Archive for March, 2007

Camera Phone Photography

A few manufacturers (Samsung, Nokia and Sony in particular) are attempting to make better camera phones with megapixel sensors and proper lenses. The big question is, can you take useable photos with these phones?

I decided to try to find out. My test candidate is a Sony Ericsson K750i.

What’s good

  1. Actual auto focus - excellent for sharp images.
  2. Many manual options (exposure compensation, white balance, timer, etc).
  3. 2 mega pixel ccd

What’s bad

  1. No manual focus/shutter speed/ISO settings - still, most point and shoot digital cameras don’t offer these options, so you can’t really blame Sony
  2. Camera Shake In less than ideal lighting, camera shake does become an issue - you can work around this by using the timer/included ‘flash’ to some extent.
  3. Some distortion at maximum wide angle setting

(Tip: please view the picture full size, by clicking on it and selecting all sizes)

Leaf 1

Dead Leaf

More leaves

Money

Conclusion

The K750i is probably the first useable camera phone. It’s photo quality is comparable with entry level point and shoot cameras from a few years ago.

Also, at a street price of under $300, the K750i represents incredible value for money, and is probably the best camera phone available in SL today, with photo quality that is significantly better than Nokia’s (more expensive) entry level N series phones.

Note: Most of the photo’s here are close up/macro mode - I will add more wide angle/outdoor shots later on.

2 comments March 27th, 2007

gmail now open to everyone?

Seem’s that gmail’s sign up link is now working… you no longer need to be invited by anyone?

try it out here and let me know
http://mail.google.com/mail/signup

2 comments March 25th, 2007

Guess what time this photo was taken.

Coconut Tree

See if you can guess exactly what time of the day this photo was taken.. Then scroll down a bit for the answer.. (You can click the photo for a bigger version on Flickr)

 

 

 

 

 

Doesnt really look like dawn…

 

 

 

 

 

Or afternoon..

 

 

 

 

 

Or evening..

 

 

 

 

 

..and those bright dots…

 

 

 

 

 

….yes.. they are stars…

 

 

 

 

 

…You are correct!, the photo was taken at night. Sometime between 11 PM and Midnight..
The light is from the moon and a street lamp.

1 comment March 20th, 2007

Classic PC fun: Reviving a Pentium 4 3.06

Pentium 4 3.06 GHZ
The photo has notes - please click to view them.

Just how much performance can be extracted from a used PC? Especially one with relatively humble specs like this (Pentium 4 3.06GHZ HT). You may be surprised:

Original specifications
Pentium 4 3.06 HT
512MB DDR333
Nvidia geforce 440MX
80GB+40GB hdd

Existing problems:
CPU ran somewhat warm (anything from 45 degrees upwards idle)

Physical cleanup

  1. Disassembled the PC to component level, and cleaned every single piece. This involved some amount of sneezing but it was an interesting process. Thankfully the PC had an easy slide out tray for the motherboard.
  2. Removed the CPU and cleaned it, also took apart the heatsink/fan assembly and cleaned/polished it.
  3. Reseated the CPU using arctic silver. (CPU now idles at around 38 degrees celcius!)

Upgrades/mods:

  1. Tweaked the BIOS, and optimized memory timings, so as to get the best performance out of the system.
  2. Switched to a SATA 250GB drive.
  3. Fully redid the cooling system - so as to circulate air more efficiently within the case.
  4. Added a fan for one of the board heatsinks (possibly the onboard GPU), and a passive heatsink to another chip (possibly the SATA controller?)
  5. Switched to the onboard graphics, (to reduce power usage, also the onboard graphics support directx 9).
  6. Added an external PCI sound card as the internal one is a bit resource heavy.
  7. Added a separate fan for the hard disk. Hard disk now reads an operating temperature of around 36 degrees celcius!)

Possible concerns

  1. Due to long term use under extreme heat conditions, and manufacturer flaws, a number of capacitors have started to leak from the top. This leads to capacitor failure and system instability/failure.
  2. System uses DDR333 ram. To enable dual channel operation I should at least match the speed of the chip. Unfortunately nobody seems to carry DDR 333 any more. Hopefully I will be able to find a 512MB DDR333 or DDR400 chip which will work.

Final performance benchmarks
(as compared to a dual core pentium D)

Multimedia

Arithmetic

Windows XP professional: boot in 14.7 seconds.

Conclusion
Hyperthreading is a viable technology - as the benchmarks show, it gives the dual core PC a serious run for its money!

Todo: Get more ram and enable dual channel.

Add comment March 14th, 2007

Assembling a Vista Premium capable PC

Viewsonic VA702

I set out to build this PC in Dec 2006, primarily for the purpose of testing out Windows Vista. I wanted a PC that was suitable light work, some surfing, occational videos, etc. As such the specs were fairly modest, also the PC was reasonably inexpensive (under 100K, including monitor).

Target configuration:
Vista premium capable
Dual core processor
Dual channel ram, at least 1GB ram
decent 17inch monitor
DVD writer.
Complete black system (I’ve always wanted to assemble one of these!)

Motherboard
I needed a motherboard with support for dual core processors and dual channel ram, also reliability and staibility.

After considering many different motherboards. I finally chose a Gigabyte 8i945gzme-RH, as it was affordable (around 10k from IT LAND, Unity Plaza), had an Intel chipset, and supported Intel dual core processors (Pentium D and Core 2 Duo).

Processor
I chose an Intel 820D (Stepping B0, SL8CP) (2.8GHz X 2) as it was cheaper (around 12k from ITLAND) than a Core2 which retailed for over 20k then (I decided to use the money saved to get a better monitor).

Ram
I chose Kingston ValueRam. As I wanted to enable dual channel ram, the ram had to consist of identical parts from the same manufacturer. I used 2 512MB Kingston DDR2 ram modules (KVR533D2N4/512 total cost 13,500/- One from IT Land, and the second from Mitech computers, Unity plaza, as IT Land only had one on stock).

Hard disk
Since all modern motherboards include SATA and IDE support is mostly for legacy drives, I chose a Hitachi SATA 250GB HDD - cost exactly 9k, from Mitech computers (Unity plaza)

Case
Generic case with a 450Watt power supply (400W+ power supply recommended for dual core PC’s). I chose a case with a fresh air intake for the CPU. Case cost under 3K, from Asian Computer Systems (Unity Plaza)

Monitor
I chose a Viewsonic VA702, (24,500 , Asian Computer Systems, Unity Plaza)

Graphics
I rarely play computer games, so the onboard graphics were OK. Thankfully the motherboard has a PCI Express slot available, should I decide to upgrade at a future date.

DVD
I used a spare NEC 8X DVD writer I had.

Performance
Performance under both Vista and XP was absolutely stellar. Using dual channel ram and SATA HDD (Originally I used an ATA133 HDD) had measurable benefits.

Conclution
So thats my spec for a decent general purpose Vista premium capable PC, taking into account Sri Lankan prices and availability (As of Dec 06).

Update: Am looking to upgrade, so this PC is for sale. If you are interested in purchasing the PC alone or PC + Monitor, contact me at nsharp [at] nsharp.org. I’ve owned this PC for the last 3 months but havent really used it much except to install and test Vista (and it includes a 3 year warranty).

6 comments March 6th, 2007


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