Sunday, May 29, 2016

BauBax Travel Jacket

I normally wouldn't review a piece of apparel, but BauBax Travel Jacket is a bit special. It was funded on Kickstarter; it boasts special pockets for a phone, a tablet, a charger, earphone holders, and overall is clearly aimed at geeks. That alone makes it a bit of a gadget among jackets. But mostly I decided to write this because of the amount of negative press that this product is getting on the Internet. Apparently, the company failed to ship it within the timeline it promised in the original Kickstarter campaign. People are enraged and call the company a scam. One person went as far as writign a article entitled "This is why you shoulnd't shop on Kickstarter".

Well, I didn't back the original Kickstarter campaign, but I ordered this jacket via Indiegogo InDemand. I placed the order in early April and it shipped in early May, which is not bad for an Indiegogo campaign, if you ask me. The jacket arrived; it is of good quality and basically everything you can read on their website is true. I'm looking forward to wearing it when the weather gets colder.

So, whatever the shorcomings of this company, a scam they are not, they do ship a product. Kickstarter projects do get delayed, that's the risk you are taking when you back a project. Kickstarter is not a store, you do not go shopping there, you go investing.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Replacing SDD in Asus Zenbook UX31A

Recently I had to replace the hard disk in my Asus Zenbook UX31A. The hard disk though is not a conventional hard disk, but a solid state drive, and replacing it proved to be not trivial. Unfortunately, the SSD in this notebook is an ADATA XM11 model that has a non-standard unique form factor. It is similar to standard M.2, but is not quite it, and no standard SSD will fit in place of it. Fortunately, there is a way around this.

1. Get an adapter that will allow an M.2 SSD to fit in place of the custom ADATA drive. I used this one: There are other options available on Ebay, Amazon or Aliexpress. Look for M.2 adapter for UX31A.

2. Get a replacement SSD. You will need an SSD with M.2 form factor, 2280 size (meaning, 22 by 80 mm) and SATA interface. Be careful: M.2 SSDs come in a variety of sizes, you will need 2280; no other size will fit. I used Trascend model TS512GMTS800.

3. You will need T5 Torx (6-point star-shaped) screwdriver and another Phillips (cross-shaped) PH000 one.

4. Before replacing the SSD you may want to take an image of it and then copy it to the new SSD. There are plenty of options for this. I used Acronis True Image. By the way, to make an image you will probably need to boot the notebook from an exernal drive. I have another post about that here.

5. Turn the notebook bottom up and unscrew 10 Torx screws that hold the bottom lid. Carefully pry the bottom lid open.

6. Here is how the innards of the notebook look. The SSD is in the middle:

7. There is a screw on the ride side of the SSD board, covered by a paper band that says something like "Warranty void if seal broken ore removed". Carefully peel it off (which, unfortunately, voids your warranty) and remove the screw.

8. Carefully slip the SSD board to the right and take it out.

9. Insert your new SSD into the adapter. Line it up carefully, note that it won't fit if you try to push it the wrong side up.

10. Insert the adapter into the slot where your original SSD used to be. Note that the SSD connects to the adapter at a slight angle, so the board's right side will stick slightly out. Very gently press it down (very gently; if you need to apply more than a gentle pressure, something is wrong) and it will line up perfectly with the socket of the screw you removed at step 7. Insert that screw back to fix the SSD in place.

11. There is a porous insulating material glued to the original ADATA SSD (the grey rectangle on the photo above). Carefully peel it off and glue on top of the newly installed SSD. It will protect the board from the contact with the lid.

12. Close the lid and screw the torx screws back. Note that the ones in the middle of the top side (near the hinge) are much longer than the other 8.

13. That's it! The SSD is in place. Now you will likely want to restore the image of you original SSD to the new one.

Additional information: this page has a lot of useful tips.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

How to book Asus Zenbook UX31A from a legacy external drive

If you need to boot an Asus Zebook ultrabook from an external drive, such as USB hard drive of CD drive, that is not partitioned according to UEFI specifications, you will have to jump through some hoops. You may connect a bootable drive to your notebook, but it won't boot from it by default. Here's what you need to do. These instructions work on my UX31A, but likely are applicable to similar models as well.

1. Connect your external drive to a USB port.

2. Reboot your notebook and while it boots, hold F2 key. If you miss he right moment, it will proceed to boot normally, in which case reboot and try again. But if you press F2 right when the computer starts up, the Setup screen will show up. Unfortunately, if you go to "Boot" tab now, your external device won't show up in the "Boot options" list, if your device is not UEFI-compatible. You need to disable some security settings to enable it.

3. Go to "Security" tab now and disable "Secure Boot Control" option:

4. Press F10 to save changes and exit. When the computer reboots, hold F2 again to return to Setup screen.

5. Now go to "Boot" tab. This time option "Launch CSM" will be accessible (it was not before you disabled "Secure Boot Control"). Enable this option:
"CSM" here stands for Compatibility Support Module and allows UEFI systems to emulate legacy BIOS booting environment.

6. Press F10 to save changes and exit again. When the computer reboots, hold F2 yet again to return to Setup screen once more.

7. Now go to "Boot" tab, and your external device should be shown in the "Boot options" list. Select it in "Boot Option #1".

8. Press F10 to save and exit one last time. This time do not hold F2, and the computer will boot from your external drive.

9. Once you are done, return your boot options to the default state. Select your local hard drive in "Boot options", then disable "Load CSM", then enable "Secure Boot Control". One more thing: return to "Boot" tab; you will notice that the option "Fast Boot" is disabled; enable it.