2012 is here, nearly February actually, yet I haven’t posted anything (useful) from December yet.
I best rectify that with a post eh?
Ok here goes:
So in the first week of work after Christmas, an immediate need arose for a tablet PC, or to be more specific the criteria were that it had a) Windows 7 b) Core i5 or higher c) It has a physical keyboard that doesn’t require the use of a dock (so you can carry it around and still type).
Apparently Fujitsu make a decent one they had used before, and it had a very neat feature where you could slide a keyboard out when you need it and then back again if you just need a touch screen.
Anyway that particular model appears to either be rare or not in production anymore. So after some digging across a few computer stores (their websites), I found Scorpion Technology to stock Fujitsu stuff, though they only seemed to have straight out tablets, which are nice, but not what we’re after.
They did however have some interesting, a Gigabyte err.. well, Tablet PC. But its not a tablet…It’s hard to explain so; here..
Its called the Gigabyte T1125P-PRO
Without further adieu here’s the specs:
- Microsoft Windows 7 Professional
- 11.6″ Capacitive Touchscreen
- Intel Core i5-470UM
- 8GB DDR3 RAM
- 500GB HDD
- GT410M 1GB
- 802.11N WLAN
- USB 3.0
- Vertical Docking Bay
So it’s a tablet, but also a laptop. Personally I see it as a laptop with a touch screen, I mean, its running Windows.
My first thought as I unboxed it is: Cool!
Maybe I just like new stuff but this is especially cool considering it’s my first experience with a touchscreen with Windows.
Unfortunately Windows 7 has terrible touch support. Period.
Gigabyte has clearly noticed Windows’ deficiency and has developed software to avoid too many problems, but in my opinion its just not nice to use, and I don’t think it will work until they move to the Metro interface (which I quite liked on Windows Phone 7), most likely in Windows 8.
Touchscreen problems aside, it is a remarkable little machine.
You can use it in a few ways:
First (in the first picture), you can use it as a regular laptop, but with a twist. Literally, a twist; the monitor can twist around from the central pivot (though not disconnect).
You can use it in what I call “Tablet” mode; You can swing the screen around on top of the keyboard and carry it around like that. So you loose the keyboard and touchpad, but you now have a full tablet.
Finally, you can dock it. Yep that’s right, this baby comes with the coolest dock I’ve ever seen. ITS VERTICAL!
You close it up, chuck it in the dock and from there you can plug it into a keyboard, mouse, projector, LAN, audio etc etc, and it even comes with a DVD drive that also slots directly into the dock (and also has USB connection).
Overall, this is a really versatile machine, though I wish it had some sort of locking places for the screen so you can use it with the keyboard and screen on the same plane (it is possible, but not easy to use).
I’m actually thinking this would be a nice machine for Android, when x86 is supported that is (apparently it is actually possible (see this project). Just a thought 😀
Oh yeh, another cool feature of note: It comes preinstalled with both x86 Windows 7 and x64. But how does it work? Well what they’ve done is put 3 partitions: x64, x86, DATA. So to switch you just need to use their tool in Windows (it even comes in the form of a sidebar gadget) and it will change the boot order and reboot. Otherwise, you can also boot into their recovery mode (from the BIOS) and select the one you want, though doing it this way will take you back to the original windows installation I believe.
At any rate, is was extremely useful for my circumstance because I needed 32bit to use a projector driver (an older Toshiba that seems not to be updated too often).
UPDATE: Apparently there’s a pretty major problem with the touch screen; when you stop using the screen for 5 seconds it takes another few seconds for the screen to start responding again. I’m gonna see if there’s a driver that can fix this
A Few Weeks Later:
As we have now had it for a few weeks, we have come across a couple of issues:
1) The screen, when in what I’ve dubbed ‘tablet mode’, is upside down, or rather, it is raised on the wrong side. And it does not come with a G-sensor to automatically rotate the screen. Now of course we can just use the rotate function of Windows, but unfortunately if its hooked up to a projector, which ours is frequently, the output will also be flipped upside down.
I’m guessing there’s an app out there to solve this one, so once things calm down at work ill check it out.
2) The other problem we’ve been having is the touch screen decides to go to go to sleep after a few seconds. Fortunately, this was easily remedied by going to the touch screen’s driver and disabling “Allow Windows to turn off this device to save power”. Still, not something I thought of initially considering I’m used to devices with native touch support (i.e. Android and iOS). Microsoft just don’t think about things like that.
