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Messages - rabarrett

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Laptops and Tablets / Re: The TBG Laptop Buyer's Guide
« on: June 06, 2016, 10:16:49 PM »
I had a kitchen scale handy, so I just weighted it:
entire laptop = 3.17lbs (3 lbs 2.75 oz) (1.44kg)
     (and just to be clear, I didn't count the adaptor or anything extra--just the tablet/monitor and the keyboard together)
just tablet/screen = 1.66lbs (1lb 10.5 oz) (.75kg)

MS gives it as
Tablet + keyboard: 2.16 lbs (0.97 kg) Tablet: 1.66 lbs (0.75 kg)

So it looks like they got the tablet weight right, but someone was drunk when they weighed the laptop as a whole

So I think they got the tablet weight right but someone just mixed the total weight with another laptop?

One of the nice features of it (that is hard to notice until you see it in person) is that the laptop feels like a really solid, well constructed whole.  This is something I wouldn't have anticipated, knowing that it detaches.  Then, when you take it apart, the tablet seems like a really well constructed, durable tablet.

Laptops and Tablets / Re: The TBG Laptop Buyer's Guide
« on: June 06, 2016, 12:29:28 PM »
It's technically the 12-b096ms, but I think it's identical with the b020nr except that MS doesn't install the bloatware (though even this point is arguable since I think much that comes as part of Win 10 could be counted as bloatware.  Still, it's less than what HP itself would install.  I bought it for $549 minus $54.9 for the education discount (I'm a teacher).  From what I can tell, not many other sellers offer that discount (at least HP doesn't appear to).  MS dropped the price by another $10 the day after I bought it.  I suppose if I go back there I can get them to give me another $10 off, but I'm not sure how they handle that (yet I have 30 days to return it so....).

ASUS looks like their laptop line is getting really nice.  I just read about their unit that is coming out in August.  It's out of what I believe in paying (since I'd rather spend half as much and buy another computer twice as soon), but it looks very strong and sleek.

Laptops and Tablets / Re: The TBG Laptop Buyer's Guide
« on: June 06, 2016, 01:19:07 AM »
So I ended up getting the HP Pavilion x2 with stats very similar to the ASUS you last mentioned:
m3-6y30 processor, 4GB RAM, 128GB ssd, 1920x1080 display for $495
In the end I decided I couldn't use the keyboards that ASUS had on either the one you last mentioned (T300) nor the T100 (though you're right, I think it would be too slow too).

In the end, it is like the yoga or samsung tab pro s for less price or and 4GB RAM instead of 8.  One of the things that pushed me to this model  was the thought that I'll be using it 80% of the time as a tablet, but the 20% I'm not, I'd like the keyboard to be full sized.  I have larger than average hands and the smaller keyboards make typing anything really painful.

This model detaches to be a robust tablet that still can run anything in Win 10.  I suspect that 2-3 years from now, I'll only use it as a tablet.  Now my remaining task is finding a really nice tablet protector that minimizes the chances I damage it while still making it very usable in the case/cover/sleeve.

Laptops and Tablets / Re: The TBG Laptop Buyer's Guide
« on: June 03, 2016, 05:20:26 PM »
What do you think about the HP Envy Note at $199
the ASUS T100HA-MS-GR at $269

If I got one of these, I'd mainly use it to mark up pdfs with highlighting and such (which I use my 3 year old Nexus 10 for now) and then I'd scan and use Adobe Acrobat Pro to OCR documents too (the real issue pushing me to get anything right now).

It was just today that I figured out a tablet alone might suffice.  I didn't know tablets were running full Win 10 and thus could install Adobe Acrobat Pro and my normal scanner software.  It might be nice to have a keyboard available (e.g. ASUS transformer), but I think I'd use it as a tablet except for when I'm scanning.

I hadn't taken the Microsoft store seriously until you mentioned it.  I went to see what this higher end Dell was like (currently a good deal on it at $674)
I fear it is probably too heavy for me to actually use as a tablet.

Laptops and Tablets / Re: The TBG Laptop Buyer's Guide
« on: June 02, 2016, 06:52:43 PM »
I've been reading more about the various issues of bloatware and spyware.

