Cooling modifications on my laptop

Recently I bought an eBay special - a small, powerful laptop to carry around on my photographic trips and on holiday so that I am not carrying too much weight (particularly as hand-luggage). It's a Dell XPS M1330 laptop, some three years old with performance enough for Windows 7 and some older games and plenty of storage to keep track of my photographs and videos and the odd movie to watch.

However it has one extra feature that is not so good though - a high-performance graphics chip that gets very hot and is known to fail. This problem affected a number of laptops of this age - notably those fitted with the nVidia GeForce 8400 GS or 8600 graphics chips. There were plenty of stories in the press too about law suits, overheating laptops and motherboard failures affecting laptops from Apple, Dell and HP.  So why did I choose this model?

Here's why:  It has more than enough power for coping with work and web surfing, it weighs less than 2kg and has an excellent 13in 1280 x 800 resolution screen. Battery life is good and the reviews were all very positive. Further, before I bought the laptop, I found out that you can significantly improve the cooling capability of the laptop with a simple modification that costs a few pounds and takes less time to complete than it took to write this article.  I won't go through the actual steps here, but instead will refer you to the excellent guides on the Notebook Review forum.  In a nutshell the computers cooling components are taken apart, cleaned up and re-assembled but this time with an additional copper shim to help the transfer of heat from the Graphics chip (known as the GPU) to the outside air.

And how successful was the modification?  Well, I tested the laptop by playing one of my favourite games, Mafia: The City of Lost Heaven to make sure that the laptop was pushed hard to force up the temperature of the GPU.  With the ambient temperature of the room at a steady 20 degrees Celsius I monitored the GPU and CPU temperatures using a program called RealTemp which is capable of recording the temperatures of the graphics chip and the CPU cores to disk every five seconds.  I ran the tests before making the modification and again afterwards and the results recorded were impressive.  When playing Mafia before making the modification the GPU temperature reached a maximum of 87 degrees Celsius.  While not reaching the maximum temperature of the chip, it nevertheless means that the laptop will heat up over time because the heat generated in the chip ends up being dispersed through the chip to the motherboard and then to the case, rather than being taken away from the chip to the outside air by the heatpipe.  After making the modification and replaying the game, the maximum temperature only rose to an impressive 68 degrees Celsius.  That's a drop of 19 degrees Celcius with no other changes made - no artificial cooling, no change in ambient temperature.  I even drove the same route within Mafia.

Here is a graph showing the results:

On the left of the graph I played Mafia without modifying the cooling.  The short gap in the results shows where I made the change.  The increase at about 15:20 is where I started to watch a DVD.  At 17:15 I started playing Mafia.  As you can see, the temperature does not get as hot as before, so all in all a very successful modification that will hopefully mean I have no cooling issues with this laptop.  Certainly I have noticed that the fan does not spin up as often and the laptop stays cooler longer.

Get your daily newspaper delivered to your Kindle ... for free

Many of us have an Amazon Kindle and are used to reading e-books on the device.  But what about reading newspapers and periodicals on the Kindle?  How about receiving a newspaper on your Kindle by email - one generated by you with just the news you want in it?  Well, with a bit of magic from a very useful program called Calibre you can do exactly that.

There have been other articles and forum posts that show that this can be done but this article will step you through it.

What's needed?
Obviously you'll need a Kindle but in addition, you'll need a working Kindle email address and access to a PC or laptop and a copy of Calibre.  Calibre will run on Windows, Linux and Mac computers so you should have no problems running the program.  Please consider donating to Calibre (there's a click-through on the site linking to PayPal) though to help fund its development.

First step.  Setting up Calibre
The first thing to do is to set up Calibre to be able to email your Kindle account.  So, start Calibre

When the opening screen is presented, click on the Preferences icon top right of the window.

From the window that opens, click on the Sharing Books by Email button under Sharing.

Click on the Add email button and enter your Kindle email address (<> obviously replacing <> with your own identity.  [nb - see note at the end of this article about possible costs]  Make sure Auto send is ticked as shown here.
You will also need to set up access to your email system so that Calibre can send the email 'from' you 'to' your Kindle.  I used my Gmail account.  You should set up yours, of course.

Finally test the email by clicking on the Test email button and click on the green tick Apply button and then Close.

(Quick note about your Kindle email:  Before you can use your Kindle email account in this project, you'll have to visit your Amazon account and make sure your Kindle email is set to allow emails from your chosen email address to be sent to your Kindle.)

Next step.  Set up your news feed
Now we set up a source of News for our first Kindle newspaper.  For this example I'll set up the BBC News channel.  In the Calibre main window, click on the button labelled Fetch News
From the list that is presented, slide down until you reach the English (UK) section and click on the little triangle on the left to expand the selection.  Then click on the BBC News entry.  This brings up a scheduling screen with the ability to set up automatic jobs that go and fetch the news, automatically formats it and then sends it to your Kindle.  For now, though, just tick the box that says Schedule for Download and click on Save.

Now, if you open the Fetch News window again you will see a new entry at the top - Scheduled.  This is where your scheduled news items are recorded so you know what's going on.

Testing your setup
To test your entry, click on Scheduled, select an example news source and then click on the Download Now button and hit save.  You should now see the Jobs: 1 status with a revolving line showing that Calibre is working on your request for you.

This will take a little time, as the program goes through the news headlines presented by BBC News, goes and fetches each of the stories behind the headlines, downloads each of them to your computer, re-formats them for the Kindle and then creates an e-book for the job complete with a contents page.  Once it has done that, it then sends the result directly to your Kindle.  Here is the job summary screen showing how long the job took to run.

And here is the BBC News job we've just run, displayed on my Kindle.

I would be interested to know how you get on.  Please let me know if this was of use to you or if there are steps that could be better explained.

[UpdateSince originally writing this article Amazon have introduced lots of more modern Kindles to the old Gen 3 ones I used in this example.  I understand they all work with the process outlined in this article.  However, please note that if you have a Kindle capable of receiving directly over 3G, note that Amazon will charge for the delivery of what it calls 'Personal Documents' - such as the ones we create here.  If you do not wish to pay these charges, you should use the <> address.  Here, the emails are delivered free, but are only collectable via WiFi or by USB upload from your account.  Please be aware, therefore, that by emailing content to your Kindle over Whispernet you may incur a charge from Amazon.  See Transferring, Downloading, and Sending Files to Kindle for more details.]