Asus Slate EP121 Motherboard and Internals

Recently one of the fans started buzzing loudly in my EEE PC EP121 Slate, a giant 12 inch tablet computer running a full install of windows 7 on its 64-gigabyte solid state drive.

To “fix” it, I had to open up the computer to get at the internals. I accomplished this with a butter knife and extreme caution so as not to break any of the delicate little clasps holding the 2 halves together.

It’s become tradition now for me to take high resolution pictures of the insides of computers I fix and post them here.

Click image for full resolution file.

ep121-internals-motherboard-1024

Out of the 2 fans, only one was buzzing. It’s the right-side one pictured above. You can order replacement fans from Ali Express for around 20$ which I plan to do, but in the meantime I’ve simply disconnected the fan from the board. The computer runs silently again, but it only has 1/2 of its cooling power now so I carefully monitor the internal temperature to make sure it doesn’t exceed ~80 degrees C. I use a great utility called HWmonitor to monitor the temperatures of every internal component with a sensor.

Disconnecting the fan is easy, just pull the tiny little white connector near the fan out. I’ve placed a green arrow beside the one I pulled out.

fan-controller-ep121

A 1-fan EP121 still runs perfectly fine for most activities. But processor-intensive tasks should be attempted with great caution! You can watch a youtube video but not in high definition as this will create more heat than a single fan can properly deal with. Excel, Word and ordinary internet browsing are all perfectly safe as they require very little processor power. It’s still best to replace your bad fan as soon as possible so you don’t risk damaging more components with the extra heat.

Speed up your Computer by running Old Software

love using old programs. In most cases, old software was built to work on older, slower hardware. That means it runs smoothly and lightning quick on newer hardware. Using new software in most cases means using the most bloated and slow version of that software.

This problem came to a head recently for me when my iTunes upgraded itself. The newest iTunes is an ugly monstrosity that constantly changes the view panels around. The newest sub-version froze up for about 5 seconds every time I wanted to scroll up or down.

So I backdated to iTunes 10.5, which I got from one of my favorite websites OldVersion.com. I would have gone back even further but my iPhone (running a legacy version of ios, 5.1.1) needed at least iTunes 10.5.

itunes10-5

And holy shit is it fast and wonderful to use. Compared to iTunes 11 which I’ve been stupidly using for the last 5 months it is ten times better. Here’s a short list of why.

  • Much more information dense, the new itunes has way more wasteful negative space everywhere which requires the panels to switch around all over the place.
  • Podcasts don’t automatically unsubscribe themselves when
  • Podcasts display ALL old episodes instead of just the last 20 or so.
  • NO delays or stutters or freezes, ever.
  • Syncing just one playlist actually works again. In iTunes 11 when you want to sync just a few episodes,  it tries to update ALL the episodes in that podcast. What the frack, seriously.
  • The program is lighter on RAM and CPU. This makes sense since the it was built to run on computers from 2011.
  • Navigation makes sense again. Everything is in the left sidebar, unlike iTunes 11 which has navigation all over the place for no reason. Look at this screenshot of iTunes 11 and try to find “podcasts.”
    redesigned_player_albumviewThat’s right it’s nowhere to be seen. “Podcasts” is actually in the drop down menu under Music. The podcast interface in iTunes 11 is shit, and if you breathe wrong, iTunes will kick you back into the Music section. Ugh

But this isn’t really a post about iTunes, it’s a post about using older software in general. These are just a few examples of extremely bloated software that you should try to use the old version of if possible.

  • Anything made by Adobe (use Sumatra instead of Adobe for your PDF reader.)
  • Anything in the Microsoft Office suite, in most cases.
  • Windows. My tablet updated from 8.0 to 8.1 without my consent and 8.1 is HORRIBLE. Keystrokes now have a 2 second delay which is totally unacceptable for 2014. Win 7 is the best, some people are still joyfully using Windows XP.
  • Skype. This software only gets worse as time goes on.
  • uTorrent. Newer versions are heavy with ads and slow.
  • Azureus. That’s the bittorrent client for Macintosh.
  • Firefox and Opera, probably. They are bloated pieces of shit nowadays. Chrome is still pretty lightweight and fast, because Google actually values speed above almost all else and has from the very beginning.
    google-search-in-2001

Links:

http://www.oldapps.com/ old programs for windows and Mac OS

http://findoldapps.com/ old apps for iOS

RSI / Tendonitis Home Remedies that Have Actually Worked

wrist brace

Someone I know suffered from RSI for 10 years in both of his arms. The last 5 of those years he was working 80+ hours a week programming and building his startup company.

