Tag Archives: Computer

What’s the Worst That Could Happen?

One of the things I read today on our family of sites is a thread over on Geeks asking what the worst thing is that has ever happened to a computer of yours. Oh boy did that ever get me to thinking. Sadly, some of the “worst” things that have happened to me all show up somewhere out there in YouTube land. I guess maybe it was the time Wicket threw up all over my Macbook. That may not have broken anything – but it certainly was disgusting!

In all my years of doing this stuff, I’ve heard thousands of “computer boohoo” stories. Things break – or we break them ourselves. What’s the worst thing that’s ever happened to a machine of yours? Was it your fault, or just plain bad luck? Leave a comment and tell us your story! And while you’re thinking of what to say – make sure you check out what else is going on in our Geek realm.

Things to Consider When Building Your Own PC

Geek!This is Calvin’s submission for the HP Magic Giveaway. Feel free to leave comments for this article as you see fit – your feedback is certainly welcomed! If you’d like to submit your own how-to, what-is, or top-five list, you can send it to me. Views and opinions of this writer are not necessarily my own:

These days, more people are building their own computers rather than buying them from a retailer. I built myself a new computer back in August. My experience was mostly flawless, and those minor problems I did have were quickly fixed. Perhaps you’re looking at getting a new computer, and giving thought to building your own? Here are five tips that I believe will help you.

  1. Know what you need. Generally, when you’re building your own computer, you’ll need a motherboard, processor, RAM, video card, optical drive, hard drive, power supply, and a case. You may also need a keyboard, mouse, or monitor, depending on what peripherals you’ve got laying around. There are also extras like TV tuners, media card readers, and dedicated sound cards, which all can improve your PC experience, but you don’t need them – and not buying them can lower your purchase price.
  2. Don’t forget the operating system! While buying components, it’s very easy to forget to pick up an OS. Unless you’re going with Linux, it’s usually easier to buy the OS from the same place you’re getting the parts from, at the same time (so you don’t forget). You’ll probably want a copy of Windows Vista, which is Microsoft’s latest operating system. You can go with 32-bit or 64-bit versions, but unless you’re truly using more than 2GB of RAM, you should go with the 32-bit edition.
  3. Don’t put all of your money into one component. You can easily spend ~$500 on a graphics card. Unless you’re doing extreme gaming, you probably won’t need a top-of-the-line graphics card. The same goes for processors — even though the price-per-gigahertz is getting lower by the day, you still probably don’t need the high-end model. Remember: you don’t HAVE to buy the best out there to have a great computer.
  4. Don’t spend more than $100 on a motherboard. Unless you’re going to overclock (which you probably aren’t), you don’t really need all the special features that the more expensive boards sport. In many cases, the cheaper ones will perform just as good as their pricier counterparts – and they should give you all the options you might need. When buying a motherboard, make sure that the socket is the same as your processor, the RAM speed is compatible, it has at least two SATA ports (for the hard disk and optical drive), and that it has at least one PCI-Express x16 slot (the long one) for your graphics card.
  5. Shop around. If you stay patient and persistent, you can find some pretty great deals on the hardware you’re buying. Online retailers through TagJag.com provide regular discounts on their products, and coupons.lockergnome.com offers coupon codes to lower the price even more. Buying online will generally be cheaper than buying in-store, and you usually won’t have to pay taxes on what you buy. Some products also have manufacturer rebates on them, so be sure to print those out and send those in to save even more money!

Hopefully these tips will help you with your new machine. Also remember to have fun. It can be quite an enjoyable experience – to put together your own machine, and then see it run for the first time. If you do experience a problem, there are tons of hardware and PC-building forums out there that would be happy to help you. And of course, if you have any questions, ask! Good luck!

The Most Notable Obsolete Computer Platforms

Geek!This is Brian Patrie’s submission for the HP Magic Giveaway. Feel free to leave comments for this article as you see fit – your feedback is certainly welcomed! If you’d like to submit your own how-to, what-is, or top-five list, you can send it to me. Views and opinions of this writer are not necessarily my own:

Before 64-bit. Before 32-bit. Before even those old archaic 16-bit machines of the mid to late ’80s. We used 8-bit microcomputers. Okay, before that there was 4-bit; but I’m not that old. By 8-bit, I mean fully 8-bit. The 8088 CPU had an 8-bit external data bus; but internally it was the 16-bit 8086.

