Nov 232017
 

We needed a new laptop computer here at watermanatwork.com to do photo and video editing and we’ve described the shopping experience in a previous blog post. After the usual internet research we decided to take a chance on a company we’ve never heard of. The company was Eluktronics and they sold Clevo computers. The laptop we bought was the Eluktronics N850HK1. It has a powerful Intel i7-7700HQ 2.8-3.8GHz Quad Core CPU, 16G DDR4 2400MHz RAM, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 Ti video card with 4GB GDDR5 VRAM and a 256GB M.2 PCIe NVM SSD; a powerful system for a laptop computer, more than enough for our editing needs. We’ve been using it daily a few months now and have got a pretty good idea what we like and don’t like about this computer.

We like the power and speed the system provides for everyday use and working with resource hungry programs like Adobe Premiere Pro and Adobe Photoshop. The dedicated video card and above average LCD display panel makes for great viewing and video game performance. The backlit keyboard is nice, very easy to use in dim or dark rooms while still visible in daylight. It’s a pretty clean looking computer, all black without bold graphics, very thin for all the stuff that’s inside. It’s got enough USB 3.0 and a USB 2.0 ports for peripherals like wireless mice, external drives, cameras and phones. The USB 3.0 is great for storage devices like external drives and memory sticks. The built-in SD card reader is fast enough to download digital photos and 1080 video. Wireless connectivity is good. Speakers are pretty good for a laptop, with headphones the sound is great. The Clevo drivers provided by Eluktronics work well with Windows 10 Professional and no additional boatware.

Eluktronics/Clevo N850HK1 laptop computer

Battery life is what you would expect for a laptop with power hungry components like this one. For general daily use and internet browsing, we got about 3.5-4 hours of battery life. For gaming, even with a game that uses moderate CPU and GPU power, we only got about an hour of play before we needed to start looking for an electric socket. For checking email, cruising the internet or light to moderate computing, the battery life is fine. For power hungry tasks like photo/video editing and gaming, the computer needs to be plugged in.

For the most part, we like the N850HK1 and for the first month or so, it was love at first sight. As we used the computer more and more, some things cropped up that we didn’t really like and there is one major build flaw with this computer that, if we knew of it in advance, we most definitely would have not bought it.

We are not big fans of the touchpad/button setup. The touchpad seem over sensitive, the smallest touch sends the cursor flying across the screen. To be fair, we are not huge fans of touchpads in general and usually use a wireless mouse. The 2TB hard drive that comes installed is a Seagate 2TB 128Mb cache 5400 rpm. It is very slow with noticeable lag when writing or reading to the drive. Seagates are not known for their reliability, but there are very few options over 1TB that will fit into the 7mm drive slot, virtually no hard drives running at 7200rpm. The only real replacement option is an SSD. 2TB and larger SSDs are a little out of our price range, we will probably replace the 2TB Seagate hard drive with a 1TB SSD. The computer is generally pretty solid, but the top that houses the LCD panel is very thin. I bends in the middle between the hinges and if the computer is squeezed in a bag or backpack, the keyboard presses against the LCD display panels and leaves marks on the panel. We use a thin piece of packing foam between the panel and the keyboard to prevent this from happening.

N850HK1 keyboard presses into LCD panel. Thin packing foam helps prevent this.

These things are minor issues and if this was all we didn’t like about the computer, we’d probably be happy as possible. There is one major flaw that really has an impact on the laptop’s functionality that makes this computer a disappointing purchase. A powerful CPU like the i7-7700HQ generates a lot of heat, especially under full load. Unfortunately, the cooling system is not capable of keeping the processor within reasonable temperatures when the CPU is under full load. In the HWMonitor screen grab below, you can see the CPU runs about 45°C at idle and 98°C at 100%, which is way to hot for this processor to be. This CPU will “throttle” or shut down at 100°C, so that is too hot. At 100%, this CPU should be closer to 3.8GHz, so it may have already entered the throttling stage.

Eluktronics/Clevo N850HK1 CPU running hot at 98°C

If you run a computer CPU at temperatures close to the thermal shutdown temperature, it’s going to make for a short life for the CPU. There was an issue with running a Windows 10 Performance power scheme and in Performance Mode of the Clevo Control Center at the same time, this caused the CPU to run extremely hot. You must have “Performance” selected in one program and something other than “Performance” in the other. Even with those settings, the CPU runs up to the thermal shutdown under full load. We tried undervolting the CPU. Undervolting can really help an overheating CPU as well as extend battery life with very little performance penalty, but a sensible undervolt on this CPU did nothing to help the high temperatures when under full load.

