Saturday, March 12, 2011

RM Clock for 64-bit Processors

Nice little guide to de-sabotage the work done by Dell to speed throttle the Retardaron 1521s. This nice little piece of Russian software forces the CPU to run at max speed 24-7 no questions asked regardless of what the Dell Bios thinks. I like.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Utility to set things right with wrong-headed Dell power supplies

Apparently, this utility will allow the CPU to run as normal when a non-Dell power supply is plugged into a Dell. This is especially useful because even Dell itself badges non-Dell power supplies as Dell power supplies, and then we are left twisting in the wind!

Thanks CPU Rightmark! No thanks to you, Dell!

Slow Inspiron 1521 Problem Revisited

According to Wikipedia, all Dells have issues with slowness after being plugged in because of proprietary, chipped power supplies. In other words, they want you to buy the official Dell stuff for 3x the price. That these proprietary powers supplies and adapters are also subject to breaking down easily and causing the computers to run slow doesn't bother them at all. In fact, it's probably a great marketing strategy to convince you to "upgrade" to the next "generation" (if you can call their warmed-over models that) of the Retardaron or whatever. See the Wiki entry:

Power supply issues

Most Dell laptop computers have a special external power supply (PSU) which cannot be replaced by a third-party universal supply. The PSU has a chip which produces a special signal identifying the PSU as by Dell and specifying its power, and a special 3-pin connector (minus, plus, and ID). If a power supply not made by Dell is used, and the cable near the connector becomes damaged as is not infrequent after some use, the battery stops charging and the CPU runs slower, although the computer can be used indefinitely so long as it remains plugged in. If this problem is present at startup the message "The AC power adapter type cannot be determined. Your system will operate slower and the battery will not charge" is displayed. This will continue until the external PSU is replaced. A few third-party suppliers make power supplies with specific provision for Dell computers at lower prices than Dell's. It is possible to work round the slowdown, but not the battery charging, by installing a CPU clock utility [14]. On some models (the 9100 for instance), the problem can be worked around by starting the computer without a battery installed and fitting the battery after the computer has booted.

Another problem arises after much use with the motherboard power connector; springy metal parts which contact the outside of the plug lose their springiness and fail to make contact so that power does not reach the computer. The "official" solution is to replace the connector on the motherboard, which requires partial disassembly of the computer and unsoldering of a part with several pins; many companies charge a considerable sum for the work involved. Various simple alternatives have been suggested; for example a thin "skin" of solder on the outside of the barrel of the connector on the PSU (with care not to overheat the connector's plastic parts; and this thickened connector should not be used with other, not faulty, Dells as it will stretch the springs).

These problems are discussed in detail, and solutions and workarounds suggested, in a discussion on the Tom's hardware site [15].

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Inspiron 1521 running slow as hell with power cord plugged in

Well, it's been a couple years since I bought this machine and I can tell you it's been one ordeal after another. About 8 months into use, the machine start slowing down like you wouldn't believe (slower than my old desktop P2) just doing simple things such as viewing gmail or working in Microsoft Word. Sometimes it would just hang there for about 2 minutes while the little clock icon ticked annoyingly by. Clean installs of Windows doesn't work; neither vista nor 7.

I turned off Powernow! and turned on highest performance for the hard drive in BIOS, but the problems remains. This is a fairly well documented problem on the net, with some people suspecting CPU throttling when the CPU gets too hot (not an issue as I have a mains fan blowing right into the underside, and it's still slow as frozen syrup), use of bargain bin thermal paste, or some other issue.

This Inspiron 1521 is now out of warranty and my only recourse is to not buy Dell again in the future. $400 is not cheap when you have to deal with a 1-2 second lag for every character that you punch into the keyboard (like is happening right now as I type this blog post).

One other item that bugs me is the horrific static noise when I listen to music or try to record something with this laptop. Apparently, the designers didn't think to solder a few things well enough and everyone who has bought the 1521 is now dealing with static noise. During the first year I had this laptop, I sent it in twice and they pretty much just cleaned the fan without addressing the static issue. They may have replaced the sound card with a refurbished one, but if the basic design is at fault, this doesn't change anything and indeed it hasn't.

I won't buy a Dell again. It's just not cost effective having to deal with such problems every single day; I suffer too much of a drop in productivity. Right now I'm looking into a Sager which costs nearly $1K, but of which there are nothing but accolades in regards to its performance and reliability. I do believe that laptop makers can make a quality $400 laptop and still make profit; Dell just doesn't want to. And when they drop the ball, they don't admit it. In fact, it's like they've dropped the ball, it got punctured by a couple of stray nails, and then run over by an 18-wheeler car, and then they sell you the ball and tell you it's brand new and of great quality and value. When you find out the truth and ask them to fix it, they pretend like nothing is wrong.

Dell, you had your chance. You blew it.