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Saturday, 12 March 2016

Anatomy of a Trifle

Two boxes of Trile Mix - Strawberry Flavour.
Some other ingredients.
Swiss roll, with jam and cream. Chop it up so everyone gets a bit.
Add the strawberry jelly. Put in the fridge to set.
Separate the peach slices from the liquid and chop them up a bit.
Peach slices on top of the jelly
Add lots of custard.

To be continued ... !

... Early next morning !
 Moroccan raspberries are actually a bit disappointing, some nice raspberry flavours, but little sweetness. Hopefully be ok with all the other sweet things in the mix.
Bon apertit and 73
Hugh M0WYE

Windows Vista Automatic Update Problems

Since fitting the SSD the computer is very quiet, so , one evening,  my attention was drawn to the sound of the fan whirring. An investigation with Windows Task Manager revealed that wuauserv was running. This is the Windows Automatic Update service. It was using 50% (one core) of the CPU. After an hour I got fed up with it and started Windows Update manually to see what was going on. It just sat on "checking for updates" ... And nothing happened for another hour.

So I gave up and disabled auto updates.

Looking on some computer forums, it seems that others have had issues with the wauaserv locking up. But if your auto-updates are broke there is not much chance of downloading an update to fix it.

On one forum I found "Windows Offline Update" was a solution, so I decided to try it for myself. It is not Microsoft, it is Open Source. It allows you to download all the updates for a particular version of Windows, and copy them onto, for example, a USB stick. Then you can install all the latest updates onto a machine which is not connected to the Internet. I was attracted to it because it gives a bit more control over the update process.

So I downloaded it from here:

There is a very good tutorial about it by Eli The Computer Guy..
It is worth watching this before attempting to use the software.

I found there were 2.5 GB even without the Office 2007 updates, so be prepared for a big download. The software worked very well, with a Windows "front end" that has check-boxes to select what you want to download or install. When you have made a selection some sort of script starts in a "command line" style box. Each step of the process appears on the screen and is logged to a file.

Although I had expected the offline updater to use its own software, it actually seems to use Windows own routines for at least some of the work ... including the dreaded Wauaserv! And, when a line appeared on the screen saying something like "building I.D. list of required updates", nothing happened for a very long time ... nearly 2 hours, in fact. If it hadn't been for the additional message which said "this may take a long time, please be patient" I would have aborted the process. The updater found, and applied, 19 updates.

This kind of software would be ideal for a computer repair shop where many computers have to be updated. Also if you have to reinstall windows, it might be useful to have the complete set of updates on a DVD or memory key.

For myself, I need to learn "patience", when wauaserv " locked up" it was probably just halfway through checking what updates were needed. Will we reach a point when our computers can do nothing else but install updates all day long!

I will probably go back to using Windows Update, but do so manually, putting up with the red shield symbol and the nag messages at boot-up. It won't be long before Microsoft stop supporting Vista anyway.

Hugh M0WYE

Fitting a Samsung 850 EVO 250Gb SSD to the Inspiron 1525 Laptop

So last time I told you about increasing the size of the RAM. Now to actually fit the SSD.

Again there are Youtube videos which show you how to do this on the exact same model of computer so there is little point in me going into great detail about that here:
Youtube video showing how to change the Hard Disk
The computer guy is fitting an EVO 840 SSD, but it seems identical to the Samsung 850 EVO 250Gb SSD I bought from Amazon.

If you watch this video you will see that the guy making it has problems getting the connector on the hard disk to make proper contact with the socket in the computer. The problem is that the SSD is slightly slimmer than the old hard disk and the SSD needs to be lifted slightly when you slide it into the slot. It is confusing because when the SSD misses the connector it still slides fully home and almost feels as if it has plugged-in. When you power-up the computer you get a message saying "No boot device available".
Our solution was cheap and simple and required a small piece of cardboard cut from the Amazon carton that the disk arrived in ... and some sticky-tape. See photo below ...
The cardboard has been folded over so there are two layers.
The photo also shows the Samsung SSD mounted in the tray which is part of the computer. It is necessary to take the tray off the old disk and fit it to the new one. There are just two small screws holding it on.
The photo below shows the disk ready to be refitted to the computer, you will see that the cardboard is on the bottom, so it lifts up the end of the disk as it slides into the slot.

The two black screws in this picture are the ones which secure the tray into the computer after you have fitted back in the slot.

So really the mechanics are very simple. However I should emphasize the need to SHUT DOWN the computer before changing the disk drive (or the memory) - don't just hibernate it. And take out the battery too - some parts of the motherboard could still be powered and also the computer could be started accidentally if a button is pressed when handling it.

