Sunday, May 27, 2007

Lenovo (IBM) Thinkpad R60: New world, New thinking

Time to say farewell to my old Dell Inspiron 8000 . I have managed to stick with it for more than a very long time (> 5 years). When I bought it, it had an enviable configuration at an unbeatable price.

I have to admit though, that, I wasn't particularly very pleased with Dell inspiron 8000's build quality from the beginning. Creaky "plasticy" feel, wobbly hinges and then the weight. But, I guess that being one of the first model in the series these should have been Ironed out in the later releases of the series. So, I won't pass a judgment. Moreover, Dell's customer support was excellent during this period.

Now, time to welcome the new. This time in addition to the configuration, I decided to consider the build quality and the weight. I did consider dell again especially their latitude models and HP's business models. Eventually, I began eying the the T60. The T60 is supposed to be slightly thinner, lighter and more robust than the R60 and has over the years made quite a name for itself. But, after consolidating my cards into a loan ended up with only enough to spare for a ThinkPad R60 instead (with a modest configuration*).

* T5500(1.66GHz), 1GB RAM, 120GB 5400rpm HD, 15in 1024x768 LCD, Intel 950, CDRW/DVDRW, Intel 802.11abg wireless, Bluetooth, Modem, 1Gb Ethernet, UltraNav, Secure chip, Fingerprint reader, 6c Li-Ion, WinVista Business

So, lo behold my new Laptop.

I liked the trademarked phrase from Lenovo on the laptop's wallpaper - New world, New Thinking. To a good extent I think it is. A major jump from a PIII based model to a Core 2 Duo.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Cordless Soldering Irons: Hakko FX 901 & Weller's BP645

I bought this cordless Soldering Iron called ColdHeat some time back. As, long as I was not bothered with messy soldering, this was okay. Recently, I had to do some real soldering. Now this is where it got real ugly. ColdHeat is a pain. One cannot form a good drop of solder over the joints. One has to have the solder between the tip gap for it to melt. Does not work with thin solder. Heat is produced when the gap between the tip is short circuited by the the solder. If you have expensive milli-volt components - The thought of the high current frying these components may send chills down your spine. And to top it all off I managed to break the special alloy tip into 2 (the plastic separating the pieces just melted!!). Its not me, these tips are supposed to be brittle! Now a replacement tip costs half the price of the iron itself. Moreover concentrating on holding the solder between the tip separation and also concentrating on soldering just did it for me.

Realization - there is no replacement for the "True Heat" soldering irons. You can literally let a perfect drop of solder spread around your connections with a little practice (heaven). Now the hard part -- cordless and "True heat".

I narrowed down my search to Hakko FX 901 and Weller's BP645. Both are still no replacements for true "corded" soldering irons but are good enough for ordinary PCB work. I recommend you use rechargeable NiMH batteries. Weller's is smaller and uses 3 AA batteries where as Hakko uses 4xAA. Hakko is prettier. You can find good "objective" reviews here and here.

All-Spec: Hakko FX 901
All-Spec: Wellers BP860MP (It appears Weller's BP645 has been replaced with the newer BP860MP ...Took forever to arrive )

NSD PowerBall

If you as a kid sat on the chair with the spinning wheel to get a feel of a gyroscope and still had questions, welcome to the club. This toy gives you the feel of how nature resists the change in angular momentum. I'll say its ingenious how this concept is used to make this into an exercise equipment for your wrists and forearms. Even though I use the term toy, this "toy" can give your forearms some serious workout in less than a minute. The ball states that it is capable of spinning at 250Hz which is equivalent to 250x60 = 15,000 rotations/minute amazing! There are mentions on sites, where people have taken this to 16,000 rpms (these people must have "power balls"). The scorecard of top 100 speeds are maintained here. Also, there is a steel version available, capable of 350Hz. I can personally vouch for this to strengthen your wrists and fore arms. The site claims that Powerball can help in fighting carpal tunnel syndrome, tendinitis, tennis elbow and other wrist (& arm) ailments - and I have no reason to disbelieve their claims. More over the science of gyroscopes (something tethered to space and resisting change) still fascinates me. Just think about it for a minute...