Here is a hastily compiled list of a few noteworthy machines from the heyday of 8-bit computing in the mid 1970s through mid 1980s.

I’ll start with the Apple II—mainly because it was the first micro that I ever knew. I was immediately enthralled with the idea of being able to make it into anything that I could programme it to be. Electronic Lego-blocks, I called it. Eventually I got my hands on the Apple ][ / ][ Plus Technical Reference Manual, and read of an electronic logic ecosystem that didn’t waste a single gate. Its wide open architecture made it a hit with hardware hackers (and, no doubt, made hardware hackers of many of its initiates). Its handling of addresse decoding on the motherboard made it a simple matter of checking one of two lines for a card to detect that its memory or i/o space was being addressed. It did have some limitations compared to some of its later contemporaries, such as monochrome text, and some bizarre graphics idiosyncracies (things that Apple were slow to improve, due to being distracted by other major projects, like the Apple III, Lisa, and Macintosh). But it was a great machine, nonetheless.

It’s fairly predictable that the Commodore 64 would turn up in the list. It’s most obvious strength was its price—which made it one of the most popular personal computers of its time. For a few-hundred bucks, you could have a working system. Its design didn’t match the austere elegance of the Apple II; but it had some attractive features beyond it, including chroma/luma video output (which is what s-video is), multicolourable text (limited to one background colour for the whole screen), and sprites. It made for an attractive game platform. (I gather that Commodore did attempt to market a C-64 based game console; but it failed miserably.) The worst criticism that I have of the C-64 is the disk-unfriendly initial user interface. Starting a programme from disk required a rather cumbersome LOAD “*”,8 followed by RUN (versus the short and sweet 6 ctrl-p of the Apple II, or nothing for the auto-starting II Plus). And when developing a BASIC programme, one had to specify the device number for every stinking SAVE. (I was spoiled by the Apple II’s feature of remembering the last drive you used.) It was also impossible (without 3rd party software) to list a disk directory without stepping on the BASIC programme in memory. (I confess, though, that the directory-as-a-BASIC-programme was a cute trick.) These things may seem trivial; but they were enough of an annoyance to turn me off to an otherwise reasonably attractive platform.

Most people never heard of the Panasonic JR-200U. A friend of mine found one at a yard sale, and it ended up in my hands. Apparently it had a bit of a following in Japan and Europe (where it was usually sold under the National brand). It sported many of the features of the C-64, plus the ability to colour the background on a per character basis. Unfortunately its display was only 32×24 characters (versus the 40×24 of the C-64 and early Apple II,II+ and 80×24 of the later Commodore models and Apple IIs). It also had an 8 colour 2×2 per character block graphics mode that allowed any text character cell to display 4 independently coloured blocks, along with some higher resolution modes that acted like colour custom character sets. One of the little things that made me smile was the ability to use hexadecimal numbers simply by prefixing them with a $ (the old Berkley convention). This could also be used with the val function to convert a string to decimal within a programme; and there was a hex$ function that worked like str$ to convert the other way.

The Kyocera Kyotronic (best known in the guise of the TRS-80 Model 100) was one of the first notebook computers. The Epson HC-20 has the honour of being THE first; but its calculator-sized display was a bane to its popularity). The Kyotronic sported a 40×8 character display which made it practical for basic word processing. It’s ability to run for several hours on a handful of AA cells made it particularly popular with field journalists. it came in 16 and 32kB RAM configurations—the rest of its 64kB addresse space being reserved for firmware modules that contained application software. (It is also noteworthy as the last project to which Bill Gates personally contributed the majority of code.)

I should probably put the Sinclair ZX Spectrum (ZX-82) here; but I know almost nothing about it. Instead I’ll mention its predecessor, the Sinclair ZX-81. This was an extremely frugal machine that came with a whopping 1kB of RAM (expandable to 16 or 64k with one of two rather cantankerous modules, that you’d better not bump whilst in use). It was available assembled or in kit form. It had a 32 column monochrome text display with the curious feature of being firmware generated—which allowed software to take it over and produce highish resolution graphics. It’s not a machine that I would be terribly interested in using for anything anymore; but it warrants mention by virtue of being interesting and weird. (Maybe I should have included the TRS-80 or Atari 800 instead. But I’m not very up on those, either.)

