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Notes for Teachers



 July 22, 2016: I'm up and running on a new laptop after my old faithful Dell Studio 17 decided it was time to retire.  It still works but the case is cracked, internal fingerprint reader is dead,  and the last straw was when right shift button on the keypad died.,  I had purchased it as a "refurb" in 2009 so it has served  well.

The new laptop is an HP Envy 17t-n100 which  meets my specification requirements (17" screen,  2 internal SATA  hard drives, fingerprint reader, Intel Gen 6 processor, and backlit keyboard).  The current  17" Envy's do not have two internal SATA drive ports, which I need because my OS drive is a relatively new  500GB SanDisk Extreme.  The new Envy "refurb" n100 version comes with two 2TB internal drives, I7-6700 CPU,  16GB memory, an NVidia GPU, etc. for $950.    I added the 3 year HP "Care Pack" warranty coverage with on-site and accidental damage coverage for $200.  I'd say that the price was right. 

Hardware Plusses:

  • In addition to having the features I wanted, the system has:

  • Four USB 3.0 ports. old laptop had none.

  • SDXC Flash card support; old laptop had only SDHC (32GB max). support.

  • Expansion possibilities:

    • Room for a 3rd internal disk drive - M.2 SSD Flash format.

    • Two empty memory slots for expansion to 32GB, but I not sure why I would.

  • Two-finger scrolling on the touchpad is a handy substitute for the mouse-wheel on a desktop mouse.

  • Runs much cooler than the old Studio 17; so much so that I have also retired the lap desk previously required.  Envy bottom temperatures are barely above room temp!

  • It's slightly lighter (6.8 lbs, down from 7.2 lbs for the old Dell).

 Hardware minuses:

  • Keyboard keys are silver with a thin transparent outline area for the key names.   It's impossible to read key ids  while reclining in my favorite chair and viewing keys at a 45 angle . Touch typists might be OK with it, but I'm not one of those.

  • Touch pad has a large fancy "gesture" recognition area which makes some areas unavailable for tapping. Specifically the top area of the pad (where I've tapped for years) is dead to taps.   I keep thinking that there must be a way to solve this, but I haven't found it yet. (July 25 update: I found a "Smart Sense" mouse option parameter which allows the active area to be enlarged to include the full pad.)

  • Not to get too technical, the new disk drives are formatted as GBT rather than the older MBA type.  Cloning one was a pain.

  • There is a possible bug in keyboard driver with key status not being updated on time See this month's  project link: Keypress Display Demo   for more information.

 Reasons to upgrade to Windows 10:

  • The main reason that to upgrade is that it is inevitable.   Free support is gone.  Even paid support from Microsoft will end at the end of 2019.  If you want to stick with Windows, learn to live with W10!

  • Scaling of text is claimed to properly scale  forms and other visual controls when the the "Enlarge text" feature is used.  That is not the case with previous versions.  High resolution screens and old eyes practically make this a required option.

  • There is built-in "Microsoft Print to PDF" printer.  Very convenient for saving web pages.    

  • Hmmm.  I'll add more as I find them.  Performance is excellent, but the new hardware probably gets most of the credit.

 On the other hand....

Windows 10 Minuses

  • Unfortunately  it comes with some things I do not like:

  • Essential programs (for me), that ran in Windows 7 (Delphi 7 compiler, and FrontPage web site manager),  sort of run under W10 in compatibility mode with some problems still.  They may have been running in compatibility mode in W7, so I may have to go back to XP compatibility mode - still testing.   (July 25 update:  After two days of experimenting, I've concluded that FrontPage will never be completely compatible with Windows 10.   Pop-up windows for selecting from or saving to another location will not select the current website folders.)  (July 28 update:  I'm now running a "Virtual Machine" with Windows 7 and FrontPage installed and working!)

  • It's too intrusive:  I do not want tiles, Cotana's "friendly" assistance, Microsoft  monitoring and  tracking everything I read or write,  places I go, sharing with my friends, etc. even if it is all so that they "provide better service"!  All of that, and more, happens if you accept recommended settings during initial startup.      

  • The "OneDrive" cloud service is now mandatory and can't be removed.  Hiding it to minimize the bad effects is a 10 step process which removed things like my Outlook email files (since the system had decided for me that they should reside "in the cloud").

  • Uninstall-able (and perhaps unneeded) system updates cannot be hidden.   Update just keeps failing and reporting daily. Again, there is a cumbersome work-around.   

  • There is a major upgrade build for W10 which is also failing daily because it "cannot be installed on a USB flash drive".  Have no idea yet what this is about.  (July 25: Solved - a registry parameter specified that the operating system was "mobile" - changing a 1 to a 0 let the update run successfully. 

  • The new Edge web browser is not ready for prime time.  It does not accept "extensions"  (add-ins).   I use the LastPass password manager for logging onto websites with strong unique hpasswords and consider it to be mandatory, so Edge is out for now.

  • The Windows 10  Calculator program is not as user friendly as the Windows 7 version, but again  there the W7 version is available elsewhere (I think).


All in all, I think I have a keeper.  Even an old dog has to learn a new trick or two sometimes.  (But I still hate that "Tile" interface!)

Addendum October 3,2016:  After a few months, here's an update mode in conjunction with our 3rd quarter newsletter. First one correction - I just noticed that I had listed the price as $1950; it was actually $950. 

The laptop is fast and stays so cool that I really can work with it on my lap, but the keyboard has low travel keys with the non-character keys arranged differently than the Dell keyboards I've used for 20 years.  Muscle memory is hard to retrain so keying productivity has gone from slow to slower.  Windows 10 has compatibility problems with older programs like Delphi 7, my preferred comp and FrontPage 2003, my website maintenance program, and MailList King  the mailing list manager I've used for many years.  Special thanks to Nigel at MailList King for helping get the list data transferred and working under Windows 10.  There is lots of "behind the screen" stuff required to handle list management and the actual sending process and MLK handles it well. 

Delphi 7 and FrontPage have no good compatibility fixes and still  require "workarounds" for some operations.  Modern alternatives are available, but changing is like giving up that comfortable old pair of shoes for new, less comfortable, ones.  In the case of FrontPage, there is no modern replacement program that has as many user friendly features so conversion will be time consuming and not at all on my list of fun activites..  


Original: July 22, 2016

Modified:  April 24, 2017