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Andy Leonard

Andy Leonard is an author and engineer who enjoys building and automating data integration solutions. Andy is co-host of the Data Driven podcast. Andy is no longer updating this blog. His current blog is

Taking Red To x64

The New Laptop Is Here! 

When I returned from Minneapolis, my new Dell XPS 1530 RED laptop was waiting! My lovely bride sent me a text message Thursday to tell me it was in Farmville. I didn't get to play with it until Friday evening, but I've been working on it on and off since then.

Taking It To x64

After mulling it over I decided to go ahead and install Vista Ultimate x64. The deciding factor for me? I wanted full access to RAM. I knew there would likely be a battle involving drivers (I'd taken a Dell desktop to x64 late last year) but I steeled myself and dove in.

The Vista installation went well - fast in fact. The new hardware is peppier than the old. Part of the reason is I've been purchasing low-to-mid range commodity laptops for the past few years and just replacing them when I wore them down. Most lasted a year. The last laptop had been pushed for 16 months and was showing the signs of age and wear. The RED machine is a solid mid-range (maybe more) laptop. I spent some money on processor power when I bought it.


The first thing that didn't work was the network cards. It's tough to fix NIC issues when you can't connect to download updates so I fired up SneakerNet and began the ThumbDrive shuffle. The key to getting the Dell Wireless 1395 WLAN MiniCard wireless card to work was to snag a driver from Dell's own website - though for a different model laptop.

I renew my call for Dell to step up on x64 support - this just seems dumb to me.

With that driver installed, Vista took over and began identifying issues. It found problems with the built-in camera, audio, and ethernet card drivers. What's more, it provided links to download updated drivers! I like this feature a lot. "I found this problem and here's the solution." I wonder if Apple will ever do a commercial about that? Probably not. (On a side note, those commercials are having an impact. A local Mac repair shop modified their advertising recently to say something like "Macs never break, but if yours does..." Too funny.)

Windows Update kicked in and supplied yet more goodies. All in all, Vista did at least half the work of finding and fixing the driver issues I loathed when I started the process. Pretty cool.

The Restore 

I'm currently loading software onto RED now. I have a 200G hard drive, but it's the fast drive - another good choice. The box is performing well - even the loads scream.

And a couple months back I subscribed to Carbonite. I aimed it at a handful important directories for business, books, projects, etc. One configured, Carbonite keeps track of my changes and stores copies off-site. I have about 25GB out there now. When I fired up the new laptop I went to the Carbonite website, clicked a link that I was moving my subscription from my old laptop to the new, and downloaded the client. Since then, Carbonite has been trickling my files back to my new laptop. Again, pretty cool. I opted for the two-year plan - I get unlimited storage, backup, and retrieval for $45/year. Not too shabby.

As I type this, it's been running for about a day - it was down some because I didn't have the power options set to keep the disks running while plugged in. I'm at 85% restored. The restore is running in the background too, so I've been loading SQL Server and Visual Studio while this has been restoring. Nice.

Now that the major applications are installed, I'm loading the smaller utilities. I need to come up with a good way to restore these in the future. They're small and light applications - maybe I'll just drop the setup.exe's into a Carbonite-managed folder and be done with it.

So Far...

So far the experience has been positive. I have a couple weeks to get the kinks out before my next gig in Kansas City. I will likely travel with both laptops though, just to be sure.

:{> Andy

Published Sunday, May 4, 2008 5:33 AM by andyleonard

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Andy Ball said:

I just got one too - I put Server 2008 x64 so I could play with Hyper-V and working like a dream .. so far at least :-). Next step is to PToV my old PC into it - just for kicks.


May 5, 2008 1:39 AM

K. Brian Kelley said:

I ended up going with a nearly maxed out M1530, but I've also stayed on the 32bit side of the house. I looked at the Red, but I knew that I had the money to buy a nice laptop but it would be a while before I could do so again.

June 2, 2008 3:02 PM

Sammy Ekker said:

Nice article, thanks for the information.  I'd be interested in knowing which drivers were used for the 1395 network card?  I can't get it to work, every time I install either of them that Dell has listed it crashes.

June 12, 2008 7:14 PM

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