How to Buy a Computer for Christmas

Geek!This is JB’s submission for the HP Magic Giveaway. Feel free to leave comments for this article as you see fit – your feedback is certainly welcomed! If you’d like to submit your own how-to, what-is, or top-five list, you can send it to me. Views and opinions of this writer are not necessarily my own:

As the tech guy of my family, family business, and my friends, I had the opportunity to put together and maintain several computers, some of which have been bought as presents. The difficulty is in creating a PC (or Mac) that is fit for the purpose it will be used for – all the while, sticking to a budget.

First of all, you need to know what the machine will be used for. The two typical cases are office and gaming, but it might be graphics work, on-demand television, or whatever. Let’s make some generalizations:

  • If the computer will only be used to run Word, it is safe to say that the cheapest option is the best option. Performance doesn’t really matter.
  • For everything else, there is MasterCard! Buying a top quality gaming rig is going to cost you… a lot. But some of us are on a tighter budget, and so your motto should be: spend as much as you can afford. But I have to warn you: computers are the WORST INVESTMENT EVER. Yes, even worse than Nigerian Treasury Bonds. Try not to overspend yourself.
  • If the present is for a child (by child, I mean under the age of 11), do not spend a fortune buying him/her a supercomputer that will never be used to its full potential. By the way, that will also help you keep your 8 year-old from playing violent games, as they tend to require better hardware.
  • If it will ONLY be used for gaming, consider a gaming console. Popular ones are: Microsoft Xbox, Sony PlayStation 3, and Nintendo Wii.
  • If you are giving it to someone who already owns a computer, try to check what kind of computer he/she has. This also avoids the blunder of buying a brand new computer that actually underperforms the previous one. Never buy a Mac user a PC and vice versa – unless you know he/she has been thinking about switching. Always check if he/she already has a monitor, a printer, etc. so you can avoid buying those devices and/or accessories.
  • Laptop or Desktop? Desktops are ideal for people who work at home, for children, for the elderly, and when high performance is needed. Laptops are better if he/she travels a lot or needs to work at more than one place. Laptops are also great gifts for students.

If you have done your research, you will face 3 options:

  • Build a PC yourself / Have it custom made by a professional. This is something I wouldn’t recommend – unless you count yourself among at least those so called “Power Users”. If you decide to pick the parts yourself, there are some tips below.
  • Buy a PC in your local store / on the Internet. Most people don’t bother, and buy a computer the same way they buy… toilet paper, for example. By looking at it. “This one looks good, it’s shiny, I will buy it”. And here comes the No. 1. Rule of buying computers: DO NOT PICK ONE ONLY BY ITS APPEARANCE. Yes, looks are important, but there are literally thousands of more important things in case of computers. Some tips when buying in a local store:
    • Ask a salesman. Don’t just tell him: “I am looking for a computer”. Tell him: “I am looking for a computer for my 98 year-old grandma, with…”
    • Don’t let them blackmail you. If they say it is the last one they have, tell them you can always buy one in another store. They will tell you: “No sir, not this one.” Trust me, the shop next door will be more than happy to find you a computer just like that. Set a budget, and don’t let them exceed it. If they insist on spending just $50 more, you will end up spending $500 more if you accept. Don’t buy it at first sight. Go to other stores, you may even find it helpful to ask: “What do you think about that computer they recommended me at the other store?” But don’t believe everything they say. Ask if they have a better deal.
    • Don’t let them persuade you to buy tons of accessories that no one really needs. If you don’t want another monitor, don’t buy one. Avoid expensive cables. No cable costs more than a couple of dollars to make, so if they say it’s a hundred, tell them to find you one for $3.
    • If you must take a loan, be informed. They might have a better deal than your credit card company.
  • Buying the computer online is also an option. Deals might be better, but you will need more confidence in the vendor as you only have raw specs to rely on.

