Nov 01

Samsung Chromebook. Copyright © Samsung.

Google, in partnership with Samsung and Acer, has announced a radical new laptop where all the software and data is stored online.  It’s called the Chromebook, which is named after Google’s Chrome web browser. 

The Chromebook runs a full-screen Chrome web browser and does everything via the Internet.  Your word processor, spreadsheets, email and games are all web apps.  There is no local hard drive, so all of your data resides in the “cloud.”

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Oct 28

Every so often a new technology comes along that solves a really nagging problem.  As any photographer knows, taking a picture at the exact right moment with perfect focus and framing is a challenge and an art.  But thanks to a new camera by Lytro, you can shoot first and focus later.

The Lytro “light field camera” uses multiple lenses to capture an image at different angles and depth and with much greater light than a traditional digital camera.  Later, the photographer can use the exclusive Lytro software to focus the image on the desired subject.  This enables the photographer to just click away and concentrate only on framing the shot.

Visit the Lytro website to see how the software will work.  For example, here’s an image of four beautiful women.  You can use the software to focus on the woman in the foreground:

Copyright © Lytro Inc.

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Aug 10

Windows x64. Copyright © Microsoft Corp. I bought a laptop in June 2008 with 64-bit Windows Vista installed.  At that time, Windows x64 was relatively new, so I encountered a few problems with incompatible hardware and software that required an upgrade to 64-bit drivers.

Now in August 2010, most of the incompatibilities have been solved as x64 has gone mainstream.  At the local Best Buy today, perhaps 90% of the full-featured laptops run 64-bit Windows 7 Home Premium.  This makes sense because most new laptops come with 4-8 GB RAM, and you must run 64-bit Windows to access more than 3GB RAM.

64-bit Benefits

Here are the key benefits of running 64-bit Windows instead of 32-bit:

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Feb 17

Best Buy® + You. We're Greener Together.

Here is one more reason that Best Buy® is a geek’s favorite store: Best Buy will recycle your old computer and electronics gear, mostly for free.

Best Buy will recycle “just about anything electronic, including TVs, DVD players, computer monitors, cell phones and more.”

You can bring in up to two items per household per day, but I arrived on a quiet morning with two old PCs and two old printers, and Best Buy cheerfully took them all.

Best Buy will recycle many electronic items for free.  However, there is a $10 charge for items with a screen, including CRTs, monitors, laptops and TVs 32" and smaller.  Fortunately, Best Buy gives you a $10 gift card to offset the cost.

Use the Best Buy haul-away or pickup programs for Console TVs, monitors and TVs larger than 32", and appliances such as refrigerators, freezers, dishwashers, washers, dryers, ranges and microwaves.

One important point: desktop or laptop computers must have the hard drive removed.  Watch this Geek Squad video on how to safely remove your hard drive, or Best Buy will remove it for $19.99.

Disclosure: I’m just a Best Buy customer and have no other connection to the store.

Best Buy Recycling Program

Jun 26

Circuit City Rebooted

Systemax Inc., a leading multi-channel retailer of computers, electronics, and industrial products, has purchased the Circuit City brand, trademark, website and other assets.

They’ve recently launched the all-new website, which offers values on a huge inventory of brand name computer & electronics products, at what they claim are the most affordable prices in the industry.

Hopefully this won’t be the same “affordable prices” that Circuit City offered its customers during its going-out-of-business sale.  Although most items were 40-50% off, this was based on hyper-inflated retail prices, which meant that Circuit City’s sale prices were often higher than what you could find at Best Buy or  I was able to find a few good deals at the time, but most items were picked-over expensive crap with no return policy.

The new features low everyday prices, world-class 24/7 customer service (because they haven’t fired their experienced staff yet, as did the old Circuit City), and a wide selection of products.  You’ll also enjoy advanced search capabilities and enhanced content, which includes photo galleries and videos of thousands of the most popular consumer electronics and computer products & accessories.

Feb 09

Adapted from Tardate 11.1:

Keyboards are a terrific example of how bad design can get stuck in a rut and unable to overcome inertia.  Everyone says dvorak keyboards are far superior to qwerty, yet even after 25 years of dvorak, qwery is still king because its use is so ingrained.

But another aspect of keyboard design that has me really grumpy is the numeric keypad appendage on desktop keyboards.  It is a holdover from the days when users were “data entry clerks.”  But we are stuck with this design, and it has started to annoy me lately because I’ve been switching between a laptop during the day and a desktop at night.

Working with a desktop keyboard after using my laptop is strange and difficult.  After some reflection, I realized the problem.  My right-hand is used to shifting all the time between jkl; and the mouse.  On the laptop, this is a subtle and effortless gesture.  On the desktop, it’s like playing table tennis.

Read more at Tardate 11.1

Jul 15

In the “old days” of typewriters, forensic scientists could match a ransom note to the typewriter that produced it to apprehend the kidnappers.  This was possible because microscopic differences in the metal letters produced a “typographical fingerprint” that could be identified from any page printed on that typewriter. 

As a result, it became fashionable to produce ransom notes with disparate letters cut from a magazine, such as:

Ransom Note

Today, computer printers are highly precise instruments that make it nearly impossible to distinguish between pages printed on the same brand printer.  However, an article in USA Today describes how many color laser printers leave microscopic yellow dots on each printed page to identify the printer’s serial number and ultimately, you.

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Jun 30

The world now has one billion personal computers, according to Gartner research.  It’s expected to take less than 6 years for the second billion, as a 12 percent annual increase will double the number of PCs worldwide by 2014, with most growth coming from developing markets.

The U.S., Europe and Japan own 58% of today’s PCs.  Emerging markets will account for 70 percent of the next billion PCs due to dropping prices and improved Internet access.

The PC installed base is constantly churning as users replace their computers with new ones.  Gartner estimates that 16% or 180 million PCs will be replaced this year.

But there is a downside to all this progress.  Some old PCs find a second life in schools and charities, some are recycled, but many are simply thrown in the trash.  “We estimate a fifth of these, or some 35 million PCs, will be dumped into landfill with little or no regard for their toxic content,” said Meike Escherich, principal research analyst at Gartner.

May 22

Dirty programming may be hazardous to your health. No, I’m not talking about building an X-rated ASP.NET website. Rather, there is evidence that a computer keyboard can be more filthy than a toilet seat.

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Feb 09

When buying a new PC, should you spend the extra cash to upgrade your RAM?  Here’s a rule-of-thumb for how much memory you need to run Windows Vista:

Windows Vista RAM

  • 2 GB is minimum
  • 3 GB if you can afford it
  • 4 GB is mostly wasted (on 32-bit Vista)

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