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.