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Non user-servicable hardware

September 26, 2011 Leave a comment

Well it had to come sooner or later – what’s an IT blog without a good rant?

I look after a number of Asus eeeBox’s at work. These are essentially Netbook hardware in a very small form factor, with a VESA mount that allows you to fix the box to the back of a monitor. I’m not a great fan of the hardware – a pokey 1.6Ghz Atom with 2GB RAM and 160GB S-ATA hard drive. These seem to suffer from extremely slow disk I/O – I suspect with an SSD – or even a 7200RPM hard drive, they’d be a bit more sprightly. However, for general office apps and space-saving, they are a good concept.

They also occasionally suffer from the issue of not booting at all and going through the POST (Power On Self Test). When they were under warranty, I used to send them back to Asus (via the supplier). Asus had an awful turnaround of at least a month. However, a year has now passed – the length of the warranty, so that is no longer a cost-effective option. Plus, it would be good to be able to know how to fix the problem.

Some work with Google seemed to indicate that the non-POSTing issue could be fixed by disconnecting the CMOS battery for a few minutes with the system unplugged from the mains, then re-connecting the battery. Sounds simple enough.

However, Asus, in their wisdom have designed these things so as they are not user serviceable. Apart from an easy to swap-out hard drive cage, the only way to get in to these eeeBox’s is to remove two screws from the frame, gently prise off both side panels, being careful not to snap off the little lugs. You are then presented with two metal panels held together with a number of small screws. Having removed those, the next step is to remove the chassis from the plastic frame – done by removing four larger screws – which aren’t easy to get back in. Having removed a number of smaller screws to separate both panels, you can now get to said battery! Thankfully, all the connections to the PC are still accessible, so I could test before re-assembly – all was good and the machine worked again when I put it all back together.

However, would it have been so difficult for Asus to actually allowed an easier access panel that provides access to the CMOS battery – especially as this is a common problem! At the same time, they could have provided easy access to the laptop-sized SODIMM memory slots at the same time!

This would have saved much time with assembly and disassembly and would have been both easy and cheap to implement! The hard drive is user accessible, so I’m wondering what possessed their design time to come up with the idea of the battery and memory being as difficult as possible to swap out!

With organisations being more cost-conscious, the eeeBox isn’t a bad solution for some applications and actually makes sense as a ‘fleet PC’ for organisations. But please think of us techies that keep these things working – there really is no excuse in this day and age not to allow easy access to certain components!

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Categories: Computing, Hardware, Rants

Computers that I use

September 17, 2011 Leave a comment

As you’d guess, I run several computers here at home. Here’s a rundown of what I use:

Corei7 – this was built back in April as my main workstation with a few bits added during May, June and July. Designed as a pretty much ‘best of everything’ from a hardware perspective, this is where I do most of my computing at home. I wanted something that would last ,be reliable and handle heavy-duty tasks with ease. It runs Windows 7 Ultimate x64. The spec is:

  • Intel Core i7 2600 Sandy Bridge processor
  • Asus P8H67-M H67 Chipset motherboard
  • 4x 4GB Kingston ValueRAM PC1333 DDR3 modules – a total of 16GB system RAM
  • XFX Radeon  HD5770 1GB GDDR3 single-slot PCIe Graphics
  • Crucial RealSSD M4 128GB Solid State Drive – boot drive
  • 2x Seagate Barracuda 7200.12 1TB S-ATA Hard Drives (in a RAID-1 mirrored array) – for data
  • Optiarc 20X DVD Writer
  • Optiarc 12X Blu-Ray Rewriter
  • Coolermaster Sileno case / 500W PSU bundle
  • 3-bay Hot-Swap S-ATA backplane – this useful device fits in 2 5.25″ drive bays and allows you to install the hard drives in caddies for easy removal. On the back of the backplane are connectors for power and S-ATA.
  • 22″ Samsung monitor

My next system is a late 2009 vintage Mac Mini. This was my main desktop for a while, but is now destined to become a media centre as part of the home cinema setup. It runs OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard. The spec is:

  • Intel 2.53 Ghz Core2Duo processor
  • 4GB  DDR3 RAM
  • 320GB Hard Drive
  • NVidia GeForce 9400M graphics
  • 8X DVD writer

Lastly, we have the laptop. Not wanting something too large or heavy to carry, but with a decent keyboard and screen, I decided a system a little larger than a netbook would fit the bill. I went for a Toshiba Satellite T110, which also offered a free USB DVD rewriter. I upped the RAM from 2GB to 4GB and replaced the stock 250GB 5400RPM S-ATA drive with a larger and faster Seagate Momentus 500GB 7200RPM drive. The smaller drive went into the PlayStation 3 to upgrade its stock 120GB drive. The system runs Wimdows Home Premium x64. The final spec is:

  • Intel Celeron Core Solo 743 1.3 GHz processor
  • 2x 2GB PC1066 DDR3 RAM
  • Intel GMA4500M graphics
  • Seagate Momentus 500GB Hard Drive
  • 10/100 Ethernet
  • 802.11n (Draft) WiFi
  • Bluetooth
  • 11.6″ 1366 x 786 display

Whilst not the fastest machine in the world, this a decent portable that isn’t heavy to carry, faster than most netbooks, whilst having a slightly larger screen. It also has an excellent battery life.

Connectivity is provided by BT Business ADSL2, which is an excellent service. Extremely reliable and I’m seeing speeds of abou 17000kbps down and 1100kbps up. The BT Business Hub is patched into a Netgear GS105 5-port Gigabit switch, which has my PC. Mac, Playstation 3 and 1TB Buffalo LinkStation Live NAS (used as a backup store).