He tried every conceivable specialist, therapy, product and device, spending in total over $30,000 during those dark years. Throughout that period he dealt with constant pain, numbness and tingling, in addition to inflammation in his elbows, wrists, shoulders, and upper back.

It would take many pages to list everything he tried, but the following methods are what actually worked for him and moved him towards being 99% pain free and typing happily all day now.

He did NOT want to undergo surgery or cortisone injections and in the end he succeeded in avoiding these high risk “solutions” to his problem.

Supplements for RSI

My friend took a capsule of each of these these daily on an empty stomach, depending on his level of pain. He still takes them occasionally for when he doesn’t sleep well or has intense work days that cause some RSI pain to return.

It’s quite interesting to read the reviews on the Amazon listings above. My friend was not the only one to have excellent results as a result of taking these supplements, many others had similar experiences.

Risks of taking supplements are extremely low but be sure to read carefully and understand warning labels.

Ergonomics for RSI

ergonomic workstation for rsi tendonitis

My friend has made the following ergonomic equipment a part of his daily life. Since he spends so much time at the computer as a programmer, he needs equipment that will put the minimum amount of strain possible on his body.

He reports that he’s tried many keyboard/mouse combos and hasn’t found anything close to as good.

Food for RSI

Ginger tea appears to halt inflammation. You can use a small cube of ginger steeped in hot water, there’s no need to buy ginger tea in tea bags. I like my ginger tea with lemon or the herb lemon balm.

Health / Body

  • Massage therapy helps a bit, but it’s very expensive. If your healthcare covers a few sessions, why not. My friend only takes ~2 massages per year now, he used to have them one or two times per week.
  • Cold / hot arm baths can reduce inflammation. Fill two plastic tubs with hot water and ice water, and submerge your arms for 30 seconds at a time in each tub, finishing with the cold water.
  • Doing gentle stretches held for 30+ seconds each helps.
  • Good, deep sleep was the #1 most surprising and effective “therapy”. He started using ohropax wax earplugs and an eye mask, as well as the “f.lux” software on his PC to get a full 8 hours or more of sleep. This helps more than any supplement or massage therapy session.

Books for RSI

mind-body-prescription

The Mindbody Prescription

My friend read this book to the very end and did all the exercises. Within 10 days he no longer felt pain in his arms and was well enough to cancel his weekly massage therapies. To this day  he is feeling fantastic. After good sleep, this was the second most surprising thing about curing RSI.

The guy who started google docs fixed his RSI using the same techniques.

Credits

The above advice was originally sent in a private email conversation between my friend, myself and my brother. It was published here with permission. My friend is still going strong after curing his RSI, he writes about music and art at submetallic.com. 

“wrist brace” photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/liewcf/

Radeon 7750 for Litecoin / Dogecoin / Scrypt / Cryptocurrency Mining

Some notes on using a 7750 for Dogecoin mining. Should be relevant for any Scrypt-based coin such as the popular Litecoin. I’m using cgminer 3.7.2 which is an old version, but the most recent version of cgminer to support scrypt based mining.

msi-7750-radeon-graphics-card

I found that I needed to set my fan speed to 100%. The 7700 series seems to desire much cooler temps than other cards. Mine is happiest at around 63 degrees Celcius. Above 65 seems to hot for it and it produces too many HW errors. Other cards I’m using are fine at around 75C.

I find it very hard to eliminate HW errors entirely. I think they’re bad because too many affects the quality of your hashing and can eventually damage your card. I can find very little information on acceptable HW error rates, but one guy says he shoots for below 1% of your A and R added together. Update: A reader sent in his settings, which hash slightly faster than my own setup but have no hardware errors at all. 

Let’s do the math quick. 7888 (accepted hashes) plus 128 (rejects) = 8016. Divide by HW errors (12) to get 0.15% Well below 1% so I called it good enough.

cgminer-radeon-7750

But if you bump intensity ( the “I” figure) up from 14 to 15, HW errors start to multiply like soldiers after the war. This is a low-intensity card, which is why no one buys it specifically for mining. But if you happen to already have one lying around it makes a great casual miner when you’re not using it.

