Special ring of hell : PC manufacturers that do dumb things

I have recently changed jobs, and as part of my standard kit when I joined was a brand new HP Elitebook 8460p.  Not a bad system, a pretty peppy Intel Core i5, and a Sandy Bridge chipset. 

It came with 4G of Ram, and our standard Win 7 x64 image.  

SHould be fine, right?  But from day one, the perfomance has been crappy.  Lots of weirdness, long lags, and losing responsiveness.  I was about to toss it into Support hell to complain, then I noticed an odd fact. 

This laptop comes with 4G by default. But instead of it being two 2G SODIMMS, it is one 4G SODIMM. Anybody with half a brain knows that to effectively achieve system performance, you need both banks of memory populated.

I can understand why they do this. Most people would just buy the second 4G SODIMM, and be done with it.  But, to save $20 (I paid $20.90 for a second SODIMM) it seems like a bad decision.  On a laptop that retails for $1500 (it is a business class system with support), this is really annoying.

Geoff’s new rules:

  • Thou shalt not ship a computer without the SODIMMS to complete an interleaved memory bank.  Just don’t do it.
  • Thou shalt not ship an x64 OS without a minimum of 8G ram.  This really needs to become the standard.  Win 7 is MUCh happier with 8G (or even better 16G).

Hardware woes

As a Product Manager for a scientific instrument, part of our system is a “controller”.  This is nothing more than asimple PC that can run our software and doesn’t have any conflicts with our system.

Recently, the system we used went end of sales (Dell Precision T3500 workstation). I decided to look at the specs and see if there was anything I could change to meet our performance requirement, and, to possibly save a few bucks.  The Precision line is hardly inexpensive.

Turns out that we are using Intel Xeon E5 series CPU’s.  A fine CPU, but then we hamstring it with 4G ram, and Win7 x86.  Me thinks we can go to a high end Core i5 (quad core), bump it to 8G ram, and run Win7 x64.  Yes that would work, but it only saves me $45.00.  Sigh, that is a lot of qualification headache for so little money.

So, I will likely stick with the higher spec, the Xeon processor, up the memory (it is practically free) and drop Win7 x64 on it and move on.

For the record, these systems are running ~ $1500.  A lot more than their Vostro consumer targeted system.  But there is a reason for it.  We build systems. We demand some stability. That means that the computer we buy next month, 6 months from now, and in a year are the same. You just can’t get that with the consumer grade systems.  There the life cycle are measured in the low single digits of months.

But, I am in a good state with this instrument.  At least it isn’t like my other product that requires 2 full size PCI slots (not PCI-e, or PCI-x).  Groan.

Bad start to Monday

I know that Windoes 7 can be ultra stable and reliable.  I have used it for mor than 2 years, and it was rock solid.

Now I know that it can be made to be unreliable, unstable, and glitchy.

Where I work, there are all kinds of additions. Full disk encryption, Symantec Endpoint Protection, a software lifecycle and inventory system, and some really bizarre policies that have the machine doing multiple command shell scripts at inopportune times.

All this leads to weirdness in the install (note: I would never try to circumvent these things. I do live with it).

THree times ( in three months ) the OST file has become corrupted.  Fortunately there is a utility that can fix it.  But it is a pain in the arse to run. I have to shut down several programs that “touch” the OST file, and I have to remember where they all are.  Groan.

Twice now, it has done a forced full scan for malware and viruses. This happens on the first wednesday of the month.  Two of the three times it has run, there has been a bout a 2.5 hour delay as it barfs on a file (in an email cache in AppData). This leads the full scan to be about 9 hours. Painful, to say the least.

This morning, I had all these issues come to a head.  An Acrobat update (forced restart), a corrupted OST (forced restart), and an update to my copy of 1Password (a third forced restart).  Here I am, roughly one hour into the day, and I finally can get some work done.  Sigh…

Senseless Regulations

I rarely complain about regulations.  I know that many, if not most of them are really for the best. We know what happens when there isn’t any oversight at all.  But once in a while, I have a real WTF moment.

RoHS, or Reduction of Hazardous Substances is in general a “good thing”. It means to not use chemicals or components that are toxic, or hazardous to the environment. Whether this is removing lead from solder in electronics, or not using hexavalent chromium (google it – nasty shit). But sometimes it goes too far.

Case in point. Many microscope objectives fail. They use optical elements made from leaded glass.  They use these components and materials because adding lead to glass increases the refractive index, and improves the performance of the optic. Fine, I get it that there is nasty lead in these parts.

But the risk is so low that any of this lead will ever be released into the environment. It would require that the glass be removed from the objective, vaporized, and then, and only then would a couple micrograms of lead be released into the environment.

Common sense would tell you that this is such a small risk of exposure that microscope objectives provide would lead to an exemption. No such luck. So, you get to go to a design with crappy performance and resolution that costs nearly 2X what the standard objectives would provide.  Groan.

Bad UI of the week: VMWare’s “my.vmware.com”

Continuing on the theme of bad UI, this week’s hall of shame goes to VMWare.  Sad, because they used to “get it”, or so it seemed to me.


I have long been a VMWare user.  I have (purchased) a license for Workstation and Fusion, the desktop products for virtualization on the PC and Mac platforms respectively.  On the PC Side, I use Workstation to segment software that seems invasive (Sales Logix, I am looking at you) from my main install.  On the Mac it is to use the (dwindling) PC only apps that I can’t live without.

The situation:

Two weeks ago, I took the plunge and upgraded to Mountain Lion (OS-X 10.8), and my version of Fusion wasn’t supported.  Off to the VMWare website.  In the past, I would just log in, and the option to view my licenses and download my entitled products was on the main page.

Now they have this my.vmware.com stuff.  I can find my licenses OK, but downloads?  It seemed I could only sign up for a demo version to download.  No amount of navigation got me there.  And yes, I know that using the demo version would work, but then you get harassed by their inside sales people.  Another story for another day.

I ended up searching, and finding the download page on the main site.  But still the my.vmware.com site kept trying to navigate me back to it.  Argh. Perhaps if I spent time on their site every week, it would make sense, but for my, the 2 or 3 visits a year, it was painful.

I am sure this will not be the last installment in UI ridiculousness.