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Millenium Falcon

Computers

My old netbook is currently seven years old, and shows its age : boot times up to two minutes, working in Chrome was a drag and took ages. And I'm not even talking about performing updates. All to blame on the slow CPU (never again an Atom !) and the slow hard drive. The last two occasions I used the laptop was on Config Management Days and Red Hat summit, and I can tell you the experience was unpleasant. So a new laptop was needed.

Luckily, the laptop market has reinvented itself after it collapsed during the tablet rise. Ultrabooks are now super slim, super light and extremely powerful. My new laptop needed to be :

  • fast : no Celeron or Atom chip was allowed. An i5 as minimum CPU
  • beautifull : I need a companion to my vanity. No plasticky stuff, well build and good quality.
  • well supportive for Linux : Linux would be installed, so the hardware needed to be supported
  • reasonable cheap : speaks for itself; a lot of nice ultrabooks are available, but I didn't want to pay an arm and a leg.
  • light and small : I carry this everywhere around the world, so the laptop shouldn't weigh more than 1.4kg

Soon, I saw 2 main candidates : first, the Dell XPS13 still is regarded as ultrabook king. It supports Linux nicely, and has that beautiful Infinity display. Disadvantages were that it was on the heavy side, and I wasn't fan of its design either. And a tad on the expensive side as well.

On the other side, there was the Asus Zenbook 3 (UX390) which was stunningly beautiful, had a nice screen as well and was extremely light with its 0.9 kg. However, I saw the silver variant in the shop, but found it a bit on the small side. So when I saw its 14 inch brother, UX430UQ, I was immediately sold. This is a 14 inch laptop - it is advertised as a 13inch laptop with a 14 inch screen, but don't believe that - which is as light as 1.25 kg, has a nice dark grey metal spun outerior and excellent keyboard and screen. Equipped with an i7 CPU and 16GB of RAM, it doesn't fail to deliver on the performance field. Shame that Asus doesn't provide a sleeve with this laptop, as it does with the UX390. Also, important, it doesn't has a safe lock hole, so don't leave this baby unattended.

I wiped the Windows 10 and booted the Fedora netinstall CD, but it seemed that both WiFi and trackpad were unsupported. I lost quite some time with this, but eventually decided to boot it with the Fedora LiveCD, to find out all was working out of the box. Probably the netinstall CD uses an older kernel. I baptised the laptop Millenium Falcon, as I switched to spaceship names on my hardware lately.

Nostromo

Computers

My old PC has survived for 10,5 years : mostly thanks to Linux and its low resource requirements. That is very impressive, but the box started to show its age : boot times up to two minutes, and a hard drive which performed sub-par. Time for a new machine : Intel i7 Skylake, SSD + 3TB HDD and 16GB of DDR4 RAM. Fast and furious.

I made the switch as well from Debian to Fedora : I must admit that I'm quite charmed by Fedora. Stable and on the bleeding edge side (my previous box was Debian Stable based, so your definition of "bleeding edge" may vary). Anyway, Fedora installed without a glitch, and the subsequent upgrade to Fedora24 was one of the fastest PC upgrades I experienced.

The machine is called Nostromo, to the spaceship in Alien. I guess I ran out of pronounceable Tolkien names, and didn't found any suitable Game of Thrones based names. Science-fiction to the rescue.

Drupal 7

Computers

It has been a very long & bumpy road, but I have finally managed to upgrade this site to Drupal 7. Just in time, as Drupal 8 is getting finished and polished. There is still stuff that needs to be converted, most noticeable are the taxonomy_browser and taxonomy_image functionalities, that will be fixed in the next couple of weeks.

If you see anything abnormal, just leave a note in the reply section !

The quest for a new netbook

Computers

Netbooks are laptops done right. I had no idea how true this was before I actually bought a netbook myself. While only being slightly larger than a DVD-cover, my eeePC-900 was so portable, I've taken it with me around the world, both for work and holiday trips. My eeePC has been indeed so successful, it has completely wiped out my need for my laptop, which has been mostly gathering dust since the netbook purchase.

However, a (first generation) netbook still has some serious disadvantages :

  • disk is mostly a combination of SSD and SD, and very limited in space.
  • the keyboard is way too small to type comfortably
  • the battery is very limited in life expectancy.

My new netbook had to overcome those three limitations. Not a big deal, since most current netbooks deal with this already. In addition, I wanted a minimum of 2GB RAM and a CPU with virtualization possibilities. As I was very happy with the eeePC line, I almost opted for a eeePC-1201HA, which sports the Z520 CPU, which had Intel-V support. Unfortunately, the netbook got slaughtered in every review because of its slow performance.

My final choice was the Samsung N220 Premium Plus, a N450 based laptop with 2GB RAM and a 350GB hard disk. As the laptop is red, I feared a bit for too much of hardware bling, but the color is nicely darkish red, so it doesn't scream out in a meeting room. So far, I've been really happy with the netbook itself. The following are only (very) minor annoyances, but indeed are things that could have been better :

  • If some netbook manufacturer brands a netbook with a Premium label, I expect the least they can do, is to include a pouch with it. As a netbook gets carried along everywhere, you want a cover for it to avoid excessive scratching, unless it is not made in plastic. No pouch with my edition, though I've heard that latest Samsung netbooks come again with this addition.
  • The Power button comes in some sort of a slide button, which is on the front of the netbook. A true button would have been better, and would have been better if been protected by the lid.
  • If the lid is closed, it is very hard to see if the netbook has been suspended, as the LEDs are hidden by the lid itself.

What is exellent is that netbook is completely silent : the hard disk is perfectly mute, and the fan makes only a slight noise under high stress. The netbook comes with Windows 7 Home Premium Edition, which starts its installation when you power on for the first time. The good thing is that it lets you choose the partitioning, so the hard disk is split by default into 3 partitions :

  • first partition carries the Windows7 OS
  • the second partition is a 14GB restore partition
  • the third is an empty D-drive, which can be used for data & installed programs.

In a next post, I'll describe what tweaks were necessary to install & use a 64bits Ubuntu on the 3rd partition.

The periodic table of typefaces

Computers

Squidspot, a web and print design group, has created a table representing a list of the most popular, influential and notorious typefaces today, in a format we are all so familiar with – the Periodic Table.

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