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yspave 0.1.0 'Insert Witty Version Name Here'

yspave is a CLI-based password manager that strives to be secure and simple. Data is only stored strongly encrypted, and can be queried/modified by CLI in one-shot or REPL modes, so it's usable over SSH links and doesn't need local db copies.

0.1.0 contains a few improvements over older versions, and with the project generally being over its major pain points, I figure it was time for a small version bump.

It's not yet quite ready for 1.0, for that I want to migrate to more modern, libsodium based crypto for storage (right now it's scrypt/AES based) and refactor the code further.

Changes from 0.0.11:

  • Deprecation: The config file format has changed; copy_call is now the option call in the copy section. The old format is still supported, but throws a warning and will be removed eventually.

  • Queries can now contain IDs or search keywords everywhere. (ponder)

  • New command: list complements get, showing metadata for all matching entries, but without passwords (similar to the query selection screen).

  • Improved command: del will now ask for confirmation and works on queries, not just IDs.

  • Improved command: copy can now show metadata of the copied password. Opt in due to its potential security concerns.

  • PKGBUILD is no longer shipped; only distributed via AUR.

  • Argument completion for zsh shipped. (ponder)

  • Internal:

    • The commands module has been reworked, making dispatch less of a mess.

    • edit has been reworked, hopefully fixing some bugs in it. (ponder)

    • Queries matching passwords added in the current session no longer trigger exceptions.

    • Default memory factor has been improved, from 64M to 512M.

    • Invalid config files now trigger proper tracebacks and error messages.

    • Exceptions in the REPL now trigger proper tracebacks and error messages.

    • Query selections can now be cancelled with ^C.

    • Releases are now GPG signed.


Download: AURGithub (.tar.gz)Local git mirror


Samuel Vincent Creshal at 08. Apr 2016, 15:10 UTC

SSL moved to Let's Encrypt and enabled by default

Let's Encrypt is a pretty awesome service that offers auto-renewable, free SSL certificates, and unlike CACert, Mozilla has enough money to pay the inevitable bribes necessary to become a "trustworthy" default CA in major browsers. As such, it actually works with random clients off the internet and I can enable it without breaking too much. Android 2, Windows XP and Java clients won't work, but fuck those.


Samuel Vincent Creshal at 16. Mar 2016, 10:00 UTC

Windows 10 default "privacy" settings

So I just set up a Windows 10 laptop and my jaw dropped:

  • Contacts, calendar entries and "associated input" are shared with Microsoft

  • Typing statistics and handwriting samples are shared with Microsoft

  • a unique ID is shared with advertising networks

  • GPS and wifi location are shared with Microsoft and "trusted partners"

  • Browsing and download history is shared with Microsoft

  • Windows automatically connects to unencrypted hotspots

  • Wifi passwords are shared with Microsoft and all your contacts

  • Application crash dumps, which can contain arbitrary sensitive data, are shared with Microsoft

  • Start menu searches are also shared to provide suggestions, and that's not even in the privacy settings.

I think the Stasi would be pleased. It seems Microsoft has, at last, reached the point where users are the product and only advertisers matter.


Samuel Vincent Creshal at 29. Jul 2015, 13:31 UTC

Server outage

Sorry for the massive outage over the weekend. There were some obscure problems with the server's dom0, which is outside my control, and Host Europe charges €200 per hour for weekend fixes. As such, I opted to postpone the fix until Monday morning.

I'm probably going to migrate everything over to Hetzner soon™ish, as they offer better hardware and better support for a comparable price tag. No idea when exactly this will happen, but I will inform the users beforehand.


Samuel Vincent Creshal at 09. Feb 2015, 08:25 UTC

Github and AUR goodness

CGit has been a royal pain to maintain, and I don't really feel like deploying gitlab or similar just for the five repositories I need. So the "Repository" link on top now goes to Github – development is and will continue to be done on my own servers, Github is just a mirror.

Additionally, my Arch packages are now in the AUR.


Samuel Vincent Creshal at 10. Feb 2015, 09:37 UTC

Review, yet again: Thinkpad T440p

Is it getting a bit much? Probably. But that's because notebooks, by and large, utterly suck nowadays and I just can't find any worth settling down with. The T420s is nice, but it's hard to come by nowadays, and the display is just bad enough that it's not fun using it.

better known as Thinkpad Edge 440p

The newest of the new. When the 40 series was first announced, I was torn between scepticism at the "new" trackpoint and joy about mainline Thinkpads finally getting IPS displays (as well the reintroduction of the -p brand).

This quickly tapered down to general scepticism when the maintenance manuals were released. The smaller variants not only have lower battery run time than their precursors, they also have less RAM.

Lenovo, what the fuck? How much cocaine do you need to snort to think decreasing performance is a good move? To add insult to injury, 4 GiB are soldered on. Given the generally substantial cost of replacement motherboards for Thinkpads (300-700€), this makes using them past the warranty time a much larger gamble (or outright impossible).

