Tag Archives: x1

That Was Fun, Done With The Lenovo Carbon X1, Back to GSD!

Over the last couple of months I’ve been double laptoping it. I’ve had a Lenovo Carbon X1 with Windows 8 and Ubuntu dual boot configuration with 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD and i7 and I had a Mac Book Air (MBA) 8GB, 512GB SSD and i7 Proc. The MBA was my primary work machine with the Lenovo being a secondary machine that I was using to test and build Windows 8 Applications and for building native Linux services and related code work.

Windows 8 Critique

Simply, Windows 8 is one of the most broken operating systems I’ve used since Windows ME. Forget Vista, I consider it officially dethroned. Let me clarify what is and isn’t horrible about Windows 8 though. It isn’t that it technically is a bad operating system, it’s that the idea and approach that Microsoft has taken is inherently flawed at several key points.

First, having a desktop on a tablet, which is almost impossible except for all but the finest of finger pointing tablet users, is blindingly stupid. Just go into any place where there is a Windows 8 tablet user and watch them whacking away when they get into the desktop.

The Windows 8 desktop on a tablet is patently absurd for the vast majority of potential Windows 8 users.

However, the straight Metro Interface of Windows 8 (which Microsoft now calls the Windows 8 interface because of legal reasons) is magnificent for tablet usage. There are a few major things that need fixed: responsiveness related to connection state, update status and the availability of high quality applications. Once those things are fixed Windows 8 will be as competent as iOS or Android in the usability department. Until then, it’s a nice dream, with a small number of usable apps with a huge potential.

Now the desktop is the tried and true classic desktop of Windows. Thus, when you’re on a desktop machine or a laptop with a dedicated pointing device or touch screen the back and forth is fine. Matter of fact it is great! I find myself using the touch screen regularly to do a number of tasks, and hope to see its use increase more and more on a number of platforms (yo Apple, got game on this yet or not, OS-X can definitely use a touch interface).

Overall though, Windows 8 – unless you solely do Windows 8 Development, is not a reason to buy a Lenovo X1 Carbon.

Ubuntu Critique

Minus the touch screen, which Ubuntu has no clue what to do with except treat it like a pointer, this is how you see the real power and beauty of the Lenovo X1 Carbon. Ubuntu loads 2x faster and shuts down 2x faster than Windows 8. Comparable builds in IntelliJ, C, C++, Erlang and other compilers are regularly 1.2-3x faster than on Windows. The servers that one would build against, such as GlassFish (see this for my latest on setting up GlassFish & Java 7) are also routinely faster, more responsive and less prone to difficulty than in Windows.

One of the problems that is ongoing, is it is hard to move to Ubuntu unless you are doing dev. Using Adobe tools is a non-starter, best to stick to slow Windows or get real fast using OS-X. Again though, if it runs on Windows and Linux, I’d take a safe guess that the Linux versions will be faster, probably more stable, and all around it’ll likely work better over time. There is something to that whole unix way about building things. One other big booster for Ubuntu, is writing JavaScript, which I do regularly these days is a much better experience than on Windows. I use standard tools, that usually are available on Windows, but launching Sublime 2 or WebStorm is just faster, noticeably, on Linux versus Windows 8 (or whatever version really).

So overall, if you’re going to get a Linux machine, the Lenovo X1 Carbon is a prime choice. If not one of the best. If I understand correctly, there may even be some solid Linux software out there that would make the touch screen more usable too. So if you’re adventurous you may be able to solve that one single issue that I had with Linux running on the X1.

Would I Give Up My Mac for the X1?

This is easy, the answer is absurdly simple. However I did give up the Mac Book Air I had in parallel with the Lenovo for several months, as it belonged to Basho (which I’ve departed from).

Hell no!!!

Matter of fact, even though I’ve used the laptop extensively with Ubuntu and Windows 8, I’ve just bought a new Mac Book Pro Retina 15″ to do all of my work with Ubuntu, Windows 8 and OS-X. The solidness of the MBP is untouchable compared to the X1. The screen is better, the keyboard is more consistent and easier to type on, the ghost tracking of the track pad is non-existent on the air, versus the X1 Carbon. In this case, I’d even turned off the trackpad entirely on the X1 Carbon. Simply, the X1 Carbon just doesn’t measure up to the Mac Book Pro.

