dcomic 537


Hmm, I didn’t realize this until I uploaded the comic; the BKS Ultima of Starcrossed fame makes a cameo appearance here.

Ok, so I had a post for last week, but since J didn’t put anything up, it didn’t go up. But this week I’ve got a couple other tidbits, so that entry will get postponed until I don’t have anything else to say (aka soon[?]). I was commenting to J that these days, NW is more like “my blog with a webcomic on the side”… how true that is, well…

Anyway, this week is two years with HP TC4200. At this point, I have owned this thing longer than the original owner, and the machine itself is going into its fourth year. That’s pretty old for a computer, but with basic computing having reached relatively – er, I couldn’t figure out how to end this sentence; I want to say that since the system requirements for basic computing plateaued a long time ago, I think we’ll start seeing more systems that’ll last many, many years as they do everything needed of them.

I think I’ve mentioned it before, but the Dell tower in my dad’s office hit ten years in December of last year. I think only the case and motherboard are original components in that system, but such is the case with Colette as well. In any case, I don’t really see either getting replaced anytime soon, so my point stands…

The ViewSonic a75f CRT that I still use for testing is also hitting ten years real soon.

At any rate, I’m still very happy with the TC4200. To the extent that if it broke beyond reasonable repair, I would still go back to eBay and buy the same damn thing. There is still nothing on the market that catches my fancy or ticks all the boxes I talked about when I blogged about HP 2730p. The x201t is now out and shipping and if TPFanControl still works, and if it still uses a Wacom digitizer, I will consider trying one… in a few years.

So at minimum it looks like I’ll be holding onto TC4200 for another year or two.

It looks like it’s holding up well, though. The keyboard is finally starting to look pretty shitty now, and a couple posts ago, I mentioned what might become a problem with the display wiring, but overall, no real problems. I think I’ve taken pretty good care of it, though. At the very least, I haven’t dropped it; my sister admits that she’s dropped her ThinkPad X300 off her bike at least twice… but it’s a ThinkPad.

I did a full battery rundown recently on a long day… capacity has finally started dropping. 44WHr became 39WHr. Still pretty damn good for four years. As much as I hate to admit it, Dell batteries are pretty shitty compared to this.

Alright, short this week, I don’t think I have anything else to cover. Should get working on the comic or something…

dcomic 533


Hey. This is the last page of part 7. Whoo.

Anyway, I had another entry planned for today, but something came up that made me write about other things. I had a (minor?) hardware fault with the TC4200 that put an end to nearly two years of trouble-free operation (technically I supposed it’s nearly four years, since I doubt the previous owner had any issues…).

But anyway, about a week ago, I remember powering the machine up from standby and not getting anything on the display. Sometimes it can take this thing up to a minute to resume from standy (I think it has to do with how quickly the wireless card can negotiate a link with the infrastructure – I’m not totally sure about that though), so I didn’t think anything about it…

Until a couple minutes had passed. At that point, I force shut-downed the thing and restarted. When it started back up, it looked like the post screen didn’t show up, but I got a picture at the Windows desktop and thought nothing of it anymore.

Two days ago, I was resuming from standby, and the same sort of thing happened. My first thought was that the CF card was finally going south and corrupting itself, but when I rebooted, I didn’t get a picture at the post screen, and I didn’t get a picture at the Windows desktop either. It looked like the machine was running though, as all the lights seem to come on at the right time, etc.

So I connected my external display (the only CRT in the neighborhood, I bet) and there was my desktop.

So the display was dead. A little strange, I thought, I hadn’t seen any of the traditional symptoms of inverter or backlight failure, and an LCD failure is typically characterized by discolored lines and the loss of like large fractions of the display. But that wasn’t the case, and things got weirder when I noticed that the digitizer wasn’t working either. At this point I had been thinking I’d have to buy a new display, but…

I decided to crack the thing open and take a look.

I’ve cracked open plenty of Dells and other laptops over the past couple years, and the TC4200 remains one of least maintenance friendly. Dell’s machines are always easy to take apart, and it’s nice that they give you a service manual. HP gives you manuals too, and Lenovo does it for ThinkPads, but after that, the industry really fails in this sort of thing. Great, but HP’s manuals don’t really make things much easier.

On the TC4200, all of the screws are a combination Torx and slot screws. Torx is really an ass to work with (especially when I don’t have a Torx set), and the slot is thin and long enough such that my thin flat screws don’t quite bridge the gap and my wide ones are too fat to fit in it. I can usually somehow make my “usual” phillips work somehow… but it’s annoying as hell.