What bothers me the most about Lenovo is that it was founded and is still based on mainland China.  From what I gather, there are no truly independent companies there.  All of them have serious ties to the government, which has no qualms about invading people's privacy.  It may also be interested in having a wide network of computers it could access or compromise in the event of war (or if it decides to wage a covert economic war).  I'd rather not be part of that.  That Lenovo also has the most egregious and repeated violations to date--the one where they intentionally infected used the bios so that it would reinstall their spyware even after a clean install bothers me the most.  That seems like just the sort of extra advantage a company--allied with the Chinese cyberwar effort--would take.  At the same time, when I started looking at other companies, Dell and Toshiba have at least one violation that is similar in the past few years (though not involving bios).  And ASUS is based in Taiwan, which though a traditional opponent of China, has been friendly enough with the mainland in the past decade that is would not be surprising to find someone at ASUS that allowed their systems to be compromised by the Chinese.  The same could be said for AS Rock, whose motherboard I have on my desktop (so in theory, that bios might be suspect).

I suppose that is a long way of saying it isn't clear who to trust.  I still think a Chinese company should be at the bottom of the list just based on the access the Chinese government is likely to have there.  Still, if it were to mount a sophisticated enough effort, I suppose there is always that chance that underlying chips used by nearly all of the major companies could be compromised, though the details of how that could work are far beyond my competence. 

From what I understand, the mostly likely avenues of infection are (1) software, (2) bios, and (a distant 3) hardware itself.  That being said, perhaps my best approach is just to replace my bios and then do a clean install.  After that, using LInux as much as possible is probably better than Windows.

I'm not sure the best approach (or the safety) of replacing the bios, but I've found this:

but there is also this:

I'd like to think that if it didn't work out, Lenovo has an easy way I could flash the old bios back on my motherboard, but I'm not certain of that, having never ventured down this path before.  Maybe I should just go get the Dell, but it's not as clear of a decision as I wish it was.

Laptops and Tablets / Re: The TBG Laptop Buyer's Guide
« on: June 02, 2016, 02:21:16 PM »
Oh wow--I hadn't read the details about Lenovo *three* successive episodes of putting unwanted software on users' machines.  That's really bad.  And one of them was even in the UEFI and redeployed after clean installs!

I think it is a really nice machine.  And it has some real advantages over the Dell.  But is it worth having a computer that I worry about every time I type a password?

I think I'm going to return it and get the Dell.  It will be a little heavier.  It won't look quite as sleek.  But the weight of not knowing what the company is doing behind my back will be much less.  I wish I had known that earlier.

Laptops and Tablets / Re: The TBG Laptop Buyer's Guide
« on: June 01, 2016, 11:42:22 PM »
Oh, one last question:  Is there any reason I shouldn't just completely reformat the hard drive, remove all partitions (including the ones called LENVO, LENOVO_PART, and LRS_ESP) and then reinstall window 10 from scratch, saving a portion of the drive for my linux install?

I suppose the main thing I lose is the Lenovo specific software.  But it looks like all the drivers are available on Lenovo's website:|Drivers%20and%20Software&beta=false

and the add-on software is something I generally *do not* want.  I find systems always run smoother without any of the OEM software.  I already have a win10 usb key made and ready to install, so I can't think of a reason not to just start from scratch and reclaim some additional portions of the sdd.  The other approach would be to leave them and to uninstall the software from the current oem install, but I find uninstalling usually leaves a lot of residual stuff.

Laptops and Tablets / Re: The TBG Laptop Buyer's Guide
« on: June 01, 2016, 10:34:41 PM »
Feel free to quote me.  I'm in California.

Laptops and Tablets / Re: The TBG Laptop Buyer's Guide
« on: June 01, 2016, 09:56:19 PM »
I went to Best Buy and played with the Lenovo and Dell for about an hour.  Driving there, I thought I would end up with the Dell.  Partly that is because the Dell's processor looked slightly faster for less money ($529).  But I noticed the glass on the Lenovo was substantially better and the viewing angle was a lot better.  That plus slightly sturdier and thinner construction pushed me to the Lenovo.

The one I ended up with was slightly different from yours.  They had yours for $649 and another with 256MB ssd and the m5-6Y54 processor for $699.  But they had the openbox version of the $699 one and the person there agreed to sell that for $575, so I took that one.  Strangely, I found that the m5 processor appears to be slightly worse, at least from these tests:

This chart makes it less clear which is best (also includes the Dell model I looked at that was $529 with i3-6100U):

But I figure the lower price and doubling the ssd is probably worth the minor difference in CPU.  If you think otherwise, let me know.  I can't really follow how processors are named and rated anymore.

Thanks again for your thoughts on the decision.  I don't remember how I first stumbled upon your site, but I'm glad I did.  I find the information here is much better than the vast majority of sites (and there are a LOT that profess to give good buying advice).

