Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Undervolting the Celeron SU2300

One thing I found out about the CPU (Celeron SU2300) in my UL20A laptop is that it doesn’t change the clock frequency nor change the Vcore when the CPU is in an idle state. The CPU is supposed to have some sort of EIST, but apparently other people are also having the same problem with this CPU.

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The default Vcore of the CPU is 1.000V and default clock frequency is 1.2GHz (although I overclocked it to 1.26GHz – BIOS allows to overclock up to 5%). There is no BIOS option regarding the EIST feature either. The CPU is always at 1.26GHz/1V.

So I downloaded Crystal CPUID and went into Function->Intel Enhanced Speedstep Control and set the voltage to 0.9V and it worked. CPU-Z showed the Vcore as 0.9V. That is the lowest I could set. This setting can be invoked from a desktop shortcut. When you double click the shortcut, it would set the Vcore to 0.9V. So I added it to startup. Now, when the laptop boots into Windows, it would set CPU Vcore at 0.9V.

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People are saying it would lower the CPU temps by about 5C, but hardly any battery life improvement. I guess it is still the screen that is eating up most of the juice. Can’t do anything about it, can we? At least this is something.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Installing Windows on Asus UL20A

asus-ul20a-2x143v-1oi_1Ever since the very first day my new Asus UL20A laptop arrived, there was one thing I wanted to do. I wanted to install Windows. Why? There were few reasons.

For one thing, the OS was Japanese. But I managed to install the English language pack on, even though Microsoft doesn’t allow you to install language packs on Windows 7 Home Premium, which came with the laptop. There is a little tool called “vistalizator” and it downloaded the English language pack and installed fine. But once in a while, a window would come up with ugly fonts. The fonts are small and the typeface is not what is generally on the Windows 7 interface. I didn’t like that at all.

The other issue was that the laptop came with a lot of bloatware and even if you restore the laptop using the recovery partition, it would still install all those bloatware. Most people these days install Windows fresh as soon as they get hold of the laptop, and most of the times all you have to do is put the CD key that is stuck on the backside of the laptop when installing from a disc. This laptop came with a recovery DVD as well; ironically the laptop doesn’t have an optical drive. They should have shipped an external optical drive as well!

And, I wanted to see what would happen to the recovery partition if I install Windows and so forth.

So I made up my mind to install Windows. Other that the issues I mentioned, there were hardly any issue with the laptop. It was fast enough for what I bought it for: browsing mainly.

Anyways, now that there is no optical drive, how was I gonna install Windows? The only method I could think of was the USB stick method. I created a Windows 7 installation USB stick using an online guide (there is also an official Microsoft tool) and tried to boot from it. I chose Boot from External Drive and tried to boot. It didn’t boot. It went straight to Windows. I headed back to BIOS and I saw that the flash drive was listed as a hard drive. So I made it the boot hard drive and set Boot from Hard Drive and tried to boot into Windows setup. And it worked.

But then the weirdest thing happened. I formatted the C drive. The hidden recovery partition was before the C drive. I tried to install the C drive and I got the error message

Setup was unable to create a new system partition or locate an existing system partition

Yikes! Was the recovery partition doing something. I removed the D partition as well, as I didn’t have important data there. Then I tried to install to the unformatted area (Windows 7 allows you to do that; it would format the drive and install there). I got the same error again. I was a bit worried and too quick to jump to conclusions. I formatted the entire drive. The hell with the recovery partition. I wouldn’t need that anyways, ifi I can install a fresh copy of Windows.

To my bafflement, I still got the same error. I tried few times and I still couldn’t get Windows to install.

I then removed the hard drive from the laptop, and plugged it in my desktop, and repartitioned. I put it back in the laptop and when I tried to install Windows, I still got the same damn error.

Then I tried to plug the laptop hard drive in the desktop and tried installing Windows to that drive, from the desktop. I booted with the same flash drive. Again, the result was same. Then it made me wonder if the flash drive was the culprit. It being the booting drive, could be preventing Windows from installing to the hard drive. I didn’t want to try this on my desktop, because to try that out, I would have to format the C: drive. I at least needed one PC up and running.