There’s also this bezel right in front of the display that takes great care to remove. The manual makes it look so simple… just lift and pull… but in reality, the display is close enough to the chassis, such that lifting and pulling just isn’t possible. You need to twist it and turn it just the right way to fit it under the display… otherwise you’ll break it. And I broke my first one.

HP also uses a lot of tape (at least relative to Dell). Tape keeps one side of the keyboard connected to the chassis, and it also keeps the display bezel attached to the display. I suppose that makes the entire display assembly feel pretty solid though… enough such that I didn’t think you could dismantle it via conventional methods. There’s no instructions, but you can. I took a leap of faith. But I wouldn’t suggest it done very often because there’s that damn tape.

At any rate, here’s a picture!


It really doesn’t have anything to do with the ultimate problem, though. I just took the display apart to tighten the hinge while I was at it. Unfortunately, most of the play in the hinge is actually caused by the hinge itself, rather than loose screws joining the hinge to the display assembly (which often turns out to be the case in some older Dells).

The actual problem seems to be with the cable connecting the display to the chassis. I suppose since this is a tablet, that group of cables comes under more wear and tear than the equivalent connection in a standard laptop. Just re-seating the cable seems to have solved my original problem for now, but I fear that something is getting stripped inside this bundle of wires (and you can’t see it because the bundle of wires is sheathed), which may eventually require a replacement in the future…

So yeah, that’s that story.

I’m watching the Chobits anime right now. Made in 2002, I’d read the manga a little bit later, and probably a second and third time eventually, but something in the anime caught my eye (either it didn’t exist in the manga or I just didn’t care until now).

Minoru has this display on his desk:


If you can see what’s going on, it’s a screen with a digitizer (he uses a pen most of the time), but the stand is hinged such that it can stand vertically… or at a slant such that you can draw on it like a Cintiq. And it’s hueg. And that just floored me. I can’t believe in the eight years between now and then, no one has actually made something like this. A Cintiq kind of costs a fortune already, but then the cost of adding the special hinge is like icing on the cake. I just can’t believe a market for this doesn’t exist.

If I had the money, I’d totally buy this. I’m talking to YOU, manufacturers.

Ok, ’til next time.

As you can see, there were supposed to be pictures. But my WRT54G kicked the bucket early this week, and the pictures were on the server which is now turned off. So maybe an edit later.

10/02/21: Infrastructure back online. Pictures added.

dcomic 508


My biggest qualm with Win7 (at least with the RC) is that it still takes up more than 7GB on disk (as measured by the size of the Windows folder). I do believe that a large portion of this 7GB is taken up by legacy drivers and whatnot, but it’s still about three times the size of even a year-old XP installation (as measured on my desktop) that has taken up a bit of bloat. I’m fairly certain there will programs like nLite or vLite that can reduce the on-disk footprint, but it’d be nice if Microsoft could do something about this 7GB, which doesn’t even consider programs, page file, system restore, etc.

Other than the disk footprint, the RC doesn’t really seem to eat too many resources, though benchmarks across the web have shown it to be slower than XP in some scenarios. The Pentium M 740 on my TC4200 is just able to playback 720p video without lagging, so the Pentium M 750 on the test machine should be able to do the same, especially since its about a hundred MHz faster. Such is indeed the case, but opening things like task manager whilst a video is playing will cause it to stutter a bit; this doesn’t happen on the 740 with XP Tablet. So the processor takes a bit more load, but the memory usage isn’t out of the ballpark and I think the RC is reasonable in both these regards.

I’m also not too fond of how Vista and Win7 have tried to shuffle a bunch of folders and control panel all over the place to “simplify” the layout of the OS. I’m fairly certain you can probably mess with everything so as to layout the OS like XP, but I’ve been trying to use 7 as it would be out of the box, so I don’t have to tweak it everytime I do a clean install. It’s not too hard to get the general gist of things, but yeah…

Ok, that’s enough about Win7 for now. The really good thing that happened to me is that I finally figured how to make my TC4200 read SDHC cards. Way back in d209, I commented about the fact that, with my CF-SSD setup, I got a meager 6GB of overall storage, with an effective 3.5GB of usable storage. Well, that figure has gone down to like 2GB in the past couple of months, as I’ve loaded a couple more things onto the main drive and as half of the SD cards is full of music.

