IT Update – The Lenovo Story

So our workforce ordered 12 Lenovo P51s laptops.
It turned out that HI-DPI (older posts herein) woes weren’t the only issue we’d be facing.

First we’d be facing the ‘unacknowledged manufacturing defect’ of display/screen cracking. Of the 12 units we received, within the first 6 months of use, 6 of them developed a crack in the LCD screen from one hinge to an edge, often more than just one border. So about 20% from the left edge of the screen (hinge area) all the way to the right perimeter, and sometimes all the way UP to the left top border area, would be a crack. Display area from the center of the screen to the crack remained readable, but beyond the crack, either random “noise” or junk data, or black was seen. About 1″ to 1-3/4″ of lost screen area.

That’s a 50% failure rate under normal use conditions (laptop not leaving the desk).

Lenovo refused to acknowledge an issue. Lenovo refused to honor under warranty. We needed to purchase ‘soup to nuts’ coverage or something, for an extra $400-and-something per unit, in order to have this repaired and other “incidentals” covered.

We were able to work with our sales person to get retroactive coverage and execute this option, but at a huge cost to the company.

This wasn’t the first time I’ve been disappointed with Lenovo as a company, and it wouldn’t be the last. When I got my laptop back from repair (it was the first of 6 sent out, but the last to return) it had a wiped disk and bitlocker was triggered and enforcing. Not sure what the point was of sending them a baseline-formatted unit with the administrator credentials on a post-it note as per the instructions. Not sure how you mess that up. But, hey, they managed to. Good on ’em.

It’s the only core i7 windows 10 pro machine with a clean install that I can literally turn on and within a few hours be annoyed with the fan noise of it *doing nothing at all*. Just wait until you use it, though! It’ll sound like it’s about to take off. I now run it underneath my desk so that:
1) i can’t hear it venting lukewarm air like a turbine
2) there’s no chance of breaking the screen with it tucked away on the shelf
3) It can only support 3 video outputs with the onboard graphics card and I have 3 monitors, so the internal display is useless to me (shitty HI-DPI anyway. Also, Bonus WTF?: my 4 year old macbook pro has 2x Mini-DVI outputs, 1x HDMI output, and all of those work while the built-in screen works, and MacOS doesn’t suck at HiDPI or “Retina” like windows does, so I enjoy 4 screens with the older mac. It’s an i7 that I almost never notice fan noise on, and can do far more with. )

So what gives, Lenovo? Why does this thing that ended up costing as much as my 4yr old mac suck so much more? both mechanically, technically, and in the software realm? you’re not making it any easier for me to get back to a windows toolset as Apple obviously positions itself to exit the desktop computer game.

Next time around I am going to check out what HP offers and keep an eye on how QubesOS supports the P51s. Maybe I can actually start using it as a laptop again? not holding my breath. It’s a delicate, non-upgradeable, somewhat crunchy desktop pc to me right now. Talk about wasted potential.

New Hosting

Well, that was fun!
Sorry for any experiences of being unable to load this site lately.

Severed ties with 1&1 Hosting (I guess now rebranding as IONOS or some such nonsense). Moved things to NoSupportLinuxHosting. From what I can tell, I’ll be just fine..

-jre

HiDPI on Windows 10: Post 2 – it’s about snark now, more than tech

Post 1’s tip about the Compatibility change was brought to you by my coworker Dave.

Dave also has developed some dissatisfaction for the poor support of HiDPI on Windows 10.

His experience today was taking his laptop to a meeting, using the Sticky-Note app to make some notes.
Upon returning to his desk and docking his laptop, the note on his Dell U2415 AwesomeDisplay(tm) was about 4″ by 5″, occupying much of one side of the screen.

Words were used that I can’t repeat here. His later observance is that in 2018 we’re supposed to have flying cars and jetpacks. But we can’t have nice things because people are apparently eating tide pods and windows can’t support external displays properly.

