Saturday, January 16, 2010

Looking into the crappy Flash performance again.  When using Hulu desktop full screen things start out a little jerky and over time it gets way too jerky to watch. If I switch back and forth between windowed & full screen it works fine windowed but really never gets back to the initial minimal (yet still crappy) jerkiness. Watching Hulu in Windows Explorer seems to be a lot better - it's always a little jerky yet watchable in full screen but never deteriorates the way it does with desktop.

Hulu in Windows Explorer:

Hulu Desktop:

And Youtube 1080:

So the fan noise hasn't decreased at all.  I was giving it some time to see if it would go away but no luck.  I ran the fan test:

F12 at boot
Boot to Utility Partition
Custom Test

And here are the results:

It is definitely the CPU fan that makes the high-pitch whine.  The whine ramps up when the CPU fan ramps up and ramps back down with it.  The tests show "pass" but that only verifies the fan speed and has nothing to do with fan noise.  I'll be contacting Dell to either send me a new fan or someone to swap it.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Hulu was pretty crappy - dual CPUs loaded >85% but not pegged at 100% when running full screen 1920x1080.  At full screen the video jerks a lot and audio gets out of sync. Running in a windows the audio/video sync up and the video stabalizes, CPU usage drops to around 50% for both cores. 

I updated to the Catalyst driver using Mobility Modder and then the Flash 10.1 beta - that's supposed to enable hardware acceleration for Hulu flash.  Doesn't seem to have done much for Hulu but it did render my CCC non-functional.  Hulu is still >85% at full screen but seems a little less jerky.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Tried and tried to get the Xiph codecs working for FLAC but no luck.  I uninstalled them and installed madflac - works fine.

Also installed the tag support pluging.  WMP12 recognizes & plays FLAC now, but it lumped all songs into an "unknown" folder.

For video, installed Media Browser & metabrowser.  Ripped DVD ISOs show up but I can't get any metadata loaded.  metabrowser can't find anything for the few ISOs I have ripped so far.  Feh, what a pain in the ass.  The ISOs play at least.

Installed a signal boosting antenna on my HDHomeRun and now I get decent reception on 10 local channels.  Signal strength is upper yellow on most and green on one station.  Watching the bowl games to day things look okay but not fantastic.  The grass is pretty blocky.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

I just installed Hulu desktop and W7 came up with a "program didn't install correctly" dialog. I chose "yes it did". Then I installed the Hulu plugin and got a big ol' BSOD. Gotta love computers :)

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The SPDIF issue is fixed - and I'm a dumbass.

Put in a BD and started up PowerDVD DX (had successfully played other BDs).  It got stuck "Loading" so I went back to the menu.  While poking around in settings I found the audio setting for output to SPDIF.  After setting that I clicked on the update icon and it downloaded & installed, then rebooted.  Now I can't play any BDs in PowerDVD DX.  And the SPDIF option in PowerDVD DX settings is no longer available - it just has "Default" as the only option.  So, I finally went to the Sounds control panel app and set the SPDIF dongle to be the default audio device like I should have right off the bat but no, I'm a dumbass.  PowerDVD DX plays DVDs and now I get DolbyDigital & DTS to the AVR.  It just no longer plays BDs.

Updated the disc drive firmware and still no BD.

Friday, December 18, 2009

More from Dell support on the PowerDVD DX SPDIF issue:

From Dell:

I do understand and apologize for the inconvenience caused to you.

Marc, I would have loved to assist you with the issue, however, being a hardware technician I have limited expertise on software issues. Dell hardware technical support is only available for hardware covered under Dell's limited warranty. That's why we created the specially trained group of technicians who staff our fee based Solution Station service.

I suggest you to get in touch with Dell Solution Station. Dell Solution Station offers support to assist you with quick and easy answers to all your questions about non-Dell branded hardware,software/virus & spyware related issues for a nominal fee.
My Response:

Yes. I'm just not happy about having to pay more money to Dell to get a product that Dell sold me to work as Dell advertised. I'm not happy at all about that.

Related posts:
Got some more temperature data:

About 1 minute after system power up, into W7 (hi/low are old):

Browsing low bandwidth forums (cleared hi/low first):

Just after installing Heatwave plugin for W7MC:

Just after playing around with Heatwave in W7MC:

Just exiting screen saver (idle):

Towards end of 5GB transfer from USB to Zino HDD (otherwise idle):

Towards end of 8GB xfer from USB to Zino HDD while browsing:

Playing an MP3 in W7MC with album art animations:

Installed Heatwave plugin for W7MC. Got it setup fine but when tooling around looking at the weather it sort of locked up and stopped taking keyboard input.

