Tuesday, December 22, 2009


I'm in the process of learning to solder and de-solder stuff. My first job was a Gigabyte nForce4 motherboard with some bad caps. I replaced a total of five 3300uF 6.3V capacitors and I must say it wasn't easy. However, I'm confident that with practice it's going to become much much easier. Most of all I had trouble with removing solder from holes and soldering new caps back in. Later on I found a very nice guide on-line which actually recommends using higher temps (350C) and a wider tip. They also recommend using a stainless steel pin to remove solder from holes. I'll give it a try one of these days as there's plenty of work left.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Christmas is early!

Since a picture is worth a thousand words, here are two pix of my latest tools: Proxxon Ib/E rotary tool and Weller WS81 soldering iron!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Hardware pricing SI vs. DE vs. UK

Every time I need to buy a new piece of hardware, I do some research to see where I can get the best price. Lately I've been finding out that virtually everything is cheaper abroad, even with the added cost of postage! What the heck? Something is obviously rotten in the state of Denmark or should I say Slovenia. Here are some of the items I bought (or consider buying) recently:

As you can see, the difference is not to be ignored. What I don't understand is where it comes from? All three (UK, DE and SI) are members of the EU so you obviously can't blame it on import taxes. If you ask me, it's either greed or something completely different. If you know the answer, leave a comment :) Cheers!

Prices were taken from the following websites and do not include shipping costs:

Thursday, November 26, 2009

nanoPC: scrapped

Unfortunately, the mainboard is toast and I can't get a replacement which takes me back to the drawing board. Since getting a new nano-ITX mainboard would cost me a small fortune, I decided to go back to mini-ITX. The new HTPC will be based on Atom dual core and nVidia Ion chipset which should allow for smooth 1080p playback. Next in line is also a 32" LCD TV. Lets hope it all works out nicely.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

nanoPC: follow-up

The board turned out to be problematic (probably a bad memory slot) so I had to return it. Thankfully it was still under warranty and I'm now waiting for the replacement. I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

nanoPC: near completion

As you can see from the pictures, my nanoPC is now assembled. I still need to add a remote control and a fan controller for the CPU fan. I had a lot of problems installing the components because the case is so small. If you're using a SATA hard drive, installation will be more difficult because the SATA connector sticks out more than a flat IDE cable connector. Forget the angled connectors as there is not enough space between the bottom of the case and the hard drive so it simply won't fit. I believe the same goes for round IDE cables.

The biggest problem of all was the supplied ATX cable which comes with a full-size 20-pin ATX connector. Why they don't supply you with this cable is beyond me. It is inexpensive and clearly takes up much less space in the already crowded case. On a side note, I managed to cram an Intel miniPCI wireless card in there. In order to do that, I had to shorten the screws which stick out from the bottom of the case.

As for the OS, I'm going to give Ubuntu 9.04 a try. Hopefully, hardware is well supported. Keep your fingers crossed!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Thursday, October 8, 2009

nano-ITX project

I now have just about everything I need to start my HTPC project:

+ Via Epia N10000E Nano-ITX
+ 1GB PC2700 Kingston SODIMM
+ Seagate 120GB SATA disk 3.5"
+ Silverstone Lascala LC08 ohišje
+ ATi Remote Wonder remote control

Still need a slim DVD-RW drive, a mini-PCI wireless card and an S-Video cable...

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Price Is Right

Extreme optimism in action:

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Solved: Unable to install chipset drivers

Download the latest drivers from Intel's website:
- Intel Matrix Storage Manager 32-bit XP Pro
- Intel Chipset Software Installation Utility 32-bit XP Pro

Slipstream the drivers contained within the 'Storage Manager' into the SP3 installation CD using nLite. After Windows installation is complete, you should be able to install Chipset drivers (see above). I believe that the chipset driver provided by Toshiba is either corrupt or incomplete.

After the described procedure, I was able to install the rest of the drivers and finish the installation.