At least, the T440p doesn't have those restrictions. Just your normal T series Thinkpad, right?

Right?

Case and Handling

Dear gods, kill me now to spare me the suffering. The case is almost fully hard plastic, from display to base plate. Zero metal. It's just as bad as an Edge that's sold for a third of the price. The display can almost be folded in half, won't survive any crash, and is way too wobbly.

The general bulkiness and weight were within expectations, but it has little redeeming features to make up for it: It has no more connectors or component slots than, say, the T420, and is still heavier and bulkier. I suspect most of the increase comes from making the case out of plastic instead of magnesium or at least alumium. For a price of 1000€ for a minimally specced notebook, this is absolutely, utterly unacceptable.

On a plus side, the maintenance hatch now has an intrusion detection sensor. Yup, that's the only improvement.

Input Devices

  • I don't know how, but Lenovo somehow managed to yet again fuck up their keyboard. I don't just mean the casualized layout (dropping the suspend/standby/screen lock/pointer hotkeys), which is bad enough in itself. The keys are noticeably worse than on the 30 series Thinkpads, and although not quite as wobbly as on the Edge series, bad enough to distract from typing, which is a complete failure.

  • The clickpad, too, is worse than on the 30 series: While the last iteration was hinged on the top, with the bottom clickable (comparable to Macbooks, and imo just as precise), the 40 series seems to balance the trackpad on a tiny spring in the center, letting the whole pad freely wobble around on three axes. Clicking also requires you to press down the entire pad, which quickly turns into a balancing exercise as the cursor tends to wobble away. Did I mention that distracting the user from doing his work is a cardinal sin?

  • Which, naturally, affects the new pointing stick (I refuse to acknowledge this as TrackPoint). The pointing stick itself is about 20% shorter than the older models, which decreases sensitivity (and, as such, general usefulness). While this is bad, the trackpad-integrated buttons are a nightmare. The touch zones do not overlap the tactile zones, which means you have no idea what button you're pressing, even when you look at the trackpad. Not that it matters, because the trackpad is too wobbly to precisely register your click. This isn't just a cardinal sin, this is such an absurdly pointless fuckup Lenovo could get away with claiming it was sabotage.

Considering all these points, I'm using the T400p with an external mouse and keyboard. Lenovo, what the fuck were you thinking?

Maintainability

Surprisingly, not entirely bad. The maintenance hatch inherited from the Edge series makes routine maintenace quite easy, and unlike on the Edges, it doesn't have plastic latches and instead relies on a much more sensible sliding mechanism.

On the downside, Lenovo removed the HDD tray and the ultrabay. You have to open the maintenance hatch to replace your hard disk or disc drive. As someone who has around 15 hard disks and SSDs laying around that are slammed into free notebooks whenever needed, this greatly increases average downtime for me, rendering any improvements pointless.

The ultrabay removal is, this time, apparently final: Not only does it lack battery support (like the T410 already did), it's mechanically incompatible with all ultrabay drives, hard disk adapters and any other ultrabay hardware made for earlier Thinkpads.

Display

Praise the Lord! Finally an IPS display, and adequately strong backlight. For once, I have nothing seriously to complain about.

Which never stopped me, so I'm still complaining: At 157 ppi, the pixel density is extremely awkward: It's too high to use 96 ppi applications without fiddling around with font sizes, and not yet high enough to be considered "retina" and profit from the ongoing HiDPI changes made to websites and software in general. Still a lot less awkward to use than most Thinkpad displays.

Performance

With Quadcore and dedicated graphics options, more than acceptable. The (for many cases still sufficient) dualcore+IGP version benefits from the massively overengineered heat sink and battery, giving it battery run times of way over 8 hours without modifications, while being mostly passively cooled.

Connectivity and drivers

As mentioned above, both UltraBay and hard disk tray were removed. Additionally cut was the ExpressCard bay for some reason, and Lenovo didn't bother adding Thunderbolt to make up for any of it. I hope you like your consumer grade USB adapters, because you don't have any alternative any more. The complete reliance on USB obviously results in… uh… a reduction of the amount of available USB ports.

Lenovo, were you thinking when designing this?

Price

1000€ for a minimally-specced i3+TN variant (T440pi? T440ip?), 1200€ for an i5+IPS variant and a whopping 2000€ for an i7 with dedicated graphics is way, way too much for the delivered performance, even after factoring in the included 3 years warranty. One does not simply pay Apple prices for a cheap, squeaky plastic box.

Conclusion

The ThinkPad brand is dead. After trying to use and like the T440p for three months, I just ordered my first non-Lenovo notebook in almost ten years. Our company will probably follow suit as soon as the T410 die, which is hopefully going to take another three years.

Good job, Lenovo.


