Category Archives: Hardware

Lg monitor ips224v-pn, look

I decided to get the LS IPS224V-PN and here is a look at it. First thing I noticed was that the stand was a bit… rickety, probably from the thin neck. This does get noticed especially with the desktop I own, tetters. The second thing I noticed was how even the picture was: good, crisp, even, vibrant. The other thing I noticed was the permeating, yellow din that I’m familiar with with LEDs. This last thing can fortunately be adjusted).

Details Value
Contrast ratio 5,000,000:1
Resolution 1920×1080
Response time 14ms
Input D-Sub, DVI, HDMI
Output Headphone
IPS Yes

I’m not sure what ips is but I think it contributes to the nice viewing angle.

Setup was real easy, took no more than a few minutes and monitor calibration was basic.

Setting Default New
Brightness 100
Contrast 50 71
Color Temp Custom Cool

The color temperature of cool does a good job to neutralize the yellow color the LED; however the custom setting did better with pictures.

Alternate (yellow LED color remains):

Setting Default Alt.
Brightness 100
Contrast 50 67
Color Temp Custom
Red 50 46
Green 50 46
Blue 50 59

Ultimately I choose to use the cool temperature.

The power button is a large half-circle with an refracting light to indicate power-saving. However, it is extremely bright. There is an option to turn it off when the power is off, but it will still be seen in standby-mode; I’ve had to cover mine up.

I got this display for reading and it is good for that. Text looks very nice. But it also is good with pictures at least as far as my semi-professional eye is concerned. The 14ms (WTG?) response time is a bit on the high end. Videos do show a bit of “ghosting” but it doesn’t bother me that bad.

Handling display calibration

Though it is the expectation that a monitor is ready as soon as it is removed from the box, most monitors need to be calibrated. A much more vivid, detailed, true experience can become available after it is done that can be enjoyed and “feels right”. Calibrating a monitor correctly requires training of the eye so it initially can take a bit of work.

Hardware

All settings done to calibrate the monitor should be done on a hardware level (except for possibly gamma) as software solutions almost never adjust the image truely. Before beginning, have the monitor on for about ten minutes as it can take the lamp this long to warm up and represent accurate values.

Gamma

Gamma correction is the adjustment of mid-tone luminosity. It is used to compensate for the non-linear relationship between the input signal and the luminance of a monitor. Televisions, computers, and the internet use a gamma of 2.2 as a standard so monitors set to this to be able to correctly display output. Most monitors default to the 2.2 standard but some monitors deviate and therefore hardware and/or software gamma correction is required. A high gamma will look glowy and a low gamma will appear errie and dark.

Alternate

Gamma test and Alternate

There is likely a gamma setting on the monitor if it needs to be adjusted. If there isn’t, or for further adjustment, a software solution is available. The first software solution would be to use the EDID data built-in to the monitor of most modern-day computers. It contains details about the monitor including gamma correction. The Desktop Environment may have the ability to grab the EDID and save it as an ICC profile (GNOME does), otherwise a program like Quickgamma in windows will do. If the monitor does not have EDID information, Quickgamma also has the ability to manually-calibrate the gamma and create an ICC profile from that; it saves the ICC profiles to C:\Windows\System32\spool\drivers\color.

To load an ICC profile put it in ~/.local/share/icc/ and see if your Desktop Environment supports it. If it does not, a good program that can load them is xcalib.

In the image, lightly squint the eyes (or step away) to find the match where gamma blends with the background.

Contrast

Contrast defines the tonality of an image. Tonality is the gradient leveling from light to dark. With a high contrast the light and dark extremes become “crushed” or “blended” together, a low contrast the and images will appear flat. Contrast is also reflects the white-level (the brightness of white) of the monitor; contrast levels are often defined when buying a monitor because they will tell how bright the lamp is.

In this image, turn up the contrast to maximum and the reduce until all whites become distinct and the first block is just barely discernable.

Brightness

Brightness is better-referred to as black-level as it defines the “brightness of black”, or how bright darkness goes. Black is “black” or will be just above the black of the monitor if turned off. Adjust the image so that the left box just barely discernable. It may be necessary to go back and forth between contrast and brightness until the right balance is met.

