Hardware13 Dec 2006 10:41 pm

Soap is a hybrid mouse created by Microsoft Labs and UW researcher Patrick Baudisch. The Soap Mouse is an awesome idea that is amazingly easy to do yourself. In a super surprising move from Microsoft, Patrick’s Soap Mouse website includes not only a very detailed pdf how-to but also a great movie how-to build your own soap mouse.

The mouse is made by removing the internals from a wireless mouse, performing a bit of modification, placing them into a reclaimed Rite Aid hand sanitizer bottle, and placing that assembly into a fuzzy sock. The soap mouse works by reading the inside of the sock by the normal mouse optical unit as the above created assembly is rotated inside of the sock in a very soap bar in your hand kind of motion.

The Soap DIY includes information for two versions, a gamers soap mouse and a 2D display mouse for more usualy mousing. The 2D is more difficult to make but (for most games) having a gamers soap mouse requires you to have a keypad to do your AWSD moving.

I love this creation for a bunch of reasons: It is a new take on the age old mouse input device, it is a pretty easy and inexpensive ($35) geek DIY project, and it just looks cool. I am seriously considering making it but am still trying to figure out when I would really use the little sock mouse.

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Hardware03 Nov 2006 06:29 am
I recently signed up for Verizon Wireless EVDO High Speed Internet. The service was referred to by Verizon as: BROADBANDACCESS PROMO UNLIMITED and is $59.99/month with a two year contract. The wireless EVDO service from Verizon that I signed up for is a data only service which I use to connect to the internet through a card in my Mac Book Pro Laptop.The Verizon Wireless Qualcom V640 Express Card
Verizon Qualcom V640 Express CardThe V640 card is regularly $199 at Verizon Wireless but don’t pay that much for it. The card is available at on-line retailers for $99 and I was able to get my local Verizon store to sell me the card for $99 a couple of months ago when I purchased it. I imagine this price will go down to promo/free soon.

The V640 is an Express Card which is another format of card other than the PCMICA cards which had been standard on most laptops. The Apple Mac Book and Mac Book Pro’s all have the Express Card Slot only. The V640 was one of the first EVDO Express Cards that was produced and has been avilalble for a couple of months. In September when I got my card, only Verizon and Sprint had Express EVDO cards available. This card is plug and play for the Apple laptops and mine has worked flawlessly.

The V640 Express Card has a few nice features including a flip up antenna for a bit of a signal boost, an input for an external antenna, and a very handy flashing signal detector light. I have been happy with the reception of the card. Most of the time if I have cell phone coverage, I also have EVDO data coverage. The signal light of the V640 flashes green if you have coverage and red if no coverage so you know your coverage even before you try and connect.

VZAccess Connection Manager Software
VZAccess Connection Manager SoftwareMy only complaint with Verizon’s EVDO wireless high speed internet service would be the VZAccess software. The software is not terrible but it is not flawless either. The software is required to set up the service, this is disappointing. With previous wireless internet service, you could configure a modem manually and connect, but this is not possible with the EVDO service from Verizon … well not initially anyways.

The VZAccess software comes with the V640 card and installs easily, although requiring an annoying restart. The software starts on boot I assume because it complains if you boot your Mac with the card inserted that it must be started before you insert the card… again annoying. Once you start the software the first time, it auto configures and you can then connect…AFTER you register the card and service. This process is what stops you from manually configuring your modem and connecting. Once you have successfully activated connecting is as easy as pressing the connect button.

VZAccess Connection Manager SoftwareThe software has a few handy features including a stat display which gives you your connection speed, current and historical, in text and graphical format. These are pretty useful especially to know whether you have the juice to try a huge download or if you should wait.

The major problem with this software is it has some dependability issues. I have a few times had it go into some kind of CPU eating condition where it takes all free processor cycles and runs up the heat on my Mac Book Pro.

Connection Speed
The service works by running in 1x Mode when EVDO is not available and the VZAccess display is a great way to keep track of your speeds. My speeds are usually around 96Kbps up and 1.2Mbps down when in 1X and 1.5Mbps up and 5Mbps down when in EVDO. I have seen it max out at around 8Mbps down. Any of the EVDO numbers are amazingly fast and the 1X numbers are annoying but fast enough to be very useful. I have been very happy with the speed of the service. Having unlimited data is a must, though, since I use this service pretty heavily at times. At a recent conference I attended, I used the service daily and with downloading Diggnation and GeekDrome at night, I pulled over 1G of data down one day 🙂

I have heard nasty rumors of that some people feeling they are being throttled when they use too much data. I have not found this to be true but are keeping my eye out for these kind of tactics because they are a possibility, I am sure.

