Posts tagged ‘laptop’

18 May, 2012

Thinkpad 420 6-month review

by gorthx

There’s actually not a whole lot to report here, other than: I’m still very happy with my Thinkpad purchase.

The grippy matte finish on the cover has definitely contributed to me not dropping it. It’s acquired some weird smears on the cover that I can’t remove though.

It functions better as a “laptop” than the HP 2510p did; it doesn’t get quite as hot when it’s actually on my lap. Pleasantly warm, not hot.

And I love, love, love the keyboard light.

Two glitches:
It doesn’t play nicely with my HP L1706 monitor. The aspect ratios never turn out right. I could probably dink with it and fix it, or I could just replace the monitor with something that takes up less space (since it’s 5 years old anyway).

The card reader only works about 1 out of 10 times. I am not sure if this is a hardware issue or an OS issue (I’m mainly on Ubuntu); I can just connect my camera straight to my computer to download photos, so I haven’t bothered to boot into Windows to check it out yet.

Wonder of wonders, I haven’t spilled anything on the keyboard yet (this has to be the longest stretch *ever* of not spilling something on the laptop) so I haven’t had to test the drains.

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16 December, 2011

Generic steps for troubleshooting wireless on Ubuntu.

by gorthx

Fresh from my success with my Thinkpad T420, I tackled my Dell Latitude E6410, which had its own interesting quirks. So, here are some basic wireless troubleshooting steps for Ubuntu.

Step 1: Make sure the hardware switch is not set to off.

Step 1a: Is there another “hardware” switch? My HP2501p had an extra firmware switch for the wireless, accessible only from Windows. (Good thing I hadn’t deleted that partition…)

Step 2: Check the permissions: System -> Administration -> Users and Groups -> Advanced Settings; make sure “allow to connect to ethernet and wireless networks” is checked.

Step 3: Use lpsci to make sure your machine can see your card. Should look something like this (output filtered for brevity):
lspci -nn
02:00.0 Network controller [0280]: Broadcom Corporation BCM43224 802.11a/b/g/n [14e4:4353] (rev 01)

Step 4: Check the drivers: System -> Administration -> Additional Drivers. You should see a driver appropriate for your card there, e.g. I have the Broadcom STA Wireless Driver. It should show green and say “activated”. If not, click the “Activate” button. (I needed to reboot the Dell in order to get this change to take.)

Step 5: Find your ethernet interface:
:::-->iwconfig
lo no wireless extensions.

eth0 no wireless extensions.

eth1 IEEE 802.11 Access Point: Not-Associated
Link Quality:5 Signal level:0 Noise level:163
Rx invalid nwid:0 invalid crypt:0 invalid misc:0

…and enable power*:
sudo iwconfig eth1 txpower on

Et voila.


* This page: http://www.cs.bham.ac.uk/~axs/laptop/#wireless helped me figure this out.

2 December, 2011

Installing Ubuntu 10.10 on a Thinkpad 420

by gorthx

(This post is mainly about getting the RealTek wireless card working.)

I went with 10.10, mainly because I had the image handy on a USB key, and I’m not so excited about what I’ve heard about 11 yet. (Although I do intend to try it at my next available opportunity.)

To get the Thinkpad to boot from a USB, I hit F12 during boot (gotta be quick with it!) to access the boot menu, then -s to get the startup menu. (The ‘thinkvantage’ button didn’t get me where I wanted to be.) Once I was in the startup menu, I was in the ‘boot options’ tab. Hit the down arrow to select “USB HD”, then hit enter. Voila.

The install went pretty fast, but then I spent a fair bit of time with updates. In retrospect, I probably should have updated the image on the USB key. :shrug:

First, the most important configuration change: put the #&@* minimize/maximize buttons back on the right side, where they belong.

Next: install my favorite font.

Everything worked out of the box (external keyboard, external monitor, card reader, etc) except wireless. My laptop wasn’t even detecting that I had a wireless interface.

First I tried enabling “connect to ethernet and wireless networks”. (System -> Administration -> Users & Groups; select the user; click “Advanced Settings”; select the “User Priveleges” tab; make sure “Connect to wireless and ethernet networks” is checked). No dice.

I could see my card:
lspci -nn
Realtek Semiconductor Co., Ltd. Device [10ec:8176] (rev 01)

…but I needed the drivers. This thread (specifically, the post by canucked) had the info I needed:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:lexical/hwe-wireless
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install rtl8192ce-dkms

(Kind of confusing that the driver has what seems to be a different model # in it, but there it is.)

I pulled up System -> Administration -> Additional Drivers to check the status of my new driver, and discovered it was activated but not currently in use. Deactivating and reactivating it didn’t change anything, but a reboot did.

25 November, 2011

Thinkpad T420 – initial impressions

by gorthx

A few weeks ago my HP 2510p up and died on me*. My repeated attempts to rescusitate it, complete with plaintive “no, baby, no!”s, only intensified my sinking feeling. No, not “when was my last backup, anyway?” but “this means I have to go shopping, doesn’t it.” Based on recommendations from friends and the desire to just get it over with already, I now have a Lenovo Thinkpad T420.

The Internet is awash with promo photos & vids of the T420, so how about some comparison photos with other laptops:

stack of laptops, top view

stack of laptops, side view

stack of laptops, side view

stack of laptops, side view

Top: HP 2510p (“he’s dead, Jim”)
Middle: Lenovo Thinkpad T420
Bottom: Dell Latitude E6410

Things I like so far:
– it feels pretty sturdy, but it’s lighter than I expected it to be.
– grippy surface on the cover. Maybe I won’t drop this one.
– power port in the back, out of the way.
– the battery doesn’t stick out the back.
– wide (deep? long?) wrist rest – I feel much more supported than on my HP.
– default sound is pretty nice.
– responsive keyboard action.
– the bumpy touchpad. I still like the HP’s better, but this one isn’t annoying.
– the keyboard light, OMG. I am using it right now
– BIG FAT delete key.

