A decent “Free” PC

My mother inlaw has been in an assisted living community for a couple of years. As part of the move in, my brother inlaw got her this service called “Grandcare” that provides a touchscreen PC with a very customized user interface.

The first PC that was sent to her room was a pretty large HP Envy 20 AIO touchscreen system. First manufactured in 2012, it has a HD resolution, 20″ touch screen display, and is licensed for Windows 8/8.1 (there is no sticker on it, the OEM code is in the BIOS ROM.) It has a 3.1 GHz Pentium G870 chip, which is a dual core, 4 thread processor with integrated Intel HD graphics. Just fine for this system. Continue reading →

Tech – Laptops with eSATA ports

A general whine here today, but a while back, probably 2009 or so, the rage was laptops with eSATA ports, for faster external storage. USB3 was a glimmer, and FW800 seemed to be relegated to the Mac world.

My new (at the time) Dell Latitude had this eSATA port, and I was running a lot of VMs on VMWare Workstation, and more bandwidth was desirable.

So I bought a high performance Seagate eSATA external drive (7200 rpm drive in an enclosure), and thought for sure I was golden. Continue reading →

Life with a Thinkpad and Win 10

With my new gig, I was issued a sparkly new Lenovo Thinkpad T450 (must have gotten the tail end of the run, as it was revved to T460 shortly after I started) with a reasonable sized SSD, 8G ram, a decent screen, and the expected accouterments.

About the same time, my employer began rolling out Windows 10 on the desktop, so I am part of that world now. Prior to this, I had been using Windows 7 since 2010, and had become comfortable, passing up the whole Win 8 and 8.1 in the interim.

First thoughts were that I hated it. No, it wasn’t forced the “metro” interface that came with the initial launch of Win 8, and which turned off all the enterprise IT people I knew, but it still had some of that flavor that, well sucked. Continue reading →

How to make Windows 7 x64 suck

As a longtime Mac person, I have to admit that Windows 7 is a pretty good operating system. Stable, snappy, and not too much of a resource hog, even on questionable hardware. I used it at my last company on a decent Dell Latitude system, and it was quite good.

But you can make it suck.

I work at a Fortune 500 company. I have an OK HP elitebook (15″ mid sized laptop) that once I got the driver sorted out worked pretty well (the stock image that we drop on it doesn’t have the chipset or the audio drivers setup properly.)

But this this is dog slow. I mean, teleport me back to the 1990’s and 2 megabyte Windows 95 slow. Why is that?

Well, it isn’t the hardware, it has a snappy Core i5 dual core system. I doubt that a quad core i7 would make much difference. Stock it came with only 4G of ram (which seems like a waste for a 64 bit OS), that I bumped to 16G.

But it is encumbered with an amazing amount of crap. We have:

  • Symantec Endpoint Protection
  • PGP whole disk encryption
  • Configuration management software
  • About 7 services related to asset tracking, and cataloging. FFS, how many of them are really needed to say that this is my laptop?
  • Our presence and messaging solution is Cisco WebEx connect and Meetingplace (which is a flippin resource pig)
  • Direct links to our Sharepoint system that cause huge slowdown periodically

All told, when I need to reboot my system, which happens far to frequently, it is literally a 20 minute process until the machine becomes responsive. I am hardly the only one to complain. In fact it has become such a problem that our standard configuration for laptops is now with an SSD.  Unfortunately I have 2 more years on this lease before I can make that jump. It is going to be a long long two years.

I know that it isn’t Microsoft’s fault for this, but it is painful.

Why I hate Microsoft, part 1,392

I freely admit that I am a Mac user. OS-X just works better for me, and my workflow.  But I will grant that Windows 7 is pretty good, and usable.

Of course, since I work in the corporate world, I am forced to use Windows (well, in the past I have been a rebel and was a Mac in a PC world, but I stopped beating my head against that wall).  For the most part, Windows is fine. I even like Office 2010 and the ribbon interface that was introduced in Office 2007.

But, for some strange reason, I have glitches in my email. We use Exchange and Outlook for email and calendaring, and it seems about once a week the OST file (where outlook keeps local data) borks. This leads to not being able to send or receive emails until I repair the OST. Which requires me to quit any applications that access the Outlook API and the OST file. Which means that I really have to reboot to scan and fix the errors. And since I have a PGP Whole Disk Encryption, it takes about 30 minutes for the services that hit the disk to be done after a reboot.

Sigh, so go through all this, and run the tool (3 x until I no longer get errors in the scan), and then I can get back to work.

Lost hour of productivity, because Outlook decides to freak out.

Tobe fair, I have had some data issues on my mac, and keep much larger stores of email locally but they are fewer, and recovery doesn’t require running a program that looks like Windows NT3.51 vintage UI (the scanpst.exe program) to recover.

Why I hate my Windows PC

At work, I am blessed with a HP Elitebook 8460p (15 inch wide screen, core i5) laptop. It has OK specs, and I pimped it out to 16 G of ram.

But it is dog slow. We probably have 2 – 3 updates a week pushed to us that require a reboot. I have to save all my work, and reboot, and then wait. I have learned to open up the resource monitor and watch the disk get hammered.  For about 15 minutes after boot.

I know that Windows 7 is a lot snappier on similar hardware, but working for a fortune 500 company, with an eye on security, there is a metric shit-ton of stuff that is running including a full disk encryption package.

I am tempted to drop in a blank drive, install a fresh Win7 install, and see if that performs better. Probably, but it will be for naught, as I will have to go back to the original drive, image and configuration.


Lost hour of productivity

Gotta whine.

About once a month, I get an error in Outlook.  Something to the point of “OUt of resources” yada yada.  And it advises to “close some programs to free up memory…”

Has that EVER worked?  Sigh.  I have 16 gigs, and am running 64-bit Windows 7 so there is literally a metric ton of memory free.

Anyhow, from prior experience the only way to recover is to restart.  Sucks, but that is the only way. So I save all the work I have been doing and go to restart.  First warning that something is not copacetic: I get warnings that I have a modified normal.dot file in Word.  And I can’t ignore/cancel past it.  WTF.  Finally name it something bizarre and it reboots.

Then I get a warning that PGP full disk encryption isn’t working right.  That has happened before, and it always is a fluke.

Then outlook fails to start.  Says it can’t find the server, or my outlook.ost file.  Sigh.  I know what this means, I need to run scanpst.

three iterations of that later, and one more reboot, and I am finally back working.  Lost time 1 hour. Lost time if I had called support? 3 hours (BTDT).


Coda: I suspect these issues are caused by our policies and group settings in the domain. I have never experienced anything like this on any other Win 7 system, and I have been running it since 2009.

Sigh. One of those days. Back to my wireframes and product requirements.