Day 2 of Our 2018 Bend & Lincoln City, Oregon Vacation

Thankfully some rain during the first night we stayed in Bend cleared up the smoke. Our second day was much more picturesque with gorgeous blue skies and crisp air.

Please, click the Continue Reading link below to see the photos from Day 2 of our 2018 Bend & Lincoln City, Oregon Vacation!

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Day 1 of Our 2018 Bend & Lincoln City, Oregon Vacation

Every single year my partner and I find ourselves asking the same question: “When are we going to get to go to Bend, Oregon this year?” Anytime either of us ask: “What’s for dinner?” Inevitably, one of us will respond with a restaurant located in Bend. It’s our favorite vacation destination. Maybe it’s because it’s an amazing launching point to some gorgeous scenic vistas in Oregon. Maybe it’s because if we’re in Bend, we’re on vacation and not having to deal with the ins and outs of everyday life! I think it has a lot to do with the latter!

Please, click the Continue Reading link below to see the photos from Day 1 of our 2018 Bend & Lincoln City, Oregon Vacation!

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Lenovo 110S

Why did I buy this thing?

I had been looking for an ultra-portable laptop to use as a thin-client computer.

Something that I could establish a VPN connection to my home network with and connect into my more powerful desktop computer. Something I could throw into my backpack and carry around with me every day if I wanted to. Something I could use around the house. I already have an HP Envy dv7 laptop, but lugging a 17″ desktop replacement laptop around the house just isn’t something I want to do anymore.

I had been thinking about buying a really old IBM ThinkPad or Lenovo laptop. I will occasionally see them on Craigslist or eBay for $25-50. I’ve always wanted a ThinkPad. There is just something about their styling that steals my heart!

In the past I purchased an old PowerBook G4 from a guy on Craigslist to do just this very task. I gave the man $25 for it (or was it $30 or $40, it was several years ago now and I’ve slept since then). I sat it aside because I didn’t feel comfortable using the power cable that appeared to be charred. I didn’t really want to invest the money into buying a new power cable considering it would have been more than I paid for the computer itself. One of these days I will revive that computer! I hate the fact that it just sits in the closet! Anyway, I digress (a lot)!

Ultimately, the problem with buying an old IBM/Lenovo or refurbishing the PowerBook G4 was that any of those options are old, heavy, probably need new batteries, and produce way more heat than I want to deal with.

To facilitate my need for an ultra-portable thin-client, I had been using my Amazon Fire tablet. Using an external keyboard and mouse it worked fairly well. However, I still longed for a true laptop form factor. I wanted something with more versatility and ports.

I had also considered purchasing the Pinebook, but, ultimately decided against that because I wasn’t sold on the build quality at the time.

Cut to me in Best Buy on Black Friday 2017 looking at a Lenovo 110S for $99. Unfortunately, they were sold out. However, after looking at it in store and falling in love with the look and feel of it I decided this would be a perfect ultra-portable thin-client computer. Sure, the specs were absolutely terrible. Sure, the screen is absolutely awful. However, the form factor was fantastic. The fact that it was running Windows 10 was even better. I decided to look and see if I could find it online for a reasonable price. Unfortunately, I wasn’t lucky enough to find it for $99 like I did in Best Buy. However, I was able to get it through my employer’s Perks at Work program for a little under $180 (after taxes and shipping). So, yeah, I paid for it twice. *SIGH* *FACEPALM*

Mind Blowing Specifications

I mentioned that the specs on this laptop are absolutely terrible, but let’s list them out:

Processor: Intel® Celeron® N3160 Processor @ 1.60 GHz
Operating System: Windows 10 Home
Graphics: Integrated Intel® HD Graphics 400
Webcam / Microphone: 0.3MP with Microphone
Memory: 2.0 GB
Storage: 32 GB eMMC
Audio: 2 x 1W speaker
Battery: 31.9WHr; Up to 7 Hours Video Playback
Display: 11.6″ HD (1366 x 768) Anti-Glare
WiFi: 802.11 AC (1 x 1)
Bluetooth: Bluetooth 4.0

• 1 x USB 3.0
• 2 x USB 2.0
• 3.5 mm Combo Audio Jack
• 1 x HDMI™
• 4-in-1 Card Reader (SD, SDHC, SDXC, MMC)

