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Hella BIOS adventures March 22, 2009

Posted by ecomnomnom in Hardware, Linux, Technology.
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I am waiting the two hours for my iphone to back-up and sync. Therefore, this will be a long blog post, with many pictures, so bear with me. I have noticed that my most visited post, by far, has been the one about the OSX themed linux, and I will devote more space to linux and technology. Today, I’ll recap my story about my Dell Latitude CPi.

Latitude CPi

Latitude CPi

So, I pulled out an old late 90’s Latitude c-series Pentium II notebook out of my basement, in order to install the new version of Backtrack 3 Linux on its tiny hard drive.

First, I inserted the BackTrack 3 LiveCD to see if it would work. Unfortunately, the computer wouldn’t let me boot off the CD, and instead tried to make me boot off of the non-existent floppy drive. Even worse, the BIOS was password protected.

Mark my words, Laptop manufacturers should never password protect their BIOSes. It does not stop the hard drive data from being stolen, and it does not deter theft. Criminals don’t carry around a list of difficult-to-crack BIOS passwords with them- they steal when the opportunity arises. Hella stupid.

So, I went to my computer to find latitude.exe, the program which cracks all latitude BIOS passwords, given their service code. Unfortunately, it usually doesn’t work for c-series computers, and definately did not work for mine.

Ram Chip

The Ram Chip

Ok. When a computer is off, the necessary functions (like the clock and BIOS data), are powered by the tiny CMOS battery. You can disconnect that, and after a while, the BIOS will reset itself. However, once again, the Latitude c-series is smarter than that. All the data is stored on an internal RAM-chip, which presents itself as an 8-inch pin on the motherboard.  You can disconnect the power all you want, but the data will be there.

I had heard that people had had sucess re-assembling the laptop so that the motherboard faced the other way, then shorting the RAM chip with a paper clip. Unfortunately, with the specific CPi model, that re-assembly would be impossible.

Russian Engineering

Russian Engineering

Things were getting more difficult. I dissasembled virtually every part of the laptop trying to figure out a way to start the laptop while shorting the chip, including the bitch-ass clamp holding the CPU down. Eventually, I went to my old soviet junior-electronics set and pulled out two standard wires. I tried to solder them onto the board, but ended up getting a really bad burn on one of my fingers from the iron. This is where Russian innovation came into play. I got out my scotch tape, and taped down the wires onto the chip, and hoped I wouldn’t start a fire.

BT3 in Flux

BT3 in Flux

After reasembling the laptop and holding down the power button while shorting the wires in my other hand, the bios erased itself on the third attempt. I changed the boot device to CD-rom, and hoped for the best. BackTrack 3 live-cd only ran in Fluxbox (couldn’t handle KDE), but I feel that I might be more sucessful replacing Windows 98 with a clean copy of BT3.

Moral of the story: never spend this much time trying to fix an insignificant thing. This laptop is a current hobby project of mine, though, and I will keep you posted as I gradually change this piece of the 90’s into a masterpiece.

Oh Dude Hella GUI February 26, 2009

Posted by ecomnomnom in Uncategorized.
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Ok. So. I made a new post on this blog, and yes, I did put it back online. Goddamn it.

So anyway, this morning, Apple announced that Safari 4 is gonna be 3 times faster than Firefox.

Safari 4, image taken of Lifehacker

Safari 4, via Lifehacker

Also, the browser takes the tab features we’re all used to and makes it hella pretty in regular mac fashion. For those of you who know me, you might take me as a Microsoft or linux fanboy (basically anything thats not mac).

It’s all about GUI really. Apple takes things that are already there and makes them pretty and easy to use. It is not made clear wtf not Windows can’t do this. Which brings me to the next image:

After having played with Windows 7, I feel like it’s just repackaged Vista (minus the annoying feature that asks permission to do any task on gods green earth, including using the mouse). So I have no idea why Windows released Vista, instead of just Windows 7 the first time.

GUI is not hard. It should be the first things these companies focus on. We can take Ubuntu 8.10 (linux) and stick a new gnome-skin on it, put avant-window-navigator on it, and we essentially get OSX. We can put a new skin on Vista and make it look like OSX (Ironically we can’t put a new skin on OSX, we can’t even make the top bar un-transparent).

This is my Vista desktop:

My Vista Desktop

My Vista Desktop

Why can’t Windows look like this out of the box? Instead, HP puts so much bloatware on these 2gb ram computers that they cannot even function without an out-of-the-box-reformat. This is why macs will win in the long run. Imma go download the Safari 4 beta now.

Hella Piracy in China November 24, 2008

Posted by ecomnomnom in Economics, Technology.
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Recently, I’ve been noticing articles about Microsoft trying to enforce their intellectual property in China. This Guardian.co.uk story and this Wall Street Journal article have explained what the problem is: in an attempt to deter piracy, Microsoft has made the screen go black on all Chinese computers that don’t pass their ‘genuine advantage’ test every hour. This has, of course, caused massive retaliation in China.

Wall Street Journal image of Blacked Out Screen

Wall Street Journal image of Blacked Out Screen

The statistics go as follows. Over 90% of China, including their president, use Windows. About 74% of them are using a pirated copy of Windows. A legitimate copy of Windows in China costs 1000 RMB, which is about the monthly GDP per person. A pirated copy of Windows costs 5 RMB, which is less than 1 USD. Chinese people who were outraged about the new system have argued that Microsoft should target sellers, rather than the consumers.

Personally, I believe that Microsoft is doing the right thing by targeting consumers, because targeting sellers would undoubtedly have completely no impact. Also, the ‘Genuine Advantage’ tool that Microsoft has is an amazing advantage against pirates—and one argument would suggest that anyone who hasn’t found a way around it probably deserves to be buying Windows at full price.

The real question is: How is having your screen go black occasionally any different than regular Windows?