Now, the debate of Mac vs. PC has been going on for years, but people fail to realize, Macs are (in fact) PCs. There is nothing you can’t do with a Mac that you can do with a PC. There is a joke hanging around the Internet about this: “Name one thing you can do with your PC that I can’t do with my Mac!” And the answer is: “Right-click” That’s not true (yes, Virginia, you really can right-click in OS X, the Mac’s operating system). Macs are compatible with almost all PC accessories, including mice. Actually, several Mac applications need the second mouse button to function better. So, when is it time to go Mac?

  • It is a first computer. Easier to learn and maintain, Macs are ideal first computers. Most first time users fall in love with that, not the user interface.
  • He/she already has a Mac.
  • You want something… aesthetically pleasing. Like something for a living room. Or for a storefront. iMacs are elegant all-in-one computing solutions, and you can’t beat the look.
  • You are buying a laptop / notebook computetr. This might start a civil war, but Macbooks are probably the best laptops on the market today. They are not cheap, maybe they don’t have the best performance, but they have great battery life, size, and weight. They are also sturdy.

Yes, yes – but how do you actually CHOOSE what to buy? Here are some tips regarding the choice of hardware:

  • Trust bigger brands, but not blindly. There are some companies whose names became synonymous with quality. They deliver excellent products, albeit sometimes not cheaply.
  • Graphics. If it’s office-type work, it’s fine to go with integrated an graphics card. It’s cheaper that way. For games, you’d want a dedicated video card. There are two brands worth mentioning on the market: nVidia and AMD/ATI. They only produce the chips however, and if you custom-build your PC, you will need to choose the card’s manufacturer as well. Bigger brands tend to work better here, too. Price and performance are in close relation. You can also buy more than one card into one PC (called CrossFire and SLI by ATI and nVidia, respectively). The prime factor to take into consideration is the size of the screen (to be specific, its resolution). The bigger the screen, the more power you will need to achieve the same speed and quality in games. Also consider the games that will be played on the computer. Action and RPG games tend to require more from the graphics card. Also, the bigger the screen, the more video memory you will need. 256 megabytes is fine for 17 inch displays and smaller, but you will need more for a 19, 20, 24 inch screen. You will likely need more than one card to card a 30 inch screen.
  • CPU. As much as Intel hates it, CPUs have reached a level of performance where more speed doesn’t really have any effect for everyday use. However, if the computer will be used for video or audio editing, hardcore gaming, 3D modeling, or any other demanding task, you are better off with a faster model. There are two manufacturers: Intel and AMD. AMD has traditionally offered a more affordable solution, while Intel has traditionally offered the fastest processors. To be honest, it doesn’t matter which one you have anymore.
  • Storage. The Bigger, the better. Don’t ever buy a computer with less than 200 gigabytes of storage capacity. Laptops are the exception, especially with SSD (a next-generation solid state storage device – faster, yet significantly more expensive). SSD lacks the volume capacity of its mechanical big brother, the traditional hard drive. SSD is, however, more quiet and energy efficient (no moving parts). SSD options are usually found only for laptop configurations these days.
  • Screen. First of all: go with LCD. If CRT still exists, it is an “ancient” technology that nobody wants today. Also, the bigger the screen, the better (and, the more expensive). Most people do not need to go bigger than 20 inches. Remember, you need a better video card if you have a bigger screen! Keep in mind, text does not appear larger on bigger screens. Don’t just buy a bigger screen to cope with sight problems. Get glasses. 😉

Bottom line? For standard office work, you can get a PC without a screen for less than $300. With everything included, it could be as low as $500 – $600. For gaming, a basic rig will cost you around $900 without a screen. But that’s pretty basic, so you might want to spend around $1600 – $2200 (at least) to get a decent system. With a 20 inch screen, that might be $2000 – $2500 total. Decent laptops start relatively low, so you might be able to get one for $500 – but you have to spend at least $1000 – $1200 to get one that is capable of gaming. Netbooks (lightweight laptops) start as low as $300, but their usability is sometimes seriously impaired. Of course, I don’t claim that these prices are 100% accurate, but they might give you a pretty good picture of how much you are likely to spend on a new computer this holiday season.

