Cool cooling of your laptop

In a recent entry, Chemical coolness for your laptop, I reviewed the laptopCooler product. After the review, I got in touch with the manufacturers of the product with some suggestions and comments. It turns out that the laptopCooler product had been transferred to another company that is focused on cooling products as opposed to the actual PCM (Phase Changing Material).

So after a few e-mails back and forth, I was promised a sample of their new and revised laptopCooler when it was ready. The sample arrived this week, and I’ve now been able to spend some time testing it.

The new and improved version feels and looks a bit more modern than its predecessor. Cloth and straps have been replaced by a more high tech look and feel by using rubber with a “grip pattern”. The basic design is the same, as is the concept. Basically, the laptopCooler works as a big heat sink or heat pipe. When the laptop gets hot, as most laptops do, the trick is to get rid of the heat as quickly as possible to avoid noisy fans kicking in. A much worse side effect, than noisy fans, of a hot laptop actually located in someone’s lap is easy to imagine; specially if you’re a guy.

I don’t really have anything negative to say about the product in its new and improved version. This may sound boring and not very exciting, but hey, it works! The only remark I have is that while the bottom surface of the new pad has a much better grip against just about any surface, the old version of the laptopCooler had flexible straps on the top that I could use to more securely attach it to my laptop.

My original test was made with my Fujitsu Siemens E8110 Intel Core Duo laptop, clocking in at 1.8GHz; and the original laptopCooler did a great job keeping the heat at bay. My new test was made with a “hotter” (in all aspects) model of the E8110, sporting an Intel Core 2 Duo clocking in at 2.0GHz. The newer machine gets warmer, and without the laptopCooler, it’s not something you really want to have in your lap.

The laptopCooler is not just a product for those that use their laptop placed in their lap; for office use, it’s a very clever, non-intrusive, and simple way to keep the fans of the laptop at bay.

As a closing remark, I’d like to add that ComfortCooling AB, the company that makes the laptopCooler, also has other cool products using PCM; like a sun hat to wear on warm days to keep your head cool. Other products include vests and blankets with more neat ideas on their way.

The one word summary of their products, well obviously it’s COOL!

The company’s web site can be found here: www.comfortcooling.se. Click on the language of your choice.

PHPlist – reaching your audience’s inbox

Doing “send-outs” or “mailings” should be simple, flexible, and manageable. There are a lot of tools for handling this seemingly straightforward task. Some of them suck, some of them do the job, and some of them does a great job. PHPlist falls into the third category. PHPlist is an open source package, written in PHP, and powered by a database back-end like MySQL.

PHPlist is a little rough around the edges and feels “unfinished” or “unpolished” in some areas, but I suspect it will be a matter of time before it gets polished in those areas too. On the functional side, it’s fairly simple to use. It features plain text and HTML messages, subscriptions with or without verification, customization of just about every aspect of what users see, proper bounce handling, and importing/exporting of users. For a full list of features and the current version, check out the PHPlist web site: www.phplist.com.

I quickly ran through 10-15 “products” and “packages” (some of which shouldn’t be called either) and discarded them before I ran into PHPlist. If you’re looking for a “customer campaign” or “mail marketing” tool, have a look at PHPlist. If it’s good enough for the Nobel Committee and the Nobel Prize, maybe it’ll do for you.

When the discs are spinning too fast

Being in the middle of it all, and at least close to the bleeding edge of information technology, I get really frustrated when things don’t work the way they’re supposed to. When you add to that, that one of the biggest storage manufacturers in the world cannot get its act together, frustration turns into serious irritation. We use Seagate Cheetah disks almost exclusively in our servers, and for the most part, they behave as they should. From time to time, however, we seem to run into batches of disks manufactured somewhere between the saturday hangover and early monday morning.

Since these disks are always placed in RAID configurations, it’s no big deal when a single disk in the array fails. The replacement procedure is quick and rather painless, in particular in those systems where we use hot swap enclosures. Given that most Cheetah disks sport a five year warranty, very few disks have to be trashed. Instead, we return them to Seagate for a warranty replacement.