Unboxing Photos

Installing an m.2 SSD

Between the time I saw this computer at Best Buy and purchasing through Perks at Work I did some research to see if there was any possibility of upgrading the internal components. Unfortunately, the RAM is soldered onto the motherboard so I knew I would be stuck with the 2 GBs of built-in RAM. However, I did see a few posts where people had upgraded the internal storage to an m.2 SATA III SSD. I did do this and highly recommend it. 32 GBs of storage is simply not enough for Windows 10. What wound up happening every single time I would turn this computer on was Windows would tell me that it couldn’t install any updates because there wasn’t enough storage space available. This nag screen would bog down the performance of this machine so badly it usually rendered it useless.

Installing the m.2 SATA III SSD takes less than 10 minutes. It is as simple as removing all of the screws on the bottom of the laptop, prying it apart, inserting the m.2 drive and re-assembling the laptop.

I will say that while I was installing the m.2 SSD I needed a screw to tighten it down so I didn’t have to worry about it disconnecting during re-assembly or normal usage. I stole one of the bottom panel screws for this task. Then used whatever screw I could find that would work as a temporary replacement.

The m.2 SSD I installed is a Silicon Power 120GB M55 M.2 2280 SSD which I purchased on Amazon.

Thoughts After 8 Months of Use

I know, I am so super speedy to write about the products that I buy! It’s a good thing I’m not trying to make money off of this site. However, I always figure there is someone out there who is thinking about buying something second hand or maybe they are nostalgic about the products they buy and want to see what other people had to say about them.

1.) I really do love the form-factor of this laptop.
2.) The screen is absolutely awful. I made a rule after I bought my first IPS display that I’d never buy anything without an IPS display. I wish I had stuck to that rule.
3.) The trackpad on the laptop is tiny. I won’t say the mouse buttons tend to stick, but they do have a tendency not to register your clicks because you’re not pressing far enough in the middle of the button.
4.) Unless you’re going to put an m.2 SSD into this computer like I did, don’t even bother buying the 32 GB version of this computer. 32 GBs is just not enough for Windows. Even if you strip ALL of the pre-installed software (including Microsoft Office) and disable a ton of the built-in Windows features, 32 GBs is not enough. Windows Updates will eat up all available space every single time you turn it on.
5.) Don’t buy this unless you have a highly specialized need like I did. This should not be your daily driver. It shouldn’t even be a computer you buy for someone as their first computer or a relative who desperately needs a computer. There are better options out there. 2 GBs of RAM is just enough for a couple of tasks. It’s plenty if all you’re doing is running a remote desktop session.
6.) Remote desktop, which is what I use this computer for 99.9% of the time I have it turned on, works beautifully.
7.) The computer is, shockingly, able to drive two external monitors via a Plugable USB 3.0 docking station.
8.) Battery standby time is pretty impressive. I don’t use this every day. When I do I’m only using it 1-2 hours at a time and all I am doing is RDP. I can usually go a couple of weeks without actually having to charge the computer. I can leave it laying around the house in standby mode.
9.) The hinge on the laptop is amazing. While I will probably never have the need to completely flatten out the laptop, should I ever have the need to do so, this laptop can do it effortlessly.
10.) Make sure you keep this laptop in a sleeve if you don’t want it to get scratched up. I really like the Amazon Basics sleeve I purchased for mine.

Would I buy it again? Probably not for $180 *FACEPALM*. If someone has an upgraded model of this on Black Friday 2018 for less than $100 I would consider upgrading, but since I already have this one, it would need to be one heck of an upgrade.

Other Tips

  • F2 during startup will get you into the BIOS.
  • If you need/want to reinstall Windows, the easiest way to do so is to create a bootable USB drive using Rufus. Rufus has options for UEFI systems. Using Microsoft’s boot disk creator does not work in my experience.

Raspbian Stretch Lite Secure Baseline Setup

The purpose of this tutorial is to walk you through the process of making an installation of Raspbian Stretch Lite more secure. Which you can then create your own image from to use as a baseline setup for future Raspberry Pi projects.

This tutorial assumes that you already know how to flash a microSD card with Raspbian. It also assumes that you are already somewhat familiar with setting up and using a Raspberry Pi.

