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Software | HP Mini Note PC Blog

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Broadcom HD Video Accelerator - Part 3

I had a couple of follow up questions regarding the Broadcom Adapter,  so I thought I’d write a quick post on what I can remember from installing the card in my HP2133.

Taking the machine apart to install the card : This is a little tricky as you have to get to the motherboard which is beneath the keyboard.  A couple of useful reference are:

http://www.insidemylaptop.com/remove-keyboard-replace-memory-access-hard-drive-hp-2133-mini-note-pc/

and the official HP maintenance manual

http://bizsupport2.austin.hp.com/bc/docs/support/SupportManual/c01658655/c01658655.pdf

Be very careful with the keyboard connector! I broke mine the first time and had to get a defunct motherboard to replace it.  I have successfully disassembled the machine many times since without breaking it but just be extra cautious.

What did I give up to use the card?:  I think you have to take out the wireless card.  I had problems with mine because HP didn’t attach the antenna to the card so it appeared that my wireless card was unable to find networks.  Once I opened the machine to install the Broadcom adapter,  I found the manufacturing issue but had already purchased a USB Wifi adapter!

Battery Life/Performance: Running the Broadcom adapter did drain the battery faster.  It also made the machine run with the fan on at constant high speed when video was being decoded.

Software:  I had the hardest time getting the software I downloaded to install so that the accelerator would work correctly. I think I got it working with Microsoft Media Player and Arcsoft Totalmedia Theater.  It looks like the drivers are now on the Broadcom website so it might be easier than when I tried it.

Final thoughts:  I didn’t keep the accelerator in the machine for very long after installation,  I think the heat and the noise from the fan were the deal breakers for me.

I hope this post is helpful and answers some of the questions raised recently.

Adding a Broadcom HD video accelerator to the HP mininote 2133

My HP 2133 (1 Ghz) plays 480p video flawlessly, but any attempt to play a high definition format makes the video look like a slideshow.

When Broadcom announced the “Crystal HD Enhanced Media Accelerator” I decided to purchase one, dissect my mininote again and see how well the card works.

The following videos are examples of the “before” and “after” experience of using the accelerator on my HP 2133 mininote. Installation of both the hardware and the software had it’s challenges which I’ll document in a later post this week.

The sample Stormchasers_1080 and Robotica_720 video files were downloaded from the Microsoft HD Content Showcase.

I think you’ll agree that the results are very impressive. I also tried the accelerator with a blu-ray clip from the movie “Body of Lies” which also worked great, provided you paused the player for a couple of seconds after forwarding the video.

The Broadcom cards are available as PCI Express mini cards and for the ExpressCard 34 slot. I bought the mini card on ebay for $24.

Robotica_720 before HD Accelerator installation:

Robotica_720 after the Broadcom HD Accelerator has been installed:

Stormchasers_1080 before the Broadcom HD Accelerator has been installed (on an external monitor):

Stormchasers_1080 after the Broadcom HD Accelerator has been installed (on an external monitor):

Accessories for the HP Mini note

This holiday I spent most of my holiday disposable income on accessories for my HP mini note. Here’s what I bought (with links). I’ll write a more in-depth review of each accessory over the next few posts.

Kensington 120-Watt Notebook AC/DC Power Adapter - Purchased from Circuity City, on sale around Thanksgiving for $59.99 (regular price $149.99). This thin and light power supply comes with multiple tips and supports both my mini note and my work laptop (an IBM t60 thinkpad). It also works in cars and planes (adapters included).

Samsung External 8x DVD Drive - Purchased from Newegg before the Christmas holiday for $59.99. This external DVD does not require an external power supply and runs directly from the mini note’s powered USB port.

Buffalo 500gb Ministation Turbo external Hard Drive - Purchased from Fry’s Electronics for $124.99. Link to product on Amazon. This compact 2.5 inch hd drive comes in a shock resistant chassis with a convenient built in cable.

Tucano Neoprene 9″ Sleeve - Purchased from Fry’s Electronics for $19.99. Link to product on Amazon. Fits the HP mini note very well.

Tucano Neoprene Cable Pouch - A matching cable pouch for my mini note accessories. Link to product on Amazon. I bought the case in a steel grey color. This was a really good deal at Fry’s electronics, who had them on clearance for just $3.99.

Finally, I bought a great pack of casual games for entertainment whilst traveling. The mumbojumbo game pack includes 6 puzzle type games, each with great graphics that run perfectly on my 1.0ghz machine (with upgraded RAM). I’d recommend them to everyone.

Chrome on a stick? Carry your Google Browser everywhere you go

Strapped for space on your Netbook? Want to carry your essential apps in your pocket, with your car keys?  Well, Google’s new browser, Chrome has already been modified to run on a USB Stick.  You can find the browser for downloading at Carsten’s site (English translation).

Remember that Chrome only works on Microsoft Windows Netbooks (no Linux version). I haven’t tried it yet, but from the comments on the blog it appears to work as expected for many of the users who have.

Thanks to Amit at Digital Inspiration for publishing the link.

Why you should download Google’s new browser, Chrome

Google launched a new platform browser today, Chrome. Chrome is fast and simple. Google have carefully stripped out any browser bloat, built a new Javascript engine (V8) optimized for today’s web browsing experience and open sourced the code. I downloaded and ran it on my hp mini-note and was very impressed with the performance and the simplicity of the interface. On Google Chrome, I was happily browsing with 10 open tabs and no performance degradation. I suggest you give it a try, I think you’ll be impressed.