Undervolting the Eluktronics/Clevo N850HK1 to try and reduce maximum CPU temps

The problem is that the CPU copper heat sink, dual cooling tubes and fan are just not able to keep the CPU within acceptable limits when under full load. The similar GPU heatsink and fan have no problem keeping the video processor cool, even while playing graphically demanding video games.

N850HK1 CPU and GPU heat sinks and fans

This Intel has Turbo Boost that will allow the processor to run at 3.8GHz. Maybe it’s just my desktop, server and workstation building experience that tells me when I look at the N850HK1 CPU heat sink(on the right) on top of a 3.8GHz processor, it just doesn’t look like it’s going to get the job done.

N850HK1 CPU and GPU heat sinks

I repasted CPU with Arctic MX-4 to replace the poor thermal paste application from Eluktronics. Most of the thermal paste was on the motherboard, hardly any between the CPU and heat sink. Repasting the CPU lowered the idle temperature by more than 15°C, but did nothing to reduce the max temp under full load. The only way to keep the CPU from frying itself was to dial down the Maximum Processor State in the Advanced Power Settings of the Windows 10 Control Panel to 98%. That essentially disables the CPU Turbo Boost and limits the maximum processor power to about 2.8GHz. This is a real performance hit because you are losing nearly 1GHz of processing power, we are getting less than 70% of the CPU power we paid for.

The inability to use the CPU at full power is a major disappointment, both with the hardware from Clevo and the setup by Eluktronics, the reseller. Eluktronics told me that this overheating problem is only with my computer. Browsing Clevo laptop computer forums does not really back this up; overheating is a major concern with many Clevo computers. Even if this particular computer is the only Eluktronics laptop computer that has an overheating problem, that means Eluktronics assembled this computer and sent it to me without even basic testing. When I received the computer, the temperature at idle was 65°C, way to high for a computer like this. That was due to a crappy thermal paste job on the CPU. Since they offer an “Extra Cooling Solution” of Arctic Silver 5 at additional cost, they clearly know the stock cooling is inadequate. When I repasted the CPU with Arctic MX-4, which by most accounts is superior to Arctic Silver 5 and dropped the stock cooling temperature at idle buy nearly 20°C, Eluktronics voided the one year warranty on my computer because I was “tinkering” with it. They did offer to RMA the computer, but I travel frequently which makes it difficult to do. Before I purchased the computer, I told Eluktronics that I would be depending on the reliability of their computer out of the box, to which they replied “no problem”, which was 100% BS.

There is a huge question mark with Clevo resellers like Eluktronics who cut corners on final assembly and quality control. Would we buy another Clevo laptop computer? Even though we like many things about this nice looking and powerful laptop, due to the uncertainty regarding Clevo vendors like Eluktronics, we would not take another chance with a Clevo reseller hoping to get a 100% working computer who voids the customer warranty for fixing problems that should have been taken care of before the computer was sold. We are a small business and try to purchase from other small businesses whenever possible, this was a significant factor in our decision to go with Eluktronics, a small business we had never heard of. We took a chance and got burned, next time we have an opportunity to patronize another small business, we’ll keep that in mind. Bottom line, if you like to gamble, get a Clevo from Eluktronics, maybe you’ll get a good one. If you need reliability and customer service, go somewhere else.

Nov 212017
 

You may have noticed, it’s been a long time between blog posts. I’ve just gone through some things nobody should ever have to go through, but people probably do every day. It was a path that lead down memory lane that had happy times, along with memories that look different in hindsight.

Esker Lakes Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada 1968

Lake Erie walleye

Antique South Bend 550 fishing reel

I criss-crossed the United States a number of times by plane, train and automobile

Shelby, Montana

Riding the rails, trying to get some sleep

Mt. Hood, Oregon

Now we are back and have some adventures planned that will be starting up in the next few days. We are packing up and planning to visit some of the most interesting places in the United States, so stay tuned…

Sep 102017
 

In case you’re interested, this is what a 30,000 acre plus wildfire looks like

Eagle Creek wildfire near Cascade Locks, OR

Below the smoke is the nervous and mostly evacuated town of Cascade Locks. The white smoke usually means there is water on it because firefighters are trying to save the town, but up and over the hills there are still thousands of acres of raging wildfire. It will be a long time before this fire is under control and won’t be out until we get some significant rain. Thanks to all the firefighters and support people, this is going to be a big job.

Sep 092017
 

No sooner than we get the kayak fishing for salmon started, the fishing is on hold thanks to high winds, and even worse, an out of control wildfire that is burning just a few miles away. The local interstate is closed and the roads are full of fire fighting vehicles. The air is full of thick smoke and ash, unhealthy to breathe, so any kind of physical activity is limited.