So you log on to the Seagate support site to request an RMA, enter the details of the drive and click “OK”. Their website chews for a while and then spits out an “Internal server error, please contact the site administrator” or some such message. Fine, these things happen. So I drop an e-mail to their webmaster informing them of the problem. Twenty-four hours later I repeat the procedure, and end up with the same result. So I drop another e-mail to their webmaster. This cycle is repeated for a total of three days before I start getting annoyed.

So I drop an e-mail to their support department asking them to please inform them of this problem. Surely, they must want their customers and resellers to utilize the concept of self-service — or so one would think. After the initial automated response from their support department, I actually get a response. The message is telling me that I have sent a message to the support department, which handles warranty returns, and other support issues. If I want help with anything else, I should talk to their customer service. Like I want to call some call-center in neverland and talk to someone who knows nothing at all about the Seagate web site. I reply to the message and ask them to please just drop the web team a message and tell them something needs to be fixed. “Uh, this is technical support, if you want customer service, you can either send an email to wedontcare@seagate.not, or you can call them at CallCenterNeverland.”.

So I throw my hands (and almost the disk) in the air and comply. I call their customer service department and get to talk to a very friendly person who’s just dying to take down the details and process the RMA request. After having spent an hour on the phone, trying to spell my name and shipping address over the phone, the process is complete.

Sixteen hours later, another drive fails and I prepare for the worst. But it turns out the web team has finally gotten out of bed and actually fixed the problem. The drive had four months left on its five year warranty, hooraah!

Footnote: it’s not that I mind talking to people, quite the opposite; but when time is short, one wonders how a company of Seagate’s magnitude can allow a customer support function on their web site to be down for even the shortest of moments.

Doing a Gartner

Many things have been said about Nostradamus; by his followers and by people who think, shall we say, less of him. Before and after Nostradamus, there have been a great many people thinking they can predict things to come, some by using their analytical skills, some by common sense, and some by sticking their finger up in the air and calling the direction of the wind. There is an additional group, they use the split end of their body and stick it up in the air while burying their head in the sand, they shall remain nameless.

I don’t know what is worse, people who produce and get paid to produce these so called predictions, or people that believe them. What bothers me is the sheep mentality of industries full of talented people that seem to turn brainless when some of these “respected analysts” stick their chin out and “predict the future”. In the opening keynote session at Gartner’s Fall Symposium this year, Stephen Prentice claims IT departments must pay more attention to what users want or risk facing nothing short of anarchy. What an absolut load of deceased MFM disks and split speed modems!

An IT department doesn’t deal with IT for the sake of IT. An IT department delivers a tool to the toolbox that is the company or community. Last time I checked, the company isn’t run by the IT department. In other words, a more flexible IT environment is something for upper management to deal with. If a company (i.e. those that make the decisions for the company or the community) wants their employees or users to be able to use Yahoo’s Mail or GMail instead of the internal Exchange/Outlook environment, hook up their Playstations to the corporate network, or invite their teenage kids to hook into the database cluster for storing their “shared files” folder, they’ll simply have to make a corporate decision and lay down the law. The IT department will respond by saying that this is not a recommended course of action, and probably be ignored.

The IT department is a service organization, supplying a service for other departments within the company or community, and possibly to customers and affiliates. If the IT department cannot fulfill their obligations because some John Knowitall wants “more flexibility and less Soviet”, then the supply chain within the company is halted.

In Gartner’s company presentation (www.gartner.com), they claim “We deliver the technology-related insight necessary for our clients to make the right decisions, every day.” I would like to disagree. They sell biased information which is quite frequently poorly researched and loaded with personal opinions. But I have to admit, they make a damn good job of getting people to pay for it. And that is the key phrase here, getting people to pay for it.

I may sound jealous, but I’m not. I invite any employee of Gartner with an analytical function, to come and work for any IT department I’ve worked for or with, and see for themselves what anarchy does to a structure based on services and technology, and upper management’s repeated failures to understand the IT department’s function within the corporate structure.

