Category Archives: Hardware

Button to Turn on Epic 4G Keyboard Backlight

Many reviews of the Samsung Epic 4G (SPH-D700) Android phone fault it for the backlighting of the four shortcut buttons at the bottom of the phone. When the keyboard backlight times out (six seconds, by default), those touch-sensitive shortcut buttons are no longer visible at all. The area becomes completely black. As a result, you either have to memorize which location is Menu, Home, Back and Search, or increase the backlight’s timeout, which uses more battery power.

Well, there’s actually another solution. When the shortcut keys are not visible, simply press the camera shutter button, located at the bottom-right of the phone when held in portrait orientation. Et voila! The keyboard backlight turns on. Since the camera button is raised, it’s easy to find, even in the dark.

Have any other tips for the Epic 4G? Share them in the comments.

Ubuntu 9.04 Screen Resolution/Monitor Out of Range (nVidia Driver 180)

After installing Ubuntu 9.04 Jaunty and enabling the nVidia 180 driver (onboard video is a nVidia GeForce 6150 LE), I restarted the system and was greeted by the normal login screen. However, after logging in, my screen (Dell 2407WFPHC) went blank with a monitor message that the resolution was out of range. It appears that many people are running into this problem. The following fixed it for me.

  1. Open a terminal window
  2. Go to the X11 directory (cd /etc/X11)
  3. Make a backup of the current xorg.conf file (e.g., sudo cp xorg.conf xorg.conf.backup)
  4. Use your favorite editor to open xorg.conf (e.g., sudo vim xorg.conf)
  5. In the section “Device”, add the following line:
    Option “UseEdid” “False”
  6. The “Device” section should now look like the following:
    Section “Device”
    Identifier “Default Device”
    Driver “nvidia”
    Option “UseEdid” “False”
  7. Save the xorg.conf file
  8. Log off and restart the X server (from the login screen, click on Menu and select Restart X server)

That’s it. Now, when I log in, I’m able to see the screen and select a resolution using the nVidia X Server Settings tool.

Note: In the nVidia X Server Settings tool, if when you click the Save to X Configuration File button, you get an error message that it can’t save, run nvidia-settings from a terminal window using gksudo (for Gnome, e.g., gksudo nvidia-settings) or kdesudo (for KDE, e.g., kdesudo nvidia-settings). If, instead, you get a “can’t parse xorg.conf”, just rename /etc/X11/xorg.conf to something else so nvidia-settings can create a new file.

Can’t set your screen to the native resolution of your monitor? See the companion post, Ubuntu 9.04 nVidia Driver Screen Resolution Problem.

Ubuntu 9.04 nVidia Driver Screen Resolution Problem

Many people running Ubuntu 9.04 are having trouble with the proprietary nVidia driver (nvidia-graphics-driver-180 in my case) including getting it to go to high resolutions that fit the native resolution of widescreen monitors. I had the same problem with an nVidia GeForce 6150 LE and Dell UltraSharp 2407WFPHC monitor.

I was able to get all the resolutions, including 1920×1200, for my monitor as well as have the nVidia driver recognize the monitor as a 2407WFPHC, by doing the following:

(If you can’t see your screen at all after enabling the nVidia driver, first read the companion post, Ubuntu 9.04 Screen Resolution/Monitor Out of Range (nVidia Driver 180).)

  1. Open a terminal window
  2. Go to the X11 directory (cd /etc/X11)
  3. Make a backup of the current xorg.conf (e.g., sudo cp xorg.conf xorg.conf.backup)
  4. Run nvidia-xconfig with root permission (sudo nvidia-xconfig). If you get a parsing error, delete xorg.conf so nvidia-xconfig can create a fresh one.
  5. Open xorg.conf with your favorite editor (e.g. sudo vim xorg.conf)
  6. You’ll see a lot of extra settings now
  7. Look for Section “Monitor”. Mine defaulted to the following settings:
    Identifier “Monitor0”
    VendorName “Unknown”
    ModelName “Unknown”
    HorizSync 28.0  – 33.0
    VertRefresh 43.0 – 72.0
    Option “DPMS”
  8. Change the HorizSync and VertRefresh values to the correct ones for your particular monitor. For my 2407WFPHC, I put the following:
    HorizSync 30.0 – 83.0
    VertRefresh 56.0 – 76.0
  9. Save the xorg.conf file
  10. Log out and restart the X server (at the login screen, select Menu, then Restart X server)
  11. Log in and run the NVIDIA X Server Settings tool. You should now have a whole bunch of resolutions from which to choose. I selected 1920×1200.