Samuel Vincent Creshal at 05. May 2014, 18:43 UTC

Review: Thinkpad E330

Thinkpad Edge E330

A somewhat more recent Thinkpad for a change. I bought it for two reasons:

  • It's cheap.

  • It appears to use a display controller compatible to the IdeaPad Yoga, and I wanted to try whether you can put its (HD+ IPS) panel in. Sadly not, as documented in the linked topic.

Case and Handling

Fucked up monitor

Unsurprisingly similar to the E535, Acer notebooks, and instant noodle cups. The weight is acceptable, but both the display and the case can be bent into non-Euclidean shapes and I do not dare letting it drop down. The display hinges somehow manage to be both absurdly big and absurdly weak, even light typing makes the display wibble and wobble around, which is highly irritating. They completely fail to keep the display in place under any worse conditions (say, on a train).

With the i3 variant (around 9W power draw with WiFi and moderate use), battery runtime is a guesstimated five to six hours – the huge battery is one of the plus sides of the E330.

Speaking of power, the fan control is surprisingly good and better than that of most X/T series notebooks – in idle, the fan is disabled and the notebook is cooled entirely passively. The fan itself, however, is crap and has is notably louder than T/X fans at equal speeds (once it starts).

Input Devices

  • While still better than the sad average, the keyboard is distinctly different to the AccuType (new style) keyboards found in X/T series 30 notebooks. It's as wobbly as the rest of the notebook, and its hub point is much softer, requiring you to use more force to ensure contact. The T/X series AccuType is definitely superior. I wrote this article on the E330 and that is more typing than I ever want to do on this keyboard again.

  • #include "TrackPoint®.h"

  • The clickpad is much worse than on the E535 and X230, for some reason – it seems to be improperly mounted and scrapes against the case when applying pressure, turning every click into a (haptic) double click. While I disassembled the case to install the new display panel, I simply welded the pad to the case to get rid of it…

Maintainability

So-so, as with the E535: Maintenance hatch, but lots of plastic latches that have a tendency to break off with the slightest provocation. Ten open/close cycles sound again reasonable, mine is now at six (due to the display panel shenanigans) and I already lost a few latches and the screws are starting to wear out.

Probably acceptable for day-to-day usage, but it limits the life expectancy a lot.

Display

Urgh. Yet again a standard issue TN display with crappy backlight – 200 cd/m² are comparable to office monitors and as such at best suited to indoor use –, low resolution and even lower contrast. Even at 30 cm distance to the display I constantly find myself fiddling with the backlight and tilting the display to increase even black-on-white font contrast, image contrast is just hopeless.

C'mon, Lenovo, even Acer has IPS panels in their crappy entry level notebooks by now, where are decent panels for Thinkpads?

Performance

To keep costs down I picked an i3 variant, so performance is rather limited – for kernel development, anyway. Desktop performance is acceptable as always.

Nothing new on the graphics front. I guess the motto of Intel's graphics division is "we may suck, but we're damn good at it".

Connectivity and drivers

Two USB3 ports are about all it has to show on the plus side. No docking station, no ExpressCard, no UltraBay, no way to extend the notebook in any way whatsoever. And the USB3 ports are mounted close to the front of the notebook and will inevitably get in the way if you plug anything in them.

Display connectivity is again limited to VGA (untested) and HDMI.

Price

The cheapest offers are around 450€ – but that's an i3 without OS and no warranty.

Versions comparable to the X230i, including 3 years warranty and Windows (there's no X230i without Windows offered, sadly), are about 650€ – while the X230i costs only 750€.

With such a little price difference, the E330 has little to no justification as the business notebook it claims to be – it's so much worse than the X230i in any regard that I have no idea what its niche is supposed to be.

The warranty-free variant is acceptable as tinkering notebook (which is what I'm going to keep it for), but given the low quality I cannot recommend it for any use case where the notebook's sudden and complete death after less than two years is more than a slight nuisance.

Conclusion

Meh.™²

The notebook might have a niche, but if it has, it's so infinitesimally small I struggle to find it. It has got a good battery, but you can neither use it outdoors, nor on the move; it's affordable, but I already see parts failing after less than a month. It appears to be easy to maintain, but it's so fragile you risk breaking more than you can repair.

The only plus sides I can find are the USB3 ports and the clean UEFI implementation – but "Linux distribution maintainers who need to debug boot from USB3 on an UEFI device, and would like to do so on a new notebook to keep the other three clean" are a very small niche…


Samuel Vincent Creshal at 28. Dec 2013, 18:39 UTC

Review: Thinkpad T420s

Thinkpad T420s

This is, again, a slightly older Thinkpad model, but this makes it comparably cheap (I got mine for 849€), while its performance is still more than adequate.

Case and Handling

So-so. The magnesium roll cage and base unit are adequate as always (and yes, it survives being thrown onto concrete), but the plastic hand rest is just as cheap as always. Like most 14 inch Thinkpads, its display latches are plastic, too, and can break off during crashes.

