I normally work on a (16GB + SSD) Mac Book Pro. This machine costs around $1700 in the configuration I have it in. I do some writing on the side (as you may have guessed) and for a for a variety of reasons I decided to do my writing on a separate laptop. I use VS Code and git for this, and do all my writing in markdown. I suspect that all I need is a low end Chromebook for this. Because YOLO I bought a Lenovo Flex 5 (16GB + SSD) running Win 10. This machine costs $700. At one point it was going for $600. I will compare my experiences on this machine with my late lamented mac. Hardware comparisons, while unfair, are illustrative of the quality of the mac Book. OS comparisons are completely fair.
- Display: It has been hard to let go of the retina display but I got used to it.
- The feel of the Lenovo keyboard is nicer than the macs, I think.
- The mac’s backlight is much better designed.
- The Lenovo’s default repeat settings were all wrong for me but it’s a quick fix.
- The backlight has only three levels and it switches off quickly with inactivity. This is great when watching a movie and annoying when typing. I think the mac gets this right: When you don’t want the backlight you turn it off yourself.
- Tablet mode:
- It was fun to write and draw with the pen, and I have hopes to do some drawing on it as I’ve always wanted a digitizer tablet. I should see if Inkscape is supported.
- OCR is not that great but glad to see entry boxes switch to auto OCR when you use the pen.
- No good place to put the pen.
- First time I’ve seen a AAAA battery!
- Sleep: I truly miss the mac’s snappy wake from sleep. The Lenovo takes a few seconds. I’ll get used to it. I removed a few startup apps and changed the sleep settings on the wifi hoping this will help. Basically the wake up was slow, and then the wifi connection took even longer after that to activate. When it’s sleeping for longer, it goes through a semi-boot phase where I can see the Lenovo logo on startup, like it’s hibernating. UPDATE it was hibernating see below.
- Multiple desktops: Win10 is on par with the mac
- Gestures: I can use gestures to switch between desktops and do expose like on the mac. The default was set different from the mac, but I changed that once I found out how.
- Updates: This was a horror – see below.
- VS Code + git + WSL: Not quite there yet – see below
Update horror: Keyboard stops working
I let the machine do all the updates it wanted to. At one point during a restart it made a god-awful series of LOUD beeps and stopped with two lines on the display claiming that the charger did not have sufficient wattage. I sat there traumatized, waiting for the rest of the household to descend on me with pitchforks (it was past midnight when I was doing this). Suffice to say this was all nonsense: I was using the 65W charger that came with the unit and which charges the laptop just fine.
Then, after a restart, it said I couldn’t use my fingerprint and asked me for my PIN. When I went to enter my pin it told me it the PIN wasn’t set (I had just set it). I had to log in via my Microsoft account which I had made years ago. Thankfully I had the password written down. When I tried to type in the password I discovered the keyboard wasn’t working.
I tried rebooting the machine several times. Each time, the keyboard backlight would turn on, then turn off, and then no keyboard. The mouse was working and after some trial and error I managed to get the onscreen keyboard and use that to enter the password.
After doing a bunch of web-searches I gathered that the consensus was to rollback the windows updates. I undid several updates step by step before the keyboard started working again. Lenovo claims this model is fine to be upgraded to 20H2. I might try again.
WSL2 + VS Code: So close, so close
I was all excited to try out WSL. I installed WSL, then installed VS Code. VS Code informed me that it could run directly on WSL via remote mode, so I tried that. It was awesome. There was some shenanigans with updating to WSL2 but I managed that too. I installed Ubuntu 20 and marveled at everything after I fixed permissions issues on files I had just copied over.
Then I found that whenever the computer woke from sleep VS Code lost connection to WSL. I would have to reload the VS Code window to get it working again. This got annoying.
Now I am running VS Code on my win10 files having installed git for windows. I have git bash and VS Code works as I expect it to. It feels so 2000s
Thanks to a hint here it turns out that the Lenovo was hibernating when left on sleep for a long time. Under Power & Sleep -> Additional Power options -> Change Plan settings -> Change Advanced Power Settings you’ll find this little gem.
Setting the Hibernate after to a suitable time (e.g. 600 minutes) will prevent the machine from going into hibernation over night, making for a snappier wakeup in the morning. I’m assuming this consumes more power but I leave it plugged in.