Because I don’t like to store media on the main drive; this whole business boils down to the fact that I have < 1GB of usable space for anime and whatnot and this has really been getting annoying these past couple months. It means I have to reload the card after I watch two or three episodes and I don’t really have any flexibility in what I can watch without reloading the damn thing. I originally bought a 16GB SDHC with the 4GB CF in anticipation of such a problem, but as I’ve said… SDHC didn’t work.

In December or so, I tried using one of these Addonics dual-CF adapters and a slower 16GB CF along with my 4GB main drive, but the HP BIOS sucks balls and can’t address two physical drives in the single HDD slot, so teh 16GB drive was forever stuck in PIO mode, which is a bunch of fail. Still using the dual-CF adapter since it’s a better fit than my original adapter, but I had to return the 16GB CF.

More recently, someone pointed out that HP had released an updated driver for the Texas Instruments card reader than comes on the TC4200. This driver revision was released in June of 2008, meaing that I didn’t know about it at all, because I bought the TC4200 in March of 2008, and downloaded all my drivers in early April. I used that same set of drivers for my CF reinstallation since they all worked fine. Furthermore, I didn’t expect HP to release a new driver almost three years after the TC4200’s original release.

Now, the guy and HP’s site said the new driver would fix the fact that “The notebook PC does not recognize 4GB SDHC (Secure Digital High Capacity) from SanDisk, Panasonic, Toshiba, etc. when inserted”. Since they only mentioned 4GB SDHC cards, I figured that the original 4GB limit of the SD format would still apply and that SDHC cards greater than 4GB would still not be recognized, so I actually didn’t bother looking into the driver for a while.

Regardless, I ultimately installed the new driver and discovered that it did work with 4GB SDHC and my old 16GB SDHC and that really made my week. No more pokey 2GB crap.

Ok, that’s it for now.

dcomic 495


Comics are starting again. I’ll be trying to draw a ton over the break.

It’s been a year (and, ok, this is really obvious, but 250 – 52 = 198 was how I found this original post) since I bought my HP TC4200, so we’re taking a little bit of time to reflect. You’ll notice that the date on my camera is exactly a year behind. I have no clue how to change it.

There are some new pictures. It looks more or less the same as it did a year ago; despite the relatively heavy use, I think I’ve taken pretty good care of it. It never ceases to suprise me that the plastic trim on the thing is dark blue. Even outdoors, you just never get enough light such that it shows up the way it does with the camera flash. Overall, I don’t think I commented on this before, it’s not what I’d call pretty, but it certainly ain’t ugly like HP’s consumer tablets.

Yes, that’s a Strike Pantsu wallpaper. A dark background saves you a miniscule amount of battery life (unless, for some reason, you spend a lot of battery time idling at your desktop with your screen on; mine’s set to turn off after 2 minutes). Battery life and endurance has been nothing short of phenominal. I was getting somewhere over four hours when this thing was “new”; I am STILL getting just under four hours a year down the line. I run down that battery past 50% every weekday of the academic year.

Of course, I went solid-state sometime in fall of last year which may have helped stave off battery run-down by a bit, but nonetheless, something like 90% of battery capacity in the third year is insane. Maybe the original owner didn’t run down the battery at all, but even with my own usage this batter has been through at least 300 full to half cycles.

Drawing performance, after the initial “learning curve” which was more like “figure out which Windows Tablet features to turn off curve” has been very good. I’ve actually completely given up on using scratch paper internally (ie on homework) and just using this thing instead. I hate dealing with eraser scraps more and more, especially in my dorm as I don’t vacuum on a normal basis. Windows Journal is pretty handy in general.

It’s a little bit underpowered in general… the Pentium M 740 can barely playback 720p and there’s no GPU acceleration or anything fancy like that. The CF-SSD is moderately fast for sequential reads and writes, random reads, but pretty appalling with random writes. OpenCanvas will lag occasionally (whether it’s due to HDD or CPU cap, I wouldn’t know), but I’m hesitant to upgrade the CPU due to power consumption and hesitant to buy a real SSD… as it will be worthless when I upgrade tablets (because the next tablet won’t use a 2.5″ PATA SSD; I’m absolutely certain).

It’s noise where this thing has really spoiled me, though. My 500M ran its fan once in a while; my D830 ran its fan close to 24/7… and these machines had hard drives too. So they were always making noise. The TC4200, after undervolting, never spins up its fan under day-to-day workloads (Internet, word processing, etc). 720p and some youtube videos seem to stress it enough to get that thing to spin up. My E6400 runs its fan maybe 10% of the time. And this is already pushing it for me now.

