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December 29, 2006


I picked up a PS3 today. I didn't think I'd be able to get my hands on one until the spring. I was reading Digg today, and someone posted a link to an online tracking tool called iTrackr. The unique thing about this tracking tool is that it tracks local inventories instead of online ones. I've been using PS3Finder for the past month or so, but it only tracks online stores. Because most of the online stores are only selling PS3s in those insidious bundles, PS3Finder isn't too useful to me.

iTrackr is much more useful. Not only does it track local inventories, but also it will notify you of updated inventories by email or text messages to your mobile phone. After hearing about it, I created an account on iTrackr just to see if there were any PS3s in nearby shops. To my surprise, both the GameStop and EBGames nearby were showing the 60GB PS3 in stock. Now, according to iTrackr, neither GameStop's nor EBGames' inventories are 100% reliable, so they recommend calling to confirm supply. Heeding that advice, I called the EBGames store near my house. Sure enough, they confirmed that "a couple" 60GB models were in stock. They wouldn't hold one for me, so I hurried over to the store to purchase it. I also picked up a copy of Marvel: Ultimate Alliance with the unit. The shop was out of Sixaxis controllers, and their HDMI cables were overpriced. So, I picked up an HDMI cable at and a Sixaxis at the local Target store.

I have to say that despite the paucity of software, the PS3 is an impressive machine. Not only does it look nice in my entertainment console, but it's also very quiet. I particularly like the black chassis, as it blends in with my equipment nicely (contrasted to the gloss-white Wii, which stands out). I won't drone on about the features or GUI, as those have been detailed in other reviews ad nauseum. I will say that I don't mind the GUI, which is based on the XMB found on the PSP. While I'm sure it could be better, it's one I'm familiar with. As noted earlier, I hooked up the PS3 to my SXRD via HDMI (@1080i). Because my receiver does not have HDMI inputs, I had to hook up the audio via Toslink. I opted to network it via wired Ethernet instead of wireless. I recently added four Ethernet ports behind the entertainment console, so it was easy to connect. Also, we already have 3-4 wireless devices connected into the access point at any given time, so there wasn't any need to clog it up even more.

I've played around with Marvel Ultimate Alliance for a bit and it looks nice at 1080. The Sixaxis controller is very similar to the older Dual Shock 2 controller, although it is much lighter due to the lack of force feedback. The online features are rudimentary at best, but hopefully Sony will add more features in the near future. It would be nice to have the same level of functionality as Xbox Live.

Bottom line is, I'm happy with my purchase despite the lack of software at the moment. Once again, I was able to get my hands on a new console without standing in line and without having to buy a ridiculous bundle. More importantly, I now have a Blu-ray player in addition to a game console. Once the selection of games improves, the PS3 will really come into its own.

December 20, 2006

Replacement LCD, Part Trois

After sending back the incompatible WXGA+ panel, I did another search on eBay for a compatible panel. Within a matter of minutes, I came across another WXGA+ panel that was guaranteed to work with the Inspiron 9300. The seller confirmed the Dell part number for the panel, as well as confirming that the inverter was included (the previous panel did not come with an inverter). Better yet, the seller was located here in Austin. So, yesterday I headed over to the seller's store to pick it up locally and avoid shipping charges.

The seller turned out to be Discount Electronics, a local reseller whose ads I had seen in the local paper. It's a cool little shop that sells used and refurbished computer components. They also buy used equipment, so I made a mental note to call them for quotes on some old equipment I have setting around unused. Anyway, after picking up the panel I finished up my Christmas shopping and headed home to install it. Fortunately, installation was trouble-free, and the panel worked perfectly!

This new panel isn't quite as bright as the previous one, as it has an anti-glare coating instead of the glossy anti-reflective coating. However, I've discovered that I prefer the anti-glare coating to the glossy, as it doesn't pick up reflections from light sources at all. Best of all, the WXGA+ resolution is much more usable than the ultra-high WUXGA resolution. So, my notebook is back to normal now, and I'm enjoying it even more with the new panel!

December 15, 2006

Replacement LCD, Part Deux

I received the WXGA+ panel two days ago. It took longer than I expected due to a delay with Paypal. For some reason, my backup credit card wasn't linked to my account anymore, so I had to wait until an eCheck cleared. Anyway, the good news is that it arrived intact, and doesn't have any defects or dead pixels. It's a beautiful panel, with a bright display. The WXGA+ resolution, as I suspected, works much better on a 17" screen. The display is much easier on the eyes.

The bad news is that the panel isn't 100% compatible with my Inspiron 9300. It won't display an image upon bootup at all. In fact, I thought the panel was defective, until I hooked up an external monitor. With the external monitor attached, I was able to view the bootup and BIOS screens. The BIOS showed that the panel was indeed attached. Unfortunately, it also showed the native resolution as "0 by 0 pixels." Obviously, this wasn't right. I was able to get the panel working in Windows (using the CRT/LCD toggle on my notebook), but it's a kludge at best.

I did some searching on the Notebook Forums (fantastic site, by the way), and discovered that Dell hard-codes the model numbers of supported panels in the BIOS. If the panel isn't one of those listed, it won't work properly. So, in order for the panel to work, I need to find one with a Dell part number.

Looks like I'm going to have to send this panel back and eat the restocking fee. I just can't live with it. Hopefully I'll be able to find a panel with a Dell part number on it. Shouldn't be too hard...I hope.

December 02, 2006

Replacement LCD

As I mentioned in an earlier post, the LCD panel on my Inspiron 9300 has begun to show several defects. It has gotten to the point where I've decided to replace the panel, as it's pretty much unusable in its current state.

My current panel is a 17" WUXGA panel with an anti-reflective coating. It looks really nice, but the resolution really is too high for a 17" panel. So, I've decided to replace it with a WXGA+ panel instead. As the Inspiron 9300 supports both panel sizes, I should be able to swap them out without incident.

I've found a WXGA+ panel, via eBay, through a reseller in New Hampshire. They claim the panel will work with an Inspiron 9300. I've confirmed that it is a Samsung display that Dell uses, so it should work. If it doesn't, I can return the panel, but only after paying a restocking fee. So, hopefully the replacement will go without a hitch. I've also purchased an extended (3 years) warranty for the panel, in case it develops the same problems down the road.