reviews

December 31st, 2005 Leave a comment Go to comments
netgear wireless router WGR-614

    I bought this product in april 2004. First off, be aware that there are multiple revisions of this product, AToW there are 5 revisions; I have the first revision (bottom of product reports model as WGR614, not WGR614v3 etc).

    This router worked fine for me with somewhat limited wireless reception until about now (september). Now whenever I enable encryption (WEP only, the beta BIOS you can get that supposedly enables WPA does NOT work) the wireless AP goes down within seconds of rebooting the router. This has been a slow death: using WEP encryption I used to be able to use the wireless AP for about 8-12 hours, and then have to hard-power off the product to get wireless connectivity again. Now it's instantaneous. The only solution i've found is to use no encryption but with access control (by MAC address) on. This means that only I can use the router, but everyone can see what i'm doing. I blame the excessive heat for the slow death (i'm guessing some chip got fried) -- it gets so hot you could fry eggs.

    I called NetGear, which involves navigating through a complex phone system (where you basically have to lie to get a real person), ending up in a call-center in India (I have a hearing problem which makes it hard for me to understand people with thick accents). They explained that THIS PRODUCT ONLY HAS A 90 DAY WARRANTY, and since it'd been >3 months, too bad.

    0 out of 5 stars. STAY AWAY FROM NETGEAR PRODUCTS AT ALL COSTS!


linksys wireless router WRT54G

    First, I should note that I have version 2 of the router (the underside of the router, where the sticker is that has the model and serial and MAC addresses, mine says v.2 beside WRT54G). No idea if this affects anything -- I bought this router to replace the netgear one I reviewed here, in september 2004.

    Anyways, first thing I notice when I log on to the usual web-based setup of the router? WAY more features than the netgear router. Second thing? I leave it turned on for a night, and it's only barely warm! None of this fry-your-eggs bs, so I don't think the thing will fry itself. The setup was a snap, and the wireless encryption support is WAY better than the netgear (WEP only): I'm using TKIP/WPA, and it supports loads of others too. Reception is great, and i've only noticed it drop connection once or twice, and I haven't used my laptop enough yet to know whether it was the router or the laptop (new), so it may just be that the laptop dropped it.

    The only annoying thing i've found is that I can't tell it not to set the DHCP gateway to its WAN port as the gateway (I don't connect my ADSL modem to this router, I use my linux router to do that). This is fair enough, as I doubt many users are doing what I am with it. I just have computers connecting to it using the correct gateway manually, no biggie.

    4 out of 5 stars.


logitech Z-680 speakers

    I bought the Z680s from CanadaComputers in Toronto last year, right before I got married. They are fantastic: loud, boomy (even in the main room of our house I have the bass turned down to minimum and it is waaay loud (not too loud tho)), and high quality -- now you really CAN tell the difference between mp3s encoded at 192kbps and 256kbps, for at least some tunes :) The setup is non-existent, as long as you're using coaxial input (RCA cable NOT included with the package btw), and either dolby digital or DTS digital. I have an ASUS A7N8X-deluxe mobo which has real-time dolby-digital encoding, so that's what i'm using. The speakers are of such high quality that when I hook them up to my standalone DVD player, I can hear that DTS is better than Dolby ! If you wanna see what I mean, the DVD I discovered this with was Spy Game (Brad Pitt), which has both Dolby and DTS, and is recorded with superb precision.

    Before purchasing these speakers I read some scary reviews about people who had bad hiss problems. This was obviously a problem in earlier models, all I can say is that if you're in Ontario and it's after 2003, you should be fine :) As far as complaints go: the receiver (control pod) is a bit ponce: the remote control has a really tight beam of sensitivity (you have to be pointing the thing RIGHT at the pod for it to work), the knob isn't completely round so it rubs sometimes when you turn it, the LCD is only viewable from *above* the pod at again a very tight angle, the cord between the subwoofer and the pod (the main control cord, thick like a SVGA cable from the monitor to the computer) is very short (say 2 feet?). Also, a couple of times something weird has happened, where the unit will be off (red light, not blue), and neither the power button on the pod or the remote control will turn it on. Reaching around the back and hitting the hard power-off switch and then turning it back on fixes the problem, and this has only happened 2 or 3 times in the year i've owned the unit.

    4 out of 5 stars. Perhaps it would have only gotten 3 stars given the annoying remote-control range shortness, but I really consider the quality of the speakers (and I guess the power too) to be SUCH good value for the money, that they get 4 stars...


IBM ThinkPad T41 (2373-8RU)

    Got this machine dirt cheap and brand-new off of Ebay. I haven't tried running linux on it yet, but apparently IBM laptops are really good on linux so no worries there. 23738RU refers to the options I got on the model. The T41 line is the Pentium-M Banias core, not as good as the T42's Dothan core, but still purty good! It has a gyroscopic stabilizer that can detect when it's in motion, and park the hard-drive heads, thus preventing HD damage on jolts/shocks. Neato. It's uber-sleek (very slim) and under 5 pounds. Mine didn't come with a wireless card, but for $80CDN I picked up the offical IBM Mini-PCI card which is 802.11b/g, and now when I first turn on the machine where it used to say "Pentium M" with the fancy logo, it says "Centrino powered" with the centrino fancy logo :) So I guess I have a centrino laptop now (centrino is really just P-M with an Intel wireless card that has good power management). I gotta say, get the miniPCI card, because the built-in antennas are FANTASTIC! The reception is just phenomenal, really really long range (no I can't really quantify that). Word of warning though: installing the miniPCI card was time-consuming and amazingly deep inside the machine, I could not BELIEVE it didn't void the warranty! I ended up on the phone to IBM support ensuring that I was updating the multiple parts of the BIOS properly and in the right order, as like I said, it was a complicated install. Well worth it though, and it only took me tops 2 hours. Mind you, i'm an accomplished geek...

