Monthly Archives: February 2012

Windows 8 Consumer Preview

Window Consumer Preview is out

Got my copy today @ http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows-8/consumer-preview

The fun ends on 13-Jan-2013. It’s not yet clear on how this date will be enforced – iether only “legally” or blocking access to the system or parts of it’s functionality.

Got it set up on a x220 laptop (not a touchscreen), reviewing the OS from a desktop user point of view. 

First impressions

The bad

Very raw, eats too much PC resources (think constant CPU/RAM usage). Solitaire running in the background ate up to 10% of CPU on i5. The built-in Windows Defender (new and improved microsoft security essentials?) service had a tendency to eat up 25% of CPU, disabled the poor thing.

Some UI features are forced on you – “selling” the metro style initial screen with the applist as an on-demand feature would seem to have satisfied a lot of customers (as would bringing the start button back), but would not allow Microsoft to test drive it’s new intermediate cross-platform on end-users.

Working around not having a “Start” button available gets you a lot of headache – planning which items you need pinned to taskbar and which shortcuts to configure on the desktop. As a poweruser you can really on “windows run”. Still searching for a hotkey shortcut for SEARCH functionality.

The good

The new Powershell ISE UI makes script writing so much easier thanks to intellisense, I will now think twice before downloading and installing a 3rd party scripting editor.

Bitlocker now has key backup to SkyDrive, there’s also an option only using “Used Disk Space Only” encryption for new pcs/hdds (encrypted my 128 GB SSD in 3 minutes, blazingly fast).

Think built-in functionality – hyper-v (so glad they moved away from the Windows XP mode concept into something more manageable), integration with lots of services, support for .iso and .pdf files, using microsoft account to log in and to keep data synced. 

Thoughts and future trends

Although it did not revolutionize user experience, Windows 8 is a great product, you get a lot out of the box. I hope it gets more love and polishing before the final release.

Will it replace Windows 7 on enterprise market – no, I strongly believe it will not happen and it will see the same % of adaptation as Windows Vista or even lower. End-users in corporate environments will not forgive the lack of a start button. ūüėČ

For now – I can see Windows 8 running on my laptop, I can’t see it running on my desktop computer @ home.

As a long-term thought – could it sometimes be better in terms of productivity to have isolated task-oriented working environments (metro apps) with the option to fall back to the standard Windows 7 UI?

Tweaks and “good to know”

Get the list of open metro style apps – navigate the mouse from upper left corner downwards.

Search/Devices/Settings – navigate the mouse from lower right corner upwards.

Disable Windows Defender service.

Disable Disk Defragmentation and Optimization on SSDs.

Choosing a laptop

Want to buy yourself a new laptop? Let me help you save some time and headache by guiding you through this grueling and complicated process!

Do your research

Finding out what you need is the hardest part, but it can also turn out to be some of the most enjoyable and exciting stage of getting a new toy. I know for sure that I enjoy the investigation even more than getting the final product.

http://www.notebookcheck.net/ is one of the better resources available for the laptop market reviews.

Before jumping forwarding and starting to browse through numerous reviews Рconsider the following question: What do you need the laptop for?  Business/Entertainment/Games

The idea of having all-in-one wonder does sound appealing; hate breaking it to you, but that’s not going to happen, at least in the nearest forseeable future. Developers will keep releasing demanding games, cooling and laptop battery life is still an issue and it will take the market a lot of time to transfer into something new.

Need to run a standard suite of business apps (not the CS5 suite of course), watch videos and read e-mails? The non-marketing truth is – i3 processor/Atom is more than sufficient for you (core 2 duo would seem even more appropriate, but hardware manufacturers don’t seem to release them all that much anymore)! As are 4 gigabytes of RAM.

Want to play a specific game on your laptop? Check out the numerous FPS benchmark tests for that games specifically.

Do you ever need i7 processor on a laptop? The short answer is no.

You will not be doing heavy mathematical calculations that could possibly use this processor to it’s full capacity and if you consider buying a laptop (even a desktop replacement model) for this purpose – it’s impractical, you can get better value by building your own home server tailored for your specific needs.

When browsing with chome – you will not have so many tabs open and even if you like to go all crazy and open 25+ windows with flash, ¬†remember – it’s just a synthetic test. There’s no value here.

And even better – utilizing all the additional virtualization technologies the i7 processor additionally supports – is not possible with the software that is currently out on the market (this is no joke, virtualization vendors have very and very specific hardware requirements for utilizing VT-d). PCI slot redirection on a laptop? What appliances of this feature can there possibly be?

What I highly recommend going for is an SSD drive – it really impacts user experience and OS boot times. Why SSD? This table should clear things up – http://www.ssdreview.com/why-ssd-the-advantages.html

For business and mobile users the other big, big factor is the display quality. Is IPS too tiring for your eyes? Are you comfortable with viewing angles and picture quality?

Remember – the better you define your needs, the better price/value you will get from your purchase.

Making sure you get what you want: Playing around

Seeing as how it’s more common and practical nowadays just to oder a laptop through the internet – I highly recommend holding the real thing in your hands before placing the order online. Reading and viewing videos just does cannot compete to the feeling of actually holding the product in your hands and seeing if it suits you. Go out to the largest electronics shop you can find and make it happen!

