16 October 2016

Crucial MX300 525GB SSD Review

As I realized that my laptop woes were due to a failing hard drive, it was time to upgrade to a solid state drive (SSD). At the price point that I was looking, I decided that the Crucial MX300 gave me the best bang for the buck. I got the 525GB model for $119.99.

From a user perspective, I have no complaints. Everything is snappy, the laptop boots in less than 30 seconds, and applications launch in mere seconds.

From a benchmark perspective, the random read/write speeds do leave something to be desired.


However, after installing Crucial Storage Executive and enabling Momentus Cache, the random speeds increased by a significant amount (up to 8 times).



One thing to note about the Momentus Cache is it requires a battery backup such as a laptop or UPS to ensure writes make it to the SSD.

The Crucial Storage Executive software itself could use some improvement as it is a Java Application that opens up in the browser. This feels weird for what should be a native windows app. The software also could not detect my laptop's battery but this was not an issue, just a weird quirk.

Overall, I'm happy with my choice.  It revived my dying laptop and saved me from having to buy a new one.

30 September 2016

Lenovo Yoga 700 Review

This is a review for the Lenovo Yoga 700 11.6 inch model 80QE0044US.

Just a little background, I decided to buy this over the newer 710 for several reasons:
  • Lower price: the 700 was on clearance
  • More USB ports: 2 vs 1 (later I found out that the DC power port is also a USB 2.0 port making it 3 vs 2)
  • Built-In SD Card reader
Key Specs:
  • Intel Core m3 6Y30
  • 8GB Ram
  • 128GB SSD
  • 11.6 inch touch screen with 1920 x 1080 resolution
  • Windows 10 Home

Pros:
  • Ultra-Portable size
  • Boots in less than 10 seconds
  • Loads apps in seconds
  • Gorgeous Full HD IPS screen
  • SSD and fanless design makes it completely silent (0 moving parts)
  • m3 processor is power efficient allowing for hours of web browsing
  • SDXC card reader (also reads standard SD and SDHC, as well as MMC)
  • Micro-HDMI output (1.4a up to 1080p)
  • Dual Band WiFi that supports 802.11ac

Middle of the road:
  • 3 USB ports (1 USB 3.0, 1 USB 2.0, 1 USB 2.0/DC power port)
  • Touchpad buttons makes a loud click when depressed
  • Keyboard does not have a backlight for typing in dark areas
  • With not much installed the SSD only has ~40GB left, so you may wish to spend a little more and get the bigger drive
  • Relative to the size of the computer the touchpad is a good size

Cons:
  • No Bluetooth
  • Short ~6ft Power Cord (about the same length as the Apple MagSafe with the AC Plug not AC Cord)
  • No divider on the touchpad to indicate where the buttons are, therefore you may think you are clicking when you are not

Other Thoughts:
  • Initially had issues with Windows Store and its apps not working, but that was fixed with the latest Windows update
  • CPU intensive tasks will take longer than the same generation i5
  • Similar model 80QE000NUS has the following upgrades for roughly an additional $75:
    • m5 6Y54
    • 256GB SSD
    • Bluetooth 4.0
  • Haven't really used in tablet or tent mode yet, will update review if necessary

06 July 2016

Windows 10 Upgrade Issues Part 2

After my upgrade to Windows 10, my laptop (Toshiba L875D-S7232) seemed sluggish, and no matter what I did, nothing seemed to fix it. So I decided that I would try a clean install of Windows 10. Unfortunately, it did not improve the situation.