Going to get FLAC support installed and hook into my meager audio collection. Using instructions from hack7mc

Installed the Xiph codec pack (oggcodecs_0.81.15562-x64.exe) & WMPTagSupport11.exe.

Didn't work :)  WMP can't play the files.

I really want to play some tunes so I'm dumping my ancient MP3 library onto the Zino HDD.
From Dell support:

From your e-mail I understand that as you use the PowerDVD software, you only get pro-logic output but not 5.1 Dolby Digital or DTS. I sincerely apologize for all the inconvenience caused to you, however please be assured, I will personally look into the matter and resolve it to the best of your satisfaction.

Marc, I would like to update that the Dell supplied OEM version of the PowerDVD software only provides a 2 channel analog output. It will also use S/PDIF (digital) output IF the disk supports it (has a DD or DTS digital audio track). S/PDIF is not full uncompressed HD Audio. Further, in order to get Full Uncompressed HD Audio, you'll need the full version of PowerDVD - you won't be using S/PDIF (which doesn't have the throughput required for HD Audio) - you will be using 5.1 or 7.1 analog audio - and you will need a sound card or codec capable of outputting uncompressed multi-channel analog HD audio.

I would also like to update that in case you need support regarding the S/PDIF, in order to resolve the issue at the earliest, we need to check the software settings and for the complete resolution to this issue we need to perform advance Software troubleshooting and for the same we have a Department at Dell called Dell Solution Station which is a paid support.
My response:

My setup is Zino USB -> SPDIF AVR and I understand the limitations to stereo PCM or DolbyDigital 5.1 or DTS 5.1. I'm under the impression that Blu-ray are required to include DolbyDigital 5.1 and/or DTS 5.1 tracks. I get pro-logic for all of my Blu-ray disks *and* all of my DVDs that I know for fact provide DolbyDigital 5.1 and/or DTS 5.1 tracks.

I do realize that the SPDIF hardware is 3rd party and y'all are not responsible for it. However, you sold me the PowerDVD DX software which is supposed to support this feature. I'm not too keen on paying you guys more money to get this working. I just gave y'all $560 for this machine and that's quite enough for now.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Setup V

Note:  still using factory-installed ATI drivers.

HDhomerun setup went w/o a hitch. The W7MC program guide has quite a few channels that dont' tune in - kind of a pain to figure out which ones. Will have to spend some time playing with that to figure out if my antenna is lacking or there are other problems. Will need to just remove non-tuning channels from the guide (if possible).

Notice that when W7MC is windowed & tuned to a live station, browsing seems to cause hickups in playback audio/video. Picture quality is nice.

Checked power policy: min proc @ 5%, max at 100%

Installed CoreTemp. I shut it down and let it sit for about 10 minutes, the powered up and let it sit idle for 5 minutes:

With W7MC windowed & tuned to HDhomerun live TV channel:

And idle about 5 minutes after closing W7MC from the previous measurement:

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Setup IV

Powered up and the scaling was off - had to reduce it from where it was set previously.

Uninstalled McAfee.

Installed Internet TV in W7MC. Tried to watch four different shows and all four failed with "Video not available, try again later". Not an encouraging first experience with this service.

Went through W7MC speaker setup - toslink option didn't work. Still need to figure out why I only get pro-logic out. It is probably a limitation of the PowerDVD Dx software.

Noticed that W7MC had black bars - turns out the TV defaulted back to Auto for screen size. I put it back to Dot by Dot, adjusted CCC overscan back to where it was before and now it's all okay. Need to figure out how to get that setting to stick on the TV, or, when I have the Harmony setup, set that in a macro when selecting the Zino as source.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Setup III - Just some screen shots.

