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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.

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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"
EndSection

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

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

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

(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.

Re: The Acer TravelMate 8215WLMi

A sizeable minority of searches which bring people to this blog seem to have to do with enabling hardware virtualization on the Acer Travelmate range of notebooks.

Although this feature – specifically: Intel Virtualization Technology (VT for short) – is present in at least some of the Intel Core 2 Duo processors which ship in the TravelMate 8210 series, such as the T7200 powering my 8215WLMi, it is disabled in BIOS by Acer.

This (probably) allowed them to share a single BIOS image across multiple models; maybe even across their entire Centrino/Centrino Duo range. And, at the time, other notebook manufacturers did something similar – Sony, among them, with most models in their Vaio range.

Recently, my own 8215 wore out – after two-and-a-bit years of near-constant use, the fan quite literally ground to a halt. Lest the innards melt and ooze out through the vents, I replaced the machine outright with a shiny new Dell.

Up until the end, I had periodically checked on-line for ways and means by which one might enable VT on the 8215. The last such trawl threw up a pair possibilities: upgrading the BIOS with a compatible version from an alternative vendor; and patching the existing BIOS NVRAM so as to unlock VT.

I never got around to pursuing either, but I post them here on the off-chance that someone else might find them useful. It’s timely, as well: the recently announced XP Mode of Windows 7 will require hardware-accelerated virtualization to work.

Upgrading the BIOS from an Alternative Vendor:
The BIOS in the 8215WLMi is based on PhoenixBIOS, from Phoenix Technologies. BiosAgentPlus.com claims to be able to “quickly identify and update” PhoenixBIOS, among others. This is a paid-for subscription service (USD$29.95/year, as of writing) and there’s no indication (or claim), anywhere, that they will provide a subscriber with anything other than the latest BIOS from the manufacturer. In fact, having checked this out to write it up here, it’s not clear that this is worth pursuing any further.

Patching the existing BIOS:
As noted above, the BIOS in the 8215WLMi is based on PhoenixBIOS, in common with several other makes of notebook, such as the aforementioned Sonys. At least some of the users in this forum claim to have successfully patched the PhoenixBIOS-based BIOS in their respective Vaios to enable VT, and this poster claims to have been able to patch the BIOS in his Acer 5684 “in order to enable the VT flag.”

In one respect, this seems a more promising option, for which the Phoenix BIOS Editor may be useful. But to mess with a PC’s BIOS like this is to run the risk of bricking the computer. So, caveat hax0r.


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