This post from 2015 ( https://windowsreport.com/fix-hidpi-issues-windows-10/ ) is going to be 3 years old in a matter of months. Yet it’s still relevant because Microsoft hasn’t resolved the root issues: Windows HiDPI support is crap. Microsoft is quick to say “we’re working on it” with blog posts like this almost-year-old gem: https://blogs.windows.com/buildingapps/2017/04/04/high-dpi-scaling-improvements-desktop-applications-windows-10-creators-update/
Yet, still broken.  A month later, Microsoft seems to be “reinventing the wheel” working on scaling in this post’s content: https://blogs.windows.com/buildingapps/2017/05/19/improving-high-dpi-experience-gdi-based-desktop-apps/#lymoRLe77P5RfPpz.97 and guess what? Still BROKEN.

I tell ya, I use the SAME exact monitor layout in that last blog post. One laptop with Super Hi Rez and two decent monitors that are 1080p or slightly better. Using this configuration with my MacBook Pro, there’s not even a subtle hint at issues, drama, angst, blur or distortion. It doesn’t make you want to kill yourself. Sleep the MBP and substitute a Win10 laptop and HOLY CROW I MUST BE CRYING BLOOORD

And that’s how it looks. And Dave’s right. That’s why we can’t have nice things.

 

More on this later. I’m still actually looking for improvements to this technically morose situation. Google is either failing me or it “really is that bad”.

HiDPI on Windows 10: Post 1 – my eyes are bleeding

So, new Windows 10 laptops at work.

My history as a Windows 10 user:

I’ve used Windows 10 for a while now, I have an older Core i5 at home that I use in the Ham Radio shack for some applications that are PC-Only (AGW-PE and the like) and use some VMs for programming radios that have windows-only programmers.

I don’t have “awesome” LCD displays at home, so my DVI-driven 23″ LCD (not a 16:9 widescreen, just a nice simple 1280×1024 display) works well.
As a VM Win10 user, VirtualBox has done a great job delivering an integrated display onto my Mac (primary), Linux and Windows Virtualbox hosts.

The Mac has “Retina” display (trademarked HiDPI) and as a Mac user I can tell you this technology is refined enough that I rarely notice it. The only thing I noticed about having a HiDPI MAC is that when I take screenshots on the mac and then view them elsewhere they are “friggin’ HUGE” because really they’re twice the resolution a normal display would generate. Definitely not an issue with most respects.

Enter me, coming from this blissful MAC realm, into a realm with a Lenovo ThinkPad, Core i7, pretty “nice by current standards” PC laptop running Windows 10 enterprise.
The native display is a 3840 x 2160 display and when it’s the only active display in Win10, is sharp yet almost unreadable even by my keen eyes at 100% (no scaling). To make things usable, the default 250% is nice, and I can even happily function at 200% scaling.

So, no worries, right? after all, the MAC did the same thing – has a NICE retina display at 2880 x 1800 and I generally run it scaled so I don’t have to get too close. Nice and sharp. Connect a few external displays and I have a triple-head workstation that is sharp, beautiful and readable. On all three displays. Seamless moving of apps/windows from one to another.

This is what I expected with Windows 10.

Oh, my, how my eyes now bleed.

The external displays I use at work are *NICE* Dell U2415 displays. Not “HiDPI” but really “nice” monitors. They’ve worked GREAT with my mac and assorted other laptops.

Enter this StinkPad. I connect them, and notice that “all text everywhere” looks like complete crap. Doesn’t seem to matter how I set aliasing/anti-aliasing, everything just looks “janky”.

In fact, the only way I can get things to look somewhat-OK is to disable the built-in display, and reboot. And then “things aren’t too bad” unless I need to actually take my laptops somewhere and disconnect, then return and reconnect the displays. If I don’t reboot, things just look trashy.

I attribute this to Windows 10 needing to “make use of” the built-on HiDPI display and enabling scaling. Once it starts down that path, visual tolerance exits.

