Thinkpad Decline

There is an interesting piece by Cyrus Sanati on the Lenovo (previously IBM) Thinkpad.

In my opinion, Lenovo already damaged the Thinkpad reputation. It’s build quality dropped almost immediately. The T43 wasn’t nearly as well built as the extremely T42. The T42 was a work of art with properly fitting everything. My T43 had been reliable, it still works, however it was never of the same quality as the T42 or A31. The plastic never perfectly aligned, slight gap between the optical media bay, the optical media drive tray flexes way more than it should. The T50 series was even worse and flexed despite “improvements”. Small things, but they matter.

The reason why Thinkpads still have a reputation is because they have no real competition. Apple has top notch build quality, but it’s not a PC. Sony is the nearest competitor, and it’s not really in the enterprise space, and isn’t quite up to par with the Thinkpad still. The Thinkpad wins just by beating it’s notably poor competition.

If someone figures out how to reproduce Apple’s build quality, Lenovo is in deep trouble. Until then, they will continue to do just fine. If Lenovo wants to protect itself, they should start competing with Apple in terms of quality, not aesthetics or consumer features.

Lenovo Gets Rid Of The Classic Keyboard

It’s no secret that I’m a keyboard snob. After all how many others have written several blog posts about keyboards. I’m rather disappointed to see Lenovo getting rid of the classic keyboard. Lenovo (previously IBM) ThinkPad had the best keyboards of the PC laptops. There was no competition.

Apple managed to achieve a decent “chicket style” keyboard, the spacing is pretty good. The low action makes it very responsive. So I’m not totally opposed to the style. I’m typing on one now.

Looking at the photo, I can’t imagine this new keyboard Lenovo is using will be any good. The function keys look quite narrow and the arrows look like they have the prev/next against them. Those buttons are essentially useless and just ruin the feel of that part of the keyboard. My T43 has them, but at least that was a classic keyboard which was very tactile. I’d imagine the new keyboard also changes the usability of the Trackpoint. I’m just going to assume the spacing and action is solid.

I guess this is the downside to making laptops thinner and lighter.

Lenovo Starts Recall

Like there was any doubt it would happen, there’s now officially a recall on Lenovo/IBM laptop batteries made by Sony. Not surprising Sony has given up and started a global recall to get the damage over with, and behind them as quick as possible, and minimize potential future incidents/lawsuits.

Like there was anyone who didn’t know weeks ago this was going to happen.

Thinkpad Explodes

Engadget has the scoop on a Thinkpad that blew up at LAX. From the picture I’m virtually positive it’s a T4x/p (T40/p, T41/p, T42/p, T43/p). According to IBM/Lenovo Documentation (T40/p, T41/p, T42/p T43/p) they do ship some with Sony batteries, in addition to Panasonic and Sanyo. I personally have a Sayno in my T43. I believe the T60’s also have Sony in the mix (docs). I’m pretty sure that’s a 6 cell battery in there based on the contour of the rear of the battery (it’s burnt so it’s hard to be 100% positive with that picture quality.

So is it a Sony battery in there? Will there be a recall? My guess is this is going to be a very quick investigation. Considering how many business travelers have Thinkpads, and how many are using the T4x series right now, there are tons of these laptops on planes right now as I post this.

No pain no gain, lots of little stuff

I’ve coded quite a bit the past few days on an old project I’ve had sitting in the vault for some time. I really want to get this thing done soon. In the process I’ve gotten to write things that I’ve never really done before. Nothing quite as fun as a problem you’ve never approached before. Lots of code, little time… so much I want to get done, and I want it done yesterday ;-). I really want to push this thing into production quality soon (because that’s when things really become fun).

Oh yea… my foot hurts. Here’s a tip for anyone doing yard work this spring (well summer soon). When using a shovel, don’t settle for an old pair of sneakers, use boots. Stepping down on the top of the shovel to dig it into the somewhat hard ground today, I hit a large-ish rock, shifting the shovel, and causing my foot to hit it about the inner part of my foot, right under arch as well as slightly up the side, not bad, but no fun. Now I’ve got some minor swelling, and has me limping slightly around the house.

I’m starting to get that addict-like urge to do some upgrading around here… thinking about another stick of RAM for my Thinkpad (T43), to max it out, and a 1GB upgrade for my Mac Mini.

