Vista + Intel Wireless 3945ABG = No

One of the first things I did with my laptop was to remove Window XP Home since it’s about as much use as a chocolate fire guard and install Beta 2 of Vista x64 (yeah I know RC2 is out but I don’t have a copy to hand). So I did a fresh install, deleting the existing drive partitions (Dell had configured the 80GB drive with two 30ish size ones?) and creating a new one that filled the drive.

The Vista installation then tried it damndest to grind the hard drive into a fine powder and also gave the DVD drive a good work out as well. It was a hideously slow process at over an hour, but I must admit it was slightly more stream lined than the XP installation process. You entered almost all the required details at the beginning and then it got on with it.

Once into Vista I had a quick poke around (Aero Glass is really nice and the new UI in general looks really cool) but was disappointed that it couldn’t find any drivers for the majority of the hardware in the machine. 

I did a bit of manual searching and found a video driver for the Intel GMA 950, but I couldn’t get a wireless driver, which was a bit of deal breaker since that’s my main network connection at home. There is a section on the Intel site for it, but it just sends you round in circles. Wireless drivers aren’t expected until 4th Quarter 2006… err?

It’s also amusing because last week Dell updated a lot of their range last week noting that machines were Vista Capable and in fact this laptop has the following sticker on it:

VistaCapable

At the moment, it clearly isn’t. So I switched to Windows XP x64 and had similar problems with drivers. Intel did have a 64–bit graphics and wireless driver, but for things like the sound card and memory card reader I had no joy.

I also checked the Dell site for what drivers they have for the Inspiron 640m and was out of luck for anything other than Windows XP x86, which is really poor given the Core 2 is a 64–bit processor. You’d think proper drivers would be available!

World of Warcraft playable on an Intel GMA 950?

Now this all depends on your definition of playable. For me, it’s a constant frame rate of 30 or above, with no drops below that… which in this case means WoW isn’t. Sure it runs, but it’s on lowest settings, with pretty much everything turned off, at 800×600 res, and the frame rate varied between 15 to 40.

I found that if I avoided any of the towns, or any area with more than 5 polygons, I’d be ok since it was seemed to run at 25+ fps… but how likely is that?

Still if I’m reaaaaalllllyyyy desperate for a game, it’s doable.

Pre-installed crap on a Dell laptop

So my shiny new laptop arrived yesterday and I booted it up to check it was all working as expected. It was, but I was disgusted by all the crap installed on it by default. Take a look at these two screen shots, one from Process Explorer and the other from Autoruns:

640mPreinstallProcExp 640mPreinstallAutoruns

In the ProcExp screenie the bottom four or five are processes I ran, but other than, that’s what is running after logon. I’m not really surprised since that’s what Dell do, but this is the first consumer Dell I’ve bought (the rest have all been work machines) and it seems to have a lot more chaff installed than I’m used to seeing. This week a colleague at work, also got a new laptop, a Sony Vaio, and that too came pre-installed with tons of useless crude.

Stuff like this annoys the crap out of me since you have to waste time removing it and tidying up, however in the case I just scrubbed the OS and started again with Vista (or at least that was the idea…).

Farewell Tabbrowser Extensions…

As well as installing Internet Explorer 7, I did the same with Firefox 2.0 and had the fun job of upgrading all the extensions I use. As it turned out pretty all of them did so automatically, however there’s always an except to rule. Tabbrowser Extensions.

So I popped over to the author’s site to find out what the crack was and saw this rather odd message:

This extension strongly unrecommended. Tab Mix is recommended instead of this, because it is stable, light, and it covers most useful features of this.

This extension is strongly unrecommended by Mozilla Foundation. This extension has many many latent bugs <snip>. If you use this, you must be prepared to own huge risk maybe.

There’s a full Advantages and Disadvantages section about why you should / shouldn’t use it, which is actually an interesting read, but the end result is I’ve switched to using Tab Mix Plus in FF 2. It doesn’t do everything Tabbrowser Extensions does, but it’s close enough.

New laptop on it’s way :)

Inspn_640mI use a couple of laptops at work (two Dell Inspirons, a 9100 and a 8200) and I’ve come to like the idea of having a portable machine to work with (though with the 9100 that’s debatable, lol xbox huge). So I’ve taken the plunge and ordered a Dell Inspiron 640m for home. Here’s the spec:

  • CPU – Intel® Core™ 2 Duo Processor T7200 (2.0 GHz, 4 MB L2 cache, 667 MHz FSB)
  • LCD – 14.1 inch UltraSharp Wide Screen WSXGA (1440×900) TFT Display
  • Memory – 512MB 533MHz Single Channel DDR2 SDRAM (1×512)
  • Hard Drive – 80GB (5,400rpm) Hard Drive
  • Optical Drive – Fixed Internal 8X DVD+/-RW
  • Primary Battery- 9 Cell, 80Whr Lithium Ion
  • Weight is about 2.5kg (slightly more due to bigger battery)

I intent to use it for programming and general web surfing / blog related guff and I was after something that was relatively light, fast, portable and hopefully quiet! I’ve read a few reviews on it and they all seem pretty positive.

The standard amount of memory is pretty crappy and it’s much cheaper to buy another 1GB from Crucial than to spec it up from Dell (they were charging £100 for another 512MB, whilst I paid slightly less than that for a GB from Crucial!). At some point I’ll upgrade fully to 2GB at least (it can take 4GB!), but 1.5GB isn’t too shabby to start with.

Hard drive speed is ok at 5400rpm and from experience I’m happy to stick with that. My Inspiron 9100 has a 7200rpm drive and it can get very hot and it’s not that quiet either. Plus the upgrade price to 7200rpm on the 640m was a bit steep at £60.

You’ll probably notice there’s no mention of graphics card above and that’s because it’s integrated, in this case an Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 950. I’ll be the first to admit that on normal tower and desktop’s they’re the scourge of Satan, but in a laptop they make sense. A decent laptop graphics card bumps the price up by a couple of hundred quid and also puts a much bigger drain on the battery, which is something I’d like to avoid. With the 9 cell battery (standard is a 6 cell), I should get 8+ hours out of it.

Apparently the GMA 950 can run Vista Aero Glass. I’ll soon know it it can since I intend on nuking the OS that comes with it (XP Home, ugh) and putting Vista on it straight away. I’ve also read that it’s possible to run World of Warcraft… how well I don’t know. Should be fun finding out!

Hopefully it’ll arrive in the next few days! Whoop!

Flashblock for Firefox

I know this is a really old extension, but it seems that sites with lots of Flash crap cause really high CPU usage in Firefox 2. I’m not sure if it’s just my installation but given that it’s a real pain in the backside I went hunted out Flashblock, which does exactly what you’d expect. Instead of loading a flash animation up, you just get a blank box with a little flash icon on instead. If you mouse over it, it gives you the option to play it.

Funny but Ars Technica looks pretty messy with Flashblock on!

Firefox style search for Internet Explorer

I downgraded to Internet Explorer 7 over the weekend and annoyingly found that the search box still looks like it did in IE3. I was positive I’d seen a plugin to allow the Firefox style search (called Inline search) in IE in the last couple of weeks and a bit of foraging proved me right. Here it is, in all it’s glory:

IEInlineSearch

It’s a small 180KB download from IEForge. Makes IE just a bit more usable.

Found via Omar Shahine’s blog.