The weight of under 2 kilograms makes it very handy, though. It's the first 14 inch notebook I've used that I actually consider portable enough to not end up as 'desktop with built-in battery'.

Speaking of the battery, run time is acceptable under normal conditions. With an idle system (=wifi, browser, chats and media player running), power consumption is between 9.5 and 13.5 watts, giving it a battery run time of around three hours with the built-in 43Wh battery. Maximum power consumption (e.g. when your kernel maintainer manages to break SpeedStep® *slaps Arch's kernel maintainer*) is around 30 watts (equaling slightly above an hour of battery time). Fortunately, the T420s has an UltraBay that supports auxiliary batteries, allowing you to extend it with another 32 Wh (resulting in another one to two hours run time).

Input Devices

As with the X201t, the TrackPoint® Just Works™, and the LiteOn keyboard squeals like the keys were made of live kittens whose paws you smash with every key stroke (but despite the funny sounds and rubbery texture, they seem to be adequate enough to sustain long typing sessions). I haven't bothered trying the touchpad.

Maintainability

Good, considering it's almost thin enough to count as UltraBook®. Hard disk, RAM, PCIe slots and fan are all accessible in less than a minute with a single screw driver, and the usual maintenance handbooks and spare parts are available. I don't see any problems incoming here. Unusually, the battery is mounted under the palm rest rather than in the back, but it's still just slotted in and can be replaced without requiring any tools.

Display

Meh.™ The HD+ variant has a very nice pixel density (130 ppi), but it is still a TN model and, like many recent Thinkpads, fights with a "grid"/"step" effect due to the supplier fucking up the matte finish (yes, Apple users are allowed to snicker now). At this resolution, however, it's barely notable, especially after calibrating the display (setting the gamma to 0.8-0.9 makes it a lot less visible, and helps with the panel's low contrast).

The backlight, however, is unusually strong for a TN device, and for once more than sufficient for outdoor usage.

Performance

The used i5-2520M is more than sufficient for the usual workloads – I'm using a similarly clocked model as Dom0 for Xen/KVM tests as well as for Kernel and WebKit development, and so far haven't hit any performance bottlenecks.

Given the general trend of the past few CPU generations to improve IPC rate and power efficiency solely by adding new specialized instruction sets (and with GPGPU/HSA looming on the horizon), I'd rather not make any bets about how long it'll take for the CPU to become obsolete, but it is a fairly powerful CPU by notebook standards.

Nothing new on the graphics front. I guess the motto of Intel's graphics division is "we may suck, but we're damn good at it".

Connectivity and drivers

The amount of connectors is rather low – three USB ports (one USB3, NEC uPD720200), SD reader, GBit Ethernet (82579LM) – and it has neither eSATA nor FireWire, and no ExpressCard bay to add any of those connectors. With the uPD720200 using a single PCIe 2.0 lane, the laptop cannot even reach the theoretical maximum USB 3 performance and is limited to (a theoretical) 500 MiB/s. Given ever-increasing SSD speeds, this will probably become a bottleneck sooner or later.

Video connectivity is supplied via DisplayPort (including digital audio) and VGA, nothing special here.

With the battery mounted under the palm rest, most of the connectors are situated in the back – this is quite convenient and makes cable management a lot easier.

Price

The remaining stocks are sold for prices between 850 and 950 euros, which is more than a fair price. The quite similar T430s starts around 1300€, which is still acceptable (especially considering the included warranty).

Conclusion

SQUEEE

The T420s is a surprisingly decent notebook with just a few weaknesses (display could be better, ExpressCard slot would be nice, the AccuType keyboard of the T430s is definitely superior), and more than worth its money. If gaming performance is irrelevant, this notebook (or its successor, the T430s¹) is definitely worth considering.


¹T430s, not the T431s or the T440s – both have soldered-on RAM, which is guaranteed to fail after a few years of usage, requiring very costly motherboard replacements if outside the warranty period (and still a substantial downtime during warranty – in my experience, Lenovo never has spare motherboards in stock). Apart from this, they're also limited to 12 GiB single-channel RAM (vs. 16 GiB dual channel with the T420s/T430s). A touchscreen or better touchpad are no substitute for longevity nor performance.


Samuel Vincent Creshal at 01. Aug 2013, 06:58 UTC

dcgui 1.0.6 "That is not dead which can eternal lie…"

Bugfix release, fixing a crash when trying to autologin with a wrong username/password. Thanks to Ponder for finding this one.


Source Tarball.
Windows installer.
PKGBUILD for Archlinux based distributions.


Samuel Vincent Creshal at 28. Jul 2013, 11:57 UTC

Review: Thinkpad X201 Tablet, Thinkpad Edge E535, Thinkpad X230 IPS

Thinkpad overview

Time for a little overview.

