Dell XPS All-in-one A2420

Dell XPS ONE A2420

The Windows 7 upgrades continue!

The main reason why the XPS A2420 was one of the last machines that I have upgraded to Windows 7, was purely down to the fact that I had no reason to do so, until recently :)
The machine has been happily running the factory installed Vista Home Premium Edition from new, and for 95% of its life has been used as a Media Center; hence pretty much all that is was running was Windows Media Center. The machine was regularly updated with all important, and recommended updates from Microsoft. Also, all recommended hardware upgrades (from Microsoft) were applied. So far, so good.

This system is an extremely effective Media Center PC. With it’s built in web-cam and microphones, it is also a very useful video-conferencing system, or just handy for the odd bit of Skyping with friends and family. Using a handy XBOX-360 as a Media Center Extender allows recorded TV from the A2420 to be shared to the TV in the living room. Sharing the “Recorded TV” folder on the A2420 allows the content to be watched on any laptop in the house – a handy bonus :)

I believe that this sytem has remaind stable and useable for such a long time, as virtually no additional software has been installed other than Skype, and some virus-scanning and anti-malware utilities. Unfortunately, all good things come to an end, and recently the system has started mis-behaving. Initially it started by refusing to create thumbnails of recorded programmes in the RecordedTV; not a bid deal – we can live without thumbnails. Not long after this the system started to respond very slowly when switching between menu sections, with the “spinning circle of wait” hanginng around longer and longer. This was possibly related to the the thumbnail issue – perhaps the system was trying to rebuild all the thumbnails every time the menu section was opened?

In order to minimise Media Center down-time (it’s an *important* highly used system around here!), I sought some remedies, spending a couple of days Bing’ing and Google’ing possible answers.
I tried a variety of the suggested solutions, including, amongst other things, checking the registry to ensure that Media Center Recorded TV content was still associated with the Media Center application; deleting thumbnail previews; clear thumbnail caches; clearing the Media Center database; plenty of reboots. No improvement.

I was left with two options:

  • Reboot & return the system to “factory configuration” – Vista Home Premium Edition
  • Upgrade to Windows 7

I had resisted installing Windows 7 on this sytem for some time as I understood there to be a number of problems due to the fact that this system has never (officially) been supported with Windows 7. This is understandable, given that the hardware ceased production not long after Windows 7 was made available, so retrofitting support for equipment that is no longer available is costly and unlikely to happen. Having said that – there are no especially exotic components within the system, so in theory there shouldn’t be too many issues.

There are a number of reports on the web describing issues with getting the graphics card working; it is an Nvidia GeForce 9600M GT, yes indeedy, a *mobile* graphics card, usually found in laptops. There is a driver available from Nvidia for this family of cards, however there were numerous reports of difficulty installing this Nvidia update, both on Windows 7, and, indeed, on Vista systems. I had, in the past, tried the latter, to see if it would fix an occasional glitchy driver issue, however the installer had refused to play ball, so that line of attack had been abandoned. There are ways to hack the installer files in order to force the issue… which I was ready to do, however, this turned out not to be required.

As I was in the midst of a software upgrade, I thought I’d take the opportunity to invalidate my long-expired warranty and upgrade the hard-disk inside the system; switching out the 320Gb 3.5″ SATA drive with a 500Gb 2.5″ laptop unit. Copious use of zip-ties made this all possible – it should be OK, the system is moved very rarely, so shouldn’t rattle about too much!

The Windows 7 (32bit version) installation went very smoothly… initially the system booted using the default VGA driver at a very low resolution (well, low by today’s HD standards!). I made the decision to allow the system to go through the Microsoft Online Update process before I tackled the graphics card driver install. To my pleasant surprise I found that the Online Update now seems to contain a native driver for the GeForce 9600M GT card. Almost all of the components now work (after allowing all updates to download and install), including the proximity detector which triggers the system to light up the touch-sensitive controls on the front panel; the aver-media TV-Tuner card; the receiver for the infra-red remote.

Currently the only outstanding (driverless) items are:

  • Multi-media card reader (Ricoh R5C843 MMC Host Controller)
  • The mysterious Intel Eaglelake HECI Controller

But for now, the system is back up and running, recording TV, playing it back, all that good stuff!

It has been some time in comming, but it’s finally here. Actually it’s been available for a while, but roll-out appears to have been delayed for some models.

I have been able to test the availability of the update on two Streak devices. Both of which are UK, unlocked, direct from Dell units. Both units started with Android 1.6, one “factory fresh”, the other had received an update (as described here), so I had units with differing OEM/baseband versions, specifically:

1.6 Factory Fresh: Baseband version: GAUSB1A110700-EU; Build number 4399

1.6 With official update: Baseband version: GAUSB1A111100-EU; Build number: 6267

Upgrade!

Before updating, always a good idea to have a back-up; the Android Marketplace has a handy little app. for that… just do a search for “Dell Backup & Restore”. Once down, hit the “System Update” icon that appears in the notification bar. If there’s no notification, check in the Settings… menu, choose “Menu settings…”, “About device”, “System updates”; this will open up a browser which checks the website http://mobileupdate.dell.com/?version=GAUSB1A111100 for updates.

Dell Streak Android 2.2 Update

Dell Streak Android 2.2 Update

Just follow the “Continue with Update” link.