Here are my batch file settings for minimal HW errors for zero hardware errors. Text in light blue needs to be replaced by your own figures. When I want to be able to use my desktop and watch youtube videos I set gpu-engine to 870. This setup should hash at a stable 166 kh/s. Thanks to Paul for sending in these new settings which are better than the ones I was using.

POWERCFG -REQUESTSOVERRIDE PROCESS cgminer.exe Display System
cgminer –scrypt –gpu-engine 935 -I 11 –thread-concurrency 2560 –gpu-memclock 1200 -w 256 -g 2 -o stratum+tcp://MINING-URL -u WORKER -p PASSWORD –failover-only -o stratum+tcp://MINING-URL  -u WORKER -p PASSWORD
PAUSE

Link to specs and more

advice about this card.

Mining Cryptocurrency / Dogecoin Setup Guide and FAQ

I’ve been spending my spare desktop computer cycles mining for the latest hot commodity, DogeCoin. I’m lucky that the graphics card I already have is a pretty good miner already, the 7750 from MSI. Pushing only about 80% as hard as I could, I’m getting a steady 150 kh/s, building my fortune at a rate of about 1000 coins every 24 hours. The going rate for a grand of Ð? About $1.30. Sure that doesn’t sound like much, but it’s a sizable chunk of my daily rent cost of $8.33, which includes the electricity that powers the miner.

Building New Skills

I didn’t expect that when I started mining for Ð that I would start assembling BAT files, using the windows console POWERCFG utility, tweaking processor core temps and fan speeds, or managing python libraries and scripts. I’ve learned more about computers in the last 24 hours than I have over the past 12 months and I’ve had a blast doing it.

Is It Risky?

DogeCoin doesn’t take itself too seriously. Which is for the best, considering that cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and DogeCoin are still a massive unknown. If you take it too seriously, you might invest a lot of your time and money into something that ends up evaporating like fog on a sunny day. Keep it light and keep your expectations low, and you’ll be better off no matter what happens.

How Do I Get Started?

You need a few things to start mining.

  • A computer. Any computer will do but newer, better ones mine far better.
  • A Doge Wallet. This holds your coins. I use the desktop version 1.5 because it’s more secure than an online wallet.
  • Membership in a mining pool. This is free and anonymous and you can get set up in a couple of minutes. I use rapidhash. Once you are logged in you will need to create a worker for your mining utility to “log in” to.
  • A mining utility. This is by far the most complicated part of your setup. If you have a good graphics card based on AMD you will want to use cgminer 3.7.2 (not the newer versions). If you have a geforce graphics card you will need to use cudaminer. If your graphics card is deficient or non existent, you can use cpuminer instead but your mining speed is almost always faster with a graphics card than with a CPU. There’s a full list of graphics cards along with recommended utilities at litecoin.info.

Mining is done in a little terminal screen and set up using essentially an MS dos prompt. Fortunately the mining pool I recommended RapidHash makes a windows BAT file for you that sets everything up automatically.

cgminer

Can I Still Use my Computer While Mining?

I did this entire article while my graphics card plugged away full tilt mining DogeCoin. I was also running a Dwarf Fortress at its full complement of FPS.

Since the best mining method does not use the CPU, only graphic intensive tasks that use the graphics card are affected. That includes photoshop, youtube videos, and video games. Even the animated gif I used up above is much choppier than usual while mining.

Will Mining Hurt my Graphics Card?

It sure will if you let it get too hot. This rules out mining with most laptops because their airflow is so limited that they can’t handle the heat. Most miners try to keep their graphics card temperatures at 80°C but I like to keep it at a much more conservative 65°C. I find the best way to keep the card cool is by manually setting the fan control higher. Usually you will have to install the specialty software your graphics came with to adjust your fan controls.

Building a Dedicated Doge Miner

I found this useful tutorial on building a 500 kh/s rig for 300$. Considering I’m happy to pay 1$ per kh/s, this is a pretty good deal. US prices.

Source for video clip

Fixing iPod 4th Generation Headphone Jack (one-ear working)

I balled a tiny piece of tin foil up and shoved it in there. It’s working for now but once I’m feeling looser with money I’ll buy this replacement piece from Ebay which I can install myself easily. You know it’s an authentic chinese reverse engineer when it looks like it was photographed on the set of a horror movie. I just hope the part works better than the vendor’s camera.

