Archive for the ‘Hardware’ Category

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How to upgrade memory on an Acer Aspire One

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

My Acer Aspire One came with 1GB of memory, and after installing Windows 7 on it, that 1GB has become inadequate. I bought 2GB of 800MHz DDR2 memory on Newegg for just over $20. This is great value for the money, and improved the overall performance of the netbook significantly. This quick guide will show you how to upgrade the RAM on an Acer Aspire One AO751h, but it might apply to many other laptops as well.

NOTE: Follow this guide at your own risk. I am not responsible for any damages or injuries caused by following these instructions. Your laptop may differ from mine.

1. Buy the correct RAM for your laptop. For my Acer, I bought one 2GB stick of Corsair 800MHz DDR2. Make sure you’re buying laptop memory, not desktop memory. The laptop RAM is obviously a lot smaller.

2. Shut down the laptop. Disconnect your power supply and remove the battery. Ground yourself by touching something metal. I touched my steel computer case. This should dissipate any static electricity that is on you.

3. Get a small phillips screwdriver and unscrew the two screws holding the memory bay on. Then gently pry it off – it is still held in by plastic clips.

4. Remove your RAM by pulling the two tabs on the sides apart, and pulling the RAM up and out. Be gentle.

5. Install the new RAM by pulling the two tabs on the sides apart, and gently inserting the RAM into the slot. Once it starts going in, release the tabs, and when fully inserted the memory module should snap into place.

6. Screw the cover back on and push down on it a bit to get it to clip in. Reinstall your battery and power on the laptop. Right click on “Computer” on your desktop or in your start menu, and click “Properties”. If you see 2GB of memory indicated, the install was a success!


Posted in Desktops & Laptops, Hardware, Performance, Tutorials | No Comments »

Making a Blinking LED Light

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

If you’ve ever looked into making your own blinking LED light, you have probably seen this tutorial. However, if you follow that schematic, you won’t be able to power many LED’s because the power source they will be using is the 555 timer. So, for this modified project, a transistor was used to allow a much higher number of LED’s to be used. This way, the LED’s are powered directly from the power source instead of the 555 timer.

The transistor’s middle pin is wired to the output of the 555 timer (pin 3). The LED’s get their positive voltage from the battery, and the negative side of the LED’s goes to the transistor. The third pin of the transistor goes to the negative on the battery.

Here are some photos of the process, including the end result. This won’t be a tutorial because the Instructables instructions are very easy to follow. However, feel free to ask any questions in the comments below. Also note that you can change the blinking speed by putting in a different capacitor.


Posted in Hardware, Multimedia, Tips & Tricks | No Comments »

How to change an iPod Nano battery

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010

This very simple tutorial will show you how to change the battery in a first-generation iPod Nano. It should also work for other models in a general way, even though some steps and parts might be a bit different.

The bare minimum required tools for this job are:

  • replacement battery
  • scissors
  • tape
  • knife

Recommended tools are:

  • replacement battery and prying tool
  • soldering iron
  • wire stripper or scissors
  • utility knife (X-Acto)
  • electrical tape

A note before you begin: this may damage your iPod. You may injure yourself in this process. This will void your warranty. We are not responsible for anything that happens as a result of you following these directions. Use your head.

The purpose of replacing the battery in your iPod Nano by yourself is to avoid the absurd costs of having Apple do it for you. They love to make loads of money replacing batteries, and refuse to implement user-replaceable batteries in their electronics, even though 99% of other MP3 players let you change the battery with the press of a button. Of course, the reason for replacing the battery in the first place is because it can’t hold a charge anymore. All batteries lose their charge over time and won’t recharge anymore. Follow the steps below to replace your iPod Nano first-generation battery. If you have any questions, ask in the comments below.

1. Buy a replacement battery

This should be very easy and inexpensive. If you go on eBay and search for “ipod nano 1st gen battery” you should see what you’re looking for. Make sure the battery you get is for the first generation Nano (or whichever iPod you are using). They are different in physical size and will not fit if you get the wrong version. You also want a higher capacity battery. The stock battery is 340mAh. eBay has batteries that are 400mAh. These will last significantly longer than the stock battery. This battery should cost you around $5 and most come with tools to help open your iPod. I cannot comment on brands of batteries, as most seem generic. Beware of the risk of fire, leakage, explosion, or any other risks that come with all batteries.

