Friday, October 02, 2015

The Computer Backout

This is a wise tale about service.

As an IT consultant (or is it ex IT consultant?) and also a professional and certified nice person, well the opinions of my customers are vitally important to me.

I am happy when you are happy.

The rules are of course suspended should you be an idiot,  an absolute bastard, or a persistent liar who seeks to exploit others.

That said, Agata's mother in Poland is none of these and so when she told Marcus and Agata that her new computer that I upgraded her too was very slow.   I had to investigate ... 

What we Supplied

I covered the build process in July here   and at the time I thought that the system was acceptable

 First it is a very quiet and small PC.  You can barely hear the fans spinning at all

 A full 8GB of memory and Windows 10 Enterprise

 A dual core Atom CPU running at 1.8 MHz

 A 128GB quality SSD

More USB and other ports than one quite knows what to do with!

Making it Vroom
I had thought that the addition of

- a fast 128GB SSD Disk
- 8GB memory
- Windows 10 with all excess services removed

Would be enough to make it fly. Like a professional I asked for a list of problems ....

Make Me a List

- Dodgy Power Button
Yes.   True.  Somehow, after powering on you also had to press a recessed reset button, and occaisionally do all of this twice.  Pretty annoying.

- Office Complained About expiration
Yes. True. Office 2016 beta was installed and it kept threatening expiration, but only in November 

- AVG 2015 issues
Yes. True. AVG the virus program intermittently stopped working after some Windows Updates were installed.  This causes and AVG alert and also a Windows 'what the hell has happened to your antivirus program' alert too.

- Media stuttering
Yes.  True.  That Atom processor is never going to win an awards for speed.  And that is the polite reply.

The Backout

So with the greatest reluctance it was time to revert BACK to the old Shuttle computer.   But as a concession at least change the internal disks to all SSD and use a Windows 10 build ....

For generations to move a Windows installation to a new hardware architecture I would normally
- use acronis or other to make an OS backup
- re install from exact same OS media a bare level OS
- restore over the backup on top of the base OS

This is because simply cloning the disk (at bit level) and placing the cloned disk into the new target system normally Blue-screened.

But in Warsaw with limited resources and limited time I did a clone.  And guess what ...  it started, downloaded drivers, rebooted twice.  And all was well.  Fantastic.

When all was re-done there was a testing period.  In case we had to backout the backout!

Luckily it became clear that the working power button and superior speed of the 'old' shuttle made operation easier.  It was then a matter of fixing the remaining software issues.  Easy.  Well, easyish.

What Did I learn?

My old Quad core computer with dedicated PCI graphics, from 2009  was still a lot faster than the 2013 Intel Mini ITX computer.

A separate PCI graphics card really is so much faster than planar / motherboard graphics, even from 4 years later.

Even adding 8GB to the Intel Atom powered ITX motherboard could not make it fly.  The Atom is one seriously slow CPU

Windows 10 could be cloned to a new hard disk and then booted on the new target computer architecture.   The target machine downloaded the necessary missing drivers and after 2 reboots all was well.

All is well that ends well then.   Mr Quad core shuttle is back in a new home office environment, and mother is happy++