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Friday
Apr032015

Corsair Carbide 300R flickering LED fix

Some Corsair Carbide 300R owners have mentioned a flickering LED problem with their PC cases – and I too got the same problem soon after I built a new PC. The white PWR LED would start to flash (as if going into Standby), then flicker, then (in my case) go off altogether. I thought it might be Windows power settings causing the PC to shut down, but it wasn’t. Jiggling the pin header on the motherboard made no difference.

Asus Tech Support guessed that the motherboard probably had a faulty header (unlikely) that "cannot output current on that channel.  If necessary I should try using a different PSU with my motherboard. Contact the retailer if the issue persists... " I was none the wiser – was the motherboard, PSU or PC case at fault?

I believe in checking the simplest things first so I assumed the motherboard and PSU would be fine. I decided to test the LED itself with a separate p.s.u. – see later. To access the LEDs the Corsair Carbide 300R front panel must be removed.

Remove the four screws on the corners of the front panelRemove both side panels to reveal the front panel’s steel spring studs on the chassis.  Four hex screws must first be undone on the corners of the front panel. The four screws on the grille are for decoration and can be left alone.

Then pop off the front panel using a plastic pry toolAfter removing the four screws, pry off the front panel using a plastic tool (such as the sort to remove car trim panels, or a plastic pry tool used to take gadgets apart). Be firm but not brutal and the front panel will then pop off without a problem. The DVD drives remain in place.

A single screw holds the LED/ switch panel in placeThe switch/ LED panel is held in place with one screw. Remove it and the panel will loosen.

Using a bench PSU to test the LED - it litI could then access the PWR LED for testing with a separate variable voltage PSU.  I carefully powered up the LED from zero volts (maximum, say 5V d.c. or so), observing the correct polarity  and it lit up OK to begin with.

The series resistor fell off the LED - the solder joint fracture caused the flicker problemSo (assuming the motherboard header was OK) maybe the fault was a loose connection somewhere. It turns out the LED has a series limiting resistor within the heatshrink sleeve (blue-grey-black-gold = 68 ohms, estimated 1/8 watt). I jiggled the wires and the LED started flickering. In fact the resistor lead then fell off altogether, so the poor connection was the likely cause.

In my view the problem’s caused by the lack of any strain relief on the Corsair Carbide wiring loom, or, the LED soldering was a dry joint. When routing the wires through the case and hooking them onto the motherboard, it’s probable that this strained the LED soldered joints and eventually caused them to fracture.

The broken solder joint. The LED and resistor were replaced.Not recommended for beginners, but I replaced them myself with a spare 68 ohm (¼W) resistor and a white 5mm LED.  I soldered and heatshrinked these onto the end of the existing wires (observing polarity of course) and reconnected them to the motherboard header and everything worked.

After contacting Corsair Tech Support and emailing proof of purchase, they immediately rushed a new switch/ LED / front panel wiring loom assembly next day. Corsair's support and repair service was fautless, even during a holiday period.  The Corsair Part No. is  CC-8930041

Sunday
Dec212014

Omiga-Plus Search can get lost

IE 11 Search home page hijacked by Omiga-Plus searchDeleting the Omiga-Search Plus adware browser hijacker

A combination of my speedy new PC, my failing eyesight, poor flat screen LCD contrast and an errant mouse-click while googling around, meant that my brand new installation of Windows 7 Professional got itself a browser hijack right before my very eyes. Curses. My Google home page in IE 11 was hijacked by Omiga-Plus Search - a useless, third-rate duff search page with some garbage links to gambling, gaming and other junk.

Avast Anti Virus 2015 detects Win32.SupTab (used by Omiga-Plus Search browser hijacker) [click to see]It seems my Avast Anti Virus 2015 immediately blocked a blizzard of no less than eleven objects of Win32.SupTab, one straight after the other as it tried to nail itself into my brand new system. It happened so quickly that I didn’t know what was going on (until I launched IE11), but mercifully Avast seemed to block any immediate threats. Despite this, my Search home page still opened at Omiga-Plus Search every time I opened Internet Explorer.

