Introducing a Gigabyte BRIX solution

Last week I had a disk corruption which proved to be somewhat catastrophic.  My main server had an apparent corruption of the Directory database, and even after I’d run a system restore, still could not bring Active Directory back up.  To cut a long story short, my journey would have ben far shorter if I’d had a backup directory sitting on some cheap hardware.  This brings me to my new solution..


Are you looking for a low cost computing option, but feel constrained by the hobby nature of the smaller options like the Raspberry Pi?  What if you could pay a bit extra and get something with a genuine Intel 64bit processor and support for mobile architecture hardware?  If this sounds like you, you might want to try the Gigabyte BRIX.


I’d read about these little “workstations in a box” last year, they blazed the trail for small footprint machines.  For a reasonably low price, these tiny boxes which almost fit in the palm of your hand (your hand size may vary) pack a powerful punch. 

CPU Intel® Celeron J1900 4 Core Up to 2.4GHz (1.99GHz realised)
Memory Patriot 1333GHz 8GB SO-DIMM
Disk SanDisk SSD Plus 128 GB SSD


Check out the detailed specs (note that the CPU range scales from i-series Intel to Celeron) – my version is the GB-BXBT-1900 [1] which features a dual core Celeron:

  • Features 22nm Intel® Celeron J1900 [2]
  • Ultra compact PC design – 0.69L(56.1x 107.6 x 114.4mm)
  • Supports 2.5” thickness 7.0/9.5mm Hard Drives (1 x 3Gbps)
  • 1x SO-DIMM DDR3L 1.35V Slots (1333 MHz)
  • Preinstall IEEE 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi / Bluetooth 4.0 Mini-PCIe card
  • Supports dual displays via a VGA and a HDMI port
  • Gigabit LAN (1 GBps) Ethernet
  • Audio jack (Headphone/MIC)
  • 1x USB 3.0, 2x USB 2.0 ports
  • ssd-plus-product  SoDimm-packaging-web

    The BIOS supports UEFI secure boot for Windows 7 and Windows 8.1, but you can disable secure boot and install via IDE configuration to get other OSes onto it.  Apparently you can run Windows 10 on one, but I have not attempted this just yet.


    When you purchase a new BRIX, it comes without a hard drive and memory, i.e. buy these separately.  Once you’ve unboxed your shiny new BRIX, you’ll need a small screwdriver to undo the base of the box to access the internals.  Installing the HDD and memory is trivial if you have only the slightest modicum of experience with electronics or laptops.

    Once you’ve got your HDD and memory seated and connected, screw the base back on (making sure that the “This Side Up” instruction is pointing the right way!).  All you need to do now is plug the BIRX into a monitor, and perhaps a keyboard and mouse. 

    I’ll cover the BIOS and OS installation in a separate article.  Here’s a nice link to a PowerShell script you can use to dump OS and hardware info.


    Once you are happy with the OS configuration, it’s entirely possible to run the BRIX “headless” (sans monitor, keyboard and mouse).  My intention was always to sit it near the network switch, and courtesy of the VESA mounting plate, it was trivial to wall mount:

    IMG_3165  IMG_3166  IMG_3164

    You can see the BRIX relative to the Router (bottom) and the HP switch (bottom left).  All that’s required is the ethernet cable and power.  It is now my little DMZ environment!


    Introduction to Windows 10



    This was ideally supposed to be one of the (logically) first entries in a series of articles about the newly minted Microsoft Windows 10.  However, owing to some of the more controversial aspects of the default settings in Windows 10, I felt compelled to do a quick write-up on what to disable first.  Not exactly what I’d planned, but such is life.

    The hook

    This is possibly what Windows 8 should have been – lean, sleek and efficient.  Microsoft has listened (perhaps with some chagrin) to the overwhelming feedback from the community and this version of Windows heralds the triumphant return of the stalwart Start Menu, last seen in Windows 7.


    There’s quite honestly, quite a lot to like about this new version of Windows.  I’ve tested it “bare metal” on a brand new high end Dell laptop as well as on an 8-year old hand-built PC tower, and the operating system has been reliable and fast.  The driver support coming across the wire from the Windows Update driver library has been remarkably impressive

    The criticisms

    Windows 10 though is not without controversy of its own.  This edition marks a significant change in how periodic system updates (or patches) are handled.  Rather than giving the end user oversight into what is installed and when, Windows 10 almost uniformly removes this oversight altogether, surprisingly even in the corporate targeted Enterprise edition.

