A blog/portal of web sites and things of interest to Monty

Monty's Muse

Saturday, June 28, 2008

First Days with the D410

I've had the D410 now for about 4 days. As this machine is a refurb I want to make sure everything works good before I go messing too far from the base installation so I haven't tried out any Linux distributions yet. I did download and burn the latest Mint 5 and also have PCLinuxOS Minime2008 waiting in the wings. Looking forward to messing with those in the upcoming weeks but right now it's just me and XP Pro. So far I'm not disappointed with the performance under XP. Response seems to be pretty snappy and not having any lock up problems or anything like that. Suspend, hibernate and all the power management features are working just fine. I could live with XP (but I probably won't).

Turning the clock back to last Tuesday, when I turned the D410 on for the first time, the machine went though an image configuration utility, I watched some of this, went and worked on dinner (cheeseburgers and corn on the cob) for some of it. Some of what I saw was it configuring the Bluetooth (what am I going to do with this?) and the wireless drivers. Well they must have got it right because when it finally (after about 20 mins) got into XP, everything was working just fine. The Intel wireless immediately found a wireless network and prompted me for settings. After setting the SSID and encryption key it connected right away and has worked flawlessly. After seeing that everything appeared to be working I disconnected from the net and installed a couple things from my flash drive.

Avast! Home Edition http://www.avast.com/

This being a Windows machine, a good antivirus product is a must. I seem to go back and forth between AVG and avast!, I can live with either one but I get the impression that avast! is a little better and it does appear to do a little more so that's the one I went with.

Mozilla Firefox 3.0 http://en-us.www.mozilla.com/en-US/firefox/

I've been using Firefox for several years and would not consider running a machine without it. It beat IE to the punch with tabbed browsing and from what the experts say it is safer/more secure. I like the way it stores passwords and you can find themes and add-on to achieve a look and features to satisfy about anyone. Recently I realized that I was missing out on a good deal of Friends for Sale bucks on Facebook by not logging on frequently enough. You earn $10,000 every four hours you log in. With an add-on reload application I've set Friends for Sale to reload it's tab every 15 mins on a seldom used computer. The result is $60,000 earned everyday. I'm not confident I could have accomplished this quite as easy using IE.
With my antivirus in place as well as my preferred browser I was ready to attack the web. There isn't a whole lot more that you need to be productive anymore. As long as you can get to the internet, web applications are available to complete most needed tasks. Gmail was set as my homepage, a few other favorite bookmarks were added and I was ready to go.

Over the last few days I had added a few more applications to help me get along.

Yahoo Messenger 9 beta http://messenger.yahoo.com/win/

Hands down Yahoo has the best combination of software and number of users. Most people I keep in touch with use Messenger (I'm GLMontyWV). Those that still use AIM I can reach just fine through Gmail's home page as well as other Gmail users.

KeyTweak http://webpages.charter.net/krumsick/

OK, here it is, my first real complaint about the D410. The keyboard, it's small, very small for my XL size hands. Still I've adjusted and am not doing too bad with it. There was one problem though that I didn't think I could adjust to, the right Shift. The right Shift key is small, very small, half the size of the left Shift key. I would overshoot the key with my right pinky about half the time when typing. This may not be quite as big a problem would it not be for the fact that the Page Up key is right next to the Shift key. So there I would be, typing away and next thing I know instead of getting a capital letter I would be typing in the paragraph above where I wanted to be. This would not do at all. It took a little bit of searching for a solution that didn't involve going in and making manual registry changes and then I found KeyTweak. To put it simply, KeyTweak allows you to reprogram single keystrokes. Most people probably use this to add a function to an unused key, like putting a mute button on a standard keyboard. After a quick download, install, and a couple minutes playing with it (who wants to read instructions?) I figured out how to replace the PgUp key with another “shift” key. Now if the pinky over shoots the left Shift key then no harm is done as there is another “shift” key right next to it. I've missed having the PgUp key a couple times in the past week. I was accidentally hitting that PgUp key more then a couple times in every paragraphs I typed. The switch has been more than worth it for me.

Hotspot Shield http://anchorfree.com/hotspot-shield/

One of the reasons I wanted a small notebook like the D410 was so I could take it with me easily. This means unsecure wifi hotspots. What good does it do to connect to the net if you can't do anything or log in anywhere because you are afraid some guy at the next table is stealing your information. I know with Gmail you can log in with https but that only protects a small part of what I want to do online. The solution is of course VPN. When I'm on my work laptop the first thing I do set up a VPN connection to the work network and then I can access the shared drives, mainframe, e-mail and other applications securely. I was looking over solutions for setting up a VPN server at home so I could securely connect back to a secure location for all my web traffic and then I stumbled upon Hotspot Shield. Hotspot Shield offers a free service where you can establish a secure VPN connection to their servers, protecting all your wifi data from your pc to their end, protecting it from any snoopers nearby. Hotspot Shield remains free for up to 3GB of use per rolling 30 day period. I expect this will be sufficient. If not they offer subscription options if you need more bandwidth. How can they afford to do this? Advertising! Across the top of your web session appears banner ads, not too tall, probably 50 pixels high. I wouldn't want to see this all the time but it's a worthwhile compromise to have a secure web session when I'm away from home.

OpenOffice http://www.openoffice.org

I just can't understand why this quite popular software isn't more popular than it is. For the total price of FREE (it's totally Open Source) you have a feature packed, highly compatible alternative to Microsoft Office. I use it, my kids use it, my wife who is a very long term Office user is now using it (at home). Compatibility is not 100% with Office but it is awful close. It doesn't have all the feature Office has but it has most that most users use. Before spending the cash for MS Office for your next PC, give OpenOffice a try. My guess is close to half the users who give OpenOffice a try would select it for free over the expensive Office suite from MS. I've typed this whole blog on OpenOffice.

That's all the software I've installed so far, not sure I really need anything else. Maybe an image viewer and basic manipulation program, anyone have a good suggestion? Going to look at some spyware/malware protection but not really sure what is needed and what is overkill in that area as I've been using Linux so much I haven't had to be concerned with those things. There is a concern though that when I do try Linux on this machine that I may not have an application for secure VPN and my key remapping. Worry about that when I get to it.

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