Dubious adware like this poses a risk as you never know what else such low-grade unsolicited adware is capable of doing. It needs deleting immediately and the first place to go in IE11 is Tools / Internet Options / General tab – home page section and ensure nothing strange is there as a home page address. Make it eg www.google.com to be safe. In theory Google should then appear as your home page.

(NB if you can’t see ‘Tools’ ‘Help’ etc along the top of IE11, right-click anywhere in that area and tick Menu Bar to enable it.)

This did not cure the problem. So then go to Start – Control Panel / Programs/ Uninstall a Program and see if there’s anything strange there to uninstall. There wasn’t. Next option is (IE 11) Tools / Manage Add Ons, to see if something needs disabling there. (Nope!)

I then installed my trusted go-to software for such problems, Malwarebytes from http://www.malwarebytes.org  only. Don’t Google for it because so many phony links will try to con you into downloading a duff lookalike. (Scumbags!)  No problems were reported by Malwarebytes, and a full disk scan by Avast also drew a blank. Using free CCleaner 5 from Piriform.com to scan the Registry showed no results either. It did seem that Avast had nipped this in the bud (some SupTab objects now appear in the Virus Chest), yet the darned Omiga-Plus Search page still kept launching whenever IE was opened.

Last resort is to reset the browser back to factory defaults (already? Only had it a few hours...) -  go Tools/ Internet Options/ Advanced / Reset... button.  Even this still did not stop my browser from launching with Omiga-Plus Search as its home page. My system appeared to be clean so the problem must be elsewhere.

Remove reference to Omiga-Plus website in the shortcut Target properties.The answer lay in the Windows shortcut to Internet Explorer 11. This too had been hijacked to ensure the unwanted Omiga-Plus Search opened as the home page.  So find your IE 11 button or shortcut (eg in your Start menu), then right-click – go Properties / Shortcut tab

In Target it should show “C:\Program Files\ Internet Explorer\iexplorer.exe”  with quote marks only.  In my case it showed extra stuff after that  http://search.omiga-plus.com/[blah blah]. It’s this that causes IE11 to open on their home page. Delete this extra string of characters. If you have made any shortcuts (eg copied onto your Task bar), delete them altogether. Now Internet Explorer 11 will launch with Google.com (or your choice of search) as the home page and Omiga-Plus Search is gone.

Friday
Dec052014

Celebrating the Ambra PC – the computer that so nearly broke the mould

Updated on Thursday, September 24, 2015 at 4:17PM by Registered CommenterAlan W

In 1992 along came Ambra, an IBM-compatible PC made by an offshoot of IBM themselves, called ICPI (Individual Computer Products Ltd.). It could have been maybe too good for IBM's own good and it was mercilessly axed by IBM after just a few years. This stylish PC was smart, fast and aggressively priced. Some reprints of original Ambra literature from 1992/ 93 are included in this article.

Click to read more ...

Friday
Nov282014

Time to build a new PC

Updated on Tuesday, March 31, 2015 at 6:00PM by Registered CommenterAlan W

Updated on Wednesday, April 29, 2015 at 3:32PM by Registered CommenterAlan W

Time to build a new PC! Here's the background to my new Asus, showing how straightforward it is for any DIY tech hobbyist or enthusiast to assemble a PC to their own spec.

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Aug132014

Wacom Intuos Graphire tablet GD-0608-R between XP and W7

The old Wacom Intuous Graphire serial graphics tablets are supposedly not compatible with Windows 7, so says Wacom, but I got mine running and also shared it with a Windows XP PC using a data switch. This article explains what's needed, with handy links to Wacom's driver library too.

Click to read more ...

Monday
May052014

Out of Range - LCD monitor errors

After adding a new iiyama LCD flat panel monitor to my battery of PCs, this meant a trusty old Windows XP PC would inherit a hand-me-down Viewsonic VP2250wb flat panel.

Having hooked up the LCD the PC booted up OK but I was then greeted with an ‘Out of Range’ message on the flat-panel screen which then went blank. This means the PC’s video card is set to a resolution (or maybe frequency) that the screen cannot handle.  To change the resolution you have to see what you’re doing, but as the screen had blanked out the PC had therefore gone blind.

