Need secure, portable computing environment

mubs

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Hi folks,

I don't have a laptop (my own anyway, and since I'm no longer with my previous employer, have to return that unless they allow me to keep it for a couple of months or buy it at the depreciated price from them {it's 5.5 year old}).

I will be travelling and need access to a secure computing environment. I can bum a laptop from relatives I'll be staying with as and when needed for an hour or so at a time, but I don't trust their laptop environment. I can't sanitize it every time I want to use it. I will need to do some online banking, etc., which is the reason for the paranoia.

I'm looking for a run-time environment that can boot off of USB (stick or HDD) that has a browser and office apps (Excel, Word equivalent). Anything pre-built I can download and put on a portable device I can take with me? If the build is not complicated, I don't mind putting the apps together, but I am out of time; I need it by Wednesday night my time (Wednesday morning in N. America).

Sorry for the short notice; I got back home after another trip just yesterday and am leaving again early Thursday morning.

Thanks.
 

Mercutio

Fatwah on Western Digital
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Could you possibly just set up a VPN (using, for example, Hamachi) and just remote in to a trusted machine? That's how I normally do things.
 

mubs

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Huge learning curve, no time. Can't install anything on borrowed m/c. Just got done downloading Ubuntu and the necessary tools. Now to see if this will work.

It would also be immensely useful to open, edit, save Excel & Word files.
Ubuntu's Casper Persistent feature can also be used for saving and restoring changes on subsequent boots.
Hoping this will do the trick.

Icing on the cake will be if I can install Truecrypt and open an encrypted USB stick with my confidential info on it.

I'm greedy!
 

mubs

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Lucky me. My company (actually ex; I've been out of there since March 2012 in realistic terms) has decided to let me keep the laptop since it's fully depreciated. It's a Dell Latitude D531 with a shipping date of 7/30/2007.

Has 2GB installed, can be upped to 4. 120GB HDD. Some AMD cpu.

Actually runs ok with the Win 7 Enterprise installed, but that'll be wiped before it is given to me. Any sense in putting money on it (RAM, SSD) ?
 

Mercutio

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You might as well add RAM. It's cheap and will definitely improve the experience. An SSD would also help you, but it's tough to say that it's justifiable. Perhaps if you knew that you have another machine that could use it if the Dell dies.
 

LunarMist

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An SSD can make a big different over a 2007 120GB hard drive. You can reuse an SSD in another computer later.
 

ddrueding

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Seconding all above. If an SSD helps an Atom-based machine (and it does), it could do some good there as well. And you could match the capacity for not much scratch.
 

Handruin

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I did the same upgrade path recommended RAM + SSD in my T500 and it felt like a new machine afterward.
 

mubs

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Thanks all.

It's harder than it looks. There are two dimm slots; one under the keyboard, one under the bottom. The bottom one takes seconds to access. For the first one, one has to remove the hinge cover (seems a delicate process) and then remove the keyboard to access. I've never done this before, am a clutz, and don't have fancy tools. As luck would have it, there's a 1GB dimm under the bottom, so the other 1GB dimm one is in the first slot. If there was a 2GB under the KB, all would have been well; I could have just stuck the second 2GB dimm in the bottom slot! I'll have to see if a laptop tech or local Dell store will swap the dimms for me.
 

timwhit

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I've removed keyboards from most brands of laptops, it's really not too bad. Just take your time and if you have extra screws at the end, don't worry about it.
 

mubs

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Awesome find; thanks DD! The title says Latitude, but the guy in the video says it's an Inspiron. The Latitude service manual says hinge covers have to be removed; so do some other sources.

I'll get the RAM from Crucial.

Anybody got suggestions on the SSD ~ 250GB? Seeing comments out there scares me; mounting holes don't align, DOA, dies in 3 days or 3 weeks,etc. I would prefer to buy it here since there will be warranty support, but the choices are limited and more expensive than the US.
 

mubs

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Sample local prices from the Amazon copycat here (in alpha/price order):

Corsair Force Series GS 180 GB (CSSD-F180GBGS-BK); $241

Corsair Force Series GS 240 GB (CSSD-F240GBGS-BK); $270

Corsair Neutron GTX Series 240 GB (CSSD-N240GBGTXB-BK); $311

Intel 520 240 GB (SSDSC2CW240A3K5); $436 19% OFF $355

Kingston V+200 240 GB (SVP200S37A/240G); $227

Samsung 840 Series 250 GB (MZ-7TD250BW); $214

Samsung 840 Pro Series 256 GB (MZ-7PD256BW); $287

Should I get it from Crucial US? If there'a a propblem, I'm screwed.
 

LunarMist

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I have the 500BG 840 and it is fine. I would not be using anything less than the 250GB as the smaller TLC drives have slower writes than older MLC drives like the 830.
 

mubs

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Thanks all.

RAM has already been ordered from Crucial. Nutjobs won't take a credit card from my location, despite all that Verified by Visa crap (Monoprice won't either). Had my bro in the US order it for me. He'll be here early June and I'll lay my paws on them then.

Will order the Sammy 840 250 GB today from the local online store.
 

LunarMist

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Thanks all.

