Saturday, November 21, 2009

Tweaking Windows 7 Guide

Eric over @ has completed his Tweaking Windows 7 Guide. Eric has published several worthy guides and tips on Windows XP and Vista over the years and continues to do so with Windows 7.

Take a moment and check out his guide, I'm sure you will find it useful.


Thursday, November 19, 2009

CPUID HWMonitor updated to v1.15

Well, it's been 6 long months but we finally have an update to HWMonitor. This update includes some nice changes which were previously only visible in the Pro version.

We also can now see HDD temps on the M17x :) Nice indeed. Note, if you are running RAID you will not be able to see HDD temps - HDD temps are now only visible if you are not in RAID.

Here are the change notes:

  • Batteries monitoring : voltage, capacity, wear and charge level
  • Support for Asus ROG (Republic of Gamers) mainboards series
  • New sensor chips : Fintek F71808E & F71869, Nuvoton W83795G
  • Grab it now - LINK

    Wednesday, November 18, 2009

    Dell releases Synaptics Touchpad v14.0.12.0

    Today Dell posted an updated Synaptics Touchpad driver. Details as follows:

  • Disable scrolling feature as default setting
  • Corrects Alientouch compatiablity in Windows 7
  • Driver Lists have been updated. Direct link is HERE.

    NOTE: The disable bug is again present in this release. If you use an external mouse it will throw an error when trying to access the Touchpad properties. They really neeed to resolve this. The default Microsoft driver can be used as an alternative.

    NVIDIA SLI Profiles Update (MODDED)

    One of the only highlights for the failed 195.55 BETA release is the fact NV added new SLI Profiles as well as several updates to existing profiles.

    Since the driver does not install without modding and even after install it is a fail with the M17x, I was still interested in using the SLI Profile Updates. Extracting them turned out to be a simple matter.

    If you are not using nHancer, then this is a great option as it will add proper support for Borderlands, MW2, L4D2 and others. This will tie us over until NV releases the Official SLI Profile Update #4.

    You can grab the batch update HERE.

    Be sure to read the IMPORTANT - README file for notes.

    Tuesday, November 17, 2009

    NVIDIA posts beta driver 195.55 - EPIC FAIL

    Today NVIDIA posted the 195.55 Beta. For the M17x it will not install - no small surprise. C'mon NVIDIA - time to get your game on and NOT leave out the Alienware M17x.

  • Adds GPU-acceleration for smoother online HD videos with the new Adobe Flash 10.1 beta.
  • Adds support for DirectCompute with Windows 7.
  • Adds support for OpenGL 3.2.
  • Adds support for OpenCL 1.0 (Open Computing Language).
  • Adds support for CUDA Toolkit 3.0 features and performance enhancements.
  • Adds SLI and multi-GPU support for many top new gaming titles including Borderlands, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, FIFA Soccer 10, and more.
  • Includes numerous bug fixes including improved performance for Need for Speed: Shift.
  • Installs NVIDIA PhysX System Software v9.09.0814.

  • HybridSLI is functional and pulling the AC Power Cord will automatically kick you into 9400M G mode only (if you have Hybrid and Integrated Graphics enabled in the BIOS of course).
  • L4D2, TF2, MW2 and others are running fine in SLI with this driver.
  • ISSUE #1: BluRay playback is again not functional. Same issue was present with 187.xx. You can work around this issue by unchecking the option in PowerDVD to disable Aero for BluRay Playback.
  • ISSUE #2: If you are running SLI your second GPU will not downclock properly after ending a 3D Gaming session. Clocks for GPU #2 will remain @ default (583/950/1450) whereas GPU #1 will return to 200/100.
  • ISSUE #3: Uninstaller is broken. When accessing the Programs & Features Control Panel to uninstall, the display driver option is missing. You will need to uninstall each display adapter via the Device Manager.

    The only + side to this release so far has been the updated SLI Profiles. Given the issues found, I cannot recommend this driver for use with the M17x. I will not be adding it to the lists. Back to 186.82 for me.

    If you are as tired as I of these sub-par drivers NVIDIA has been churning out or tired of the fact that 186.81, 195.39 and now 195.55 (which are all part of the NVIDIA Verde Driver Project) have NOT installed properly on the M17x, I ask all of you to provide feedback on these issues. In fact, since the M17x has been released, not one driver NVIDIA has published has worked correctly. Please take a moment and report the issues - HERE.
  • The 9400M G

    I've received a few questions on the 9400M G and whether or not I have it enabled. Figured I would post this here for everyone.

    The 9400M G can be a very handy asset in the M17x's arsenal. By switching to the 9400M G chip when on battery, your battery time will increase significantly.