Windows XP video settings panel (click to see)It’s worth trying to boot into Safe Mode (press F8 during boot-up) to access basic video settings (right-click the desktop > Properties > Settings tab > Screen resolution slider), and see if you can force it to work that way, but my screen refused to work with any of the resolution choices on offer.

I tried a nearby TV LCD which has a VGA input – same problem, the TV couldn’t handle the PC’s current resolution (probably 1024 x 768 px) either, nor could my new iiyama 23” widescreen. So I’d have to re-connect the old CRT (darn – it was behind the garden shed!) and then change the Windows driver’s screen resolution manually to one that the hand-me-down LCD can use.

The next problem was that the LCD’s “native resolution” that I needed (1680 x 1050 px, says the manual -  the one that you should try to match in Windows settings to get the sharpest image) wasn’t available. That’s probably because the video driver in Windows was quite old. I managed to change it into running at 1600 x 900 and then I re-connected the LCD but of course some of the image was cropped off.

It was getting a bit silly now but I managed to run Firefox and headed over to Nvidia.com in search of better drivers.  The NVidia website I found to be a nightmare.  In order to find the best driver for my current GPU (or video card, which turned out to be a GeForce 6200) I would have to install Java and let NVidia’s applet run.  After a blizzard of blocked popups, NVidia pointed me to Version 307.83 which I downloaded.

I chose a ‘clean installation’ and NVidia installed it without a further hitch. After rebooting my PC – joy! – I could select the resolution that I needed in Settings and finally the flat-panel was working properly at full screen at he sharpest resolution.

In Windows 7 you can right-click the desktop and immediately go to Screen resolution.

This wasted over an hour and the motto is, you can save yourself a whole load of hassle if you install the latest video drivers before swapping to a new screen!

 

 

Saturday
May032014

Monitor Rotation – easy switching to Portrait mode

A handy helper for rotating LCDs

 

Monitor in Portrait mode displays my Word document (click to see)I’ve just taken delivery of a new monitor, an iiyama XB2380HS.  It’s a 23” IPS panel with both adjustable height and pivot, DVI, VGA and HDMI. As the LCD rotates 90° I can view documents in portrait mode, which is ideal for word processing and it reduces the need for scrolling.

Before now I have had three Viewsonic LCD monitors, each equipped with an automatic rotate that never worked properly: turning the screen to portrait mode still left the image stuck in landscape mode. Two of them failed after lengthy use – I do thrash them, after all – but I could never get the bundled auto rotate software (Pivot Pro) to work and I suspect a combination of OS and video graphics drivers foiled the useful picture swivel feature; I gave up trying to use it in portrait mode.

If you’re interested Pivot Pro from Portrait Displays costs $19.95 and claims to work with almost every graphics card ever made. If your screen has an auto sensor then Pivot Pro can rotate the image automatically and it manages workspaces too. A free 14 day trial is available.

Back to my new iiyama then, which has no auto pivot. The sturdy height-adjustable stand allows the screen to both tilt and swivel, but after spinning the LCD to portrait mode you have to rotate the image manually.

It’s not the end of the world, as in Windows 7 simply right-click the desktop, choose Screen Resolution and then Orientation, Landscape or Portrait. You can also access similar settings through your video card software (eg NVidia Control Panel).

Setting image orientation in Windows 7 (click to see)However I found a neat little utility, free for personal use, that helps a lot. iRotate runs in the Windows notification area and offers simple keystrokes to rotate the image.  Simply hit CTRL + ALT + left arrow to spin the image 90°. CTRL + ALT + up arrow restores normal landscape, or spin it 180° or 270° instead.

Now I can quickly pivot the monitor and change the orientation with a swift keystroke combo, which is the next best thing to automatic rotation. Incidentally it does work in Windows 7.

 

 

Friday
May022014

Adding a Search engine to your website

With Atomz Search having bitten the dust without warning, I look at one or two alternative ways of adding a Search function to your website without going down the bespoke coding route.

Click to read more ...