Thinkpad X201 Tablet

This is a slightly older Thinkpad, but on the other hand, it's still on sale, and cheap too, so it's an interesting alternative to other devices.

Case and Handling

It's your average Lenovo Thinkpad: Thick matte plastic casing with an magnesium alloy core for increased robustness. As such it's nigh-indestructable and survives being thrown onto concrete, taking only light scratches – well, mostly: Like with any classic Thinkpads, the display latch is a critical weak point in closed state, and it will almost inevitably break off. Repairing it only takes 30 EUR spare parts and 30 minutes time, but it's still annoying.

Considering that you will end up holding it on one hand (to write with the other), it's quite heavy and can wear you out fairly quickly. It's clearly not as mobile as a pad, and mainly intended for stationary use (i.e. resting on a desk/lap/ … ). It's smaller and lighter than your average 15" cudgel, but it could be better.

The battery life greatly fluctuates: I managed as much as 18 hours with light workloads, and as few as six with heavy CPU and wireless I/O load.

Input Devices

  • No surprises with the TrackPoint® – Just Works™.

  • The Trackpad is bad. Really bad. It is an incredibly one by three inches tiny and useful for precisely nothing. Conveniently, it's mounted on the same case part as the display latch, and that one is compatible to the X200, which didn't have a Trackpad. Guess what? Exactly, I physically removed it. That's how much it sucks.

  • The keyboard is already a LiteOn model – they feel very rubbery, hollow and, frankly, cheap. It's acceptable, but not more.

  • The stylus is a normal serially attached Wacom stylus: Precise, robust and obscenely expensive should they break. Seriously, don't lose your stylus, those fuckers cost 50 EUR apiece. Apart from this small problem, they offer everything you can want from a graphics tablet.

  • Tablet hotkeys: And this is where Lenovo truly fucked up. I mean, much more than with the trackpad: The old X60 had arrow and enter keys, as well as a Ctrl+Alt+Del emergency key on the display, so you could do basic program navigation without requiring the use of the stylus. This was incredibly useful, since you could basically do light browsing or reading without needing a stylus, turning the X60 into a quite nice eBook reader. Those keys are lacking on the X201t (it still has the Power/Rotate/Lock buttons), and it doesn't even compensate for it with a touchscreen, limiting its usability for anything but heavy stylus usage (i.e. drawing).

Maintainability

So-so. While it has the usual Thinkpad maintenance hatches, the component density is just insane, making maintenance not quite easy. Like all tested notebooks, it has the crappy modern Lenovo screws, and not the decent hybrid-head IBM screws, so they are subject to accelerated wear. The rotating display also puts a lot of stress on the connectors for display and tablet hardware, presumably greatly reducing life expectancy (that was at least the case with the X60) – said tablet components are also quite expensive to repair (Wacom, remember?). It will probably survive some 5 or 7 years, but I highly doubt it can be kept alive for over a decade.

Display

Like most Thinkpad Tablets, it has an outdoor IPS display with a powerful 400nits backlight that can double as searchlight in case of bomber raids. The image quality is quite good and comparable to normal S-IPS displays. The resolution of 1280x800 results in a somewhat low pixel density (120 dpi) for my taste, but it's acceptable.

Performance

There appear to be two versions still on sale occasionally: One with a 1.06 GHz i5, and one with a 2 GHz i7. The 1 GHz version sucks, frankly. Even with Linux, the performance is barely acceptable with current software, and stuff like virtualization is nigh impossible. The Intel a graphics is… well, it's an Intel graphics chips. It sucks, but it sucks very robust and stable.

Connectivity and Drivers

Connectivity is rather limited: With 3x USB 2 (one powered USB to charge smartphones) it lacks any performant external data bus, forcing you resort to ExpressCard adapters. It also has no digital video out, limiting you to VGA (the VGA port having an acceptable video quality and screw holes to fix the connector in place). If you use as a more or less thin client who accesses most of its data via network (them being in the cloud or in your personal home NAS), it's okay.

Since all but the card reader (Ricoh), trackpad (Synaptics) and the tablet (Wacom) is from Intel, driver quality is as superb as always (screw the trackpad).

Price

700 to 900 EUR, depending on how lucky you are and how greedy the shops are. Considering it comes with three years warranty, more then acceptable (at least for the i7 variant).

Conclusion

Nothing beats a convertible if you need to process (or create) visual data, and the stylus is a natural input device that is for many applications easier to use than mouse, keyboard or anything else – annotating pictures, making notes, drawing diagrams, hand calculations, … Depending on how much processing power you need, it can also be used as graphical workstation for Gimp/Photoshop image creation. But, processing power is rather limited due to the form factor, and mobility is limited by the weight and bulkiness (due to the sheer amount of features cramped into it). It has its sweet spots – it's useful for students, and allows you to have a paperless workflow for more or less anything you can think of –, but it's not an all-purpose device (extremely bad 3D/game performance, limited CPU performance, small tablet area).

