Sunday, 20 September 2015

Is that Ipad Pro for work or play?

So Apple announced the all new iPad Pro. With optional keyboard and 'pencil' you can have a system that looks like a laptop.

In order to convince people you can do real work on an iPad Pro, and not just watch movies or play music, they recruited Microsoft to demonstrate iPad Pro running Microsoft Office.

However what it really looked like was a Microsoft Surface Pro 3.

The interesting thing here is that when Steve Jobs first introduced the iPhone he comprehensively dismissed the 'stylus' or any kind of pointing device in favour of the finger. He also comprehensively made Apple a product of the premium consumer. A product bought as much for fashion than as technology.

So why would Apple want to park the iPad onto Microsoft's home ground of productivity and usefulness as a PC? One answer  - sales. Ipad sales have been in decline. Once people buy an iPad they tend not to go on a binge of annual upgrades. Apple is now into the guerilla tactics of taking the iPad into the office and into the enterprise.

If they are successful then Microsoft wants to sell it's services and software so it needs to join the party.

The interesting thing is that Apple have produced something like a Microsoft Surface Pro 3. A tablet that can be a laptop, Yet the Apple watchers are content to cheer in wave the 'innovation' of a product that is really someone else's idea. The tech press are loath to point this out because of Apple's reputation for closing the door on press contacts to any critical journalism.

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Upgrading the Lenovo Y50 with a few surprises

I have a Lenovo Y50 laptop. It is towards the top of the laptop range. I needed it because it had a hi-res Nvidia graphics card for games and a generous 16gb memory and a i7 processor. To be fair it was probably what an average Apple MacBook would cost.

What I didn't expect was probably the slowest SATA hard drive in the world - or at least that's the way it felt. One of the problems of a power PC or power laptop is that when you have one slow component you really notice the bottleneck in the chain. Booting the machine or just loading a program seemed to slow everything down. The 1tb drive was a 'hybrid' with an 8gb cache but you would hardly know with the pedestrian speed of the rest of the drive.

I just couldn't take it anymore and I bought a Crucial 500gb SSD. For most people a 1tb drive is hardly needed anymore because cloud storage allows you to keep your 'stuff' somewhere else. Mostly this is on OneDrive for me but I also have a DropBox and Google Drive account too. In short it didn't bother me too much the SSD was going to be smaller.

The main problem was going to be partition complexity. As well as the Windows OS partition there was the reserved system partition with the UEFI BIOS and the Windows 8.1 Lenovo restore partition plus a Lenovo drivers partition. The last of these contained some of the Lenovo crapware.

To make it easy I bought the Crucial kit with the really important software to make an image of the drive and resize the partitions on the 500gb drive. As a sidenote I should say I have done many of these upgrades over the years and mostly used the free partitioning software but this time I actually paid for the kit to make it easy.

The kit from Crucial consisted of mounting brackets for desktop PCs, screws, a USB transfer cable and the all important software - Acronis 2014 HD. This became a big problem. Installation was an issue because my hi res screen resulted in microscopic unreadable fonts. The software couldn't scale menus correctly. It did then install and it asked for a reboot.

What it was supposed to do at this point was reboot into a mode where it had full control of the drive and could copy all the partitions and re-assemble them on the new drive. What it actually did is reboot, produce a microscopic error message in the top left corner of my screen, and then an error about the UEFI bios and the disk being unbootable. You could run a Windows 10 recovery but it couldn't find any partitions. The command line could see the data but nothing else.

Lenovo hard drive plus USB transfer cable

After a bit of command line investigation it turned out that Acronis had replaced the UEFI Bios files with it's own, presumably for this special boot to do the copying, but this had completely failed. So the PC was now a bit unusable. I could have dug further, used diskpart to figure out UEFI re-partitioning, but I figured that the data was still on the old drive so I swapped it out for the new SSD. This was pretty easy. However the SSD was now in the PC with no operating system at all.

Now was a moment to go clean. Get a clean PC. The problem with all PCs you buy is crapware. Manufacturers like Lenovo seem to think you want your disk filled with utilities, anti-virus trial versions, updaters and much, much more. They even install their own malware.

One of the new trends in the world of IT Professionals is to create clean PCs without the crapware. Microsoft will even sell you a clean PC - it's called a signature PC. However there are many articles explaining how to create a clean PC and for Windows 10 you can download the media creation tool from Microsoft.

With Windows 10 it is now even easier than before. If you have activated Windows 10 it records the activation for your PC hardware configuration so when you re-install from scratch you can pretty much forget having to type in those long license numbers. Just skip that step, log in with your Microsoft account, and it activates. In my case all the drivers were recognised and in about 90 minutes I got a clean PC.

With Onedrive and the cloud my data just synced back - it took a while but it got there.

So Acronis turned out to be almost completely useless but the cable was useful and the problems accelerated my move to a clean PC.