That’s about it for the moment, hopefully its the last problem we have, because I really love this machine.
A Year Later…
Now that we’ve had a proper look at this machine, we’ve all but determined it to be unsuitable for the intended use. We’ve done much with it, fixed a few issues, tried a few workarounds but ultimately it’s downfall is the screen’s size.
We wanted to be able to use it in a classroom environment where it would be used as a presentation device, so an instructor could underline/circle/draw on PowerPoint presentations, Word documents etc. Unfortunately MS Office 2010 offers far too little in the way of touch support for that to be possible on an 11.6″ Screen. Even with a capacitive stylus, there simply isn’t enough room to do anything.
The final chance we gave this little machine is with Windows 8.
Yet again, we were straight away confronted with touch issues, causing so much frustration that we almost gave up on the first try! It seems that the main problem lies with the touch screen recognition zones. Most of the Windows 8 ‘hot-zones’ are in the corner or edges of the screens, however the T1125 appears not to have much edge/corner recognition making it really difficult to bring up the charms bar or the recently used bar on the left. Especially annoying was the only way of closing an app on Windows 8, dragging from the top down to the bottom. It simply does not work on this machine.
It appears we will soon be investing in a new All-in-One machine with touch capability, this was a good (if not expensive) experiment that just didn’t pan out
I’ve had some interesting projects lately, most notably is an email backup script.
My first thoughts on this was to use RoboCopy and just have it run on log off. Unfortunately RoboCopy does not support incremental backups, thus meaning 10+ computers could be copying potentially 2GB+ files to the server every log-off; not good.
My attention was then steered towards Rsync, a tool which I have used before, that uses the ‘Delta Algorithm’ to scan for changes in a file and copy just those bits that have changed.
I toyed with the idea of having a Linux virtual machine running the server, though this most likely wouldn’t have worked, considering it would need considerable disk space and if something went wrong, well… Linux isn’t exactly the most user friendly of operating systems.
So then I remembered there was a Windows version of Rsync, though I had never actually managed to get it working, it seemed like the best place to start.
DeltaCopy is basically a wrapper for Rsync, running within a Cygwin environment. It’s open source, so no licensing costs, and it runs its own service with a quite small footprint.
My first itteration of DeltaCopy involved simply mounting the remote share and doing a local copy i.e. rsync.exe [source] [destination] which apparently is the wrong way to go about it. Every time a bit was updated, it took nearly 3 times longer than the whole file should’ve taken to copy. I discovered that if you use a share, basically you are downloading a copy of the file, scanning it locally, then sending the whole file back down the line.
The proper way of using it, apparently, is to have an rsync server where the backups are kept, and have the rsync client connect to the server. That way the server can scan for changes without having to send it down to the client. Then the server and client negotiate which bits need copying, then they do it.
After much frustration and many issues (mainly typos :P) I managed to get my test platform to copy from 1 machine to the other. I succeeded and managed to take the 3 minute transfer time down to 6 seconds. Impressive!
To implement the script I will need to have the rsync service installed on the server (which I have now done) and use Group Policy to deploy both the DeltaCopy client (particularly rsync.exe) and my script to run on log off (also done).
I have now come to the point where it should be working but unfortunately it keeps coming up with “Connection Timed Out”. My guess is the firewall on the server isn’t accepting the connections, so I’ll have to look into that and see what can be done.
I’ll need rsync’s port 873 opened up I believe. Whether that needs to be done using Group Policy or through the Firewall settings, I’m not sure.
Anyway, that’s it for the moment.
I think I’ll post my scripts up sometime, stay tuned.
Find them right here: Download backupScripts.zip 7.7KB
You will also need DeltaCopy from Synametrics Technology
So one of the tasks I’ve been given to do in my new job is to check out Moodle and find a way to give users the ability to get notifications when something changes in their classes weekly board.
I did some research and came across ‘notify-changes‘ on SourceForge.
It was pretty simple to install, just unzip it, drop it into the ‘blocks’ folder inside moodle and thats the basics of it.
Then you have to install it through moodle in Site Administration – Notifications.
So far it does seem to work, though I have noticed that the ability for users to enable/disable notifications disappears for no reason, or rather, doesn’t appear initially. It seems to be fixed by enabling in the blocks Administration and disabling it again, then re-enabling it.