New laptop problems

Two days ago I successfully slipstreamed SP3 and all the available Toshiba drivers onto a Windows XP installation CD with the help of nLite. Unattended installation went by flawlessly, the problem appeared when I tried to install Intel chipset drivers. No matter what I tried, setup would inevitably get stuck in the middle. I tried downgrading BIOS but that didn't help. While googling for the answer I read that you're supposed to install the drivers in a particular order. Wtf? Well, this means another go at slipstreaming just SP3 & SATA drivers and pray that it works. If it doesn't, I might end up having to use Vista whether I like it or not...

Friday, July 17, 2009

Desktop replacement

By a sheer stroke of luck I was offered to buy a new but slightly damaged Toshiba Satellite Pro A200-1NB laptop at 50% off of the original price! I intended to spend about the same amount of money on upgrading my existing 4 year old PC to a Core 2 Duo platform. The specs are quite impressive and the only thing missing is a better graphics card. This makes is an excellent desktop replacement which it's going to become as soon as I manage to exorcise Vista Business edition that came pre-installed with the laptop. Mind you, my old Toshiba Portege M100 is now for sale.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Work in progress...

There's a number of projects I wanted to do in the past few months but never found the time:
- finish the IBM Model M mod
- Apple Newton keyboard adapter for use with HP Jornada 7xx series
- DE9 to PS/2 adapter for a great looking industrial PC keyboard
- install that 4x20 LCD screen I bought months ago
- battery rebuild for my Psion Teklogix Netbook Pro
- update retro-museum.org homepage

Monday, July 6, 2009

Namco TV game

I recently bought one of those Namco 5-in-1 TV games and boy was I pleasantly surprised. Two games I liked the most are Pac-Man and Dig Dug. I also liked Galaxian which is a pretty interesting variation of Space Invaders. The last two games are Bosconian and Rally-X but I can't say I enjoyed them much. The 'console' is quite well made yet a bit bulky.and can be difficult to hold for long. It's powered by four alkaline batteries and there's no AC adapter plug. Luckily the batteries last a very long time.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Super Nintendo

Two days ago I was offered a complete Nintendo SNES system with 2 gamepads, 9 games, Game Boy adapter and 4 GBC games for 20€. Of course I went for it! Turns out the system is in full working order and all the games run. I also tested the SNES I bought six months ago - works like a charm. I'm now looking for some SNES games like Donkey Kong Country, Mario Kart, Bomberman, Starwing, etc. Let me know, if you want to sell or trade. I got some Sega Mega Drive and Sega Master System games for trade.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Booting Linux from Compact Flash Pt.1

My first job was finding suitable hardware. I didn't want to sacrifice any of my existing setups so I decided to build a whole new computer based on Intel's Pentium III chip. The next step was chosing a suitable chipset. Since I wanted a system that would be as quiet as possible, I needed to passively cool the CPU with the help of Zalman CNPS-6000 copper heatsink. My other requirement was having at least 768MB of RAM. I actually had two Slot-1 440BX motherboards lying around and a number of DIMM modules sized 128MB and 256MB. Unfortunately both boards proved to be inadequate. If I went for Soyo 6BA-IV+ I would either have to buy 512MB modules or forget the passive cooling part as Zalman heatsink obstructed two DIMM slots out of four. Finally, after giving it lots of thought, I decided Via Apollo Pro 133T chipset was the way to go.

After several days of searching, I picked up a really cheap setup consisting of an Abit VH6T board, Pentium III 800MHz and three sticks of 512MB ECC RAM. This was to be my new platform.

- End of part 1 -

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Trivia: CR2032

Most of us geeks eventually get to 'meet' this button cell battery that powers the RTC (real-time clock) and CMOS SDRAM. Funny how I only now, after many years of dealing with computers, found out what CR2032 actually stands for. It's very simple: 20 mm diameter, 3.2 mm height!

Monday, February 16, 2009

NBP: Intel PRO/Wireless 2011B

I recently purchased two Intel PRO/Wireless 2011B PCMCIA cards on eBay and recieved them the other day. Both look as good as new and even came with the manuals and CDs. What's best is that these cards are Plug and Play as far as the Netbook Pro is concerned. They also support 128-bit WEP and have no trouble connecting to an AP with a hidden SSID. I have yet to test them with the Jornada but my guess is it will probably require additional drivers. Compared to the Orinoco Gold, they stick out less and aren't as bulky. Signal strength appears to be about the same.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

GPRS Palm Tutorial

1. First of all, create a new connection and name it. Since you'll be using the phone as a modem, select "Connect to: Modem". Next, select IrDA or Bluetooth and the device (phone) you'll be using for this connection. After you're done, click Details... and move to the next step.

