Category Archives: Hardware

Dell Inspiron Laptop

In my last post, I explained that my work had bought me a new Dell Intel I7 laptop with 16GB of RAM.  It came with Windows 8.1 Pro on it, and as an experiment for work, I upgraded it immediately to Windows 10 Pro.  (I have 10 Windows 7 Pro desktop computers that I manage for work right now, and knew at some point they will have to be upgraded to Windows 10 or later). I do have 3 newer desktop Dell’s running Windows 10 Pro running that I have made to look like Windows 7 Pro. Since I have to support the users within the company, it’s easier to keep everybody on the same “look and feel”.  Every computer that I manage has 16GB of RAM, and as they need hard drive replacement, I’m installed SSD’s in them.

Unfortunately, the new Dell laptop came with a slow 5400rpm hard drive, and it went from booting in about 5 minutes before the upgrade, to almost 10 minutes after the upgrade.  It was so bad, that I stopped using it, and kept using my Macbook Pro instead.  Since the new notebook is mine to do with as I please, I decided to install an SSD and load a different OS on it.

When I had more time years ago, I used to cruise Distrowatch trying different flavors of Linux & BSD.  For this project, I decided to download Ubuntu Desktop LTS 16.04, put it on a bootable USB stick, and installed it on the new SSD.  Boot times went from 8 to 10 minutes running Windows 10 Pro, to less than 15 seconds!

Granted, I have a bunch of stuff, (Dropbox, Adobe Creative Suite, MS-Office Pro, etc), that loads into Windows 10 Pro when it boots.  But a new Dell I7 laptop SHOULD boot faster.  And yes, I could have installed the SSD and loaded Windows 10 on it, but to be honest, I am not very impressed with Windows 10.  The final straw was how long it took to do “updates” to Windows 10.  Again, I know part of it was my fault for not using it all the time, so that it wouldn’t have to “pile on the updates”.  I took the Dell laptop with me on a business trip as a backup, and it took over 24 hours to update the damn thing!  Good thing I didn’t have to use it during that time.

The Dell laptop is now a pleasure to work on, (yes the touchscreen works), and I plan to start using it more and more.  If you have an older or even a newer laptop, I would encourage you to get a spare drive and install a Linux distro on it and have fun!


Update on Macbook Pro

Wow.  I can’t believe it’s been 2 1/2 years since I updated this blog.  I’ve been very busy for the last few years at my full-time job, (HSE Manager for a Oilfield Service company).  I use my 2011 Macbook Pro 13″ for work and personal things, even though my work bought me a new Dell Intel I7 touchscreen laptop with 16GB of RAM last year.

Back to the 2011 Macbook Pro.  I put a new 500GB SSD in last year to up the storage space.  I still haven’t used the 2nd HD holder that I bought.  This Macbook Pro still boots from a cold start in less than 20 seconds.  (My work laptop running Windows 10 Pro takes about 10 minutes, no SSD)!

I cleaned up my old 2008 all aluminum Macbook with 8GB of RAM, 250GB SSD, and sent it to my sister to replace her 9 year old Toshiba.  So far, she is thrilled with it, and hasn’t had any issues making the transition.

Macbook Pro Updates

I’ve had my (new to me) Macbook Pro 2011 for almost 3 months now, and it is running great.  I’ve upgraded the RAM to 16GB, and installed a new 250GB SSD Hard Drive.  This laptop is now fast & light, and it has lowered the temps on the CPU.  I attribute that to good fan control and less heat from the SSD Hard Drive.

I even bought a hard drive bay that uses the optical drive bay for an additional hard drive.  I’ll be shopping for a 1TB 7200 rpm 2.5″ hard drive soon.

New (to me) Macbook Pro

For a Christmas present this year, Carolyn gave me to the OK to buy a 3 year old 13.3″ Macbook Pro, (2011, A1278, 8,1).  I have been looking for a while to replace my 2008 All Aluminum 13.3″ Macbook.  Since I bought that model in 2009 as a demo model from Best Buy, I have upgraded the RAM twice, (2GB to 4GB to 8GB), and the hard drive twice, (250GB to 500GB to 250GB SSD).

I found my “new” Macbook Pro on Ebay, from a seller in Indiana, and paid $499 for it with a 2.3ghz I5 cpu, 4GB RAM, & 320GB hard drive. The plan is to upgrade the RAM to 16GB immediately for $145.  I can wait on the SSD upgrade, but I will replace the 5400 320GB with the 7200 500GB that was in my other Macbook.  I’ll watch for a killer deal on an SSD and then change it.  All in all, an awesome little laptop that kicks ass running business applications.

Stay tuned for updates!

Galaxy Tab 4 Pro

Last week I bought myself a new Galaxy Tab 4 Pro.  I had been wanting to try a tablet, and since Carolyn has an iPad Mini, rather than buy another iPad, I decided to try an Android based tablet instead.

This new Tab is slick, lightweight, capable with 16GB and 64GB storage, and has a gorgeous screen.  I’ve been spending a lot of time outfitting this with a host of business apps.   Time will tell how effective this tablet is as a laptop replacement.

