Lenovo Ideapad Y510 Review

My model came with 2GB Ram and 250 Gb hard drive. The laptop has a 15.4 WXGA TFT with integrated camera AntiGlare widescreen driven by NVIDIA GeForce Go 8600M GTS 256MB for excellent images. The laptop is a slim format with a brush texture on the top lid. There is no latching mechanism.

Power up shows a neat graphic making you aware of Lenovo’s Veriface facial recognition software is installed. It’s intended to give you the added feeling of security and that added whiz bang.

Windows Vista Home Premium is installed and powers up easily enough. More on that later.

I focused first on examining the architecture and hardware. The laptop has an integrated web cam over the screen. On the left 2 USB ports, an Ethernet port, 1 firewire, 1 vga port a mini pci slot and the power port. On the right 1 USB port, a PS2 mouse port, a mic jack, a speaker/headset jack, the Dual Layer DVD burner, phone line jack and a slot for a laptop lock. The rear edge is slimmed and has ports. The front edge has two very tiny holes at the corners for integrated microphones, an IR lens/port, a memory card clot, three indicator lights (power, battery and stereo sound indicator), and a small micro slide switch for turning off the wireless adaptor. The top side has a volume control that’s orange, with surface level media buttons that highlight interchangeably when a circular button was depressed, a surface level mute button, a user defineable surface button, and media button that calls up media settings.

I found the wifi switch comforting when in unsecure areas. It’s nice to be able easily and quickly flip a switch to prevent wifi access instead of working through the menus to shut things down.

The hard drive configuration was irritating. My 250 Gb hard drive was partitioned into 29 Gb system, 188 Gb for anything, and the rest is in a hidden partition for system backups, although I have no idea when or how to use it. I had to use Vista’s ability to redefine the default documents folder and everything else to be on the unspecified partition.

The Veriface software seems to work okay, however it can be annoying when trying to log on in low lighting or when you don’t want to wait for authentication which takes a few seconds. I found that to use the webcam with messengers I had to disable the Veriface software. I’ve since tried re-enabling Veriface and haven’t been successful.

Lenovo also loads Shuttle Center II in their build. However I don’t get the sense of a media package that steals the entire functionality of such a powerful machine when most people want to multitask while listening to music.

I won’t take up a lot more time to go through more of the software. I do have one rant. Why in the world would Vista not have a fax function? I thank goodness I have Windows XP and Linux to keep me operating. The details of my Vista experience will come in another post.

The Ideapad is really a fantastic machine. I question some of the default build choices, but have no regrets. Definitely more than enough machine for everything I need and lots of horsepower and storage to spare.

Ubuntu 6 – Install Review

If you’re familiar with this blog, you’re aware that I’ve reviewed Ubuntu before. I’ve decided to break the total Ubuntu 6 review in multiple parts to allow for detail and clarity.

These installs are documented in the order I remember them, not in a true chronological order.

The Installs:
#1 – I fired up my test bed platform with it’s version of Ubuntu 5 after being shelved for a while. After performing all the prompted updates it automatically integrated a feature on the update tool that allows you to initiate automatic upgrades to the latest version of Ubuntu. With a few checks of documentation, I started the upgrade.

My test bed (at that time) was a Compaq Presario with an AMD k6/450 mhz cpu and 184 meg of ram and 8 meg of that used as shared for video and 7200 rpm 40gb HD. Certainly NOT a speed demon.

The upgrade took many hours. I lost track being involved with many other things at the time, but think it was somewhere around 6 to 8 hours that it completed. Then there was the reboot, which took quite a long time with all the module changes, kernel over writes and package updates.

As soon as I booted up with the Ubuntu 6 that was downloaded, it prompted me to do more updates. Makes sense. Again with more updates and a few more hours of recycling and package building. I occasionally monitored the messages and saw strings of errors. Whether they were serious remained to be seen.

