Lenovo x230 quick review

 

Lenovo x230

Here’s a quick and dirty review and notes on installation of my new Lenovo X230.

Here’s the key specs:

  • Lenovo x230
  • Intel i5-3320m processor
  • 8GB RAM
  • IPS screen upgrade
  • backlit keyboard upgrade
  • Intel AGN wifi
  • 500GB 7200 RPM hard disk
  • 120 GBIntel 525 mSATA SSD (purchased separately)
  • 9 cell battery
  • Weight in this configuration (excluding power adapter) is 1.73kg (3.8lbs if you must). Power adapter is approx 350g.

(Weight was taken after Linux was installed – all those extra bits might add up to an ounce or two)

Total cost was AU$1205 + $AU 184 for the SSD in late May / early June 2013

Windows 8 came installed on the 500GB hard disk. I shrunk it down to around 100GB which left approximately 370GB free for installing linux, in addition to the 120GB SSD. SSD installation was fairly straightforward (although I am an electronics repair technician). A number of screws to be removed from the bottom cover, lift the keyboard and then palm rest off and install it.

I have a DC car charger on order, as well a neoprene sleeve and mini DisplayPort adapters, all from eBay. A 270x350mm padded envelope works well as a slip case until the neoprene sleeve arrives (no, I’m not going to pay $20 for a fake one)

 

Installation / setup Linux Mint

Here’s how I partitioned and installed:

  • / and /home were put on the SSD, approximately 55GB each,
  • swap (8.5GB), /tmp and /var/log (2GB each) were put on the hard disk,
  • the remaining space formatted as ext4 and mounted as /pub, to be used for videos, music and other such things,
  • Linux Mint Debian Edition 64 bit (Cinnamon) installed after a few goes (live distro kept locking up during the installation process),
  • grub was installed on the SSD, and BIOS boot order was changed to boot from the SSD first,
  • BIOS changed to legacy mode

(On boot, hit F1 to enter BIOS setup, and F12 to temporarily select a different boot device).

As far as function keys etc goes, LMDE works great out of the box, nothing required except installing the necessary software, and perhaps encrypting your home drive. I made a few changes as recommended here for better SSD performance, and also installed TLP packages for better power savings

Review of the hardware itself

I’m fairly happy overall. With the 9 cell battery it is a bit bigger and heavier, but for me, well worth the trade off. I have not used it enough yet to get good battery life estimates, but operating on battery with wifi on and decent screen brightness, system battery life estimates range from six to eleven hours, which I’m fairly happy with.

As far as ergonomics goes, this is the first Thinkpad I’ve had so I’m not quite yet used to the trackpoint (my crappy work HP laptop has one, but it is very inferior to this one). The touchpad is disappointing – the left and right bottom corners act as buttons, but cause pointer movement. Even when using the trackpoint buttons (above the touchpad, so takes some getting used to), the touchpad just doesn’t feel that nice. Scrolling is software driven, so can be set for single finger right hand edge, or two finger. Two finger works better for me, as there’s less unintentional scrolling from palms while typing.

This isn’t anything unexpected, but I really wish there was a higher screen res option – 1366×768 just doesn’t cut it, especially in the vertical dimension. I very nearly bought an Acer Aspire S7-191 purely for the awesome 1080p 11″ screen. I would happily have paid an extra $100 – $150 for a higher res IPS screen on the x230.

Overall, I’m pretty happy. Certainly a nice upgrade from the ageing Asus 1201pn (old atom netbook with a completely dead battery) and old Dell Core2duo Inspiron (with about 15 mins of battery life).

 

Maxpedition Malaga and Kodiak – review, comparison and other thoughts

I seem to be developing a bit of a tactical manbag fetish, as evidenced by my recent Maxpedition purchases (courtesy of the strong aussie dollar, or, more likely, the shit US dollar). I ordered a Kodiak, but was accidently shipped a Malaga. The seller was happy to pay return shipping, but instead I offered to buy the Malaga, with a discount equal to the return shipping fee.

I was looking for a replacement for my aging mountain designs canvas pack, which while still functional, lacked the organisational capabilities I wanted for everyday use. With a single main compartment with a drawstring and hood closure, two zip slip pockets on the exterior and one small pocket in the hood, I was constantly taking the pack off and digging around the main compartment to find things. It is really robust and durable (try using a normal daypack as a deflector to push your way through thick lantana and see how it holds up), having smooth lines and heavy canvas material, it isn’t big enough or easy enough to access for day hikes, and a bit annoying as an every day bag. The shoulder straps are also quite wide, which is normally (and when I bought it) a good thing as it stops the straps cutting into your neck. However, with one dodgy reconstructed shoulder, I’ve been finding it a bit uncomfortable.