Manual Modem Connection
So, I don’t think you can completely bypass the VZAccess software because of the activation functionality it performs but once you have activated your card it is very easy to go manual and bypass the VZAcess software. First, Open Internet Connect and select the Novatel Wireless EXPD CDMA modem from the selection bar at the top. Click the “Show modem status in menu bar” check box. This is a good selection to have anyways because it gives you your connection information. Now when you want to connect, just click on the modem phone icon and select connect. This works because the VZAccess software is nice enough to set up the modem profile when you first connect.

Final Conclusions
I have been very happy with Verizon’s EVDO high speed wireless data service. The service area and speed are excellent and as EVDO coverage is expanded this will just get better.

Express Card to USB Adapter If you don’t have an Express Card slot or want to have the ability to access Verizon EVDO from your desktop, Apple or Mac, check out the Novatel Wireless XUA-1 Express Card to USB Adapter. I reviewed it on my blog here.

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Hardware19 Jul 2006 12:15 pm

Pocket PC Bluetooth to USB Sync ErrorProblem: After setting up my Mac Book Pro to sync via Bluetooth with my Pocket PC I could no longer sync via USB connection. I received this error:

Cannot start communications with the desktop computer. The communications port is not available. Another program may be using the port, or it may not be valid.

Quit any programs that may be using the port and reconnect. If the problem persists, restart your device using the instructions provided by the manufacturer.

I could still sync through the Bluetooth sync but USB no longer was active. I thought the issue was with The Missing Sync program I was using to sync my iPAQ pocket PC with Entrourage on my Mac Book Pro but after trying to sync through USB on my Windows XP desktop, I received the same error.

Solution: Change the Pocket PC Sync Manager to sync via USB

Step 1: Select Active Sync from the Pocket PC Windows Menu

Step 2: Select “Options” from the Tools Menu at the bottom of the screen.
Pocket PC Bluetooth to USB Sync Error Solution Step 2

Step 3: Click the “Options” button.
Pocket PC Bluetooth to USB Sync Error Solution Step 3

Step 4: Select “USB” from the drop down menu on the screen
Pocket PC Bluetooth to USB Sync Error Solution Step 4

Step 5: Plug in your USB cable to your PC and your Pocket PC and sync

The port the error refers to is the Pocket PC’s COM port NOT the port on your Mac (through the Missing Sync) or PC. Whenever you switch back between USB and Bluetooth syncs, just follow these steps again to select your method.

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Hardware20 Jun 2006 12:40 pm

Mac Convert -- Me and My Mac Book ProWell the unbelivable happened, I am now the proud owner of a new 17″ Mac Book Pro. Who would have thunk it? I have always been a hard core Windows person and after my experiences with Macs during my research and schooling days I had no desire to go back to try a Mac. A funny thing happened, though, after Mac released their new Intel driven PC’s and then Laptops I got mildly interested in it if nothing else because it was newsworthy.

Enter a new job where I am working closly with designers who are devoted Mac-anics. When I had the chance to upgrade my 4 year old Dell Optiplex (*shudder*) I thought what the heck lets give this mac thing a try. I researched laptops a ton and the more I learned the more excited I got about what Apple was doing with the Mac Book Pro’s. Not only just the form which Apple has always been way out in front on but also now the function and the ability to run Windows natively if I needed.

OS X is what really pushed me over the edge, though. I had heard alot of buzz about the new UNIXish OS from Apple but hadn’t really had a chance to see what they hype was all about (remember PC guy, no Apple). That is, until I got a link to a Google Video clip of Bill Gates’ Windows Vista feature presentation with the video of Windows Vista replaced with the current version of OSX (see below).

I immediatly thought, well why should I wait for months for an OS to come out when a better one already exists? Plus since OS X is built upon a UNIX/LINUX esque kernel it is bound to be not only stable but allows me to SSH in and do other work with ease.

The combination of this awesome OS with the ability to run Windows XP seemlessly inside of OS X with Parallels or boot direclty into Windows with BootCamp sold me. After what seemed like a forever wait and a production delay by Apple my fully loaded Mac Book Pro arrived. I am extremly happy with the machine and am loving the OS. I am still making the mind switch over to the new functionality but the effort is well worth it.

I will keep you up to date on the switch!

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Hardware19 May 2005 01:42 pm

I recently built a new computer with a AMD Athlon 64 Socket 939 3000 CPU / Gigabyte nForce4SLI GA-K8N Ultra-SLI motherboard, and Samsung 120G SATA-II hard drive. My problem was with setup of Windows XP on the box. Windows XP Home setup would run just fine, install the drivers, format the hard drive, copy the files, but when it went to its first reboot it would start the setup process from step 1 again! I finally tracked the problem down to Windows XP not being able to recognize a Serial ATA-II hard drive on my GA-K8N motherboard. That started a HUGE ordeal on trying get get Windows to install on the SATA hard drive. Below is the process you can use to setup Windows on a single SATA-2 hard drive running on a GA-K8N Ultra-SLI Raid enabled Motherboard. Please note the instructions in the Gigabyte GA-K8N motherboard instructions document are WRONG and the drivers on their CD DO NOT work.

