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Audio on the Dell Inspiron 1545 under Windows XP

Update (August 26, 2013)
A commenter tells me that this alternative driver, still available from Dell, worked for him on his Inspiron 1545.

Update (June 17, 2013)
The link to the known-to-be-working version of the audio driver package for the Dell Inspiron 1545 running Windows XP has gone dead (and not for the first time; bad Dell). The file is not listed on Dell’s FTP site, and searches on and Google don’t seem to turn it up.

I have a copy, here, but it’s not mine to post online.

Recently, while installing Windows XP on a (new) Dell™ Inspiron™ 1545, I noticed that the most recently posted driver (as of writing: R264250) for the system’s integrated audio refuses to install. More precisely, the installer refuses to run with this “error”:

This is not the correct audio driver for this system (xp). The installer will now exit.

I was able to get the drivers to install by pointing XP’s “Add New Hardware Wizard” at the underlying driver files, but subsequently each individual sound played by the computer was preceded and succeeded by a loud popping sound which did not appear to be governed by the system’s volume setting.

The solution was to uninstall that version of the driver package, and install a previous version instead (R215959), as suggested here.

Re: Slowly, then all at once.

A second KingSpec 128GB 1.8″ 40-pin ZIF Solid State Disk only survived four weeks’ very occasional use before it, too, expired. On one otherwise unremarkable evening, I placed the XT on a sideboard and shut the lid, putting it to sleep.

A short while later, on hearing the fan running at full speed, I opened the lid only to be greeting by an unfriendly MS DOS-style error message. “System Error”, “Error reading from disk” or somesuch. Whatever it was, the computer refused to boot at the next time of asking. I was, later, able to use Windows 7’s System Recovery Options to recover some files from the stricken SSD.

Much to their credit, the drive’s vendor agreed to RMA it (again) and replace it with a RunCore Pro IV 1.8″ 5mm PATA Zif Solid State Drive SSD. Three weeks later, and it’s.. well, still working.

Slowly, then all at once.

The blurb for the KingSpec 128GB 1.8″ 40-pin ZIF Solid State Disk (MLC) claimed a “write endurance” of 10 gigabytes per day for 80 years, and an “unlimited” “read endurance.” After very nearly 10 months’ reading and writing considerably less than that, mine went wallop.

It happened much as per Hemingway‘s description of how people go bankrupt: the first sign of trouble was Windows Explorer hanging while copying (reading, not writing) a file. This failed with a Device I/O error, then chkdsk reported “10 bad clusters”, and then the host PC refused to boot at the next time of asking.

Happily, the drive’s vendor agreed to RMA the drive and exchanged it for what looks like a later revision of the same model. Once installed, Windows 7 reported the following:

Windows Experience Index rating for a Dell Latitude XT and a KingSpec SSD

Which is to say, not quite the same but also not very different.

UPDATE: This second KingSpec SSD lasted just four weeks before it, too, expired.

“Windows is unable to install to the selected location. Error: 0x80300024”

Encountered this while trying to install Windows – Windows 7 – onto a newly-acquired second drive. Looking on-line, it’s not clear whether Windows simply needs to install onto the first hard drive (Disk 0, or SATA 0) or just needs to be able to add a ‘System Reserved’ partition to Disk 0, or both. Or something else altogether.

In any case, I had files on Disk 0 which needed preserving so for me the solution was simply to swap the SATA cables connecting the drives to the motherboard. Thus, Disk 1 became Disk 0 (and vice-versa) and Windows installed without either further comment, or – apparently – creating a ‘System Reserved’ partition on either disk.

Latitude XT + 128GB SSD + Windows 7 RTM

Windows Experience Index rating for a Dell Latitude XT under Windows 7

The scores for graphics are higher than under Windows 7 RC – lifting the overall score – but the experience is not much changed: it’s still snappy and responsive.

Drivers are provided, out-of-the-box, for for all of the XT’s hardware bar the multi-touch screen. The touch screen’s manufacturer, N-trig, have made Windows 7-specific drivers available; although the as-of-writing link on the page refers to the “Windows 7 Release Candidate”, the download itself seems to contain up-to-date drivers for Windows 7 RTM.

To enable automatic re-orientation of the XT’s display when switching between notebook- and slate-modes, install the Dell QuickSet application (the XT does not have an accelerometer like, say, the iPhone). Dell do not appear to be providing Windows 7-specific drivers (and other software) for the XT, but the Windows Vista version of QuickSet seems fully compatible with 7.

UPDATE: The KingSpec SSD featured in this post died after 10 months.