Thinkpad Edge E535

Was this labled as "Acer Extensa", it would have been not too bad. The cheap plastic, easily breaking keyboard and bad maintainability is exactly what I'd have expected from a third-rate company.

On the other hand, it's just as cheap – I am kinda torn between judging this as I would a Real Thinkpad™, and judging this as a cheap 400 bucks laptop. I'll try to address both aspects.

Case and Handling

Fucked up monitor

Not. Amused.

Much, much thinner than on real Thinkpads (sides of the case and top are so thin you can dent them with a finger) and they don't even pretend to use decent materials anymore. The glued-on metal foil was at least real, thick aluminium with older models, but this is the same stuff that's used for wrapping chewing gum.

Surprisingly, it survived the usual test (thrown off an 1 meter high table onto hard ground) without as much as a scratch. That the display isn't latched into position anymore is actually an improvement for this test case, making this slightly more robust than the X201 or T410 in light crashes.

All in all, it's more than acceptable for this price range. It's not worse than anything else you can find for <450 EUR (actually better, the rubberized surface requires much less cleaning than the usual piano finish), and has at least some advantages over most (non-Thinkpad/older Thinkpad) 500-1000 EUR notebooks. It's not something I would deem sufficient for a proper notebook, but it's good enough.

Using a 15.6 inch laptop for the first time made me realize why there is something like a market for dedicated laptop bags: Holy fuck, this shit is bulky. It's nothing I'd carry around for longer times, and its battery life of 3-4 hours makes outdoor use impossible anyway. This is a portable desktop, not a laptop. If you need something to carry around with you, get an 11 to 13 inch model with 8+ hours battery time, like the X series Thinkpads (or one of the Macbook Air clones Ultrabook®s, if you want to enjoy crappy keyboards).

Input Devices

  • Clickpad: Surprisingly good in Linux, and large enough that you can do most gestures without problems (4x3 inches). In Windows, with the official Synaptics drivers? It's an insult. The gesture recognition is spotty, half of them aren't recognized (multi-finger-taps) and taps are interpreted as right, left, or no click depending on where you tap. This is utter fucking bullshit (there's no tactile distinction between the zones) and renders it flat out unusable. I disabled it in Windows.

  • TrackPoint®: Similar pattern: A normal TrackPoint in Linux – useless in Windows: The maximum sensitivity feels like a 10 years old 100dpi mouse, making mouse movements uuultraaa slooow. But at the same time, it's too oversensitive for the trackpad. So in Windows, the best choice is… an external mouse. Way to go. Again, there are no problems whatsoever in Linux – the sensitivity settings have a wider range and can be configured individually for each device.

  • As mentioned above, there was already a sharp drop in Thinkpad keyboard quality when Lenovo outsourced them to LiteOn, and frankly, it's not much worse than them. Not comparable to an T40 keyboard, but it definitely holds up against a T410, X201 or T520 keyboard.

    • The scissor mechanic is much simpler and, from what I can judge so far, more robust than that of the old LiteOn keyboards. It feels kinda awkward at first, but the mechanic appears to be solid. I can't see it having the jamming problems that's troubling our T410 Thinkpads.

    • Compared to cheap notebooks, it's much better. The Acer chiclets I've used for a while broke down after a few weeks of heavy usage (non-mechanical keyboards usually survive 1-2 years in my use). From my limited experience it's not much worse than an Apple keyboard – it's a fundamentally different philosophy compared to the old Thinkpad keyboards, with the large key spacing and the barely noticeable hub, but you can get used to it (I still prefer buckling spring mechanics over everything else).

    • The layout changes are okay. The easy to reach print key is probably a massive improvement for the plebs who don't know how to remap keys, and I can still map it back if I feel the need to change it. After getting used to the 102 key Model M layout, I think I'll leave it there. Easily reachable SysRq can be helpful …

    • Removing the navigation insula, but keeping a num block is not as silly as our token Apple fan believes it to be: You can toggle the num block, leaving you with… all the keys from the navigation insula and then some.

    • Keeping the num block, making you rely on toggling between states and then removing the NumLock LED, however, was an ass move. Fuck you, Lenovo. No, a battery-eating, cpu-hogging, crashing "on screen display" is no substitute.

Maintainability

Well, somewhat. There's a big maintenance hatch on the bottom which allows you to reach RAM, HDD, WLAN card and fan. OK for most routine maintenance (all moving and otherwise often swapped parts accessible), but slightly more steps necessary to replace e.g. the system board compared to normal Thinkpads.