Laptops and Tablets / Re: The TBG Laptop Buyer's Guide
« on: June 01, 2016, 02:44:46 PM »
Hi Ari,

Your articles on desktop builds were great help in building my desktop computer.  I love it and I really enjoy not being tied to any of the major computer companies (e.g. HP, Dell, Lenovo, etc) because I hate having to work with any of their tech support setups. 

I need to get a laptop and wondered if you have any advice.  I've read your recent buyer's guide here:

I mainly use my desktop (with Linux) and I prefer to use Linux.  However, after much work trying to come up with a good scan and ocr system for books and articles (something I do a lot) in Linux, I've concluded there isn't a great solution there.  Instead, I was going to just buy a super cheap laptop (perhaps even refurbished) and use the copy of Win 10 on it to install in a Win 10 virtualbox in Linux.  This approach failed (1) because MS has oem and refurbished licenses only work with the computer they are originally installed on, so I can't just buy the refurbished laptop for $250 and use it on my desktop.  Still, my hope was to come up with a cheap solution where I could just buy a laptop with Win 10, install Adobe Acro Pro and use that for scanning and my (rare) portable needs.

First I got a refurbished Dell from Wallmart:

Refurbished Dell Black 125 Latitude E6230 WA51114 Laptop PC with Intel Core i53320M Processor 8GB Memory 128GB Solid State Drive and Windows 10 Home = $286

In many ways it was a great deal.  It seemed really fast and I loved the keyboard (I don't tend to like the ASUS, ACER and HP keyboards at all).  However, after 2 days, it stopped booting and wouldn't even post.  It got stuck prepost and wouldn't boot anymore.  Fortunately, Walmart has a very good return policy and they even paid for return shipping and refunded my original overnight shipping.

Then I thought I'd just buy a cheap computer at Target.  I got the HP x360 11-p1112nr for $249:
-Celeron N2840 (2.16GHz), 32GB eMMC "drive" (which is not the same as ssd), 2GB RAM, Win 10 Home, 11.6 screen

It was too slow to bother running Win 10 in my opinion (though it is hard to know how much faster it might have been without all of HP's preinstalled bloatware).
I've decided to return that too.

So now I have to decide what to do.  I'd prefer an option where I make my own from components and forget about working with any of the major computer makers.  However, that doesn't seem like a realistic option.  After reading your reviews, here are what I see as my main options:

1) get another dell from Walmart and hope for better results.  I figure the odds are that I just got a bad laptop and the next one is likely to work for at least 3-5 years.  This feels a bit like playing the Lotto because Joysystems does all their refurbished computers and it seems like their customer support takes forever to reach (I tried once and it took me 20 minutes to move from 16th to 15th in the queue before I hung up and just returned it to Walmart).  So if the laptop dies just after Walmart's return policy expires, I could be really, really sorry I spent $286 like this--but still it is only $286.

2) I could get the Lenovo - Yoga 700 11 2-in-1 11.6" you mention from Best Buy for $650.  It looks rather slow for the money I'd have to pay, and I find I push computers when I browse since I tend to keep 20-50 tabs open while researching.  Also, the main use for me--Adode Acrobat--tends to really use comp resources while scanning and OCRing.  Also, I really don't like Lenovo.  I've had horrible experiences with their tech support (just before I turned to you to help me build my desktop) and I don't fully trust a Chinese company since I think the Chinese gov't could, at some point, decide to use them to pursue their foreign policy agenda.  I don't know exactly what this might mean, but...  call it a vague fear of conspiracy.

3) I could get Dell's version of the Yoga. I'm not sure which one, but I think I would only spend about $750 tops.
(send me a link to them if it helps you in any way and I'll buy after clicking on it)

4) I could order a refurbished computer directly from Dell.  I'll pay more, but it will probably be less of a lottery than JoySystems.  Still, I can't seem to figure out if the ones that come with Win 7 can be upgraded to Win 10 for free.  Do you know?  I emailed Dell and the unhelpful person who responded just sent me a link to 10 or so articles, none of which answered the question.

If you have a moment now, please send me your thoughts.  I'm impatient to get a new one and move forward because I've already had 2 failed attempts.

Also, does it make sense to buy one with minimum RAM and add RAM myself?  It seems like many come with onboard RAM now, but perhaps a Dell laptop (not 2 in 1) would be easy to add it to and I'd probably pay 1/4 the cost for RAM.



The Home Office Mini-ITX/STX Build / Re: The TBG Home Office Mini-ITX Build
« on: December 19, 2015, 02:03:15 PM »
Thanks for getting back to me so quickly. 

First, to be fair to Noctua:

I emailed them Dec 9.  I immediately got an automated reply.  And I now see that they sent me a full reply in under 24 hours.  I just somehow missed it in my mailbox (I think I got a ton of mail that day and it must have gotten marked "read" without me noticing it).