UPDATE 2: A second KingSpec SSD lasted just a further four weeks before it, too, expired.

Windows 7 SDK for x64 RTM

As of writing, the ISO download page for the Windows 7 RTM Software Developer’s Kit, only lists the version of the kit which will install on PCs running x86 (32-bit) Windows.

Until the page is updated with links to the other versions, the x64 version can be downloaded, directly, here.

Latitude XT + 128GB SSD + Windows 7

Speaking of ZIF SSDs:

Windows Experience Index rating for a Dell Latitude XT and a KingSpec SSD

That is, a 5.8 for a 128 GB KingSpec SSD under 64-bit Windows 7 Release Candidate. Apart from the “Disk data transfer rate”, some of the scores for other components are lower than under Windows Vista, possibly because the scale has changed, at the top end, from 5.9 to 7.9.

To use, the SSD-equipped XT is snappy and responsive, though only slightly more so than when fitted with a 5400 RPM HDD (and the cache had been warmed up). The more substantial difference is that the machine is available for use almost immediately after log in; no need to wait for SuperFetch to fill its cache(s), which seemed to take as long as ten minutes.

Beyond the SSD, Windows 7 seems a good fit for the XT: drivers are provided, out-of-the-box, for every component bar the touch screen, drivers for which are otherwise available here. Once installed, the touch experience is much smoother than under Vista, up to and including inertial scrolling, which exhibits a pleasant bounce effect at the top or bottom of a page in Internet Explorer.

UPDATE: The KingSpec SSD featured in this post died after 10 months.

UPDATE 2: A second KingSpec SSD lasted just a further four weeks before it, too, expired.

If you are installing a ZIF HDD/SSD..

..remember that you may need to raise a black strip on the drive in order to be able to insert the ZIF cable, as illustrated in Step 2 of this (otherwise unrelated) guide.

Das Erlebnis der Jahrtausend

In Japan, public interest is mounting ahead of this week’s solar eclipse, even though the moon’s shadow won’t pass directly over any of the archipelago’s large islands. To mark the occasion, Amazon Japan are hawking a line of eclipse sunglasses.

I was living near Stuttgart when it was in the path of total occultation of the 1999 solar eclipse. The local authorities promoted the event as "The Experience of the Millennium" ("Das Erlebnis der Jahrtausend"), but it was overcast – and pouring with rain – that morning, so we were unable to observe the eclipse itself. But the effect was of nightfall, total darkness and then sunrise all within three or so minutes, which in itself was something to behold shortly before lunchtime.

I neglected to bring a camera with me that day, but it’s the sort of thing best captured on video anyway and, helpfully, someone did bring a video camera and has posted the video on-line:

Virtual Jaunty Jackalope in Widescreen, Technicolour

The latest-as-of-writing release of Ubuntu, Jaunty Jackalope, installs quite straightforwardly under Microsoft Virtual PC 2007 (SP1) but the desktop defaults to a screen resolution of 800×600, with no obvious way of switching up to something more.. useful. Additionally, existing guides to making higher resolution modes available refer to previous versions of Ubuntu and seemed not to work.

Happily, however, someone has taken the time to work out, and share, the settings necessary to properly configure the display adapter and monitor emulated by Virtual PC. Integrating these with the xorg.conf generated by Ubuntu’s installer, we end up with something along the lines of the following:

Section "Device"
    Identifier    "Configured Video Device"
    Driver "s3"
    BusID "0:8:0"
    BoardName "86c764/765"

Section "Monitor"
    Option "CalcAlgorithm" "CheckDesktopGeometry"
    Identifier    "Configured Monitor"
    HorizSync 30-95
    VertRefresh 50-75
    UseModes "Modes[0]"

Section "Modes"
    Identifier "Modes[0]"
    Modeline "1280x800" 60.50 1280 1296 1360 1472 800 802 804 822

Section "Screen"
    Identifier    "Default Screen"
    Monitor        "Configured Monitor"
    Device        "Configured Video Device"
    DefaultDepth 16
    SubSection "Display"
        Depth 16
        Modes "1280x800" "1280x1024" "1024x768" "800x600"

(xorg.conf can be opened for editing via a Terminal window – ‘Applications‘ > ‘Accessories‘ > ‘Terminal‘ – as follows:
sudo pico /etc/X11/xorg.conf [Enter/Return])

After saving the changes to xorg.conf and rebooting the virtual PC, the higher resolution modes are available via the ‘System‘ > ‘Preferences‘ > ‘Display‘ menu option.


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