The reason that this works is that the nVidia driver needs to know the frequency ranges for your monitor in order to know what resolutions are safe to use. Setting the HorizSync and VertRefresh in xorg.conf provides this necessary information.

Microsoft Wireless Laser Mouse 7000/8000 Flashing Red LED & Battery Doesn’t Charge

Ran into a situation with a Microsoft Wireless Laser Mouse 7000 that also seems to plague the Wireless Laser Mouse 8000. When placing the Laser Mouse on its charging cradle, the LED on the top of the mouse slowly flashes green for a few seconds, as if it was successfully charging the NiMH battery inside, but then switches to rapidly flashing the LED red.

Taking the rechargeable battery out also results in the flashing red LED. So, the battery is clearly not being recharged. This is further corroborated by the short battery life.

Microsoft LaserMouse 7000 upside-down with open battery compartment
Microsoft LaserMouse 7000 upside-down with open battery compartment

I saw online that some people have found some sort of button underneath the battery and that it’s not being depressed. However, the mouse I was having problems with did not have such a button. There is a small hole under the battery, but no switch or button in the hole.

Upon further investigation, I noticed that the positive metal plate in the battery compartment of the mouse has two plastic rails holding it in place.

Battery removed showing the plastic rails at the positive conductor
Battery removed showing the plastic rails at the positive conductor

When putting the battery inside, the rails tend to press back against the top of the battery such that the battery’s tip doesn’t make good contact with the metal. Since the metal plate is tapered inward, it only makes reliable contact with the battery when the battery is pushed all the way down into the compartment.

Notice the short tip on the rechargeable battery and the rails pressing back against it
Notice the short tip on the rechargeable battery and the rails pressing back against it

As a result of this plastic getting in the way and preventing the battery from making contact with the positive conducting plate, of course it can’t recharge. It also explains why it only charges for a few seconds–just until the battery slips out of position and loses contact. However, the fix for this recharging problem is rather simple.

Fold the paper (left); place on top of battery (center); insert into mouse (right)
Fold the paper (left); place on top of battery (center); insert into mouse (right)
  1. Cut a small piece of paper a little shorter than the length of the battery and about twice as wide
  2. Fold the paper in half to achieve a thickness of two sheets of paper
  3. Place the battery into the battery compartment
  4. Put the paper on top of the battery
  5. Close the battery cover

The cover should go on snugly so that it firmly presses the battery into the compartment. That will enable the positive tip of the Laser Mouse’s battery to stay in contact with the positive conductor plate. If it doesn’t press firmly enough, add one more sheet that’s half the width of the first one (for a thickness of three sheets).

After applying this little fix, the problem mouse’s LED properly throbs green and charges up completely.

(Update: Added photos)

Dell Latitude X1 Runs Slowly: Cure

Do you have a Dell Latitude X1 ultra-portable notebook computer and find that it seems to run slower than usual at times? I encountered the same performance problem and found a cure for the mysterious sluggishness a few months ago.

The Latitude X1 is passively cooled. In other words, it has no fan to blow away the heat generated by the CPU the way mainstream laptops do. Instead the heat is distributed through the bottom of the case. You may have noticed how hot the bottom of the laptop can get.

Without a CPU fan, what happens when the processor gets too hot? It slows down. As a survival mechanism, the CPU’s clock rate will decrease in order to reduce the amount of heat being generated. Usually, the clock rate will be cut in half. As a result, everything will run more slowly. The X1 will do this even if it’s set up to always run at maximum clock rate and is plugged into a power outlet.

The solution to this slow down is quite simple: Cool the bottom of the laptop. This can be done in any of a number of ways including buying a laptop cooler (the rectangular-shaped plate with fans in it) or, if you have an external keyboard and monitor connected to it, flipping the computer over so that heat more quickly dissipates into the air. Leaving the laptop on your lap, desktop or blankets (for those who like to compute in bed) will just exacerbate the heat build up and keep the CPU running at less than full speed during moderate to heavy workloads.