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Archive for March, 2011

CED: The vinyl cousin of the LaserDisc

March 23rd, 2011 No comments

Some of you may have head of LaserDiscs, the pre-DVD optical disc video format for watching movies at home that offered better picture and sound quality than VHS, Beta, and some argue, even DVDs. But if you haven’t heard of a LaserDisc there’s even less of a chance that you’ve heard of a C.E.D. What the heck is a C.E.D. you may ask? Well it stands for Capacitance Electronic Disc, and it was video system developed by RCA to playback movies stored on special discs which were similar to phonograph records. The first player by RCA debuted on store shelves in March of 1981 with a choice of 50 films to purchase on CED. You can find out more information about the rise and simultaneous fall of the CED format here on Wikipedia.

I picked up my CED player on craigslist, it’s an early RCA model, I believe the first model made. I got about 20 or so CED discs with it as well. So what started this insanity? Well while at a local flea market I came across of a stack of CED discs. The guy selling them knew what they were, and was selling them for $2 a piece. So I picked up The Empire Strikes Back, Thunderbirds Are Go, and The Birds for a total of $5. Which lead me to look for a player to play the discs on, just to see how they worked. The player cost me $25 with a slew of discs, my only disappointment is that the player is not a stereo model and only has coaxial connections out – not the standard AV (yellow, white, red) ports that would be on later models.

Unlike Laserdiscs, CED players use a needle (again like that of a record player) to read the information from the disc, where a LaserDisc player is similar to a CD or DVD player, using a laser to read the information off of the disc. So while the CED player can cause wear on the needle and the disc, the LaserDisc player will not since it never comes into direct contact with the disc. The manufacturing process of stamping films onto vinyl discs at the time was cheaper than making VHS cassette tapes, so this medium was created for those to buy movies cheaper.

So does it work? Well yes surprisingly! I plugged the player in and put in my first disc, Star Wars. I skipped ahead a few seconds to the start of the film and it seemed to work just fine. The movie did skip a bit, it may be either the player or the disc, but it wasn’t too bad. I’m surprised it worked at all. After all the player is 30 years old this month, maybe I should throw it a birthday party? Overall this thing is pretty cool, definitely a geeky blast form the past. I prefer LaserDiscs still (and of course Blu-Rays), but the CED format is an interesting one from the history books.

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Dell machines are picky with RAM

March 17th, 2011 No comments

So I visited a neighbor of my girlfriend’s. The family has a five year old dell with a Pentium 4 CPU. The machine only had 512MB of computer memory (RAM)¬†and beyond the virus and malware issues the machine was dog slow. It shouldn’t be this slow, even with just 512MB of memory. But with more memory in the machine it should fly, right? Well I suggested the family order more RAM, we found a Kingston Value Rame (DDR2 2GB kit) for $37 with tax and shipping via Newegg.com. This is the same type that Crucial recommends and offers for sale, but about $5 or so cheaper.

Well the memory arrives a few days later and I go to install it, and of course, it didn’t work. A series of beeps tells me that the motherboard does NOT like the memory. Now I’m freaking out, they’ll have to return it, pay a $6-7 handing fee + shipping back to Newegg – not the kind of thing I want them to have to deal with. So I told them I have to run more tests and that I’ll take care of it. My girlfriend’s parents house is right down the block. They have a similar Dell, but a bit newer. So the thought occurs to me, see if the Kingston RAM works in their machine.

So we go over and I do my test. Their PC had 3GB of RAM total, two 1GB sticks and two 512MB sticks. So I replace the 1GB sticks with the new Kingston brand. The PC boots up fine without issue. Great! So now I need to see if the Dell labeled DDR2 1GB sticks from this PC works in the other family’s PC. So I run back over and put them back in and – hooray, it worked! :D The memory worked fine, the PC recognized it perfectly. Oddly enough the brand of the memory was also Kingston, but it had a Dell sticker on it. Whatever the reason for it working was beyond me, but I was so happy it worked. The PC runs slowly still and probably needs a repair or re-install of Windows. But the machine went from having 80MB of RAM free to 1.4GB of RAM free, which is a major improvement. A memory upgrade is far cheaper then buying a new laptop or desktop. Unless you are looking for a new desktop or laptop, then you can find current laptop deals dell has to offer.

So the lesson is, spend the extra $5, get Crucial’s memory that’s guaranteed to work with your system. Especially if it’s a picky DELL!

Tags/Meta: Dell E310 machine will not boot with 2GB of RAM memory. Both RAM sticks from Kingston were DDR2 and the same speed, very strange!

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