With that, I thought that the Kodiak could fit me needs – asymmetrical gearslinger design for easy access and good comfort (comparitively), large capacity which would allow me to carry my EDC manbag contents and extras (groceries, etc) if needed, and being maxpedition, plenty tough enough.

When the Malaga arrived I initially wasn’t that interested, since it was a bit uncomfortable to wear, and there was no easy access when the bag was swung around from the back, since all of the pockets are top entry rather than side entry. That all changed though when I realised that if you wore it slung across a shoulder at the front, then rotated it around the back (so it is slung sideways across your back), it actually suddenly works really well. Swing the Malaga to the front and you have easy access to all the pockets. It also seems to position the strap a bit further away from your neck, which makes it a whole lot more comfortable for me. Add a shoulder pad to the plain webbing which now sits on your shoulder, and you’re in business.

As far as organisational capability goes, the Malaga is pretty damn good. The two smaller front compartments have lots of dividers and pockets, which gives you a place for pretty much everything you need quick access to. The main compartment has a flap with a few more compartments, as well as two slip compartments front and back that have velcro closure flaps. There is also an exterior compartment on the back for carrying a water bladder (or concealed carry, but that isn’t really relevant to me). I found that I could fit pretty much everything in my normal every day carry (ipad, flashlights, knives, leatherman, water bottle, survival kit, first aid kit, trauma bandage etc, with a bit of spare space – another two 1L nalgene bottles would fit. Not exactly enough to carry a fleece or groceries, but still pretty functional as a manbag. Add a few pouches to the sides (Mini Rollypoly Dump Pouch for a water bottle, 7x5x2 Vertical GP Pouch, etc) and a bit more space can be had. One thing I do find annoying is that the top front compartment only has a single zipper pull. Double zipper pulls would make access so much easier.

(I’m not a big fan of adding pouches to the front of bags – this can shift the centre of gravity out too much making the bag feel heavier, and also makes it more likely to get caught up on things)

When the Kodiak arrived, I was actually a bit disappointed. I felt a lot larger and bulkier than I thought it would. Compared to a Falcon-II backpack (which supposedly has a higher capacity by about 35%) it just feels a lot fatter. This might be because the falcon is quite deep, but has good compression straps so when not full it is still a bit sleeker.

When the Kodiak is only lightly packed, such as with my normal every day carry items. The two front compartments don’t really pack that well – they’re quite deep, but since they open 75% of the way around (for vertical and side access) I don’t like putting things in there that aren’t secured, since it is a lot easier for them to fall out. Since the compartments open 75%, they really more clamshells than pockets. The top front pocket is especially bad for this. Some elastic straps o the lid would have made that space much more useful. As such, I found the extra depth of these compartments pretty much useless. Also, since the two common modes of access are vertical and horizontal, everything seems to just fall into the bottom corner. Combine this with not very effective compression straps, means the Kodiak takes on a kind of fat arse look, with everything piling up in the bottom corner. The top Y-compression strap works ok, but given the size of the pack it just needs some side compression straps too. One other issue I have is the external pocket for a water bottle. Because of the way you access the pack, it is actually quite useless, given that a water bottle is one of the things I access the most. Instead I keep my water bottle in the main compartment. The pocket isn’t completely useless though – not bad for storing wet/dirty items. At the moment, I use it to keep a length of 5mm rope, which doesn’t fit neatly anywhere in the other compartments.

All that said, the Kodiak still functions pretty well – the front pockets and internal pockets in the main compartment give plenty of organisation, and access is a breeze by swinging the pack around.

I also bought a Janus pocket extension with the idea of using this for quick access stuff (wallet, phone, flashlight etc). I found that it doesn’t really work that well. The strap extension makes the straps too long, and even if you just slip it on the strap (where it slides around because of the lack of velcro) it kind of gets in the way.

So, really, both the Kodiak and Malaga are pretty good, although a few improvements could be made. The Kodiak is pretty good as an everyday urban backpack. Big enough to carry extra stuff when you need it (although it will hurt your shoulder a bit if you overload it), but still provides good organisation and easy access. Add some side compression straps to help it keep its shape when empty, and slim down/improve the front compartments and it’d be almost perfect.

The Malaga makes a pretty good manbag for every day use. Carries and organises all the bits and pieces well, and has a bit of room for extras. A few good spots for extra pouches to add capacity if required. About the only improvement I would ask for is to make the top front compartment a double zipper pull instead of just a single zipper pull.

Lets hope maxpedition hear this!

