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All posts tagged "computers"

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

LifeHacker Simplifies Your Computer Buying Needs

Posted by Hooch Tan in "Digital Home News" @ 01:00 PM

"Buying or building a computer used to be a little simpler, since the goal was to get a machine with as much power as you could afford. Nowadays most CPUs are exceptionally fast, and even a low-end processor will still net you a pretty fast machine. Instead, the more important choices you need to make have more to do with every other component."

The guide LifeHacker has put together is very simple, with few concrete choices, however, if you are in the market for a new computer, compiling a list of your desires is a good way to crystalize what you want and help make a more solid choice. Models for desktops and notebooks change so frequently and the variations within particular models vary so much thar reccomending something specific is almost futile anyways. For the most general of user, however, I almost believe that the grand majority of computers out there will suit their needs and the major decision is what form factor to go with. Do you want a desktop, notebook, netbook or slate? If you are a more advanced user, chances are you already know a great deal more about computers than what is revealed in the guide and would tend to cherry pick your own device. What is important to you when you buy a computer?

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Wireless N Router Reviews

Posted by Reid Kistler in "Digital Home Hardware & Accessories" @ 06:30 PM

"You've been getting by with the cheapie router you bought two years ago, so why should you upgrade now? In a word: Performance. And features. Oh, sorry. That's two words. We looked at a host of budget offerings in our last router roundup (February 2010) and didn't find much to get excited about. This time, we asked seven manufacturers to send us the best consumer routers in their stables regardless of price tags."

If you are in the market for a Wireless N router, has taken a look at 7 "top-tier" models, and assigned overall scores ranging from 5 to 9 (presumably on a 10-point scale!). Also included is a summary of each model's features, plus and minus points, as well as several charts showing "real world" performance under a variety of conditions. The article wraps up with a brief look at several new wireless developments, including WiGig and Wi-Fi Direct, which might at least help you to decide whether to hold off your purchase decision pending some new functionality.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Going Beyond The Desktop PC

Posted by Hooch Tan in "Digital Home News" @ 11:00 AM

"It repeats the phrase "Moore's law" like a broken record, pledges allegiance to x86 architecture on a daily basis, and can't remember the last time an exciting press release was e-mailed to lazy journalists getting high off their own incompetence. Seriously, folks. The 8086 was launched in 1978. How much longer are we going to be held hostage to an aging, decaying architecture whose golden years have passed into distant memory?"

It had to happen eventually. As computing power kept increasing and computing devices kept shrinking, there would come a point where we are no longer shackled to our desks. In a world where we have enough computing power in our phones that could compete with what our best desktops could do less than a decade ago, it no longer seems to be how fast something is anymore, but what can it do for you. We live in a world where, at a cost, we can be connected to the world and harness almost unlimited resources. Now it is much more a matter of how we interact with this incredible resource and what we make use of it. Despite what some might say, this is probably the golden age of computing. It may not be the golden age for PC computing, if one thinks of PCs as traditional desktops that you sat down and typed away, but computing in general is becoming more exciting by the day. One of the shifts that I have seen is an ever growing split between consuming and production. The division between consumer based devices and business based devices is probably going to increase where what we have at home will seem completely unrelated to what we use at work and it probably is a good thing. With the separation comes more focused design which is where the next frontier really is.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Tips to Make Windows 7 Faster

Posted by Reid Kistler in "Digital Home Software" @ 04:00 PM

"One of the things you might encounter after upgrading your computer or starting a new computer for the first time is the amount of stuff that might make the operating system start a little groggy at first. This article will show you some of the common tasks you can do to speed up that old computer or squeeze as much performance as possible out of that [Windows 7] PC."