The iPod was my graduation present in 2005 and has been fixed many times already. It’s lasted so long because everything in these 2004-era pods is replaceable. The battery, hard drive, and headphone jack all plug into the board with a click.

ipod-4th-generation

It’s getting harder to find parts for these, maybe I better stock up…

Replacing the Wireless Internet Chip in a Laptop/Notebook

Usually the problem isn’t the chip, in fact I’ve only seen it once in years of internet connectivity problems. You should replace the wireless chip only after you’ve exhausted all your other options. Those include and are not limited to:

  • Rebooting your computer
  • Rebooting your router
  • Rebooting your modem
  • Rebooting your wireless device in your control panel
  • Doing that ipconfig /renew and /release thing
  • Calling your ISP if the internet on all your computers is broken
  • Uninstalling Hamachi, which for some reason screws internet up. If you don’t know what it is, don’t worry about it.
  • Reinstalling your wireless device drivers (often called WLAN) from your computer manufacturer
  • Asking someone who knows more about technology than you, but bake them cookies or buy them beers first.

Tried everything in the list above? Ok good. Time to replace your wireless chip. It’s about one square inch and looks exactly like this:

wifi-chip

The above chip is faulty. The only thing useful it’s done in the last 2 months is pose for this picture.

I replaced it with one that Brittany has spilled coffee all over yet works great. Here it is nestled in its new home.

wifi-chip-computerWireless chips are really easy to replace. It’s getting to them that proves the challenge. On this computer I had to take the entire bottom off. To find out how I just looked for my approximate model number on youtube. Approximate because this laptop has a thousand iterations, all identical under the hood.

I recall having an old Inspiron 1000 which had an easy access compartment for the wireless chip, much like how most laptops manufactured today have holes which let you get your fingerprints all over their ram and hard drives. But most modern laptops need to be taken apart to replace this component.

Observe 2 things about the above picture.

1. Notice it’s held in with a screw. To remove the old card, remove the screw and both leads. The entire unit will pop up from a flat 0 degree angle to a grippable 30 degree angle. Installing the new card is a matter of slotting it in, pushing it flush with the board, and reinstalling the screw.

2. See those grey and black wires coming from the chip? They have the worst name in all consumer electronics. U.FL Mini PCIBe very careful with them! Most U.FL plugs are only designed to handle 1 or 2 installs in their lifetime and due to their tiny size they can break very easily, especially when being reinstalled on a wireless card. I’ve broken one already by forcing it to hard and was thankfully was able to fix it again with a tiny sewing needle. But you might not be so lucky. Make sure you don’t get the order of them mixed up, although this is likely to be impossible as one is shorter.

Where to Find The Wireless Card

Well it’ll be in your computer, we know that much. Probably on your motherboard. My desktop computer actually has a slot for one of these wireless cards which is why I happened to have one lying around. Why it had coffee is another story. An expensive mistake kind of story.

Circled in orangered is where I found this card on this laptop. Visit my Sony PCG series post to see these computer guts in ultra high resolution.

sony-vaio-PCG-series-motherboardWhich Replacement Wireless Chip Should I Buy?

I don’t think it matters as long as it’s more-or-less as old as your laptop. In the above computer I replaced a non-bluetooth chip with a combination wifi/bluetooth one and it worked fine.

The newest generation of wifi technology is the N standard which is about 6 years old so everything during that time frame should play nicely together.

Although our faulty chip was an Intel, the good chip that survived the coffee was also Intel so I’m going to recommend Intel. I’d go with this one because it’s cheap, rated nearly 5 stars, and is the best selling wifi chip on Amazon.

SONY VAIO PCG Series

This is a high resolution picture of the laptop insides of a Sony Vaio PCG-61313L. As far as I can tell it looks exactly the same for all Sony Vaio models beginning with the letters “PCG”. I’ll list Sony Vaio PCG model numbers below and you can CTRL+F your model number to see if it’s in the list. Mine is actually not in the list, maybe because it’s a canadian model.

(Click for full resolution file)

sony-vaio-PCG-series-motherboard-open

(Click for full resolution file)

I opened this machine up to replace the wifi card, so click the link if you’re interested in reading about that.

Opening the Sony PCG Series

This was an easy laptop computer to open. First make sure the laptop is unplugged and the battery removed. Unscrew both expansion slots – one holds the ram and the other held the hard drive. You can leave the RAM in but take the hard drive out.

Once all screws are removed the bottom cover will come off easily. If you struggle to take it off you probably missed a screw. In my model I took out a total of exactly 19 screws of various sizes. The hard drive was only using 2 out of a total 4 screws.