Eventually the desktop appeared in what I thought was the Ubuntu 6 desktop, although later learned a few things weren’t quite right. Comparing this desktop to a full install of Ubuntu 6 [upgrade vs cd install] I noticed the packages from Ubuntu 5 were still intact for the most part. However, the default toolbar at the top of the desktop in Ubuntu 6 has a little red icon all the way to the right for shutdown and it was missing on my install.

Overall, understanding the age of the test-bed, it went fairly well.

#2 – I also performed a load from scratch on another PC. 1 GB AMD Athlon with 256M Ram, 40 GB hard drive, 64 M PCI video card, and an atheros wifi card using the Ubuntu 6 latest install CD.

As expected, this went swimmingly fast in comparison. A couple hours to build from scratch on CD. The messages showed no errors and the desktop appeared very sweet and smooth. I installed a nic card and the update process went very smoothly with all packages. Still no errors. I had enough horse power left over to easily search the http://www.Ubuntulinux.com documentation for advice on Wifi while the updates were loading.

Documentation steered me to a wonderful tool called Wifi Manager. I am using an atheros wifi card which is already integrated with the kernel level I have. Wifi manager made it very sweet to configure and utilize. Some awkwardness with this is the prompting for a password for a Gnome Key…. I didn’t want to fool with it, but on the surface there didn’t appear to be any way around it.

Once I got it installed and configured for my wifi network (802.11g with WPA TKIP) everything connected easily. While connecting a nice little icon shows up with two spots and graphic that moves between them as the card talks to the network. The spots turn green as the authentication process moves forward. Once the connection is successful, the icon is replaced with color coded bars to indicate strength of the signal.

This definitely beats having to play the entire manual configuration game I’ve had to perform in the past.

# 3 – Install to the test bed again from scratch with Ubuntu 6 install CD. (The very same test bed used in #1 above with 384 M ram and a 5400rpm 20gb HD.) In summary this install was much smoother and the desktop appeared correct and true to the default as designed. However, the install took a little less time since I didn’t have to perform the upgrade from scratch. I was still prompted through updates after the initial reboot.

#4 – Identical to the system used in #2, only loaded from scratch with Ubuntu 5, then upgraded to version 6 and then updated through the default tools. I received multiple errors in the install process.

The why and wherefore were ignored. I ran across the desktop default discrepancy previously mentioned in install #1. There also seemed to be package problems, synaptic package and update packages challenges.

I did get it to the point of loading the wifi manager and making connections. However, the continued errors caused me frustrations so I gave up, wiped the drive and moved on to install #2.

In summary:

Overall the installs went pretty well. Especially with the install from CD’s.

In upgrading, it appears that residual links, packages or something creates discrepancies that may cause as much frustration as I ran into.

If you have a choice, I would recommend installing from scratch with the Ubuntu install CD rather than upgrades, especially on older systems.

When upgrading between levels in this case or with any OS, I would ensure you back up your data (which all good techies should do periodically anyway) prior to committing your system.

Passing of a Techno-Soul

It is with sad heart and long face that I pronounced the surprising death of a long standing emblem of versatility and team spirited support in my household.

This simple Compaq Presario 5360 held it’s head high when upgraded from 95 to 98 as buggy and flawed as they were, enduring BOSD’s repeatedly and the occasional reformat to eradicate the last infestations of malware. It stood stalwart when replaced by new technology to reign in our household, subordinated to the role of ‘test bed’.

It saw a reprieve restored to full and continuous use when the household grew a new live-in member, though not the glorious position of top-dog it felt it once again had a purpose to fulfill in satisfying the needs of a teen-ager.

Ultimately, as with all things, it grew older. Obsolete was the word. Once again, pushed out of the production line into the shadows. But powers that be saw clearly that the Comapq still had a life of positive contribution once again as a test bed. With memory upgrades to the max, it underwent multiple makeovers and changes. Windows XP, Red Hat Linux 9, Knoppix Live, Ubuntu 5, Ubuntu 6 and Knoppix hard drive install.

Although 8 years old (born 1998) it’s demise was a complete surprise. The tester at the time had been trying to overcome configuration issues and startup hangs through multiple power on resets. Maybe this was an indicator of impending doom? No one will know for sure.