Here was their reply:
Dear Richard,

First of all many thanks for choosing a Noctua product.

We are very sorry to hear that you are having issues with your NF-A9x14 fan.
Please send us a proof of purchase (screenshot, scanned invoice, etc.) for your CPU cooler as well as your full shipping address. We would like to send you a replacement fan as it is very likely that your fan is affected by a manufacturing defect.

I'm looking forward to hearing from you.

Kind regards,
Alexander Dyszewski
Noctua support team

I just sent them a copy of the invoice, so it looks like they'll be taking care of that.

(It was very, very hard to find the right place to contact them. And the one I found was a page in German and it kept staying in German even when I clicked English, so that was annoying.)

You're right, I have the other fan around here somewhere.  But I have to remove the heatsink and redo the thermal paste too right?  (It would be so nice if the other fan happened to fit on top of this heatsink.)

Just so I learn something more:  Why would those 2 fans I pointed to not work?  Is it because they're too big for the Antec case?  (one of them goes on and on in the description about how it fits almost any case)

At least I have a temporary solution and now a final solution too.


Another question entirely:
There's no problem adding another SSD drive to this system right?  I have a Samsung SSD 500 GB on it now.  I'm thinking about moving that on to my laptop and gettting a 1 TB SSD on this system.  But for a while I'll probably leave both installed on my desktop.  It looks like this ASROCK board as perhaps 6 ATA spots for drives.  Right now 1 is taken up with my current drive and 1 for the front port.  I seem to still have 1 black ATA 6G cable left too (or do new drives tend to come with their own cables anyway?).

The power supply to the new drive appears to be more of an issue, but I see one that piggy backs from the current drive, so that should work.

The Home Office Mini-ITX/STX Build / Re: The TBG Home Office Mini-ITX Build
« on: December 19, 2015, 12:56:34 PM »
Hi Ari,

I've had my system running for about 1.25 years now.  No real complaints, but about 2 months ago the Noctua fan started making a fair amount of noise.  A few weeks later it started changing speeds, audibly speeding up and down at times (seemed to change when the computer was doing more intensive tasks).

I watched it run open for a few hours.  The fan would slow down to barely moving, then speed up but it seemed to struggle as if it was having trouble doing so.  If I gently pressed on the center plastic part of the fan with a q-tip, it would speed up and stop making noise.  I emailed Noctua about it (it took forever to find an email address for them and I'm still not sure it was the best one).  It has been several weeks and they never responded.

Today, it seems to have quit entirely.  When I first turn on the CPU, the fan briefly tries to move and then stops altogether.  Thoughts?

I want to get my computer running again ASAP and I'm afraid to run it without a CPU fan.  I'm in range of Amazon now and could get 1 of 2 fans that look like they'll fit within a couple of hours from them.

Here would be my choices (limited because Amazon Now only has available whatever is already in the warehouses in your area):
Corsair Hydro H55

Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO

Too bad the Noctua didn't last longer (and that the company seems to be impossible to reach).



Hi Ari,

Now that I've been using my system for 7 months, I thought I'd report back my thoughts:

It's outstanding.  I've had no problems and it is still running very fast.  I'm glad I stuck with arch linux for my operating system.    I run the computer pretty much 24-7 unless I'm going to be away for a few days.  It's always running cool. 

I'm thinking about adding the second stick of RAM.  It's still not _necessary_ but I do sometimes have 30-50 tabs open when doing research online and if one of the pages has buggy code, sometimes there is a memory leak that slows things down a lot until I figure out which tab it is and close it.   Would I still get this one?

If you have another recommendation (or would prefer I use your link), please just post a link and I'll buy it from there.  Also, I'm pretty sure this system is no problem to just add 1 stick of ram on top of my current 1 stick of 8GB (the link above is to what I bought before); but let me ask "Is it simple?  I just power down, put the new stick of ram in, and reboot?"



Hi Ari,

If I want to build another of those systems (putting it in an office I only use 2-3 times a week), but I'd like to make it a little less expensive, where do you think I should save?

I'm a fan of the AZRock Z97E board now, and with the rebate it's so cheap, I'm not sure I should change the board.  (the ASUS Intel Celeron J1900 would only save me about $10 after rebate)

I could drop the extra fan and just use Intel's.
The only other place I see the price coming down is by changing the CPU.  Instead of the i5-4590S ($205), I could go with the i3-4150 at $120 or the G3220 3.0 for $57. 
For the case, I think I should go with the same (especially with the front 3.0 USBs).
For the RAM, I'm not sure it makes sense to go from 8 to 4GB (saves about $33).