But there's some small stuff – the maintenance hatch and hard disk carrier rely a lot on glue and plastic latches, which will wear out quickly; the screws are made from rather soft metal and rapidly lose their profile. I doubt that any of those will survive more than 5, maybe 10 maintenance cycles before you have to replace them as well. This is just annoying and introduces intentional breaking points to decrease maintainability – but, sadly, it's the same for the current T or X series Thinkpads. The maintenance hatches aren't latched in as tight and should survive longer, but the screws are just as bad and the glue doesn't survive much cycling.

And I don't know any other notebook in the <500EUR range which has a full maintenance and hardware replacement manual with step-by-step instructions to replace every single part. The screws are also all Standard Thinkpad Screws, which means that you only need one screwdriver (like, say, an UtilyKey). In this regard, the Edge is much better than even a MacBook Pro, which requires four different screwdrivers and where you have to rely on third-party reverse engineered "manuals".

Display

MY EYES

THEY BLEED

MAKE IT STOOOP

Ahem. Standard issue TN display. As good as a T520/T410 display – which means it's horrible and a crime against humanity. The pixel density is pretty low at 100 dpi.

Though unless you specifically ask for those high-resolution displays, this is the standard one-size-hurts-all pixel density you find from 200 to 1500 EUR notebooks, so it's okay. Additionally, Windows is extremely bad at handling higher resolutions (many programs, including Windows itself ignore DPI settings, and 8px texts are not fun at 145 DPI), so even if they did ship better displays, people probably wouldn't buy them. Not everyone uses a Superior® OS, sadly.

The color quality and contrast is as bad as any TN display, again, and nothing to criticize in comparison with all the other crappy rest.

Performance

A mixed bag, again: Linux performance is smooth in all conditions (though the CPU tends to heat up quite a lot), but the user experience in Windows is just bad. Random freezes and long pauses on actions like searching in the start menu (making the launcher virtually unusable) makes you want to kill small kittens when you have to use it for more than a few minutes.

Gaming performance is acceptable for the price range: Borderlands 2 is just playable at native resolution and minimal details, older games run somewhat smoother. But hey, the laptop only costs as much as a decent graphics card.

Connectivity and Drivers

This was where I hit the biggest negative surprise: I mean, you can't do much wrong with a WiFi chip, right? Wrong. The Broadcom wireless chip is the biggest pile of bullshit I've seen this decade. In Linux, I've tried four drivers before I found one that was somewhat acceptable. In Windows, I'm forced to stick with the official driver, which once again is an insult to $DEITY and doesn't work. Only every second attempt to connect actually works.

I think I'll invest the 15 bucks for a decent wireless card. Why didn't Lenovo?

As for connectors: Four USB ports (three of them USB3! – which require 7 SP1 and dark magic to work in Windows, AMD really fucked up the drivers), as well as Ethernet. Sadly no DisplayPort (HDMI instead, bah), nor ExpressCard (so limited upgrade possibilities), and a combined headphones/microphone jack. For a home consumer device acceptable, I guess. This is one of the few areas where T/X series Thinkpads are still better for productive use – the Edge also lacks a docking station connector.

The VGA port's signal quality is surprisingly good and on par with real Thinkpads. Sadly it doesn't have any screw holes to fix the connector into position, so HDMI should be preferred when possible to avoid accidental unplugging, but apart from that it's okay.

Linux users will need at least kernel 3.7 for the backlight to work. The broadcom drivers are again not really stable, so I suppose one should better wait for 3.8 or even later.

Price

This laptop costs 440 EUR as of the time of writing. A normal Thinkpad has a life expectancy of 10-15 years, with at least one major refurbishment/repair. I'd give this thing a life expectancy of 2 to 4 years, depending on which parts break: It only has a one year warranty, so you'll have to pay for a lot of replacement parts yourself, which quickly becomes uneconomical. 100 EUR for a new hard disk and fan assembly (which are both guaranteed to need replacement, due to mechanical wear) is nothing when your notebook costs around 1600 EUR, but when you can get a new one for 300 bucks more… And those are the cheapest parts.

There technically are warrenty extensions, but as far as I can see, those bring the total price to around 600 EUR – and thus negating any price advantage: A T series Thinkpad (3 years warranty) of the latest generation costs around 1100, a last generation one around 700 EUR; the prices of Dell/HP/Samsung notebooks are comparable. So unless you plan to be an asshole to the enviroment and humanity as whole, and intend to throw this notebook away quickly, a "real" Thinkpad would still be a valid alternative, since the Edge will have a higher total cost of ownership in the long run, and will be less useful after some years due to the greatly reduced expandability.

Conclusion

Meh.™

The quality is on par with competing products, yes. But this only means that the market is filled with cheap shit that doesn't deserve being called notebook.

For home use, it's somewhat acceptable – I have no idea what streaming multimedia bullshit you need to be considered hip today, but it's a solid notebook for those use cases. But, the short warranty means that it'll quickly need replacmement once the repairs start piling up, which is an environmental catastrophe (a replacement notebooks requires insane amounts of energy and raw materials for production, which will never be offset by recycling the old notebook).

