Tools to Unbend Pins on a LGA 2011 Motherboard Socket

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In this post I will describe how to unbend those tiny hard to see pins on an LGA 2011 motherboard socket. I accidently pressed down a few pins on a LGA 2011 socket. When looking at all pins, I noticed a group of pins had a slightly different color from the rest of the pins. This is due to the different position of the pins and how they reflect light.I noticed this and but went ahead placing the CPU in the socket hoping everything would still go fine and the computer start up as normal. Sadly, this didn’t happen.

The computer kept rebooting every 10 seconds after startup. I figured this had to do with socket's pins being not in full contact with the contacts on the CPU. The pins on the sockets are very small and hard to see with the naked eye. I decided I needed a magnifier and a tool to work on each tiny pin individually.

Tools for the job:

1- 30x magnifier. The pins are so small that your typical 3-5x magnifier won't be enough to see them. I got the ‘SE 10X 20X 30X 21mm Chrome Loupes Pocket Magnifier New 3Pc’ from Amazon for $6.99. Great price!

2- Wiha 44501 Stainless Steel Fine Point Professional ESD Precision Tech Tweezers with Static Dissipative Grip and Hypo Allergenic, 130mm Overall Length from Amazon for $13.79.

I used the magnifier and tweezers to raise and unbend each of those pins. I put the CPU back and started the computer.

The computer never rebooted by itself and I was happy my first troubleshooting fixed it. I was worried I had to get another motherboard.

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Too quiet & no LED’s. I need visuals

I love Bosch dishwashers. Because they are reliable, effective and QUIET. I seek quiet from any appliance. We’re replacing our current one with a newer model. What’s wrong with the current one? Nothing. We’re redoing the kitchen and major appliances will be replaced for different reasons.

A good Bosch dishwasher runs very quiet and I can hardly hear it. At the appliance store looking at the different Bosch models, I quickly remembered this 37Signal’s post. I need a dishwasher which has a visible LED which shows me it’s running AND shows me how much time is left. I can’t depend on a tiny light. Therefore the hidden panel models won’t do it for me. I am worried I might accidently open it when it’s running. I like to know how much time is left. While these models look cool and minimalist, I need something which works for me. I need my visuals. I am just picky when it comes to appliances & gadgets.

 

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Reasons why I don't like the Bose QuietComfort Headphones

 

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You can read other more elaborate reviews on other sites about the different Bose QuietComfort headphones but I wanted to write my own personal unflattering experience with these headphones. I purchased both QuietComfort 15, the first generation I think and the next generation QuietComfort 2. After trying sound isolating headphones from different companies, I have to say that I am not impressed with the Bose headphones. I haven't been using any Bose headphones for years now. What I use now are earphones from Etymotic. I think they make the best earphones.


Why I don't like the Bose QuietComfort headphones:

1- Pricy. Why is it impossible to find any for less than $299!?  I couldn't find ANY discounted ones anywhere. The newer QuietComfort 3 are $349. They are not getting cheaper any day. I bought tens of gadgets and I use comparison shopping sites, like bizrate, to find the best prices. These sites quote the same price ($299 or $349) for the Bose headphones. What do you call the situation when you can't find a product for less than the retail price? Price fixing? I find it odd that Amazon, whose prices are usually lower than retail, sells them for more than retail price. Good luck finding any new QuietComforts for less than $299 at a store.

2- Older models are not getting cheaper. Why is the first generation model still being sold for $299 when two newer models, 2 & 3, are out? Model 2 is selling for the same price as the first gen model. This makes no sense to me.

3- Compared to ear phones, they are bulky. After using earphones, earphones are a lot more comfortable than headphones which sit on your head and have some weight. Would you rather go to the gym or walk in the streets wearing headphones or wearing light barely visible earphones.

4- Earphones are more comfortable. After using the Bose cushion-your-ears for extended periods of time, my exterior parts of my ears "get tired" as if they need a break.

5- I can hear the Bose headphones "working" doing its noise cancelling workout. The whole experience doesn't feel natural to me. It's artificial. Sometimes I hear 'popping' sounds which are intrusive and annoying.