The download (Streak_318_12821_00.pkg) is 150Mb in size, so make take a while to make it’s way across the internet to your device ;)

Once the download is completed, simply tap on the Update package in the download list. You will then be given the option to either Update Now, or Later. Choosing “Update Now” causes the device to reboot, during which the update is installed. During the update, the device will reboot twice, just wait until it returns to the “lock” screen :)

Restore

Handily, the Dell Back-up and Restore utility is included as part of the 2.2 build, so restoring the back-up should be nice and easy :)

…in fact easier than I thought, the update seems to have restored applications and user data as part of the upgrade :)

WIN!

Dell Streak Update

September 4, 2010

I have a new Dell Streak, which is a great piece of hardware, with, it has to be said, software that does not do it full justice. Although Android 1.6 is perfectly serviceable, the Streak really needs a newer version of the operating system to really shine.

It has been announced that O2 will be rolling out Android 2.1 soon to Dell Streak’s bought through (and locked to) the O2 network.

This morning my Streak (Dell OEM version) announced that it had an update waiting. Unfortunately this turns out only to have been a minor update, as my device is still running Android 1.6 following the update.

Before -> After

Firmware Version: 1.6 -> 1.6
Baseband Version: GAUSB1A110700-EU -> GAUSB1A111100-EU
Kernel Version: 2.6.29-perf -> 2.6.29-perf
Build Number: 4399->6267

Let’s hope 2.1 or 2.2 comes along soon.

I *KNOW* I have the manual from my Miele CVA620 coffee machine filed away somewhere safe… however when the built-in display on the machine insists that it is time to run a “Rinsing Cycle”, you can bet the folder containing the manual will be hiding away!

And that’s why I love any vendor who is smart enough to provide me with easy online access to manuals (PDF format is great for this kind of stuff); indepth technical manuals are a nice bonus for the nerdier amongst us. Miele do this very well, it’s possible to find user manuals for all of their appliances here:

http://www.miele.co.uk/customer/OperatingInstructions.aspx

Now why can’t all vendors be that helpful? It’s not like the user manuals contain any kind of secrets that can’t be revealed, there’s one shipped with every appliance out there (and it’s probably printed from a PDF ;) anyway)! Improving the customers’ experience can be done with so little effort and incremental cost that it astonishes me when a company can’t be bothered to do something so simple.

For the record, the PDF User Manual for a Miele CVA620 is available to download here:

http://www.miele.co.uk/Resources/OperatingInstructions/CVA%20620.pdf

Enjoy!

Windows 7 Update Update

March 3, 2010

Still plugging away with Windows 7 on a variety of machines.
Latest one to feel the goodness is my Dell Latitude E4300, now upgraded to swanky full 64bit version of Windows 7 Ultimate. With an SSD on board it is a nice machine to work on!

Only a couple of tweaks required post-install… convenience rather than driver issues…
… essential install is the Dell Control Point (DCP) System Manager software as it gives you the nice on-screen-displays, and allows you to tweak such things as the backlight brightness on the E4300 backlit keyboard. I am totally converted, I find it odd to use a machine without a backlit keyboard these days!
Get 64bit (Vista & Win7) DCP System Manager here:

http://support.dell.com/support/downloads/format.aspx?c=us&cs=19&l=en&s=dhs&deviceid=21360&libid=60&releaseid=R252981&vercnt=4&formatcnt=0&SystemID=LAT_E4300&servicetag=&os=WV64&osl=en&catid=-1&dateid=-1&typeid=-1&formatid=-1&impid=-1&checkFormat=true

Or if that link ever breaks; search from http://support.dell.com/ with your machine type, and select driver and software downloads.

Windows 7 Update

July 11, 2009

I keep meaning to update my progress with Windows 7… but am getting distracted by “other things that need my attention”.

Dell Latitude E4300

One of my team very kindly short-circuited my procrastination gene and handed me an SSD with a Windows 7 RC image for my E4300 already pre-installed. Even I can manage a hard-disk swap :)

It’s a very nice environment to work in… No doubt this is helped an awful lot by the responsive solid state disk on which the OS is installed. It’s nice that everything “just works”. Not had a single crash the whole time I’ve been using it… no song and dance required with any of the peripherals that I have tested it with so far (cameras, music players, etc.) This is in contrast to a friend of mine, a vocal Open Source and Linux supporter, who was bitching to me about the flakiness of USB memory stick support in the latest version of his once favoured Linux distribution!

Windows 7 (RC), so far so good :)

It’s never a good day when a significant, some would say dominant, company enters “your” market. You will always hear the usual “it validates our marketspace”… but it is also usually the sound of the beginning of the end…

This has happened before:

  • Lotus 1-2-3 Vs Microsoft Excel
  • Novell Netware Vs Microsoft
  • Yahoo Vs Google

Next on the list:

It may be that Google’s (second) entry into the Operating System marketplace will boost Ubuntu and Linux in general. However, even though ChromeOS might be initially targetted at Netbooks and similar systems, I suspect that it won’t be long before we see a “Server” version, and more likely a “Cloud” version… watch out Amazon ECC!

I’m sure that people will also point to the vast installed base that Ubuntu currently has, but it seems that Linux users are a fickle lot, and will happily try out a new Linux distribution, especially if it comes with the promise of even more “ease-of-use”, not to mention a “trusted” brand. The hardware vendors are no different… they will all, to differing degrees, support and fulfill a customer demand, following the market trends.

And my last random thought: maybe Google should buy Sun’s hardware business from Oracle :)
[But I suspect Google has even less inclination to be a hardware vendor than does Oracle!]

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