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!

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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.

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.

 dell-logo62.gif

Sadly not mine… but some interesting internal pictures of the new Dell Latitude 2100. Check out Gulilaume’s Blog.

Finally got 50% of what I need to start *that* project…

Dell Mini 9 in white.

Dell Mini 9 in white.

…just off to PCWorld to purchase a copy of MacOS X.

🙂

MacinDell

February 21, 2009

Dell Mini9

Dell Mini9

The Dell Mini9 is an awesome piece of kit…I have used it extensively with WinXP & Canonical’s Ubuntu, but it seems that itis also right at home with OSX. I’ve seen that it can be done before, but this is an extremely nice full guide to hacking your Mini9 to run OSX.

Maybe I need to get myself an “Arctic White” Mini9 to test this on 🙂