2. Here you have to enter the Init String supplied by your mobile operator. Save by clicking OK twice and move to the final step.

3. Go to "Preferences > Network". All you have to do in this step is click the Preferences tab and create a new connection. Name it, enter the username and password provided by your mobile operator, pick the connection you created in the first step and finally enter the phone number. The example below is for slovene Si.mobil. Provided you did everything right, the Connect button should get you connected.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Netbook Pro tips & tricks

I recently wanted to install drivers for my Avaya Wifi card through ActiveSync. Infrared was my only option since I don't own the USB sync cable. Normally this shouldn't be a problem but it was in this case! I figured it out in the end. There's an Irda Switch option in the Control Panel . All I needed to do was check the 'Enable Irda Switch transmit data polarity' checkbox and voila, I was able to sync no problem.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Where to?

Where is this blog headed? Well, at the moment it seems to be sailing into the Handheld PC waters. Palm vote was mine and the one for Retro Computing is probably from Andy :) The poll will be left open until the time runs out (12 days) however the focus of the blog will almost certainly end up on Handheld PC with occasional articles about Palm and possibly Retro Computing.

At this time I'd like to ask you to suggest a new name for the blog. Comments are open.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

About Blog Contents

While I enjoy writing about different things, I'm beginning to feel this blog is missing a common thread. This would probably help attract more readers which is what I'm trying to achieve. I see no point in writing a blog that will only serve itself. I'm currently thinking about covering mostly Handheld PC form-factor devices, Palm OS based devices and peripherals for both. There are also other options and I'll soon be posting a poll about what you'd like to read. Please leave a comment, if you have any suggestions or just want to express your opinion.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Game Review: Alan Probe Amateur Surgeon

You take on a role of Alan Probe, a pizza delivery boy who dreams of becoming a master surgeon. The story begins with Alan, distracted by his medical magazines, crashing his delivery van into a solitary hobo. The guy then guides you through the whole operation where you have to put his rib cage back together. This part of the game is basically a tutorial and it introduces the tools you'll need in the beginning. The hobo (who turns out to be Dr. Bleed) will also assist you during the largest part of the first chapter, giving you tips about the surgical procedures as you go.

When I first saw the game title it brought back the memories of an old game called Life & Death. Fortunately, Alan Probe: Amateur Surgeon is far from it in terms of complexity. Its cartoonish graphics, black humor and unusual characters quickly suck you in. The first couple of patients are easy enough to operate on. At your disposal there's an array of various improvised surgical instruments such as your trusty pizza cutter, a cigarette lighter, a corkscrew, a car battery and even a chain-saw! You can access the instruments by clicking the icons or by pressing the appropriate number keys, which is much faster and soon becomes neccessary.

As you operate you have to pay attention to your patient's heart-rate and the timer. If the heart-rate drops too low or the time runs out, your patient dies and you have to restart the level. The same happens, if you do the wrong action too many times.

Overall gameplay is great and the game isn't too hard, except for a few patients, but it does become very repetitive over time. You will soon realize that most of the time you have to deal with closing wounds over and over again. This is made more difficult by the fact that sometimes the lighter and gel don't register properly. As a consequence it takes you longer to 'fix' cuts that are close together. On the other hand, most injuries are diverse and wacky enough to keep you interested throughout the game.

+ great gameplay
+ cartoonish graphics
+ plenty of levels
- sometimes hard to close wounds
- repetitiveness

Rating: 9/10


Christmas Edition:

Monday, January 5, 2009

HPC News

My Case Logic external hard drive case review was published by HPC:Factor today and you can read it by clicking here.

I recently became interested in forum userbars. Since I didn't want to use an existing userbar, I decided to create my own. There are many tutorials available on-line: here and here for example. You can find the pixel font and the instructions on how to use it here.