Integrating and Optimizing Thunderbird for Google Mail


Let’s admit it, gMail is awesome (some of you would beg to differ), especially when you use gApps like I do. But I’ve always had a few requirements:

  • being able to access my most recent e-mail offline
  • without using a browser
  • large mailboxes (4+ GB)
  • use of certificates to sign or encrypt e-mail
  • integrated calendar, tasks, contacts
  • multiple e-mail account support
  • and recently, synchronize all this with my Android phone

My former method was to use Microsoft Outlook, but that program is riddled with problems and cumbersome. It also doesn’t seem to alert you when you have new mail if you use IMAP. Synchronizing Calendar and Contacts with my phone required a 3rd party program, which would be limited to just 1 calendar in Outlook and often create duplicate Contacts. On one occasion, the program got stuck with corrupted information and about half of the ~75 contacts in my list had about 25 copies each. (I fixed this shutting off Outlook & the sync program, exporting all my contacts to a Google CSV, and removing the duplicates offline.)

So in my quest for a more seamless & less troublesome e-mail client, the only VIABLE non-browser e-mail client turns out to be Mozilla’s Thunderbird. However, integration with Google Mail isn’t seamless or without quirks.

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Dell Precision M6600 vs M6400 Hardware (Overview & Disassembly)


So here’s my long overdue hardware review / disassembly “guide” of the Dell Precision M6600… (Thanks, Dell for the exchange upgrade covered under your wonderful warranty!)

DISCLAIMER: I take no responsibility for what you do with your own machine. Also, any “guidance” herein is merely suggestions and is in no way an official disassembly instructions from Dell. When writing this, I assume that you have working knowledge on laptop repair. You’ve been warned.

My apologies if some of these pictures are blurry – I was in a hurry to get my new M6600 up and running so I wasn’t as careful as I could have been to get better quality pictures.

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Dell Precision M6600 (and BIOS Update A06)


Over the summer, I acquired an exchange upgrade from my Dell Precision M6400 to an M6600. I got a chance to disassemble and replace the mainboard in this new system, but didn’t get around to posting photos and comments I had about the new hardware. (Post a comment below if you want the pictures.)

My experiences with the M6600 were not without headaches. Issues ranged from a keyboard that locks up if the backlit was on during boot to drives not waking up when the computer resumed from S3 standby due to the Free Fall Sensor not waking up with the system.

Well, Dell decided it was a real problem with the BIOS and Embedded Controller and released a BIOS (uEFI firmware to be correct) update to the system on 02 OCT 2011. Here’s the official changelog:

Fixes/Enhancements
------------------
1. Addressed some express cards fail to be detected issue.
2. Addressed Hard Drives encryption issue in ATA mode.
3. Addressed some keyboard with USB Hub not accessible during POST.
4. Fixed issue where disabling webcam stops microphone from working.
5 . Fixed issue where battery temperature sensor throttling CPU at high temperature when external power.
6. Fixed issue where Video memory size limited to 256MB in WinXp.
7. Fixed issue where Free Fall Sensor protection doesn't work after resuming from S3.
8. Fixed issue where TPM measurements were not correct when authenticating via PBA.
9. Updated Intel ME Firmware to 7.1.20.1119.
10. Updated to the 1.3.76 version of the Intel PXE OROM.
11. Added support for the new Nvidia graphic optimus keys.
12. Update Intle SandyBridge Client PPM Reference Code to version 1.4.0.
13. Update Intel Microcode patch to version P_12.
14. Fix Turbo Boost function abnormal.

Note:
1. Please note that if the A02 or before A02 BIOS is currently installed on your system,
you must first update to A03 BIOS and then flash to the latest A-rev BIOS.

I have updated to this latest revision from A04 and it has been buttery smooth, even fixing a SSD stuttering issue that seemed to plague my everyday usage of the laptop.

Link: ftp://ftp.us.dell.com/bios/M6600A06.exe

A few more notes about the Dell M6600 hardware:
– The graphics card is MXM
– The “BIOS” is actually uEFI with BIOS extension.
– There are about 4 unlabeled screws underneath and a flimsy plastic snap you need to remove to service the system. Improperly removing these will destroy your chassis.

