Tag Archives : Installation

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!


    Installing Windows 10 on bare metal

    As long time readers of Sanders Technology are no doubt are aware, I rarely install operating systems on bare metal (non-virtual) systems.  Partly this is a practical measure, there are a lot of releases if you take into account pre-release and beta versions, and partly an issue of convenience.  Therefore, it is something special when I install to bare metal, I put on some vinyl and get to work..


    For this version of Windows, I had purchased a new laptop the previous month and it had been sitting somewhat idle with the news of the imminent release of Windows 10.  So I waited, and once the RTM build hit MSDN, I began the process of installing onto the Dell XPS 15.  Here’s a pictorial of the installation process and some handy installation tips.


    I booted the system via USB, and squinted at the tiny, tiny font.  Evidentially Microsoft haven’t fixed the screen scaling on 4K monitors.  Luckily for me, I have exceptional vision for tiny fonts, and was able to move on to the main installation.  I blew away the primary disk, and formatted for install.  I opted for a clean install over an upgrade because that’s become my default modus operandi of the past decade or so.

    IMG_2728_Small IMG_2729_Small

    The new boot sequence makes use of the manufacturer logo during the boot process, just in case you forgot you were sitting in front of a Dell.  After the initial boot loading of the setup files, we’re treated to a new progress clock screen which ticks up to 100% complete.  On this brand new laptop, it did not take long.

    IMG_2730_Small IMG_2732_Small

    Once the initial image is ready, we’re into familiar territory, being asked “Express” or “customize”.  No brainer, always go the customize route, which allows you to toggle off some of the more invasive data sharing “features”.  You’ll need to do a lot more later on, once the OS is up and running proper.


    Finally, you’ll be prompted to create an initial account.  As I was domain-joining my machine, it asked me to create a local account, which is easy enough.  Once the setup had finalized, I authenticated with the local account and then changed the computer name and joined it to my domain.  Then I rebooted and prepared to authenticate as a Domain Admin to complete my personalized settings.

    Logging in


    This edition of Windows 10 is exceptionally striking, visually.  The UX design is impressive and looks far superior than the predecessor, Windows 8/8.1.  Once you’re authenticated, Windows will attempt to contact Windows Updates to finish off the remainder of the installation – my recommendation: allow this to happen.  For why, see below.


    Nearly every bare metal install I’ve completed in the past required me to locate OS-specific drivers to complete the installation.  In cases where the manufacturer has not published newer drivers, I’ve been able to get away with using the previous edition’s drivers – provided the CPU architecture matches (e.g. 64 bit drivers for 64 bit OSes). 

    The first time I installed Windows 10, I did not join the laptop to my WiFi (mistake #1).  The Dell website did not list any new drivers for Windows 10 despite assurances the laptop had been tested and was compatible with the new OS.  Curious.  So I did what I’ve always done – installed the previous versions (mistake #2).

    The drivers installed fine, and all the unidentified devices were installed.  Then I rebooted the system.  That’s when the black screen of death occurred:


    Windows 10 boots, and leaves you stuck on a black screen with a mouse cursor constantly in the “spinning circle” mode.  It turns out that the previous Windows 8.1 NVidia driver was the cause of this OS-limbo, and there wasn’t anything I could do about it.  I tried to get into Safe Mode, no dice. 

    In the end I had to reinstall the OS, but this time I connected to WiFi.  Windows Update’s Driver Store, as it turns out, had valid and appropriate drivers (must have been supplied by Dell) so everything installed fine.  There were a few odd devices not identified which I was able to install using the old drivers.  It’s been fine since.

    Therefore, if you encounter the black screen of death – I’d suggest attempting to get into some kind of protected mode (safe mode) and uninstall any custom drivers.  Worst case scenario, you might be looking at an OS-reinstall.

    Visual Studio 2015 – Using a Product Key 3


    Continuing from the experience with Visual Studio 2013, the next edition – Visual Studio 2015 – was officially released to MSDN subscribers early this morning.  This edition follows the trend established in the previous edition of providing two channels of licensing – by using a Microsoft Account or by supplying a product key.

    Get a Product Key

    You’ll need to have an MSDN Subscription which matches the version of Visual Studio you are using.  Authenticate to MSDN Subscriptions and go to the Subscriber Downloads section. 


    Here you’ll see a tab for “My Product Keys”.  In the list of keys there should be static activation keys for your account.  Find and copy out the product key for your version of Visual Studio 2015 (e.g. Enterprise, Professional, Test Professional).


    • If you don’t have a Product Key listed, as with Visual Studio 2013 it’s likely tied to the type of MSDN Subscription you have – whether you have assigned a perpetual license of not.  Whether or not Visual Studio carries a Product Key/perpetual license seems to depend on the type of MSDN subscription.
    • If you don’t have an MSDN subscription, but have instead purchased a retail copy of Visual Studio 2015 when it becomes available, there should be a Product Key with the product.  A boxed product should have a Product Key on the media (or box) and a soft copy should have a key associated with it somehow (maybe it is mailed to you?).

    Install Visual Studio 2015

    Once you have acquired a Product Key, the next step is to install Visual Studio 2015.  I’ve chosen to evaluate Visual Studio 2015 Enterprise edition, which replaces Premium and Ultimate editions (they have been merged into a single SKU).

    image  image image

    There’s some different options in this new edition (when using a custom install), the options I selected to install will absorb over 24 GB of hard drive space.  Probably best you avoid installing VS 2015 o a netbook!  If you want to minimise the install vector, unselecting the Cross Platform Mobile Development saves a lot of space.

    Registering Visual Studio 2015

    Once the installation completes, you’ll be able to launch the Visual Studio 2015 IDE.  You’ll be taken through the usual “first time user” wizard, which establishes your development and UI preferences.  You can skip logging in with a Microsoft account by choosing “Not now..”.

    image  image

    Once the IDE loads, you can select “Register Product” from the Help menu:

    image  image

    Once the registration dialog appears, use the “License with a Product Key” option, and enter your Product Key with the popup window.

    image   image

    Note: you don’t have to be online for the process to complete, so it looks like a good option for offline installs.


    None!  The normalised CamelCase menus are back by default.