To make matters worse, we’re now seeing the “sheep effect”. I received the latest Mikrodatorn in the mail today. It’s a Swedish periodical aimed at IT consumers (and possibly small companies) and published by IDG. IDG more or less holds a monopoly on the Swedish market for IT periodicals and throws around some serious weight on the Swedish IT market. Reading the first page of the latest edition of Mikrodatorn, I find the editorial sounding more or less like an echo of Gartner’s so-called “analysis” from the opening keynote session.

Let’s go all the way here.. let’s not stop at increased flexibility and increased influence over their own IT environment. I say we give every corporate IT user a private little budget for which they can buy whatever gadgets they think they need at work. Naturally, the IT department should be assigned the task of supporting the gadgets; otherwise our dear friends at Gartner may call us some bad names.

No, I do not currently work for an IT department. I commonly have to clean up after wanna-be management who time and time again fail to understand how IT interfaces with the rest of the company and the world outside of it. This includes IT managers who think their function is to purchase as expensive solutions as possible, regardless of their fitness for the task at hand.

If operational failures are nails, the strategic failures is the hammer driving those nails through the floor (often hitting the IT department in the head).

Who’s watching the watchers watching the watchers? Check out this blog: www.bloglines.com/blog/GartnerWatch.

Javascript Terminal [Emulator | Console]

I had an idea, one of many useless ideas I’m sure, but nevertheless an idea. To test my idea I need to find a good Javascript-only (AJAX is OK, but pure client-side Javascript or ECMASCRIPT is a requirement) terminal emulator. This turned out to be just a little bit harder than I expected.

I found found a zillion links (possibly more, the counts aren’t in yet) on Google and other search engines; I found a ton of half-way solutions that were client and server based, and I found, of course, the “standard” Java terminal/console window applets. But I did not find very many pure client-side terminal emulators. Anyterm seems nice, but it requires server-side support in the form of some Apache mods, which I would like to avoid if at all possible. There is a stand-alone daemon (experimental) for Anyterm, but again, I want client-side only.

I need one that isn’t restricted in any way as far as usage goes. The “prettiest” one by far thus far in the hunt is the stuf presented at www.masswerk.at, but it has restrictions on usage that I’m not entirely sure I qualify for.

I also found JSterm, which might be a step in the right direction. Perhaps studying the code, I could make the necessary modifications myself. Then there’s AjaxTerm, but it’s Python, not Javascript.

Aaargh!

Ho ho.. another night of past 01:00, time to hit the sack before I diminish by sorely needed beauty sleep even more 🙂

Update 2006-10-07 @ 21:24

WebTTY may also be of some interest, you can find it here.

All Saints Day 2006

Going to my mother’s grave on saturday for the all saints day turned out to be, once again, a release of no small amounts of tears and emotions. This year it’ll be 16 years ago since she passed away. What’s weird is that before I had kids, I “handled it” (used in its most relative way here) differently than from what I do today.

After having cleared away leaves and put some fresh candles on my mother’s family grave, I was watching how Alexander and Filip were running around, like kids do, so completely unaware of where they where or why they were there. And watching them in this context is precisely the “problem”. It saddens me to think that Katti (my mother’s nickname) never got to see them and vice versa. I called Alexander and Filip over to the grave and talked to them a little bit about who she was and how she was; Filip suddenly announced that he felt sad because he didn’t get to see her, after which I more or less lost it (also used in a relative manner). I realize this is not a failure on anyone’s part, but one tends to want to provide for your children, and not being able to present a living grandmother on my side of the family irritates the shit out of me 🙂 Alexander started freezing up when he felt and saw my state of emotions, so I told him Katti would have liked to see him play football and do other things that he does.

With the snow that was on the ground, both Filip and Alexander managed to make something that looked like a snowman, so we decided to place their snowmen on each side of the tombstone.

Man, breathing sometimes gets to be an effort. When I see my children in this context, I feel so helpless.

Explaining how their grandmother was, mind their age is close to seven and almost 3 1/2, would probably be hard if they didn’t have an example they could relate to; here comes Astrid Lindgren (the author of “Pippi“, “Emil“, and many other childhood favorites to millions of children and grown-ups all over the world) to the rescue.