Saving money: Look for the best deal possible

Coupons, clearances, special offers directly from the vendor. The only thing to watch out for – don’t go for an overkill here, I’ve known a person who was waiting to buy a specific piece of hardware for 3 months, but no special offers came up during that time, so he just got it for the standard price. In my opinion – a person can only torture oneself for so long, don’t overdo it. If you really want something – spend a reasonable amount of time looking into getting it cheaper.

Making the final moment even more enjoyable: Planning on which accessories you need

Nothing beats the feeling of receiving the full package you need from day one. Need a carrying bag? Get it before your laptop arrives! And be careful about getting those overpriced, gloomy and non-appealing bags that vendors usually try to sell in addition to the laptop – explore the market, there are a lot of great companys specializing in all sorts of different accessories!

 

People love to share what kind of accessories they get for their toys, don’t be shy to google.

Enjoying your new laptop

Give it a thorough test drive – run the game you wanted, take it out for a walk to your favourite coffee shop, try it out in the business application and any other appliances you had in mind.

Love it, it’s here to stay!

Market trends: Rise of the ultrabooks

An Ultrabook is a higher-end type of subnotebook defined by Intel. Intel has applied to register the name as a trademark. Ultrabooks are designed to feature  reduced size and weight, and extended battery life without compromising performance.

Some time ago the only products that could fall into that definition would be the ones of Apple (think Macbook). Now Apple has PC manufacturers stepping on it’s tows, ¬†so much like Windows OS started adapting graphical user interface controls in the early 90s and ultimately won a larger market share.

As an end-consumer you now have a greater variety of products to choose from and go with. Ultrabooks are positioned as tools for work, the tablets, on the other hand,  have a tint of entertainment attached to them; several ponderable reasons include Рlack of software specifically designed to work with touch-based devices, lack of  user adaptation to touch-based devices and poor device versatility compared to the standard x86 architecture (which just happens to provide more room for creativity  and general device appliances in the market ). For now the common consensus is to go with the laptops for business and tablets for fun.

My notebook spec and why

Goal – mobility, business use. Critical factor – battery life.

Thinkpad x220

x220

Processor: Intel Core i5-2520M Processor (2.50GHz, 3M Cache with Turbo Boost up to 3.20GHz)

Why: Has Turbo Boost (which is really something that is getting used, especially in running more heavier tasks while having the laptop on power cord. Has all the possible technologies I might ever need. Intel processor comparison tool is really great for figuring out what you need – http://www.intel.com/content/www/us/en/processor-comparison/compare-intel-processors.html

Operating system: Windows or Penguin.

Why: Penguin (Oneiric Ocelot) is a really competetive product for home market as shown in the latest article by Tom: http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/ubuntu-oneiric-ocelot-benchmark-review,3121.html

Windows 7 – all the way for the enterprises!

Display type: 12.5″ Premium HD (1366×768) LED Backlit Display, IPS, Mobile Broadband Ready, 2×2 Antenna

Why: IPS screen on this model is amazing, very high quality. I am used to IPS and it does not tire my eyes.

System graphics: Intel HD Graphics 3000 processor graphics with dynamic frequency

Why: Can’t really argue here, integrated graphics for better battery life, cooling and non-gaming laptop (although I’ve been intrigued to try out Fallout 3 and Starcraft 2 on this).

Total memory: 8 GB PC3-10600 DDR3 SDRAM 1333MHz SODIMM Memory (2 DIMM)

Why: 8 GB will do for me (Running 1-3 VMs seems like a nice idea), dual channel is what can really affect (not to a large degree, but still) user experience here. Memory frequency does not matter (unless you’re looking at overcloaking, which is not really a thing that a sane person would recommend doing on a laptop). Not to a degree when you should consider paying additional money for it. Do you need 8 GB more to turn off Windows paging file? No, you don’t need more than 8 and no, you don’t want to turn off windows paging file even if you have 16GB+. Link – http://blogs.technet.com/b/markrussinovich/archive/2008/11/17/3155406.aspx

Hard drive: 128 GB SSD

Why: Reasonable budget. I would have definetely went for 256 if it would not push my budget constrains. As for the make – I regret not going for Intel, research data suggests that their products are as much as 5-6 times more stable (even compared to regular SSDs) – http://www.macobserver.com/tmo/article/french_retailer_data_offers_ssd_failure_rates/. The 5 years warranty is great too.

Integrated WiFi wireless LAN adapters: Intel Centrino Advanced-N 6205 AGN

Why: At the time of writing this – you only need 2 antennas maximum. Most places have wi-fi routers configured to run in mixed mode, which really nukes your n type adapter speed and capabilities (especially if there is a b-type client on the network). Furthermore, most corporate wireless routers run in 2×3 mode (efficiently meaning only two antenna are used for data transfer and 3 for receiving data) so your maximum theoretical transfer speed will be the same as running a device with 2 antenna. Bottom line – 3×3 antenna WILL NOT improve your data transfer speed or connectivity over a wireless network.

Plus my model could not have an integrated web cam with a 3×3 antenna, so the choice has been pretty obvious.

Accessories: This notebook is pretty much like a building kit, you can buy bigger batteries, a battery slice to get up to 23 hours of battery life, a 3G module, a docking station and you name how many things more. Having an option to upgrade at a later time is just too hard to miss for my personality.