    NVIDIA has made this easy for us with Hybrid SLI. Essentially, all you have to do is unplug your AC Power and you will automatically switch over. Once you return to AC Power, your Discrete GPU(s) will enable and power up. For most users, this is fine and there are no issues associated with this switch.

    I have chosen to disable the 9400M G via the M17x's BIOS. This is done by disabling both Hybrid Graphics and Integrated Graphics.

    When I know I will be off AC Power for an extended period of time (off site meetings, travel, etc.), I will re-enable both Hybrid Graphics and Integrated Graphics in the BIOS in order to take full advantage of the battery using the 9400M G as the active GPU.

    I choose to disable the 9400M G for for two reasons:

  • The current drivers (be it Dell's releases or the 186.24, .82, 91 releases), seem to get along better when the 9400M G is disabled. Benchmark runs I have conducted usually score higher with it disabled. I also would rather not see the chip under more load than is needed.

  • When the 9400M G is enabled, as the OS is loading the Windows Log in screen, there is a distinct flashing/refreshing of the screen. The screen can flash/refresh several times before loading. With the 9400M G disabled, this is not an issue.

    Following is a description of the Hybrid Graphics & Integrated Graphics options via the BIOS:
    Hybrid Graphics - Disabled / Integrated Graphics - Enabled:
    M17x will use the integrated video card only. Video output to external displays will be disabled.

    Hybrid Graphics - Disabled / Integrated Graphics - Disabled:
    M17x will use the discrete video card(s) only. Regular SLI mode will be available for systems with 2 NVIDIA discrete video cards.

    Hybrid Graphics - Enabled / Integrated Graphics - Enabled:
    Hybrid SLI will be enabled. Maximum performance available.
    For additional info on HybridSLI and the underlying technology, see the following:

  • NVIDIA's Hybrid SLI Tech brief (1.26 MB PDF)

  • NVIDIA's HybridSLI Video

    Basically, it all boils down to personal preference. I just wanted to share my reasons for having it disabled while on AC Power. If you feel you want to keep it enabled, then of course, please do so. This is not a critical issue.

    Reference Source: AW KB
  • Monday, November 16, 2009

    Revisiting the Stuttering Issue on the M17x

    First, let's define 'Stuttering' as it relates to the M17x. One of the chief complaints from some users (not everyone is having issues) has been the intermittent FPS drop off while gaming. In-game you may see your FPS drop to sub 10 for a few moments, after this momentary loss of FPS, FPS will again climb to normal. Audio popping/crackling while playing back audio has also been reported and can be associated with this 'Stuttering' issue.

    The steps below have worked for me on Vista 64 and a few others have reported this has also worked for them. This may work for you, it might not.

    1. Disable the following startup items (use CCleaner's Startup Items module for fast access or use MSCONFIG):

  • AlienFXController.exe - this startup item is responsible for your system lighting. You can still access it by launching the AlienFX Controller via the start menu ---> Programs ---> Alienware. Once you have made your lighting changes be sure to shut it down again by right-clicking on the alienhead and choosing EXIT.
  • FATrayMon.exe - this is your AlienSense Facial Recognition startup item. It displays the little icon in the task tray for quick launch of settings. Not necessary.

    2. Disable the following Services (Note: When editing services, always access the services console by typing 'Services.msc' into the Run Command):

  • AlienFusionService - This service is responsible for the GUI tie in of the Command Center Fusion Module and the OS's Power Profiles. You can make changes via the Power Options Control Panel instead. All this module does in Command Center is provide a nice fancy GUI to the OS's power profile settings. It is not required.
  • FAService - This service is required for AlienSense (Facial Recognition). Since it's a resource hog, kill this one as well (needs to be killed since you have already disabled its startup tasktray item).
  • Windows Search - This one is totally unecessary. This is a component of the OS and responsible for indexing your hard drive to provide faster file searches. If you don't use CTRL-F to locate files on your hard drive, kill this one. Most of us know where are doc, music and pictures are anyway.

    That's it. This should help with reducing stuttering. After making the changes above, I have had zero stuttering in-game and no audio playback issues (Windows Media Player). It should also be noted, for audio playback - disabling the use of Visualzations in your Audio player app can also reduce any stuttering.

