Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Maybe the best Laptop I ever bought

Dear reader,

my apologies for the long break! It has been a while, a while you have not seen me blogging. Will be back occasionally, when there is something to share.

Today, I got some to share with you. It seems my most favorite notebook computer found the way into my home. It probably wont be a surprise to my regular readers that the device is on the less expensive side of life.

While I am still pretty happy with my MacBook Air (11"), I felt to be in need of a higher resolution screen in a smaller sized notebook. For the first time ever in my life, I queued up to get advice from a dealership.
Requirements: daily work with LibreOffice and some documents (mostly PDF).
While we were going a few options I already found on their webpage, we went deeper down their stock... and there it was:
the Acer E 14 E5-475-32LH.
I figure, this is a model of the year passed. The information that my advisor had was: 6 GB RAM expandable (1), 128 GB SSD and 500 GB HDD (2).

This sold me on the particular model!
(1) expandable RAM of an odd size, i.e. 6 GB, means, we are taking modules rather than soldered on chips.
(2) HDD don't come in soldered in, that can only mean that there are exchangeable options in the mass storage department.

Turned out that I was right about the above. On top of that, the SSD is not soldered in either, in contrast to later Acer Notebook Computers. The SSD is an M.2-SATA drive.

The best thing about this notebook is that Acer actually intended it to be user serviceable. Acer opted for providing a portion of the bottom to be removable by unscrewing 4 obvious screws. Nothing hidden here!
Further, unlatching the hatch-cover disable the built-in battery. So, it you are testing, you need to put the cover back in place, screws not needed at this stage.

The notebook came with Windows 10, as you might expect. And guess what, I did not like that!
So, I installed Linux Mint.
Here are a few hints how to do that.
First, you want to disable "secure boot". This requires supplying a superuser password in the BIOS.
When that is done, install an OS of your desire which is capable of EFI booting.
Go back into the BIOS and locate the EFI-file for your OS. Add said file to the trusted boot options. Change the boot order such as to boot your alternative OS first.
Depending on your OS and the options installed thereon, you might might be able to enable "secure boot" again. As a side note: Linux MINT w/o proprietary  stuff will boot in "secure boot" mode, w/ proprietary stuff enable, it won't.
Pick your poison!

On Linux MINT Serena, every single function of the notebook worked OOB.
Now I am on MINT Sylvia Cinnamon 64bit and still everything works.

Linux MINT resides on the SSD, while I kept the HDD in the NTFS format.
This way, Linux sees the internal HDD as an external device which can be mounted and ejected just as needed.
This further allows to have a Windows 10 OS on a separate M.2-SATA drive, in case that OS is needed.

Should dual boot be required, I figure there will be an option to install both OSs alongside one another and be able to select the OS during boot in GRUB.

Back to the particular piece of hardware I selected.
The FULL-HD screen is good, very good, not brilliant though.
The keyboard is great, just to my likings!
The touchpad is responsive and well made, however there are no separate right/list switches. The touchpad is similar to a Chromebook touchpad.
Audio is OK, actually pretty good for a notebook.

I got the Core i3 model, which is plenty of power to me.

Due to the dual mass storage option and easy user upgradability of the notebook, I highly recommend the Acer E 14 E5-475 to anyone, Linux or Windows...

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Acer Aspire REVO R3600 - Win10

This little machine came with Win Vista, which I upgraded to Win7 at some stage. At same stage, the box was flagged for a free Win10 upgrade, which never came.

So, I decided to plug in a Win10 install thumb drive and guess what, Win10 upgraded.
However, and here is probably why the upgrade never came via the internet: the Nvidia ION graphics chips was not natively supported by Win10.

No big deal, I though, lets go to Nvidia and download the drivers. Well, no such luck. The Win10 driver package did not install.

What now? Well, there still is this slim chance that Acer provides some drivers. In the respective driver download area, no luck for Win10. However, they still offer the Win7 64bit driver which is called "Chipset Driver For MCP7A-ION". And this package installs on Win10 just fine. After a reboot, all GPU function were available.

So, running Acer REVO R3600 under Win10 is not problem at the end.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Acer Chromebook R11

Readers of this channel might have noticed over time, that I am very open to unconventional things, such as chromebooks. And yes, I am also known to canibalise stuff, e.g. chromebooks to cheap and cheerful Linux Laptops.
Well, the chromebook got a new boost a while ago, when Google brought two of their system together: ChromeOS and Android. So, after a period of struggle, I finally put down the money a bought an Acer R11 quad core chromebook... one of those having a touch screen and allowing for Android applications to run.

