October 25, 2010
Spotlight on HP – Desktop and Mobile Workstations
Please note that contributed articles, blog entries, and comments posted on MCADcafe.com are the views and opinion of the author and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of the management and staff of Internet Business Systems and its subsidiary web-sites.
Jeff Rowe - Managing Editor

by Jeff Rowe - Contributing Editor
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“To use this hand held x-ray spectrometer we hold it up to a surface, pull the trigger, and in about 1 second it displays a compete elemental analysis. We use these spectrographic tools to insure that our products are compliant before they go out the door.”

“The ability to take chemical fingerprints of substances allows us identify unknown material and to verify that the materials being used are the ones that we’ve specified, and that they meet or exceed our quality expectations.”

Mechanical Stress

Besides chemical analysis there’s also lots of mechanical testing going on too. Paul showed us a measurement device that precisely measures the amount of force exerted on an object. And to illustrate his point we watched as the machine inserted memory chips into socket while measuring the pressure it took to accomplish this. Paul told us that, “When inserting memory strips into the socket you want to make sure that it takes exactly the right amount of force. If it takes too much force you could end up twisting and breaking the memory chips or you could bend or crack them. But, if the fit is too loose the memory could pop out of the socket. Not only do we insert the memory
chips into the socket with this tool and measure the exact amount of force needed, but once we’ve finished we’ll cut the socket open and look at the physical surface of the contacts under high magnification to make sure it looks the way that we think it should. These are gold contacts, and if the gold is removed you could have electrical problems, so we go the extra step by cutting the sockets open and examining them under ultra high magnification to insure that everything‘s fine inside the connector.”

Case Closed

Before completing our tour of the Material Sciences lab Paul told us a mystery story, with a happy ending.

One of HP’s customers was having issues with systems failing in their environment. This was very mysterious since they were the only ones having a problem with this particular system and the power supplies were failing.

The systems were sent to the Materials lab, and the first thing the lab team did was go through the entire box looking for visual clues. Everything looked fine, so they pulled out their residue test kit and dabbed the power supply area with small sticky studs collecting surface residue evidence, just like they do in a crime lab. They then took the residue-topped studs and analyzed the residue under their electron microscope.

One of the things they found, besides the usual office dust, were tiny flecks of silver inside the box, especially inside the power supply. Using the electron microscope and spectrometer to take a closer look and analyze the silver they discovered that the silver was actually an alloy of silver that also contained a small amount of copper and other metals. They were able to match this alloy to a specific jewelry silver – the type of alloy used to make rings and jewelry.

Armed with this information, Dr. Mazurkiewicz hopped on a plane and flew to the customer’s site to take a closer look at their environment. He did additional sampling on site and discovered that the systems themselves were in what appeared to be a very clean jewelry design area.

Exploring further he came across a room, not too far away from the design area, where he watched students finishing their silver creations on grinding wheels, and creating plumes of dust. Then, when he observed the students walking out of the grinding room and back into the design lab a light bulb lit above Paul’s head.

Paul said, “What was happening was that they’d be grinding away, get the dust all over their pants sit down in front of a computer that was on the floor beneath their desks, and the computer’s cooling fans sucked all that dust into the system. Of course, you have metal dust and this conducts electricity and it was blowing out the power supplies.”

Solving this problem for good was easy. Paul and his team helped the customer rearrange their environment and their work flow model, and voila, the failure was entirely eliminated. Another case closed!

At the end of the tour Dr. Mazurkiewicz wrapped things up by saying, “Basically we’re the eyes and ears of the support engineering team and help them look very deeply into any kind of puzzle that they’re working on, from simple design problems to solving customer issues in the field. Our mission is to verify that what HP buys and then receives meets our specifications and high quality standards.”

In my next article I’ll take you on a tour of HP’s 10- and 1-meter RFI chambers to explore the zappy world of RFI emissions and interference.

A Brief Look at the HP Elitebook 8740w Mobile Workstation
By Jeffrey Rowe

I don’t review much hardware these days, including mobile workstations, but when HP offered the EliteBook 8740w, I welcomed the opportunity. As an MCAD guy I wanted to check it out overall and to see how it performed with SolidWorks 2010.

Like its predecessor, when I unboxed the unit I was immediately taken with the physical size of the EliteBook 8740w was not as bulky as I had imagined it might be. However, weighing in at almost eight pounds (not including the AC power adapter) and the closed unit measuring 1.4” x 15.6” x 11.2”, the 8740w (slightly larger than its predecessor) is classified as a mobile workstation, but with those physical attributes, it’s more engineering workstation capable than mobile, but you could definitely carry it short distances with no problem.

The HP Elitebook 8740w Mobile Workstation

The evaluation unit came loaded with Windows 7 Pro (64-bit), an Intel Core i7-820QM Processor (1.73 GHz, 8 MB L3 cache), Up-to 3.06 GHz with Intel Turbo Boost Technology, and 8 GB RAM. Enhanced graphics capabilities were provided by an ATI FirePro M7820 graphics with 1 GB dedicated GDDR5 memory, a GPU developed specifically by ATI (soon to be AMD) specifically for high-end mobile workstations. With its 1 GB memory, it provided excellent image quality, and optimized visual computing application performance, complementing the overall 8740w package.

Speaking of graphics, the Dreamcolor display is gorgeous with a couple of major changes this time around – it now displays a full one billion colors and has a wider viewing angle. One of the key selling points for the 8740w (and for good reason) is its high-end DreamColor display with 1920 x 1200 (WUXGA) resolution. If your work requires you to look at a computer screen all day, the 8740w’s display offers welcome relief because of its resolution and brightness.

The keyboard has HP’s DuraKeys for longevity and is a very generous size with a separate dedicated numeric keypad and plenty of room to rest your wrists. Even though the keyboard did have a large span, it did not flex at all, owing to the amount of metal (aluminum) used for the interior structure and exterior shell. The HP EliteBook 8740W is rugged, too, meeting military standards (MIL-STD 810G) for vibration, humidity, altitude, dust, and temperature. Overall, the components used and build quality are excellent with a reassuring solid feel.

Considering the sheer size and capabilities of this machine, I suspected battery life for the 8740w would not be too impressive. However, while performing some basic computer operations (including Web browsing, and part and assembly creation and manipulation with SolidWorks 2010), I was able to get just under three hours of life before I was warned to plug the 8740w in for recharging. Really not too bad a time away from an outlet for a machine of this size and level of performance. The HP Power Assistant provides power management from the UI (especially for radios – WiFi, 3G, Bluetooth, etc), and ties in with windows power profiles for controlling power consumption

Under conditions when the CPU wasn’t being pushed too hard, the 8740w never got much warmer than the ambient room temperature in my office. However, when I was working with large assemblies in SolidWorks, the cooling fan ran quite a bit and was actually a little loud and noticeable.

Overall, though, the 8740w was enjoyable to use from visual, tactile, and performance points of view – a good experience in the limited amount of time I had to review the machine.

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-- Jeff Rowe, MCADCafe.com Contributing Editor.


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