 

Inside a knockoff Brembo radial master cylinder

I got myself one of the cheap knockoff Brembo radial master cylinders that are coming out of Thailand and going for around AU$60 delivered on ebay. Build quality seems a bit iffy – the handlebar clamp surface isn’t square, and it wasn’t releasing pressure, leading to a seized brake system (not fun!). Since it didn’t cost me much (less than just a Brembo lever!), I wasn’t too upset that it didn’t work. I pulled it apart to see if I could fix it, or at least get an understanding of how they work.

Master cylinder with lever removed

Piston pushrod and cover - unscrews

Piston, pushrod and cover removed

View into reservoir port - intake/return port, equalisation port

I’m still not 100% certain on the cause of the issue. All the seals appeared ok, and no passages were blocked. I haven’t yet reinstalled and tested. Going by this thread (in particular post 5), I’m pretty sure that the cause of the issue is the piston not retracting fully so that the intake/return port was not uncovered. This would prevent pressure build up from being released. When I first installed the lever, bleeding took ages – no matter how much I pumped the lever the fluid just didn’t seem to be getting through. I had to use a syringe to force fluid up from the caliper out the bleed nipple on the master cylinder. This kind of makes sense if the intake/return port was blocked or not uncovered. Two possible causes for this could be:

  • Not enough lever free play preventing the piston from retracting enough to uncover the intake/return port, or
  • Construction tolerances out slightly so that piston does not retract far enough to uncover the intake/return port.

It is hard to tell because there’s little light, but it does seem that with the pushrod screwed all the way in, the lip of the first seal is just covering the intake/return port. I’m planning on trying it out as is, in case the cleaning did make a difference. If it still seizes, then I’m going to see about backing off the pushrod cover collar, which should allow the piston to retract slightly more. If this does work, then I’m going to need to make a spacing collar or some such.

Review – Ultrafire UF-H1 – aka the zebra light rip off

I got this light recently
(here).
I’ve been looking at zebra lights a lot,
but the price put me off. I saw a zebra
light knock-off
on deal extreme which got me interested
again, since it was the first knock off I’d seen. Looking into it
further, it had a number of features that put me off – three mode
operation via half presses and spot beam. It did get me looking for
other knock offs, which is how I came to know about the Ultrafire
UF-H1. The Ultrafire looked spot on – simple mode operation (click
on/off, click and hold on to cycle through brightness), floodish
beam, works with rechargeable CR123’s and comes with a headband for headlight style operation. In addition, it has a magnet in the base
and a permanently attached pocket clip, all for around AU$40
delivered. It is worth noting that the majority of the UF-H1’s I
saw on ebay used a Q3 emitter, whereas this one uses a Q5. The Q5
is a higher grade, the difference being basically that it is
brighter for the same current draw.

On arrival and testing, I was very impressed. The beam has a good flood, with the primary hotspot quite large and smooth and just a small amount of spill. Mode operation is really good to use. Click to switch
off/on to full brightness. Click and hold (no half press) and
brightness will cycle down to minimum then back up to full until
you release the button. Click off then back on and you’re back at
full brightness. With about a half turn of the tailcap, you can
lock out the light, while still maintaining a decent o-ring seal to
keep it waterproof. Very nice – allows you to avoid any accidental
activations or parasitic drains on the battery while in storage.
With such a wide beam, it would probably work really well as a headlamp
replacement when clipped to your pocket or belt, however the pocket clip isn’t very secure so i would not trust leaving it clipped. The magnet base is really handy – with such a
wide base aim is not critical, so plonk it on something metal and
aim it in the general direction and you can have a really nice
handsfree light that can be located out of the way. Runtime seems
fairly good. With these
rechargeable CR123’s (3.6V “880” mAh, probably actually around
600mAh) I got around 90 minutes runtime on high output. With some batteries i’m only getting around 20 minutes, but this probably has more to do with the battery quality. The
body of the light does heat up a bit, but it is actually fairly
good (much better than this
P4 based flashlight, which is a very effective handwarmer and only
gets around 55 minutes runtime with the same battery).

Overall i found it to be pretty handy. The short runtime with dud batteries is a bit of a pain. There seems to a version which runs on 18650 cells, which i would like to try, since i’ve found 18650’s much more reliable in addition to their much higher capacity.

Smart roofing – not very smart at all

I recently tried to get a quote from Smart Roofing in Brisbane. They didn’t turn up, then proceeded to have a go at me when I told them that I wasn’t interested in their business. Here’s a review I posted to their Google Maps page – I’m posting it here again as the first post seems to have disappeared.

Although they responded to my web query in a timely manner, they failed to turn up to an arranged quote.

