Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Brief Review - 15" Edition of Hewlett Packard's Pavilion Computers with HP TouchSmart

Avoiding any manner of a lengthy autobiography, "To keep it short," I've arrived at a brief moment in my life when I've been able to afford some of my student budget, to purchase a new laptop. The laptop I've purchased, I've purchased after some substantial research. My new laptop, it's an HP Pavilion model, 15 inch display, approximately 5 hour battery life on a less than 5 hour battery charge -- some wattage, no doubt, lost across the AC-to-DC inverter in the "wall wart".It's such a leap forward from my old Toshiba, in such a far leap of usability, with not a tiny screen, I am well impressed at my current "User experience" with the same PC.

With my being in a course of study in which I will be spending a lot of time, in my life's time, in staring at a digital display screen of some kind, working via the human computer interface (HCI) features of a PC, and trying to work with software on the PC -- perhaps most of the time time, in at least practical regards, "successfully" so -- whatever processor/graphics chipset configurations, whatever IO bus and peripherals, whatever elements and features of a computer system of any particularly nature, application, and authority -- I have my own laptop, my own laptop is an HP, it's got a sleek looking form factor, a spacious screen, and an ever more customizable Windows desktop. I've not yet configured my new laptop for "Dual boot" -- rather focusing on developing the toolchain on the Windows partition.

Though I can tolerate the tiny text of my 10" Samsung Chromebook's screen, this new laptop, it's like veritably "a load of my back." If one would endeavor to develop so much as a working draft expressing an idea for so much as a design of a computer system component, before "line one" of code, it sure takes time, focus, and consideration untold, most of that time spent in staring at a PC, working with the software on the PC's OS - there aren't many ways around that, except to revert to "Pen and paper." Sure, "Pen and paper" can be useful nonetheless -- can be a great medium for sketching out a project plan without interference from awkward document editor interfaces -- but when it's for developing a digital component, then it must needs be "worked on," at a computer, and there must needs be incentive enough -- however real and perceived in the subtle semantics of one's own experience and one's own knowledge -- incentive sufficient for producing such endeavor. Candidly, a user experience at a poorly designed laptop isn't much of  an incentive. With enough study and effort, however, one can make well of even a less-than-positive user experience as such.

Personally, I think it's great that I don't have to forever squint at the screen of my Chromebook, now, or try to thumb my way through any further study with a none-too-developer-friendly Tablet PC. To my point of view, the HP Pavilion I've purchased, it's a PC designed to be a workhorse of a PC, and it's got a stylish design in no less.

Of course, in so much as the "First boot" of my HP, I've taken some time to locate some resources for the goal of making it a more effectual PC user experience, for my own PC "Usage case," as I am developing "Thus far." This morning, I've furthermore installed some new software items, and there will be "More of that, ahead".  I'll share the "UX resources," here, the rest would be for material of more lengthy dissertations:

  • Classic Shell Project. Classic Shell - Start Menu and Other Windows Enhancements.
    • Free/open source software product for Windows 8 platforms
    • Supported fiscally with developers' own budgeting and by donations from appreciative users with sufficient budget for donation
    • Reintroduces the classic "Start menu" HCI element to the Windows 8 desktop
    • Can be used as completely an alternate to the Windows 8 "Start screen"
      • To my understanding, the Windows 8 "Start screen" is more an advertising channel than any sort of a useful HCI/UX element. Personally, I am not interested in such "Goodwill branding," i.e. "Salesmanship" at my PC's Desktop.
      • Pragmatically, I find it troublesomely difficult to make efficient use of the Windows 8 Start Screen. It is not any kind of a useful "start" in my "Usage case" on the Windows platform, but at least it is easily removed from one's PC workflow, with such as the Classic Shell application. 
      • Personally, I don't need any more "light" kitchen recipes in my veritable card-box of kitchen recipe index cards, but I'm sure it's a novel part of the Windows 8 "User experience" (UX) for some Windows 8 users, probably in the most. #YMMV
      • The alternate "Start Menu" developed by the Classic Shell Project -- I could stack up all sorts of superlatives of the items, it's really a superb piece of work for the Windows User Experience.
      • Allows complete customization of the "Start menu"
      • Reminiscent of the K Desktop Environment (KDE) menu editor, on the Linux platform, but it's really more expansive than the KDE menu (KDE 3) in available menu-driven functions
      • Really really useful for making shortcuts and other features for effectual "User experience" at the desktop PC
    • An invaluable item of software for the Windows 8 platform
    • That it's possible, on the Windows 8 platform, even so much as possible for the Classic Shell Project to develop and distribute such a software item that integrates so well with the Windows 8 desktop environment -- without any of the broader UX differences of, for instance, Geoshell on MS Windows desktop platforms -- and for oneself, as a Windows PC user, to install such an item and make a comfortable use of the application, to me it represents something like a "Paradigm shift" in my own user experience of the Windows desktop platform. Sure, it's still not Linux -- it's not an RTOS-capable platform in itself, MS Windows 8, and it doesn't feature the same TCP congestion control options, and it's not as easy to configure at the terminal emulator, and it's not a server-grade OS insomuch -- but I think it's pretty darned swell for "The mainstream work," at a desktop, and I am very well impressed with it. I'll try to stop harking on the Traf0Data "Backstory" of the ripoff by the company that preceded the Microsoft Corporation in the previous company's ripoff of a competitor's product that Traf0Data rebranded as MS-DOS, in some collusion with IBM -- cf. Digital Research CP/M -- and so, its still not clear of the ethical question, as of, "What becomes of that kind of a ripoff?"
    • Microsoft Windows Edition 8, these decades later, across so many changes in management and policy in "Redmond" -- Windows 8 is really a swell desktop platform,. Personally I think that -- with the Classic Shell addition -- then, it's "best of class," as a pragmatic desktop platform, insofar as I know of PC desktops. (I've not had any experience with OS X, albeit -- Apple has really out-prestiged me with their hardware pricing model and the OS X "Hackintosh ist verboten" licensing policy -- similar, my impressions of Apple XCode, so far as I have read of.)  
  • Synaptics. Synaptics Gesture Suite™ Windows 8 for TouchPad™
    • Application: For laptop PCs, tablet PCs, and the HP "x2" hybrid laptop/tablet form factors
    • Reader comment: This page illustrates, in a few simple graphics, the gestures available on a Synatpics touchpad (as featured on an HP Pavilion laptop) and a touchscreen for Windows 8 PCs
    • There's also a control-panel applet for configuring the gestures, and enabling any non-default gestures (e.g edge-of-touchpad scroll) and disabling any gestures such one might not wish to use (e.g two-finger scroll, as sometimes might be mistaken by the touchpad interpreter as if it was meant to be a screen-zoom gesture instead) . That control panel applet is illustrated in an article at Eightforums: Touchpad Edge Swipes - Enable or Disable in Windows 8
  • Partha's Place -- home of literature and compiled MS Windows 64-bit editions of the GNU Image Manipulation Program (GIMP) and the Inkscape vector graphics platform, both being free/open source software components of some ostensible use to visual designers, alternate to a subscription to the Adobe Creative Suite in its "CS6" edition.
  • XMing - home of the XMing X Windows Server for Microsoft Windows Platforms, and Portable Putty
    • Portable Putty - Notes
      • an alternative distribution of the upstream Putty SSH client toolkit
      • provides some additional functionality, with regards to SSH session configuration, namely in not using only the MS Windows Registry for storing Putty session configs
      • observe that components of Putty are installed along with some third-party tools, such as TortoiseGit, which provides individual pageant and puttygen binaries. 
        • See also: Git for Windows with TortoiseGit and GitHub
          • observe, then, that the GitHub client for Windows also provides some functionality effectively duplicated by msyGit, the latter of which is used by Tortoisegit. 