Things I need to get used to:
– power port in the back, where it’s hard to get to.
– headphone port near the front. My speakers are USB-powered and I had to split the cord to get them to plug in to both a usb port and the speaker port.
– keyboard layout: I keep hitting the fn key on the lower left instead of crtl, which it’s right next to. Some key remapping may be in my future.
– buttons for the touchpad feel like they’re off the edge of the chassis.

The Thinkpad also has keyboard drains, increasing the odds that I will not actually spill anything on it. (Same principle behind “it rains right after I wash my car.”)

Next week, installing Ubuntu on this thing.


*Current theories are: a short somewhere, or a problem with power management.

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2 September, 2010

HP 2510p laptop, 2 year review.

by gorthx

I can’t believe I’ve had this laptop for two years & haven’t had to replace the keyboard yet :knock wood: despite my attempts to feed it some wine one evening.

I’ve dropped it once, from about 2 feet, onto pavement. The hinge cracked, but it still works.

The buttons on the touchpad are losing their oomph.

The fan is pretty noisy, and that has started to get to me over time.

Other than that, it’s still going strong.

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9 January, 2009

HP 2510p Laptop: 6 month review

by gorthx

(Link to original review)

So far there are only two things I’m annoyed with:

1. If I’m sitting between the screen and a bright light source, the action of my typing interferes with the ambient light sensor for the display and it brightens & dims, brightens & dims.  Yay.

2. The power supply could really use an integral strap or some flanges to wrap the cord around, like the one on my Dell.  (Unmanaged cords = pet peeve.)  Meanwhile, I’ve improvised with a velcro cable tie*.

So yeah, no real complaints so far.

*Whoever invented those things is my hero(ine) and I hope someday to buy them a beer.

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25 August, 2008

hiberfil.sys conflict with partitioning

by gorthx

(Some notes from my initial install of Ubuntu, backdated so they’re in the correct place.)

When attempting to install Ubuntu (Hardy Heron) on my laptop, I couldn’t get past the partitioning step: I’d get “Partman failed with exit code 10” or “Summary failed with exit code 141”. Apparently windows hibernation mode can cause some conflicts with partitioning…ugh. [That windows partition came in handy later though; I’m glad I didn’t delete it.]

To fix:
– in windows, disable hibernation mode to delete hiberfil.sys.
– reboot & make sure it’s gone. ;)
– defrag C:
– run chkdsk on C: (required a reboot; chkdsk ran at reboot)
– run chkdsk on C: a second time (annoying!)
– boot from Ubuntu CD & install.

Voila.

Link to Ubuntu LTT page for this laptop

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20 August, 2008

HP2510p Laptop review

by gorthx

I have a new laptop; my first all-new-to-me computer!  Well, that I didn’t get through work.  My PCs have always been Frankenputers.  (And actually, it’s a refurb.  Like I said: new-to-me.)

First, today’s interesting tip.  I have a different definition of “gentle” than the recommendation there – I had to push pretty dang hard, but it did work.

I demoed HP’s 2510p at LinuxfestNW and it was pretty much love at first sight.  I confess, it was the touchpad.  Touchpads usually give me the creeps – using one is like nails on a chalkboard.  The touchpad on the 2510 is smooth, and molded as part of the wrist rest, so it won’t get any goo caught in the edges.

Next super-sweet feature:  the keyboard.  I have small hands, long fingers.  Laptop keyboards are usually a pretty good size for me, until we get down into the “ultralight” category; then they start feeling a bit cramped.  While I certainly wouldn’t want to, say, write my dissertation on this keyboard, the size of the individual keys gives it the feel of a bigger keyboard.  It’s got a nice clicky feel, too – you’ll probably annoy the people you’re sitting next to.

According to the instructions in the users’ manual, the keyboard should be pretty easy to replace.  Good news for those of us who have a history of inadvertently* destroying our keyboards.  Perhaps I will order a spare right now.

It also doesn’t hurt that the laptop weighs in at 3.2 pounds with the 6-cell battery.  It’s important that I not be weighed down by my computing equipment.

Speaking of battery – I ran this battery test (mainly because it was the easiest one that popped up in google.)  Max sound, max brightness, Conan the Barbarian + Star Trek:Insurrection brought it to just under 50% power remaining.  I’ll do more tests later with actual work, but for now, I’m not going to worry about battery life too much.

It came with a bluetooth PC card mouse.  Wouldn’t want to use it full-time, but it’s pretty nifty.

The fingerprint scanner is cool, but with the small overall size of the laptop, I find that my hand sets it off & I get random popups (when I’m in Windows) telling me to swipe my finger slower.  (More about Windows vs Linux on this laptop in later posts.)

The sound is actually quite excellent for a laptop.

Oddities:
The (GigE!) NIC seemed flaky at first; it randomly dropped several times over the first few days.  The cable tested fine, and I haven’t had the problem since, so haven’t been able to troubleshoot that further.

The delete & end keys are reversed from every other keyboard I’ve ever used.  This is annoying, but can be fixed with keymapping.

Check out the temperature photo in this excellent review.  This baby gets warm – unpleasantly so using it directly in my lap.  You definitely want it supported on a hard surface.

*That’s my story, and I’m stickin’ to it.

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