A week later, when Aaron (0402 714 326) called back, I explained to him that I’d already made a decision, and that in any case, if he couldn’t keep a simple appointment to make a quote (and hence waste my time away from work) then I wasn’t interested in their business anyway.

Do I get an apology? No, I get a condescending Aaron try and tell me that I must be “Mr Perfect” and have a go at me for not wanting his business.

No matter how good a service they might provide, it can’t be that much better or cheaper than everyone else that it is worth putting up with rude and unprofessional behaviour, on top of missed appointments.

So, no way in hell i’d ever do business with them with an attitude like that.

EBC Supermoto disc kit – an exercise in frustration

I ordered an EBC supermoto disc kit from this ebay seller for my XT600 three months ago. So far all I’ve gotten is frustration and irritation. After a three month wait for manufacture and delivery of the disc, it finally arrives. Yay, I thought initially, but upon closer inspection, there’s a problem with the caliper bracket.

The included bracket, to put it bluntly, is completely wrong. It has a pair of holes with the correct size and spacing to mount on the fork legs, then it has another two holes that some nut dreamed up. They aren’t the same spacing, one is the right size and not threaded, but the other is smaller and threaded. It is made from 8mm stainless plate rather than machined aluminium alloy, and spacers/mounting bolts are not included.

EBC are saying that they don’t make the bracket, but rather source it from another manufacturer, who swears that it is correct, despite the above description and the below photos. Considering there aren’t even two pairs of matching holes, I can’t imagine any possible way this could be a caliper relocating bracket.

So, after three months and AU$425, I still have nothing. Quite frankly, it would have been nearly as cheap and a lot easier to just buy myself a small lathe/mill and learn how to make a bracket myself to go with a YZF-1000 disc. I can in no way recommend dealing with either EBC or the ebay seller, since EBC’s got a shoddy product, and the ebay seller is not being helpful at all. Apparently they will be getting back to me with their solution soon, but I’m not holding my breath.

CRKT M21-04G, M21-02G, M16-13LE review / comparison

My Columbia River Knife & Tool (CRKT) folding knifes would have to be my favourite and most used knifes. I got the M16-13LE first. I then got an M21-02G as i liked the look of the blade shape. Initially I thought it was a bit small, so then ordered an M21-04G. Having used the 02 for a month or so, I actually now quite like the size. When the 04 arrived I was actually a bit shocked – it is quite large for a folder.

I originally bought the M16 on the recommendation of a friend. At the time, I only knew of the M16’s, and the available range in Australia was fairly limited. I settled for a M16-13LE – AUS-8, spear point, partially serrated. I didn’t want the serrations, however all the plain edge M16’s I could find were AUS-4 steel, which I didn’t like the sound of. I’ve had it for over a year now and it has been great – very sturdy, opens easily. Serrations I’m not a fan of – i find that for whittling and fine cutting tasks the base of the blade is the most used section – right where the serrations are. I am slowly grinding these back and will eventually have it converted to a plain edge. The black blade coating has held up to a lot of abuse.

While I had set out to convert the M16 to a plain edge, I decided that that would take a while, and I still didn’t like the spear point – I prefer a deeper curve on the blade for slicing. So I decided to buy an M21. I searched ebay and got the cheapest one I could – an M21-02G. AUS-8 blade, G10 scales, plain edge. When it arrived I was a bit disappointed – it is noticeably smaller than the M16, and just felt like it was a bit small (I do have largish hands, and the M16 fits perfectly). The blade shape is great, and the knife just as sturdy as the M16, however I have noticed that the linerlock is a bit harder to close than on the M16. I did notice that the blade coating on the 02 (Titanium nitride) wore in spots pretty quickly. Not that big a deal since I prefer the used look on all my things.

After a few week I decided to just order a bigger 04 too. The fact that customs is getting crazy with knives and who knows how much longer we’ll be able to get them in from other countries also helped the decision. It took a few weeks to arrive, in which I actually grew to really like the compact size of the 02.  When the 04 did arrive, I was actually quite shocked – the 04 is actually quite a bit bigger than the M16 – actually too large for a “pocket knife”. I haven’t actually used this one much, however it seems just as good as the others – sturdy hinge, solid locking mechanism, easy to open with the carson flipper.

Overall, the M16s and M21s are great knives – solid pivots, reliable locks, easy opening, all for a pretty low price (US$40 for an M21-02G shipped to au). I would have to say that the M21-02G is my favourite – nice blade shape and very good size for a pocket knife, and very cheap. The M16’s come second, although it seems very hard to get a plain edge blade in AUS-8 steel. The M21-04G is just a bit too big – might be good as a camp knife, but not good for my use as an everyday pocket knife.