Top 5 Reasons to Switch to OS X

Geek!This is KY Wildcat’s submission for the HP Magic Giveaway. Feel free to leave comments for this article as you see fit – your feedback is certainly welcomed! If you’d like to submit your own how-to, what-is, or top-five list, you can send it to me. Views and opinions of this writer are not necessarily my own:

The topic of OS X vs. Windows has been in a long and drawn out heated debate for well over 4 years now with the introduction of Windows XP and Mac OS X. Windows users will tell you that your current software will not work on OS X and that you will be stuck with a mediocre OS doing mediocre tasks. Mac users on the other hand will tell you that you are missing out on a much more powerful user experience. Today, we will discuss the top 5 reasons (I think) you should switch to Mac OS X.

Reason 1: Beauty

This sounds weird when talking about an operating system… but when you are talking about OS X… this is true. Mac OS X, unlike Windows, takes the user’s experience into account. When you click a radio button, the OS responds to your click in an appropriate way. When you open an application, the dock will bounce the application’s icon to alert you that the application is “doing something”. Not only does the dock do this, but also other applications throughout the OS responds in similar ways.

Reason 2: Management

In Windows, when you need to manage a specific part of the OS, you have to search around to find the one dialog box to allow you to manage that part. In OS X, there is none of that. You open up System Preferences, and boom (as Steve Jobs would say), there every thing is! If you need to change a network preference, instead of having to search around the Control Panel, then to the Network Setup Wizard in Windows, you just click Network and everything is there. Also, if, by any chance, your computer does crash… don’t panic. With Time Machine and an External Hard Drive… there is no need to worry. Just pop in the OS X installation CD, choose restore, and that’s it. Wait for the system to restart and everything is back to the way it was. Did I mention that OS X does all this with out outside action? That means, in laymen’s terms, that OS X does that all for you. As soon as you plug in a External Hard Drive, OS X sees it and automatically starts backing up your entire system. It’s really great!

Reason 3: Multimedia

As you have previously read, OS X was designed with power in mind. However, OS X was also designed to be the hub of your digital life. Now, what is a digital life? A digital life is basically this: your music, your photos and your movies. That’s it! That’s a digital life. I know for a fact that just about all of you that read this have your digital photos and music somewhere on your computer. With Mac OS X’s built in applications such as iPhoto and iMovie, making a DVD for grandma or grandpa for Christmas could not be easier. On Windows, when you plug in a digital camera, you more than likely get that annoying dialog that asks you “Hey! What do you want to do!?” Then, you have to choose an option, choose where you want to put the photos, what you want to name them, then after all that… import. With OS X, there is none of that. You simply plug in a digital camera, iPhoto automatically opens, and imports your photos into a new set. Its that easy. Once you have the photos into iPhoto, and you want to make a slideshow DVD as a Christmas gift. just click the DVD button. OS X does all the rest for you. Enter a title, choose some background music, and press burn. That’s it. There is nothing else to do but to see the joy on grandma or grandpa’s face when they open up a gift that you made.

Reason 4: Making the Switch Can’t be Easier

Making the switch from a Windows PC to a Mac couldn’t be simpler. If you have a network, (and who doesn’t these days?) just connect the Mac, give it a name, and watch it show up in your network connections. Once its there, just drag and drop your files into the appropriate folder and watch them show up on your Mac. Another way to switch… your iPod. Most geeks have an iPod. If you have one with a large amount of storage, just enable disk mode, open up My Computer on the PC, then just drag and drop your files. Once they are on the iPod, just hook it up to the Mac, open the disk from the desktop, then simply drag and drop the files into the right folder on the Mac. Yet another way to switch is to use an External Hard Drive. Just hook up the drive and drag and drop like I mentioned above. Switching couldn’t be simpler.

Reason 5: Social Benefits

For whatever reason, a Mac seems to have a social benefit that follows them wherever they go. I have a MacBook Pro and a MacBook Air. Anytime I go to Starbucks or to any of the many small cafés around Louisville, I get asked all the time, “What kind of computer is that?” “Where can I get one of those?” Those are just a few of the questions that I get asked all the time. People want a Mac! Put simply, they are cool. People view them as a cool addition to any person. A Mac can boost your self-esteem and also your view from other people.

