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Jamie Balfour'sPersonal blog

Alan Turing

Alan Turing was one of, if not the greatest computer scientists in the history of the world.

He is one of my biggest inspirations and he was an incredibly clever, brave and generally remarkable man.

If you don't know much about Turing this post may be rather less interesting, but the man was an absolute genius who cracked the Enigma code during the Second World War and shortened the war by two to four years and also developed the things we call 'computers'.

Turing Machines are very simple mathematical devices that take in an input and decide what to do with it. Couple loads of these and you have a system like computers of today. That's how transistors work in the CPU of the computer and so on.

Turing committed suicide after being chemically castrated for being gay back in 1954 - an unbelievable loss to the world.

Anyway, in the next few days I'm sure the world will celebrate this man for what he did.

Posted by jamiebalfour04 in Tech talk

Intel Core 2 Quad Q9550 2.83GHz
8GB DDR2 8500 RAM
1x 120GB SSD, 2x 1TB hard drives, 1x 2TB hard drive
Windows 7 Ultimate x64
XFX ATI Radeon HD5670
Blu-Ray ROM, Blu-Ray RW and DVD-RW drives
Card reader and Floppy disk drive
Lian-Li PC-60B Plus
Corsair HX850W PSU
Microsoft Wireless Laser Desktop 6000 v2
Labtec Arena 5.1 Surround sound
Dell P2310h 23" 1920 by 1080 LCD monitor DVI
Wacom Bamboo Graphics tablet
Logitech Quickcam Sphere AF
Hauppauge HVR-1100 TV card
40 inch Samsung LE40M87 LCD TV in duplicate setup
Wireless Philips Headphones

Posted by jamiebalfour04 in Tech talk

Still to this day, ATI has refused to fix the problems that we all encounter each day with our ATI cards. When you first use the card the Catalyst Control Center (CCC) works fine. After updating the card drivers or the CCC, CCC refuses to work at all.

Double-clicking the tray icon does nothing. Right clicking and clicking on ATI Catalyst Control Center does nothing. I cannot think how else you can possibly open this.

The CCC is a real let down for ATI. Perhaps they should spend some more time focused on their software development teams. Still my 5670 is running beautifully compared with the HD Pro 2400.

I have an idea, perhaps Intel or AMD should start to manufacture dedicated graphics cards.

Posted by jamiebalfour04 in Tech talk

I finally tried HDMI on a computer graphics card for the first time and I've tried DisplayPort for the very first time. Obviously there is no major difference between them and DVI and to be honest, I feel that they both have one major let down - no screws to hold the connector in. This quibble may be seen by many as an advantage, but I personally see this as a disadvantage as I move the monitor around a lot (from landscape to portrait).

I got myself an XFX Radeon 5670 graphics card. It's slimline so it doesn't block any of those important PCI slots, but it's not exactly the most powerful card in the world (although it has thermal design power of 75W which is very low for a dedicated card these days). The card features DisplayPort, DVI and HDMI.

XFX Radeon 5670

I will be using DisplayPort for my LCD monitor and HDMI with my LCD TV. 

I personally back DisplayPort over HDMI because it's royalty free, hence why I chose a monitor with DisplayPort instead of HDMI. Clearly the different target markets are shown here in that HDMI is for the consumer electronics market whilst DisplayPort is designed for the computing industry.

Despite being royalty free, DisplayPort seems to be slow at taking off compared with the more expensive HDMI connector.

I've also noticed that Apple (and their lovely MacBook Pro range) have started adding Mini DisplayPort connectors to their devices. These connectors can be converted to full DisplayPort, DVI, HDMI or VGA. HDMI can only really be converted to DVI but adapters do exist to convert to VGA from what I understand.

On the subject of Apple, I am hating my iPhone more and more day by day and I am thinking about a Windows Phone. Anything but Apple!

Posted by jamiebalfour04 in Tech talk

This monitor, which I have now had for just about a month, cost me just £200 and wait until you hear how awesome it is. First of all, its resolution is 1920 by 1080 and it runs at a refresh rate of 60Hz.

Dell P2310h monitor

The monitor features VGA, DVI and DisplayPort, so it makes it ideal for those who need the ultimate in connectivity. The monitor also features a built-in four-port USB hub, two on the rear and two on the side for devices such as USB flash drives etc.

The panel is 23 inches and it is exceptionally wide. The aspect ratio of the panel is 16:9 but it also supports 4:3 if necessary. Finally, the monitor also supports portrait mode, so web browsing and word processing become much easier as more fits on the screen at the one time going vertically.

As previously mentioned, this monitor features the sort of new DisplayPort technology and I am looking forward to testing it out. DisplayPort or DP is an amazing royalty-free technology that can convert to VGA, DVI or HDMI very easily, and in my eyes is by far the best display connector. I'll primarily be using DVI at the moment as my current GPU doesn't have DisplayPort but I am thinking about buying a new GPU and possibly a Mac (and Apple have endorsed DisplayPort for a long time, so of course it will have a way of connecting to the monitor).

It features a TN panel which means that unfortunately, you cannot quite see the screen in its greatest beauty when it is in portrait mode. I would recommend for what I paid for it.

Posted by jamiebalfour04 in Tech talk

Perhaps the reason I chose this drive was the fact that it was an LG, but it does not mean to say I am going to be biased.