Cheers.

-> UPDATE

M6600 A06 Firmware Package Contains the following firmware revisions:
– System BIOS: A06
– Embedded Controller: X23
– Gigabit Ethernet: 0.D.3
– Legacy Video OROM: 2089.V.11
– GT1 Legacy Video OROM: 2089.V.11
– GT2 Legacy Video OROM: 2089.V.11
– Legacy RAID OROM: 10.1.0.1008
– Intel AntiTheft: 3.0.0.18
– Intel Management Engine Update: 7.1.20.1119
– ACPI OS Support: 0.0.0.1

HTC Sensation (4G) 1.45.401.2 OTA Update


This week, the HTC Sensation (Pyramid) is being blessed with an OTA update that brings Android Gingerbread 2.3.4 and has been reported to fix the HTC Sense lag issues and generally boost the interactive performance of the device. It’s also suspected that this update prepares the bootloader to be unlockable, because updating to this OTA release prints a “***LOCKED***” text at the top of the bootloader screen.

For those of us that are running a custom ROM, or just have your device rooted, you may have already be running 2.3.4, but may be wondering if you could update your bootloader without losing S-Off or root access. The answer is YES!

I’ve attached to this post the extracted “firmware.zip” from the OTA update, which contains the updated bootloader (HBOOT 1.18.0000), radio (10.56.9035.00U_10.14.9035.01_M), and a bunch of other firmwares (pg2fs_spcustom, rcdata, rpm, sbl2, tz). THIS PACKAGE IS MEANT FOR CUSTOM ROM USERS ONLY – I’ve removed the stock HTC kernel and recovery images, assuming that you have installed your own (2.3.4 compatible kernel of your choice, Clockworkmod Recovery). Rename the ZIP file to PG58IMG.zip, place it into the root of your SD card, and reboot into the bootloader to update:

Because this firmware update includes a new radio, I’ve also attached the corresponding radio interface library (RIL) for the radio included in this update. This one must be flashed via recovery, with the /system partition mounted:

Standard disclaimer: I’m not responsible for anything that happens to your device. You’ve been warned. Enjoy!

nVidia Optimus Giving You The Blues?


With a new burst of laptops this year, there is a good handful of them that now come with nVidia Optimus.

What is this technology? In a nutshell, nVidia Optimus is a technology currently for laptops that allows the use of both the onboard Intel GPU and the nVidia GPU simultaneously, depending on the processing needs of the running applications. When an application needs advanced hardware acceleration, it powers up the nVidia GPU from a “sleep” state. This dynamic use of the nVidia GPU allows for lower power consumption (and thus better battery life) because most of the productivity applications or the even the windows interface itself does not need the full power of an nVidia GPU.

There are a few “gotchas” to this technology, however. The first is that you must be running Windows 7 ™ with supported drivers in order to take advantage of this. If you aren’t, then you might be stuck using the Intel GPU, depending on how your system manufacturer routed the video on your motherboard. The second is that some applications don’t automatically run with the nVidia GPU. You might need to manually configure the application to run using the higher power GPU. The final one that I am aware of is that the use of currently available GPU monitoring software or widgets can severely impede hardware performance.

The typical GPU monitoring applications that cause some hardware quirks are the ones that periodically poll the GPU to obtain its temperature, clock speed, load, memory usage, etc. So far, it has caused the following:

    On the Dell XPS 17 (L702X), non-3D edition, running a GPU monitoring app or widget caused the fan to switch on (at high speed) and off. This in turn caused the CPU & GPU temperatures to go on a roller coaster ride, going sky high then back down, inverse to the fan’s state.
    On my Dell Precision M6600, running a GPU monitoring app or widget reduced my battery life by 40 some minutes!

This is all happening because the monitoring app causes the driver to wake up the GPU in order to poll for its status. So users, beware!

Have any other weird issues related to nVidia Optimus? Post a comment below.