Category Archives: Computer

What Was Your First Computer?

Patron Jeremy Abad is curious about my first computer build. You, too, can become a Patron and receive priority answers to your questions!

What was your first computer build and do you remember the specs?

Can’t remember.

Not to say that the custom-built PC was forgettable, mind you. I remember getting all the parts, putting it together, booting it up for the first time, and using it daily for several years.

It was fast and it got the job done. That’s what I always wanted a computer to do, and (largely) what I will likely want my future computers to do for the rest of my life.

I’m not being flippant, either. Some people care about specs, but I only care about them so far as how they’ll enable me to have something that I want. The speed of a processor is insignificant compared to what you’re able to do with it.

“What you’re able to do with it” doesn’t really have a sexy label, though.

I think it was an Intel something-rather?

What Was Your First Computer?

How Many Computers Do You Use?

Chris Eldridge asked:

Do you ever actually even try to use the random computers around your house, or have you given up on that effort entirely, as I have in my house?

You’d be surprised at how many of them I actually use on a regular basis. Yes, I tend to use the ones at/on my desk the most, of course. But the others get put to use, as well!

For instance, the machine that sits down in the kitchen at the little built-in desk is used often when I’m downstairs and have something I need to do. I’m not the only one who uses that one – it gets used by whoever may be in the house! When my assistant Kat stays here for a conference or something that we’re doing, that’s the machine she uses to work!

The one over on the other desk in my workshop isn’t used much, sadly. I just don’t have a specific purpose for it, but I DO sit there and mess around at times. I just need to figure out what to USE it for.

How many machines are in YOUR house, and do you use them all? If so, do they each have their own purpose?

How Many Computers Do You Use?

Thunderbolt External Hard Drive Suggestions?

Lenny Frasier writes:

Hey, Chris. I’m in the market for a newer, larger external storage solution for my MacBook Pro. I need at least 4 TB, and would love to utilize the Thunderbolt 2 ports on the MBP while keeping the cost fairly low. Do you have any ideas or suggestions? Thanks for all you do for us. It’s greatly appreciated and, as always, I enjoy watching everything you do.

Thanks for the support, Lenny!

My suggestion would be going with a Seagate option, if only because its external storage devices have been set up to accept swappable adapters, which ensures forward and cross-system compatibility (should you ever need it).

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.