And it is a really suitable comparison, my mom was like Pippi Longstocking, but in a grown-up body 🙂

Chemical coolness for your laptop

One annoying thing about cool laptops is that they aren’t really all that cool, at least not when it comes to placing them in your lap and working with them for countless hours. Research show that boys/guys/men, in particular, may run into problems with hot laptops (don’t we always run into problems with hot things in our lap).

The major cooling problem you run into with a laptop is that everything is miniaturized, including air ducts/vents/outlets and fans. This in combination with the fact that many laptops are placed in laps (pun intended), which by definition is an uneven surface, makes for really poor cooling and ventilation. As with any gadget, cooling systems for computers are in abundance, but many cooling systems for laptops are bordering on ridiculous in their design or what they actually accomplish. Some make more noise than the laptop itself, others require the laptop to be mounted on some sort of plate, and some, like the cooler plate or cooling pad from Swedish company Climator, nicely fit under your laptop, have no moving parts, and just work.

The company claims that their passive laptop cooler will keep the temperature at bay and always below 28 degrees celsius. The LapTopCooler product is made from a plate, something called glaubersalt, and some “secret ingredients”. The theory is that as the laptop heats the materials, they “melt” and attract heat away from the computer. Then computer is turned off and gradually cools down, the cooling agent solidifies again. According to product information, the pad will keep the laptop cooler for 3-5 hours of usage time. When the computer is turned off (or the pad removed), the pad is “re-charged”. This technique is called PCM or Phase Change Material and is also used in some air conditioning products to improve on environmental friendliness.

I haven’t benchmarked my laptop with and without the LapTopCooler, but after having used it for an hour and a half, I can only summarize it with: the product works!

Note; the product has been updated since I first wrote about it. You’ll find a review of the new and improved version here.

Big input, small space

Having gotten used to the Zip-Linq mini-mouse with the retractable chord, I was worried that I wouldn’t feel equally happy with the two targus wireless mice I got for the two laptops here at home. After having unpacked them both and plugged them in, I can say with some amount of satisfaction that both products stack up well to the Zip-Linq retractable.

The Zip-Linq is really tiny if you have normal-sized hands. I have fairly long fingers, so I have to close my hand into a somewhat tighter “claw” to be able to use it. But it has a good grip once you figure it out, and the retractable chord makes it ideal for laptops.

The black and silver “bubble” wireless mouse from Targus (#AMW07EU) has roughly the same physical footprint as the Zip-Linq retractable mouse. It comes with a “cute” carrying pouch (soon we’ll need a backpack for all of these pouches), a chord, and the transmitter part (the “dongle”), which installs into an USB slot on your computer. One really cool thing about this model is that it has a storage space for the USB dongle underneath the mouse. The accompanying chord is used to re-charge the batteries (and at the same time allowing you to use the mouse). It’s quite heavy for its size, which suits me just fine. There is no manual on/off switch, the mouse is turned off when the USB dongle is stowed. And that’s all there is to it.

The blue and silver wireless, also from Targus (#AMW0501EU), is slightly bigger than the above two mice, and both looks and feels more like a conventional mouse. It too features an USB transmitter or “dongle” that is inserted into an available USB slot on your computer. The dongle is slightly bigger than the one for the black and silver model; apparently the designer has taken this into consideration and made it possible to fold the dongle to appear more in-line with the computer. This model also features a chord to re-charge the batteries while allowing for continued use. Unlike the black and silver model, this one features an on/off switch underneath the mouse. The only minor hitch with this model is that it was a bit more complicated to open the battery compartment.

Given the above three models, I would recommend all of them with the black and silver “bubble” coming out slightly on top; mainly because of its keep-it-simple-stupid approach and the clever little storage facility for the dongle. I don’t like two-part computer peripherals because one part always tends to get lost, but Targus is making the best available choice in my opinion. Regardless of which one you prefer, and there are of course many other “tiny mice”, there’s no excuse to keep that desktop mouse for your portable or crowded desk!