Saturday, January 16, 2016

Replacing an XP System with Windows 10

My IBM NetVista running Windows XP Professional has seemed much slower compared to other systems I run lately, in addition, I wanted to be prepared when Google Chrome support for XP and Windows Vista ends in April of this year. The 1.6GHz Pentium 4 is rather dated at this point (surprisingly I have more problems with the CPU usage staying at 100% load instead of the 1.5Gb of PC133 memory being insufficient). I decided on a discounted Lenovo (which bought the PC line from IBM years several years back) ThinkCentre M81 mid-tower that is the same size and layout as the NetVista it replaces.

USB ports are right up front, so I don't need to run a cable to the back now (it also has a number of USB ports on the back as well). The M81 model retains a VGA display connection (and an additional Displayport connection, both run by an Intel Graphics display adapter on the motherboard), ironically I was adapting the DVI connection of the ATI "All-In-Wonder" video board of the NetVista for the VGA connection of my display. There is even an adapter for a PS/2 keyboard and mouse, so I can still use my two-port KVM switch ("KVM" means Keyboard, Video, and Mouse, a device that allows you to use more than one system with your keyboard, mouse, and display).

My new ThinkCentre M81 also has a couple older legacy PCI slots, just in case I want to still attach a dial-up modem. The CPU is an Intel i7 at 2.80GHz, and the system has 4Gb of RAM. It came with Windows 7 Professional 64-bit, which I immediately took advantage of the free Windows 10 upgrade. I shouldn't need to add any additional memory for now; the system performs extremely well.

I've submitted an issue to Google when I can't get "Curtain Mode" (which conceals the screen of the computer you are connecting to) to work under Chrome Remote Desktop for Windows 10 (it functions correctly for all of my Windows 7 and 8.1 systems). Quite often I remote into my systems from elsewhere using Chrome Remote Desktop, and should be possible for someone else for someone to be logged in on their profile, all while I use the system independently. Hopefully, I will get an answer to fix the issue, or the next update of Chrome will make it work.

I didn't mention the cost. The system was $270 from Newegg, and I mailed in the included offer for a $20 rebate. Not a bad price for a very capable (and upgradable, while supporting the older mechanisms I still use) device.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Review: HooToo TripMate Nano "Travel Router"

Yet another nifty device I've had for some months, a HooToo TripMate Nano "travel router". The most common scenario for a travel router is being at a hotel or another location where the provided wired or wireless network isn't sufficient for multiple devices and/or there is an approval web page (called a "captive portal") to access the Internet. The easiest way to describe is that it connects to another wired or wireless network, and links in a wireless network of its own.

For instance, a Chromecast must be on the same network as the casting host, but is not able to navigate through a captive portal page. You also don't want to expose your devices to the wireless network of the hotel for security reasons. Certainly it is handy to have a travel router like this when it can be purchased for less than $20 USD.

Once powered up, you connect to the initial wireless network and configure it through a web interface. I have found that using a Chromebook abandons the wireless network when configuring the device, but once it is all set up there aren't any issues. An older Windows system worked best for the most trouble-free configuration time.

The TripMate Nano also provides a USB connection that can be used for a SATA hard drive dock or USB drive to serve files. There are settings for configuring it as a DLNA server (meaning media content on the drive can be streamed to devices on the wireless network). Powering the Nano is easy, since it is a micro USB connection that can be ran from a portable USB charger.