Then, the display refused to show anything. Never a good sign in any pc. Emergency response was called in and mobo diagnostics instituted. Power on resulted in immediate BIOS 13 results with no other result leading to or following after. Time was running out as more research was done. And finally after several attempts to find life on 6 August 2006, CQ5360 was officially pronounced toast.

In true tradition of any technology driven household, it was dismembered for all that was salvageable and desireable. It’s remains have been parked unceremoniously awaiting final disposal for display or disposal.

And thus we honor the passing of a little techno-soul.

Yahoo Video – Excellent!

First let me say, I love internet video blogs and shows. They fill the void of a busy office environment and provide stimuli that imitates something of the sociability factor that is lacking in isolation.

Before work I was cruising the net checking out the new Yahoo format. On a lark I decided to go the Yahoo Finance section since I like to try to follow market trends.

To my very pleasant surprise they had Yahoo Finance videos.

The biggest drawback of itv or internet video segments is that they are present on individual sites and you actually have to stop what your doing to drop from site to site to launch that individual segment. As valuable as that video segment my be, it still requires more manual intervention that operating a simple remote control as for a tv.

So, as Yahoo Finance video section appeared, I saw multiple channels of information with a plethora of segments that are as short as a minute to as long as seven or eight minutes, but total about thirty minutes per channel. Once you chose a program channel (example: SmartMoney tv) and click a video segment, the segment launches in a separate browser window (I use FireFox latest version). When that segment ends, the next segment begins and the entire channel plays on a continuous loop until you choose a different channel and segment to launch. If a segment launches that you’re not into, hit the next channel button.

Right click with your mouse on the screen and a menu appears for normal video controls. For those that are gluttons for overload, I discovered you can launch multiple video segments at the same time and they will play without degrading each other.

There were very short commercial segments that popped up, but I thought was a minor thing in comparison to normal television advertising. Roughly thirty seconds for thirty minutes on average on Yahoo as compared to seven and a half minutes for thirty minutes of broadcast.

Another minor drawback is that many of the segments don’t have dates in their logos and the commentators don’t always mention it. So you may be watching a segment that is a few days old without realizing it.

If you want to find the total range of channels look in the middle of the Yahoo Home page (not from My Yahoo) there is a frame that has a video tab with a large selection of segments to choose from all the major networks and agencies covering news, entertainment, health, finance, etc. etc..

I’m very pleasantly surprised and have every intention of coming back to this service. It’s nice to finally have an itv service that is simple to work with and provides me almost everything my TV used to. Give it a shot. www.yahoo.com

Fahrenheit and Fahrenhype – Watch them both

I was wandering around the library the other day (yes, I actually books) and ran across Fahrenheit 9/11 and Fahrenhype 9/11.

When they originally came out I deliberately ignored them. Why? I didn’t want to deal with the distraction from my normal life. Although, I did promise to myself that eventually I would see them both.

So, I took them from the library. I decided that I would set aside a time to watch continuously both movies.

While watching Fahrenheit 9/11, I felt myself led by a compelling and emotional story that appeared to connect disparate facts in a broad web of conspiracy. And during all that, there seemed to be broad disconnects filled by long periods of vastly emotional scenes with poignant vignettes of sarcasm. In this purported documentary, it truly set me back that great segments of information packing capability was jammed more with entertainment and mood setting like I would expect from a fictional movie. Of the full two hours in length, stripping away all the mood setting, I figured half of the time was actual fact projections.

While watching Fahrenhype 9/11 it became clear it was truly a rebuttal and explained a lot of what I sensed was missing from Fahrenheit. I won’t go into the total details, but I have to say it filled a lot of voids and explain why the answers were so incredibly over simplified. I was very impressed with the fact that a number of the people from Fahrenheit were in Fahrenhype disputing the movie and the context their

What’s my judgment? Fahrenheit is definitely an emotionally driven entertainment production that will stir you deeply with concern that our country is headed down hill and the bottom will be fatal. Ultimately though, Fahrenhype shines a light of clarity on this and truly deflates the emotional tidal wave of Fahrenheit.