2. Pry apart your iPod

Before you take apart your iPod, discharge any static electricity from yourself by touching a metal object. Also, you should put it on Hold so you don’t accidentally turn it on while it’s open. Now.. The first gen iPod Nano is held together by plastic clips which are located on the inside of the case. To open your iPod, you just need to pry apart the plastic front from the chrome rear. You can use the tool provided with the battery, or a dull X-Acto knife (or anything similar). I found the plastic tool to be no better than using a knife. Either way, you might break pieces of plastic off the case and scratch it. As you can see in the photos, my iPod is in such a bad shape cosmetically that I absolutely didn’t care about getting it scratched. Take your time when you pry it open. It might take a while. You might need to use force.

3. Cut the wires

Very carefully pry the battery out of the iPod using your fingernails. Cut the three wires that connect your current battery to the circuit board. Cut as close to the battery as you can. Don’t worry, the extra wire won’t prevent the case from closing.

4. Strip the wires

You need to strip the wires that are connected to the circuit board, assuming the wires on your new battery came stripped from the factory. If you really don’t know what you’re doing, you need to cut the insulation off the wire, but leave the wire itself uncut. You can use a wire stripper, but due to the small size of the wire, I found it much easier to use scissors. Be careful not to rip the wires from the circuit board. If you still can’t figure out how to strip wires, watch a YouTube video or something.

5. Solder the wires

Now time to insert the new battery into the iPod and twist the wires together. Make sure to match the right colors to each other, and do not let any wires from the battery touch any part of the circuit board, or themselves. This will create a short and will fry your iPod. Now, if you don’t have a soldering iron and really don’t want to spend the $20 to buy one, you might be fine just leaving the wires twisted together for this step. However, this has a decent chance of resulting in a loose connection that might come apart for fractions of a second, cutting power to your iPod. Soldering is highly recommended. If you don’t know how, watch some YouTube videos and Google it to learn the proper technique.

6. Tape up the exposed wires

If you want to test your new battery and its connection at this point, you can plug your iPod into your computer. If you do this, be very, very careful not to let the exposed wires touch anything or short anything out.

Now you need to tape up the exposed connections. If you don’t have electrical tape, regular tape should work. Electrical tape is recommended. Wrap each exposed wire individually and make sure all parts are covered well. Then tape all three together to help with straightening them out and making them fit.

7. Put it back together

Make sure the wires are out of the way of the two connectors to the right. Push them as far left as possible, and make sure they are flat against the circuit board like in the photo above. Now carefully put the other half of the iPod Nano case on. Make sure the Hold switch on the iPod is lined up to the position you left it in. This might take some time if you don’t want to scratch your iPod. Be careful not to bend it too much, as it’s much easier to bend without the two sides connected. This might take some force. Just push the two together until the two sides clip onto each other all the way around. If it doesn’t work when you try to turn it on, the battery probably needs to be charged. Plug it into your computer and it should start charging as usual.

And that’s it, you should now have an iPod Nano with a brand new battery, for less than $5.


Posted in Gadgets, Hardware, Tutorials | No Comments »

You Don’t Need Much to Power a Media Center PC

Wednesday, December 9th, 2009

Have you every considered setting up a dedicated computer to act as a media center in your living room? Well, if you have some older hardware around, you can do this right now.

Surprisingly, you don’t need a lot of powerful hardware to have a good, functioning media center. Case in point: I recently set up my old Dell Dimension as a media PC for my 1080p TV. This computer is around 4-5 years old, and guess what, it works perfectly as a media center. It is a Pentium 4 at 3GHz, 512MB RAM, and a Radeon X300SE graphics card with 128MB of onboard memory. Sure this sounds very weak compared to modern hardware: 4-8 GB of memory is now the norm, as well as quad core processors. But for playing 720p video, my setup works flawlessly.

Yea, believe it or not, that little X300 and Pentium 4 can play 720p video without any lag whatsoever. It can’t handle 1080p, but I’m 100% satisfied with 720p on my 52″ screen. And how much did I spend to make it all work? $7 at Radio Shack for a headphone-to-headphone cable. I plugged the TV in as if it were a monitor, using the standard blue VGA cable. Then plugged in the audio cable just as if the TV was a speaker system, and there you have it: a budget home theater system, while saving a computer from being thrown out or put in storage.

So if you have an old computer, but not too old, laying around, give it a shot and see if it will play high-def videos. You might be surprised. And if it can’t, you can always buy a $50 video card from eBay or Newegg. If my X300 / Pentium 4 computer can run a 1080p resolution and play 720p video, you can see right there that you don’t need to spend hundreds on a home media center.