The point is, with the CF-SSD, the TC4200 is absolutely silent. Almost always. It is amazing.

There are two qualms I have with the TC4200. I’m absolutely serious. Only two. One is minor, one is becoming really, really annoying. The minor element is that it’s kinda chunky and kinda heavy. You look at it compared to the E6400; it’s basically of the same height and depth, just not as wide. But it’s thicker when closed and weighs all of 4.5lbs (I measured this on an accurate cooking scale). The E6400 weights exactly 5lbs.

The other thing is that the damn power supply is different. Different from what? Different from the boatload of Dell PA-10 and PA-12 power supplies that I have. I can take my E6400 to my dorm, to my room, to wherever and I’ll have a power supply there, or an extra one lying around such that I don’t need to pull one out of wherever. With the TC4200 I have one. It’s extremely annoying having to take it everywhere. This is one reason I’ve always bought Dell ’til now. Power fuckin supplies.

I wanted a Dell XT. I really did. I bought one on a whim when Microsoft/eBay was doing their 30% cashback program (which, from a business standpoint, is the dumbest thing I think MS has done for a long time) and I really wanted to like it. It solved both the form factor and power supply issues, but the power consumption was just ridiculous. The TC4200 pulls like 9W at idle and light load; the XT did like 13W at idle. That’s kind of ridiculous.

Needless to say, that made it noisy and have a crappy battery life. Unacceptable given my experience with the TC4200, so I sold it back on eBay. Made a little money too. The problem really stems from the fact that Intel doesn’t let you really undervolt their processors anymore. It’s really, really frustrating. Even with the E6400, I think that would completely eliminate that last 10% of fan on-time.

At any rate, that’s it for now. Go buy a tablet and an anime mousepad.

dupdate 081105


Well, in general I apologize for the consistent lack of comic, but it just ain’t happening these days. Like the comic isn’t happening. Like I’m not drawing and don’t feel like drawing it. Yes, there’s a backlog, but when i don’t draw, I don’t feel like using the backlog unless I have to. So yes, this is another round of doodles.

(3) is actually (4) from last week, finally complete. I think this is one of the best of the lot. (4) just attempts to do the same sort of thing art wise though it kinda falls short. (5) goes for a less zoomed in view with the same sort of thing again. Overall, not bad I’d say.

I was talking to J about drawing bigger and I’m trying to follow through here. All three here are scaled down, but originally about half a sheet of paper in size on paper. So yes, they’ve been kinda copypasted around; you can’t fit 3 halves of paper on one piece.(6) actually looks a bit better scanned; I actually busted out a regular HB pencil for this one o_O.

These are parts of a paintchat done on the 4th. I cropped out my parts in case J wants to use his part as an update at a later point in time. The theme is like “epic everyday activities” or something. Mine are “epic shit” (not so epic), “epic homework” (works a bit better), and “epic rolling eyes” (doesn’t really look it). So this whole thing is kinda fail, sadly, not of the epic variety.

Well this next one is a bit different. That’s a 4GB, 300x Compact Flash card with a CF/Ultra IDE adapter. Yes, CF is the kinda stuff you put in some digital cameras (but not mine; mine is Sony) and on which you can store your blurry twenty megapixel photos that’ll you’ll never look at again (cuz they’re blurry. Cuz camera makers need to focus on taking better pictures, not more megapixels). The thing is, Compact Flash has become pretty fast and pretty cheap lately… not to mention this one is SLC.

When I say fast, I mean fast enough to run Windows. Yeah, the size is kinda limiting, but my dad’s desktop(s) were 8GB and 10GB respectively right up through 2007; there are applications in which you don’t need that much space. Anyways, under there is my upside down TC4200. So you can kinda see where this is going. XP Tablet boots in something like 15 seconds; maybe half the time it took on my 5400RPM mechanical drive.

With a 2GB SD Card, this machine now has a grand total of… 6GB of “disk” space. With XP Tablet and programs taking up 2.5, that’s effectively 3.5. In this day and age, that’s… something like 16 episodes of anime. AKA nothing. It’s pretty nippy though. Effective 40MB/s read and maybe three quarters of that write. Negligible seeks compared to standard spinners (the biggest benefit of SSDs and the like in my opinion).

And I honestly don’t need the space here. All I do with this comp is browse and take occasional notes. And I draw. And sometimes watch anime in bed. My “working set” of files are stored on my E6400 and my extra media is stored on a small external drive. I had basically all of the old 40GB drive free. It’s a bit annoying loading anime to SD or USB before watching, but hey, this is an experiment.