Which do I believe? Fahrenhype.

Telecommuting – Its Your Infrastructure Now!

Telecommuting, work at home, virtual office all mean essentially the same thing. Having an employee perform a portion or all of their work from home with the assistance of simple office equipment like a computer and phone line. One can argue its driven by economics more than the beneficence of the powers on high.

The argument would hold a lot of weight. With commercial square footage, power requirements, networking hardware infrastructure, facilities, furniture, liability insurance etc. etc. employers could easily be averaging $100 a square foot and be nowhere near a prestige footprint in a major metro area. Easily $1500 an employee at the low end. In step with the modern age of widely available broadband, vpn networking, instant messaging and there you have a formula for a new workplace in your home. For less than $4000 initial outlay and less than $150 a month the employee is set up in their own home with no excuse for being late for work.

Vunderbar we all say. You get to work from home, you get to keep your job, you save on the commute, the corporate costumes and the dining out that inevitably comes from being away from home.

However, you are also now faced with the logistical challenge of ensuring you have a viable space to work in, productively, effectively and provide your own infrastructure. Someone out there is saying, ‘Huh?!’. Yep, you now have to provide everything your employer provided in you new work environment.

Granted, much of it you have to provide for your own home anyway. Water, food, shelter, heat, air conditioning, and power. All of that will now, to varying degrees, increase. You’ll be running the heat and air, using lights, and running pc’s for 40 plus hours a week(for full time telecommuters), not to mention any dedicated sqaure footage you may use. This should be a minor increase in the total cost of a home, especially when weighed against the savings of daily gas, corporate costumes and the dining out. It’s an upfront cost that can be accounted for with your annual taxes. Its something to be aware of.

Then there is making sure you have a good connection for data, whether it’s via a cable internet, ISDN, DSL connection, using wireless or old fashion phone lines via modem. These will ultimately be your responsibility. By this I’m not necessarily talking about the service provider, but the connections from your provider to where ever you will be working in your home. Whether it’s dsl jacks, lan connector ports or wireless adapaters for your computer it’s something you need to plan on. Where in the home will you work? What kind of construction is your home? Do you have pre-existing network connections or nothing at all in place? Will you be installing the connections yourself? Definitely stuff to consider.

Then there is the more technical stuff. Any outage or difficulties with communicating to your corporate applications and you’re not walking down the hall to the on site IT guy. You’re on the phone with whatever support will help you best. Whether its your PC support group, your broadband provider, your phone provider, the know it all nerd that you used to hang with, you need to know who to call and when. Nothing is more irritating than calling multiple support groups only to find out you’ve wasted an hour with someone that can’t help you. So this is a two point tip. 1) Write down all the different organizations you get support from in one place 2) learn the basics for each element as best you can.

Here in the lightening belt of the ‘Sunshine State’ and host to an annual six month long event called hurricane season continuity of power becomes a challenge. Not to mention if you happen to be a part of any neighborhood that has any level of construction. So, as good corporate citizens, it behooves us to find a quality UPS (un-interruptable power supply) to fall back on for just such occasions that may last for 20 to 30 minutes, enough power to allow you to save that critical document you were churning away on all morning, a last e-mail or call to inform whoever that you are off line and then power down. Ensure it has enough outlets with battery backup to power the laptop/pc, the broadband modem, and any power needs for your phone.

Do you have a choice of what phone service? If you do, I would strongly recommend considering a VOIP (voice over internet protocol) service. You should shop around with the more established ones and monitor reviews and consumer reports. Although still in its infancy as far as large industries go with some of the VOIP providers still learning the ropes and getting their corporate formula solidified VOIP can provide flat rate service with long distance throughout the United States with unlimited calling and losts of extras. They include a large variety of bells and whistles included in their normal costs, that can cost a ridiculous amount with business line services provided by your local phone company. Things like caller ID, automatic call logging, call forwarding, three way calling, on line feature control, voice mail alerts and voice mail audio sent to the e-mail ID of your choice.

