HP Slate 500 for the Enterprise

This week we’ve had a HP Slate 500 to try out and see how we like it for Staff and Students. Since the release of the iPad we’ve been under pressure from all and sundry to purchase some and put them around the school, especially in the junior years. The iPad’s consumer focus makes it a nightmare on the network, and the concessions that a systems administrator has to make between device permissions, network authentication, wireless security makes them a high maintenance device. We’ve been looking forward to the Slate 500 for some time, knowing that Windows 7 Pro will work perfectly on the network, and hoping that it will be an equivalent device to the iPad, and what it may lack in style, is certainly made up for in substance.

While I’ve been happy with the Slate 500 there have been a few disappointments. Only having one USB port on the device is limiting. There’s been a few time already where I’ve wanted to attach combinations of an external keyboard, mouse, memory stick and ipod, and have had to find the dock which has another two USB ports. Adding one more USB port to the device would make a huge difference.

The onscreen keyboard in Windows 7 could be better too. Having an option to remove the row of numbers and punctuation keys to make it similar to the iOS keyboard would allow for the keys to be larger and the keyboard to occupy less real estate on the screen. The onscreen keyboard can be resized but when reduced to a reasonable size the keys are unfit for the ham fisted.

It’s also disappointing that software on Windows 7 isn’t touch friendly. If I had a Slate 500 I’d hit IE9 and a PDF reader fairly hard and so far, it’s been a mediocre experience. The advantage that iOS apps relying on touch makes them typically touch friendly. The only exception being a horse racing app that I had for about 5 minutes that looked like it was made for Windows 3.1, which was fairly amazing. It’s probably safe to assume that as more Windows based tablets appear the OS and software will gradually catch up and become touch and gesture friendly….

Anticipating a purchase of Slate 500 devices, we would want to image and control the devices through Altiris. Neither the device nor dock are equipped with an ethernet port, however, the HP USB Ethernet Adapter may PXE boot for Altiris according to Rick on the tabletpcreview.com forums.

The Slate 500 is essentially the same performance wise as the 5101/5103 netbooks that we’ve been using for the students, with a slight smaller LCD and screen resolution. The battery life supposedly is up to 5hrs, but I haven’t had the chance to confirm.

It seems that we’ll certainly get a handful and put them in the hands of teachers, students and executive staff to see how they compare to our fleet of netbooks and tablets, and whether they are a worthy replacement, or an additional tool.

I’d like to see an app for Windows Slate machines where the slate can act as a second screen for a PC/notebook. Then when I’m working on my tablet, I can find the information on the web that I need, flick that browser window to the slate. Then I can read instructions and work on my tablet without having to Alt-tab. That would be superb.

HP 2730p: machine is not in committed state

hp2730pA couple of weeks ago we ran into problems with our new fleet of 2730p Tablets where the machines weren’t booting into Vista. We had a version of the Black Screen of Death, KSOD, that was caused by something upsetting the Altiris SVS client on these machines. While we were troubleshooting the KSOD we tried  updating one of the machines with the latest drivers including the latest BIOS update for the machine from HP. After updating the BIOS to F.0A 31 Jul 2009, the machine rebooted and gave us this error as soon as the machine was powered on:

WARNING!!! – machine is not in committed state!

After some quick Googling I found others had the same issue after a BIOS update on various HP models. Resetting BIOS defaults and installing an older version didn’t make any difference.

Some people suggested running HPSetCfg 1.36, downloaded from here, or later to reset the serial and model number for the machine. This is a handy little tool from HP and runs from a bootable CD or USB stick, seemed to only want to work on FAT (not NTFS), and made the USB stick bootable with HPUSBFW.EXE. This worked nicely but did nothing to remove the Warning on boot….

http://forums13.itrc.hp.com/service/forums/questionanswer.do?admit=109447627+1251435425255+28353475&threadId=1338615

After making my way to the end of that thread on itrc.hp.com I looked at the AMT settings. Checking the AMT settings in the BIOS showed that it was greyed out and not able to be enabled? Thinking that the machine needed a firmware update for the AMT to go with the BIOS update, I attempted to install the 4.1.1.1028 version from the HP site. This should have been the version that was on the machine, Dec 2008, since the machines were purchased in early 2009. The AMT update failed installation so I started the hunt for the AMT Branding Tool that was mentioned in the thread above and found here

This is straight from allaboutmicrosoft.net:

Swapped MB on a HP Elitebook 6930P and need get the serial number into BIOS.
At boot I get a message stating “Warning. Machine is not in committed state. Invalid serial number”, but when entering BIOS there is no way for me to enter it. Read on HP forums that I need HP SetConfig Utility 1.36 to do this, but I can’t find it anywhere. Does anyone have this program or maybe another solution that could help me?

Solution: Machine is not in committed state

use this tool. run it from a bootable flash drive.  read the readme.txt inside the archive.
http://www.naturatek.com/files/amtool.zip

I downloaded the AMT tool and copied it to the bootable USB stick that I’d used before. Because I copied the files to their own folder I had to run Brand.bat from the command line, should have run from autoexec.bat. The Tool checks the current settings and prompts you to see if you’d like to make changes

VPro Uncommitted
Descriptor Unlocked
Management Engine disabled
Flash Protection Override disabled
****************************************

Do you want to enable or disable AMT now [Y, N]?

The text above is copied from the readme.txt that comes with the AMT tool, but is essentially the same as what I saw at the command line. After selecting Y to enable AMT, there was another prompt or two, followed by a reboot. On boot up the warning message was gone and entering the BIOS showed that the AMT was now enabled and I could change the AMT settings etc too!