RAM has already been ordered from Crucial. Nutjobs won't take a credit card from my location, despite all that Verified by Visa crap (Monoprice won't either). Had my bro in the US order it for me. He'll be here early June and I'll lay my paws on them then.

Will order the Sammy 840 250 GB today from the local online store.
Is Nutjobs a local store?
 

mubs

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Nutjobs was a reference to Crucial because they didn't wasn't my business.

The Samsung 840 250GB arrived this evening, and Win 7 is being installed on it as we speak...

Thanks all.
 

mubs

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Now the fun begins.

Proc is an AMD Turion 64 X2; chipset is AMD M690T with Radeon X1270 Graphics.

Is TRIM enabled or not?

fsutil behavior query disabledeletenotify
Results explained below:
DisableDeleteNotify = 1 (Windows TRIM commands are disabled)
DisableDeleteNotify = 0 (Windows TRIM commands are enabled)
Returns 0. But there's stuff on the 'net that says this query lies, returns 0 even without an SSD.

I had to manually disable scheduled defrag (in configre disks to schedule, it shows "All" disks). I had to manually disable Superfetch and prefetch.

No option in BIOS for AHCI. Device Mangler only shows:
> IDE/ATAPI controllers
>>> ATA Channel 0
>>> ATA Channel 0
>>> ATA Channel 1
>>> ATA Channel 1
>>> Standard Dual Channel PCI IDE Controller
>>> Standard Dual Channel PCI IDE Controller

No mention of SATA. Win 7 is officially not supported on this model; only Vista is.

Am I good or is there a problem as is?
 

Chewy509

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Looks like the BIOS has forced IDE/ATA emulation mode instead of native SATA. (Some BIOSes will auto configure AHCI vs IDE on boot depending on the installed media and what is recognised).

Assuming you have the latest BIOS, under "Onboard Devices" should be a "SATA Operation" menu that lets you configure the options.

PS. http://www.dell.com/support/drivers/us/en/04/Product/latitude-d531 There is a A11 version of the BIOS.
 

mubs

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Thanks Chewy; didn't realize BIOS updates were available for such an old machine!

But sorry, no cigar. Even after the BIOS update, there is no mention/option in the BIOS for disk controllers: i.e. "Integrated Peripherals" and OnChip PATA/SATA Devices.

I tried enabling AHCI by doing this:

1. Startup "Regedit
2. Open HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE / SYSTEM / CurrentControlset / Services
3. Open msahci
4. In the right field left click on "start" and go to Modify
5. In the value Data field enter "0" and click "ok"
6. exit "Regedit"
7. Reboot Rig and enter BIOS (hold "Delete" key while Booting

In your BIOS select "Integrated Peripherals" and OnChip PATA/SATA Devices. Now change SATA Mode to AHCI from IDE.

You now boot into windows 7, the OS will recognize AHCI and install the devices. Now the system needs one more reboot and voilla .. enjoy the improved SSD performance.
Device Mangler still does not show any SATA controller.

Should I just pull the SSD and stick it in my contemporary desktop and put the HDD back in the laptop?
 

LunarMist

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Is there some reason you really need the ACHI? I doubt there is any appreciable difference in such an old machine, and an SSD in IDE mode is far better than any hard drive. You can Trim occasionally with the Samsung utility if necessary.
 

mubs

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So should I not worry and just use it? I haven't tried Samsung's Magician sw yet, but should I do what Lunar said - periodically run trim manually?
 

time

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There's no need to run Trim at all under normal usage, especially if you keep a reasonable amount of free space.

See, if you believe Anandtech's benhmarking, we're fools for even using the 840 (as opposed to the 840 Pro). But in real life, no-one notices or cares.

It's much the same with Trim. The drive's automated space recovery is enough for most folk.
 

LunarMist

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There is an operation in the Sasmsumg SSD Magician called Performance Optimization. If your OS/hardware does not support Trim you can use that if you like. I don't bother, but it does not hurt anything either. Intel has a similar tool.
 

LunarMist

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See, if you believe Anandtech's benhmarking, we're fools for even using the 840 (as opposed to the 840 Pro). But in real life, no-one notices or cares.
I bought the 840 because it was reasonably priced for 500GB and I wanted a small/light external drive that would be shockproof and faster than a mobile drive.
 

mubs

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Thanks all, onward & upward!

This will really help 'cause I'm moving around May 23 and will be without 'net and my workhorse desktop pc. I will be buying a 3G USB internet dongle for the laptop to keep connected. Not to reach SF (there'll be no time for that!) but to pay bills and such. Not having a spinning disk will give that much more peace of mind, not to mention the fast boots and shutdowns.
 

Santilli

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Oddly, one of our forum members believes the ide option to be more stable then AHCI.
Considering I have dual X-25s in raid zero, and it's been going a long time, he seems to be right.

Not slow, either.
 

mubs

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Here all the new 3G/4G devices are WiFi hotspots, do they still use USB there?
Not sure I understand the question. I'm talking about one of these to use with a laptop (click on Devices on the Magenta bar in the middle of the screen).

We're still considerably behind in overall connectivity though we have probably 2.5x the number of mobile users as the US population.
 
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