ThinkPad T420.  Shiny and new.

It is with incredible reserve that I discuss my new Lenovo ThinkPad T420, such is my excitement.  As a natural born geek, software developer and sysadmin, there is something about a ThinkPad which is “just right”.

The lure of a ThinkPad is unquestionable.  It’s the promise of your best bit of code ever.  It’s the idea that it’ll be with you for years; your faithful companion.  It’s the reassurance of industry-leading build quality and top-spec engineering, using high quality components.  But it’s more than that too.  It’s an identity, a bit like that of Apple users – but thankfully in more self-respecting way.  You have a ThinkPad, you join an elite.  It’s everything you want.

You want this so badly that it comes as a bit of a surprise when all is not quite what it seems.

Branded accessories – one of those indulgences.

Better the devil?

As Lenovo only offer such spiffing hardware bundled with a throwaway operating system, you must suffer the wasted hours and ridiculous horseplay that ensues from such choices being made for you.  We are all too familiar with this scenario… so, I’ll continue!

Here is my experience, abridged:

  • Unbox, connect battery, plug in power, switch on.  It switches itself off.  And then back on – phew! 
  • Windows 7 starts up and completes its install process.  You are prompted to answer a few questions along the way:

  • Do you wish to use Norton to protect your PC?  I choose No.  
  • It prompts again: “Are you really, really sure you don’t want to use Norton???”.  I really, really confirm that yes, I don’t want to use Norton, thanks all the same.  
  • Further into the installer, you are prompted to accept the Windows EULA (end user licence agreement).  At the same point, you are also prompted to accept the Lenovo warranty terms.  You cannot proceed if you choose only one.  I imagine that this is another Microsoft “initiative”, a bit like Restricted Boot, which attempts to force people (through fear, usually) into sticking with Windows.
  • Finally, it finishes setting up Win7 and loads up the desktop.  On the offchance that there is a warranty issue, I decide to make a backup using Windows Backup.  Unbelievably, the Windows partition (C drive) contains 26.39GB of data.  WHAT??!!  This is a freshly installed operating system.  How on earth can it consist of so much… bloat?!  There is also a system partition (1.6GB, of which 900MB or so is used) and a Lenovo recovery partition (17GB, of which 9GB is used).  So, I have 36GB of disk space used up for a fresh install of Win7, plus some Lenovo utilities and Google Chrome (installed by default – the only good software choice made by Lenovo so far).   Hesitantly, I begin the backup process to Verbatim DVD+R discs.
  • 3 hours later, now on the 4th disc, the back-up process fails.  The error given is unspecific.  I now have a collection of 4 shiny new drinks coasters.
  • I dig into the Lenovo software and find that I can install “Rescue and Recovery” software, presumably from the Lenovo recovery partition into Win7.  I install it, which takes about 4-5 mins on this core i7 2640 machine.
  • Oh, wait a sec, what’s that?  Some pop-up just appeared above the clock in the right hand corner.  Something about Norton doing something, was that?  Oh, it’s gone.  So, despite being really, really clear that I did NOT want Norton installed on my machine, er, there it is.  Installed on my machine.  Poor Lenovo, poor.  And it gets better.
  • Creating recovery media fails.  Classic.
  • I fire up R and R and find the option: Create Recovery Media.  This looks more promising.  I fire it up, stick in a DVD+R (still have 6 left, hopefully that’s enough..).  It starts off, “extracting files”.  And then stops, and fails.  Apparently, in this instance, I may be able to expect Lenovo to ship me out some recovery CDs.

  • Not to be

    So far, any reasonable, sane person would not feel very confident using Win7 on this machine.  The dream probably wouldn’t be shattered, but clearly the software configuration is dysfunctional, ignoring user preferences and showing some worrying reliability issues out of the box.

    Luckily, being part of an elite means that you don’t follow the masses.  The throwaway software, bundled with the machine, is designed for people who don’t, won’t or can’t think.  It’s also designed for those who blythely accept it, probably “because it’s safer”.  Well, luckily for Windows users it must be a lot safer now that Norton is installed, regardless of your wishes!  Phew!

    To be

    Fedora 16 live CD, running on this T420.

    The alternative, as always, is to not accept what you are given.  Instead, seek a better solution that you can feel confident in.  For this ThinkPad T420, the better solution is GNU/Linux, Fedora 16 flavour.

    Here is how easy Fedora is:

    • You download a live CD, burn it to disc and restart the computer.
    • The CD boots up into a “live desktop” (this doesn’t affect any data on the hard drive).
    • From the live desktop, you run software (e.g. Firefox) as if it were installed on your computer.  On the ThinkPad, all hardware is automatically recognised and usable immediately.
    • From the live desktop, you have the option to install this software to your hard disc.  How refreshing: choice.

    But don’t take my word for it, try it yourself.

    If, that is, you have the mind to.