Posted in Desktops & Laptops, Hardware | No Comments »

Class Action Lawsuit Against Microsoft for Mass Xbox Bans

Saturday, November 21st, 2009

Microsoft recently banned over 1 million Xbox Live accounts for using modded Xbox hardware. Some reports say the number is now over 2 million. Now there is a lawsuit against Microsoft for the bans. This might seem like a bad idea – after all, modded hardware is against the Xbox Live Terms of Service. However, many people who had their consoles banned are now reporting that not only were they banned from Xbox Live, but they were also banned from their consoles.

How can Microsoft ban you from your console? People are saying that their access to their console’s hard drive was blocked. That means they can’t access a key part of their console, which makes it almost unusable. What gives Microsoft the right to brick consoles for hardware modifications?

Some are reporting that their console was banned because of a simple fan modification. They upgraded the fan on their console to help prevent the infamous Red Ring of Death – RRoD – and now Microsoft apparently bricked their console. How is this fair at all, yet alone legal?

When you buy something, you own it. That is obvious. People who bought an Xbox are the legal owners of that property. How can Microsoft legally make that property unusable? They have the right to ban modders from Xbox Live, which is an extra service to the console. But they should have no right to damage or make unusable the actual hardware that people purchased. This is in effect the same as a Microsoft employee coming to your home and stealing the hard drive out of your Xbox.

I really hope this class action lawsuit goes to court, Microsoft doesn’t settle, and Microsoft loses. This would set a great precedent that would prevent companies from touching the hardware which you paid for and have every right to modify. Think of automobile companies for a second. Wouldn’t they rather have you buy a high-end version of their car for $10,000 more to get an extra 50 horsepower, than have you modify your car by yourself for $2,000 to get the same extra power out of it? Imagine if car companies installed chips in new cars that would disable the wheels from spinning if they detected a custom engine modification? Isn’t this essentially the same thing as Microsoft disabling your hard drive because they detected that you upgraded the fan on your Xbox?

Disabling hardware, your private property which you purchased, should be completely illegal. If these reports of Microsoft bricking consoles for hardware modifications are true, Microsoft should lose the lawsuit. And by the way, the Terms of Service and the EULA rarely hold up in court, because this type of agreement cannot overwrite laws.

Note: I cannot confirm if the reports of consoles being bricked are true, but people all over internet forums are saying the same thing.

Sources: Engadget, multiple forums

XBOX 360 logo copyright Microsoft


Posted in Consoles, Gaming, Hardware, News | No Comments »

Should you get a 5400 RPM or a 7200 RPM laptop hard drive?

Monday, October 19th, 2009

With more and more laptops coming with an SSD option, is there a point in getting a 5400 RPM hard drive for a laptop? The simple answer is no.

SSD – solid state drives – are soon going to become mainstream in notebooks. Right now, most mid to high end laptops either have an option for an SSD drive or come with it standard. This means the 7200 rpm hard drive will soon be outdated. Yet some laptops still come with 5400 rpm hard drives. If you are looking to buy a laptop that comes with a 5400 rpm hard drive as standard, it is most likely a low end computer. So since 5400 rpm hard drives are getting outdated, should you still buy the laptop with this option? Yes, if you’re getting a good deal on the notebook, you can overlook the hard drive for two reasons – it’s very easy to upgrade in most laptops, and it’s not that big of a speed difference for the average person.

If you want to buy a new hard drive separately for your laptop, then do not get a 5400 rpm hard drive. You can get a 7200 rpm drive for the same price or even cheaper if you look around. In addition, most new 5400 rpm drives are for IDE connections, while 7200 rpm drives are for SATA connections. This means most newer laptops will accept the 7200 rpm drive, and if the price difference is no more than $10, it’s better to get a 7200 rpm drive.

In conclusion, if you find a deal on a laptop but it has a 5400 rpm hard drive, you should still get the laptop. If you’re buying a new hard drive for your laptop as an upgrade, get a 7200 rpm drive over a 5400 rpm drive if the price difference is $10 or less. The difference in speed between the two is not noticeable unless you are doing something like video editing all the time. And contrary to popular belief, a faster hard drive will not make your internet any faster whatsoever – a 5400 rpm hard drive can transfer data many times faster than your internet connection can.


