Category Archives: Computer

Which MacBook Pro Should I Buy?

If there is one question that I get asked every day through my email and various social network channels (aside from Mac vs. PC), it’s whether or not a 13 or 15 inch MacBook Pro is better. Each has their own set of pros and cons, and in the end it comes down to which machine meets the needs of the user better.

When Robert decided to make the switch and go with a MacBook Pro, he found himself facing the same question, “Which MacBook Pro shout I buy?” So, we decided to make a video.

The 13-inch MacBook Pro comes with a significant price drop compared to its slightly larger 15-inch sibling. Part of the reason for this difference in price is the processing power. The 15-inch MacBook Pro allows for a quad-core i7 processor while the 13 is only upgradable to a 2.7GHz dual-core i7. The differences in performance between the two are notable, but only in cases where you’re actually causing some strain on the cores. For basic tasks like web browsing, light gaming, and listening to music – this may not present enough incentive to go with the 15-inch model.

Another difference between the 13 and 15-inch Macbooks can be found in how they handle graphics. Gamers especially will appreciate the AMD Radeon 6490M or 6750M and the potential they have for delivering high-quality graphics to the screen. The 13-inch MacBook Pro relies on the graphics provided by the Intel HD 3000.

Both models support solid-state drives, which currently provide the best performance over traditional platter-driven options. If you need more storage space for less, the 13-inch tops out at 500GB while the 15-inch offers a 750GB 5400-rpm option.

The most noticeable difference between the two is overall screen size and resolution. The 13.3-inch LED-backlit glossy display will give you portability while sacrificing resolution at 1280×800 compared to the 15.4-inch at 1440×900. The 15.4-inch also offers a high-resolution glossy and antiglare options which increase the pixel count up to 1680×1050.

Overall, the two notebooks are very similar. They share the same build quality, operating system, options and many accessories. The decision between them comes down to cost and portability vs. performance. If you really need a high-performance laptop and portability isn’t as big of a factor to you, the 15-inch would likely be your better choice. For Robert, who takes his notebook with him to school every day, the portability and lower price mades the 13-inch MacBook the best option.

Are You Using the Best Wireless Channel?

Setting the right wireless channel on your router can make a big difference on how well your Wi-Fi connection works. While most users may be just fine with whatever the default settings may be, others can experience frequent packet drops resulting in the appearance of an unstable or even unusable connection.

These issues can be caused by a number of factors. Other networks, electronics, and even your neighbor’s equipment could be interfering with your router’s ability to maintain a solid connection with your various devices. This interference can cause confusion between devices similar to a couple trying to carry on a conversation at a crowded location. While you may be focused on the person in front of you, making it easier to hear them than the background, an occasional shout or holler can interrupt the conversation and break the chain of communication.

If you’re having occasional problems with your wireless connectivity, you might consider switching channels and giving the new space a try. A good method for testing the new setting is by doing a speed test and comparing the results to other channels. Run the test several times in order to determine consistency in cases where problems may come and go frequently.

More popular Wi-Fi channels tend to be the best to avoid as they are usually the most crowded and prone to interfere. These include 2, 6, and 11 which are commonly used as defaults on some of the more prominent router brands. If your router gives you the option of allowing it to automatically find and set the best channel for you, this is usually the best way to go. The router will check each channel for traffic and connectivity potential before deciding on what it determines is the best option for you.

One useful tool for figuring out which channel is best in your specific location is a Wifi analyzer. This can come in the form of a dedicated device or an app for your smartphone that uses a Wi-Fi connection. Android has a popular free spectrum analyzer available to it aptly called “Wifi Analyzer“. This program checks various channels on the spectrum and allows you to do connectivity checks as you switch between them.

This is just one of several tips and tricks that can help you improve the stability of your wireless network at home. What are your wireless tips? Do you know any tricks that can help strengthen the connection?

Why Windows 7 is Better Than Vista

Macmanmcmanaman, a member of the LockerGnome.net community asked, “Is there any reason to use Vista over a different Windows OS?” This is a good question, and the answer is very simple. No, there is no reason to use Windows Vista at this point in time.

Windows Vista was this generation’s Millenium Edition. It was bloated, slow, and half-baked. Windows 7 actually runs better on older hardware than Windows Vista does. For the first time in the history of Windows, a newer generation OS actually had lower system requirements than the one before it. This was because Microsoft had to throw out the majority of Vista’s bulk in order to fix what was clearly broken. They did this in an incredibly fast pace, releasing Windows 7 as quickly as they could. They even offered users the ability to upgrade to the beta a year before they released the final version.

Microsoft has had its failures in the past. Do I need to mention Microsoft Bob, or Windows ME?