    Tux, as originally drawn by Larry Ewing 
    Tux – your faithful free-software friend

    It might seem a long way off, but Saturday 5 April 2014 represents your best, last opportunity to ditch that ageing Windows XP and upgrade to a modern, capable, free and secure operating system: GNU/Linux.

    Microsoft are dropping support of Windows XP on Tuesday 8 April 2014.  After then, the numerous security issues that XP will face will go un-patched.  Anti-virus vendors, firewall software writers… basically everyone in the proprietary software world will no longer support Windows XP.

    In the meantime, Microsoft is doing its best to urge businesses to migrate to a newer version of Windows(1).  Note that the term used is “migrate”, not “upgrade”.

    It is claimed(2) that Windows 7 has overtaken XP as the most widely used Microsoft desktop operating system.  Whether this is credible or not, Microsoft is not one to pass up an opportunity to tell companies on XP not to wait for Windows 8(3).

    This is perhaps the best advice they have given:  there are so many freely available secure operating systems available right now, which will run eficiently on current PC hardware, that there really is little point waiting for anything.  There is, of course, an enormouse number of free applications to run on them too, of which here is a highlight.

    Of course, you would wait until Saturday 5 April 2014 to update your computer software but, actually, why wait at all?  You can install Linux alongside Windows to dip your toes in before committing fully.  All you need to do is visit one of these and follow the installation documentation:

    Don’t worry – Microsoft is far more afraid of you getting your feet wet than you are.   If you have any questions, there are loads of resources available to help.  Try a Linux User Group ( /, or maybe start on a forum (,,  Of course, as a business user you may want to opt for enterprise support.  You can find that here: Red Hat Enterprise Linux – and here: Ubuntu for Business.

    Choosing to upgrade from a proprietary operating system to a free operating system can seem hazardous, but rest assured – you are not the first to try!  Millions have gone before you, and millions will come after.  With open source software, there is strength in numbers and these numbers increase daily.

    Come and join in – and try not to have a lot of fun! 😉

    Enhanced by Zemanta

    [ Originally posted here: ]

    As a Microsoft Windows Small Business Server 2003 user, I have the option of using either Microsoft Outlook for native Exchange mail server connectivity, or using another, open standard protocol such as IMAP.  So, in my finite wisdom, I decided… why not?!

    Why not indeed.  The reason for using IMAP (Internet Message Access Protocol) is so that I could use….. wait for it… a non-Microsoft email client with my Microsoft server.  The very notion.  Well, actually it’s not too bad.  You enable the IMAP service on the server, set up the mail account in Thunderbird, and hey presto – log in!

    Unfortunately, my client (Mozilla Thunderbird) then seemed to have done certain things which – only now – take my slightly by surprise.
    An Exchange mailbox, as standard, contains some basic top-level folders, such as Calendar, Contacts, Deleted Items, Drafts, Inbox, Outbox, Sent Items and Tasks (this is probably not an exhaustive list).  In contrast Thunderbird, by default, contains Inbox, Drafts, Sent, Deleted, Junk and Trash.  So, what’s in a name?

    Well, after using Thunderbird/Exchange via IMAP (and not actually noticing this at the time of doing so), a couple of the Exchange folders had disappeared.  I only noticed this later when using Outlook again, and couldn’t locate my Sent Items or Deleted Items folders.  I then found them lurking within my Trash folder.  Ok, so this has got very messy.

    It sadly got worse.  Now that these “Special Folders” in Microsoft parlance have been moved, they could not be moved back in Outlook.  When trying to drag “Deleted Items” to my top-level Mailbox, I would be told “Cannot move special items.  Special folders, including the Inbox, Contacts, Calendar, Notes, Tasks and Journal folders, cannot be moved.”  Oh, I see.   Although I tried various methods within Outlook to achieve the same thing, I failed miserably.

    So what is the solution?  Ironically, going back to Thunderbird and simply dragging the folder from Trash into the top-level mail account/box did it.  It re-sync’ed over IMAP and everything gets copied correctly.  How ridiculous.

    The solution is not to run scanpst.exe or scanost.exe, or to start up Outlook using the “Safe” switch, thus:
    C:Program FilesMicrosoft OfficeOffice12OUTLOOK.EXE” /safe

    It’s not even starting up Outlook with “Reset Folders”:
    C:Program FilesMicrosoft OfficeOffice12OUTLOOK.EXE” /resetfolders
    … or the combination of both.

    This is one of those annoying, inexplicable problems that you somehow just get used to.  I hope this helps someone else out there who has suffered the same issue.

    In Windows Explorer :

    Click Organize / Fold and Search options / View [tab] / Files and Folders section / untick "Always show icons, never thumbnails"

    Seriously - what ****-head, numb-nut set this as default ??????

    Oh and you need to close and restart Explorer to see the effect.
    That's like washing your car and having to get into & out of it before you see the clean car. (:
    (from a friend, reproduced with permission) 

    Boy, I am always amazed at the breadth of stuff that goes on weekly, surrounding people’s preferred operating systems, new hardware press releases and so on.  For me, it’s one of the best things about the internet: constant information from all corners of the globe, seeking an audience and advocate elsewhere.