    Power consumption is great: watching DVDs from the DVD-ROM drive the battery lasts just over 3 hours; word-processing and keeping the LCD on dim I get about 4 to 4.5 hours; with the LCD off and the machine just playing mp3s out the headphone jack it lasts over 5 hours. Nice. Very important: by default all the power-profiles that the machine gets shipped with do NOT use the Pentium M's adaptive CPU-cycling technology! Even the "Super Saver" profile uses CPU on "maximum" while on batteries. This lead one of my friends at work who got the same machine to conclude that the battery was crap, because he didn't realize the CPU was running at full throttle the whole time ! This is just stupidity on IBM's part: all you gotta do is make your own profile with "Adaptive" selected as the CPU mode (this is in windows of course), and you'll get REAL battery life.

    5 out of 5 stars. However, get more than 256mb for the machine if that's all yours comes with, like mine (mine is always accessing the HD since it has so little RAM, I look forward to getting more soon...)


GlobalSat BC-307 GPS (CF card)

    Got this little unit off of Ebay for about $100CDN total and it came with a free PCMCIA adapter, and after the drivers installed I fired up the little utility it comes with (GPSinfo i think). Even standing outside with lots of sky it could only just get a lock, then as soon as you moved it lost the lock/fix. I tried everything!

    Then I installed Map Point 2004 and tried the gps it has: perfect! Even sitting in my house now (nice thick roof over top) it's working great. I drove around the block with the laptop in the passenger seat, it worked perfectly, tracking along my position. So, don't use the gpsinfo as anything useful (other than the card functions at the existential level), and try map point 2004 if you can.

    Since then i've had times where at very first lock it takes a while (much less if with open sky above), but then after it has no problems, in a car, in a house, wherever. Coo. I've read that the crappy utility it comes with can't possibly perform worse than MapPoint, so it might have just been that that night it had real difficulties, but I don't think so: I think MapPoint is just better. Anyways, for the price this thing is worth it. In my car I don't need an external antenna if the laptop is near the front windshield (sitting on passenger seat of my Tercel). One thing: although it's a standard CompactFlash card, I couldn't use it in my compact flash card reader which connects to my laptop via USB, the drivers don't seem to recognize it. I get the sound of the device enumerating to windows, but then immediately followed by the sound of it un-enumerating. Weird. Sucks, because then i'd be able to use a simple USB extension cord and have the card right up on the windshield. Oh well, if anyone figures that out let me know.

    4 out of 5 stars.


ASUS A7N8X Deluxe

    I've had this mobo for well over a year now. There are already lots of reviews about it all over the internet, so i'll try to keep my comments to things I think aren't talked about enough. The most important thing? There are two major revisions of this board (both called A7N8X Deluxe); those that are PCB rev. 1.x, and those that are 2.x. I'm unfortunate to have bought mine early enough that mine is 1.04... this means it can't really hit 200 mhz FSB -- mine can get up to about 189mhz FSB stable but that's it. This is a limitation of one of the voltage regulators on the mobo, it can't do stable past that point (you can hunt for the sepcifics)

    PROS:

  • SoundStorm. Oh baby, SoundStorm. People often stop there, and don't say what it's really good for. Allow me ! Best thing is that it has is real-time Dolby Digital encoding. Ok, great, but what is that used for? It's the most useful thing in the world if you have a 5.1 speaker system, because it allows you to save big bucks by not buying an expensive receiver. You buy something like my Logitech Z-680s, which are powered, and expect input in either clumsy 6-corded analog (one for each speaker), or a single clean RCA cable carrying DTS digital or dolby digital. You plug one RCA cord into your mobo, other into your speakers, bingo 5.1 dolby digital sound. This way you can play your stereo 2-channel mp3s in full 5.1 glory without a receiver, and play 5.1 computer games that support generation of live 5.1 dolby digital throughout. You can also watch movies in 5.1 sound off your 'puter, (the whole HTPC phenomenon, which stands for home theater PC)
  • Firewire, cool.

    CONS:

  • Can't boot off USB anything: no keyfobs, USB cd drives, etc
  • S-ATA isn't useful at all: at least on the PCB rev. 1.xx, the S-ATA shares an IRQ with the SoundStorm: if you use the S-ATA at the same time as trying to play music, it's scratchy. Basically the S-ATA shouldn't be used for your primary drive. Annoying.

    4 out of 5 stars. It would have been 3 if they hadn't fixed up things with PCB rev 2.x ...

Apacer Handy Steno HT-203

    This is my USB keyfob, I have the 1gb size. It's UBER. The 202 is the slower version, I have the 203, the fast one. And damn, it's zippy! It is capable of writing the entire 1gb in less than 45 seconds. The fob is thin enough that "most" things can fit above/under it if the computer you're plugging it into has USB ports stacked vertically. It's kinda long, but in a flashy red-casing. The cover is kinda wired on this loop to the back of the fob, where it sticks out in a loop that you can put on your keyring. Works nice. It comes with a cradle that is very compact; the cradle's plug truly is as small as a USB plug can be, so if the fob itself doesn't fit with your other clunky USB device plug, then hopefully the cradle's plug will.

    5 out of 5 stars.

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