Acer got it spot-on! The keyboard is the best I have used in years! Honestly, this device has got a very very good keyboard. On the web, some people seem to dislike the screen and the touchpad. Well, fair enough, not me though. The touchpad is just right in terms of size, the click is a bit mushy, but this is something I can live with. What the screen is concerned, I do not really understand the critics. This screen is brilliant and sharp. The colors are vibrant and the black is really black. In terms of viewing angles, the display could be better, but is much better than many similarly priced products out there.

Talking Android, there is one favorite application of mine, which made a big deal in my decision: snapseed. Snapseed allows you to not only work with RAW files but also allows for local adjustments (brushes). While using snapseed on my Huawei P9 is pretty fun, the screen of the phone is rather small in comparison to my fingers. Now, snapseed is available to me on an 11 inch touchscreen - very very cool!
Originally, and I shared that with friends, I had the 13 inch version of the chromebook, the Acer R13, on my wishlist. However, the R13, having a 1080p screen, lacks in a single but essential feature: a fullsize SDHC card-reader. When using for photography, you want your device to accept fillsize SD cards, no matter what!
Message to Acer: replace the microSD card reader with a fullsize SD card reader.
As added benefit the R11 fits into the bag I am using to go to my classes. "Classes?" you may ask... Yes, I am back to university, sitting classes with peers half my age. Coool, eh?!

There are things I do not like about the device, in particular when the device is in tablet mode. For a tablet, the device is pretty heavy to my taste. When grabbing the "tablet", one grabs into the keyboard or the clicky touchbad, which feels very strange. Yes, those devices are all deactivated in tablet more, but still... it feels just weird.
Multitouch gestures, i.e. more than 2, are a bit confusing and hard to replicate in a productive manner.

The shell of the device is made from white plastics. Which looks incredibly cheap, however, feels pretty solid. Cool move! Who wants to nick a cheap plastic netbook, when there are supreme solid aluminium devices are available? In addition to that... is stolen, my data is still with me, on my account in the cloud.

Concerning compute power, finally there is a chromebook fit for music reproduction. There are a few DJ-applications out there for chrome, however, many of the regular chromebooks, at least the ones I used, struggled severly when throughing high bitrate audio at them... it seem that the 4 Celeron cores are doing a pretty decent job here. I had some frozen screens when audio spectra were processed, but, the music did not stop or stutter at all during the processing. I would go so far to state that I would be confident of play music for an entire night using some USB storage devices and the R11.

Conclusion: if there is a device I would be able to recommend in 2017 it is the Acer R11 (CB5-132T).

Friday, March 24, 2017

Printer HP LaserJet Pro MFP M130fw

Sorry for the long silence on this channel. There were so many things on my plate, I had no time sharing any of my latest IT (Linux) adventures.

For my place in TO (Toronto, Ontario), I thought it might be important to finally upgrade my IT with a printer. And talking printer, I envisioned a laser printer, for documents and boarding passes ;-)
There was a sales campaign with HP going on. So, I ended up with buying a relatively recent model, which is able to also scan (copy and fax).

My IT in Toronto is all based on Linux Mint 18.1 MATE. The printer, being a recent model, is not (yet) supported in Linux. However, the model is also a cloud printer. So, while I wait for native support, I linked it up to hpeprint, which allows for printing PDFs by sending emails to

Concerning scanning, a similar email based approach can be selected. However, the printer can connect to SMB-shares on Linux Mint.

In order to configure the printer, connect to its web-server using it IP address. I recommend to assign an address in your router's DHCP-server.

Now that we are talking SAMBA (SMB), I might just drop a few word about Linux Mint's caja-share file browser's inability to connect to shares.
This is not a fault of caja-share. It is not a fault of the samba-server in Linux Mint.
The problem lays in the file /etc/samba/smb.conf ... locate this:
# Change this to the workgroup/NT-domain name your Samba server will part of
        workgroup = workgroup
        name resolve order = bcast hostand add the line in boldface.
Don't forget to restart your smbd!
Having done that, not only Linux Mint computers will be able to share directories, also the HP LaserJet MFP M130 will be able to connect to the shares and depose files in said shares.