For the business use Lenovo markets it's for it's even less suitable. It's lacking the expandability of X/T series Thinkpads, as well as the much more productive better displays. The usually longer use time of business notebooks (5-10 years) makes the maintenance and robustness problems even more acute, and I doubt one would actually save money compared to a T/X series notebook over a that long time.

The bad driver support in every OS also leaves a very bitter taste: What did I pay 450 bucks for, when I cannot use more than 75% of the hardware in any given OS due to driver bugs and/or limitations? It feels like a very unfinished and incomplete product. When I have to buy add-on hardware for 50 EUR for such trivial features like having a usable pointing device and WiFi, something is very, very wrong.

(I felt slighly insulted when one of my co-workers once asked me whether our [at that point five years old] Thinkpads had WiFi. But now that I experienced how much "normal" notebooks suck, I feel like I should apologize to her. I had no idea how much Windows users suffer.)

Thinkpad X230 IPS

It's small, it's light, it's fast, it has a decent screen, and it's a Thinkpad! It's also fucking expensive, with Lenovo charging almost 250 EUR just for the IPS display. Seriously? I can get myself a 24" IPS monitor for that price. But anyway:

Case and Handling

Again a normal Lenovo Thinkpad: Thick plastic, few metal. Still appears to be fairly sturdy – sadly, company policy forbids me to do The Usual Test™ after certain … incidents (no Thinkpads were damaged during those events, for the record), so I don't know how robust they actually are. But, like the E535 it lacks a display hatch, increasing chances of survival.

It is delightfully small and light, comparable to an Ultrabook® (while still being thick enough to hold an Ethernet port). This is portable. With the 44+ battery, battery life seems to be around 7-9 hours, the optional 44++ battery and addon batteries should be able to extend this to at least 12 hours.

Input Devices

  • The keyboard is comparable to the E535, minus the num block. The fn keys are a weird mixture of the old Thinkpad layout (retaining the lock and sleep function keys) and the Apple layout (moving the playback control from the arrow to the F keys). It does lack some old Thinkpad function keys, none of which I ever used, but which I know are in heavy use by others (screen magnifier, touchpad toggle, monitor toggle, wifi toggle, among others). General quality is acceptable – I wrote this entire review on the X230, and didn't had any real issues.

  • #include "TrackPoint®.h"

  • The ClickPad is so-so – quality is comparable to the E535 (i.e. superb), but it's naturally somewhat small (though at two by three inches at least twice as big as the X201 trackpad), and people with … bigger fingers might find it difficult to fit more than two fingers on it.

Maintainability

Appears to be prety solid so far. Component density (and pricing) isn't quite as bad as with the X201, so it should be fairly easy to repair. Lenovo really could just admit that the screws are designed to be discarded and replaced after every use, though.

Display

An outdoor IPS display comparable to the X201, with slightly (125dpi) higher pixel density and resolution. I'm not sure whether it's really worth the 250 bucks, but it's so far the best notebook display I've seen.

Performance

With a 2.6 GHz Dualcore and HTT it's quite fast for CPU-intense workloads, and could be easily utilized as workstation. Intel graphics sucks as much as ever.

Connectivity and Drivers

Thankfully, again a pure Intel setup (apart from the obligatory Ricoh cardreader), which works out of the box in Linux and has stable Windows drivers.

Unlike the X201 it has two USB 3 ports (keeping the powered USB2 port), as well as MiniDP, while retaining Ethernet, ExpressCard, screw-enabled VGA and a (3 series dock compatible) docking station slot. This gives you about every possibility you could want to connect and extend it.

Price

This is the only point that kinda bugs me – while it does offer a lot of features and performance, it is with a price tag of around 1250 EUR (not counting the obligatory SSD and RAM expansion) easily the most expensive laptop I ever owned.

The precedessor, the X220 IPS is occasionally available in some shops for around 950 EUR, and is a valid alternative for most workloads, while being not as light and small and having the old LiteOn keyboard.

Conclusion

There are surprisingly few downsides to this notebook. The price tag is kinda high, but that's about it – at least with my device-agnostic workflow. The changes to (or, rather, removal of) lots of ThinkVantage functions might cause quite some disruption to users who heavily rely on them, and most of the changes are fucking pointless – switch to a chiclet layout, okay, why not, you already ruined the normal keyboards anyway. The layouting changes, while inconsequential for me, are completely pointless and only increase migration pain – But then again, Windows 8 is so much pain already that it doesn't really matter anymore, I guess.

So, depending on your definition of "Thinkpad" (hardware- or Windows-software-centric) it might not be one anymore, but it is solid hardware in any case. If that's what you're looking for, go for it.


Samuel Vincent Creshal at 28. Dec 2012, 22:23 UTC
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