Laptops, Desktop Replacement, Lenovo Yoga, Windows Blue, UltraBook, Surface RT, Haswell, Docking Stations, Multimonitor Support, BIOS-Mods, Cali Lewis and Drobo – HT115

Home-Tech-Album-125x125_thumb1_thumb1Jim (@jcollison) is joined this week by Christian Johnson, John Stutsman (@JohnStutsman), Kevin Schoonover (@schoondoggy1979) and Paul Braren (@tinkererguy) for Show 115.  This show is part two of three where we look at the good, the bad and the ugly of those devices we call laptops.

Big congratulations to Christian who finished High School this week!

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Invite for the Home Server Show Meetup:

Kevin –  @Schoondoggy1979

  • What do you want from a mobile device(use case); consumption, creation or both?
  • Desktop replacement; power user, screen size 11”- 17”, lots of memory, dual drives?
  • Road warrior; light load, ultra-book, tablet like device, Surface, Yoga, Revolve?
  • Hybrids; flip, twist, split?
  • Consumption; tablet, ChromeBook, ultra light?
  • What some are calling a fragmented market, I call choice!
  • Screen resolution; how much is enough?
  • Windows 7 or Windows 8, touch or no-touch?
  • If pen input is important, look for active digitizer.
  • Brand loyalty?
  • Work; docking solution, multi monitor?
  • My UltraBook(work) and Surface RT(personal) combined are lighter than my Lenovo T400.
  • Haswell, Bay Trail; low power plus performance.
  • Will Windows Blue fix all concerns of Windows 8?
  • New or Used?
  • Features that are important to you; backlit keyboard, touchpad, trackpoint?
  • Needs evolve; desktop, laptop, tablet, phone?
  • Do you keep technology forever or are you a technology butterfly?
  • Sell your tech while it still has value.
  • Maintenance; update your BIOS often-thermal control parameters.
  • Get a bag to match your laptop and stuff;

For Laptops BIOS Modifications:

Paul Braren, TinkerTry IT @ home.

I started with a plea for anybody that lives anywhere near Connecticut or Boston to come see me talk about vZilla, with 2 presentations coming up soon!

Connecticut VMUG User Conference in Hartford CT on May 14 2013

BSidesBOS on May 18 2013 in Boston, MA on May 18 2013

Paul began with showing the brick-sized power supply for my beefy, capable, Core i7 based Lenovo ThinkPad W520, with 3 drive bays (2 x 2.5”, 1 x mSATA under the keyboard). I also showed my wheeled carry case that’s traveled to dozens of customers across about 25 states, from 2006 to 2010.

Having the ability to use a RAID0 for roughly 2x read and 2x write speeds was key, for my huge ThinkPad W700 that I used to fly around with. I didn’t have the pop-out secondary display, but I did enjoy the 1920×1200 17” screen, despite the ~9 lbs of heft, and the 1.5” of thickness.  Met my customer-site consulting and hands-on deployment tools need, with lots of memory for virtualization, and big screen to share with 2 others working nearby.  Also worked well for long evenings working (creating content, burning LightScribe DVDs, typing a lot of email) from my many hotel room evenings.

Next, I showed the amazingly well-designed IBM ThinkPad 701 from 1995, better known as the “Butterfly” and demonstrated that despite a dead CMOS battery, Windows Millennium still boots up fine, on the original hard drive!  The point of the demo was also to show that it had the TrackPoint, a great productivity boost for touch typists like me.  Helpful for IBM employees to be able to count on this consistent experience, them always being there, given all ThinkPads had them for over 18 years now. The same cannot be said for the often-still-crummy TrackPads out there. I briefly mentioned my use of HP and Dell laptops and some even had TrackPoint clones as well, but those just never had quite the same feel.

I mentioned that over a decade ago, I was working with software developers, and got spoiled by the amazing ThinkPad T30’s glorious 1400×1050 screen. That helps explain why I cannot ever tolerate today’s typical 1280×720 laptop.

I also touched upon what it takes to be the repair guy, to keep about a dozen laptops running in the extended family, for about the last 15 years, especially once the warranty expires (I keep spares, to use for parts).  I do disaster recover for various failed hard drives roughly 5 times per year, and replacing Ghost with Home Server was a huge blessing for more reliable, storage de-duped bare-metal restores.

We discussed docks and monitors, see also my new deep-dive Superguide here:

that I created when I heard David McCabe and Darren Cohen recently talking about docking options for the Microsoft Surface Pro, over on SurfaceGeeks here.  See also:

I mentioned I 16GB on Vista 64 bit since the Vista betas in early 2006, leveraging the memory for my conference presentation Datacenter-in-a-box, also for testing and self-training on VMware for certification. Battery life was rarely a serious consideration, but hard drive speed and maximum memory capacity were, and still are.

Christian and his amazing site came up.  I mentioned that once a warranty is expired, buying original branded parts can be pricey, so finding a BIOS that’ll allow aftermarket WiFi card, for example, can save a lot of $. Jim reminded us that using a modded BIOS doesn’t mean you’ve lost your warranty coverage, I didn’t mean to imply that.

