Dell Keyboard layouts – why do they change them

It used to just be a case where certain models didn’t have a keyboard I liked but others would, but now looking at the Dell site, none of the laptops have a keyboard I like. And it isn’t like I’m after some crazy combination. All I want is a machine with the normal Irish keyboard. Even Wikipedia agrees with the format. Same as my D630c.

We currently order Vostro 1510 machines as standard and this problem might have started when they messed up the keyboard having the whole bottom line in the wrong place but the current keyboard model is closer than anything you see on the website. Only difference is the left shift key is bigger, the right on is smaller, oh and the backslash (\) key is on the far right instead of the left. A completely useless layout for anyone who uses the keyboard all the time for coding or working on linux.

Worse than all this is the trend to make the Enter / Return key smaller like the american keyboards. For US people, fine, keep it small since they are used to it, but don’t go trying to force random keyboard changes on us. Hell even the XPS that is on my desk has another layout.

Edit: So the new Vostro 1520 has normal keyboard, or so it looks until you start typing. The bottom line suffers from a smaller than normal ctrl key meaning the left hand side keys (ctrl, fn, windows, alt) are slightly to the left. Not a huge problem and I’d take it over the older problem, but still a problem. Also the keyboards on this model as bouncy. Yes bouncy. Whole keyboard moves when you press the keys in the center.

Windows Virtual Server 2005 R2 Differencing disk size

I’ve been running Virtual Server 2005 R2 for a few months now stress testing it on a machine seeing where the limits were before real deployment. Machine is a P4 dual core with 4G of ram. It has 1 Windows 2003 server host and 6-8 XP hosts running at any one time. The main bottle neck seems to always be the harddisk. It just can’t keep up with things. When things are running the disk queue is a solid line across the top of perfmon. Before you say it, the VM’s aren’t running lots of disk actions and in fact if I reduced the number of VM’s and increased the ram, it’d probably drop the disk usage way down.

Anyway when setting up these VM’s for testing, differencing disks seemed to be the way to go. New VM’s took a matter of minutes to setup and getting running. Now that they are running for nearly three months, it is looking not so hot. Each VM has about 4G of space used inside their virtual disks but yet the master disk is around the 3G mark with the differencing disks being over 6G. Something really wasn’t adding up. Clearly a disk file should take up more space than the data on the disk.

Merging the differencing disk

First thing I tried was to merge the differencing disk. To do this, you inspect the disk, then under actions, merge the disk and choose a new file.

Compacting the disk

Once the disk was merged, it gave the option to compact the disk. Running this did nothing but waste time making the new disk no smaller than the original.`

The Solution

So after some googling and trial and error, the following steps seem to have worked and made the disks a lot smaller.

  1. Merge the differencing disk into a new disk.
  2. Mount the new disk to the VM.
  3. Boot the VM and defrag the disk using Windows Defrag.
  4. Mount the precompator vm tool in the VM. This tool is found in precompact.iso in the Virtual Machine Additions folder in your Virtual Server install directory. (Usually C:\Program Files\Microsoft Virtual Server\Virtual Machine Additions\Precompact.iso)
  5. Run the precompactor in the VM. (This does take a while to run)
  6. Shutdown the VM and compact the hard disk image as above.

All in all, I got near a 50% reduction in real space usage which brought it closer to what the VM’s are actually using.