Default Installed Programs


Default Processes


System Information Summary


CCC Graphics Software Default


CCC Graphics Hardware Default I


CCC Graphics Hardware Default II


CCC Attributes Default


CCC Pixel Format Default

Setup II

  1. Fixed black bars with CCC overscan.
  2. Refresh rate is 30i - changed it to 60Hz.  Black bars returned, TV switched form 1080i to 1080p.  Fixed black bars again with CCC overscan.
  3. Installed USB hub, then USB-Bluetooth adapter.  Installed BT keyboard.
  4. The high-pitched whine is REALLY annoying and still get McAfee popups.
  5. Restarted, went into BIOS and disabled keyboard errors, then shutdown & disconnected USB keyboard & mouse.
  6. Power up and it detected BT keyboard for login.
  7. Installed VTB Micro USB-SPDIF dongle.  This driver download was fast as expected.
  8. Using VTB Micro app for audio test - get stereo audio out of AVR.
  9. Put in Planet Earth BD.  The disc tray seems very flimsy - feel safer using two hands and putting upward pressure while seating disc.
  10. Disc seek noise kind of loud for a second.
  11. It auto-started WMC in a window, changed to full screen, Express setup.
  12. Started BD - kind of slow loading and getting to the first disc screen.
  13. Audio is coming through SPDIF as Pro-Logic.  Need to figure out how to get DolbyDigital/DTS through.
  14. Video looks good.  Not sure if it looks as good as the PS3 but still looks good.
  15. Installed Netflix in WMC.  The interface seems zippy enough - just a little delay loading cover art but really no slower than the PS3.  Netflix interface in WMC is a lot slicker than in PS3.
  16. Legend of the Seeker Episode 1 looks like utter crap - major pixelation.  Windowed it still looks like crap.  Ran Task Manager performance meter:  CPU was 30-75%, avg 50% windowed and I think about the same full-screen.
  17. Idle with no apps running is around 10-15%
  18. Put it to sleep - doesn't respond to BT keyboard.
  19. And I'm done for the day.
Setup I.

Received the Zino today.
  1. Setup with stock keyboard & mouse.  HDMI to TV, no audio hookup yet.  Connected intertubes.
  2. System power on.
  3. Seems like a slow boot.
  4. Black bars top & bottom.
  5. Accept Dell automatic updates & statistics.
  6. Unit is quiet - a little HDD squeak now and again but that's it.
  7. Skipped "Setup Security" for McAfee (going to use Microsoft Antivirus).
  8. Create recovery disc using Dell DataSafe.  Can choose disc or USB drive.  Chose disc - says to insert DVD or BD.  Is this drive a BD burner?  Don't have any blank BDs so using DVD - takes about 4.3GB and fits on one disc.
  9. When disc spins up it generates a little bit of white noise - it's low but audible at sofa 12' away.
  10. At 66% complete (verifying disc) the auto-play dialog popped up and progress stopped.  Killed the dialog and it's still just sitting there - been 5 minutes so far.  Sometimes the disc generates more audible, periodic noise but it dies off.  It looks to be stuck.
  11. It finally finished after about another 10 minutes.
  12. Perform Windows update - 9 updates.
  13. 39MB update download seems kind of slow - have gigabit router/switch, CAT6, and Time Warner Turbo RoadRunner.
  14. I hear a high-pitched whine come and go.
  15. Update installs seem slow.
  16. Restart, high-pitched whine is annoying as it shuts down.  It's a very slow shutdown.  Very slow.  Sitting at "logging off" for at least 5 minutes.
  17. "Starting Windows" shows 1080p (TV automatically shows resolution when it switches).
  18. "Configuring Windows Updates" switches to 1080i (welcom screen, too).
  19. The high-pitched whine is back.
  20. Stupid McAfee auto started its registration app & there's no way to close it.  Killed it in Task Manager.  Ran McAfee & killed all services - don't want to uninstall it just yet.
  21. Install Microsoft Security Essentials, let it update & scan.

Monday, December 14, 2009

It looks like it shipped today.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Order date: 11/30/09
Bing 20% cash back notice: 12/02/09
Item Description
Inspiron Zino HD
AMD Dual Core Athlon™ Neo X2 6850e (1MB L2, 1.8GHz)
3GB DDR2 SDRAM at 800MHz- 2 DIMM
Dell USB Entry Keyboard
No Monitor
ATI Radeon HD 4330 512 MB
320GB 7200 RPM SATA Hard Drive
Piano Black
Genuine Windows® 7 Ultimate, 64bit, English
Dell USB Optical Mouse
Adobe® Acrobat® Reader 9.0 Multi-Language
Blu-ray Disc (BD) Combo (Reads BD and Writes to DVD/CD)
Integrated 2.1 High Definition Audio
Dell 1520 802.11 b/g/n wireless card
No Productivity software pre-installed
McAfee SecurityCenter, 30-Day Trial
1 Yr Ltd Hardware Warranty, InHome Service after Remote Diagnosis - Important Information
Dell Remote Access, free basic service

Save $129 off this Inspiron Zino HD Desktop - $129.00
Order Subtotal: $639.00
Shipping and Handling Total: $29.00
Shipping Discount: - $29.00
Tax Total: $52.71
Total Amount: $691.71
Bing %20 cash back (pre tax) - $127.80
Final $563.91