The great Generalachoo has been using one of these for months.

This storage setup is actually a lot like what you get in an early EEE PC (EEEK PC) save that the Pentium M 745 rapes the relevant Atom and Celeron. Running without a page file seems to be fine, even with a “Scant” 1GB of memory. It’s also completely silent which is insane. Battery life has yet to be fully tested, but this is roadtesting week for this thing.

Ok that’s it. I’m tired. It’s 2:30.



Well, again, best time to write these entries seems to be during lunch breaks and stuff. Here’s number one of two paintings I’m planning to do this time around and it’s the first “formal” painting I’ve done on the TC4200 as well. The second one will prolly go up for next week and hopefully I’ll feel like taking care of the story mess before the update after the next.

So really, the TC4200 might be the best art investment I’ve made since buying my original Wacom (The TC4200 was $50 more expensive, but as far as inflation and the devaluation of the dollar goes, it might as well have cost the same XD). Seriously, it is just that much intuitive to be drawing lines where you can see them, rather than on a standard tablet and looking at a screen. Whether or not this makes a significant improvement in art quality is still to be seen.

In general the TC4200’s not an extremely powerful machine and at least in general drawing, XP Tablet edition seems to give me a bit more lag than my Intuos 3 and my old 500m. Furthermore, it doesn’t do a great job processing those really large brush strokes either, and image manipulation (rotating, resizing, blah blah blah) take significantly longer than on the D830. Ah well. Pentium Ms are still cool in my book.

It’s not necessarily a bad thing, though. My paintings starting from C071120 have been following this trend of increasing brush sizes and especially with the last series of paintings have been looking – for lack of a better word “impressionist”. C080126 is pretty much the pinnacle of this trend. After considering it a bit, I’m really against this trend, so I’ve brought the brush size back down to 10-15 ish for this illustration. Not that the TC4200 can happily render anything much bigger than, say, 30px. Small improvement over the 500m.

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it before, but I’ve also reached the conclusion (and I don’t really know if I concluded this in the past) that it is much harder for good color to make up for bad lineart than it is for bad lineart to make up for poor coloring. Like in the case of Yuki I think the lineart was pretty fluid and it made up for the whole “impressionist” mess, but with Fate here, I feel like the lineart is pretty stiff and the painting (which I consider to be slightly superior) doesn’t do as good a job of covering up. Maybe just me though. Next painting is going to move away from my current lineart tracing strategy, though there doesn’t really seem to be a good fast fix for improving the quality of linearts in general XD. If only, if only.

Some other annoyances with painting on the HP. When you flip the thing into tablet mode, the screen covers up both the keyboard and the mouse. You don’t really need either of these when you’re doing the actual painting, but they’re nice to have. Keyboard moreso than mouse. A lot of times with the Intuos, I find myself keeping my left hand on the Ctrl + Z combination for quick undos. I’ve set one of my tablet hotkeys to do an undo, but it’s really annoying to keep reaching over to it. External keyboard you say? All my keyboards are PS/2 and the TC4200 is too new to accept such stone age devices.

It’s really annoying trying to keep the screen clean as well. I end up putting a square of tissue or paper towel under the side of my hand when I write/draw on the thing so as to prevent smudges from getting on the screen. One reason I really don’t like standard touch screen devices, all you’re gonna do is get smudges all over that freaking display.

Ultimately a tablet pc seems a nice thing to have for art. Maybe I’ll consider upgrading to like an X60 or X61 tablet somewhere along the line. The lowest X60 tablet I’ve seen has gone for an amazing $650, down from like $950 when I was looking for the TC4200. Prolly when the battery here starts giving out (Which seriously may not be long considering how heavily I’m using it).

dcomic 461


461 and drawn up to 480. Will try to draw 481 on tablet (again).

So J and I had a paintchat session just a little before I’m writing this update and I chose to draw on the TC4200 instead of my Intuos3 (about the 4th drawing session I’ve had on this thing; I’ve done a few doodles in class and a comic on the tablet PC as well) and I think the benefits are really beginning to show – aka, it’s beginning to feel a bit easier to use the tablet PC, maybe even over the Intuos.

One of the contributing elements is that between now and, errr… before, I figured out a major contributor to some of the lag I was getting in OC1.1 and less significantly in OC4.3. It turns out that there’s some dumbass setting that’s checked by default (press and hold the pen for right click) that somehow induces lag in the aforementioned drawing programs. Another setting “flick gestures” (or something like that) was another contributor. Turning off those two settings (and possibly the clean install) seriously made drawing a much more pleasant experience.