Here are the steps that I used to fix it:
  1. Set the virtual page size
    1. Start -> All apps -> Windows System -> Control Panel
    2. Click "System"
    3. Click "Advanced system settings"
    4. Select "Advanced" tab
    5. In the "Performance" box, click the "Settings" button
    6. Select "Advanced" tab
    7. In the "Virtual Memory" box, click the "Change" button
    8. Uncheck "Automatically manage paging file size for all drives
    9. Set a reasonable custom size (I used 2048) in both initial and maximum
    10. Click "Ok" three times
  2. Disabled all notifications
    1. Start -> Settings
    2. Click "System"
    3. Click "Notifications & actions"
    4. Turn off all Notifications
  3. Don't Disable Windows Search
    1. Open task manager (Start -> All apps -> Windows System -> Task Manager)
    2. Click "More Details"
    3. Select "Services" tab
    4. Click "Open Services" on the bottom
    5. Right Click "Windows Search"
    6. Click "Properties"
    7. For "Startup type" select "Automatic"
    8. Click "Start"
  4. Remove All Live Tiles from the start menu
  5. Uninstall unused windows apps
    1. Open an administrator powershell
      1. Click "Start"
      2. Click "All apps"
      3. Open "Windows Powershell" Folder
      4. Right Click "Windows Powershell"
      5. Click "Run as administrator"
    2. Run the following commands one at a time
      1. Get-AppxPackage *OneNote* | Remove-AppxPackage
      2. Get-AppxPackage *BingWeather* | Remove-AppxPackage
      3. Get-AppxPackage *XboxApp* | Remove-AppxPackage
      4. Get-AppxPackage *Zune* | Remove-AppxPackage
  6. Install updated video card drivers to the Crimson 16.2.1 Beta drivers (amd)
  7. Installed updated chipset drivers to the Crimson 16.4.2 drivers (amd)
  8. Disabled Raptr and Plays.tv
    1. Open task manager (Start -> All apps -> Windows System -> Task Manager)
    2. Click "More Details"
    3. Select "Start Up" tab
      1. Right Click "Plays.tv Video Recorder by Raptr"
      2. Click "Disable"
      3. Right Click "Raptr Desktop App"
      4. Click "Disable"
    4. Select "Services" tab
      1. Click "Open Services" on the bottom
      2. Right Click "Plays.tv Update Service"
      3. Click "Properties"
      4. For "Startup type" select "Disabled"
      5. Click "Stop"
However, even after all these changes, my start menu can still be sluggish at times, but the other apps perform much better.

08 May 2016

My Beginners Guide to Casual Hearthstone

As my current addiction, Hearthstone has been a fun distraction that fits well with my casual game play. Therefore, I want to spread my knowledge of how to maximize your gold for time spent.

Here are the guidelines that I try to follow:
  • Quests:
    • Login everyday to get your new quest (so you can see if you want to replace it)
    • Make sure you have an empty quest spot at the start of the day (midnight server time)
    • Replace all 40 gold requests, unless you need to complete a quest to get under 3
    • Replace 50 gold quests you dislike, and keep ones you like
    • Never replace a 60 or 100 gold quest
  • Win a Tavern Brawl every week (free classic pack)
  • Don't play wild games (unless you have the cards), as standard will be easier
  • Try to only buy classic or the most recent packs (as this will maximize the length of time you can use the cards)
  • Use sites such as icy-veins.com to help you craft decks

Quests Analysis

Here is the math behind my quest guidlines.

36 Total Quest Possibilities:
  • 15 worth 40 Gold:
    • 9 - Win 2 games with or
    • Win 3 games with any class
    • Deal 100 damage to the enemy hero
    • Destroy 40 minions
    • Play 40 spells
    • Play 30 minions that cost 2 or less
    • Play 20 minions that cost 5 or more
  • 9 worth 50 Gold:
    • 9 - Win 3 games with
  • 10 worth 60 Gold:
    • 9 - Win 5 games with or
    • Win 5 Tavern Brawls
  • 1 worth 100 Gold - Win 7 games with any class
  • 1 worth 1 Classic Pack - Watch a friend win a game
For simplicity's sake, I value the 1 classic pack at 100 gold. This means that given an equal chance to get any quest, that you have a 46.66% chance to get a 40 gold quest, 10% chance to get a 50 gold quest, 41.11% chance to get a 60 gold quest, and finally a 2.22% chance to get a 100 gold quest. Sum these up and you get an average quest value of 51.38 gold. If you replace the 40 gold quests, you will have the average quest value of 56.13. If you replace the 40 gold and 50 gold quests, you will have the average quest value of 56.48.

06 February 2016

Windows 10 Uninstall Radeon RamDisk 4.0

As I was optimizing my laptop, because it was running slow, I noticed that my RamDisk was not being loaded. So I went to uninstall it, but it would error out telling me that my version of Windows was not supported. However, I wasn't trying to use it, I just wanted to remove it!

After some googling, I found this pdf that describes how to bypass this error to unistall it.

The instructions involve deleting 2 registry folders, contained in:
  • DON'T DELETE THE BELOW FOLDERS THEMSELVES
  • HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Installer\UserData\S-1-5-18\Products
  • HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\Installer\Products
The folders you want to delete will be a long alpha-numeric folder that contains a key with 'Radeon Ramdisk' as a value (InstallProperties\DisplayName and ProductName respectively). After deleting these 2 folder, you should be able to uninstall Radeon Ramdisk 4.0.

