The Free Geek

Ramblings of a Free Software Geek

The Dell XPS m1210 — a mini review Fri, 20 Mar 2009 17:36:25 +0000

Filed under: General — Bon Goose @ 17:36:25

After a lot of research, I recently got a Dell XPS m1210 for my girl friend. It’s a cool 12.1″ WXGA laptop with pretty much cutting edge features. It has an Intel T2300 Core Duo processor and came with 1 GiB 667 MHz DDR2 SDRAM and a 80 GB SATA HDD. It also has the usual embellishments like DVD RW, Intel Pro Wireless, 9 cell battery etc. All this weighs just around 2 Kg and costs around 1500 USD. So it’ll neither break your back nor will it burn a hole in your kitty 🙂

It came with something called Dell Media Direct which is some kind of embedded DVD player and would run without an Operating System. I clean formatted the hard drive and tried to install Ubuntu 6.06 LTS “Dapper Drake” on it. But I was struck by a known bug in the Ubuntu installer which frustrated me a lot. I installed Ubuntu on it finally by avoiding the bug somehow and everything went just fine afterwards. I thought that I’d need to compile and install the Wireless drivers myself but I was pleased to see that Ubuntu included the binary firmware in its restricted modules package. So everything worked just “out of the box” 🙂 It was pretty amazing to see great support for relatively new hardware in GNU/Linux. The only thing that I had to fix by hand was the display resolution. X.org could detect only 1024×768 resolution which not only looked bad, but due to the different aspect ratio things looked a bit stretched horizontally. I fixed the problem by using 915resolution to over-write the display BIOS. I added an entry for 1280×800 in an unused slot and that fixed the problem just fine.

As far as the performance of the laptop is concerned, it’s just amazing. It’s very fast considering its size and I am sure it will beat any laptop in its class. It takes only around 25 secs for Ubuntu to boot, and < 30 mins to rip a DVD. What else can I say, I can’t really complain. At last, a really portable as well as usable laptop. I am really feeling like keeping it for myself and handing over my 3 year old Toshiba to her.

Though almost everything works fine by default I guess it’d be good to have a comaptibility matrix. So here it is —

1. Processor (Intel T2300 Core Duo) Works Needs SMP kernel
2. DVD RW Drive (Sony) Works
3 SATA Hard Disk (Hitachi) Works
4. Ethernet (Broadcom BCM4401-B0) Works Needs b44 module
5. Wireless (Intel 3945abg) Works Needs ipw3945 module, firmware, etc.
6. Display (Intel 950) Works Needs 915resolution to get high resolution
7. Sound (Intel 82801G) Works Needs snd-hda-intel module
8. Firewire (Ricoh) Works Needs ieee1394 module
9. Modem (Intel) Haven’t tested, but should work Most probably will work with the snd-intel8x0m module
10. Card Reader (Ricoh) Somewhat works Works with SD, doesn’t work with MMC
11. ACPI Somewhat works Suspend to RAM doesn’t work yet

The things that don’t work at the moment will start working soon as and when newer kernels are released. The hardware is very new, so small issues can be expected. Over all, it’s a very nice laptop to buy. I haven’t faced any quirks with it and seems to be very stable. Final verdict — great buy, very good hardware and very good value for money.

Toufeeq has also written a nice review of his XPS m1210, though his configuration differs slightly with mine it’s very useful.

Dell XPS m1210

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Does Magic Jack Pass The Geek Test? Mon, 02 Mar 2009 10:49:08 +0000

Filed under: General — 2danet @ 10:49:08

What Is Magic Jack

Magic Jack is a USB telephone adapter that enables free telephone calls through an ordinary landline phone. Based on the VoIP technology and on its own telephony network, all that Magic Jack needs to work is a Windows-operated PC or a Mac and an internet connection. The phone is plugged into the telephone jack on the device, just like into any common landline telephone plug. It can work with normal phones, cordless phones or even headphones, if these are more convenient for you. Even though plenty of people have done their own MagicJack Review, I could just not resist.

The operating cost is of $19.95 per year, plus an initial one time $40 price for the gadget itself. Beyond these costs, all local or long distance calls are free, regardless the duration or the time of call. Receiving incoming calls is also possible, because Magic Jack comes with a free telephone number included. Other services that are available are voice mail, caller ID, call forwarding, call waiting and three-way conference calling. International calls are also possible. They aren’t totally free, but the rates are very small, making Magic Jack a real money-saver for people who make a lot of international calls on regular basis. Moreover, when traveling abroad, calling from the Magic Jack from any country to US or Canada is free. Calls from MagicJack to MagicJack are all free, no matter in what countries the two parties may be when they make the phone call.

Another feature that may prove itself useful is the 411 Free Directory Assistance, either by telephone or on the internet. Keeping your original home phone number isn’t currently possible, but the Magic Jack officials claim that’s going to be available before the end of 2009.

Aside from the very low cost offered to all its customers, Magic Jack provides a great value for travelers, who can now use their phone via a laptop, wherever they may be in the world, at the same low cost, incomparably lower than other solutions such as mobile telephony roaming or other VoIP solutions that require an internet connection.
One small drawback of the MagicJack is that the PC needs to be switched on in order for the telephone to be operational for both dialing and receiving calls. However, vice mail can be taken even when the PC is switched off.
Being extremely easy to install and offering a voice quality comparable with any other wired phone line, Magic Jack had a successful launch, with almost half million devices sold in its first six months on the market. For making it work, all that’s necessary is to plug it into the USB port of a computer. The software then installs automatically, with no human intervention and calls can be made and received within less than five minutes from connecting the device to the computer.

The Magic Jack was invented by Dan Borislow and became available for the public in late 2007. It’s available all over the USA. Phone numbers are available in 80% of the area codes. For allowing consumers to see it for themselves how the Magic Jack works, a 30 days free trial is available.

There is a ton of information out there on the Magic Jack. It seem like just about everyone has written a review or has an opinion on the product. Just like about everything else on the Internet, a lot of the writing out there is either bad or inaccurate or both. One good resource I did find was the Magic Jack Guide. They have helpful information and it seems that answers get answered if you post a comment.

I may update this post from time to time so check back every once in a while. Also feel free to leave a question in the comments.

Check out MagicJack is a Hero for another take on the VOIP device.