    Let’s move on though.

    Great from the start

    The installation was incredibly fast on the Dell however a tad slower on the desktop tower, owing to difficulties booting from USB (I had to resort to disc-based install). 


    As usual, I almost always perform clean installs rather than upgrading, even when upgrading retains most of your previous operating system.  The reasons for this are too long to go into detail here, but some of the upside is removing “guff” and ensuring everything is using the latest drivers and also the latest editions of all the software suites I use.

    I’m going to assume by this point that you’ve either upgraded or you have a clean install – either way, you’re either staring at a shiny Windows 10 user interface, or you’re seriously considering installing and/or upgrading.  In case you haven’t read other reviews or seen my previous articles on the pre-release editions, I’ll walk you through the key parts of the revamped operating environment.

    Desktop Areas

    Let’s assume you have an account and you’ve authenticated to the desktop. Are we in for some surprises in this edition of Windows?  Let’s find out.  Here’s the basic layout of the Windows 10 desktop:


    1. Now, the desktop tends to pretty much work as you would expect
    2. The return of the Start menu
    3. The Task bar has been a feature of Windows since Windows 95
    4. The system tray is often overlooked by users, but Windows 10 adds some big value in this area

    1. The Desktop

    This is where all your apps render, and where you can save shortcuts (typically links to apps or websites) and other documents.  It hasn’t changed dramatically in this version as far as I can tell initially.

    2. The Start Menu

    Instinctively, the first thing I clicked on was the Start menu.  As I reported in an earlier article, its return is welcome.  I should point out that it is still possible to change the menu to be full screen, as it was in Windows 8/8.1.


    Microsoft has integrated the Metro-style menus into the Windows 10 Start menu, with live tiles and the usual suspects we’ve come to know from the previous edition.  What we do find here is the more familiar Start menu groups (“All apps”) which allows you to explore your installed software just like in the old days:


    Naturally, you can just start typing the name of an app, and the menu will predict matches for you.  You can also easily access important commands, such as the power (shutdown, restart) menu and the new “Settings” menu.  You can also still right click on the Start menu to get a cut down, by powerful context menu:


    I probably use the Start menu context menu more than any other menu – it has shortcuts to almost all of the critical an key Windows functions.

    3. The Task Bar

    This is where active apps and additional shortcuts to apps and websites live.  The change here is that an active application which has been “pinned” to the task bar is now underlined in white.  The icons are flatter and cleaner than in previous versions, as far as I can tell.


    There’s also a button which arranges all active apps (“Task View”) which is a bit like the Windows + Tab combo.  You can also right click on items in the task bar to show frequently accessed directories and to pin/unpin things from the task bar.

    taskview   task-context

    4. The System Tray

    Of all the improvements in Windows 10, my favourite has to be the changes to the System Tray area.  Aside from the usual handy tray icons and basic system info which is displayed here:


    There’s a new “slide out” menu which you can access  by gesturing (swiping) from the edge of the right side of the monitor inwards on a touch screen or by clicking on the notification icon (the white chat bubble icon).


    This handy menu will be slightly different depending on what’s installed on your computer.  On my high end Dell laptop, I have an array of useful features:


    Whereas on my more limited desktop, the options are fewer:


    This is a really quick and handy way to access functionality which you might want to easily toggle (such as screen brightness) without having to set up keyboard shortcuts, hotkeys or to click several times into settings r the Control Panel.

    The Settings Menu

    Windows 8/8.1 had a special PC settings menu which was accessed via the “charm menu”, by swiping the right hand side of the screen, or pressing Windows Key + C.  This menu (or an approximation of it) finds its way into Windows 10 as the Settings menu.  You can access it from the new Start menu, or by clicking on the notification windows in the system tray and selecting “All settings”.