Continue reading “Raspbian Stretch Lite Secure Baseline Setup”

The Raspberry Pi

In early 2012 I found an article about the Raspberry Pi. All of my news feeds were filled with buzz about “The $35 Computer.” Ever since then my mind and my project to-do list have been filled with projects that the Raspberry Pi could be used for.

I often bring up the Raspberry Pi in casual conversation. People usually get excited about it and want to know more. They will often ask me questions that I can never adequately answer on the spot. I want to be able to say “I don’t have enough time to do this topic justice right now! However, I have wrote about it extensively on my web site! Please, take a look!” If that is why you are here, I’m glad you could make it! 🙂

After having owned and used many Raspberry Pi (Pi) boards, I want to finally start writing about it. Sharing projects where I have utilized the Pi.

I want this blog post to be used for both newcomers and slightly more technically savvy people who just need some recommendations for what to purchase and links to additional resources to get them started.

Please note that I make no claims of being an expert with the Raspberry Pi, Linux, or computer hardware. I consider myself a fanatic!

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2017 United States Solar Eclipse

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Dell PowerEdge 840 Upgrade

In January 2012 I purchased a used Dell PowerEdge 840 (PE840) server. Since then I have been using it as a home file and remote desktop server. My eventual goal when I bought the server was to upgrade the server to its maximum capacity. I wanted to use the server as a file and virtualization server. I knew it would take a while to buy all of the components. I started buying components for the upgrade project in March 2015. It is now November 2016 and I have had all of the parts for a few months now. I finally had some time off from work and performed the upgrade.

Specs before upgrade:

CPU: Intel Xeon 3040 Dual-Core 1.86 GHz
RAM: 2 GB DDR2-667 PC2-5300 ECC RAM
Storage: 1-250 GB HDD and 1-2 TB HDD
Connectivity: 1-Gigabit Ethernet Port

Specs after upgrade:

CPU: Intel Xeon X3230 Quad-Core 2.66 GHz
RAM: 8 GB DDR2-667 PC2-5300 ECC RAM
Storage: 1-60 GB SSD, 1-120 GB SSD and 2-5 TB NAS HDDs
Connectivity: 4-Gigabit Ethernet Ports (1 on motherboard, 3 via add-on cards)

The upgrade was successful. The server is running well. The only major problem that I had is with Windows Server 2016. I was hoping to be able to run Windows Server 2016 Hyper-V. It installed without a problem, but it would not recognize the embedded Broadcom Gigabit NIC. I found drivers for the NIC that were created for Windows 7, but they did not work (it was a long shot, I know). I couldn’t find any newer drivers. However, I was able to utilize the NIC with Windows Server 2012 R2.

I am currently using this machine as a file and Hyper-V server. I have two virtual machines running around the clock. (1) VPN Server (CentOS with OpenVPN) and (2) Windows 7 installation that is being utilized as an iTunes server to feed our Apple TV.

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I purchased the upgrade components over the course of a year so I was able to distribute the cost. However, the RAM upgrade alone was close to $90 ($45 for 4 GBs). Recently, I had the thought of buying another PE840 to use for additional virtual machines. I found one for $90 (plus shipping) that has the same specs that mine has AFTER I upgraded it. It would be ridiculous for me to purchase another PE840 for $90 when you can get something much better that doesn’t cost that much more. You can get decent brand new servers in the $200 price range. There are much better/newer used servers to be had on eBay for as little as $100-$150. Some with 32 GBs of RAM or better. If you’re dead set on upgrading your PE840, go for it. You’ll appreciate the performance boost. If you haven’t bought the components, I would investigate buying a newer server.

The only component that I haven’t installed is an adequate GPU. It would really be nice for Hyper-V machines so I can take advantage of RemoteFX. However, I don’t think I want to put anymore money into this machine as I am hoping to retire it or re-purpose it soon. If I were to purchase a GPU for it, it looks like the ZOTAC GeForce GT 710 would be the best option. Currently on NewEgg for a little under $50. It is DirectX 12 capable which would allow you to utilize RemoteFX (which requires DX11).

When I started the process of buying the components to upgrade the PE840 I found the following blog post that was extremely useful. If you’re planning to upgrade a PE840, check it out.

What is the best CPU that a Dell Poweredge 840 can take? A Quad Core Xeon X3230!