19 January 2014

SSD Install, Windows 8.1 and Office 2013

If you follow my blog or read my previous posts you may recall around this time last year I ordered myself a new laptop (View post here).  After a year of ownership I've been really happy with the laptop - the i5 CPU and 6GB of RAM make it fast enough for most of the work I carry out on it - including video editing.  The 15.6" 1080p screen is great for multitasking and video editing as well as working with large spreadsheets, if there is any downside it's the battery life (About 3 hours) but I've been able to live with that.

I had some compatibility issues with Windows 8 when it arrived with a number of software packages, plus it also had power management issues that affected a large number of Windows 8 users, a big one was a fault using additional fonts that again affected a number of users but there wasn't a fix for - despite the various criticism at the time I didn't mind using Windows 8 but made a decision to install Windows 7 which I already had a license for.


The only other thing I think could be improved was the HDD loading times, the laptop was a little slow to boot and opening things like Photoshop, Office and even Chrome was a little slow - the hard drive was 5,400RPM and despite being a good size (750GB) I think the speed was a little low and contributed to the laptops slow loading times. I decided that as Solid State Disk (SSD) drives have come down on price I'd order one and use that as my primary drive.


I opted for a Crucial M500 120GB drive, however at the same time ordered a caddy for my optical drive bay that would allow me to continue using my existing 750GB drive for storage.  This would sacrifice the optical drive bay, which is something I don't use often.


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When installing the SSD I thought I'd also make the switch again to Windows 8, though this time it'll be 8.1 which seems to have fixed a number of different issues that I had with W8 this time last year.  I'd also Microsoft Office 2013 Professional Plus.


So with the SSD fitted I done a clean install of Windows 8.1, fitted the original 750GB hard drive to the caddy, removed the BluRay drive and installed the caddy to the laptop in it's place.  If anyone is interested, I made a video showing how to prepare and install a hard drive caddy to a laptop optical bay.




I immediately noticed a difference with the SSD set as the primary drive, Windows 8.1 installed in less than 10 minutes and Office 2013 installed in about 3.

If you watched the video above you'll see that on the caddy I purchased I was able to transfer over the optical drive bay door - this meant that when the work was complete the laptop looks identical and an activity light shows on the drive bay door so I can see when the second drive is active.
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All in all the laptop is much faster, the slower loading applications open instantly - Chrome was slow due to the extensions that I have enabled, I wasn't sure if perhaps the network speed was partially the problem here but that isn't the case.

There is potential for the battery life to improve also, I've set the second drive to spin down after 5 minutes of inactivity, when doing most web and email tasks the battery power previously used to power the HDD motor will be saved.

12 January 2014

Wii Softmod Simple Guide

Introduction


Are you looking to softmod your Nintendo Wii? You have come to the right place, my simple guide below will take you from having an unmodified Nintendo Wii (Any firmware version) to having a console with much more capabilities such as running Emulators, Homebrew Applications, USB Game Loaders, Etc.









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The Homebrew Channel (HBC)

What is softmodding?


I think this text from Wikipedia sums it up well, "A softmod is a method of using software to modify the intended behaviour of hardware, such as video cards, sound cards, or game consoles in a way that can overcome restrictions of the firmware, or install custom firmware.".

Many people would previously install a modchip (Hardware) to their Wii console which would allow them to run backup copies of their games but a softmod will allow you to do this without any hardware modification. However without any software restrictions on the console you can also install homebrew applications and games, this includes emulators for classic consoles for example and media players that are not available on an unmodded console.

Softmodding a console does not cause any issues with current games you own, nor will any of your console data such as game saves be removed. Online play of games and gaming with friends also remains unchanged.

What is required?


For my guide, you will require the following things;

  • An internet connection.

  • A spare SD card, 1GB minimum recommended.

  • A computer system running Microsoft Windows.

My guide will take you to the point of using the Wii with a USB loader, Emulators, Etc. It is assumed we won't prepare a USB drive at this time.

Step 1 : Doing the Softmod




  1. Starting on the Wii, ensure it is connected to your internet connection and install the latest software update. This is done from the Wii settings screen.

  2. Once the Wii is updated, go back into the Wii settings screen and note the version shown at the top right, IE - 4.3e. Remember this for an upcoming step.

  3. Within the Wii settings screen, select Internet and then Console Settings. Take a note of the console MAC Address.

  4. Power off the Wii and switch to your computer, insert the SD card and format it as FAT32.

  5. Visit the following website; http://please.hackmii.com

  6. Select the system menu version you noted from Step 2.

  7. Enter your MAC Address noted in Step 3 and then the verification code. Click the option to cut either the red or blue wire, when prompted save the ZIP file to your desktop.

  8. Go to your desktop, extract the ZIP file and copy it's contents to the root of your SD card.

  9. Safely eject the SD card and insert to the currently powered off Wii.

  10. Power on the Wii as normal and select the messages option at the bottom right of the screen.

  11. Press - to go back one day, look for a red envelope with a bomb on it. If you don't see this, go back another day.

  12. Select the red envelope, this is the exploit that will allow us to hack your Wii by installing the Homebrew Channel (HBC).