Taking it back to the printing aspect of the HP device. Installing cloud services was working fine in my environment. While the "All-in-One Remote" and "HP ePrint" apps are working fine on my Android phone, the HP Print Plugin is unable to locate the printer in my network...

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Acer C7 Chromebook on Linux for good

Having played with the device again for a while, I realized that not that much changed concerning the use of Chromebooks. With C7 with its HDD is surely less snappy as the Samsung Chromebook, although graphics performance is a lot better.
I figure, a real chromebook needs to be used in the cloud and not as a standalone device. All in all, 300GB of storage don't seem to make a lot of sense.


The decision to flash the Acer C7's BIOS fell yesterday.
The following 2 pages contain all the information needed to do so:

Should you need visualization, Johnny Phung made a comprehensive video. Johnny also got a video for getting Linux on the device.

Thanks to John's work, the process of backing up the original ROM is a lot easier. John hosts a script which takes care of everything, you have to be online to run it though.
Installing coreboot with a SeaBIOS payload was the easiest thing in the world!


My choice of distribution fell on Linux Mint 18.1 64bit (MATE) , since I already made a USB dongle for this distro. Further reasons (actually reasons why I created the dongle in the first place) Linux Mint MATE is relatively lightweight, still very comfortable.

The installation was pretty straight forward. Although here is a slight change a made: using 4GB for swap rather than 2GB as suggested by the installer. A personal choice, nothing spectacular.

After the install there were 2 things not working, not at all: the touchpad and the special function keys.

Most important piece, the touchpad.
Searching here and there, this page popped up:
Some searching in my little minted C7 revealed, the cyapa module seems now part of the chromeos-laptop module.
KI4GDT, the author, indicates the importance of the order in which modules are loaded. It seems, with the chromeos-latop module loaded first, everything goes belly up. To blacklist the module appears a good idea (/etc/
For reasons unknown to me, loading the modules with /etc/modules did not work; yes, I know, it should.
I am a pragmatic guy, so I placed the following lines in /etc/rc.local
modprobe i2c-i801
modprobe i2c-dev
modprobe chromeos-laptop

Now, the touchpad works just fine.

The function keys for audio volume control.
This was certainly a lot easier to fix. Linux Mint offers a configuration tool for keyboard shortcuts.
Menu => Preferences => Keyboard Shortcuts
My choice: MUTE [ctrl]-F8; Volume down [ctrl]-F9; Volume up [ctrl]-F10
In this way, the F-keys are still available for other purposes.

The function keys for screen brightness control.
There might be a more elegant solution using mate-power-control.
My approach: xbacklight.
Here is what needs to be done (in a terminal) to install it:
sudo apt-get install xbacklight
In the keyboard shortcuts application you need to create "Custom Shortcuts" by pressing the add button. I created the following:
Name: Backlight darker - Command: xbacklight -dec 5 - assigned to [ctrl]-F6
Name: Backlight brighter - Command: xbacklight -inc 5 - assigned to [ctrl]-F6
With every hit of the respective shortcut, the brightness of the display varies by 5%.


The performance of the Acer C7 could certainly be improved by the use of an SSD. For my purposes, this won't be required.
My C7 came with 2GB of RAM in a single module. Since RAM is so cheap nowadays, I might just get another 2GB module.

Monday, December 19, 2016

ACER Chromebook mounts SMB shares

A few years ago, you might actually find it on this blog, I bought an ACER Chromebook. At the time, the hope was to hack it, get some 3rd party BIOS on it, or temper with it in weird ways. Nothing of that happened actually.

Chrome-OS serves the purpose in most cases. The interesting bit about the ACER was that it is provided with decent mass storage. Getting data on said thing mass storage is a totally different beast.
Lately, I found a little piece of software that allows to mount samba-shares:
In the Chrome Web Store, look for: File System for Windows.

There seem to be other solutions too, the above mentioned works for me, since my file server offers smb service.

The plan is to fill the HDD with media and have a cheap walk about chromebook for media reproduction.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

That was stupid!

Nothing wrong with my HP ProBook running OS-X El Capitan, I was tempted to install Sierra (for no good reason). Guess what... it all failed.

More shocking, it took me 3 days (evenings that is, since during the day, I do perform some sort of day-job).
To be learned from that: change the HDD/SDD before attempting to upgrade. A strategy I was doing before, which never was needed... now that I did not follow it, it was :-(

Anyway, I had my backup... and after some failing attempts, I got my backup restored.

The HP ProBook is back to being a HackBookPro :-)