          • In desktop environments in which the OS is installed via a normal software packaging system -- that providing a complete set of dependency management features -- such as the Debian Packaging System (Deb) or the Red Hat Package Manager (RPM), certainly the issue of dependency management for those operating systems would be easier for software distributors and host administrators to resolve, together, without such duplication of functionality. 
          • On Microsoft Windows platforms, there are "These, available." 
      • binaries available via the Xming project, for 32 bit and 64 bit MS Windows platforms for a modest, initial fee, in essentially a subscriber-based model
      • both of the upstream distribution of Putty and the XMing distribution of Portable Putty provide Pageant, as namely:
        • an SSH agent whose HCI elements are integrated with the Microsoft Windows System Tray
        • useful in OS user session context, for keeping one's user SSH keys active, as in sessions with GitHub  -- a distributed SCCM service with extensive web-based features, derived onto the Git distributed  SCCM system, and well supported on MS Windows platforms, cf Pro Git -- and Amazon Web Services (AWS) a scalable web service provider with a "Free tier", IDE integration (AWS plugins for the Eclipse IDE), and expansive documentation about AWS's broad, scalable array of web hosting services and features.
  • Luckasoft. Enginsite Data Freeway
    • Freeware graphical SFTP/WebDAV/FTP client for MS Windows desktops
    • Free web-based registration available - refer to web form, privacy policy
  • Ext2Fsd Project. Ext2Fsd
    • Driver for Ext revision 2 and later filesystems (cf. Linux kernel filesystem IO) implemented for Microsoft Windows Platforms
    • Windows 8 supported since edition 0.52
    • Might be beta, therefore might not be applicable in commercial server environments
    • Developers are advised to user each's own discretion, in selection of development toolbox elements
    • Ext2 "Write Support" optional, may be enabled at installation time
    • Brief summary of usage case: I have a Samsung Chromebook with a Crouton chroot installed on the Chromebook's internal MMC/SSD storage. The Crouton chroot contains an installation of the K Desktop Environment and a number of developer platform tools, including KiCAD and Fritzing, compiled for the Samsung Chromebook's ARM architecture and installed via an Ubuntu ARM ports repository. It's become a crowded chroot filesystem. I've been keeping my workspace files on a removable SD card, on that Chromebook. I'd formatted the SD card as Ext4 when I began this application of that SD card. I'm aware that an Ext3 or Ext4 partition can be "mounted" i.e "made available to the OS," as in either case an Ext2 filesystem though without filesystem journaling when either is mounted as Ext2. Presently, I need to get my workspace files copied from the SD card (Ext4 partition) to my new Laptop (NTFS partition). Of course, after that, I will have to reconfigure every Git repository on the SD card, for working around MS Windows's policies for text file EOL, filenames, and file modes. I'm not otherwise concerned about the loss in file mode information, across the file copy operation - any files that need to be "exec" have already been made "exec" in the current edition of  any Git repositories on that SD card. The Ext2Fsd driver should be sufficient as to allow the initial copy of files (using 'tar', via Cygwin) from the SD card to my laptop's internal hard disk drive, without rebooting to a rescue disk, for that task.
    • Issues Observed:
      • File-name lengths incompatible with NTFS
      • File-name encodings incompatible with NTFS -- for instance, file names created by "drag and drop" desktop links for HTTP URL references originally encoded by KDE 3's Dolphin file manager. 
    • Hosted by SourceForge.net
  • Netcup GmbH. QEMU Binaries for MS Windows Platforms
  • Adobe Acrobat Reader, as an alternative to the PDF reader that ships with Windows 8
  • Sysinternals Process Utilities
  • Advice: Resizing desktop icons in Windows 7, at Microsoft help online
Personally, I look forward to seeing how useful the touchscreen on the laptop could be, when used with National Instruments (NI) LabVIEW's front panel block displays for LabVIEW "G" programs. From the duration of a previous employment, a little more than a year ago, I have a nice soft-end touch-screen stylus, aside from my custom tablet PC bundle -- certainly, a stylus designed for a touchscreen architecture in some ways distinct to that used in the HP TouchSmart models -- but a soft stylus, such that would be useful in an application of the touchscreen HCI element of my HP Paviliion TouchSmart PC, without making finger-marks on the display screen of the PC.

HP Paviliion PCs are stocked by a number of "Big Box Stores," including office supply stores. One may endeavor to "Shop around" for an HP Pavilion with TouchSmart technology, and perhaps one might find a nice mix of PC features and affordability, on student budget or otherwise.

"Once on a blue moon," one might even find a substantial discount on a great quality PC. I purchased my new PC at an Office Depot -- I'd ordered it online, for pickup "in store," to avoid the hassles of the local "Geek squad," and save the delivery truck the short drive. Sure, it was a long drive, to me though -- a few hours alone, along a contemporary highway, in a peculiarly spirited "46th out of 50" state in the US. The irony of things, I would typically prefer to leave "Untold"

So, but I've found a nice quiet place well away from the clusterfark in the state-local metro areas, and have begun to study the PC I've purchased. Maybe it's nice enough, that last item, that one could write about it without so much as seeming as inviting any excess of politics.