And with the internal display enabled? Dragging a window (even notepad) from the native display to the external results in a “Balooned” 2x-huge version of the window on the external monitor until you “drop” the window by releasing the mouse — now tell me Microsoft, how did Mac get around this, and not you guys? Can you not handle on-the-fly scaling of windows from one display to another? Mac seems to have figured it out. All of the fancy graphics adapters in the world won’t help you if you don’t bother to try to handle things correctly at the OS level. You’re called “Windows” for pete’s sake. This is an issue dragging a window from one display to another. Could you get this right? No?  Hm.

It’s no wonder there’s a subreddit called “were HiDPI displays kept secret from Microsoft?”

So since two weeks ago when my eyes started bleeding from 8am to 5pm, I’ve come across a couple tips I want to share so that your eyes might not bleed as Windows 10 users who have “nice displays that are not HiDPI” if your native display is.

Tip 1: SOME (not all) applications can be fixed by tweaking the “Compatibility” settings:

1: right-click your app shortcut and take note of the application path and executable.
2: Next, Example for PuTTY: “C:\Program Files\PuTTY\putty.exe”
3: Browse to that location, right click on putty.exe and click Properties.
4: Click on the “Compatibility” tab, check “Override high DPI scaling behavior” and select “System” from the dropdown.

Voila. Next time you launch PuTTY it won’t look like garbage on your NiceDisplay™

NOTE: not all programs have a “Compatibility” tab. (Sorry, Outlook.exe users!) so you won’t be able to undo the damage that Windows 10’s damaged HiDPI scaling will do to native Microsoft applications. Noted that you also can’t do this for Word, Excel, PowerPoint, or IE or Edge. Chrome? yep. Firefox? yep.

Fun Fact: I’ve noticed that the speed of Putty, SmartConsole, and NotePad++ have also all improved since I’ve overridden the HiDPI scaling in Windows 10.

(Don’t ask me how in 2017 with a Core i7 that you can notice a speed difference in “Notepad ++” but try it yourself before you call me a liar.)

 

DMR-MARC partners with DMRPlus! Dongle access is here!

dv4mini dongle from wireless holdings
dv4mini dongle from wireless holdings

The HCCA Repeater N8OUZ in Traverse City, MI (442.2875) is a MotoTrbo repeater on the DMR-MARC network.

As such, this announcement applies to users of the system, which serves to announce access to new talkgroups accessible to dv4mini users, as well as users of other similar technologies. Here is the text from the official announcement”

8/10/2016:

DMR-MARC is pleased to announce a partnership with the DMRPlus network that will enable DV4mini USB dongles from Wireless Holding, to access the DMR-MARC network.

Today, we are launching three new DMR-MARC talkgroups: talkgroup 133 (DMRPlus USA), talkgroup 143 (DMRPlus UK), and talkgroup 153 (DMRPlus South Pacific), which will allow interconnection between the DMR-MARC and DMRPlus networks using timeslot 1. In the coming months, we are also planning to launch additional interconnected talkgroups, including three German language talkgroups, a French language talkgroup, and a Spanish language talkgroup as well.

These new talkgroups are currently set up as “on-demand”, which can be enabled using the PTT and have a 10-minute inactivity timeout on our eight core DMR-MARC bridges. We will begin rolling out these talkgroups to our core DMR-MARC repeaters while we evaluate the loading on our gateway that connects the DMR-MARC and DMRPlus networks. If we determine the loading is acceptable, we will then roll these new talkgroups out to all of our other bridges for wider distribution. Please note that there is no plan at this time to roll out these new talkgroups to other DMR networks outside of the core DMR-MARC bridges.

We believe our partnership with DMRPlus network provides us with better options for experimentation using the DMR-MARC network, while at the same time, maintain the high degree of reliability that the DMR-MARC has become known for, allowing us to serve our communities during times of emergency when our network is needed the most.

Stay tuned for more announcements related to these talkgroups as they are made available to DMR-MARC repeaters in your local area.

73,

The DMR-MARC Leadership Team

Additional information on this partnership is available via these links:

DMR-MARC announces deal with the DMRPlus network for DV4mini support

 

KC8PBX DMR-MARC repeater update

There’s good news and bad news.