Other observations I’ve made about the two machines. The Mac Book Pro is far more solid, the construction is just not even comparable. The X1 feels solid but compared to the MBP it feels cheap and flimsy. Considering the hardware works flawlessly with the software on the MBP is also no competition. The Carbon regularly needed driver updates, things would flake out and I’d have to restart. This would be prevalent in windows or linux, it didn’t matter. Fortunately a restart would fix it, but none of these issues exist on the MBP, using either OS-X or running a VM with Windows 8 or Ubuntu.

Also, even though the MBP design is over a year old now, the i7, 16 GB RAM and 512 GB SSD makes the X1 Carbon seem like a morbidly out of date, slow and antiquated device even though it is actually a newer device!

So, would I give up my mac for the X1?

Lenovo X1 Carbon Touch :: Opening, Setup and Failure

X1 Carbon with all the standard parts that come in box. (Click for full size image)

X1 Carbon with all the standard parts that come in box. (Click for full size image)

Yesterday I received my X1 Carbon Touch from Amazon. First part of this whole adventure is that I sent it to my old address in one part of town so that led to a little sleuth action to track it down. After a short bike ride up the street I arrived and the office staff had my X1 Carbon. Whew, disaster averted.

I went down to Ace Hotel were one of the local Stumptown locations is to open it up and see what I was in store for. Nothing like a good macchiato while I unpackaged the new machine. When I arrived I ran into Nathan Aschbacher and Eric Redmond. Two of my fellow Basho comrades. We all grabbed coffee and headed up to the roost for some hacking and conversation.


In the package, laptop sitting on the table at Ace Hotel's Stumptown Coffee.

In the package, laptop sitting on the table at Ace Hotel’s Stumptown Coffee. (Click for large image)

Unpacking the Lenovo X1 Carbon is a straight forward process. A simple box, no elegance, just a box with some labels and logos on it. Pulling the laptop out of the box, still just the bare minimum. No bells, no whistles, even the documentation is a 2-3 page pamphlet. Personally, I’m totally cool with this approach. I find Apple’s packaging to be an experience of sorts, however extensively wasteful.

One of the applications I found not available for Windows 8 was a native HipChat client. This actually makes sense, since most of their customers are likely using Linux or OS-X. It really shows how Windows has seriously lost the edge with developers.

Nathan and Eric both give a feel to see how light and strong the laptop is. Nobody actually threw the laptop, but we all wanted to, just to see how it would hold up. Maybe with somebody else’s hard earned Lenovo purchase. ūüėČ

Nathan gives it a look.  (Click for full size image)

Nathan gives it a look. (Click for full size image)

Gleefully smiling at the laptop, Eric proposes we throw it over the guardrail to the first floor below. (Click for full size image)

Gleefully smiling at the laptop, Eric proposes we throw it over the guardrail to the first floor below. (Click for full size image)

No start? (Click for full size image)

No start? (Click for full image)

After Nathan and Eric threaten the poor laptop, I set her down and try and get her booted up. First thing I notice, it doesn’t start. I’m puzzled? Why doesn’t it start? I pick at my PC Tech experience and think, “oh yeah, probably gotta do something stupid an unintuitive like plug it in for some magically arbitrary amount of time first”.

Lenovo lives! (Click for full size)

Lenovo lives! (Click for full size)

So I plug it in and try again. A small light around the power button, kind of a halo, lights up and immediately I get the happiness. The machine is coming to life. A bright Lenovo logo pops on the screen with the notorious Windows 8 swirly working image below.

Move ya mouse! (click for full size image)

Move ya mouse! (click for full size image)

Windows 8 then shifts into a preparing windows workflow which basically means you fill out a few things and it does something to the OS to make it ready to run. I sit through a solid 7-10 minutes of these screens, these fluctuating colors. It’s rad, in a¬†psychedelic¬†waste of time kind of way. However, I’ll admit, my Mac Book Air is sitting beside me running just fine that I’m using to do work while I wait for all this process to finish. I’m no¬†amateur¬†at loading operating systems, I come prepared. ūüėČ

A Problem Arises

I relocate to Bailey’s Taproom after setting up some basic things and installing Visual Studio 2012 on the machine. While working through updates and installing patches my track pointer (the little red button thingy in the middle of the keyboard, that Lenovo is famous for) stops working.

I toy around with the settings and see why the track pointer is shadowed out in the settings. I battle with Windows 8 trying to find the easiest way into the settings and out of the settings and to the desktop and to the start screen and back and forth. It’s somewhat tumultuous but in the end it’s helping me get used to the new system and where everything is. But still, I’ve no idea why the track pointer thingy doesn’t work. I consult the great Google.