An item on the list that I haven’t seen employers provide, a quality phone. The phone must have a mute. You have to have some way to mute out all the background noise of the neighborhood lawn workers, garbage trucks, passing emergency sirens and the occasional Scotsman bagpipes. Other nice to have features cordless (that doesn’t conflict with your wireless network), a speakerphone, memory for saving phone numbers, a voice mail waiting indicator (that work with supporting phone services), and a quality headset for hands free multitasking.

These are key infrastructure elements that can be easily addressed if thought about. Or they can prove to be continuous irritants that cause constant time loss and distractions.

My Ubuntu Review

This is my review of Ubuntu 5.10 the “Breezy Badger”.

The platform I used was an old Compaq Presario 5360 with a 480 mhz cpu, 180 meg of ram, and 40 Gb hard drive. My network connection was a Realtek PCI 10/100 NIC card through my home network. It also includes a TV PCI card.

I performed the OS download from one of the http://www.ubuntulinux.org mirror site. Make sure you validate the download with appropriate error checking (like MD5 Sums) prior to burning a CD. It took three attempts before I received a clean download.

Ubuntu has both a live CD version and a full install version. I’m a great believer in giving users an opportunity to preview what they are getting. This gave me the opportunity to at see what it would look like after loaded and what applications I would find and I was pleased with the variety of applications, since most of them are favorites I’ve used before. The live CD was a clear representation of the look and feel of the OS and I was quickly sold and began to install.

The full load for i386 is all on a single CD. (Unlike fedora which had 4 full CD’s at my last count).The install process provides a means for reformatting the hard drive in a proper supporting configuration. The install proces went smooth without a hitch. The NIC card was detected with no issues. The install process didn’t paint out details, but the option does exist if you want it.

Install defaults made sense with minimal interaction. After the install was complete and the desktop comes up, you’re greeted by some very mellow low range noted tones and a muted background combination of brown, orange and other shades making a very peaceful desktop. The desktop is clean and the application drop down menus are clearly organized and make sense.

The total suite of applications were some of my favorites. Evolution e-mail, Firefox browser, Open Office suite, GAIM, Bittorrent, and the Gimp photo image editor to name a few.

The system update and upgrade process flags any out of date elements and prompts you for the upgrades you may need. Again, this feature worked without a hitch. The upgrade and Apt functions needed no special configuration information to start with. There are multiple libraries that can be added to the location sources for a bigger and broader range of application sources. Once that was completed I downloaded and ran several new applications not already packaged without a hitch. Examples of those I downloaded have been Streamtuner, Bluefish editor, acidrip, TVTime, and Mplayer.

Following the WIKI for Ubuntu Linux, I was easily able to get this completed. Upgrades and downloads with the system updates and with the Synaptic functions were very smooth, fast for the machine type used and without error.

I could go on and on with analyzing the entire composition of features and applications, but we don’t have that kind of time. Key points I hope you take away from this 1) The install process was one of the simplest from an end user stand point. 2) The desktop is installed clean so you can add all you want or operate with a clear view of whatever background you choose. 3) OS Update functions and Synaptic package managers are the key systems for getting what you want. Following the Ubuntu wiki’s everything worked smoothly for me. 4) Ubuntu’s on line documentation is some of the most complete I’ve seen. This may be a result of how new they are as much as their quality of work. It may be a challenge for them to maintain the clear library of documentation as they go forward. It certainly seems they have a strong backing from it’s founder, Mark Shuttleworth. 5) and there is the intangible factor of ‘it just plain works’.

To sum it up, this OS is everything you need and nothing you don’t. (I believe that’s a line from Nissan Xterra commercials). It’s been one of the easiest and more enjoyable Linux experiences I’ve had for a full desktop OS. I would recommend this to a first time Linux user any day. In fact, I liked it so much its now my primary OS.

Here’s to the future with Ubuntu.