Note: Discernability of the lightest light boxes and the blackest dark boxes should be possible on a modern monitor; however, it should be known that some monitors are unable to reproduce them.

Color balance

For color the first thing to do is adjust saturation. Saturation is the total amount of color the monitor will display. Too much saturation and images will be heavy with color, too little and they will appear faded. On some monitors the setting will be called Color, on others it will be Saturation, and on others it will be controled through an accumulative adjustment of the Red, Green, and Blue channels. Use the images below to determine saturation. Skin tone is a good indicator for this; however, also look at the colors on the color wheel as “bleeding” will at times occur when over-saturation occurs.

To adjust the color balance, also use the images below with skin tone as a reference. Do one color at a time, go back and forth, back and forth, until it feels right. When doing this be careful not to strain the eye too much as eye fatigue effects colorreception. Take a break after a little bit (get up and strech, make lunch…) and come back and you’ll immediately see, “Ah, the image is too red” or “Ah, the image is too blue”… The base colors Red, Green, and Blue also have complementary colors or complmentary light, the opposite of Red is Cyan, Green Magenta, and Blue is Yellow. If an image has too much Magenta it will need more Green. Again look at the skin tone (the gray in the first image works good). This is where the trained eye comes in. With practive eventually color bents will become discernable. Once it is achieved, the discovery of a well defined monitor can be begun to be enjoyed.

Skin-tone, gray background

Skin-tone, gray background

Light skin-tone

Light skin-tone

Darker skin-tone

Darker skin-tone

Resources

External monitor as Discrete

I use my laptop primarly at home with an external monitor as discrete, meaning that I have the laptop monitor turned off and I only use it. At times this is also called a dedicated monitor. GNOME can be set to disable the laptop monitor and enable the external but it wasn’t able to hotplug the monitor after I returned the laptop, and at times wouldn’t do so after resuming from sleep. Also in the proccess I discovered that the X.org server DPI setting wasn’t being done correctly and that GNOME’s text scaling needed to be adjusted. So I decided to do it in a script and it turned out to be pretty easy.

I wrote the basic script that toggles monitors depending if the external monitor is present, then it detects correct physical size dimension of the screen so the the correct DPI can be set. After this, I added a startup script (.desktop file), a pm-utils script to runafter resuming, and a udev script to detect andset the monitor when plugged in. The udev rule is generic but appears to be working for a lot of people, it relys on Kernel Mode setting (KMS) so doesn’t work for me wiht the catalyst driver, but every thing else works great. I put it on github for any who like to look at it.

The bash script cannot be used right away instead a couple bit will need to be directed:

 The package cannot be installed directly and be expected to work, some edits
 will need to be made.  First, in the resume script '80_discretemon' a username 
 will need to be defined; next, the monitor names will need to be defined as
 created by the driver in 'discretemon'.

Also, the monitors can be defined in xorg.conf but the fix for after resume from sleep, remains.

Section "Monitor"
  Identifier  "0-LVDS"
  Option      "VendorName" "ATI Proprietary Driver"
  Option      "ModelName"  "Acer Aspire Laptop Screen"
  Option      "DPMS" "true"
  Option      "TargetRefresh" "60"
  Option      "Position" "0 0"
  Option      "Rotate" "normal"
  Option      "Disable" "true"
  DisplaySize  344 194 # only works with xrandr disabled.

EndSection

Section "Monitor"
  Identifier  "0-DFP1"
  Option      "VendorName" "ATI Proprietary Driver"
  Option      "ModelName"  "Samsung SyncMaster SA350"
  Option      "DPMS" "true"
  Option      "PreferredMode" "1920x1080"
  Option      "TargetRefresh" "60"
  Option      "Position" "0 0"
  Option      "Rotate" "normal"
  Option      "Disable" "false"
  DisplaySize  476 268 # only works with xrandr disabled.
  Option      "DPI" "102 x 102"
EndSection

Catalyst Driver, a Journey Taken… Better than I’d Known

I previously read about (a good number of times) people not having the best experiences with AMD’s proprietary driver. However, with my new laptop I decided that no matter how much I love the open-source driver (bought it because AMD opened the specs to it), that realistically it would take a few years before I’d be able to play games with it. The AMD/ATI website says 7xxxM series is supported so I decided to try it.