12 January 2016

Fixing Google Hangouts MMS Problem

Since October 2015, I have been having problems sending and receiving MMS with Google Hangouts on my Nexus 5 (and my wife's Moto X 2013). The only way I could seem to get MMS to work was turning off WiFi and toggling LTE off (or on).

My initial searches when the problem first occurred gave me no leads, so I just suffered through it. However, yesterday I just happened to search again and came across this page https://productforums.google.com/forum/#!topic/nexus/VW_L9kVVy8g. Most of the posts were not helpful for me as they were things that I had already done (double check APN settings) or did not apply (more than one set of APN settings).

One of the suggestions said to make sure the default browser was set. As I only had Chrome installed, I didn't think this would apply to me, but decided to check anyway.  You can check the setting here (if you are using Marshmallow):
Settings -> Apps -> Settings gear on top right -> Default Apps
And what do you know, it was unset. I tapped it and set it to Chrome.
Next I went into Google Hangouts (with WiFi on) and was able to both send and receive MMS!

Fixing it on my wife's Moto X 2013 was more difficult since it is still on Lollipop.
First I checked that chrome was not set as the default.  You can check here:
Settings -> Apps -> Chrome
When I looked on her phone, it was not set as the default for anything (Clear Defaults button was grayed out).

To fix this what I actually had to do was install another browser (Firefox). I then texted the phone a simple link (http://www.google.com) and clicked on it and it asked me what browser to use. I chose Chrome and use always. I also performed a google now search and when clicking on a link performed the same steps.
Once I confirmed that Hangouts on the Moto X was also able to send and receive MMS with wireless on, I uninstalled Firefox.

Why this works, I may never know, but I am certainly glad to have this issue resolved!

23 December 2015

Windows 10 Upgrade Issues

As I have recently upgraded my laptop (Toshiba L875D-S7232) to Windows 10, I went about setting it up. However, I came across some issues.

AMD Quick Stream Licensing Issue

Everytime I started my computer, it would complain that AMD Quick Stream could not find its license. Luckily, simply uninstalling the AMD Quick Stream fixed the error message from popping up. I then updated the video drivers from AMD's website that included Quick Stream and I no longer seeing the error.

Touchpad Mouse Scroll Issue

When I went to switch the two-finger scroll to the scroll zone using Synaptic Pointing Device Properties, the zone would show as activating, but no scrolling would happen. So I went to Toshiba's website and downloaded the latest driver (which was actually a downgrade v19 to 16.2.10.5). But when I went to install it, it complained that a newer version was already installed and to uninstall it first. Unfortunately, when I tried to unistall it, it said that it could not because a DLL could not be found. To get around this I went into device manager and uninstalled the driver. Unfortunately, it still would not install using the install. However, I was able to update the driver thru Device Manager, by having it search for the driver in my User/AppData/Local/Temp folder. And great news, I am able to scroll using the zone! Now, Windows Update wants to install the newer version again, so onto the next issue.
Update: After Windows reinstalled  19.0.16.3, I just had to re-do my scroll settings and it works fine now.

Restoring Control Panel

As I wanted to hide the update to prevent my computer from re-installing it, I thought that I could hide it in the traditional Windows Update. To my suprise, when I went to Control Panel, it was EMPTY!
In order to add the icons back I followed these steps (source):
  1. Start -> type "gpedit.msc" -> select the program
  2. Select "User Configuration" -> "Administrative Templates" -> "Control Panel" 
  3. Double Click "Prohibit Access to Control Panel" -> Select Disable -> Click Ok
  4. Double Click "Show Only Specified Control Panel Applets" -> Select Disable -> Click Ok
  5. Close any open Control Panel windows
  6. Open the Control Panel
Unfortunately, even after the icons appeared, there is no Windows Update one, and so far I have been unable to get one to appear.

Start Menu will not open

Windows 10, randomly began to not open the Start Menu by either clicking on it or pressing the Windows Key.
To fix I followed the following steps to repair corrupt Windows files (source):
  1. Open Task Manager (by right clicking on taskbar or pressing Ctrl-Alt-Del
  2. Click "File" -> "Run new task" -> check "Create this task with administrative privileges" -> type "powershell" -> Click Ok
  3. At the command prompt type "sfc /scannow"
  4. Wait as this will take a long time