Star Trek Tricorder

A Star Trek (TOS) Tricorder will be released in late June 2009 by Diamond Select Toys.

Given the technology changes since 1966, this tricorder would probably be easy to mod into the real thing.

Measuring 12 x 5 x 8 inches (30.5 x 12.7 x 20.3 cm), it could be a host for a hundred things, like a PSP, DS or even a case for my homeless Via pc2500.

 

 

 

Windows 7 Performance on Legacy Systems

I installed the Windows 7 Beta (7000) on my Via pc2500, powered by a 1.5 GHz Via C7-D, an x86-compatible desktop processor. The Via motherboard is installed in a SilverStone SST-LC11S-300 HTPC case connected to a Sony KV-36FV1 television.

I wanted to use the Via pc2500 as a DVD player and Netflix streaming player but the performance of Windows 7 Beta on the Via pc2500 isn’t really that great, even with a PCI video card (a EVGA 256-P1-N399-LX GeForce 6200 256MB 64-bit GDDR2). With 2GB of system RAM and the latest version of Silverlight, Netflix streaming is jerky. DVDs played with Windows Media Player also do not play smoothly.

The Windows Experience Index was only 1.3, and the blame was on the Via 1.5 GHz processor. Task Manager showed 100% CPU usage while trying to stream Netflix. (My ATT-Yahoo DSL connection (Elite 6.0/768) speed is about 5.2 mb/s down and 437 kb/s up, so Netflix streaming looks OK on my more robust PCs.) I don’t really see how the new netbooks can have any decent performance with Windows 7.

The pc2500 is currently my hardware looking for an applicaton. Now I’ve tried Windows XP, gOS, Ubuntu, Windows Vista, Windows 7 and Linux MCE. The Via hardware is just anemic. Maybe with a Mimo USB monitor, it’d be OK as a carputer.

Windows 7 Beta on my vintage (purchased 2002) Shuttle SB51G works OK. The Shuttle XPC has an Intel Pentium 4 2.8GHz CPU (SL6HL), 1 GB RAM and an ATI All-In-Wonder 9600. I normally boot Windows XP 2005 MCE and use it as a file server, media server (using TVersity), DVD player and Netflix streaming client (through a browser).

Windows 7 performance feels comparable to XP MCE, that is to say, it doesn’t feel slow. But there also isn’t any other crap installed – anti-virus and other applications. The Windows Experience Index was 3.0, and in this case, the sluggard was the Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 Ultra ATA/100 320 GB hard drive.

Since there are no Windows 7 video drivers for the lowly ATI Radeon 9600 / X1050, I used the ATI Catalyst 9.1 Display Driver for Windows Vista. I wanted to use ATI Catalyst Control Center application to hotkey switch between the primary and secondary display (Dell 2007 WFP and a Sony KV-36FV1), so I can watch DVDs on the Sony TV in the living room. The hotkey switch that works in XP doesn’t work with Windows 7.

Via pc2500, ITX and ATX Form Factors

When I first read about ClubIT’s $59.99 (USD) gOS Developer Kit, I started thinking about applications where I could use it. How can you pass up a $60 ‘puter?

The Via pc2500 motherboard is relatively small – it conforms to the FlexATX form factor which is 9.0 in. x 7.5 in. (221 mm x 191 mm). I first thought the Via board would be a good starting point for a car computer. With a small touchscreen LCD, I could use it for a GPS and an A/V source for music (and video).

As I started looking for cases, there seemed to be a dearth of cases for the FlexATX motherboard. Most FlexATX cases also fit the larger microATX motherboard. (FlexATX is an addendum to the microATX specification). I may have confused the ATX motherboard sizes with the ITX form factor developed by Via Technology.

Form FactorMax. WidthMax. Depth
FlexATX9.0″ (229 mm)7.5″ (191 mm)
microATX9.6″ (244 mm)9.6″ (244 mm)
ATX, full-size12.0″ (305 mm)9.6″ (244 mm)
Mini-ATX11.2″ (284 mm)8.2″ (208 mm)

The ITX form factors are much smaller than the ATX specs:

mini-ITX6.7″ (170 mm)6.7″ (170 mm)

Form FactorMax. WidthMax. Depth
nano-ITX4.7″ (120 mm)4.7″ (120 mm)
pico-ITX3.9″ (100 mm)2.8″ (72 mm)
mobile-ITX2.953″ (75 mm)1.772″ (45 mm)

I was unable to find a small FlexATX enclosure that might fit under the seat of a car or inconspicuously in the trunk. Instead I found a Silverstone SST-LC11S-300 for $27.51 (USD) on eBay. For a motherboard that has a maximum power draw of 20 watts, this case is a little overkill. But until I find a suitable enclosure, I have another HTPC.

As for the OS, I tried installing the gOS and received an error, /sbin/modprobe “abnormal exit.” I found several reported bugs in Ubuntu that described the same error that required a kernal fix . Instead, I installed an OEM version of Vista, and have the PC headless at the moment.

(3 December 2007) Doing more research on the abnormal exit during the install of gOS and Ubuntu 7.04 led me to add the boot parameter all_generic_ide after hitting F6 on the boot screen. This problem is discussed in the Ubuntu Forums.