HP 2710p Battery issues resolved

Just over 12 months ago we purchased 55 HP 2710p Tablets with Vista Business for our Teaching Staff. The machines have generally been pretty good but we had some unsolvable battery issues that we couldn’t solve ourselves and eventually opened a support case with HP to try and rectify. We had various problems with batteries not holding much, or any charge and some machines that wouldn’t recognise their battery at all and would only work with the AC adapter connected to the power. If we swapped batteries around between machines they would start to work normally again and the battery would charge and be usable, however, it wouldn’t be long before the machine would have battery issues again.

HP Support got us to run the Battery Check and Health Check on some effected machines as well as machines that hadn’t had any battery issues and send them the .XML files that were generated for their engineers to check. We also sent them the .nfo System Info files from MSINFO32.exe for these machines.

hpbc
C:\Program Files (x86)\Hewlett-Packard\HP Battery Check\hpbc.exe

hphc
C:\Program Files (x86)\Hewlett-Packard\HP Health Check\hphc.exe

Running these two applications generates two logs files that are stored under HP Active Support
C:\Program Files (x86)\Hewlett-Packard\HP Active Support\Logs

Battery Check Results: HealthCheckBC.xml

   1: <?xml version="1.0"?>
   2: <HC_BCheck Generated="17/10/2008 11:25:39 AM">
   3:   <Battery>
   4:     <HealthStatus SerialNumber="2CE7412ZL5">Test Passed</HealthStatus>
   5:     <TestResult>0</TestResult>
   6:     <DesignCapacity>4000</DesignCapacity>
   7:     <FullChargeCapacity>3791</FullChargeCapacity>
   8:     <RemainingCapacity>1163</RemainingCapacity>
   9:     <StorageCapacity>98.9473684210526</StorageCapacity>
  10:     <MaxError>0</MaxError>
  11:     <CycleCount>1</CycleCount>
  12:     <Temperature>23</Temperature>
  13:     <TerminalVoltage>11077</TerminalVoltage>
  14:     <Current>0</Current>
  15:     <DesignVoltage>11100</DesignVoltage>
  16:     <BatteryManufactureName>HP                </BatteryManufactureName>
  17:     <Status>128</Status>
  18:     <CellVoltage1>0</CellVoltage1>
  19:     <CellVoltage2>3688</CellVoltage2>
  20:     <CellVoltage3>3700</CellVoltage3>
  21:     <CellVoltage4>3700</CellVoltage4>
  22:     <BatteryACPower>1</BatteryACPower>
  23:     <BatterySupportedCount>2</BatterySupportedCount>
  24:     <SerialNumber>00577 2008/04/10</SerialNumber>
  25:     <satId>00577</satId>
  26:     <ManufactureDate>04/10/2008</ManufactureDate>
  27:     <Source>1</Source>
  28:     <Table>0</Table>
  29:     <SubTable>0</SubTable>
  30:     <InWarranty>False</InWarranty>
  31:     <WarrantyID>12ZL5-18100-18287-2CE74-00000-01</WarrantyID>
  32:   </Battery>
  33: </HC_BCheck>

HP Health Check Results: HealthCheckAC.xml

   1: <?xml version="1.0"?>
   2: <HC_ACheck AC_Server="h20397.www2.hp.com" Generated="25/08/2008 12:13:32 PM" HealthStatus="Poor">
   3:   <ISSUE GUID="10007315-0281-0514-8344-020194660001">
   4:     <STATUS>Detected</STATUS>
   5:     <QA>True</QA>
   6:     <URLRESULT>
   7:     </URLRESULT>
   8:     <FREEINFO>
   9:       <CATEGORY>Maintenance</CATEGORY>
  10:       <PERSISTANT value="always" timestamp="" />
  11:       <ALERT>Please update HP Health Check by clicking on REPAIR and following the instructions.</ALERT>
  12:       <SYMPTOM>HP Health Check update available.</SYMPTOM>
  13:       <SEVERITY>Alert</SEVERITY>
  14:     </FREEINFO>
  15:   </ISSUE>
  16:   <ISSUE GUID="10007315-0281-0514-8344-020194660047">
  17:     <STATUS>Detected</STATUS>
  18:     <QA>True</QA>
  19:     <URLRESULT>
  20:     </URLRESULT>
  21:     <FREEINFO>
  22:       <CATEGORY>Security</CATEGORY>
  23:       <PERSISTANT value="always" timestamp="" />
  24:       <ALERT>There is a critical security update available for HP Quick Launch Button software. This update removes a security vulnerability by disabling HP Info Center.  Click the GREEN button to apply the security update.</ALERT>
  25:       <SYMPTOM>HP Quick Launch Buttons security update available.</SYMPTOM>
  26:       <SEVERITY>Alert</SEVERITY>
  27:     </FREEINFO>
  28:   </ISSUE>
  29: </HC_ACheck>

The Health Check managed to find that the machine’s were missing an update for the HP Quick Launch buttons, but didn’t find that there was an updated BIOS available for the 2710p. The HP Health check seems to be pretty good at finding updates for HP software and drivers, but not so good at finding and recommending firmware updates. The issue has been resolved by updating to the latest BIOS, which for us was F.13, F.14 is now available. All machines that had experienced battery problems have now received the BIOS update, and have not had any problems with batteries holding their charge or not being detected since then.