Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Sony Vaio VGN/S5VP/B and a low cost battery

I have a Sony Vaio VGN-S5VP/B and I hadn't experienced big problems (not even with Linux), so I was pretty happy with it... the only thing that I don't like is that the battery has an autonomy of only 2 hours (trying to save energy with several means, e.g., in Linux with laptop mode did not help). So I wanted to buy an extended battery (4 hours)... 400 euros!!! That's a little bit too much isn't it? So I tried to look for a cheaper one ebay, and found it! With less than 100 euros I bought a VGP-BPL2 battery! I was pretty happy you might guess.

As soon as I received it I put it into charging and noticed that the battery led on the front was flashing continuously (with the original battery it only flashes once a second); well, I thought, it must be because it's an extended one...

Then, after a few hours I tried to turn on the laptop... first bad surprise: the laptop does not turn on: the power led lights but nothing happens. I tried and tried again, but even with the AC connected, the laptop does not power up if the new battery is present.

I then decided to turn on the laptop without the battery (but with the AC) and then I tried to insert the battery: after a few seconds, under Windows XP, a popup shows up saying that my computer was going to sleep because the battery may be incompatible. Second bad surprise. Notice that at that point I could also remove the AC cable and the laptop stayed on with the battery, so the laptop could use the battery after all.

I then found a post on a blog on the net, http://sarabannerman.blogspot.com/2007/04/sony-laptop-battery-mal-ware.html, reporting a similar problem (with a different Sony laptop model). This post says that "Sony laptops are running a little software program called ISBMgr.exe that generates this error when you insert a generic battery. It appears to be the only purpose of the software, and if you disable the software the generic battery works fine." I then disabled that service from MSConfig, and rebooted and found out that the popup message did not come up again!

At this point, I realized that I could actually use the battery, provided I started the computer without the battery on, insert the battery when the computer had started and then remove the AC power (not very comfortable, isn't it? But at lease, I could use the battery). The taskbar battery indicator (both on Linux and Windows) did not show a correct value, but I could stand that, even though that means that I had remember the amount of time I was using the laptop on battery since the system did not sense the correct charge value.

Then, after approximately one hour and half the computer turns off... well, I said, of course, the battery had finished its power, but the system did not realize that... so I put the battery on charge; in the meantime I was checking another post on the net, http://forum.notebookreview.com/showthread.php?t=20440, reporting similar problems and even worse that their battery was not being charged at all... Third bad surprise: I had the problem too... the continuous flashing was actually an error situation, since the battery was not being charged (the hour I was using the computer on battery I was actually using the charge the battery came with).

I then contacted the ebay seller about the problem and he said he would have asked for information about this issue; he then told me that they actually found out that my laptop model was probably having some hardware locks (the software lock consisting of ISBMgr.exe can be disabled as above) and that there was no way the battery could have been used with my laptop. Fourth bad surprise :-(

Fortunately, the seller offered me to take the battery back and to refund me completely.

So with this laptop I can only buy original (very expensive) battery... SHAME ON SONY! That's the last Sony laptop I'll have!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Thunderbird 2 Summary Popup

I really like the new version 2 of Thunderbird. It has some nice new features; the ones I like most are those related to copy/move message features, i.e., the "Recent" submenu and in particular the "copy again to" that allows you to copy/move a message to the same folder you copied/moved the last time.

Another nice looking feature is the popup that appears on the right corner on the bottom of your desktop with a summary of the last received messages.

However, I experienced some problems lately that are due to this very popup.

In fact, when I'm using the low 56k modem connection I noticed that the first time in the morning I was reading my email (using my IMAP account, with lots of folders, many filters, and approx 200 messages on the first email check due to all the mailing lists I'm subscribed to) it took up to 10 minutes to be able to open a message in my Inbox, since thunderbird was using a lot of network bandwidth.

When at last I was able to open the message in the Inbox was when the bandwidth usage ceased and at that time also the popup message showed up! So I realized it was all due to that summary since it was inspecting all the folders to build the summary. Notice that this happened even if mail.check_all_imap_folders_for_new was set to false (the default).

Actually, I didn't know how to disable that summary since I could see no such option in the preference dialogs. Then, after asking on the nice MozillaZine forum I tried to disable the mail.biff alert properties (by using Preferences -> Advanced -> Config Editor) and it worked!

The nice popup does not show anymore, but at least I can read my email faster even on a slow modem connection :-)

Then, on the same forum, I was told that there's actually an option in the preference dialog, it's just that I probably haven't noticed... it is in Preferences -> General in the section "When new messages arrive"!

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Gengetopt 2.20

I released version 2.20 of GNU Gengetopt.

As usual, this new release fixes some bugs:

If --include-getopt is specified then the generated parser is actually independent of getopt.h; this way, the included getopt functions code, which will actually be used, will not conflict with possible signatures found in getopt.h; moreover, if getopt.h is not present in the system at all, you won't get an error (bug fixed thanks to Tiago Menezes).

In the --help output a section name and description will not be generated if all its options are hidden (thanks to Edsko de Vries).

I've added the command line option --default-optional that permits specifying that all options are by default optional (unless explicitely specified). In fact, up to now, all options were considered mandatory if not specified otherwise; this might not be a comfortable behavior, but I couldn't change it without breaking existing code... but if you use this command line option for gengetopt, you'll avoid this possible unwanted behavior.

A bug was fixed in the included getopt functions code when --include-getopt is specified.

Finally, I fixed a bug when using args entry in the .ggo file (thanks to Christian Gagneraud). In fact, if in the args entry you specify options such as --file-name the memory was corrupted with possible unexpected behavior. Moreover, now all the options specified in the args entry are taken into consideration.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Problems after upgrade xserver-xorg in Debian

Today I've upgrade my Debian installation (a mix of testing and unstable) and after a reboot the X server did not start complaining about the missing nvidia module (I'm using the drivers from NVidia site). I've also reinstalled the nvidia drivers but the problem still persisted...

I then tried to install the new version of the nvidia drivers (mine was version 1.0-9755 but now there's the new version 100.14.11). After having installed these new drivers, the X server did not complain about the missing nvidia driver, but it was complaining about the missing keyboard driver.

Actually, it looks like the name of the driver for the keyboard has changed from keyboard to kbd, so all I had to do is to change this string in the xorg.conf file... now I'm on X again :-)