This drive is a very good drive for the price margin I found it in, £70 - £90. Other drives however boast the 8x speed but come at a higher price; generally about £80 - £90. 6x is fine for me. I intend to purchase a writer when more features are brought to them and use this only for watching stuff whilst burning etc. So the writer will put this out the window eventually anyway.

The drive is great, perhaps one of the little problems I experienced was the installation. It took 15 minutes, which is a great deal more time than any other drive I have installed in my computer. The main problem was that the screws would not sit into the screw holes and then the SATA power lead kept falling out. Other than that, the drive is a charm! Works superbly, and the software that comes with it seems decent as well.

Posted by jamiebalfour04 in Tech talk

A little introduction

First of all, welcome to my first blog. This blog is hosted on, which I believe is owned Google.

I hope sometime soon I will have my own website dedicated to these kinds of posts, but for now I'm just using this (really nice) blogging system as I used for my summer school course.

After a bit of research I discovered I was correct in thinking Google bought some few years ago (ok 2003, 7 years ago) and they did so from a company called Pyra.

What this blog is

I am proud to say that this blog will be my own way of talking about technology, politics and all the other things I love. I hope you enjoy reading my blog.

FireWire and Windows 7

The main body of this post is about FireWire and Windows 7 in terms of compatiability.

Today I had a strange experience with FireWire 400. My external drive was not recognising on Windows 7. I had never experienced this on any OS before, including Vista.

A selection of ports

FireWire is one of the fastest connections out there.

So how did I solve this?

I found a nice little solution: you must first go to the Device Manager and run the driver as a legacy driver. Currently, the OHCI (Open Host Controller Interface) standard that is going around is replacing the legacy drivers (hence why they are referred to as legacy) but is currently not fully ready to replace the original FireWire drivers, lacking backward compatibility that actually works. This is because the majority of new drives do not use the legacy connection anymore, as I discovered with my new external drive, which I will talk about later.

FireWire is currently my connection of choice for data storage as it is a speedy, efficient and all-around well-designed connector that follows a tree architecture rather than a polling system.

Some thoughts

I've always liked the idea of docking stations - ever since I was a child I was buying USB based docking stations to add more connectivity to my laptops and then with other laptops that came with a dedicated bus docking solution the options became even better. But what if there was a connection that took the bus speed like a docking station connector but wasn't proprietary? What if we could use a single connection to do this?

Well, there already exists that! Did you know that ExpressCard is both USB and PCI-Express in one connection? This means that it gets full bus speeds and would allow us to use an external graphics card using the PCI-Express bus as you do on a desktop. How amazing would this be?

I recently bought a new laptop and it features ExpressCard, which I think is the most amazing standard of all. But I also realised that it's been fast at disappearing from the market, which seems a shame. 


ExpressCard is a really awesome standard

Comment below and let me know what you think!

I have updated this post with new images
Posted by jamiebalfour04 in Tech talk

This is an old post I wrote for a blog in 2008 and found in 2019 brought forward onto my own blog.

One of the most prominent changes over the last few years is the move from parallel communications to serial communications, but did you know that although parallel ports were once faster than serial because of the multiple lanes that were used to send data, that serial is now a faster option?

[P]ATA is slowly being replaced by SATA and parallel printer ports (LPT ports) have almost disappeared from even these desktop computers we have at school these days which seem to be the only place you'll see them.

RS232 is still commonplace on business laptops however, and so it should be. Whilst it's an old and pretty slow connection, did you know it's also incredibly easy to use and to program because of it's almost entirely binary/hexadecimal communication?

New data connections will continue the trend that USB 2.0 has made, and USB 3.0 is already in the works, expecting speeds of up to 2Gbps - 5Gbps! FireWire is also a serial connection that offers up to 3.2Gbps currently - making it the fastest connector out there (although Intel LightPeak might overtake it since it's using optical connections).

But why is serial with one single lane faster than multiple? Here's why:

With parallel everything is sent in chunks. E.g. 10 binary numbers were sent across a parallel 25-pin DB-25 connector in one go whereas a serial 9-pin DE-9 sent just 1 binary number in one go. But here's the issue. Parallel means that the data might get there in different times. For the computer to be able to reassemble it, it has to wait for the slowest bit, so even if 9 of the binary numbers arrive, the last one might take a few nanoseconds longer - thus to be able to rebuild it the computer needs to wait. Next, the issue of order. Parallel data might come in to the computer in the wrong order and needs to be repackaged in the correct order. To do this the data comes with a checksum number that the computer can verify the data against to make sure it is in the correct order. If the order is wrong it means that the computer has more work to do.

Serial data has no checksums, no worries of order being wrong since it is a queue of data with one coming after the other. There's no waiting for the bits to arrive, they arrive when they arrive.

PCI-E uses multiple lanes, so it must be a parallel connection. Wrong. PCI-E uses several serial lanes subsequently to send data but they do not work on the same data. The controller on each end breaks the data down into chunks the same way as parallel ports did, but those chunks themselves are combined later.

And that's why serial ports are on the rise. It's a sad thing for me to see the old LPT parallel port disappear, and it's sad to see it's no longer on any custom motherboards that are designed for top end (though headers are available on most of these) but it's the right way to be going.

Posted by jamiebalfour04 in Tech talk
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