Then there’s my current ThinkPad W520, a Core i7 with 16GB of RAM, and OCZ Vertex 4 256GB SSD C: drive and 1TB D: drive, and a 1920X1080 15.4” screen, of course.

Finally, there’s the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13. It doesn’t have the TrackPoint (the Lenovo Twist and Carbon and Helix and ThinkPad lines still do).  But that didn’t matter last winter, since my son and my Dad’s T60 laptops were nearly 5 years old, these modern little beasts were sorely needed replacements.

I touched upon the difficulties that the Yoga’s UEFI BIOS on a GPT-formatted SSD presented to me, as far as my ability to do DR (disaster recovery).  It really pushed me to Windows Server 2012 Essentials, since Windows Home Server 2011 wouldn’t do UEFI BIOS or GPT formatted drives.  I’m always inclined to do a test backup and full restore, before I hand over new gear to family members (using a spare hard drive). But the Lenovo is an SSD, and pretty much a sealed-design, and has the full damage protection warranty, so I really didn’t feel like opening it up.

Instead, I got a Gigabit to USB 3.0 adapter, seen also in this related article, where I outline how I made my father’s Core i7 based Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13 capable of Wake On LAN (using a second system left running with LogMeIn). I also used the 2 Port USB 3.0 hub to allow the single USB 3.0 port on the Yoga to handle both the Gigabit connection, and booting from the Mushkin Ventura Plus 16GB USB 3.0 Flash Drive that had the Windows Server 2012 Essentials cllient recovery image on there, pointing to the StarTech Gigabit adapters driver files when prompted. That allowed me to be confident that a restore would work.. I then restored the full backup to a virtual machine on my ESXi 5.1 system, using a VM configured similarly (UEFI BIOS/GPT hard drive type), and it worked fine. Now I was ready to deploy!  I’ll write up that whole package deal of parts and the exact steps to backup and recovery at some point, please consider following me at

Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13 Summary:



  • it works, and works well, with Office 2013 and SkyDrive doing their thing
  • 13” at 1600×900 is good, viewing angles are good, touch surface is good
  • Modern UI photo viewing is pretty good
  • IE 10 pinch-to-zoom browsing is quite nice (Chrome has yet to catch up)
  • fast, ready to use upon opening the lid quickly (if you tweak the WiFi driver)
  • tablet mode use reasonable, but rotate issues mean it’s been rarely used so far, and most drivers haven’t been updated since Oct 2012.
  • can run Hyper-V (SLAT support evidenced by “coreinfo -v”)
  • can do wake on LAN, see
  • Lenovo Yoga has SLAT support for Hyper-V, and plays Starcraft pretty well

Weaknesses (from my perspective, most of these issues don’t matter to the owners):


  • keyboard layout quite new, easy to accidentally turn off WiFi or Screen with single keystroke (UEFI BIOS setting to make Fn key use helped fix that)
  • no TrackPoint
  • battery life not as amazing as had hoped
  • quiet, but not that quiet (fan noise can be tweaked, but do I want to?)
  • challenges of sealed design, when the time comes for upgrades (so I splurged and went with biggger HDD and 8GB from factory)


See also: An overview of the family’s various laptops

John Stutsman @JohnStutsman

I’ve used mostly Dell LapTop computers through Work but it was my Son who inspired me to get my own personal LapTop.

When my Son Got a HP Nettop I liked the size but wanted something more powerful and ended up settling on the Acer 1810T

I wrote about how I upgraded the 1810T in

Since that time I upgraded the Crucial SSD to a Corsair GT 240GB and Win 8 Pro 64b WMC & MS Office Pro 2013

I use SkyDrive and DropBox on it

It has 4GB of RAM Stock, 11.6” screen, ~3lbs

I prefer to use a MS Bluetooth Notebook Mouse 5000 and for on the Road I have a Samsung Ext. DVD player/burner and a WD Elements 1TB external HD

The CPU is only a Core Duo U7300 1.3 GHz (10W TDP 2 core) that benchmarks slightly above the N40L

I’m very happy with my Acer — The only thing it’s missing IMHO is a Haswell 🙂

Interesting article I saw this morning about the most reliable laptops  in Real Clear Technology:

FWIW based on the article — The Most Reliable Laptop Computers (top Ten countdown to best)

·         Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Carbon

·         Dell Vostro 3460

·         Dell Latitude E5530

·         Dell Inspiron 14Z

·         Apple MacBook Pro 15 Retina

·         Acer Aspire V3-771

·         Dell Vostro-3560

·         Dell XPS 13

·         Acer Aspire E1-571

·         Apple MacBook Pro 13


Cali Lewis / Drobo meet up –

Met Dennis Halling from Lincoln and Greg Gurkie from Omaha, both HSS listeners

Jim has a new server on the bench.

Dell Precision Workstation 690 with 2 Intel Xeon 5140 Woodcrest 2.33GHz 4MB L2 Cache LGA 771 65W Dual-Core 2U Passive Processors and 4GB of RAM (Kevin Schoonover sent me a bunch more that I still need to install).  Supports up to 64GB of Ram.  Running WS2012 Standard right now.  Thinking thru my VM options. (a mention from the networking series)

Link to the inventory of audio equipment

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