My old Dell Inspiron 1501 laptop is a dinosaur by modern computing standards. I bought it when Windows Vista ruled supreme so it must be 11 or 12 years old at least. It’s big, heavy and slow and I’ve only hung onto it because nowadays I don’t have that much use for a laptop, except when I’m travelling and don’t therefore have access to my home PC.
Up to now it has more or less met my needs, but this time, partly because I was away from home for so long but mainly because I had to keep constantly reworking my flightplan and route for my flight from the UK to France in 24ZN, its limitations became all too clear.
Its basic problem is that its processor although 64 bit, is very slow by modern standards and its performance very poor as a result even though I’ve upgraded its hard disk to a SSD one. It also doesn’t much like running modern software and as for convenience I’ve set up all my PCs (my main home PC and my backup machine plus my laptop) to run the latest version of Windows 10, it has increasingly irked me that my laptop is the odd one out of the three.
Nevertheless, I wasn’t actually on the lookout for a replacement while I was back in the UK but when I was asked which model I’d recommend for someone wanting an economically priced, general purpose machine, I did a search and came across a super little Lenovo. It was the Lenovo V415-AST, an unpretentious little machine with a 15″ screen and an AMD 64 bit processor, which I ended up buying.
Its CPU is an AMD A6-9225 running at 2.6 GHz, which is a significant improvement on my old Dell. It has a 15.6″ high definition monitor with a resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels, excellent for a machine of its size, 8GB of DDR4 RAM and a 256 GB SSD hard drive. It only comes with two USB ports but I can live with that, and as well as wireless LAN it also has plugs for a local network connection, HDMI and a card reader. It also comes with Bluetooth and a DVD drive, which is uncommon nowadays but which I still like as I often like to burn DVDs and CDs. And all of this was on sale at Ebuyer for only £199!
There was just one drawback, not for me but for some purchasers, because for that price you didn’t get a proper operating system (eg Windows). Instead it came with FreeDOS preinstalled on a small partition on its hard drive. This meant that for an ‘ordinary’ user to do anything useful with the machine, they’d have to install either their own Windows system or a version of Linux, which for some people could be a significant barrier.
It didn’t trouble me, however, because I was quite happy to install my own activated copy of Windows on it that was currently running on my old Dell and just to prove the point, although I didn’t have my software disk with me, by the end of the day on which it was delivered I had the latest version of Windows 10 running on it and activated just using software obtainable on the internet. And no, I’m not going to say how I did that or where I obtained the software from.
My idea was then to wait until I arrived home, to clear the FreeDOS partition off its hard drive using bootable disk management software and then to do a clean installation of my own legitimate copy of Windows. Although I won’t say how I did the previous Windows install while in the UK, I will say that after I’d downloaded and installed the latest Windows 10 64 bit installable from the Microsoft web site, the licence key that I used to activate it was my old Windows 7 one. This was accepted without question by Microsoft because it has always been possible, and still is, to upgrade old versions of Windows 7 and 8 to the corresponding version of Windows 10.
By the time I’d finished installing all of the software that I wanted to on it, including Firefox, my Memory Map flight planning package, drawing and graphics programmes, VLC video player, Filezilla FTP, word processing and spreadsheet software, Google Earth, CD burning and HD video converter software, I was truly delighted. Except for one thing. I still didn’t have properly ‘portable’ email.
I’ll explain what I mean. I use Thunderbird for email on my home PC and my laptop and Gmail on my phone. All three devices receive email without any problems because when set up properly, that’s how email works. Only my home PC, though, removes messages from the server of each of the various email addresses that I use so although I receive and can see them on my laptop and phone, they are all still waiting for me (in their hundreds on this occasion) to view again on my home PC.
But sending emails is something completely different. For this you need to use a SMTP server and these are much more secure as regards access, otherwise anyone could be using them for spamming or any other kind of useless or malicious emailing. So when you set up email on your home PC, for example, most people use a SMTP server made available to them by their internet service provider who can monitor their activity and ensure that it is proper and above board.
But then there’s the problem of how to deal with laptops and other devices that are portable and frequently aren’t connected to the internet using the owner’s internet service provider. In my own case, this doesn’t matter for my phone while I’m using it in France because it and my home PC both use connections from the same provider, Free. But I found that although it’s set up for roaming, this doesn’t apply while in the UK, where I could receive emails on it but not reply or send emails because clearly the Free SMTP server is only available in France itself. And the same goes for my laptop wherever it’s being used.
Up to now I’ve had to bite a very inconvenient bullet, namely that after I’ve received emails through my usual addresses on either my phone or my laptop, if I’ve then wanted to reply to them I’ve had to do so using a separate address on either Outlook Live (Microsoft) or Gmail (Google) set up on my laptop. And the same went for if I wanted to initiate a new email, but for no longer.
I’ve always been pretty clued up when it comes to PCs, software and systems but as I grow older I recognise that I’m becoming slowly more out of touch. I’ve always been aware that what I needed was access to a fully portable SMTP server so I could send emails fom wherever I was, but up to now I’ve not been able to find one. However, searches seemed to indicate that if you have a Google account (I have two, one for Youtube and one other) you can use it to send emails not just from Gmail but from any other email address that you have, and now much to my great delight, I’ve proven this to be correct.
What you need to do is set up the Gmail SMTP server with the correct user name (your Gmail email address) and password (your Gmail account password which will probably be your Google account password) and the correct security settings. To show what I mean, here’s how I’ve configured the server in Thunderbird on my new Lenovo laptop (my user name blurred out).
It works absolutely perfectly and now I’ll be able to send and receive emails on my laptop wherever I am in the world so long as I’m logged onto a wireless network. I’m very pleased as it’ll make my laptop far more useful to me than it was and as a result I’m sure that I’ll be getting much more use out of my new Lenovo in the future than I ever did out of my old Dell machine 🙂