What you will need to install Windows XP on your Serial ATA hard drive and GA-K8N motherboard (other than the stuff listed above).

  • A floppy drive in your computer connected to the FDD cable in your motherboard. (NOTE: this is necessary as Windows XP needs to load the drivers you need from the floppy A: I went out and bought a floppy drive for this.) OR A CD burner to create your own installation CD with the drivers pre-loaded on it. (NOTE: Since I did not go this way I can only point you to a How-To Link about Slipstreaming Windows XP SP2 Installation: http://www.winsupersite.com/showcase/windowsxp_sp2_slipstream.asp Thanks to Rich N. for the heads up on this method)
  • The SATA-II or SATA drivers downloaded from NVIDIA or the Silicon Image SIL3114 drivers OR downloaded from this post and placed on a clean floppy disk. Further in the How To File I have links and descriptions on which driver you will need.

STEP 1 :: If you only are running one SATA hard drive DISABLE RAID in the BIOS

This sounds eaiser than it actually is in the Award Software BIOS. There are many setting in the CMOS Setup Utility page that say RAID but if you disable some of them you also disable the Serial ATA functionality and then you really won’t see your hard drive ever.

  • First press the Delete key during post to enter the BIOS setup
  • Second Select the Integrated Peripherals menu item on the Award BIOS main menu
  • Third go to the 6th menu item “IDE/SATA RAID function” on the next menu and click Disabled. This item is Enable by default which I think is silly because it assumes most people go with a RAID array and the book is not all that descriptive in telling you.
  • Fourth go back to the main menu and verify in the “Advanced BIOS Features” menu that your boot order is what you need. Mine is Floppy / CD / Hard Drive.
  • NOTE: On some BIOS’s you will need to change the boot order to SCSI or the like because they do not recognize the SATA hard drives as a “hard drive” but as a peripheral. For my setup the BIOS recognized the SATA-II hard drive as a hard drive and I did not have the option to select a SCSI or other type of disk and belive me I tried all the options while debugging.

STEP 2 :: Download the SATA (Serial ATA) or SATA-II Drivers
In step 3 you will need the SATA drivers so we need to get them on a floppy disk.

If you have a Serial ATA hard drive download the Silicon Image drivers from Silicon Image’s site or click here to download the SIL3114 SATA drivers I found that work.

If you have a Serial ATA-II hard drive download the NVIDIA SATA-II drivers from NVIDIA’s site or click here to download the NVIDIA SATA-II drivers I used.

Place these files on a floppy and have it ready for the next step.

STEP 3 :: Install Windows XP on your SATA hard drive

  • Insert the Windows XP setup CD into your CDROM drive and start/restart your computer
  • Boot from the CD (press any necessary keys your BIOS/Computer might require
  • IMPORTANT STEP When Windows is first installing it will ask you to press F6 To install any Third Party SCSI or hardware drivers PRESS F6 when that message comes up. It will continue on and then in about a minute will prompt you to install the extra drivers.
  • At the install screen press the Key to Install the extra drivers. Insert your floppy you made in STEP 2 when prompted and press Enter.
  • Select the driver you want and press Enter. NOTE: If you have a Serial ATA-II driver then you will need to install 2 drivers, just select the first and press enter then select the second and press enter.
  • Continue with Windows XP instillation.
  • Make sure to remove the floppy before the reboot and keep it handy because you will need it 1 more time during the next install step

CONGRATULATIONS you are almost there. If Windows XP comes up after the initial setup reboot then you have gotten it to recognize your Serial ATA (SATA) hard drive! Hold on though one more got-ya to watch out for.

STEP 4 :: Be Careful when installing your Motherboard provided driver disk.

For my Gigabyte GA-K8N Ultra-SLI motherboard the provided CDROM contains the sound, ect necessary drivers to enable all of the onboard hardware. This CD also contains outdated SATA and SATA-II drivers that if installed will UNDO all your work from above. (Trust me been there done that DOH!)

To prevent the CD from installing bad drivers unclick the box next to installing the SATA drivers when installing the motherboard drivers.

If you do happen to forget this step and install the bad SATA drivers get ready for more painfull work. If Windows reports that you have a bad SATA driver then restart the setup by booting from the Windows Disk and go through STEP 3 but when it asks you during the format drive step if you would like and repair the install click YES. Now you will have replaced the bad drivers with the good one and Windows XP will be OK again.

Hope this helps. This has has been writen for a specific motherboard but the problems have been seen with Serial ATA Windows XP installs on many motherboards and this information should work for most of those also. Just check and see which hardware processors they use for their SATA functionality and therefore which drivers you will need on your floppy disk during the install.

Please let me know if you have any comments or any other tips with your specific setup. I had a horrible time finding accurate information on this so hopefully this “How To Install Windows XP on Serial ATA hard drive” post helps others!

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