    This is somewhat confusing, since Windows 10 still retains the classic Control Panel which most of us are probably used to.  Yet this dialog contains a lot of settings which are not available elsewhere in the system (without delving into Group Policy or the Windows Registry).  Speaking of the Control Panel, it’s still here:

    Control-Panel  Control-Panel-Detail-View

    Of course, the best way to navigate the Control Panel is to switch to “Details View” (IMHO) which provides a comprehensive view of core system settings.

    The App Store

    The Microsoft App Store is still here, you can easily access it from the new Start Menu.  It renders as a windowed app, and is a handy way to search for and install useful apps:

    App-Store  App-Store-Sanderstech

    File Explorer/Windows Explorer

    Finally, you’ll eventually access and start working with the Windows’ namesake – Windows Explorer.  In this edition, the system icons have been completely reimagined, and even display very nicely on high resolution displays.


    Task Manager

    Our old friend the Task Manager is still around (right click on the task bar and select “Task Manager”).  The default (collapsed) version offers the same minimal set of details as in the previous edition of Windows, clicking the “More details” option provides roughly the same functionality you’d be used to from Windows 8/8.1.

    Task-Manager-Basic  Task-Manager-Performance


    Well, this was just a walk through the park, so to speak.  Advanced and power users wouldn’t find too much in this article which they probably hadn’t already worked out.  For those new to Windows 10 – or to the more recent editions of Windows, I hope this article was of some value.

    We won’t be staying pedestrian for too long though.  Now that I have this article as a reference point, I can start to take a deeper look in my next few articles.  Check back for more of a detailed “under the hood” view of Windows 10.

    Privacy in Windows 10



    Windows 10 was officially released last week.  In the wake of the release, concerns have surfaced about privacy and control issues which are enabled by default in all popular versions of the new Windows – including Enterprise edition.  We’ll take a look at what reasonable steps you could (or should) make to your install.

    First off, it is worth taking note of what edition you are running.  Right clicking on the Start menu and selecting ‘System’ will yield the pertinent info:

    Your edition of Windows 10


    I am running Windows 10 Enterprise N, however most of what follows should apply to Pro and perhaps even Home edition.

    Windows 10 Settings

    Your first stop should be the Settings dialog.  Note that if you’d prefer to import registry settings, jump to the bottom of this article.

    This shouldn’t be confused with the traditional Control Panel.  You can navigate easily here by clicking on the notifications icon in the system tray, or by right clicking on the Start menu and selecting ‘Settings’.


    The Windows 10 Settings


    We’ll look at the most important places from this menu.


    You’ll want to read carefully through each tab in the Privacy dashboard.  I have taken screenshots of each one from the RTM build, showing what I’ve disabled.  I don’t like sharing my personal info as a general rule, so I’ve been quite liberal in disabling mostly everything.

    Privacy-General Privacy-Location







    These are suggestions, you may or may not want some of the options enabled, depending on what apps and applications you are running.

    Updates & Security

    Some big things in this new version – the biggie being the Automatic download and installation of Windows Update patches,  You might want to disable how you receive your updates, you can do this by going into the Advanced settings.

    Updates-Security-Installing  Updates-Security 

    Updates-UpdateSettings  Updates-UpdateSettings-Advanced

    I’d recommend disabling some of these settings.  They aren’t necessarily as nefarious as some have made out on the Internet, but there’s some value in taking some control over when and how your system updates.  More on this in the Group Policy section, below.

    Windows Defender

    Unless you have a really good reason to do so, I DO NOT recommend disabling Windows Defender.  However, there’s no harm in disabling the sharing of Defender information with Microsoft or others:



    If you use (or plan to use) a Microsoft Account, you might want to review what you share with the ‘Cloud’.

    Accouints-Sync  Accounts-Signin

    Network & Internet

    WiFi Settings – WiFi Sense

    If you don’t want to inadvertently share your WiFi details with contacts, you may want to disable WiFi Sense.  You do this through the Network & Internet settings.

    wifi-settings  wifi-settings-sense 


    The next section requires a bit more work.

    Group Policy

    Policy is usually used by Network Administrators or Power Users to take more control over PCs.  You’ll need to run the Group Policy Editor with elevated permissions (i.e as Administrator).

    Here is the Group Policy Editor (gpedit.msc.  Note that you can export to text file all the options.  This is recommended if you want to free search for specific values.


