Wednesday, March 31, 2010

5 things you should never do when selling a computer

As I've recently been in the market for a well-priced used laptop to do coding on, I've come across some amazing poorly-written ads. I'm here to share with you my experiences and to warn people following in my footsteps, which sellers might not be the best to buy from.

Here is a list of 5 things you should never do when selling a computer.

5. Advertising your computer as a 'steal', 'the bomb', 'a blast', or any other poorly worded descriptions on the quality. Remember, this is a USED laptop. Most people go into a transaction knowing it's going to be a little iffy.

4. You can find the specs ________.
When people are buying a used computer, they don't like having to hunt down specs 'cause the seller is too damn lazy to copy-paste from a review or homepage of the computer. Do you not know the capability of the machine you're trying to sell? That looks pretty bad. Granted, this doesn't always mean the product is bad, but less dedicated buyers won't pay as much attention.

3. This machine is great for doing ________.
Because we as potential buyers are always worried if we will be able to browse the internet or use a spreadsheet in this day in age. For the more savvy buyers, one boot with Puppy Linux is enough to run everything you say (with exception of 3D games, if that's advertised) on hardware that's 10 years old or more.

2. Obnoxious in-depth specs that only hardcare uesrs would understand. I mean, there's a line between really detailed and trying to confuse customers into thinking they're getting a great deal. For example, you can sell a video card and state all the cores, size of video ram, wattage, how old, manufacturer, etc. and most people will know what you mean. But start going off into how many transistors and such, basically reiterating the engineer's manual, you've just become a dick.

1. Stating Virtual Memory as a selling point.
I actually saw an ad with this once. It blew my mind. 786MB of Virtual Ram on your computer? I'm sold.
When people get to the point where one variable that can easily be changed and only affects performance when multiple applications are sucking the ram out of your machine kicks in, it's obvious they are going for the suckers. Don't be one. If someone advertises Virtual Ram, stay away. More is not always better in this case.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

"Can Windows do this? " Part I

I've decided to write an ongoing blog that revolves around things I do that Windows, consequently, does not do. This may apply to OS-X as well.

Moving Files that are in Use:

As I'm listening to music in AmaroK, I tend to move the actual audio files into folders as to separate the good from the bad.
As long as the audio file is playing, I can move the physical file anywhere on disc without interrupting playback; I'm guessing the entire file is either loaded into ram or the filesystem points to references, not literal file locations.

Windows, however, will give a "File is in use" error whenever you try to move an audio file that is being played. Meaning that you can only move it after playback has ended. Now, it's no 'killer reason' to stop using Windows, but it's one thing I do that Windows doesn't support.
Needless to say, I love having the ability to move my files when I say it's okay.
Attempting to play the file after moving it will result in an error. Obviously.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Gentoo Series Part II : Problem and Solution

To recap what went on in my last post, I had Kubuntu 8.10 WITH 3D acceleration on it, and Gentoo with the newest Xorg (1.7) with no 3D acceleration.

I'm a little hazy on the little details of my excursion, but here's the gist of it.

Package versions of Gentoo and Kubuntu 8.10's Xorg were 1.7 and 1.5 respectively.
Kernel versions were 2.6.31 and 2.6.28 respectively

Now along with each Xorg version, there are a LOT of dependancies that go with it.
Things such as:
randrproto, dri2proto, xcb-proto, xextproto, libXau, xtrans, libxcb, libX11, libXext, etc.

and so on and so forth. These versions different from each other as well.

Here's the Kubuntu Xorg version in its entirety.

X.Org X Server 1.5.2
Release Date: 10 October 2008
X Protocol Version 11, Revision 0
Build Operating System: Linux 2.6.24-15-server x86_64 Ubuntu
Current Operating System: Linux phoenix 2.6.27-16-generic #1 SMP Tue Dec 1 19:26:23 UTC 2009 x86_64
Build Date: 09 March 2009 01:06:41PM
xorg-server 2:1.5.2-2ubuntu3.1 (buildd@crested.buildd)
Before reporting problems, check
to make sure that you have the latest version.
Module Loader present

I spent a lot of my time compiling a kernel for Gentoo that matched the specifications on my M17 Alienware laptop. I owe a lot of thanks to the Gentoo wiki for having an entry on such a laptop.


The first thing I started to change was the Kernel. I started out with 2.6.31 and ended with It took quite a few tries to compile it right. Once I had a kernel up and running smoothly, I started to focus on X.
As I had Xorg 1.7 installed, I had to first remove it. From what I remember, it didn't uninstall some of the dependencies. (Perhaps my choice of removal options in emerge). So after that, I installed Xorg 1.5.3 without too much issue. Installing it is the easy part after all =p

I believe that 1.5.3 included dependencies that were not compatible with the ATI 8.12 catalyst drivers (such as libXext, the proto libraries) but were still installed as part of the 1.5.3 package as they were 'updated' versions. Upon my journey through the vast wasteland of old forums, I found a compatibility list for Xorg 1.5.3.

Find the list here:

Basically this lists all of the stable xorg-related packages for the 1.5.3 release.
Then the hard part began: I had to go through each package and ensure that the version was equal or as close to as possible, the specified version.
Some packages I don't think I found (this was months if not a year after bug was created) because of recent changes to the repo structure. After getting the versions right and removing potential conflicts, I had a complete 1.5.3 Xorg built and ready.

Finally, after weeks of work I installed the Catalyst drivers and they WORKED!
However, it wasn't time to celebrate yet. If I attempted to re-install xorg 1.5.3 or did an update world, it would have overridden my work and killed my display. I spent hours afterwords blocking versions of various xorg packages for emerge.

I wasn't quite done yet either. Once up and running, I started to get the KWin slow compositing issue with window resizing, maximizing and minimizing. In the end I patched Xorg myself as xorg-1.5.3-r7 (r6 was the max revision last I checked) and installed it as a local package.
At first I started out with the slow compositing patch, but that didn't work. Then I heard about a patch known as the fedora-dont-backfill patch. I patched using that, but it still performed poorly so I basically removed all code in a method that was the potential problem. Sadly it was still laggy, but performed much better after my patch.

Turns out that the poor performance was due to a performance improvement to the Intel graphics chipset.

So after tweaking the system a bit, I got a working Xorg and Gentoo system up and running. Awesome!

Below is a list of files with descriptions that someone who wants to attempt the same process would find useful.

Fedora Backfill Patch:
Gentoo Packages I had Installed:
Alienware M17 Customized kernel:
Gentoo make.conf:
Gentoo package.keywords:
Gentoo package.mask:
Gentoo package.unmask:
KWin Resizing Patch:
Gentoo rc.conf:
Local (modded) Xorg 1.5.3-r7:

If you're installing Gentoo, you'll probably understand the meaning of the files.

I hope that this explaination of 3D acceleration on Gentoo's older 1.5.3 Xorg are satisfactory. Feel free to email me if you have any questions.
I may write another blog on Gentoo, part III, on some issues I found. Nothing warranting such a large blog post.