Viliv S5 WiFi Problem and a Fix

cimg14274If you have been following my adventures with the Viliv S5 Premium UMPC then you are aware I have been so impressed with the little PC that I have ordered one for my own. I am getting a tremendous amount of good use out of the S5, and everyone I have shown it to is duly impressed with Viliv’s UMPC. This weekend a problem cropped up with the S5 that had me doubting my own judgement until I figured out what was causing it and I was able to get it solved. Now I am back to happy mobile computing, so I’ll pass on what happened in case it will be helpful.
One of the things that has most impressed me about the S5 is the power management that Viliv has incorporated. The user doesn’t have to do anything to get great battery life, and a big part of that has to do with how well the S5 enters and exits Standby mode. The common usage scenario is to pop the device into standby and to resume when it’s needed again. I usually find it only takes about two seconds to go into Standby and 2-5 seconds to resume. Unlike other mobile computers I have used in the past the S5 is able to resume from Standby and reconnect to the WiFi network very quickly, at least until yesterday.
The problem set in all at once, as they often do. I found that the S5 was having trouble resuming from Standby. The desktop would appear right away as usual, but I found that the system didn’t want to execute programs, sometimes for as long as a few minutes. I watched the process many times to determine what might be causing this and began to suspect that the USB systems were not resuming from standby very well. There are many USB systems on the S5, as there are on most mobile PCs. The visible USB systems that were not resuming properly were the WiFi adapter and the Bluetooth adapter. Both of these devices are USB, and I felt pretty certain that one of them was not making the transition from running to standby to running again.
I tested this with repeated standby cycles and hard boots. The USB systems would always work as they should after a hard boot, it was just with a resume that they would fail and cause the system delays I’ve indicated. I set about scouring the Device Manager to see if some power management settings had been changed somehow but nothing really stood out. So I thought long and hard about what could have caused a major change to this system to interfere with this process, one that had been so solid before the problem set in?
The answer was ultimately the hardware driver for the WiFi adapter. My efforts to troubleshoot this went as far as doing a complete system restore to factory conditions. That went well as Viliv has a recovery partition and an easy method to reimage the system using the device buttons. The restore was followed by a Windows Update session to bring it up-to-date and that’s where I noticed what could easily be creating my problem.
I must share the blame for this new driver install as I saw a new Marvell driver update in Windows Update and thinking it was the Ethernet adapter, I checked the box to install it. I don’t remember applying this update before the restore, but I must have done so. I still had the resume problem after the restore so now that I was aware the WiFi adapter had been updated I could deal with it. The fix to my problem that I wasted hours on troubleshooting was to simply roll the driver back to what it was originally. Windows makes that very simple to do and that has fixed my problem.
My system is back happily resuming from standby as it did before. I suspect that Viliv has done a good job customizing the Marvell driver for the S5 and the generic Windows Update driver lost those customizations, thus creating my problem. It goes to show that you have to pay close attention to updates that Windows wants to apply and make darn sure you need a hardware update.

Symbian Secures Big Backers in Mobile OS War

Symbian said today that 14 new companies, including Hewlett-Packard (s HPQ), MySpace, Qualcomm (s QCOM) and SanDisk (s SNDK), have joined its foundation. This brings the number of companies that have signed up to use the mobile operating system’s platform to 78, putting it ahead of the 47 members of the Open Handset Alliance, which supports Google’s (s GOOG) Android OS. More members are good, but Symbian still has to get those members psyched up and developing on its mobile operating system. Read More about Symbian Secures Big Backers in Mobile OS War

The Incredible Shrinking CES

As the Consumer Electronics shows opens in Las Vegas this week, the papers are awash in stories about CES being smaller this year, by about 11,000 attendees (about an 8 percent decline) and 300 exhibitors (a 10 percent decline.) Given that the Dow Jones Index has fallen about 30 percent, and the S&P 500 has dropped 33 percent since this time last year, such devotion to televisions, mobile phones, netbooks and other consumer gadgets is admirable. And there’s a silver lining to this cloud: consumer electronics may get easier to use.

Analyst Stephen Baker from NPD gave me hope, when he was quoted in a Reuters story saying, “In tough times, the emphasis maybe shifts from cool and neat to how do you make things work better.” But CES isn’t about making gadgets work better — it’s about hardware. And today’s ease-of-use problems are tied more to business model issues such as licensing content, protecting revenue streams and a lack of openness. Read More about The Incredible Shrinking CES

Despite Cool Tech, Samsung Isn’t Going to Pay a Lot for SanDisk

It’s common for companies in the midst of a hostile takeover to claim that their shares are undervalued (see Yahoo-Microsoft). SanDisk, which is being pursued by Samsung for $5.8 billion, is no different, and today its claims were examined in the Wall Street Journal. The paper focused on SanDisk’s (s sndk)X4 memory technology, which is central to the company’s argument that it’s worth more than what Samsung is offering. But cool technology aside, the unforgiving pressures of the NAND memory market, the 80 percent premium Samsung has offered, and the lack so far of a serious rival mean the price isn’t going to get much higher. Read More about Despite Cool Tech, Samsung Isn’t Going to Pay a Lot for SanDisk

Samsung Says Thin Is In

The memory business is a volatile one, driven by consumer demand for products like MP3 players and rapid obsolescence. That’s why the gradual move of solid-state storage drives based on NAND flash memory into the PC is so interesting. Now that those drives are bigger, at 64GB and soon 128GB, memory makers can flatten out some of the volatility seen in the consumer market by putting them into corporate laptops where demand is less influenced by economic cycles.

Most solid-state memory for PCs ends up in rugged or sexy high-end laptops such as the new MacBook Air, which is offered with either an 80GB hard drive or a 64GB SSD, and the Lenovo x300, which comes with a 64GB solid-state drive made by Samsung. The lack of moving parts makes a solid-state drive much more durable for rugged machines and the smaller size of flash drives means they can allow for thinner, lighter laptops.

In addition to revealing that its solid-state drive was in the x300, Samsung has unveiled a traditional 500GB hard drive that contains three disks crammed into a 9.5 mm-high drive. Andy Higginbotham (no relation), director of hard drive sales and marketing at Samsung, says this gives Samsung a leg upon density as the competition can only fit two disks in that space.

And if a user pops two of these in a notebook, he added, suddenly they’re walking around with a terabyte of storage (that could store 120 hours of HD video or 320,000 images). In a laptop. Think about how much confidential data someone could store on it, only to have stolen out of their car. It boggles the mind.