So here’s the chat from 08/01/09, about three months ago on the conventional tablet:

And here’s the chat from yesterday, on the TC4200. I’ve cut out J’s part on both chats in case he wants to use them as his own update (which I’d guess he would; both pictures have some color adjustments).

Anyways, I don’t think there’s a question whether or not the yesterday image is better than the 08/01/09 image. The issue is that it’s hard to tell if the improvement is due to the benefits provided by drawing on the TC4200 (and I couldn’t really pinpoint what those are besides just being able to see what you draw) or some other external factor. I don’t want to come right out and say “due to an increase in artistic ability” because that could mean anything here. Another thing to consider is that this paintchat took barely half an hour (if the OC millisecond counter is to be believed) and I definitely felt like I was erasing much less than with the Intuos.

Nonetheless, TC4200 drawing seems to be looking up now, thouhg it remains to be seen how well it holds up in a “real” completed piece. I think it’ll do really well for the most part; I just don’t realy have the time to push out a completed piece at the moment. I’m mildly worried that drawing on a screen will forfeit my already crappy abilities to draw without a screen (aka with the Intuos3), and render THAT 400 dollar investment useless. to take an optimistic perspective, it might make me BETTER on the Intuos.

Why that matters at all is because there are limitations (I think) to the TC4200. The machine is relatively slow (something like just over twice as slow as the D830 on wPrime 32M, BUT about 40 percent faster than my 500m). Because all my graphics programs are single threaded (especially OC; that seems to make no use whatsoever of the second core) it shouldn’t make too much of a difference. Nonetheless, I had the Pentium M 740 running full tilt whenever I was actively painting in the paintchat yesterday… but I’m wondering if that’s just the networking mode that eats up so much computing juice.

Specially when I keep undoing and redoing big filters in PSP, it’s not that helpful to have a single core Pentium M.

I think there’s some program I could use to make the TC4200 act like an input device for another computer but I haven’t looked into it nor know how good the performance will be. If it’s decent though, it means I’ve got a $450 Cintiq which doubles as a laptop. That’s some pretty sick shit there.

Also, first paintchat session yesterday after a connection broke:

… and that’s all for now.

dcomic 460



So I drew a comic (479) on the TC4200 last week. For the most part it sucked balls, but it looked like a comic and not a piece of crap. I’m at least becoming confident that while there’s a upper limit to art quality that needs to be pushed forward, there’s also a lower limit to art quality that’s slowly being pulled up as well. Like my worst art now is still better than my best art two years ago. Something like that; at least in the same vein.

On the whole, I’m very happy with this laptop. There are very few downright less-than-good things I can say about it, and while drawing seems to be one of them, part of the problem may just be my less-than compitent tablet-based drawing skills.

There are a lot of small touches that, while not very significant individually, I really liked on the whole. I might have mentioned that the keys seem to be textured to resist wear a bit better than standard Dell keys. The clickers on the trackpad and touchpad are also reubberized for the same effect, as is the palmrest, which seems to have a protective sheet over it. I like how they did away with the legacy ports and included three USB ports instead (and one on each side of the machine to boot, rather than three in back or something). I even comment on the power cord; it’s about twice as long as the ones I’ve had on Dells and I can use the machine on my bed in my dorm. That’s a really nice change. Then there’s the hidden latch and the little scrolling thing on the trouchpad and I could go on and on. Regardless, my 500m has worked five long years and deserves a rest.

I did a clean install over the weekend with the 80GB drive I raped from my 500m and lo and behold, HP’s software still kinda sucks. There were like three or four drivers for all the little custom buttons and inputs on the tablet and I wasn’t really sure which ones did exactly what and which ones I needed so I played around with them and stuff still doesn’t totally work. Some of the functions overlap with the functions provided by Windows Tablet and it’s all a very confusing mess. The tablet driver was also kinda flaky, so I stuck with the Wacom driver (though I had honestly hoped that HP’s driver would help the drawing). This is actually the first time I’ve done an installation from a non-proprietary external optical drive (my dad’s Latitude X300 has a proprietary one) and I’m surprised how smoothly it went, especially considering I used an old desktop IDE optical drive with an adapter instead of something more conventional (no other choice here: I sold my external Plextor drive a long time ago).