6- The earphones which fit inside my ear canals do a better job in noise cancellation than some big battery operated headphones. And not any earphones. I don’t like the ones from Apple where the circular body sits outside the ear canal. I hate these. Pretty uncomfortable. I like the ones with silicone flange which isolate the ear canal with a comfortable fit, again like the ones from Etymotic which also comes with other types of fits, silicone, rubber and flexible sponge.

I am sorry to say that these Bose headphones are overpriced and overhyped. You can get a lot cheaper noise cancelling headphones from companies like Sony.

Personally I much prefer the Etymotic earphones. I even had a $500 Shure earphones and Etymotic ones are better. Even the lowest end Etymotic Research ER6i works very well and it costs less than a third than any Bose QuietComfort.

(Note: I have no affiliations with any company in this post. I like to talk about good products and I like to talk about not so good products. I want to help people make more informative decisions when they buy a product)

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If a bluetooth mouse doesn’t work on new computer, remove all preinstalled bluetooth software and drivers

Arrrggghhh! Big waste of time today troubleshooting a hardware issue. But I am happy to receive a new fast laptop.

Yesterday I received a new Dell laptop at work with Windows 7 preinstalled. I attached my Logitech wireless bluetooth to it and Windows didn’t recognize it at all! I received an error that the device driver didn’t install successfully.

I installed the SetPoint software, the mouse’s software from Logitech,  and got the same problem. I knew there was a problem before installing SetPoint because Windows should recognize the mouse in the beginning as a regular generic mouse.

Every time I connected the bluetooth receiver,  a Broadcom device driver would display in the device manager with a status of ‘could not start’. I noticed there was another bluetooth driver from Dell and figured maybe there’s a conflict between the Dell and the Broadcom drivers. So I disabled the Dell driver. Still same problem. Another thought was that maybe the onboard bluetooth receiver was interfering with the mouse receiver so I disabled the onboard receiver in the BIOS. Same problem. OK now this problem is starting to get annoying because I am running out of ideas. I Googled and noticed that there were a few articles about switching from Toshiba bluetooth stack to Microsoft’s. Vendors are replacing Microsoft’s bluetooth stack.

I know that laptops and computers from known vendors come with preinstalled drivers and software. All the computers I used before where non branded computers which I built myself and I never had any mouse issues. My home computer uses the same mouse. Looking at the device manager on the home computer, I didn’t see any Broadcom drivers. I concluded the Broadcom driver on the Dell laptop must not have come from the Windows installation but from Dell.

I scanned the programs installed in the control panel and noticed a ‘WIDCOMM Bluetooth Software’ entry from Broadcom. I decided to uninstall it. I also uninstalled the Broadcom device driver with the option to delete the files. Rebooted the machine. Connected the mouse receiver, and VOILA, Windows installed the Logitech device driver successfully.

It took me a long time of various trials and troubleshooting attempts to find out finally that a preinstalled software was conflicting with the mouse driver.

So if your bluetooth mouse is not working on a new computer, see if there’s a bluetooth preinstalled software which might not be compatible with the mouse and uninstall it. It’s common from companies like Toshiba and Dell to install their own drivers and software.

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How I built a very fast development PC running Windows & Visual Studio 2010 for under $1200

 

Being fast and multitasking on a PC, a slow computer which can't keep up with me is a big productivity drain for me. Hundreds of times of milliseconds or seconds of wait time a day add up quickly to a big waste of time. A compile time of 30 seconds for example, will cause me to context switch to do something else like reading an article or surf the web... which will take more than the 30 seconds which I didn't want to wait for initially, and this means even more time spent unproductively.

A few months ago I took upon myself to upgrade my computer to make it very fast. First by upgrading the hardware and then by doing all kinds of operating system and software optimizations and tweaks to make the PC run as fast as possible.

This is what I did to get my computer running very fast. This is not an exhaustive list but are major steps one could or should follow. As a .NET developer, my goal was to make Visual Studio environment work super fast because it’s the tool I spend the most time with:

Note: I built two computers; one development machine and one server. So cost was a big factor without compromising quality. Unlike some people who go for the most expensive high end part, I go for the sweet spot in performance/cost.