Apparently the drivers that it ships with are the suck. I get pointed to this video by Jesse Anderson.

After I get the drivers installed, everything is working flawlessly again. Onward!

Flakiness o’ Windows 8

As I’m working on Windows 8 setting up some of the cool applications for the start menu (or whatever the metro dealio is called now) I get a really flaky behavior. This is the kind of behavior that screams “we don’t really pay attention to usability” or maybe it screams “we’ve no idea what we shipped” or maybe it’s just a simple example of “oh shit we shipped that stupid user experience“. Whatever the case is, this is it…

Notice something redundant here?

Notice something redundant here?

Yup, on a laptop with a HARDWARE LAPTOP ATTACHED Windows 8 is showing me the keyboard. WTF kind of pure idiocy of a UX is this? My mind is blown. After years of the iPad having this problem figured out (and Apple doesn’t even sell keyboards themselves). When you have a HARDWARE keyboard NEVER show anybody the stupid SOFTWARE¬†keyboard¬†EVER. Seriously, this has to be one of the dumbest UX situations that I’ve seen in ages. This is a total failure of logical flow. Note also, this screen doesn’t fold all the way around, this is a laptop pure and simple, not in any way a tablet. But there’s the SOFTWARE¬†keyboard¬†that one should only see on a tablet! Oh well, it aint the end of the world, it’s just DUMB.

I get everything else setup, zonk for the night after working through all the software installations and patches. All is right. All is cool.

Loading Ubuntu Linux

Loading Ubuntu (Click for full size)

Loading Ubuntu (Click for full size)

Ubuntu (Click for full size)

Ubuntu (Click for full size)

The next morning I rise early and get to working on the next phase of my installation. I don’t, by any means, intend to use Windows 8 all the time on this machine. I want to have a dual boot of Ubuntu and Windows 8 on this laptop so that I can have every OS (OS-X, Windows 8 and Ubuntu) running natively on at least one machine that I have.

I do a little research and find this information about making a bootable USB Stick for Ubuntu from Windows. That information points me to this application that makes it a no brainer to get a bootable USB stick ready for use via Linux Live USB.

Just As I Got Ubuntu Installed…

I shut down the computer after getting all of these things installed. Windows 8 was finally fully patched, Ubuntu was installed and running with all patches too. The X1 seemed to hang on the shutdown. So I held down the power button for about 8 seconds to hard reboot the machine. Thinking that it would startup no problem at a later time I packed it in my messenger bag and headed off to a meeting I had scheduled. I arrived at the meeting and went to start the laptop again.


So I tried to hold the button down for 7 seconds to start it back up.


I packed it back up and returned to a place I could plug it in and try to start it. I swung into Backspace and found an electrical jack. Plugged in, counted a few seconds just for good luck. I then held down the power button for 8 seconds to see if it would start plugged in.




(Click for large image)

I then sporadically pressed the button. I then used morse code to spell S.O.S. on the power button.


I resigned myself to now owning a large paper weight. Albeit a much lighter paper weight than what laptops traditionally weighed. My X1 Carbon Touch was dead. I called tech support.

Impressive Support

First thing that happens, I navigate through support quickly. The automated voice tells me I am now being connected to Lenovo Support in Atlanta, Georgia. At this point I was impressed. I’m getting to speak to someone in the country where I’ve bought the machine. That is cool.

I get connected to Tom in support. I fill him in on my sitrep. We walk through some basic troubleshooting. Such as the “pin in the battery reset hole” trick“.


Tom wastes no time as I’ve already laid out everything I have in this blog entry. He declares it dead and gets a box on its way to me for returning it to Lenovo. With a promised 7 day return after I ship it to them. Well hot damn, my laptop is dead by I’m stoked to have support like this. I don’t recall support this good since the late 90s!!

As I tweeted about this I got a lot of responses like this. I concur and I already have a mac, this is an machine specifically NOT for using the mac. ¬†ūüėõ

So in the meantime, it’s back to Windows 8 via VMware Fusion on a good ole’ mac!

Windows 8 via VMware Fusion on OS-X. (Click for full size)

Windows 8 via VMware Fusion on OS-X. (Click for full size)

…so stay tuned, for the ongoing saga of Windows 8 & Ubuntu Linux Development on a Lenovo!