Prepare for Installing Catalyst

Removed open-source Radeon driver options, commented /etc/X11/xorg.conf.d/20-radeon.conf.

Installing Catalyst Driver

Using Vi0l0’s excellent catalyst repository, I added it to /etc/pacman.conf:

[catalyst] Server = http://catalyst.apocalypsus.net/repo/catalyst/$arch

Add Vi0l0 key:

sudo pacman-key -r          NUM
sudo pacman-key --lsign-key NUM

Installed (using pacman shortcuts script (pm):

pm y
pm i linux-headers catalyst-hook catalyst-utils lib32-catalyst-utils

Using catalyst-hook here to have the module put into initramfs when kernel versions areupgraded (provides catalyst driver).

X.org Server-Configuration

sudo aticonfig --initial 

Added module to load at boot:

echo '# Load AMD Catalyst driver
fglrx' | sudo tee /etc/modules-load.d/fglrx.conf

Disabled Mode Setting: Added GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX="nomodeset" (for GRUB2) to /etc/default/grub), then:

sudo grub-mkconfig -o /boot/grub/grub.cfg

Testing

Reboot, and driver loaded properly (lsmod | grep fglrx), and direct rendering is enabled (glxinfo | grep direct).

Configuring Display

Created root .desktop for ATI Catylyst Control Center:

cp /usr/share/applications/amdcccle.desktop ~/.local/share/applications/
sed -i 's/Exec=amdcccle/Exec=gksudo amdcccle/' ~/.local/share/applications/amdcccle.desktop
chmod +x ~/.local/share/applications/amdcccle.desktop

Color

  • Color Temperature: Use display’s settings

Display Manager

  • Selected down arrow for both monitors to change to correct settings.

Logout/Login: Gnome 3 crash, extensions disabled
Login: Monitor settings lost, both on lower resolution (open-source radeon driver and catalyst define monitors differently so Gnome using xrandr flubs the first time after.

DTV

  • Pixel Format: RGB 4:4:4 (Full RGB)
  • Adjustments: Overscan 0%

Switchable Graphics

Catalyst driver does not recognize discrete GPU properly, thinks integrated GPU is discrete GPU:

Show GPUs:

aticonfig --list-adapters
* 0. 00:01.0 AMD Radeon HD 6520G          # * Default
  1. 01:00.0 AMD Radeon HD 7600M Series

But…:

aticonfig --px-list
PowerXpress: Discrete GPU is active (High-Performance mode).

I tried using sudo aticonfig --px-igpu to switch to integrated to see if it would switch but got an X.org server hang. Also tried sudo aticonfig --px-dgpu to see if aticonfig --px-list was in error but no luck. Tried using discrete GPU BusID (BusID "PCI:1:0:0") in xorg.conf but that didn’t work either. The catalyst driver doesn’t properly recognize the 7670M GPU as discrete GPU. Entered bug.

GNOME bug

When I first started with GNOME mouse clicks would miss at times and sometimes keypresses did too, I added export CLUTTER_VBLANK=none to ~/.bash_profile and it fixed this. Oddly, I commented it later because I thought it might be related to another bug (it was not) and forgot to enable it again, but I haven’t seen the problem since.

Conclusion

Hard to believe there is not official AMD Catalyst bugzilla (odd how their website points to the unofficial one) so I’m a bit worried about the near future but think all will be fine.

The driver works good. I’m getting a consistent 50fps on Urban Terror and tried Doom and it looks pretty good. Disappointed about not being able to use the discrete GPU, would have been nice. Gonna keep using catalyst, its working good.

Here’s a script i built called gpuswitch I plan to use when gaming later. Night.