HARDWARE:

  • If you have only one choice to upgrade, that would be memory. More memory.. more memory and add as much as you can. Windows, SQL server and Visual Studio LOVE memory. To minimize memory paging, disk thrashing & page file usage and maximum caching, there should be lots of memory around. I also using DISK RAM which uses part of physical memory. I went with the maximum my motherboard allows. So I went with 16GB DDR3 1600Mhz. Amazon Komputerbay has the best prices. or go for better known brands.
  • I decided to get AMD Phenom II X6 1090T Black Edition Thuban 3.2GHz 6 core. At $255.99, as of today at NewEgg, it's a great performance/value. While Intel's 6 core offerings are faster, they're a lot more expensive. The Intel Core i7-980X Extreme Edition is 4 times as expensive as the 1090T but it's not 4 times better. Not 3 times better.
  • For the motherboard, I only like ones from Asus or GigaByte. My criteria was to get one, which supports the AMD CPU, has lots of USB & SATA ports and at least one PCI slot to support my telephony card.  I don't care about overclocking but the motherboards I got had nice automatic overclocking features.  My experience with overclocking is not good. The system gets unstable. 3.2GHz is plenty enough and let the CPU run at its nominal settings.
  • I didn't upgrade my two port graphics card. I am not a gamer and the gfx card I have is powerful enough for the few games I play and certainly works for development purposes. If you go with a high end gfx card, make sure it doesn't give out too much heat. You don't want to end up with a room heater! Some of these high end gfx cards are overclocked cheaper same model ones.
  • The real bottleneck in a computer is I/O. , which is mainly the hard drive. I am not buying any more hard drives except for backup purposes. SSD's (solid state drives) are the future. I am predicting the hard drive to be obsolete in a few years. An SSD is much faster, smaller, uses much less power and is silent. However, they are more expensive per gigabyte. Prices are going down all the time with more brands coming out. I opted for the 160GB Intel X25-M. It gets good reviews.  Make sure the one you get is G2 (generation two) or better which supports TRIM. SSD technology is improving fast so do your research first. You might find better SSD's now than the Intel. Maybe from OCZ? See my own benchmark stats, which show an SSD is much faster than a typical hard drive. The benchmarks below show the very big difference between SSD’s and hard drives in terms of transfer rates and access times. 0.1 ms vs. 14 ms access time means the SSD is 140 times faster than a hard drive in finding a file.

SSD_vs_HD

  • The last 3 points are not performance related but worth mentioning when building a fast computer. Get a good quality power supply with a quiet fan and with enough power (500w or more). A large radius fan moves more air with fewer rpm's. There are also some fanless power supplies, but I don't believe they work well in a warm area.
  • A CPU with heavy load could produce a load of heat. I opted for a water based CPU cooler because water is a better heat conductor than air and the fan doesn't have to spin fast, equals less noise and longer life.
  • I am very picky about computer noise. It has to be very low. Usually getting powerful components means getting components with fast spinning noisy fans. I have my computer is closed closet in my office room. This masks out most of the noise. Most of the noise right now is coming from the hard drives. Eventually, these drives will be gone, and only SSDs will be used, thus cutting out most of the noise. Right now large capacity SSDs are very expensive.

 

SOFTWARE & TWEAKS:

