TIP: Opera browser and Flash (TM) on slow computers

Thursday, 22 March 2007

This tip is especially useful for people who surf the web on older hardware (e.g. 500Mhz PIII with 128MB RAM). For example, while editing a post on LinuxQuestions.org, I noticed extreme lag between my typing and the text appearing on the screen. Then I noticed one of those fancy-pants flash adds was running, wasting so much precious computing power that I could’t type normally.

The problem is that I do need flash to be able to run when I don’t care too much about the responsiveness of my old computer. For example, when I am *not* typing a reply to a linux question, but instead want to watch a funny flash animation.

So what I need is a way to disable flash only on certain sites, instead of disabling it completely. And this is (almost) what the Opera browser allows me to do: in opera, you can opt to disable *all* plug-ins for a specific site. The disadvantage of this is that you throw out the baby with the bath water: all the plugins that *don’t* cause problems are also disabled! But at least you can control this on a per-site basis, which still makes it a very useful feature, and this is how you access it:

First in the menubar, select “Tools” => “Preferences” => “Advanced” => “Content” => “Manage site preferences”
Then type the name of the site you want to disable flash for, and click on “Add”.
Enter the site’s URL, and click on the “Content” tab. There, you *deselect* the tick-box “Enable plug-ins” and click on “OK”.
Close all the dialogue windows and restart Opera.

And that’s all there is to it.

EDIT:
In the comments below, two quicker methods for achieving the same effect are discussed, as well as one alternative method that may be used when disabling the browser plug-ins is not an option (e.g. when the site contains non-flash multimedia that you want to play).

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Toshiba Tecra 8000 RAM upgrade reveals problem

Wednesday, 6 September 2006

Today I received the two 128MB memory modules I ordered. I selected the Transcend TS128MT7000 SODIMM, because it is the cheapest option available to me that is 100% compatible with my version of the Tecra 8000 (Pentium II 400Mhz).

But I noticed a couple of interesting things when I removed the old modules and installed the new ones.

First: the original 64MB Toshiba SODIMM installed in slot B was quite firmly inserted, and required a bit of cradling to remove. But the other no-name brand 64MB module in slot A just slided out of the socket almost by itself.

Second: the computer did not boot after installing the new modules. I got exactly the same problem I had a couple of days ago. No BIOS! This was probably not a coincidence. So, time for some experiments.

First I removed both new modules, and inserted the original Toshiba 64MB module back in slot B. Then I booted: it worked again! I could not help but observe how incredibly slow the system was, with only 64MB of ram. I shut the system down again.

Next I added a 128MB module to slot A and rebooted. But this time, no BIOS! Then I replaced the 128MB module for the other one, to rule out a broken module being the cause. But again, no BIOS! Finally I inserted the no-name 64MB module back in slot A, the situation as it was before I began the upgrade, but this time the computer also refused to boot! Perhaps there is something fishy going on with slot A? Time to continue the experiment.

I then removed all the modules, and inserted one of the new 128MB modules in slot B. I booted the system, and it worked! Then I added the Toshiba module to slot A. Again I noticed that this module requires a bit of cradling to insert. I rebooted: success!

I now had 192MB of RAM, I was finally making progres. Next I removed the 64MB Toshiba module from slot A and replaced it with the no-name brand 64MB module which slid right in as if it was barely making contact. This time the computer booted, *BUT* it only registered 128MB RAM! Apparently, the system was not even registering that the module had been inserted. And now it is perfectly clear to me that the no-bios problems I have experienced recently are related to the slot A memory bank.

So now I’ve reinstalled the 64MB Toshiba module, and am back to 192MB RAM. I am not sure what I can do to fix this problem, besides trying to find an original Toshiba 128MB pc66 SODIMM. I’ll have to think about this, but at least it seems that I’ve solved the mystery of the boot failure s I experienced.

[NEW UPDATE]
Due to the fact that I have become less dependent upon this laptop, I have now been brave enough to try a solution that I have been thinking about for some time. My new theory is that the new modules are slightly thinner than the original, and that this causes the contacts of the modules to be insufficiently pressed against the connectors. This problem occurs in both slots, but appears to be more severe with slot A.

So now I have simply cut four rectangular strips out of the thin hard cardboard from the back of my notepad, in the shape of the modules. After inserting the modules, I stacked two strips of this cardboard on each of the modules and then pressed the cover back in place. It took quite a bit of pressure to keep that covering plate down while I tightened the screws, so I knew those modules where being forced against the connectors. After I finished, I crossed my fingers and booted up.

And it works! I finally have the maximum 256MB RAM at my disposal! This laptop is now as fast as it is ever going to get, and I must say that it certainly seems to be faster than it’s ever been.

My only concern has to do with overheating. The memory modules get mighty hot during use, so I’ll have to check the cardboard strips in a while, just to make sure it’s not going to catch fire ;-)


This is an ex-tecra …

Sunday, 3 September 2006

Sadly, it seems the laptop I was so enthusiastically trying to keep going has now passed on. Died in its sleep. I tried booting up as normal this morning, but was not greeted by the red Toshiba logo. Uh oh, no bios.