    Intel, AMD and the new kid in town

    Image via CrunchBase

    So, this week there has been loads of stuff which caught my attention, only a short list of which I have time to share.  First things first, Ars Technica : a constantly vibrant source of interesting news out there in the technosphere.  Featured in its hallowed pages was the title ARM’s Eagle has landed: meet the A15“.  Indeedy, ARM is developing more processor chips which are beginning to compete with the likes of Intel’s Atom and AMD’s lesser-known Geode.

    AMD Geode™ LX 800@0.9W Processor

    The exciting thing here is that a third player is entering the midst of a traditionally two-horse race: GPU/CPU design and manufacture (AKA AMD vs Intel).  Similarly to the console race of 2007-ish, a third player getting involved (in the console war, this being Microsoft‘s XBox 360) does great things for the market and the larger picture.  Who would have thought, against the mighty 360 or PS3, that the Wii would have competed so well?


    We’ll see how this plays out in a different way with chip manufacturers though but, as with most of these things, the early adopters of SmartBooks (Netbooks with phone capabilities, typically powered by ARM processors) will likely be Business types and Linux users who aren’t just taken in by the big names.

    The Apple is finally ripening
    Finally. Sense at Apple.  Well, some at least. Developers are creative, resourceful individuals.  So throwing down the gauntlet by restricting their development languages was kind of a draconian, hard-line gesture by a company pimping itself as cool and trendy.  Sorry Fanbois, but it was a bit Microsofty, actually.  Which is actually unfair to Microsoft, as they are generally far less restrictive about this (as this list of programming languages illustrates..).  Then again, 99.4% of malware is aimed at Windows users.

    But back to Apple, this Ars story describes the change in stance at Cappuccino.

    How nice of them to open up their policy as well as opening up their iOS 4.1 BootROM in the same week!  In case anyone thinks I have a grudge against Apple, far from it.  This vulnerability intended feature clearly demonstrates that Apple are committed to opening up their systems and allowing users to fully use what they have purchased.  Brilliant!

    Oh, but then there are still situations which make you wonder.  Like the stealthy Apple OS-X update that kept “fanbois strangely silent“…   I’m not sure I would have described Apple’d products as a “mutant virus“, but their loyal customers’ thinking probably is.  But then, Apple build fashion statements, not computers.

    Open systems continue to gather pace

    There’s an interesting article at O’Reilly on debunking the 1% myth.  The 1% myth is the idea, forever purported by some in the industry, that Linux only has 1% of desktop market share.  Succinctly put, as there is no way of actually measuring this accurately, it’s a false claim (as the article details).

    Talking of open software, media player Amarok is looking more and more beautiful.  What’s not to like about this, especially when it’s free?

    Enhanced by Zemanta

    Well Apple-lovers, you sure do choose interesting products. Like the iPod; a “revolutionary” portable audio player, being probably the first to have a non-replaceable battery. I might be wrong, having done no research on the subject, but this was enough to turn me off. Let alone the insistence of using iTunes.

    Or the iPad; the computer-but-not-a-computer consumer device that let’s you do anything you want with your media.  So long as it is on Apple’s terms.  I don’t get why someone as apparently intellectual as Stephen Fry gets so excited about it. Yes, it’s so exciting, in fact, that I’d go immediately to and check it out!

    The iPad. I mean, for goodness sake, it’s a laptop without a keyboard, but with potentially harmful restrictions, a proprietary operating system and about as much appeal as a colonoscopy. According to Fry, it also has no “multitasking, still no Adobe Flash. No camera, no GPS”. But it does have a touch-screen and 3D desktop effects… Perhaps that’s why the Free Software Foundation dropped “Freedom” Fry’s video from their homepage: who’d want to appear as hypocritical as that?

    And then there’s the iPhone. This is the biggy. Apple are using typical Microsoft-like tactics here.  Make an “irresistable” upgrade, probably for free or very cheap, and subtly attach some conditions to it. This time, as exposed in Giorgio Sironi’s blog post, The Apple of Sin, the condition is that you must only develop iPhone applications in languages prescribed to you by Apple.

    The reasons, given by Giorgio, are pretty clear: Apple want to kill any chance of Flash appearing on the iPhone, else it might be inconsistent with the new iPad policy.

    So, Mac users, be aware that your choice of platform may well come to haunt you in a year or two, when Apple extends this anti-Flash policy to OS X.  There is one nice aspect of this, though: Apple might just force Adobe to open-source Flash.  Then will follow a review-and-embrace process, where Flash gains recognition as an open standard.

    Then we’ll see if Apple is embracing open standards as it “seems” to be with its current policies.  If not, then you’ll get more choice of hardware and software if you choose Windows. And even more if you opt for Linux and, not only would that be cheaper, you would also retain your right to choose what you do with it.

    Sorry about that. 😉