  13. Follow the steps shown on screen, install the Homebrew Channel and quit once done.

  14. This will take you to the Homebrew Channel - press the Wii button and return to the system menu.

  15. You'll notice now the Homebrew Channel is available as a channel on your Wii - you can now consider your Wii as softmodded. The next steps will support you in the rest of the work.

Step 2 : Install IOS, cIOS & Homebrew Apps using ModMii













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ModMii Installer


  1. Back to the computer, pop in the SD card and format it again as FAT32.

  2. Download ModMii from http://modmii.zzl.org

  3. Install ModMii.

  4. When prompted select ModMii Wizard + Guide.

  5. If asked if this is the first time softmodding your Wii, select No.

  6. Follow the steps by selecting your Wii type, remain at 4.3 firmware.

  7. When asked select as many of the Wii channels as you wish.

  8. At the next screen select the following options;
    IOS236
    Recommended cIOSs
    Priiloader
    YAWMM
    System Menu Theme (If you wish to change appearance of channel screen)
    USB-Loader
    Active IOSs and patched System Menu IOSs
    You don't need to select the Homebrew Channel as we've just installed it.

  9. Select "HDD already ether WBFS or FAT32 + Don't want to change". This can be done later.

  10. When asked, install Configurable USB-Loader. This has always worked well for me.

  11. Selec thte option to save USB-Loader App, Covers & Config to SD Card at the moment.

  12. Leave the default directory set for files to SD Card.

  13. Once you reach the end of the Wizard, select Finish.

    ModMii will now download various files for the options we select and will generate an installation guide for us. Once it completed the ModMii window will close. The time required will vary depending on your internet connection speed.

  14. Now lets open the directory ModMii put the files into, on my system it was C:\ModMii\COPY_TO_SD.

  15. Copy all the files within this folder to the root of your SD card.

  16. Within this folder there will be an installation guide HTML file - open this and follow the instructions exactly.

  17. Once you've completed the steps in the guide - the work is done. You can delete the WAD files from the SD card but as they are required to uninstall, keep a copy on your computer should you need to uninstall anything.

Having problems?



Get in touch, I've done loads of these now each time with success. I'm happy to be contacted to help others out.

4 January 2014

Replace Toshiba Satellite C850 LCD Screen Display

Unfortunately accidents happen from time to time and one of the more drastic accidents that you can have with your laptop is damage to the display panel. Fortunately, a replacement panel for many laptops is a cheap part however many people don't feel confident about taking a screwdriver to their computer.

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As someone qualified and experienced in working with electronics it may be easy for me to say, but replacement of a laptop screen in many laptops is a fairly straight forward job. Yes, some laptops almost require full disassembly but then many make it very simple - the Toshiba Satellite is one of these.



Today I was called to replace a damaged laptop screen and thought I'd take the opportunity to write a guide on how to change this. As said before, many other laptops are similar and I firmly believe many people can do this as a DIY job with no prior experience.




For this laptop all you require is a flathead and philips screwdriver - a smaller set would be ideal, borderline precision. The photo below shows what I used. I recommend if you can, to use a screwdriver with magnetic tip - when working with smaller screws this always makes things easier.


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Lets get the basics out the way, we need to ensure there is no power to the laptop. Remove the AC Adapter if it is connected and also the battery. On this laptop, the battery is removed by sliding the first slider to "Unlocked" and then the second slider to release the battery from the base.


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Next open the lid and observe the image below - the plastic bezel that surrounds the screen must be removed and this is held in place with four screws at the locations shown - the screws are under a plastic cap, remove these using the flathead screwdriver and stick them elsewhere on the bezel for replacement once you rebuild.


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The image below shows the four exposed screws, proceed to remove these as shown. Note that the two screws at the bottom are a little more tricky and are removed at a slight angle - having a magnetic tip screwdriver helps here.
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Once the screws are removed, place them in a safe location for when you rebuild.
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The next step is to remove the plastic bezel, this simply pulls off. I recommend starting from the sides and working from the inside to pop out the first connection point and then work around. If you struggle to remove the lower part of the bezel - tilt the screen back as far as possible.


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Once you've worked around the bezel, remove it from the laptop and sit aside.


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You can now see that the display itself is fixed to a frame. At the sides shown below remove the two screws at either side. The lower screw may be a little trickier but to make it easier you can space out the frame from the rear lid using your spare hand - as shown. Again, a magnetic tip screwdriver will help here.
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Once the screws are removed, sit them aside for refitting.


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Before moving the screen any further, we'll remove the webcam. It simply pops out of place and isn't screwed in.


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Now, place the screen face down on the keyboard. You'll notice the webcam cable fixed to the back - this is held on with a little adhesive - simply pull it off as shown.


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The last step is disconnecting the video cable from the display panel. It'll be held on with some tape - using the flathead screwdriver lift the tape as shown and disconnect the cable by pulling it towards the bottom of the display.
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Once the cable is disconnected, the disassembly process is complete and the panel can be removed from the rest of the laptop.
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Fitting the replacement screen is simply reverse of the removal. When attaching the video cable and resecuring the webcam cable you may wish to consider using sellotape if the adhesive isn't working as effective as prior to removal.