Windows 8 and Yoga

lenovoYoga2

Disclaimer: This a purely personal take on the hardware and software.  I have not and will not accept/receive any compensation for this post.

[updated 2015/3/9; 2015/5/11; see bottom]

So, I have a laptop already.  I upgraded from Windows Vista to Windows 7 Pro, and upgraded to a faster hard drive, and even replaced the CPU with a faster one.

And now, it stubbornly refuses to install the VPN software so I can get into my work PC from off-campus.  It may have something to do with the wireless USB hub software.

Since I am responsible for handling the door lock scheduling, and that’s ONLY on certain computers (including my work computer), I need to be able to do this.  Otherwise, in case of emergency, I cannot lock the doors (weather closings, etc.) from home; I have to drive across the city, probably in bad weather.

And yes, okay, I’d like a larger screen for reading ebooks, and I’d been looking at tablets larger than my Nook Color.  Blame my eyes and the fact that using larger print on a smaller screen means changing pages more often.

So, I have to get a Windows laptop for the VPN — it’s a work-related reason (and I’m sticking to that excuse).  That means Windows 8, which I need to learn anyway so I can help students (that’s my second excuse, but I’m sticking to that one, too).

Oh, goodie.  I now have an excuse to get a Windows 8 edition 2-in-1 folding laptop, because:

1. I need to get familiar with Windows 8 anyway, given that students are coming in with new laptops and often no idea what to do to get ebooks, etc., and Windows 8 is not exactly intuitive when trying to figure out how to get to anything (at least for those of us used to the older Windows versions).

2. I need Windows 8, not Android, because of the VPN (Virtual Private Network) software which is not available for Android.

3. I want a keyboard for the VPN and perhaps other stuff, so whatever I get will need to have that included or available as an accessory.

4. A tablet format is easier for ebooks.  The convertible 2 in 1 format is a bit heavy and thick for comparing to a tablet, even one with a keyboard mounted to it, but the price of the keyboard is included in the base purchase.

And the store had an 11.6″ screen 2 in 1 (Lenovo Yoga 2, pictured), which lets me fold the keyboard back under the screen and use it as a touch tablet for ebooks, in portrait mode, but the keyboard works just well enough and can accept a USB keyboard and mouse for more serious typing and movement, since it’s still Windows and has two USB connections.

Now, I didn’t get the top performing version of this, but I’m not doing any high-performance work on it.  No heavy graphics in SketchUp or even GIMP, no video editing, etc., planned.  Theoretically, I could log into my work PC and do stuff on that, but it’s a clunky arrangement and not really a good alternative; the screens are not quite comfortable with each other — my larger work screen has to be slightly truncated to fit on the laptop.  So I’ll only do that for the rare VPN connection as needed.

Provided it holds up (some users reported hardware problems, which is partly why I sprang for the 2 year protection plan), it appears to be quite functional for my purposes, which are (a) access to the campus VPN, and (b) ebooks, and (c) a few other things as they come up.

So, how am I doing so far?

Windows 8.1

I can go with either a traditional desktop, or with the touch screen Windows 8 with programs in “tiles,” which are variable-size graphic blocks.  In fact, Win8 seems to flip back and forth between them — if I load a program, it’s likely to flip to the traditional desktop before the program comes up.

Naturally, there will be at least one glitch.  It showed up very quickly.

Windows 8 had an annoying slide-out panel from the left side giving advice on tips, which I had to research online to find out how to kill, because I couldn’t get rid of the silly thing.  Turned out, I wasn’t the only one.  This is a common problem.

The resulting answer was: Take the mouse cursor to the top left corner of the screen and click.

Problem solved.  So far, nothing much else has come up.  So far.

I’ve been trying to not change things so much that I can avoid the touch screen, because I need to be familiar with using it and the “Charms,” slide-out panel from the right side.  So, I’ve played with adding apps (everything since iOS and Android is “apps” now, rather than software or programs), and moving them around.

I added a shutdown and a restart app, as well as some that I use.  Evernote and Amazon Kindle came with the machine, and I added stuff like LibreOffice.

Windows 8.1 has the Windows key switch from a tiled touch screen style desktop, to a desktop more like earlier Windows, and back.  As I said, if you tap a tile in that desktop, Windows may switch from the tiled to the old style desktop before loading the software (for Chrome browser, for example).  Odd.

The tiles can be resized and moved around.  Once I figured out how to do that, the tiled desktop became more usable.  I bunched up the more often used tiles on the far left part of the sliding screen.

VPN

The campus uses Sisco AnyConnect for the VPN (Virtual Private Network).  The Windows 8 version is not yet available online from our I.T. people, so I went over and got it installed.

And tried it.  And tried it.  And asked for help, and got it.  And tried it.  And tried it.

Finally got within one step of my computer, and still couldn’t get in.  Turned out it hadn’t restarted properly and didn’t boot up to Windows.

Finally got through.  Hurray.  Got the door lock software up via Blackboard, and now I can lock the doors in an emergency (such as a snow day closing) without driving in (which is a very good thing on a snow day, and we may have some this winter).

The screen from my work computer is not optimal on the smaller laptop screen, and gets sort of truncated top to bottom, but it’s good enough to work with for the occasional use.