    Concerning Startup Items, one of the major tweaks you can perform to Vista or Windows 7 is by eliminating (disabling - don't delete them, lol) unecessary startup items. Some of these may include (depending if you have the relative software apps installed) the following:

  • ehtray.exe - Windows Media Center - disabling will have no effect on your ability to launch Media Center manually
  • acrotray.exe or ReaderSL.exe - Acrobat/Adobe Reader - not necessary to view PDFs
  • AdobeARM.exe - not necessary
  • PDVD8LanguageShortcut - PowerDVD language module - again, not necessary for playback of DVD/BluRay Media
    PDVD8Serv.exe PowerDVD Remote Control - again, not necessary and will not effect remote control functions (at least none that I can find)
  • BDRegion/BRS.exe - another component of PowerDVD. Again, not necessary for playback of DVD/BluRay media
  • SunJavaUpdateSched - Java update Scheduler. You can check for Java Updates manually via the Java Control Panel. No reason to have this launch @ startup
  • WindowsDefender - if you use an aftermarket AV/Security solution, this is also not necessary. I have always disabled it and have had no ill effects

    This is only a partial list. Everyone will have different startup items based on the applications installed on their system. Always use Google Search and research the startup item you are thinking of disabling. Make sure its not a critical component.

    I also suggest using CCleaner's Clean & Registry functions on a regular basis. I usually run it every other day - takes moments to run and will remove lots of temp clutter.

    NVIDIA Issue:
    With the newer releases of the 186.xx series driver, NVIDIA's Stereo 3D Vision is installed by default. There is a known memory leak issue with this and a fix is supposed to make its way out. Personally, for me, I wont be using it so I haven't paid attention to this memory leak issue and its supposed update. It may be a non-issue with the 19x.xx drivers - I don't know. Best to uninstall it if you don't need it.

    Remember, the steps I posted here are not a FIX but a work-around. I prefer to keep my system running well and do not need a facial recognition app (or any other unnecessary app/service) running on my system hogging resources.

    That's it for now. Hope this helps some of the newer users out there who may be seeing the 'stuttering' issues described at the start of this post. If it hasn't helped you or you don't want to try it for whatever reason - well, all I can say is either return your system, sell it or accept it.

    EDIT: Be sure to also see this post as it may help answer additional questions.
  • Clarification on Driver Lists

    Just wanted to clarify so there is no confusion on this. All of the drivers with the exception of the Display Drivers are from Dell. For the most part, all of them are released specifically for the M17x. There are a few which are released by Dell for other models, however they are compatible with the hardware in the M17x. The Display Drivers will either be from NVIDIA, Dell, Windows Update or LV2Go.

    The driver lists will always remain up to date. I check various sources daily and will list new drivers as they are released.

    The driver lists for the M17x which Dell maintains on the support page do not always include drivers released for other laptops with the same hardware/devices. Meaning, if a driver is updated on say the Precision M6400 for the Bluetooth card, Dell may fail to categorize the driver for use with the M17x even though the driver supports the M17x since its the same Bluetooth card.

    Hope this helps. Just want to make sure people are not under the impression I am modding every driver for use with the M17x. ;)

    Thursday, November 05, 2009

    187.66 and the M17x

    As some of you know, LV2Go posted up the Fujitsu-Siemens 187.66 driver a several days back. The stock INF does not support the GPUs in the M17x and the modded INF had issues with the M17x Hybrid SLI, BluRay playback, etc.

    You can use this driver with the M17x however a few changes have to be made. I have chosen to use the 186.82 Windows Update driver with the 187.66 release but you can most likely use the 182.91 INF if you want to.

    Here is the process if you want to try this driver:

  • Open up the 186.82 INF (nv_whql.inf)
  • Open up the 187.66 INF (nvfm.inf)
  • Look at the DriverVer entry in the 187.66 - this entry is at the very top of the file, a few lines down. Once you have found it, copy the entire line.
  • Now, find the same line in the 186.82 INF. Overwrite the line with the line you copied to your clipboard.
  • Once the change has been made, save the changes and place the file in the 187.66 directory.
  • Next, copy the file from the 186.82 directoy.
  • Finally, remove the original INF and .cat (nvfm.inf and from the 187.66 directory - you do not need them.

    That should do it. Do a clean install of 187.66 after performing an uninstall of your current driver.

    Be sure to install in Hybrid Mode (enable the 9400). You can disable it after install if that is how you run your system.

    An issue did come up during my testing:

  • Deal Breaker: The NVIDIA Control Panel will not retain settings for individual game profiles. I prefer to set all of my game profiles to 'Single Display Performance Mode' rather than the default of 'Multiple Display Performance Mode'. You can make the change and then click APPLY, however once the NV Control Panel is closed and re-opened the changes will revert. This should not be an issue for users of nHancer. Not sure since I do not use nHancer.

    Due to the NV Control Panel 3D Game Profiles issue, I am choosing not to add the driver to the Driver Lists. Back to 186.82 for me.