First, the bad news:
Effective May 18, 2016, TS2 TG8052 (the Link from DMR-MARC to Mi5-StateWide2) has been terminated.

The Mi5 have decided to port their Mi5 talkgroup to Brandmeister (which is a competitor to the C-bridge used by DMR-MARC).

DMR-MARC desires to have NOTHING to do with Brandmeister due to the illicit development of BM by stealing code from other people without permission or reverse engineering protocols which can have a detrimental effect on the reliability of the network.

In addition, the BM folks have a policy of any talkgroup they syndicate can be used anywhere.

Also, there are several flaky DV4mini dongles on there that burp every couple of minutes with garbage packets.  We did not want to have to listen to that.

Lastly, we have ZERO control over accidental packet loopings (patching talkgroups with 2 origins) and that could mean failed hardware or at the very least annoying audio loops.  The BM system is basically decentralized, and as such, no one is responsible for making sure the system operates without issue. Think of it as Echolink, Allstar, D-Star, and DMR all thrown into one pot with little or no rules.

Due to the actions of the Mi-5 team, as of May 18, 2016, the DMR-MARC team have severed the connection to Mi-5, and the Mi5-SW2 group (TG52 on Mi5, TG8045 on DMR-MARC) will no longer reach the Mi-5 networks.

The issue was discovered late in the day on May 17 and we discussed a communicated and scheduled disconnection, but by early May 18, had discovered some serious security issues with the Link to Mi-5 being subject to passing data associated to the BM networks.

 

 

Now, the good news:

DMR-MARC is taking steps to clarify its administration, standards, mission and goals. At a meeting on 5/19, members of DMR-MARC discussed options related to Brandmeister, DMRPlus, and other topics. The short and vague version is that within the next few months, we expect to see some progressive and impressive changes to the network offerings among DMR-MARC systems. As I type this, plans are being made to design a sane and scalable Talkgroup topology and distribution system which will allow linking to the DMRPlus networks. Those with DV4mini (and similar) products will be able to be reachable from DMR-MARC networks.

 

Some review:

TimeSlot TalkGroup Name Type Purpose
1 3  N.America PTT-activated North America
1 13 WW English permanent World-Wide English-Speaking
1 100 Tech-Talk permanent Technical Discussions
1 3169 Midwest permanent MI-IL-WI-OH area
2 2 N. Michigan permanent Northern Michigan
2 8052 CMEN-MI-SW permanent Link to CMEN TS2/TG52

You’ll notice TS2 is pretty “light” and that is troublesome.
Depending on the anticipated wait time for the new DMRPlus TGs and some talk group reorganization at the C-bridge levels, the above might need to be adjusted somewhat as well..

sooooooo…. don’t go reprogramming your radios just yet. Hang on for a bit and I’ll publish a new list of TGs that will for sure be an upgrade 🙂

 

Thanks,
73- Joe N8CN

 

KC8PBX 442.2875 and N8CN 444.400 repeater update

Two items:

 

1 – KC8PBX DMR-MARC repeater

Well, a couple weeks ago, the PA unit fried in the XPR-8400 due to a bug in the latest firmware which causes the repeater to constantly transmit garbage if beaconing is not enabled for at least 2s every 2m.

I’ve replaced the TX PA unit twice, but serial number mismatch issues have prevented the repeater from coming online.

 

TL;DR version: repeater is a brick.

I’ve recently removed it from service for repair, and replaced it with a Yaesu DR-1X SystemFusion repeater.

More updates as progress is made.

 

 

2 – N8CN 444.400+ (PL 114.8 optional) is online and functional. It is experimental and has a remote base link to 146.860- (PL 114.8) and is also available as echolink node ID 288970.

The range is about 5 miles from the area of Barlow and South Airport in Traverse City. Not much, but enough for me and my experiments, which is its purpose. But, all are free to play.

 

 

 

73,

-jre