  • If your computer has more than 4GB memory (8GB should be the minimum) there's no choice but using  64bit Windows. Windows 7 64bit. No sense using XP 64bit, which is pretty old. Windows 7 has some good enhanced caching & prefetching mechanisms than earlier versions of Windows.
  • Use the AHCI driver. Before installing Windows, switch the BIOS to use AHCI for SATA. You can also switch to AHCI post Windows installation. My benchmark testing indicated better SSD performance when AHCI was enabled before Windows installation. The AMD AHCI driver which I installed later doesn't seem to support the TRIM function necessary for the SSD so I rolled back to Microsoft's (msahci.sys). Make sure your motherboard's chipset supports it.
  • Storage access is the slowest computer operation. If disk access is as fast as possible, you will notice dramatic improvement. SSD can make this happen. I went even further by incorporating a RAM DISK. A RAM DISK is a portion of computer physical memory which behaves very much like a physical drive. It has a drive letter like a real drive. With 16GM memory, a ram drive would work very well without memory constraints. I used a RAM DISK 64bit version from this site. It has nice features like loading and saving the ram disk between reboots and dynamic adjustment of size. If you use a ram disk with persistent storage between reboots, make sure the drive doesn't get filled with orphaned files over time.
  • Create subfolders in the ram drive for all the temporary files. I have one subfolder for Windows temp files and another one for ASP.NET temporary files. Visual Studio 2010 gives a very non informative non related error message when ASP.NET temporary files where written to the root folder of the ram drive. The files need to go to a subfolder instead. 
  • Change the system's temporary files’ location to a subfolder in the ram drive. Go to Computer->properties->advanced computer settings->Environment variables- and change the user and system Temp & TMP locations to the subfolder.
  • Visual Studio writes and deletes lots of files in the ASP.NET Temporary folder when running and compiling ASP.NET apps. By default the location is at  C:\WINDOWS\Microsoft.NET\Framework\vxxxx\Temporary ASP.NET Files where xxxx is the framework version number. You want these files to go in the ram drive. As explained above, it only works if inside a subfolder and not the root folder. Go to each machine.config file and add this section under <system.web>. Mine looks like this: <compilation tempDirectory="T:\ASPTemp"/> where T is my ram drive.
  • Heavy writes to an SSD will shorten its life. While it doesn't have mechanical parts, an SSD has a finite number of writes in its Flash cells before they go bad. Another reason for using a ram drive is to offload the frequent writes and deletes of temporary files from the SSD to RAM. You get better performance plus extending the life of the SSD.
  • When using an SSD, NEVER use disk defragmentation. Defragmentation causes a ton of writes and deletes to an SSD. A bad idea. Furthermore, turn off the indexing service and prefetching service. The access time in an SSD is very short compared with a hard drive. See the stats in the images above.
  • Turn off all services which you don't need ever but be careful here because it can be tricky. For example, you don't have a printer attached to your computer so you decide to turn off the printer spooler service. This actually could cause problems for some software like some pdf printer drivers. If you have lots of ram, to be on the safe side, leave the services as is.
  • There are some discussions about misaligned partitions, which degrade disk performance. Read a quick guide about this issue. Read also about where this issue can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. My hard drives had alignment issues. See the 8032 BAD in the image above. 8032 is not divisible by 1024. I used the Partition Alignment Tool from Paragon Software.  I am bringing up this issue just as an FYI. Others might benefit from it. Note that Windows XP installations caused this misaligned partitions because it created the reserved boot sector and Windows installed itself starting from an odd sector. Windows 7 doesn't suffer from this. You can see from the SSD stat above it says 103424 OK (Win7 reserved a 100M partition before the boot partition). Make sure you back up your drive whenever you use software which changes the drive's structure.
    The benchmark below shows the stats for the same Maxtor drive after fixing the alignment. Instead of improved performance, the scores actually decreased! I am not sure what to make of this. AS SSD shows the alignment setting. Notice the  tooltip in the SSD figure above. If it’s a green ‘OK’, the alignment is fine. If it’s a red ‘BAD’, it’s not.

    ssd after offset fix maxtor

 

  • The Intel SSD comes with a Toolbox software which optimizes the SSD. Either use it manually at good intervals or schedule it to do the work automatically. Use the Toolbox to check the health of the SSD. I don't want to be surprised by its sudden death because I ignored its health. SSD's are new to me.
  • Leave some free space on the SSD like 10%. I don't know the inner workings of an SSD but I think the SSD tries to use the cells from the free space when it detects used cells almost dying. I know an SSD comes with extra cells for this feature but if those extra ones are used up, i am guessing it will use the ones from the free space. I do know the Intel X25-E (not X25-M) SSDs are more reliable and have extra backup cells. One reason they cost more.
  • With 16GB memory I thought I didn't need a Windows page file anymore but according to some people, Windows 7 still uses it even if there's lots of free memory. I guess this is due to some legacy code in Windows.
  • I have used many small tweaks here and there to squeeze out more performance. Spend your money on more memory instead of doing marginal upgrades like replacing a 2.6 GHz CPU with a 3.2Ghz. You will probably not see much improvement. 16GB enables me to open 3 instances of Visual Studio which do their work very fast. I could even put the databases in the ram drive and have the queries run extremely fast. (I don't worry about database data loss in a development machine).
  • Finally, Tweak and experiment and learn how your system behaves.
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