The other part of the process is the "cloning" procedure. The Samsung SSD comes with a CD or DVD of software to do this, but we used some other program that my son had already used to do clone his laptop disk.  It is called Macrium Reflect Free and is a free trial.

Before doing any cloning, it is a good idea to uninstall any unused software and do a Disk Cleanup. In fact we managed to free up about 50Gb of disk space (a big chunk of that was FlightsimX which was no longer used).

We plugged the laptop's old disk and the SSD into a desktop machine that had several spare SATA interface sockets. Our attempt at using a USB to SATA lead (bought from Ebay) failed part-way through the copying procedure, we are not sure why, but it is much quicker to use a direct SATA connection anyway. So that is what I would recommend if you can get access to a suitable desk-top PC.

The performance is greatly improved - particularly the time taken starting applications. Windows Mail is on of the applications that is most transformed - I'm not quite sure why, but it checks the E-mail much faster now. (This might be related to Kaspersky Internet Security checking all the E-mail).

The computer is almost silent for much of the time ... only the fan running. It was the noise of the fan which prompted me to investigate why Windows Update used so much system resources ... but perhaps I will tell you about that on another occasion.

Hugh M0WYE

P.S. After fitting the SSD go into the Defragmenter and turn off any scheduled defragmentation. A Solid State Disk doesn't need defragmenting, and it may actually reduce the life of the disk. Plus ... it will be one less thing that the computer is doing "in the background"!

Upgrading the Dell Inspiron 1525 Laptop Computer

I thought I would tell you a bit about my experiences of upgrading my Dell Inspiron Laptop. I Have been using this for many years and have been very happy with it. It runs Windows Vista, which a lot of people don't like, but it has worked well for me, and, frankly, a well patched copy of Vista seems very little different to Windows 7. 

A popular upgrade for any laptop is to fit a solid state hard disk. A lot of the slowness of any computer seems to be caused by disk access. This computer has a 250Gb hard disk which is getting pretty full, a Samsung Evo 850 250Gb SSD was available for about £60, which seemed very good value. I back up onto a 1Tb external disk, but to have a "spare" disk which is a exact clone of the disk in the computer is a tempting extra benefit of performing this up-grade.

The only down-side to using Solid state disks is the limited number of write cycles that can be performed. It numbers in the 100s of thousands, and modern disks have clever software which spreads the data around on the disk, minimising wear to any particular part. When memory is low, Windows uses "virtual memory" where it uses part of the hard disk as an extension of RAM. A computer which has limited RAM will make many more reads and writes to the hard disk. Obviously this can be reduced by maximising the amount of "real" RAM fitted to the computer. So before fitting the SSD I decided to do that. There are two "slots" in this Laptop and they were both occupied with 1Gb modules. The largest size you can fit to the Inspiron 1525 is 2Gb which gives a total of 4Gb.

Access to the memory is very easy, there are eight screws to remove and then you lift off a panel on the underside of the computer. There are a number of Youtube videos about this so I won't go into great detail here. This is the one I found best: Youtube Video shows how to change the RAM in a Dell Inspiron 1525 Laptop. You can see the pair of memory modules in the photo below, together with the heat-pipe leading away from the processor and the WiFi module among other things.

I will say a word or two about my choice of replacement RAM modules, or "SODIMMs". When I looked for replacement RAM on the internet,  I found there were some websites where you punch in the make and model of your computer and the website recommends the "correct" type of module to buy. I was going to click "Buy Now" on one of these, but then thought I should check what was already fitted.

The site had recommended PC2-5300 modules, but if you look at the picture below, you can see that PC2-6400S modules are fitted.

So this worried me, and I decided to try and find out a bit more about the numbers on the modules. The Wikipedia article on DDR memory is quite useful in this respect: Wikipedia Article about DDR memory. The 6400 RAM seems to be slightly faster than the 5300, so that was what I decided to fit, even though it was a bit more expensive. Indeed, I looked for some RAM modules by the same manufacturer, Hynix, because I reasoned that near identical, but larger, modules would give the least opportunity for incompatibility. As an electronic engineer, I have sometimes encountered small differences in spec between two components made by different manufacturers that can cause annoying problems.
As you will see below, I have fitted two Hynix DDR2 PC2-6400S modules and they work absolutely fine. 

Incidentally, the "S" on the end of 6400 seems simply to mean "Small" and refers to the fact that these are laptop modules, and not the slightly larger form of SODIMM used in Desktops. Also the 2Rx8 and 2Rx16 numbers seem to be unimportant, and would appear to refer to the number of ICs on the SODIMM.

Next, I'll tell you about the Solid State Hard Disk ...
Hugh M0WYE