PCG Series Model Numbers

This is a partial list of Sony Vaio PCG Series laptops. If your PCG series motherboard looks significantly different from the one pictured, leave a comment!

  • PCG-505F, PCG-505G, PCG-505GX
  • PCG-505FX
  • PCG-505TS, PCG-505TX, PCG-505TR
  • PCG-705C, PCG-707C
  • PCG -717C, -719C, -729C, -731, -735, -737
  • PCG-745, PCG-747
  • PCG-748
  • PCG-808, 812, 818, 838
  • PCG-C1VN Picturebook
  • PCG-C1X PictureBook
  • PCG-C1XS Picturebook
  • PCG-F150, F160, F180, F190
  • PCG-F250, F270, F280, F290
  • PCG-F340, PCG-F350, PCG-F360
  • PCG-F370, PCG-F390
  • PCG-F420, PCG-F430, PCG-F450
  • PCG-F480, PCG-F480K, PCG-F490, PCG-F490K
  • PCG-F520, F540, F540K, F560, F560K, F570
  • PCG-F580, PCG-F580K, PCG-F590, PCG-F590K
  • PCG-F610, PCG-F630
  • PCG-F640, F650, F650K, F680, F680K
  • PCG-F690, PCG-F690K
  • PCG-F801, PCG-F801A
  • PCG-FR102, FR130, FR700
  • PCG-FRV25, FRV26, FRV27, FRV28
  • PCG-FX104K, FX105K, FX108K, FX109K
  • PCG- FX120, FX140, FX150, FX170, FX190 Series
  • PCG-FX200, FX200K Series
  • PCG- FX210, FX215, FX220, FX240, FX250, FX270 Series
  • PCG-FX290/290k PIII SpeedStep
  • PCG-FX300, PCG-FX310 Series
  • PCG- FX340, FX340K, FX340P Series
  • PCG-FX370, FX390 Series
  • PCG-FX800
  • PCG-FX801, FX802, FX804, FX805
  • PCG-FX880K, FX900, FX950, FX990
  • PCG-FXA10
  • PCG-FXA32, FXA33, FXA35/D, FXA36 Series
  • PCG-FXA47, FXA48
  • PCG-FXA49
  • PCG-FXA53, FXA59, FXA63
  • PCG- GR Series
  • PCG-GRS Series
  • PCG-GRT25
  • PCG-GRT100 Series
  • PCG-GRT170 2.8GHz P4
  • PCG-GRV550
  • PCG-GRV670 & GRV680 Series
  • PCG-GRX Series 500 Models
  • PCG-GRX Series 600 & 700 Models
  • PCG-GRZ530
  • PCG-GRZ 600 Series
  • PCG K12, K13, K14, K15, K17Series
  • PCG K20, K22, K23, K24, K25, K27, K29 Series
  • PCG K33, K34, K35, K37 Series
  • PCG-K43, K44, K45, K47 Series
  • PCG-N505VE, PCG-N505VX
  • PCG-NV100, NV170, NV170P, NV190, NV190P, NV200
  • PCG-NVR23
  • PCG-R505D Series
  • PCG-R505E Series
  • PCG-R505G Series
  • PCG-R505J and PCG-R505T Series
  • PCG SR Series
  • PCG-SRX77/C
  • PCG-SRX77P/C
  • PCG-SRX 87
  • PCG-SRX87P
  • PCG-SRX99
  • PCG-TR1 Series
  • PCG-TR2 Series
  • PCG-TR3 Series
  • PCG-TR5 Series
  • PCG-V505 Series
  • PCG-VX88 Series, PCG-VX89 Series
  • PCG- XG18, XG19
  • PCG-XG28, PCG-XG28K, PCG-XG29, PCG-XG29K
  • PCG-XG38, PCG-XG39, PCG-XG39K
  • PCG-XG 500, XG500K, XG700, XG700K, XG9
  • PCG-Z1 Series
  • PCG-Z505HE, PCG-Z505HS , PCG-Z505HSK
  • PCG-Z505JE, PCG-Z505JEK
  • PCG-Z505JS, PCG-Z505JSK
  • PCG-Z505LE, PCG-Z505LEK
  • PCG-Z505LS, PCG-Z505LSK
  • PCG-Z505R, Z505RX, Z505S, Z505SX
  • PCG-Z600NE, PCG-Z600TEK