On the forums, some people were saying that some laptops wouldn’t boot from the USB stick. Some people had to upgrade their laptop BIOS to get the feature working. Now that the UL20A wouldn’t let me boot from an external drive, I thought maybe there was a new BIOS that let me do that. There was a newer BIOS that what I had. So I downloaded it and flashed BIOS. Everything went smoothly. But it would not still boot from an external drive. Sucks! asus_ul20a_black_notebook_4

Now what was I to do? Of course I can’t order an external DVD player. That would cost me a some bucks. (Turns out they are not that expensive) I thought if there was a way I could pull this. Then I remembered that Windows 7 setup is almost a copy and paste for the most part. First it would install the files to the disk, and then it would configure the setup for the PC with a couple of reboots.

So, what I try to do was to jump start the Windows 7 installation on the laptop drive. I would plug the drive to my desktop, start the installation and when it asked to reboot, I would shut down the PC, unplug the drive ad put it in the laptop and let the setup resume in the laptop’s environment.

So, I found my Windows 7 disc, and tried booting from it. It worked fine and I could now install Windows. So it WAS the flash drive. Hmm…. (for some reason, it would not work on my desktop either. Funny how my old PC didn’t give me any problem like that back then) I did exactly what I was gonna do and finally I managed to install Windows onto the laptop.

So that is that! I now have a fresh Windows installation. I install Acronis Trueimage and now that is my recovery environment. At least now I know what do to install Windows onto this laptop. It is a pain in the ass, but at least there is a way without spending money on an external optical drive.

A long post, I know. But it might help other people with a UL20A laptop.

Edit:

If anyone has a second PC, which you can access from the laptop via LAN, you can make a recovery partition and install Windows 7 from a recovery partition on the hard drive. Check out the following video.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Bought a laptop finally

In my earlier post, I was asking whether I should buy a new netbook. I only needed it to do little things. I did not need the fastest laptop either. I needed something cheap, something that can be carried around (especially when I visit Sri Lanka in December) and something that would run off the battery for a reasonable time, 5 hours+ sounds reasonable.

So I searched around and finally settled for the Asus UL20A. It is not very fast,. Actually it is not fast at all. I can really feel it after using my desktop with an SSD, 8GB RAM and a quad core running at a respectable 3.6GHz. But I suppose it would be same with almost all the laptops out there that don’t carry an SSD and 4GB or more RAM. This has 2GB RAM, a Dual Core ultra low power Celeron @1.2GHz and a Seagate 320GB HDD.

Anyways, enough mourning over the lack of speed. I knew what I would be getting myself into. I told you I didn’t need speed anyways. Portability is what I needed the most. In that regard, this size is very good. 12”. It is small enough to be easily portable and large enough to type easily. I am not finding any problem typing with this keyboard. Sure it is not a G15, but it is pretty good.

This doesn’t have an optical drive. So I don’t know how to restore the OS if something bad happens. There is a restore partition however. I got the restore disks as well, I wonder for what purpose, because this doesn’t have an optical drive. I bet there is a way to restore the OS without the disks, using the restore partition. I didn’t look into this. I don’t think there is a need for that kind of thing ever because I will not be install all the crap that I come across in this laptop. Remember, there is only a little this laptop can do anyways.

I got the lappy in the evening. I didn’t have a lot of time to play with it. I will get used to it in a few days hopefully, Well, there is not much to get used to anyways. This is the Japanese model, so it came with a Japanese layout keyboard and Japanese Windows 7 Home Premium. I managed to install English language packs. Only Ultimate and Professional has official support. But there is this little tool called Vistalizator and I managed to install English language pack through it. Everything is good now. And the Japanese keyboard is no problem for me now. It used to be a pain in the ass at first (that is, when I came to Japan), but now I have gotten used to it.

I have installed almost all the stuff I need to install. Haven’t installed Office yet. Once that is done, I am good. Then I need to copy my music, pictures and some movies. I am going to reserve the CX-500 to this laptop. I don’t use it for anything else. I am using the Zagg Smart Buds with the iPhone all the time. I have got used to them. When I tried the CX-500 today after a long time, they felt funny. Open-mouthed smile

Anyways, I got to sleep now. It is 2330hrs now. This is my first laptop. I might add some upgrades with time such as another 2GB RAM and maybe an SSD when they become cheap. But that won’t happen anytime soon. I wonder if I should buy a bluetooth mouse for this as well. I hate trackpads. >_>

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