Tablet mode actually had some uses that I didn’t foresee. When you’re reading manga or a PDF file, you can use it like an ebook and have a portrait screen. When you’re watching anime in an inconvenient location, it can also be easier to switch to slate mode than to have the thing in laptop mode. So on and so forth.

Interestingly, it’s also hard to find wallpaper for the thing. You only need 1024 x 1024, but it needs to work centered in landscape or portrait mode, which can be challenging. At the moment, I’m using this rather simple Aria wallpaper which just happens to work without any modification (though the wallpaper I had on my 500m nearly worked well) [100614: dead link].

So I changed the hard drive here in part to squeeze the battery and in part to increase storage capacity. I bought the drive a while ago specifically for the low power consumption (and it was on sale at Fry’s; planned to make a non-external-powered external drive, but that never materialized). It’s a Fujitsu MHV2080AH (80GB, more than I thought I’d ever need at the time, and still more than enough considering how I impulsively delete/move stuff now and then. All of my machines now have 80GB drives; unless you count Colette’s pseudo-external 500GB) and it’s a little loud, but it as an idle power draw of 0.6 watts, which is still pretty damn good for a 5400rpm drive. The 40GB Hitachi 5k100 that came with the TC4200 drew 0.9 watts. The Hitachi 4k80 I had in my 500m drew the same. Active power consumption is about 2 watts for all three drives, but we aren’t doing any really heavy disk work going between class to class. Ideally what we’d want is a Hitachi 4k120 drive (0.3 watts idle, desite being a 4200rpm drive), but I’d have to buy it and I haven’t been able to find it cheap.

In my battery squeeze quest, I considered swapping the Pentium M 740 with a Pentium M 1.3/1.4 (11-27 watt TDP versus 6-22 watt TDP, respectively), but I was in Newark with my good friend generalachoo who suggested that I should undervolt the 740 instead. Since all laptop BIOSes are a piece of crap, this implies software undervolting, which is not a terribly elegant solution, but extra battery life is more important than elegance here. Using the free RMClock, I was able to stably shave abut 0.3 volts off every SpeedStep level on the 740, dropping the idle voltage from 0.9880 volts to the lowest allowed voltage (at least by RMClock) of 0.7000 volts. Full throttle voltage went from 1.3080 volts to 1.0040 volts. Not necessarily a good representation of temps, since I’ve been using it on my bed for a few hours now. I could have brought in the Pentium 1.3 or 1.4, but like I said, RMClock wouldn’t let me bring those below 0.7 volts, so it’d be a pointless loss in performance, considering the machine is idle 90 percent of the time.

All in all I estimate that I’ve gained about 30-40 minutes of battery from the drive and the undervolting. I haven’t actually done the whole battery drain test, but based on the relatively accurate (at least for this battery) windows battery monitor, I should be getting anywhere from 4.5 to maybe even FIVE hours under light loads (notetaking and browsing only with screen brightness at uber-low). The 740 also idles at least ten degrees lower than it used to, which is a pretty good drop as far as undervoltng goes. Got a similar result with Colette’s Athlon XP. Completely stable under Orthos/Prime95 for at least an hour on each Speedstep setting (and significantly more at lowest and highest) I might add.

Anyways, I’ve been playing with the undervolting settings on my D830 as well, but I ain’t done with that yet. I was hoping to draw another comic over the weekend, but it didn’t happen. Oh well. That’s all for now. Have a nice day.

dcomic 459


459! This update actually being written on time! (as opposed to early XD)

So. There is absolutely nothing special about today’s comic. At all. Therefore, I have absolutely nothing to say about today’s comic. At all. Over the break I drew 477 and 478, but they were both pieces of crap, which is somewhat unfortunate. Too much time got taken up for the car project and other odds and ends, whose status ensure that I will have plenty of entry material for the coming weeks.

Anyways. This entry is being written at dinner on my old laptop whilst I am eating my dinner. Sadly, it may be the last entry being written on this computer. My TC4200 came in the mail today and will begin some real roadtesting tomorrow when I start classes for spring quarter; if it lives up to my expectations I’ll reformat and retire the 500m at the end of this week.

I’ve been playing with the TC4200 for all of the last five hours and my thoughts have largely been positive.