I also noted that the software seems to conflict with the wireless USB hub I use to print; I cannot print through that hub on this laptop.  Maybe in time I’ll look into a wireless printer.

Yoga 2

The Yoga 2 (when you open the laptop like a laptop) has the power switch on the right, and the power plug on the left.  Which means that when I put it in portrait mode, I have to put the power port down so I won’t accidentally turn it off by setting it on the power switch (one swish on the page to turn it, and the thing shuts off — not useful).  But, this is a laptop, not a tablet, so it uses more power, and therefore can run low in an evening of reading.

I have a chairside table which tilts, made of 1/4″ fiberboard for the top.  There is a small 3/4″ molding along the bottom near edge to keep things from sliding off, but a heavy tablet could easily overcome this on the way to crashing on the floor.

I cut a piece of 1/8″ plywood, and mounted some hardwood scraps to rest and hold the laptop on so the power switch is not at risk of being pressed when turned right side down, and then I can put the power plug at the top (left) side and keep going.  Another scrap attached to the back on the right edge is slotted so it holds the assembly on my chairside table.

I had done something comparable for my Nook Color to hold it up so I could keep the power cord plugged in while using it. Lumber and electronics turn out to be surprisingly compatible in certain applications.

2014-09-22 09.56.02

Details:

1/8″ plywood, with some scrap hardwood.  Slot it  close to the plywood, so that it holds the laptop on in both portrait (as shown) and landscape positions, without pressing any crucial side buttons.

In the portrait mode shown, the power plug is now at the top left, and the USB port next to it is used for the keyboard/mouse plug.

The bottom bar has a slot so the laptop sits down in it, and a deeper part of the slot which keeps clear of the power and screen lock buttons.  The side bar on the right has another slot that allows the unit to fit in both folded and unfolded modes.

There’s another bar, on the back of the side bar, underneath the plywood, which is slotted to accept the tabletop and hold the whole assembly on.  The greatest fear was knocking the laptop off as I came by or around to sit down, and this avoids that pretty well.

The laptop has the power button on the right (down, as shown) of the screen, so I had to be careful that the slot allows the power button to not be pressed.  Unfortunately, the lock screen button to prevent rotation is also on that side, so I’ve sometimes had to do some juggling to unlock the rotation when I turn the laptop from landscape to portrait to landscape, etc.

Keyboard and Mouse

I already had a Bluetooth mouse.  Pretty much as expected, it was recognized but wouldn’t work.  I have not been positively  impressed with Bluetooth devices in general up to now (other people’s mileage may and has varied, I acknowledge), and didn’t put my trust in this one.

Then I got a wireless mouse and keyboard combo (Microsoft L5V-00001), designed for Win 8 (meaning the extra button on the mouse functions as a Windows key, unless I reprogram it.  I put the long USB plug on the side next to the power port, so I can put them both at the top when in portrait mode.

keyboard_mouse

The keyboard is ergonomic and small enough to easily fit in my lap, as well as lightweight.  Mind you, my lap hogging tomcat doesn’t care to have me typing on top of him (actually, he resents my doing anything at all that doesn’t involve giving him attention), but I can put this on the arm of my recliner for short things like logging in.  (Yes, I’m computing in a recliner, when I can.  Shouldn’t everybody?)

I’ll do a separate post on ebooks.

UPDATE of March 9, 2015:

Recent info from ZDNet (it pays to keep up with this stuff) says Lenovo apparently put a program called “Superfish” on laptops.  After checking, I don’t seem to have it.

The VPN is erratic — it may take repeated tries, and rebooting, to get into it.  No idea why.

UPDATE of May 11, 2015:

Microsoft added an update that lets me point to the upper right corner and get a title bar with an actual “X” to close a program.  Big improvement for apps.  There are times when I still want programs to run in windows (comparing files, for example), but the File Explorer app will run that way, as will some other programs not specifically updated to app-only.

Dropbox app is not convenient for me.  Checked around, and the answer was to reinstall Dropbox from the regular Dropbox site.  Then deleted the app.  Now Dropbox shows up in the left column of places available to put stuff as it did in Win7, which is much better.

I’ve replaced my main computer with a new one, which is also Windows 8.1.  It’s the same brand as the Yoga, and it synced much of what I had set up on the Yoga, which was rather handy — not everything, but a lot of it.  I use the new desktop all-in-one for the heavy lifting (bigger screen, more powerful, more hard drive space), such as music, SketchUp, finance, and so on.  For those purposes, Win8.1 just isn’t suited that well, IMHO, even though I now have a touch screen for that as well.  I’ve switched it to open up to the desktop screen instead of the apps screen.

Much like the Android screen, if you’re using one app, especially on a limited screen, the apps screen on a touch device has some conveniences.  However, after trying to give Win8.1 a decent chance, I’ve come to the conclusion that the real work is more likely to get down on the traditional desktop, at least for me.  The Yoga is for light stuff such as ebooks, quick lookups on the web, and such.

Printer drivers turned out to be a minor problem for my Canon inkjet all-in-one and Seiko Smartlabel.  The inkjet doesn’t have a Win8.1 driver, but the Win7 driver seems to work fine, and the Seiko model 200 works with the model 400 driver.

 

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