Posted in Desktops & Laptops, Hardware, Performance | 2 Comments »

Best Way to Recycle Old Laptop LCD’s is to Re-use Them

Saturday, October 17th, 2009

What’s this I have here? Why it’s a cracked LCD from a Windows 2000 era IBM Thinkpad. Makes a perfect platform for my netbook (to allow the fan to suck in air while it’s on my lap), makes a perfect writing pad, and I’m sure someone will be able to think of many more uses for this LCD. I didn’t do a thing to modify it – the back still has the circuit boards on it, but they’re behind a cover and the back of the LCD feels smooth and never catches on anything. If yours has something sticking out, you might be able to tape over it with duct tape or something if you can’t rip it out.

Seriously, this is just perfect for a laptop stand. It’s flat, it looks awesome, it’s free, does its function (cools your working laptop), it’s light, and you’re being friendly to the environment if green is your thing. And before someone says I’ll break it and have liquid crystals spilled all over, I doubt that will happen. (But just in case, do not try this at home).


Posted in Desktops & Laptops, Hardware, Tips & Tricks | No Comments »

DDR2 Prices Spiking, DDR3 Memory Taking Over

Tuesday, September 29th, 2009

DDR2 memory prices have been recently going up thanks to supply and demand catching up with the computer memory industry. Sets of DDR2 RAM that cost $40 just a month ago are now nearing $100. At the same time, DDR3 prices are falling slowly, as more computer enthusiasts use the new technology in desktop builds, and computer makers start to offer DDR3 memory in lower priced systems.

What this means for the computer memory industry is that DDR3 sales will be taking over DDR2 sales, and technology will be moving forward once again. DDR3 prices are now affordable and are still dropping. Due to this, much less people are buying DDR2, so the price is rising. DDR3 is about to become cheaper than DDR2 due to this effect.

If you need DDR2 memory it is best to buy now, before prices rise even more. As the technology gets older, demand will fall, and prices will rise. If you plan to keep DDR2 compatible motherboards for a while, stock up on the RAM. If you end up not needing it later, you will most likely be able to sell it at the same price you bought it for, or even higher, and make a profit. Now we wait for DDR4.


Posted in Hardware, News | 3 Comments »

AMD ATI Radeon HD 5870 listed on Newegg

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009

AMD has released the fastest video card ever, the ATI Radeon HD 5870. And now it has been listed on Newegg, and will be shipping on September 28, 2009.

The 5870 will have 2.15 billion transistors, DirectX 11 support, and 1600 stream processors, among other features. It will use a 40nm manufacturing process and use only 27W of power when idle. And to compare the 5870 to the 4890, the 5870 has more than twice the transistors and twice the stream processors. The video card will also be about 30% larger physically than the 4870.

Some of the 5870’s listed on Newegg include a free copy of Dirt 2. And the best thing about this GPU is that it’s only $380. This will push Nvidia not only to lower the prices of their current graphics cards, but to also speed up the development of their next generation graphics processors.

For a detailed look into AMD’s new ATI Radeon HD 5870, check out the article on Maximum PC.

image from newegg


Posted in Hardware, News | No Comments »

Western Digital My Passport Elite Portable Hard Drive

Wednesday, August 12th, 2009

The Western Digital My Passport Elite Portable Hard Drive is a portable storage device that offers a convenient solution for carrying large volumes of data. It is a remote access hard drive with high quality performance and specially designed for professionals. This hard drive is a 2.5 inch form factor and looks compact and stylish. It is designed with a matte finish, which is soft to touch and gives good grip on the palm. This drive has easy to use functions and could be directly connected with your laptop or computer without any additional setup. You can comfortably keep it in your pocket or handbag and carry it wherever you want. This Western Digital portable hard drive is equipped with hi speed USB 2.0 interface for data transfer and is also used for the power source. It directly gets its power from the USB interface and does not require any additional AC power adaptor.

It comes pre-formatted and has easy to use functions. This External HDD is equipped with simple operations and it can store 12500 mp3 songs, 220 hours of DVD quality video, 60 hours of HD video, 14200 digital photos, and 38 hours of digital video. You can actively share and view the data stored in this My Passport Elite hard drive and if you made any changes to the files or documents, this drive would synchronise all the changes back to your office or home computers.

It offers provisions for password protection using 128 bit encryption and supports both MAC and Windows computers. It is loaded with Google software and enables you to use the search with ease.

You can effectively manage your database and view it conveniently in the future. This drive has automatic backup software, which can take instant backups of emails.

It saves photo copies that can be viewed online, and takes backups of iPod contacts. When you connect this drive to your computer it automatically starts the process of backups.

You can check out the complete review and full specification details about Western Digital My Passport Elite Hard Drive at ExternalHardDrives.org.uk.


Posted in Hardware | No Comments »

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