Mac OS X is more than just a operating system… it’s a way of life. I know that sounds weird, but as soon as you use a Mac, I promise you, you will never go back!! If you are a Windows user… I want to hear from you! I want you to disagree with me! I want you to tell me why I am wrong. If you hate Apple.. I want you to tell me why! Click the comments button… Let me know! I want to hear from you!

My wife, colleagues, and I will be awarding the computers (if I win) to a charity of our choice. Not only will that charity receive over FIVE THOUSAND DOLLARS worth of brand new computer equipment from HP, but I’ll be MATCHING the cost of the computers ($5000) and awarding that to a local charity, also of choice. In order for the charities to receive their awards, we need your help. Please post a comment in the comments section and help us make the day of a local charity.

Things to Remember When Calling Tech Support

Geek!This is Gord’s submission for the HP Magic Giveaway. Feel free to leave comments for this article as you see fit – your feedback is certainly welcomed! If you’d like to submit your own how-to, what-is, or top-five list, you can send it to me. Views and opinions of this writer are not necessarily my own:

Have you ever worked in Tech Support? I have for the past 7 years. Now, I know that the highest suicide rate for a profession is air traffic controllers. I’m not so sure they took into account those of us who work the trenches of tech support every day. There is quite often someone on the line who makes me ask my co-worker if they managed to get a gun past security so they can shoot me. What’s so bad about working in tech support? Just a few simple things to keep in mind next time you call…

  1. Yelling gets you nowhere. We know you are frustrated, we know you are having a problem. Why else would you be calling? I can’t recall a customer ever calling in just to tell me “everything is working fine, just though I’d call and let you know.” We are there to help you. It’s much easier to help you if we can communicate in an adult manner. Oh and when you yell we just mute the microphone and mock you to our coworkers or start cussing.
  2. Read the warranty. You’re not getting a new product because you’re having your first problem ever. You’re not getting your money back when you’ve had the product for 6 months and have now decided you don’t like it. The warranties cover defects in manufacturing and workmanship. They do not cover your frustration of how much time you’ve spent on the phone with us or how many times you’ve called in for support. Stop asking for the ridiculous to happen.
  3. It’s tech support, not computers 101. We are NOT there to teach you how to use your product. Having a problem with a mail merge? Don’t know how to burn a CD? Unsure of how to add an attachment in your email? Well you know what? TOO BAD! We are there to make sure you product is in working condition. If you don’t know how to do something, check the help file, take a course, google it or ask your 12 year-old nephew.
  4. Did you write down the error message? So you’re calling for some help because you received an error message on your screen. Great that will help us find a resolution to your problem faster. When we ask what the error message says, “I don’t know” is not the correct answer. For the love of all that’s good, write down the message. Better yet call us with the message on your screen, when it happens.
  5. Be in front of your computer. Now this is the biggest one of them all. You want help. Be in front of your product or at least within a reasonable walking distance of it. No one can help you when you’re at work or on vacation and your product is at home. Tech support is a two-way street, yes we can help but we need your participation. There is no magic way for us to access your product. There is not a hidden button that we can press to fix the problem. Odds are the resolution to your problem is more than “turn it off and turn it back on.” Be in front of the computer. Is that too much to ask?

So want to make someone’s day go a little better? Next time you call in for tech support keep these things in mind. If you do, the person on the other end may sound a little less frustrated. We want to help you, that’s why we are in the business. Please help us help you.

Some People Are Happy with Their PCs

This guest blog post comes courtesy of ‘Leo’ – with his punctuation, usage, spelling, and grammar intact…

For the last couple of years I have been observing people over and over again bash Microsoft and its products. While some of these criticisms were valid, most of the negative remarks were grossly exaggerated. I think most of the disapproval came from the problems with vista’s launch and apple’s commercials. While there are apple products I like, I own an ipod touch and would buy an iphone if it were not on at&t’s service, I am more than happy with my pc and don’t really see a compelling reason to switch. Below are the top 5 reasons I will be staying with my pc.

Software – Like it or not there are more software options in the windows ecosystem. Paid or free, software availability is definitely more plentiful on the windows side of the fence. I don’t really believe that a convincing argument can be made about which platform has the better application whether it be linux, mac, or windows. It is a fact however, that Windows has substantially larger library of applications available, it number is far greater than both mac and linux combined. Because of this great variety users have more options.

