Laptop recommendation for mobile gamma spectroscopy: HP Elitebook 8470p

Gamma spectacular, theremino adapters, non-sound card based, etc...
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stamasd
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Laptop recommendation for mobile gamma spectroscopy: HP Elitebook 8470p

Post by stamasd » 03 Jul 2019, 17:48

It's not a question. I am recommending this particular model as it has a specific feature that is helpful for a sound card data acquisition setup.

Background: a few months ago I was looking for a "disposable" laptop to keep in my backpack at work and when going places. I wanted one that was small but not too small (I had a 12-inch one in the past and it had some usability issues because of the small size) yet powerful enough and above all cheap so if it gets stolen or lost it wouldn't be a big loss. My main laptop that I use at home cost $1800 and I wouldn't risk that one.

I came across a used HP Elitebook 8470p that seemed to fit the bill. It cost $100 on Amazon from a reputable seller, it was 14 inches, supported up to 16GB RAM and had a socketed (ie. replaceable) Ivy Bridge CPU. It came with a dual-core but supports quad-core CPUs also. It had also been at the time of introduction (2012) the flagship of HP's business laptops and had cost new around $2500.

So I bought it and then invested a little more money in improving it: $50 for a 500GB SSD to replace the 320GB mechanical drive, $50 for a quad-core CPU and $60 to max out the memory. Total cost about $260 for laptop plus upgrades. Installed Win7 and Funtoo Linux (a Gentoo derivative, 64-bit only - and used the installation process where everything is compiled from source code as a stress test for the hardware). Been using it as such since then and have been very happy with it.

A few days ago I started experimenting with using it for gamma spectroscopy. Knowing that in general laptop sound is poor quality I began with a USB sound card. However while fiddling with sound in the control panel, I noticed something that had escaped me so far. The list of selectable recording formats for the onboard sound was very long, much longer than it should have been. In fact it listed a lot of formats all the way to 192kHz/24bit!

So I started investigating, and it turns out that the onboard audio codec is an IDT 92HD81B (now owned by Tempo Semiconductor). The datasheet at https://temposemi.com/products/pclaptop-hd/92hd81b/ confirms that its ADC indeed supports PCM formats up to stereo 192kHz, 24bit.

I experimented first in Windows with Audacity as well as PRA, Theremino MCA and BeqMoni but wasn't able to get it to accept reliably data at 192/24. It does work reliably at 96/24 however. I think it's a driver problem; the drivers haven't been updated since the initial release from 2012.

In Linux however, with ALSA drivers which are well maintained, I can record at 192/24 without any problem. Both Audacity and the 64-bit versions of InTune and PRA22 work flawlessly with that bit rate (the last 2 under Wine of course). I wasn't able to make either Theremino or BecqMoni run under Wine because they're 32-bit programs and the version of Linux I use is strictly 64-bit with no 32-bit subsystem. I have no doubt that they would work just as well in something like Ubuntu that still supports 32-bit applications.

I searched then if there are other models of laptops that use this codec. The bigger brother HP Elitebook 8570p does, it's very similar but 15-inch instead of 14. The following generation of Elitebooks, the 840G1 and 850G1 also do but there is a big problem: they do not have an audio input port. The generation after that (840G2/850 G2) and all of the following ones switched to a different codec (a Realtek AC'97 wth much reduced capabilities).

So it does seem that the 8470p and 8570p are the sweet spot for gamma spectroscopy. There are a few available from sellers on amazon and ebay. I'm pretty pleased with this find.
Real name: Silviu Tamasdan

Conor Whyte
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Re: Laptop recommendation for mobile gamma spectroscopy: HP Elitebook 8470p

Post by Conor Whyte » 04 Jul 2019, 01:37

Very nice find! Sometimes older laptops are just better. I find this with Apple's 2009-2010 MacBook Pro lineup as well.

stamasd
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Re: Laptop recommendation for mobile gamma spectroscopy: HP Elitebook 8470p

Post by stamasd » 04 Jul 2019, 23:45

Thanks. I've been running more tests, so far so good. I tried to make Theremino run in emulation but so far I haven't been successful. I took the source and compiled it in an old copy of VS2008 that I had laying around after converting the project to 64bit. The resulting binary does run in Windows though not without problems (it doesn't shutdown properly and has to be killed in task manager) however in Linux/wine it spews out a ton of errors and refuses to start. It looks like Mono/.NET errors regarding data formats.
Real name: Silviu Tamasdan

Conor Whyte
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Re: Laptop recommendation for mobile gamma spectroscopy: HP Elitebook 8470p

Post by Conor Whyte » 05 Jul 2019, 12:38

I too am unable to compile Theremino MCA properly with Wine but on MacOS, but PRA22 works flawlessly. Also, I haven't got BecqMoni to work properly either The program with partially launch but claims it is missing a library... the library is present though in the list of resources. odd...
Hmm, maybe I'll try and build an app with its bits and pieces? hmm... thinking..


Trying to get Theremino MCA working and keep getting

Code: Select all

internal_TCCCreateDesignatedRequirementIdentityFromMessage: Refusing TCCCreateDesignatedRequirementIdentityFromAuditToken: unable to get SDK version of binary.

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