For this one, I'll have to buy another harddrive.  Does it make sense to save there or do you think SSD is such a big edge over normal hd, I should stick with it?
On that front, before I used Samsung 840 EVO-Series 500GB  (which I had already purchased to put in the Lenovo), but this time I could go with Crucial MX100 256GB SATA at $113 or 128GB at $73.  But I could get another Samsung 128/250/500GB ($230/129/80 respectively).  My understanding was that Samsung got the SSD details down better than the other manufactures, so I'm not sure it is with the $7 or $17 to go with Crucial.

Any other places to save on this one?

Ok, I'll just add a my thoughts on these points so if someone follows in our footsteps, they can have some added comfort.

OK - glad you got all those questions sorted out. A few comments:

(1) tension on the CPU locking plate is normal. It takes a lot of force to lock it down. You just have to make absolutely certain that the CPU is seated corrected, with the notches between the CPU and socket lining up, before pressing down. That plastic cover is actually supposed to be removed before latching it down. It's just there to protect to socket during shipment and handling. If anything were to hit the pins, they could easily be bent.
Yes, I eventually figured out to remove the socket cover, but the directions that come with the board have a step AFTER your latch it in that tell you to now remove the cover.  The motherboard install instructions are rather sparse though (so are the Antec case instructions).

To anyone worrying about messing up at this step, I would say this.  I read several step-by-step "building your computer for the first time" lists.  They tend to tell you that you never want to force anything because you can damage it.  So when I had a good bit of tension in the CPU socket lever, I didn't want to keep pulling it down.  In part, this was the right thing because it appears I should have removed the socket cover first.  At the same time, it is a little misleading because, while removing the socket cover lowered the pressure, it still felt like more than enough to damage the socket and CPU if I hadn't oriented the CPU right.  So I guess I would say to be 100% sure the arrow on the corner of the CPU and socket match, be 100% sure any other little pegs match up right, and then you're going to have to accept some risk that you mess up your board and CPU because, in order to latch it, you need to apply enough tension on the lever so that you could damage things (if you didn't line it up right).

(2) You are correct that one stick of RAM won't run in "dual channel" mode. You may lose about 1% of performance due to this, but you gain the ability to add another 8GB later, which is a fair trade-off, especially in a system that isn't designed for all-out speed.
Yes, that's what I figured.  I was afraid it meant I couldn't use just one stick with this board, but that was not the case.

(3) The motherboard screws are typically easy to identify by matching to the mount holes. Admittedly it takes a bit of trial and error!
The Antec case came with a variety of screws, most of which I'm not sure what they are for and I didn't use them.  In particular there were some cylindrical looking screws (not narrow at the threads, but almost as wide as the screw head).  I didn't end up using these at all.

For the motherboard, I used some flat topped screws that appear to be identical to the one Antec uses to screw in the harddrive cage.

(4) I actually don't know what the red piece of paper is for. Did you figure it out?
No, but it is exactly the size of a 2.5" drive and it has screw holes at the same places.  I'm guessing it is to put something between the drive and the metal the drive attaches to, but I didn't use it, so I hope it's not important.

Anyway, I'm glad it's all up and running! If anything else comes up, don't hesitate to ask. And if you'd like me to post the system in the user gallery, just let me know! Other readers might like to see how everything fits together.

I didn't take a photo of it opened, but I'll try to do that the next time I open it and send it to you.

Thank you for the help.  In the end, it was much easier than I expected.  I went very slow and took my time since it was my first build.  I even read all the instructions that came with the case, motherboard, fan, etc. (even the online manuals), so it took me 4-6 hours.  But, now I could probably do it all in 45 min or less.

The one additional note I would have for people is that this was my first UEFI computer.  The ASRock's UEFI/BIOS is great (it can update over the internet just from the push of a button in the UEFI itself).  It also appears as if tech support can get in and look at it for you to help if you want (not sure, haven't tried this).  It is MUCH better than the UEFI/BIOS that came with the Lenovo M83 sff I originally ordered (somehow all the default settings were right for me too).  However, since I hadn't owned a UEFI computer before, I didn't know I had to make a UEFI partition when I installed Linux.  So at first, I installed linux and then the computer wouldn't see a valid OS on the hard drive when I rebooted.  Eventually I figured out I needed to also make a small (35MB) UEFI partition and assign it to UEF (the way you assign other partitions to / (root) or other directories).

I've installed lubuntu on it so far, but I tend to use arch linux most of the time, so I'll probably do that next.  I just wanted to get lubuntu up and running first because it doesn't take much time.

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