Resources

Acer Aspire 5560G-7809 Laptop: A Gamble Worth Taking

Typically it hasn’t been recommended to buy an Acer, at least in my circles. From the surveys I’ve seen generally Acer rankings are last of the major computer manufacturers. Astonishingly they rank close to the top of units sold. When I saw this, I deduced that Acer likely made possibly shabby computers sold at basement-prices to a portion of the population that was virgin. So I’m not sure what I was thinking when I bought my Aspire laptop except, “If that’s true, thats a really good price; I have to have it.” I had been using a ten-year-old laptop up to now so this was by best shot to the moon orbit.

I heard about laptops that were “Desktop Replacements”. I was hoping to find something in that area: a powerful-ish core in a mobile unit (with a decent gaming card). I’m not sure the Aspire 5560G-7809 [1][2] would qualify as one officially but performance in Windows and Linux is good (at least as best as I can qualify from a 10-year-old laptop perspective). The basic specs:

Specifications
Processor AMD A6-3420M Quad-core 1.50 GHz
Memory 4GB DDR3-1066/PC3-8500
Hard Drive 320 GB SATA 5400rpm
Optical Disk DVD-RAM/±R/±RW-Writer
Screen 15.6″ 1366 x 768 Glossy LED
Graphic Card Dual-Graphic -/AMD Radeon HD 7670M

All this for $550 dollars from TigerDirect. The closest comparable model was from HP for $750. I was really recommended to change the RAM speed so this was the first thing I did. Along with the laptop I bought a two stick pack of PC106-1333 8GB memory from PNY for $41 dollars only to have it be non-compatible (or I guess it could have been busted [but passed memory test]). After that I got it from crucial because of their Guaranteed-compatible promise and the speedup is noticeable.

I admit that I got the 5560G because of the graphic card to be able to play games, it was extremely appealing to me. The Notebookcheck tests on it seemed to me to be real good for a mobile graphic card. I was able to get into Dungeon and Dragons Online and the playability was good with the auto-detected medium-high graphic settings. Been thinking about SWTOR, hmm.

I’ll probably one day get a Solid state Drive down the road for it, the 5400 hard drive speed is definitely hard to miss at times. The one from crucial sounds pretty appealing, at $170 dollars though ughh, and I’m not sure I can live with 125GB.

The screen is nice and bright and seems to have good color replication though it does have a limited-gamut and viewing angle (a typical 1366 x 768 these days I’m told). It uses an LED which is nice; glossy, not so. Having it be so reflective worried me at first I was real surprised though when I turned it on how it made that shiny virtually indistinguishable.

Keyboard and touchpad feel good. The keyboard is full-size and key pushes offer an easy, uniform resistance. I really like the touchpad. The surface provides a nice bit of friction for feedback and the size fits really well. Wish manufacturers would get away from touchpad tapping on as default however (be nice if even there was a hardware way to turn it off).

The look and balance is nice as well (if you can’t tell the look from the photos). Doesn’t weigh too much and doesn’t feel off-kilter like other laptops I’ve experienced. The hinge is sturdy and pivots nicely.

Pluses and Minuses

  • + Price
  • + Graphic Card
  • - 5400rpm Hard Drive
  • - RAM Speed
  • - USB 2.0
  • ? USB port in front of DVD-writer

Linux

Site note first: I can’t believe I am saying it but I like Windows7. It’s well put together and has good help. Out of the box everything worked pretty well. What can I say though, I like hacking; plus I love open-source.

I’m not sure how I got so lucky buying this but after installing Ubuntu everything just worked. The reason I haven’t been using Arch exclusively anymore was because no matter what I tried I could not get suspend to work. Because I came to have limited time and needed my laptop to be able to suspend, I had to give up Arch. After I install Ubuntu 12.04 I hope to be a able to install Arch again and put Ubuntu’s Unity on top of it.

Final Thoughts

Gnome 3 and hence Ubuntu’s Unity are new and have problems with the Radeon drivers (both the proprietary catalyst driver and the open-source version) and desktop effects are laggy. I had thought to buy a laptop with an Nvidia graphic card because I had good experience with it before but after reading this post Linux users should probably think twice about buying laptops with optimus technology. So the only question I have left is how will this laptop do over time? For now at least, I’m very very happy.

