HP Software Testing Lab

The Software Testing Lab again focused more on HP's ZBook and EliteBook mobile workstations, as well as the ProBook line, plus a few business all-in-one systems for good measure. The one figure that was thrown out was that over 133,000 hours of testing goes into each ProBook, EliteBook, and ZBook that comes out, which is all done to ensure high reliability and compatibility. The demonstrations were a bit more mundane, unfortunately.

First up was a demonstration of… a fingerprint scanner. I could almost see the eyes of the various editors glaze over on this one. I'm pretty sure everyone is familiar with how fingerprint scanners work, and other than some additional behind-the-scenes work that HP apparently does to ensure their systems are secure, there wasn't much to add.

More interesting was the new feature being rolled out in the latest ZBook and ProBook systems. Dubbed HP Stratus, it's not exactly a revolution, but HP's newest mobile workstations will now support the ability to download and update the BIOS, all from within the UEFI environment. That means full Internet access will work, and the software will be able to connect to HP's servers, check for a new version of the BIOS – and it will know exactly what model of hardware you're using, so no guesswork on the part of the user is required – and update the BIOS. I've seen the ability to flash the BIOS in quite a few laptops and motherboards now, but I'm not sure I've encountered any that allow you to download BIOS updates directly.

A secondary technology related to this is HP Sure Start, a form of BIOS Recovery. First, there's now a second backup copy of the BIOS and firmware on the new systems. Various motherboards have had dual BIOS chips for a while, but not many laptops have included this feature to my knowledge. More importantly, each time the system is powered on, the two BIOS revisions are compared, and if there is any corruption in the primary BIOS – e.g. from a failed BIOS update, or a virus, or something else – the system will automatically recover from the backup master BIOS and then continue booting. And in the event of a BIOS update, the primary BIOS gets updated, and when the system reboots and everything validates properly, the master BIOS is then updated to match the primary BIOS.

It's not clear precisely how long the validations takes – HP said around five seconds I believe – and if a recovery is necessary it will add to the boot time, but that's better than a bricked laptop certainly. An indicator LED on the front of the chassis will light up if BIOS recovery is needed, and the result is that at least on these new mobile workstations (ZBook 15 and 17), updating the BIOS and potential BIOS corruption will largely be a thing of the past.

On our way to the next testing lab, we also passed through an assembly area for servers, which was basically a large warehouse full of parts and work areas. You can see images of this area in the above gallery as well.

HP Multimedia Lab HP Environmental Lab
POST A COMMENT

14 Comments

View All Comments

  • blackmagnum - Tuesday, July 01, 2014 - link

    Please consider whether the pictures should accompany their relevant paragraphs to give the article a more attractive reading layout? Reply
  • gostan - Tuesday, July 01, 2014 - link

    This tour shows you why HP is struggling. Look at those products! And of all the clips in this world, they picked Meg Whitman's interview!!?? Reply
  • aaronjgoodrich - Thursday, July 03, 2014 - link

    Explain your comment please? I can guess why you responded like you had.. but I would not like to assume. I need to hear you out first. Reply
  • HardwareDufus - Tuesday, July 01, 2014 - link

    These guys work in Little dungeons... tiny Little isolated cubes... it's difficult to interact with each other... They need to open those spaces up in the Multimedia Lab and Software Testing Lab.. Reply
  • vLsL2VnDmWjoTByaVLxb - Tuesday, July 01, 2014 - link

    I know the software validation ain't that great as I was stuck with an Elitebook 850 G1 for 6 months that could barely operate after hibernation/sleep. Called HP for support and they were useless.

    ftp://ftp.hp.com/pub/softpaq//sp66001-66500/sp6611... Is the issue/fix in detail, long after HP had told me again and again it was on my side. Kinda shameful I wasted so many hours on trying to fix that or that a bug that large actually exists. HP used to be such a great engineering company!
    Reply
  • aaronjgoodrich - Thursday, July 03, 2014 - link

    Wait, so a software fix which was readily available but not applied to your system is "HP's" engineering issue? I think that's a common sense issue there. No hardware was failing. It was a software issue. Plain as day from the link you provided. Maybe you hadn't applied all the hotfixes/patches to the system you were working on? "Synaptics TouchPad/ForcePad Driver " isn't a problem with engineering of hardware. Synaptics isn't HP. Think again. Reply
  • NikAwesome - Wednesday, July 09, 2014 - link

    They should be responsible because they chose that part. The whole "experience" should be tested and guaranteed by HP because it is their product. They care about HW and SW, that's why Apple has an enormous satisfaction customer ratio (at the cost of being proprietary and not-open, they are control freaks) Reply
  • NikAwesome - Wednesday, July 09, 2014 - link

    Edit: They should be responsible because they chose that part. The whole "experience" should be tested and guaranteed by HP because it is their product. They SHOULD care about HW and SW, that's why Apple has an enormous satisfaction customer ratio (at the cost of being proprietary and not-open, they are control freaks) Reply
  • vLsL2VnDmWjoTByaVLxb - Thursday, July 31, 2014 - link

    The issue existed for 5 months. I was able to repeat it on other hardware. HP refused to look into it. That is a breakdown in engineering AND support.

    "No hardware was failing. It was a software issue."
    You do realize that HP encompasses both sides of the spectrum, right?

    "Maybe you hadn't applied all the hotfixes/patches to the system you were working on?"
    I had, of course. That is newb 101 tech stuff to try, dude.

    ""Synaptics TouchPad/ForcePad Driver " isn't a problem with engineering of hardware. Synaptics isn't HP. "

    One wonders why HP would allow faulty software to come with their hardware? Dual edged sword. HP lost quite a bit of revenue based on their response to this one issue. Engineering (improper validation for basic functionality) and support (Customer couldn't possibly be right on this one) fail.
    Reply
  • Samus - Tuesday, July 01, 2014 - link

    Coming from the family Tandy 1000SL 8086, my Dad knew I needed a new PC, one to myself, and one day he came home with a Compaq Prolinea 4/25s. My first PC.

    After a SoundBlasterCD kit to add audio and CD-ROM, 8MB memory upgrade and a 500MB Maxtor hard drive to upgrade the 120GB Quantum, it had seem to reach its limits.

    Until I got a 486/75MHz overdrive chip for my birthday.

    And what was really facinating about this upgrade was a jumper on the motherboard that selected between 25MHz and 33MHz. Curiously, I moved it to 33MHz, and all the sudden, I had a 486/100MHz Overdrive (something the PC wasn't, on paper, capable of.)

    My first "overclock" and on an OEM system. That was a great PC. Eventually I ran OS/2 Warp, then Windows 95. Around the time Windows 98 came out, I built my first PC with an ASUS motherboard and an AMD K5 chip, which I also mildly overclocked to 120MHz from 100MHz. It wouldn't run 133MHz without eventually freezing ;)

    Good times. Ever since, I've been a big fan of Compaq "enterprise-grade" hardware, which today we know as HP Proliant servers, the best selling servers in the world. They're annoyingly proprietary with their drive rails, Softpaq drivers, and torx screws, but having owned a Prolinea 20 years ago, I've been used to that since.

    I'm glad to know a lot of the engineers that evaluated my first PC are still at HP. Because I found it at my parents house a few years ago and fired it up, and it booted right to the Windows 95 desktop with Rise of the Triad, Warcraft 2, and Big Red Racing for good measure.
    Reply

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now