This TC4200 is around two years old, assuming the memory (which is timestamped) was not replaced within the machine’s lifetime. I bought it from an ebay seller in Canada for what I think is the relatively small sum of $450 USD. An X41T, as I have said before, would have cost me $600. The TC4200 has a 1.733GHz (technically that should be .733 repeating; fractional bus speeds ftw) Dothan Pentium M 740, 512MB of DDR2 533 (also repeating) memory (actually a downgrade from my 500m which currently has a full GB), a 40GB 5400RPM drive, 12.1″ screen, blah blah blah. Physically, it’s an interesting change for one who has only used a long line of Dell.

When I first powered the thing on, the fan kicked in like a bitch for a couple seconds (I really hate how some desktop graphics cards and motherboards do the same thing; it’s really annoying) before it loaded into Windows in about a minute. The BIOS on this computer is a piece of junk; it’s very poorly layed out if you ask me. Dell’s more recent BIOS iterations have been falling into the same groove, which is somewhat unfortunate.

The guy probably didn’t load the thing with an HP recovery disk, but there was still a substantial amount of crap I didn’t need in the provided installation so I spent a few minutes deleting some stuff and setting Windows to my preferred settings (I don’t have the software to do a full reformat here in my dorm, which is, again, unfortunate).

After piddling with all the litte settings and making sure basic functionality was all good (wireless, ethernet, USB, blah blah blah), I obviously flipped the screen down and tried the tablet mode. I kinda know how to use XP tablet edition having used a TC1100 and an X41T, but when you’re trying to do day-to-day tasks in tablet mode, things get annoying somewhat quickly (I guess it could just be me not used to it yet, of course).

Writing on the TC4200 is actually quite pleasant. Tablet PC edition’s handwriting recognition and correction software is usually much better than I thought, but can have fits of random which J has seen on AIM. The really big thing is that it doesn’t like interpreting symbols and it tries to correct words that it doesn’t know (like a more forceful version of autoformat/spell check). “Writing” in AIM with J, it makes all my “meh”s “men” and all my “cuz”s “out”, etc. There are also some circuitous functions to backspace or delete or insert, etc, but like I said, overall, better than I thought.

Drawing seems to be a different story. When you simply move the mouse around the screen there’s a bit of lag, like the mouse has a bit of intertia and you’re pulling the dog on a leash. I’m pretty sure this is intentional, but I have no idea how to turn it off. This lag seems to either go away or not be a bother when you write, but somehow it’s different for drawing.

Drawing performance, oddly enough, seems to vary across programs! Drawing performance is pretty much crap in OpenCanvas 1.1; it lags quite a bit and I have a hard time doing precise strokes. Paint is actually a bit better, and OpenCanvas 4 offers performance that’s not too much worse than my Intuos3 tablet. This leads me to believe this whole mess is a software problem, so hopefully I can find some way to get rid of it, if not just suck it up and get used to it.

Overall, drawing performance is a bit worse than I had hoped for. I guess that’s why a Wacom Cintiq starts at $1000. Overall computing performance is better than my 500m by default (1.73GHz Dothan should be just under 50 percent faster than my 1.4GHz Banias), so I have no complaints there.

Battery life is very impressive. I’ve had the thing browsing and playing music on and off to simulate my usage patterns in class and it’s within the fourth hour as I write this. and down only seventy six percent. This is simply amazing. I am definitely impressed. To boot, this is with a relatively high power (drawing) Pentium M and a not so energy conservative Hitachi hard drive. I could easily see 7-8 hours with the normal extended battery, maybe up to HALF A DAY with the expensive 12-cell extended battery. Those figures are simply incredible.

It’s not as light as I would have hoped. Then again, four pounds must just not be that much lighter than 5 pounds, since 5 pounds just isn’t that much lighter than 6 pounds. Then again, I went to the Stanford bookstore today and picked up (pick up as in physically pick up, not as in purchase or anything like that) a Lenovo X300 and a Macbook Air, and holy crap where they light. And thin. I don’t like Macs, but holy cow that thing is an impressive piece of engineering.

At this point, the TC4200 has just gone into standby (at 5 percent battery) just under its FOURTH HOUR.

So. Pictures. You can see the size difference between the TC4200 and my D830. This is the first ultraportable class machine I’ve owned; the D830 is considered “mainstream”, though the D830 is a bit lighter than most lower-grade 15″ machines. On the other hand, I think the TC4200 is heavy for its size. It’s also pretty thick with respect to say, the XPS 1330 or a Sony TZ (or is that SZ? or ST? Goddamn you Sony and your queer numberiing), but to someone who started with a 6lb 14″ laptop in 2002, it’s pretty darn small. Sorry if the pics load slow. Comcast seems to have throttled my up bandwidth even more…

That’s it for now.