Cleaning fishing reels

Not much else to do except clean and repair the salmon fishing reels. One was in bad need of a grease job and the other one, the front line salmon reel, had a few loose screws and needed a lube job as well. Catching these big fish and getting banged around on the kayak is tough on the fishing gear, it’s a pretty good idea to do regular maintenance, which of course, nobody seems to do.

Sorry, nothing much to report this time. Thanks to all the firefighters working the Eagle Creek fire, they have a big job ahead of them and we hope that nobody gets injured.

Sep 062017
 

We finally got out for our first kayak fishing for salmon trip of the season. It was unlike any of the other first salmon fishing trips of the year because the Columbia River Gorge is filled with heavy smoke and ash from the nearby Eagle Creek wildfire. It’s not exactly easy breathing and visibility was often less than a quarter mile, but we had to get out there and try for the first salmon of the season.

It didn’t take long for me to get the first fish of the year. After only a few casts, about a half hour before sunrise, I hooked into the first Chinook salmon of the season. It was a smaller fish, probably ten pounds or less, so I released it. Little did I know it would be quite a few hours before I felt another serious tug on the line. The sun came up, but it didn’t get too bright because of the thick smoke. There were a few fish being caught, but for this time in the annual salmon run, I would have to rate the fishing as “somewhat slow”. The slow fishing, hot weather and smoke from wildfire made for a typical challenging day of fishing.

A smoky Columbia River challenges salmon fishermen

After going all day with only a few half-hearted hits and no solid strikes, I was pretty disappointed after catching a salmon in the first half hour on the water. Then, I got a solid hit and a good hookup. It was a good fish, but I could tell it was not a salmon or steelhead. Turns out it was a big smallmouth bass. At least I caught some kind of fish. I was about to call it a day when I got a hit that nearly ripped the fishing rod out of my tired hands.

Kayak fishing for salmon

This fish was a salmon; a big salmon. It went on a couple long runs, ripping line from the reel and giving the drag a real workout. Between the runs, the fish made two huge jumps out of the water. It was a real battle and I was not making any progress getting the fish to the boat. When I finally got the fish close to the kayak, I could see that it was a big Chinook salmon. It would never fit into my landing net, but it didn’t matter. A closer look at the fish I could see that it was foul hooked in the dorsal fin, that’s why I couldn’t make much progress getting it to the kayak. I was wondering how to unhook and release a thirty pound salmon when the hook worked itself loose and the monster salmon swam away.

Quite a way to start the salmon fishing season!

Sep 062017
 

This is the mountain biking in the fire zone report. Mountain bike adventures here in the Pacific Northwest are on hold until we get through a run of massive forest fires. There is a thirty thousand acre fire just a few miles from here that is filling the air with thick smoke and ash. Interstates are closed, towns evacuated and even a twenty mile stretch of the Columbia River has been closed by the historic Eagle Creek fire. This will probably be our last mountain bike trip for awhile.

Things started out nice enough. We got our camp set up, it was hot but not unbearable, and there was nobody else in the camping area.

Mountain bike camp in southwest Washington

We didn’t go too far on the first ride before we came upon a reminder that autumn is right around the corner.

Autumn is just about here in the Pacific Northwest

We found some new trails that are actually overgrown logging roads. These roads don’t see a lot of traffic.

Old logging road in southwest Washington

Sometimes, these roads lead to some pretty fantastic places that a lot of people don’t get to see.

Wild southwest Washington backcountry

We rode some rocky trails where we wondered where they might lead

Rocky section of mountain bike trail

This trail led to this really cool little waterfall and swimming hole that was a welcome sight on a hot summer day

Backcountry waterfall in southwest Washington

We put in a lot of miles and covered a lot of roads and trails

View of Mt. Hood from a southwest Washington forest service road

There have been wildfires burning in the area and the air had a lot of smoke in it. On the last day of the trip, we woke up to dense smoke and ash falling from the sky. The sun was red from all the smoke.

Red sun from smoke from nearby wildfires

Being out in the woods in the middle of nowhere and seeing all this, we were a little concerned because we did not know exactly how close the fires were. It smelled like a campfire and it was raining ash, but the forest is so dense, we couldn’t see much. We decided to ride up to a local mountain peak and try to see how close the fires were. It wasn’t easy breathing on the climb to the top of the peak because of all the smoke in the air. When we got to the top, we could see there were obviously large fires in the area, but it didn’t look like there were any within a day or two of reaching where we were.

