HP Labs: the Science of Technologyby Jarred Walton on July 1, 2014 6:00 AM EST
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.