Carolyn’s iPad Mini

About six months ago, we bought an iPad Mini for Carolyn to use.  Her 17″ laptop had just gotten too heavy for her to use as her primary computer.  (Her hands are very deformed due to damage from Rheumatoid Arthritis).  We weren’t sure how she would like the iPad or a tablet in general, but we decided to go ahead and get one.

This little sub-1 pound unit has been a god send for her.  She can literally do anything that she needs to do with the Internet and Email.  We have a newer Brother Color Laser printer that is AirPrint certified, so she can even print any documents, web pages, etc, that she needs to.

On a recent camping trip, we even streamed video from Amazon Instant Video to it, using my iPhone as a wireless hot spot.  (Not something I would recommend as it eats up the data plan).

The explosion in tablet hardware, (Apple, Android, & Windows platforms), in the last few years is incredible, and means that consumers have, and will continue to have, many choices in the future.  For most people, I can see why they are so popular, and will eventually replace most desktop & laptop units.

Adding more RAM to the Macbook

I own a late 2008 model 13.3″ all aluminum Macbook, (now a Macbook Pro model).  It originally came with 2GB of RAM & a 250GB 5400 rpm Hard Drive.  Over the years I have upgraded it to 4GB of RAM & a 500GB 7200 rpm Hard Drive.  At the beginning of this month, I downloaded OSX 10.8.2 (Mountain Lion) and upgraded the OS from 10.6, (Snow Leopard).  About the same time I saw an ad for Other World Computing, for an 8GB RAM upgrade for $49 guaranteed to work in this particular model.

As most of you know, more RAM is better, so I jumped on that deal.  It came in while I was down south working, so this morning, I opened up the Macbook, removed the old 4GB and install the new 8GB.  It’s like I bought a brand new Macbook!  This thing is once again screaming through applications, boot time was significantly faster, and I couldn’t be happier.  Now all I need to do is add an SSD boot drive!

I never had any issues with this Macbook, and I did the cpu exhaust fan a good cleaning while I had it open.  Should be able to get a few more years of service from this model.  I know this will shock everyone who knows me from the days when I had a retail computer store, but for my own personal computer, (which this is), I don’t think I’ll ever go back to a PC.


Apple Store Genius Bar

Last month, on a visit to the Houston VA hospital, Carolyn and I went by the Apple store at the Memorial City Mall.  I needed to have the power adaptor cord for my 2009 Macbook laptop replaced, as it was frayed.  It was to be replaced under a class action suit against Apple.  We did not realize that you could make an appointment at the Genius Bar before we went to the store.  We had to wait about 10 minutes before we could see the tech, so we walked around the store and looked at other Apple products.  The store was extremely crowed, with a lot of folks getting questions obviously answered about products they had gotten for Christmas.

When our time came, the tech looked at the power cord, went and got a new power adaptor and cord, and the exchange was done.  The entire process took less than 15 minutes total.  This was our first experience with an Apple retail store, and we both came away thinking that these folks know what they are talking about.  If you’ve never been to an Apple retail store, drop by one and take a look.

Carbon Copy Cloner

A few months ago, (before the Thailand floods and hard drives prices went through the roof), I purchased a new 500GB 7200RPM 2.5″ SATA hard drive to replace the 250GB hard drive in my 2009 all aluminum 13.3″ Macbook.  Changing the hard drive was a preventive measure, a job of changing it now, rather than AFTER a hard drive crash.

Before changing out the hard drive, I did some research on the web about “cloning” my old hard drive onto the new one.  After a lot of research, I settled on “Carbon Copy Cloner“, a free, shareware program written by Mike Bombich.  I found this program much easier to use than Apples’ Time Machine, and was able to do exactly what I wanted to do, make an exact clone of the 250GB hard drive.  I used an external USB 2.5” SATA hard drive case that I already had, placed the 500GB drive in it, and “cloned” the 250GB hard drive to the new 500GB hard drive.  After cloning, I installed the 500GB hard drive into the Macbook.  All in all, a fairly easy job, removing a few small screws, installing the drive, putting the screws back in, and I was done!  The swap out process took no more than 10 minutes.

My old 250GB had OSX 10.5 on it, and I had bought an upgrade ($19) to OSX 10.6, but I decided not to “upgrade” before the drive swap.  I also did not “upgrade” to OSX 10.7 Lion, after installing the new 500GB hard drive.  After getting everything the way I wanted on the new 500GB hard drive, I cloned it back to the 250GB so that I would have a “backup” in case the new drive failed.

Since the hard drive swap, I’ve used the cloner to perform incremental backup’s without a hitch.  If you have a Mac, do yourself a favor and check out Mike Bombich’s Carbon Copy Cloner.  And Mike, my $15 donation to your project is in the mail.

My Dell Inspiron 1501

In my previous posts, I had explained the trials and tribulations of upgrading my 5 year old Dell Inspiron 1501 laptop.  Knowing that the “not charging” problem was either the battery or the AC adapter, I ordered a replacement AC adapter from a reputable seller on Ebay.  After plugging the new AC adapter in, I still had the same problem.

A week or so later, I was trying to repair a customers’ Dell of the same model that was DOA, and I took their battery out and placed it in mine.  Voila, it started charging, both with the old AC adapter and with the new one.  After returning the customers’ battery to their unit, I starting looking for a new battery on Ebay.  Looks like I can get a new OEM battery for around $35.