Smoke from the Eagle Creek fires chokes the Columbia River Gorge

Thick smoke covered the entire area. It was a little clearer higher up and there was less ash, but not really great conditions for bike riding so we decided to ride down the hill, pack up and head home.

Aug 302017
 

The mountain bike mania continues here at watermanatwork.com. The salmon have arrived, but so has the wind, so we are getting out on the trails every chance we get. There’s no shortage of places to go and we are always ready for a new mountain bike adventure.

Another mountain bike adventure

It’s been hot and dry, but still pretty nice riding at the higher elevations

Sunny, hot and dusty mountain bike riding

We go further and further out into the forest every time we go riding. It’s a great day of riding just looking around and exploring new places. This is an old logging operation. This spot is were they would load the logs onto logging trucks for the long ride out of the woods.

An old logging operation on the mountain bike trail

There are a lot of roads and trails that get very little use that are great for exploring. Here’s an old logging road that leads to who knows where? We’ll probably check it out the next time we are here.

Overgrown logging road

Some of the trails get very little use, maybe only a handful of intrepid explorers every year, probably a few hunters. You have to be careful riding this kind of trail because it’s so overgrown that it’s hard to see what’s ahead of you. You can come across a bunch of deer or a bear on the trail, too. With overcrowded popular trails just a few miles away, there are trails like this dying from not enough use.

A seldom used singletrack trail

As we mentioned, the salmon are here and our kayaks are packed and ready to fish. Only problem is that it is very windy so that puts a damper on the kayak salmon fishing. It is also Labor Day Weekend and it is going to be hot, real hot, like in the hundreds. To escape the heat, wind and crowds, we are headed back to the mountains for more mountain bike riding. We’ll be back after the holiday weekend to get the salmon fishing started!

Aug 222017
 

We’re only a hundred miles or so from the “path of total darkness” during the August 21, 2017 solar eclipse, so we got a pretty good look at it. It got darker and cooler and the skies were clear so we got a good view with our eclipse glasses.

Solar eclipse 8-21-17

It was a pretty big event, the local library had an eclipse viewing party and there were people everywhere standing outside looking up at the sun with eclipse glasses on. We watched the eclipse for a couple hours with our neighbors, the Great American Eclipse was over and it was back to everyday life.

Aug 222017
 

We spent another weekend off in the woods mountain biking. We are getting in as much mountain bike riding in as possible because we are probably going to spend most of our time salmon fishing starting in a few days. The days are also getting shorter and it’s starting to get cool at night, so that means winter is right around the corner. The seasons change quickly around here, gotta squeeze everything you can out of those summer days.

We put in a lot of miles riding on Forest Service and logging roads. There are literally thousands of miles of roads like this across the Pacific Northwest. While weekend riders crowd the “name brand” mountain bike trails, you can ride roads like this all day long and hardly ever come across another human being.

Cycling on Pacific Northwest Forest Service and logging roads

Of course there are plenty of singletrack trails to ride as well. This late in a dry summer, many of the trails are dusty and “blown out” from riders skidding around the corners so you have to go deeper into the woods to find the trails that are not as popular or well known.

SW Washington singletrack mountain bike trail

We swung down into Central Oregon for a bit of riding there, but the long dry spell has got everything crusty dry and dusty. Still fun, just a bit dusty.

Mountain bike camping in Central Oregon

As we mentioned, the days are getting shorter, so that means it’s almost time for salmon fishing season. If the conditions are favorable, we will probably get out on the Columbia River and try for the first salmon of the season. This early in the salmon run, odds of catching a fish are pretty slim, but the weather is nice so why not give it a try?

Days are getting shorter, fall is right around the corner

Keep checking back because there’s a lot going on this time of year and we’ve got some exciting things planned for the next couple months.

Aug 222017
 

We got our new Canon PowerShot G9X and have spent a few days trying it out, here’s what we think so far.

This camera is unbelievably small, which makes it very easy to take along on just about any adventure. Despite it’s small size, it packs a lot of features and functions, including full manual control, RAW format still images and 60fps 1080p video.

Canon PowerShot G9X

It’s going to take some getting used to. For starters, it is so small, I have to be careful where I grab it and put my fingers because the controls are operated by touch screen and my fingers inadvertently hit the buttons on the screen. For an old manual camera guy used to knobs, dials and levers, this is a pretty big change. The camera takes really nice photos so I’ll adjust to the new touch screen operation. The .CR2 RAW files don’t open in Adobe Photoshop CS6, but the Adobe DNG converter will do the job because we refuse to “upgrade” to subscription based Adobe software. Anyway, we’ll have more on the Canon G9X as we get used to it. Hopefully, you’ll notice the better quality photos on the watermanatwork.com blog and website.