Live Mesh – Of all the items on this list, this is the one I am least familiar with. I have only recently began using live mesh (3 weeks or so), but I must say I absolutely love it. While it’s still in beta form I honestly believe what Microsoft has done with it will pay off in the long run. Not only are they going to integrate their Windows Live apps with it, but they are also opening mesh up to developers to create their own apps. Live mesh is (for those who don’t know) Microsoft’s syncing platform that allows all other apps that sit on top of it to sync to your account. Much like Google’s apps you will be able to download the app itself to the desktop and use it there. Not only can you download Microsoft’s apps, but you can also download the developer’s app. Mobile me is to apple what live mesh is to Microsoft, the difference is mesh is much bigger in what it will be able to accomplish. Oh by the way live mesh works on the Mac too. It makes paying for a yearly mobile me subscription sound foolish does it not?

Price / Upgradability – I like having a desktop. I like to build my desktop. I like to upgrade my desktop. The things I like are made simple on a pc. The Mac really only has 2 desktop systems. The first is way too expensive for what it offers, and the second is underpowered for my needs and comes inside a monitor. That is a problem for me since I despise the idea of having to buy a completely new computer if something happens to the monitor. Plain and simple PC’s are just more affordable and more configurable. That’s both hardware and software. Yes a new retail copy of windows may cost more than a retail copy of OS X, but I think that the majority of people that upgrade their OS, especially those who do it on a semi-regular bases, knows that you don’t buy a retail you buy OEM. An OEM copy of vista home premium is cheaper than a copy of OS X. And while there is something to be said about the elegance of apple products they are not worth the huge premiums we pay. And by the way there are PC vendors that make excellent / beautiful laptops too (Voodoo PC, Falcon NW, or Hypersonic PC anyone?)

Multimedia – Yes I can imagine the WTF in people’s faces but before you say anything hear me out. I believe that windows is a solid multimedia platform out of the box (remember I use vista home premium). I really like Windows Media Center and I think it’s far better than any other media viewing software in any platform (at least out of the box). It’s a simple and clean interface that allows you to easily explore your entire digital library. If your pc is not connected to your TV and you just so happen to have a xbox 360 you can stream your media through that. Now I understand people are going to bring up iLife and here are the reasons I am not that impressed. First I hate itunes, especially inside a windows environment. Yes it may work ok on macs, but it’s very slow on windows plus I hate buying anything with DRM (thanks Amazon). I also think Microsoft has comparable products to the rest of the iLife suite for the exception to iDVD and garage band (but who really uses garage band). Plus if u don’t like the products offered by Microsoft there are so many other ones out there available most of which are free.

Windows 7 – I truly believe that Win 7 will be the best windows OS EVER once released. I have been able to obtain a copy of the pre-beta release and must say that I am very impressed with the stability of the OS (even in its pre-beta form). It is very lightweight and has a bunch of improvements. While most improvements are not huge, they are numerous enough that you really do start to notice a difference. They have managed to make the whole OS much simpler, yet allowed it to be highly customizable. They are really taking advantage of all the architecture changes made in vista. In many ways those painful architectural changes were what caused most of the shortcomings in vista in the first place. I remember how harshly Vista was criticized when released and while I never really agreed to the degree of hate it received, I do admit that there were certain things that were wrong with it at launch. Problems such as: old hardware not having proper drivers (which we really can’t blame Microsoft for), UAC, hardware requirements and others really seemed destroy any chance Microsoft had of getting any good press. Regardless of what you thought of vista at launch, the fact is that is a very stable OS today and not only do I use it, I highly recommend it to any new PC buyer. And while I could be wrong about this, it seemed to me like most the criticisms came from Mac users. I find this funny because they seemed to forget all the crap the Mac OS went through during the switch from OS 9 to OS X. But getting back to Win 7, I guess you could say that in many ways it’s the OS vista should have been at launch plus a whole lot more.

What's Your Favorite Computer Mouse?