Thinkpad Access Connectons 4.1

Downloading Thinkpad Access Connections 4.1 right now, looking at the changelog, I see one thing in particular I really like:

– (New) Support Firefox internet browser setting in location profile

Yea! Now Firefox can be configured using Access Connections too. This is great because Access Connections is used by many business people on their Thinkpads to manage multiple connection profiles. The ability to adjust Firefox settings quickly like that, brings it that much closer to matching IE for business needs.

On a sidenote, 4.01 causes my CPU to spike every several seconds (not much, but enough to be wasteful). Hopefully 4.1 contains a fix for that issue (no mention of it in the changelog though. I was looking around for a way to report this bug, but haven’t found any place on the IBM/Lenovo website.

High Pings

I’ve been wondering why my ping times have been so high on my laptop, and so low on any other computer I have here. I finally found the culprit.

The Intel 2915 wireless card (part of the whole Centrino package) has a power saving mode with 3 options, High, Medium, and Low (creative eh?). Mine was set to high. Which created pings that varied from 20ms to 400ms. Going to medium brings the average down to 2ms, which I can deal with.

Why this is a separate setting in Access Connections (the utility used on Thinkpads to manage different connection settings) rather than in the Power Manager as part of a profile? I don’t know. Ideally it would switch to high when I unplug, and go medium when I’m plugged in.

Anyway, always good to know why stuff happens. Very good for gaming, VoIP or anything where latency is an issue.

The ports keep marching forward

I’m a strong believer that form = function. A well designed product just works better.

My T43 is a fairly well designed computer, minus it’s few shortcomings. Now take a look at the T60, which I just don’t understand. Why is the VGA port half way down the side of the laptop? Why is USB so far down the left side? Why is Ethernet there?

Perhaps they are operating under the idea that everyone uses their laptop on the go, and nobody uses it at a desk. But personally I find even the T43’s Ethernet (which is further to the back on the left side) a little annoying. I think the new positioning is just asking for it to get hit and broken.

Am I the only one who likes the cables in the back (out of the way)?

Hopefully they at least figured out that using an SATA drive would be a good idea. That way they get rid of those 2010 errors plaguing T43 owners.

I do however like that they kept the same simple design, rather than go with the glow-in-the-dark plastic with flashing lights design that many seem to like.

Memory Frustration

Ok, so first my Hard Drive goes (my good one). So I order another. Thankfully CDW doesn’t process the order, so when I get back from vacation I need to place the order again (note that sarcasm). So I move my mail and such over to my mac mini, which has so far been my secondary system. I use it for fun. My laptop does the mundane email and other associated BS. My mac mini is like that garaged car you take out on days when you want to enjoy the nice weather and open roads. CDW was initially telling me it would ship by 7/8 or more likely 7/13. Ok, so I should have it by Friday. Wrong. Now were looking at least 7/22.

Now my mac mini is only running 256MB of RAM. For a few days I would have made it work, and then go back to it as a secondary system, less apps running means I can get away with it a bit. Now I need to get this thing going for a longer haul. Best Buy has 512MB for $29! Unfortunately they don’t even sell a 1GB stick for less than $200. Yea, that’s right. So my best bet is Crucial. Still I feel ripped off. $29 for 512MB, or $105 for 1GB. How the heck does that work out? Only having one RAM slot makes the system fit so well on my desktop, but it sucks when it comes to purchasing RAM.

Sigh… so if you’ve noticed I’m not doing much lately, it’s because my computers suck. My Thinkpad is down and out, and my mac mini is struggling to perform and just frustrating me. I think I’ve got to bite the bullet and just cough up $100 so my mini performs better, and wait for a good HD to ship.

I hate this stuff.

I’m running Fedora Core 2

Well, I finally did it. I burnt Fedora Core 2 Install CD’s, and put it on my 2nd HD of my Thinkpad. Had trouble booting at first, but found a hidden option in my BIOS to select the drive as my boot drive. It’s zippy! Very, very, very fast. My big problem so far is I’ve been unable to get my wireless card going, and downloading anything, means booting into windows, and copying to a floppy disk…. a real drag.

But it is fast. Looks like I got a new toy to play with!

Also on th agenda is a boot loader. I tried just using the Windows one, but that wasn’t working for me, so perhaps I’ll just use grub on the alternate drive, to boot windows. If anyone has some good directions, or reading material on this topic, please shoot me an email, or leave a comment, I’d really appreciate it.

Other than that, all is good. It’s been a very busy week, so some geeky fun was in order.