I love Windows 7, and I have done many videos in the past demonstrating some of its amazing features. I was a huge supporter of Windows for most of my life. My entire reputation was put on the line when, after a significant amount of time spent on Vista, I decided to make the switch to OS X as my primary operating system. Viewers of the live feed watched as Vista crashed again and again, often during tapings.

Windows 7 is an excellent overall user experience. There is no reason to stay on Vista when Windows 7 is remarkably improved in every area Vista failed to deliver. Better networking, graphics, system navigation, task bar, and overall optimization are just a few reasons why Windows 7 is better than Vista.

I can not wait for the next version of Windows. The potential brought on by the decision to integrate HTML 5 and CSS 3 in to the core user experience is vast. Windows 8 may convince me to switch back if it delivers on its promises. Vista is a lost cause, and Microsoft recognizes that. It’s a major reason support for XP was extended for so long.

What do you think? Is Windows 7 better that Vista? Do you think Vista is better? Why, or why not?

How to Control Your Windows Desktop With Kinect

The Minority Report featured some incredible theoretical technologies, some of which have continued to interest geeks for years. One of these technologies was a system in which you are able to interact with the user-interface with a few hand gestures Now, imagine if you were able to control Windows 7 in much the same way. Wouldn’t that be a worthwhile project to check out?

LockerGnome community member Kevin Connolly has managed to recreate this using the Kinect SDK in a project he calls the KinectNUI (Natural User Interface). Currently, the project works with a single Kinect and any modern Windows PC.

With a swipe of your hand, you are able to switch between active windows, zoom in and out, more. While zoomed in, the Kinect will follow your movements as you walk around the room and allow you to scroll vertically using your left hand.

Future plans for the project include a pie menu to allow you to control your system in greater detail. This feature is expected to work in a similar manor to the pie menu featured in the Sims.

If you don’t like the computer responding to your every gesture, you can turn gestures on and off with a single vertical movement of your arms.

Without a doubt, this project (and others like it) have demonstrated the potential for relatively inexpensive devices like the Kinect to change the way we think about interacting with our computers.

What started as a device that took the principals of motion-controlled gaming to a new level by removing the need of a physical handheld controller is now beginning to bring to question whether or not this kind of device could actually replace the keyboard and mouse and change the landscape of computing as we know it today. While the physical technology may not be there just yet, it’s pretty interesting to think of what’s ahead.

More information about this project can be found on Kevin’s website as well as on his YouTube channel, Tsilb.

Can the Nook Color Compete With Other Android Tablets?

Jake Ludington of LockerGnome is looking for a tablet small enough to fit in his cargo pants pocket with the capability to run Android apps. The Nook Color by Barnes and Noble may be exactly what he needs to get the job done. So, can the Nook compete with other Android tablets?

With a 7-inch screen, the Nook Color is slightly more compact than many of the other tablets out there. As an ebook reader, the screen is just right for reading text on a page-to-page basis. In fact, the Nook’s screen is bigger than its biggest competitor, the Kindle, which sits at 6 inches. This makes it small enough to fit in a cargo pants pocket, which is exactly what Jake was looking for. Colors are vibrant and vidid on the 1024×600 display. When compared to the slightly more powerful Archos 70 ($335), the Nook ($249) actually features a higher-resolution.

One important note here is that the Nook is powered by Android, but not all of Android’s features are made available to the user out of the box. In order to unlock the full potential of the Android installation, the user needs to root (think Jailbreaking) the device. This may void your warranty, but if an inexpensive Android tablet is what you’re looking for, this can make it possible.

If you are planning to use the Nook as an Android device rather than a book reader, you may want to keep in mind that the Nook has an underpowered processor when compared to other Android tablets. The ARM Cortex-A8 processor (800MHz) is about as powerful as one you might have found in the very first generation of Android phones. Though it certainly doesn’t compete as strongly with the Xoom or Samsung Galaxy tablets, it is capable of handling basic tasks such as email, web browsing, etc.

At this point, price for performance on the Nook may beat everything currently out on the market. At $249, you essentially have a capable Android tablet with a decent screen and build quality. Though underpowered by today’s standards, and really just an ebook reader at heart, it can deliver more bang for your buck than even the incredibly disappointing $99 Maylong tablet.

Is Processing Power Becoming Less Important?

A member of the LockerGnome community sent in the question, “As more and more of our programs become web apps, do you think speed and processing power is losing importance in the computing world?”

As more and more of our programs are becoming web apps, the importance of processing power comes in to question. Is processing power becoming less important?

Web apps typically require very little in terms of actual hardware speed to run. In fact, the majority of the computational work is done by the host in the cloud. This leaves your system with the simple task of displaying the data and giving you a method to make changes.

Internet speed seems to be the thing you notice first. A slow connection to the web can put a huge damper on your experience in more situations than mediocre system specs. In today’s world, you need a fast Internet connection.

