Tuesday, March 3, 2009

One laptop was so sloooooooooooow!!

One of our laptops was behaving strangely; when one person used it, initially it behaved reasonably, but after a while the performance was really slow - like waiting minutes for a simple backup.

We thought that there was a magical touch since one of our volunteers did not have a problem, but other volunteers could not get it to work.

Our IT staff did everything we could could to clean out the temp directory, getting rid of temporary files, and running the defragmanter to defragment the file system.
Then we started up task manager ato look at the processes, and commit memory charge was approximately 260 Mb without any applications running. We looked at the physical memory and it was 256 Mb.

On looking through the TaxWise support site we found that the minimum required system configuration was 256 Mb for TaxWise 2007 and 512 Mb for a recommended system.

Taxwise Customer support site Knowledge Base says that for TaxWise 2007,
Minimum System Requirements for TaxWise Products:
800 MHz processor
Windows XP Professional or Windows 2000 Professional (Service Pack 4)
256 MB of RAM
1 GB of available hard drive space
8X speed CD-ROM
800 X 600 color monitor with 16-bit color video card
56K Internet connection (Internet access required)
100% HP compatible printer
Internet Explorer 6.0

Volunteer e-File Administrator Guide Publication 1384 for Tax Year 2008 shows the requirements for TaxWise for "FY2009 Recommended Minimum Operating System Requirements for use of TaxWise" to be 128 Mb or Ram for both Taxwise Desktop Version and TaxWis Online Version.

From Microsoft's support website:
Windows XP Professional System Requirements
Published: August 24, 2001

Get Windows XP Professional on a New Computer
Order from one of several computer manufacturers.

Here's What You Need to Use Windows XP Professional
• PC with 300 megahertz or higher processor clock speed recommended; 233 MHz minimum required (single or dual processor system);* Intel Pentium/Celeron family, or AMD K6/Athlon/Duron family, or compatible processor recommended

• 128 megabytes (MB) of RAM or higher recommended (64 MB minimum supported; may limit performance and some features)

• 1.5 gigabytes (GB) of available hard disk space*

• Super VGA (800 x 600) or higher-resolution video adapter and monitor

• CD-ROM or DVD drive

• Keyboard and Microsoft Mouse or compatible pointing device

From http://www.taxwise.com/products/sys.html,

Minimum System Requirements for TaxWise Products for Tax Year 2008

Microsoft® Windows XP (with the latest service pack) or Microsoft® Windows Vista (32-bit operating systems only)
800 MHz processor
512 MB of RAM
1 GB of available hard drive space (per tax year)
8X speed CD-ROM
800 X 600 color monitor with 16-bit color video card
Microsoft® Internet Explorer 7.0 (with the latest service pack)
56K Internet connection (Internet access required)
PCL6 compatible printer
Ethernet network card (required for network installations only)
Adobe Reader (version 8.1 or higher)

No wonder we were having performance problems; fortunately, an email to the IRS Depot brought a quick telephone response from the technician in charge of testing and loading up the software, who agreed to send out a replacement laptop with 512 Mb of Ram right away.

She told me something that all of us should take to heart - which is, when you send back a laptop, put a note with the laptop indicating what you thought the problem was, so they could troubleshoot it quickly. Despite the email systems, ticket numbers and all the forms filled up, that information does not seem to get to the technician actually doing the job.

I also learned that laptops came from many sources, including those that revenue officers had used before, and after loading, was tested to make sure it was working. From the time they left the depot to the time they reached the site, there seemed to be lots of mishaps.

Of 4 IRS provided laptops for the 2008 Tax Season, 3 of them were returned for replacements. The above was the reason for one of them. The other two needed to be returned because one had seen so much use that the keys were worn out, and unusable by hunt and peck typists and a battery that would not hold a charge; another one was returned because when turned on it could not find a system file and continue booting up.

It appears that because of the economy problems, IT and computer equipment budgets have been cut, and the depot is doing its best to refurbish and send out laptops as needed.

This may suggest that rather than asking for additional software to be imaged on IRS Depot Laptops, perhaps we should be looking for loaded software to be reduced.

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