I tried removing the peripherals, and even the hard drive. When you remove the hard drive, you should get a message from the bios that goes something like this: “no disk”. But now, I get nothing. It is clinically braindead. You need the bios to be able to boot. And if something is very wrong with the bios, then I think it will (in this case) probably be a hardware related problem.

Unfortunately, replacing this old motherboard is just a bridge too far. Too expensive and too much trouble. I doubt flashing the bios is going to do anything, but that is the last thing I can try. After that, I will officially pronounce it dead.

[UPDATE]
The laptop suddenly works again, much to my surprise. I am still worried, because I have absolutely no idea whatsoever *why* it is now working again. Problems never fix themselves, and I certainly didn’t fix anything. So as far as I know, it could refuse to work again at any time. And the only thing worse than when something does not work, is when something doesn’t work reliably. I can rely on a broken laptop, to remain broken and useless, so I know where I stand. But I cannot rely on this thing. I’ll try using it for a few more days, to see how it goes. But if it stops working at any time, it will be as good as completely broken to me.


Upgrading RAM memory on the Toshiba Tecra 8000

Thursday, 31 August 2006

I have though about upgrading the memory on my Tecra 8000 laptop for some time. Right now I have two 64MB SODIMMs installed in the two available memory banks, but this is just barely enough for a “modern” system. Right now I have the old Windows 2000 installed, and it’s not enough. Even when I had Arch Linux installed, 128MB RAM was not quite enough to run GNOME, which is why I used Fluxbox instead. So today I placed the order.

Yet one might wonder whether more memory is really worth the investment? Well, the 128MB pc66 SODIMMs required cost €74, which is quite acceptable compared to the value of the laptop. I could probably use pc100 modules as well, and save a little money there, as they are cheaper. But since I’m ordering online, I really *must* have complete assurance that the modules will work, or else it may end up costing me more time and money than it’s worth.

But I also bought a new hard drive for €70 just a few days ago, which adds to the cost. Is the upgrade worth the total sum of €144? No, I don’t think so. But this is not the way I look at it. The hard drive can just as easily be removed again and with a special casing be used as an external storage device. So whenever the laptop becomes unusable, for reasons other than hard disk failure, I can easily salvage the drive and use it just fine without the laptop.

I have never removed/installed SODIMMs before, so should be interesting to see if I can do it without breaking anything. One thing old hardware is good for: learning!

[UPDATE]
Read more about how the memory upgrade is going over HERE


Toshiba Tecra 8000 with Toshiba MK4032GAX works!

Monday, 28 August 2006

Well, I bought the new 2.5″ 40GB drive today, and am very pleased to say that it works great! I did have a little trouble getting it going at first, but I’m not sure why that was. Maybe the connector was not properly connected, whatever. Anyway, it all works just fine now. Not only does the laptop feel a little bit faster thanks to the replacement, but this hard drive also produces much less noise. For completeness, here are the relevant specs of my laptop in case anyone else wants to try this: Pentium II 400 Mhz, Intel 440BX. However, first a warning: you are responsible for your own hardware. So if it does not work for you, then I am afraid that is your problem and not mine.


Only Sony

Saturday, 26 August 2006

Less than three years ago I bought a Sony television, for well over €500,-
The model in question is called KV25FX30, which apparantly is Sony’s way of saying “25 inch screen”.

Then something truly amazing happened. It broke. For no apparant reason, so I sent it over to be repaired. Allthough it is no longer covered by the warranty, I did not expect the repair to cost too much as it is still an almost brand new TV. Well it certainly looks brand new anyway. Then, after three weeks, we get a call from a technician, telling us what this thing is going to cost us: €270,-

Excuse me? Two hundred and seventy euros? I don’t even want to know how much that is in US dollars. But if you want to know, it’s THIS MUCH! A quick search revealed that this is MORE than what the TV is worth. A complete write-off, in less than three years! That’s amazing.

But this is not our first Sony TV. We had another one before this one, which was outlasted by every other TV we have owned: a Philips and two Panasonics.

And then I remembered the news. Dell recently recalled 4mln batteries, and shortly thereafter Apple recalls 1.8mln batteries. Guess what they all have in common? They’re all made by Sony! And which company installed a rootkit on computers, when you played one of their CDs? Again, Sony!

Maybe it’s just me, but I’m starting to see a nasty pattern here. Or maybe it’s because I’m just very angry right now, I don’t know.


The new hard drive

Saturday, 26 August 2006

After some searching on the web, I have discovered that buying a new original 10GB replacement for the broken hard disk drive would cost me more than the laptop itself is now worth, as I suspected. This is not an option.

But having taken a closer look at the “caddy” containing the drive, a newer drive should fit. It will be thinner than this one, but as long as the corner holes for the screws are in the same place, it should be fine.

I have also searched for info on hard drive capacity limitations. I am now almost 100% sure that the laptop can utilize hard drives with a capacity up to 137GB. Since the 40GB drive I have selected falls well within this limit, it looks like all possible obstacles preventing me from buying this thing are gone.

The day after tomorrow, I shall purchase the new drive and see how it goes.