The Upgrade

This is my favourite computer. Did I mention this before?

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It’s a 2010 Lenovo ThinkPad X201. Somewhen back in late 2015, just before my last Christmas in the parish, I’d been playing with Linux on one of my laptops. Well, the only laptop that was running Linux at the time… Somehow or other I was surfing the Web looking for Linux laptops, and came across the website of Ministry of Freedom  who sell GNU + Linux + Libreboot laptops. Libreboot , it turns out, represents the ultimate in freedom for those computer users who believe even FOSS (Free and Open Source Software) isn’t free enough. Most computers have non-free proprietary bootware, which can be exploited by developers to do all kinds of nasty things to your computer, which lovers of true freedom do not want. “By contrast, libreboot is fully free software, where anyone can contribute or inspect its code.” Ministry of Freedom sell refurbished ThinkPads which have this proprietary bootware replaced by Libreboot. Well and good – but the price of that replacement brings the price up beyond what I was willing to pay at the time. Instead, I started looking for non-Libreboot refurbished ThinkPads on eBay and elsewhere. There are lots of them, because many of them have been commercially owned office machines which get replaced every couple of years, flooding the market with old models. I found one being offered for around £100, which seemed about right for a machine I just wanted to play around with, trying out different varieties of Linux.

Lots of people love the older ThinkPad models. They’re robust, chunky, hard-wearing, able to take a lot of punishment. Best of all, for me, was the solid keyboard. I’ve had this machine for nearly three years now, and while I also love my Chromebook, and sometimes even use my flashy Windows 10 laptop, it’s the ThinkPad I love best.

I’ve tried various flavours of Linux on it: Mint, Ubuntu, Linux Lite, Manjaro (currently). Sometimes it feels a bit sluggish, as if I’m trying to overload the system, so in this December’s fit of computer folly I decided to venture a hardware upgrade. I’ve meddled with hardware some over the years: built a desktop computer once, upgraded the RAM on a Mac. That doesn’t stop me being nervous about it, but I thought I’d have a go. So I ordered the parts to upgrade the RAM from 4Gb to 8Gb, and a SSD (Solid State Drive) to replace the existing hard drive. These are supposed to be the two upgrades which will yield the greatest improvement to any older machine.

And here we are, ready to go.

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I couldn’t believe how simple and straightforward the upgrade was. These old ThinkPads have a kind of modular construction where almost all the bits you might want to replace can be easily accessed by removing just one or two screws, and the panels they hold in place. The RAM chips went in as easy as pie. The old hard disk came out as easily, but there was a slight hitch with the replacement: first time around, the connection wasn’t spot on so that when I tried to reinstall the OS, it didn’t recognise the disk and claimed there wasn’t enough disk space. Shut down, remove battery, remove SSD – oh yes, I’d fitted the rubber spacers upside down. Once that was corrected, everything slotted correctly into place.

Does it run that much better, or faster, than before? Probably… I guess I’ll find out more as I try to do more with it. But feel the satisfaction! of having done something practical and electronic. It’s price is above rubies. But fortunately didn’t cost as much as a ruby.

A useless feature? Or just useless documentation?

So what I’m doing right now, is exploring Windows 10 again, after mostly using Linux, Chromebook and iPad for the last many months. This means dusting off my Asus ZenBook, which is a nice machine, though I don’t like the keyboard as much as the really chunky one of my ThinkPad Linux box.

And here’s a thing. Yesterday evening the touchpad suddenly wasn’t responding. Aargh! Naturally the first things I do are check the settings, and then google the problem. Whereupon I find this entry from Microsoft support. I am a trusting soul, so I followed the directions about trying to update the driver, and if that doesn’t work, uninstalling it, reinstalling it, restarting the computer. All the usual steps. Nothing worked.

Eventually, somewhere in the wildlands of the WWW – and I can’t even find the place again – I found someone who said, effectively: If you have accidentally disabled the touchpad…

It turns out there is a keypress to disable the touchpad. Why? Why would anyone want to do that? Even if they were using a mouse? Apparently some people do. I have never seen any documentation about this (because of course you don’t get computer manuals nowadays); there’s nothing in the Settings; there’s not even any consistency between manufacturers about which key(s) do it; the little icons on the function keys are gnomic to say the least. I had to try most of the ones whose operations I wasn’t familiar with, before I found f9. Which does indeed toggle the touchpad off or on. This whole ‘adventure’ wasted the best part of 45 minutes, I should think. I don’t believe I am the only computer user who sometimes presses keys that inadvertently. What’s hard to believe is the difficulty of finding a solution, with so many of the responders on various internet forums wanting to promote the sledgehammer options.

Blog posts in Word

I remember it must be possible to write some text for a blog post in Word, and then publish it from Word. (For the reader who hasn’t been keeping up, it’s been a long time since I used Word very much – I’ve been using LibreOffice and Google Docs for some time, or StackEdit in a browser.) So here we go. The task is, to set this up as a post, publish it as a draft to my WordPress blog, and see what happens.

Here goes…

At the first attempt, nothing happened, I was getting unhelpful error messages. It then transpired that some time in the past I did set up Word to publish to my older blog, and had forgotten all about it, and of course those settings are no longer valid, because the blog has been removed. The Microsoft interface to set up new details looks a bit old and clunky, sort of Windows 3 style? But I got it registered after a couple of tries. And yes, it’s working: this post is hereby Published.

Just a little test

 

How do you publish text from StackEdit to WordPress?

So: here’s what this stub is about. Today I’ve been playing with StackEdit which I discovered. It’s a Markdown editor which works in any browser, or as a Chrome extension (maybe a Firefox extension, too?) And I wanted to find out how to use it to publish to my WordPress blog. Looks like it has worked. Though I still don’t know how it worked.

Written with StackEdit.

Bear with

WordPress has changed since I last used it, so the new blog and its control panels are taking some getting used to. I think the stats panel is showing me that people have read some of my posts, and two have even commented. But the process of approving comments, and making sure they don’t get thrown into Spam, is still opaque to me. So if you comment, and it hasn’t appeared after what seems like a reasonable time, don’t be afraid to contact me some other way and ask me what’s happening.

I live in hopes of understanding what’s going on; though it does look like another case of technology getting so clever that it increasingly leaves behind people who were previously more than confident about working it.