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In all of your history of using a computer, what has been your favorite mouse? Is it the one your using now, or one that you had years ago that has since broken? Mine happens to be the one I’m using now. I’ve had several that I’ve really liked, but this one is just “it” for me. I’ve been using Apple’s wireless Mighty Mouse for about six months now, and I couldn’t be happier. At first, I didn’t think I’d take to it. But I love it! It’s very sleek. It doesn’t force my hand to sit a certain way. The wheel isn’t a “scroll” wheel, it sort of moves in all directions. The buttons on the side can be mapped to different commands. Even though there’s no right click button, there is a right click feature. I don’t know how Apple could even improve upon this. It would take a very very “mighty” mouse to get me to change.

Why am I bringing this up? RyanK sent me an email with his top five tips to keep in mind when shopping for a new mouse.

  • Don’t make your decision based only on price. If you see an 8$ mouse, don’t just run out and get it. It may be cheap, but it will probably break soon. In this case, buying name brands will benefit you. You may want to buy the same brand of mouse as your computer, as these mice were built with your computer in mind.
  • Think of what you want. Do you want wired or wireless? Keep in mind that wired mice don’t require batteries, and wireless mice do. Not all wireless mice are truly wireless. Some come with a “base station”. These type of mice are meant for a desktop, and are a hassle for laptops.
  • Keep it simple. Unless your are a super gamer, or would like to have 7 buttons on a mouse, a simple mouse is what you would want. Three buttons are usually what you will want or need. Five buttons just allow you to press a button and perform a task without clicking. If you’re not a computer guru, you could continually bump one of those buttons accidentally… and that can be disastrous at times.
  • Size does matter. Keep in mind what purpose this mouse will hold. If you’re not typing, chances are your hand is on the mouse. A smaller, portable mouse may work on the go, but sitting at a desk with hand cramps won’t. I suggest buying a regular size mouse. Don’t waste money on a portable one. Besides, Carpel Tunnel Syndrome is nothing you want.
  • Don’t forget the mouse pad. When purchasing the pad, look at the material, not the picture. I found that softer material works better for an optical mouse, and plastic-like material works better for a ball. Make sure you spend the money for a good quality mouse pad, so it doesn’t begin to tear in just a few weeks.

So what mouse is your all-time favorite, and why?


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What do you do with your old Computers?

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John sent an email to me the other day, with his tips for what you can do with old computers. Don’t send them to a landfill to rot! There are many other options.

  • Donate it to the local school district. The school district uses old computers for parts to refurbish and maintain their current computer stock. If it’s a new enough computer, they may even use it to replace one of their older ones.
  • Donate it to City Hall. Again, if it’s in good enough shape, they may use it as is. Or, they may use some of the parts to maintain their emergency service department units.
  • Send it to an Electronic Recycling center. They will strip out all the useful chips, gold and silver and resell them. Normally, they will pay the donator of a unit a nominal fee.
  • Give it to your local homeless shelter, or Women’s shelter. Some shelters allow the less privileged among us a chance to use computers for job searching, and Emailing family.
  • Your church. They always know of some one who needs a good computer.

Keep in mind that if you donate your computer(s) to anywhere other than a recycling center, you can then write the donation off on your taxes the following year. Being generous really does pay off!


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Computer Giveaway on March 15th!!

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Every week, we give away a Web Cam, courtesy of Ustream. Not only did I give one away this past Friday, I also announced that I will be giving away another computer!

The requirements to be eligible for the giveaways are simple. Here is what you need to do:

  • You must be present in the chat room at the time of the giveaway. We don’t announce it much ahead of time, so you pretty much need to be a regular visitor!
  • You need to be subscribed to my YouTube channel.
  • You had to have left a recent comment on any post in my blog.

That’s it! That’s the sum total of the requirements to be eligible. When a giveaway starts, all chatters in the channel lose chat ability. This is to help us be able to see only the winner talking, so we don’t miss out on their pertinent links. Then, our new automatic bot picker will choose a random name. That person has to give us their YouTube link, as well as the name they used to comment on the blog. We then verify the information… and have a winner!

This week’s winner was Cameron_R. Congratulations!

After the giveaway was over… I decided to tease my next computer giveaway! Here’s the deal:

IF we receive 20,000 subscriptions to our Podcast by Kat’s birthday, which is March 15th… I will give away that Spider Computer system!! You must, of course, be subscribed to the Podcast, and be present to win!


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