enough to have a “desk screen” I figured it would be even cooler and more useful to use it without needing a mouse. The clear solution was to integrate touch functionality via an IR pen and Wiimote in order to create a rich tablet-like experience. The end result is a very cheap and elegant solution which tracks incredibly well. This is just a preliminary setup using LEDs that are not of the most sensitive wavelength to the Wiimote. What’s more, the LEDs aren’t powerful enough and so I had to point it directly at the Wiimote sensor rather than down towards the display thus leaving a lot of room for improvement.

I’ve ordered some new LEDs from Europe off Ebay which should do the trick and as soon as they get here I’ll get right into building what will be the final product. Once that’s done, I’ll definitely write a how-to guide so that you can do the same thing if you want as well. In the meantime, here’s a short video of the result of the prototype:

802.11n Wi-Fi Standard Finally Approved

It’s only taken 7 years, but the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) has finally approved the faster, longer-range 802.11n wireless standard to replace the good old draft standard. The creation of the 560-page 802.11n amendment required “an extraordinarily wide-ranging technical challenge that required the sustained effort and concentration of a terrific variety of participants.” according to Paul Nikolich, IEEE 802 LAN/MAN Standards Committee Chairman.

Wi-Fi N

The IEEE was also keen to indicate that the final standard will allow most, if not all the wireless equipment built following the old draft standard will function with no additional user effort required or, at the worst with a firmware update. Even though it’s great to see that the standard has finally been set in stone, you do have to wonder what took so long. With already functioning equipment having existed since 2002, you really do have to wonder what the IEEE really doing the whole time…

You can check out the official press release over at Reuters or visit the Wi-Fi Alliance web page.

Canadian Broadband Wiki Launched!

If anybody was wondering why there have been so few updates as of late, it’s because I’ve spent the last few weeks working on a new website that I’m launching today called InternetWiki. The focus of the site is mainly to to provide a resource that people can use to become informed on the debate surrounding Canadian broadband networks and net neutrality. It’s taken some time to learn MediaWiki and get everything set-up and running correctly, but the site is finally ready for public consumption.

I am absolutely looking for contributors to the new site and the goal is for it to be mostly community-driven so if anybody feels that they want to add something to the site, then certainly feel free to do so; no registration is required to edit existing pages.

Perhaps of interest to the more technically-minded of you, the new website is hosted on my home server and is fully accessible over IPv6 which is a first. It also leaves InternetWiki.ca among only a small handful of sites worldwide which have succeeded in providing reliable IPv6 access to date.

Finally, the official URL of the page is http://www.InternetWiki.ca/

InternetWiki Logo

The official mission statement of the site is as follows:

InternetWiki.ca was created as a reference manual to be used by the general public, enthusiasts and industry experts alike to help them better understand technical terms, legislation and other issues surrounding Canadian telecommunication infrastructure and net neutrality. This page is not intended to be a place to attack individuals, organizations, companies or government; it is instead intended to present a neutral point of view on all topics covered.

It has traditionally been a near impossibility to find purely objective information on such topics and so it is InternetWiki.ca’s hope that this will become the largest repository of objective information covering such topics through community support and free, open exchange of information.

While intended to provide a specific focus on Canada, IntetnetWiki.ca will certainly not discourage the creation of topics which relate to telecommunications infrastructure from abroad.