Alternatively, you could try Internet Explorer 8 Beta, which was made available for download from Microsoft today. I didn’t.

Here’s a few screenshots from the mini-note running Google Chrome.

Google Chrome Thumbnails of your top sites

Google Chrome showing the bbc.co.uk web site

Interestingly, Microsoft Live Mail didn’t like Chrome and suggested I use another browser.

Microsoft Windows Live email doesnt like Chrome yet


Virtual Desktops for your HP mini-note running Windows XP

Over the next few weeks, I’ll highlight some of the best free software that is available for the HP mini-note, running Windows XP. Today, I’m recommending you take a look at a cool Open Source virtual windows manager.

We all know that the HP2133 mini-note has a great display. The 8.9 inch high resolution (1280 x 768) screen is perfect for viewing a single document, watching a movie or browsing the web, but since moving to Windows XP I miss the advanced virtual desktop software that comes with many of the Linux distributions, like Ubuntu. Recently to plug this functional gap, I installed an Open Source Virtual Windows Manager, called VirtuaWin. I’ve been running it on my mini-note now for a few weeks without problems. Now I can easily switch between web browsing, itunes, document editing and editing my blog with a single keypress. No more fussing around with minimizing & maximizing different windows etc. The software is initially configured for 4 virtual desktops, with simple navigation keys (which can be easily redefined) and has additional modules that you can use to add functionality. I kept the default number of desktops and modified some of the navigation keys. I’ve been using v4.0.1 which seems very stable.

You can download the software or read more about it at SourceForge.net (the home of all things Open Source).

Configuring virtuawin virtual desktop

Configuring VirtuaWin on the HP mini-note

A new, improved HP2133 Mini-note

After successfully upgrading my first HP Mini-note to 2GB of memory with a 120GB hard drive, I decided that when I upgraded my second machine I would use the largest (reasonably priced) capacity hard drive available.

So, for my second system upgrade I selected a WD Scorpio 320GB SATA drive ($129.99) and a 2GB memory stick (KVR667D2S0/2GR) from Kingston ($40.99). To reduce the setup time of the new machine, I also created an image of the hard drive from my first mini-note installation using Acronis True Image and restored the image to the new hard drive.

Unfortunately the process of creating and restoring the hard drive image was not as straight forward as I expected, and I was unable to restore the drive image back to the new hard drive directly in the second mini-note, due to the Acronis boot loader causing the mini-note to hang. It’s certainly possible that Acronis has resolved this issue with later versions of their software (I was running v8, and their latest version is v11).

Instead, I restored the image to the second drive by using a hardware device that enables you to plug any hard drive in to your USB port (these devices are called SATA to USB hard drive adapters). The mini-note recognized the hard drive without a problem through the USB hardware device and I simply restored the image from my 120GB drive to the 320GB drive and dropped the drive in to my second mini-note. To complete the process, I formatted the unused space on the 320GB drive.

Presto, my second mini-note was upgraded to a 320GB hard drive, 2GB of RAM, running Windows XP SP2 (Home Edition) with all my applications already loaded and installed. Total installation time for upgrading the RAM, replacing the SSD drive, system image creation and restoration was about 90 minutes.

In building out this second mini-note, it appears that the wireless card in my first machine is actually faulty. I now need to figure out how I can get it exchanged after making so many system modifications.

Here’s links to the parts and products I used from the modder’s good friend, NewEgg.com:

Hard Drive

Memory

SATA to USB hard drive adapter

Acronis True Image

HP adds SuSE Linux Source ISO to HP2133 support page

It looks like HP have got around to publishing the ISO of the default HP2133 SuSE 10.1 installation on their driver/download page.

http://h20000.www2.hp.com/bizsupport/TechSupport/SoftwareDescription….

Mininoteuser.com have already got a discussion thread started on the subject, if you prefer to not be the first to experiment with it.

http://forums.mininoteuser.com/viewtopic.php?f=6&t=233

Retro gaming on the HP2133 mini-note

Now I’ve got Windows XP running on my mini-note, it’s time to have some fun with it. Tonight, I tried the latest release of a very popular arcade emulator for Microsoft Windows. I’m happy to report that many of the games I tested worked very well, with a 100% frame rate or at least a frame rate that was decent enough to play the game with various optimization settings (un-throttling, auto frame skip, no sound). The games I tried were mostly from the early 1980’s video-gaming arcades and if your old enough to be in the arcades in the 1980’s you’ll know very well what games I’m talking about.

To learn more about retro arcade gaming visit one of the popular web sites including:

http://www.mameworld.net/

http://mamedev.org/

http://www.awecades.com/

Happy Gaming,  Chris.

Preparing for Windows XP installation

Frankly, I’ve been very disappointed with the default SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop Edition 10 running on the mini-note. I still have not got wireless networking to work and even with upgrading the mini-note to 2 gigabytes of RAM, performance is still very sluggish. In preparation for installing Windows XP, I removed the internal 4 gigabyte SSD drive and inserted a Western Digital Scorpio 120 gigabyte drive tonight. I plan to install Windows XP home on the drive and configure it with 2 additional partitions, one for the installation of a working copy of SUSE Enterprise Desktop (assuming HP releases one that works at some point) and the other for a version of Ubuntu.