Samsung Syncmaster SA350 Monitor: Thoughts and Settings

The Samsung Syncmaster SA350 monitor is a 21.5″ LED monitor with 1920×1080 resolution. I had always wanted an external monitor for my laptop and it has turned out to be really useful. This isn’t a review because I haven’t owned many monitors but I have seen enough monitors to say that this seems to be a pretty good one. I got this three months ago and I can honestly say that I keep appreciating it more over time: good color reproduction, nice brightness, good contrast. The movie high-definition resolution (1920×1080) I was hoping was enough to put applications down side by side and be able to view them and for my needs (basic text editing and internet-browsing) it works:

From my research Samsung is a real good brand to look into when looking at getting monitors. While I am not experienced in using a good different number of monitors, I can say that this monitor I’ve felt comfortable with. From previous experience of using other peoples monitors (schools, friends, and libraries) this by far has been the easiest on the eyes, very little eye-strain even when used for long times. One may comment that with a resolution of 1920×1080 on a 21.5″ monitor that it may not be the best dots-per-inch and they’d be right. It calculates as 102 DPI just above 96 DPI which is still oddly sort of a standard. That said fonts still read easy (take a look a above pic to see what I mean). For some unknown reason though, the Xorg server forced a 96 DPI on it when booting (haven’t been able to figure out why) that required me to find a rather lengthy work-around for.

Settings

As shipped the SamsungSyncmaster SA350’s LED monitor is very bright (almost stinging eyes bright) but isn’t calibrated at all. The settings need a massive adjusted as everything will appear washed out. Having been through photography classes and such I’ve developed a good sense in color balance. Once the settings are done right this LED feels really good (though I still have to get used to the the grey-bare tint LEDs give off). These are the settings:

Picture
Brightness 100
Contrast 24
Sharpness 60
Magic Bright Custom
Magic Angle Off
Coarse (set by auto-discover) 2200
Fine 35
Response Time Normal
HDMI Black Level Normal
Color
Magic Color Off
Red 0
Green 19
Blue 55
Color Tone Custom
Gamma Mode2
Size and Position (necessary to set when using VGA)
H-Position 54
V-Position 40
Image Size Wide

Western Digital My Book Essential External Hard Drive on Linux

I decided to sell my desktop computer and use my laptop exclusively, I had no need to keep another computer and since I was only using it for doing backups I decided it would be better to save some space.

I choose to get a Western Digital because they have been so reliable to me in the past. Of the external hard drives available at Wal-Mart it initially appeared not the be the best value. A Seagate right next to it was also a terabtye in storage capacity but also had USB 3.0 capability for only $15 dollars more. The WD Essentials has only USB 2.0 and I know that 3.0 is supposed to be considerable faster than 2.0. However, for me, my laptop is only USB 1.0 so this didn’t factor into it; also, because I am only using this for backups, time isn’t much of a factor and I prefer to have the reliability of the Western Digital name.

The My Book Essential HD has a capacity meter on the front to display how full the disk is. I learned though, unfortunately, that this only works through the Windows driver and using the NTFS file system. Because I’m going to be using this for backups on Linux with ext4 this feature isn’t available.

Since I have a Windows system installed I retrospectively learned that it is a good idea to install the driver/software for the drive there to setup the drive for only the reason so that I could disable the VCD. The Virtual CD Drive is a built-in memory chip that registers to the operating system as a regular CD drive. On it it contains the driver/software installer and manual. As far as the driver/software goes its nicer than I’ve seen of other hardware’s software, it was lightweight, easy to use, and with no frills. For Linux though the driver/software is unecessary as it is automatically recognized and working out of the box. I disabled the VCD drive with the Windows software though to keep the VCD from popping up when I loaded my Linux desktop.

I ran a S.M.A.R.T. conveyance test and extended test on it then did a thorough badblocks write test that took about 24 hours… all tests passed.

Formatting to ext4, the drive works perfectly in Linux without any additional configuration (besides noatime. I’ve been using the hard drive the last couple of months and I’m real happy with it: it’s small, quiet, and has done it’s job without a hitch.

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