New Laptop: Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga

I have the pleasure of trying a new laptop right now as we consider them for work.

The Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga.

We have this configured with an Intel i5, 8GB RAM, 1TB HDD with 16GB SDD speed boost, the touch & pen screen.

It is a nice laptop with a screen that folds right over so you can use it as a slightly chunky tablet, the keyboard locks in this mode so you don’t accidentally press keys.

It is great to finally be able to afford a laptop with a proper, pressure sensitive pen interface, it is a joy to use with tools such as Microsoft OneNote.

The touch pad is also the best I’ve ever used. The pad itself is a proper mechanical button and once used, you will never want to go back to a trackpad that doesn’t provide such positive feedback and natural feel.

We have Windows 8.1 Pro on it and the usual ups and downs of that operating system apply. Personally, I find W8.1 less reliable than Windows 7 but I suspect that it comes down to the software you use. I can say categorically that the “Modern UI” apps are a disaster. In particular they do not fully close when you think you’ve closed them (check in the Task Manager) and I’ve often noticed a significant slow-down after having started and “closed” several Modern UI apps.

The laptop is certainly nice to use overall, it isn’t too heavy and can be used on one arm for 5-15 minutes without discomfort, longer than that becomes noticeable though. So not a complete tablet replacement. Great when sat however with it perched on a knee or supported with a table. No more scrappy paper notes for me! It is OneNote all the way.

The Good

  • Pen and touch with Windows 8.1 and Microsoft Office, a great combination.
  • Fairly thin considering the features available.
  • The fold-over screen is easy and natural to use.

The Indifferent

  • The Windows architecture doesn’t handle very high resolution screens well. I blame this on the development tools and Windows graphical UI libraries mainly. Too many applications do not correctly scale.
  • Only 2 USB ports. About average for a thin laptop but very limiting when there as so many devices needing USB.
  • After many years, Lenovo have finally changed their power connectors. Annoying though necessary, all those spare power supplies scattered around aren’t so useful now. Fortunately, you can buy a converter cable if you want to.
  • Some windows behave oddly, changing font sizes drastically for no apparent reason. Not sure if this is Windows or something to do with the laptop.

The Bad

  • The power button is in the wrong place, it gets clicked by mistake too often. It is on the right hand side of the base at the front. Right next to the volume buttons.
  • No drive LED indicator – really?! When using a PC this is essential if you want to know whether a pause in response is due to disk activity or something more serious.
  • Mini-HDMI interface. This is not good for a business laptop, we already have full and mini Display Link adaptors and now we need to have HDMI as well.
  • No native LAN interface. You have to give up one of the 2 USB ports and to get a USB-to-LAN cable if you want a wired connection. Again poor for a business laptop.
  • The usual pointless spamware is pre-installed. However, Lenovo are better than most, not installing too much and their own wares do seem to actually serve a purpose mainly (I probably kept 1/2 of their own tools and removed everything else). Driver and software updates seem regular.
  • Windows 8.1 Modern UI apps continue to be a very uncertain proposition with poor quality being rife and even the better quality apps seeming to regularly result in ongoing reduced performance on the PC. (Not Lenovo’s fault of course).

Conclusion

A worthy, flexible tool if you need or want both touch and pen interfaces. If not, save some money and go for a Lenovo X240. Possibly the most affordable convertible with pen and touch, at last such devices are in reach of mortals!

 

Monitoring a Broadband Router

Just been asked this question by an ex-colleague so I thought it would be good to do a write up.

How do I monitor my broadband router?

There are a number of measurements that you can do to see the health of your router.

External Monitoring

Firstly, you can measure whether the outside world can “see” your router. This does mean that you have to allow “pings” from the Internet which does slightly reduce your router security and so this feature is often turned off by default. I use some external services to monitor the availability of both my web sites and my router:

Each of these have both free and paid services. It is servermojo.com that I mainly use to ping my router.

Internal Monitoring

Secondly, you may be able to turn on something called SNMP (Simple Network Management Protocol) in your router. This is a standard that allows monitoring of all sorts of information regarding servers, routers, etc. You will need to give the router an IP address of a PC within your network that will receive the information.

There are a number of free tools that allow you to monitor SNMP To monitor from within your home network, you can use PRTG or the free version of Kiwi Syslog Server.

SNMP will allow you not only to see that the router is alive but whether it is connected to the outside world (the WAN port), what speed communications it is using, how long since the connection came alive and many other parameters.
The key parameters to measure are:

  • When the WAN connection went up and down
  • What the download speed is
  • The Signal to Noise Ratio (SNR)
  • The Attenuation

If you are having intermittent router problems, these tools will give you the kind of ammunition you need to take to your ISP to encourage them to take you seriously and get the fault resolved.