As I get nearer to my retirement from my full-time job, I’ve come to the realization that it is time to shutdown Brazos IT Services. Thanks to all our customers and friends throughout the years at both ICE Computing and Brazos IT Services. I’ve had a lot of fun writing about my experiences in IT and other things, but it is time to move on.

Thanks to all, and happy trails to you.

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.

Surviving Windows 8

Over the last few months, I’ve had to “customize” friends’ new computers that have Windows 8 installed on them.  Now none of them have had touch screens, (the real reason to have Windows 8).  I usually got a panicked call saying, “how the hell do I work this thing”, or “where the hell is the start button”, or something of that nature.  So for all of you that are supporting folks getting new computers, here’s what you need to do.

Try Classic Shell.  You can change the way the desktop looks.  You can change the way Windows Explorer looks.  Just about everything is customizable.  Best of all, it’s FREE.  This little “desktop enhancement”  will save you hours of phone support for those “friends” that just had to have a new computer!

(From their website):

Classic Shell is a collection of usability enhancements for Windows. The main features are:

  • Highly customizable start menu with multiple styles and skins
  • Start button for Windows 7 and Windows 8
  • Toolbar and status bar for Windows Explorer
  • Caption and status bar for Internet Explorer

Give Classic Shell a try if you want Windows 8 to look like the old familiar Windows of the past.

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.


Test Driving Windows 8

I finally have had some time in the last few weeks to try the newest version of Windows, (Windows 8 Consumer Preview).  I do not own a tablet, and I believe that would be the optimal test platform, (more about this later).

The test machine is a Dell Inspiron Model 1501:

  • AMD X2 64 bit processor
  • 2GB of RAM
  • 15″ LCD Screen
  • 250 GB SATA Hard Drive, (my old Macbook HD)

This machine is at the bottom end of the “official” hardware requirements from Microsoft.  I felt that it would be an honest test of the new OS’s capabilities, since it runs Windows 7 Pro quite well.

When I went to download the CP from Microsoft, I was shocked to find a 32 bit version of Windows 8.  My understanding of the move to 64 bit everything, was that Windows 7 was going to be the last version available in 32 bit.  Since even the least powerful current Intel Atom processor is both dual core and 64 bit, this surprised me. (Note:  Since I started writing this article a few weeks ago, I have now downloaded and installed the Release Candidate version of Windows 8.)

The biggest difference, (and complaint), from end users is the “new” Metro desktop.  While I’m sure that this would be something “really neat” on a tablet, it is absolutely a royal pain in the ass on a desktop or laptop computer that doesn’t have a touch screen.  On the bright side, there are several 3rd party add-ons, that give you the traditional “Start” button back on your desktop.  The upshot is that you CAN make this version look and feel like Windows 7.  As a person who has to support large numbers of desktop and laptop computers, making existing users comfortable with change is never an easy task.

With the official release of Windows 8 in the fall of 2012, end users in the home market will probably not have a choice to “downgrade” to Windows 7 like they did when Windows Vista was introduced.  The fact is that home market end users are always the ones that get stuck with the least amount of choices.  Since most businesses are just now migrating to Windows 7 from Windows XP, I don’t see a huge rush to adopt Windows 8 into the business market.


  • While I understand that Microsoft had to build an OS for the tablet and smartphone market, the desktop and laptop market is already being well served by Windows 7.
  • Most end users are going to wonder where their programs and start button are.
  • Businesses will NOT be upgrading to Windows 8 anytime in the next few years.
  • Only time will tell if Windows 8 is a move forward, or just another piece of crap from Microsoft like Windows Millenium and Windows Vista.
  • Just like Windows 7, users may find that some of their existing software does not work with Windows 8.