There are several types of users that will still require faster hardware. Gamers will still hunger for the biggest and the best systems as graphics continue to increase in complexity. Gaming worlds are becoming large enough to require more RAM and CPU speed.

Video and photo editors also benefit from better-equipped systems. HD video takes its toll on slower systems during editing and encoding. Programs like Motion and After Effects are incredibly huge CPU hogs, and there is no question that a slower system would bring their efforts to a crawl.

Still, for the majority of average users out there, having a faster Internet connection will have more of an impact on their experience than the latest and greatest CPU. This may be one of the biggest reasons behind the widespread acceptance of netbooks and nettop computers with underpowered processors and lackluster specs. These machines are extremely slow by today’s standards. All they really need is enough power to run a browser.

Which would you rather have: a slower computer and a super fast Internet connection, or a super fast computer and a slow Internet connection?

Is the Samsung Chromebook Worth It?

Google Chromebooks are out, and the trimmed-down operating system is starting to receive some mixed reviews from the tech community. So, are they any good? Is the Samsung Chromebook worth it?

In a previous video and blog post, I went over the expectations set by Google. They announced several different methods of obtaining one of these notebooks, including a leasing program that gives users access to the hardware without a lot of money.

If you want to buy one outright, you’re currently looking at a price between $430 and $500, which puts it at a point above many netbooks and tablet computers, which offer roughly the same access to web apps as the Chromebook itself.

The Samsung Chromebook line has two colors to choose from, white and Titan Silver (shipping soon), with optional 3G capabilities which up the asking price from $430 to $500. This difference in price isn’t surprising, and could be considered modest given the typical price difference for 3G capabilities.

A lot of the heat from reviewers stems from the fact that the price matches that of other systems that can run the Chrome and Chromium browsers that give the user virtually the same experience for a lot less money. Atom processors, 16GB solid state drive, and 2GB of RAM are all traits commonly found on netbooks.

One area where Samsung’s Chromebook might have an edge is in battery life. With a promised 8.5 hours, it promises greater long-term portability than many portables in its class. This is due, in part, to an extremely trim operating system which focuses the majority of its processing power on a simple browser without the bloat other operating systems require.

It’s important to note here that the Chrome OS is still in its infancy. Google is constantly tweaking and changing it to meet the needs of its customers. Early adopters of any operating system or platform can expect at least some degree of frustration. If you have some degree of patience, and enjoy the idea of being one of the first to switch to something new, then the Chromebook might be worth taking a look at.

With a list of positives including the ability to keep your data, even in the event of a complete hard drive failure, it is easy to overlook the challenges involved with working in a cloud-based environment. Without an active connection to the web, the Chromebook is really not much more than a paperweight. In some ways, the greatest strengths of the Chrome OS are also some of its biggest weaknesses.

When is the Right Time to Upgrade Your PC?

Do you upgrade your computer yearly? How about monthly? Do you upgrade only when your current system breaks down or stops running the newest applications? There is a big debate among computer users as to when the best, and most cost-effective time is to upgrade. In a recent discussion, Brandon and Jake were asked the question, “When is it time to upgrade your PC?”

Brandon believes in upgrading your system components, rather than buying a new computer every time new technology becomes available. By keeping track of when Intel and/or AMD come out with a new socket, he is able to determine whether or not a new motherboard needs to be purchased when buying a new processor.

Jake, on the other hand, buys an entirely new system yearly. By doing this, he enjoys an entire set of updated features including bigger hard drives, newer optical drive technology, and faster processing without the hassle of having to buy new individual pieces.

For most users, a simple upgrade here and there to a desktop PC on a regular basis can be enough to for them to get by for years. Costs are relatively low in comparison, and you have more ability to get exactly what you need, rather than what the OEM is willing to include.

A gamer might find a yearly total upgrade more cost-effective given the somewhat low prices for bundled hardware available today. Video cards, RAM, CPU, Motherboards, and sound cards all fall under a serious gamer’s radar in terms of desired performance increase.

While there are certain advantages to each camp in this seemingly eternal debate between geeks, one thing mostly everyone can agree on is that maintaining a basic knowledge of current technologies can come in handy when it does come time to pick up new hardware. Knowing the advantages to SSD over a traditional drive can help determine whether or not the investment is ultimately worthwhile.

If you decide to upgrade components rather than an entire system, keep in mind that everything needs to be compatible. Buying a SATA drive for a motherboard that only supports older connections can cause a real headache as users discover the incompatibility. More modern PC memory may not be recognized or run properly in an older motherboard. An out-of-date BIOS can fail to recognize newer components entirely, which may result in the appearance of broken hardware when a simple update can resolve the problem entirely.

What do you think? When is it time to upgrade your PC? Please leave a comment below with your opinion on the topic.