    Exported text


    First off, why not use the policy to disable sending of diagnostic data (Windows Enterprise only):

    Disable Telemetry (Sending Diagnostic Information)

    Simply locate the “Allow telemetry” policy and enable, then set to zero (0) – applies to Enterprise edition only.

    For non-Enterprise edition folks, you can try to disable Telemetry by modifying a registry value.

    Open up the Registry Editor by launching regedit as an administrator.  Navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Policies\DataCollection, select AllowTelemetry, change its value to 0, then apply.

    GroupPolicy GroupPolicy-Telemetry

    Disable auto-install of Windows Updates

    [Updated: 06/08/2015]

    I couldn’t verify that the group policies below were actually having any effect, so I took a look at previous registry settings instead.  I’ll leave these policy bits in for reference, but you may want to try the registry option instead.

    This one may or may not work, you need to ensure you have configured both “Configure Automatic Updates” and “Allow Automatic Updates immediate installation” policies:

    GroupPolicy-Updates GroupPolicy-WindowsUpdates-AutoInstall

    Workaround – Registry

    I took a look at previous OSes – particularly registry settings and then applied them to Windows 10 Pro and Enterprise editions. 
    Lo and behold, they abided by the settings!

    Controlling Windows Updates with WSUS

    Therefore, it stands to reason that if you operate a Windows Server Update Services (WSUS) server and you want Windows 10 clients to get updates from your WSUS server, you might want to apply this registry change.  Windows 10 operating systems appear to WSUS as ‘Windows Vista’ (for Windows 10 Pro) or ‘Windows Vista Enterprise (N) Edition’ for Windows 10 Enterprise (N):


    Computers running Windows 10 listed in the WSUS Computers list

    When configured successfully to use WSUS, there’s a slight change to the Windows 10 Windows Update settings page:

    image image

    It stands to reason that you could omit the WSUS values to control how Windows Updates are applied.  Here are the registry settings:

    Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

    “WUServer”=”http://<your WSUS server>:8530”
    “WUStatusServer”=”http://<your WSUS server>:8530”


    I located the possible values and meanings for the above settings via TechNet:

    Entry Name Value Range and Meanings Data Type
    AUOptions Range = 2|3|4|5 Reg_DWORD
    2 = Notify before download.  
    3 = Automatically download and notify of
    4 = Automatic download and scheduled
    installation. (Only valid if values exist for ScheduledInstallDay and ScheduledInstallTime
    5 = Automatic Updates is required, but end
    users can configure it.
    NoAutoUpdate Range = 0|1 Reg_DWORD
    0 = Enable Automatic Updates.
    1 = Disable Automatic Updates.
    ScheduledInstallDay Range = 0|1|2|3|4|5|6|7 Reg_DWORD
    0 = Every day.
    1 through 7 = The days of the week from
    Sunday (1) to Saturday (7).
    (Only valid if AUOptions equals
    ScheduledInstallTime Range = n; where n = the time of day in 24-hour format
    UseWUServer The WUServer value
    is not respected unless this key is set.
    AutoInstallMinorUpdates Range = 0|1 Reg_DWORD
    0 = Treat minor updates like other
    1 = Silently install minor updates.

    For more information on these settings and what their values represent, check out TechNet.

    Controlling Windows Updates without WSUS

    If you do not use WSUS, try just setting these values in the registry:

    Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00


    Disable Web Search from Start Menu

    Finally, I found disabling the obligatory “desktop and web” search in the Start Menu significantly speeds up the Start Menu.  Policy = “Do not allow web search”:


    Cleanup: Remove Services

    There are two key Windows Services which appear to participate in the sending of diagnostic data, Diagnostic Tracking Service “DiagTrack”and WAP Push Message Routing Service “dmwappushservice”.


    Launch a Command Prompt as Administrator and execute the following:

    sc delete DiagTrack

    sc delete dmwappushservice

    I haven’t noticed any ill-effects from removing these two Windows Services.

    Registry Import

    If you’d prefer to simply import that changes I made, copy this text and save it into a text file on your system (filename with a .reg extension) and import into the registry.

    Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00








































































    The following links were helpful in compiling this article