Sunday, April 10, 2005

Compaq Presario R3000Z

Last week my order of new laptop I ordered from arrived. It is Compaq Presario R3000Z with AMD64 3400+ MHz processor, WinXP home edition, 1 GB RAM, 80 GB 5400 RPM harddisk, 12 cell battery, 54g broadcom wifi + bluetooth, 64 MB Nvidia 440 Go, and 12680x1050 screen resolution. Not bad at all for total 1460 USD which I got 12 months interest-free loan from HP. The price is Employee Promotion Program as my employer has special with HP for their employees.

I did some tests such as leaving the closing and reopening the lid, ethernet (wired) link and wifi. They went OK, although sometimes the wifi interfered with my Linksys PCMCIA card that was on my another laptop (Tecra 8000. See my other blog about where and when I got this free laptop :-).

After a few days trying and installing some applications, I then repartitioned the harddisk using Norton's Partition Magic 8.0. I partitioned about 12 GB for Linux, 512 MB for its swap disk. I used Novell SuSe Linux Pro 9.2 for the Linux. Most of the hardware got detected (I was suprised that the touchpad even did work. I read somewhere on the Internet, the guy said it was kinda hard to make the touchpad work, but it was OK on my Linux. Perhaps because I use SuSe Linux 9.2?). For the wifi, as usual Broadcom does not provide the driver for Linux, but thanks to Ndiswrapper it could use the driver from Windows instead. But I still have problem even with ndiswrapper. Somehow, dhcp client could not get IP address, although the Wi-Fi recognized and found my Access Point (which is Netgear 802.11b) and found its MAC Address. I am not sure whether this is because of the kernel I use (oh, forget to mention that SuSE 9.2 comes with kernel 2.6.9, so I upgrade the kernel to the latest at this time,

When I compiled the kernel and ndiswrapper, I used all the processor-specific optimizations by defining the environment variable CFLAGS and CPPFLAGS. My CFLAGS contains "-mcpu=athlon64 -mfpmath=sse -msse3 -m3dnow -m64 -mthreads", so is CPPFLAGS. No errors during compilation and everything went well. But I was still wondering why gcc could not recognize -m64 when I tested by creating a small C program and compiled it with CFLAGS as above?

The laptop's software packages come with Microsoft Works (not bad for many daily simple uses), Microsoft Money 2005 Standard Edition, InterDVD 4, RecordNow! CD&DVD burning software, Muvee Autoproducer and some other programs. Yes, I custom ordered the laptop with dual layer DVD writer.

The most I like from the laptop is its screen. It's so cool!. It is WSXGA 15'4 in screen, so it is so bright and displayed fonts are so crispy and bold. Even on Linux (which I set the resolution also to its maximum allowed, 1680x1050), it really rocks!

The processor uses powerNow technology from AMD. During normal use (which takes most of the time), the clock is adjusted to low (about 700 MHz). According to AMD spec, the maximum clock on Athlon64 3400+ Mobile is 2.2 GHz. But I haven't been able to test to make the processor reach its maximum speed. I think when it is rendering video it may go to that speed. When the CPU increases its CPU clock, the laptop gets hotter and this will trigger the CPU fan to blow the hot air. So far, I have not experienced the laptop goes too hot. May be if I am running Doom3 or Half-Life 2?

What think I don't like from the laptop is its weight. It is 2 times heavier than my IBM T40 laptop at-work. Well, what the heck, I don't really intend to use this laptop for mobile, but mostly to make me more flexible wanding around with it and still be able to do my hobby (hacking :-)

Overall, I love this laptop. I really recommend this for people are seeking a balance between budget and performance. Besides, it supports 64-bit processing, so when Microsoft finally releases its WinXP officially we still are not behind and not need to upgrade our hardware so the workhorse can still be used for few years (until IA32 finally obsoletes and a new architecture comes).

Saturday, April 2, 2005

How Physicists contributed to the Internet

Many people don't realize that their daily internet life has been affected more or less by works from physicists. Do you know who is the inventor of word-wide-web (HTTP, HTML and URL things)? Tim Berners-Lee, and he was a physicist working at CERN in europe. One of the gurus in TCP? Van Jacobson, who was working in high energy physics at Berkeley's Lawrence Laboratory.

I believe many physicists did contribute for the improvement and inventions of the current TCP/IP and other protocols currently in use.