The good folks at have written a three-part (thus far!) series on making Windows 7 "even faster." Starting with Disk Cleanup, the series sticks to the utilities and settings that are available within Windows 7 itself, and touches upon such topics as System Protection (Restore), Performance Tools, Indexing, and Startup Performance. The articles are a good starting point, and the suggestions should be safe, easily undone, and, of course, are all available without cost, other than one's time. It is possible that the series is not yet complete, but a couple of minor gripes thus far are that the author's list of Startup recommendations is based upon the programs running on one particular system, no mention is made of deactivating Windows Services, or of the potential advantages of File and Disk optimization (defragmentation and partitioning). What are your favorite methods of speeding up Windows (free, or at relatively low cost)? Do you use third-party utilities, or stick with the one's Microsoft builds in?

Friday, October 15, 2010

ADrive Online Storage and Backup Service

Posted by Reid Kistler in "Digital Home Software" @ 12:00 PM

"ADrive's Basic plan offers individual users 50GB of online storage and backup for all file types including access to our basic service features, all for FREE. With our Basic plan you will have the essentials to store, backup, share, and edit your documents online. The Basic plan is intended for individual or personal use. Business users can view our Signature and Premium plans for more security, storage, and access."

At first blush, ADrive's Basic plan sounds like a winner: free online storage for up to 50GB of data certainly sounds attractive. However, the phrase "Don't look a gift horse in the mouth" may be applicable here, as a closer look reveals some potential flaws in ADrive's Basic plan, and while some users might willingly accept these in a free plan, others - myself included - will probably choose to look elsewhere. The Basic plan lacks both file encryption and an automatic backup utility, uses 3rd Party Advertisements to offset costs, and is prone to at least occasional down time, all of which makes it more suitable for use as a storage location for casual files, as opposed to a backup solution for even a personal computer (which likely contains numerous sensitive data files). Either of ADrive's billable plans overcome these objections - as the "ADrive Team" notes: "As the saying goes, you get what you pay for!" - but I still left their site with a couple of overall concerns: no where on the site was I able to find an address, telephone number, or a list of corporate officers for ADrive, and their TOS contains a disclaimer that seemed confounding: "Adrive shall have no responsibility for and does not guarantee the integrity, completeness or availability of Storage Data residing on Adrive's equipment." Is this a generic disclaimer used by all online storage services? Are you tempted by the ADrive Basic plan? Or do you have an alternative that you think is better suited to your needs?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Best Ways to Share Files With a Nearby Computer

Posted by Reid Kistler in "Digital Home Articles & Resources" @ 01:30 PM

"[W]hen you're trying to share files with someone in the same physical space as you, it hardly seems necessary to go through the slow process of uploading files to and downloading files from the internet, especially if they're rather large files. There's always the tried-and-true method of dumping your file(s) on a USB thumb drive, but if you don't have one handy (or you don't have a big enough drive), you've still got options...."

The article touches upon setting up file sharing under MAC and Windows 7, and then discusses transferring via Wifi (including using an Ad Hoc wireless connection), FireWire, and Ethernet (for which you may or may not need either a cross-over cable or adapter. The latter is pictured above, lower center). Of course, there are other alternatives available, including a USB Transfer Cable (upper left above), or via a "LapLink" transfer cable (upper center), although you might have trouble finding serial or parallel ports on many modern computers. Was amused at the thought that the "tried-and-true method" of local file transfers has become via a USB drive, whereas the "sneakernet" that many of us remember involved floppies (and 5 1/4" floppies, at that!). USB has the advantage of being nearly ubiquitous: does that make it the best choice? What is your favorite method of transferring files from one system to another (especially if away from your home or business network)?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Frugal Storage Geek

Posted by Hooch Tan in "Digital Home News" @ 07:00 AM

"If a grand is out of budget, and you have a spare tower, you can build a network file server fairly easily. Windows Home Server may be the easiest, but has limitations that you will need to investigate. If you're a little more adept, anything from a default linux install to one of the customized distros will serve you well and will run well enough on years old hardware."

So not everyone has money for a Drobo or Synology device to pack their favourite memories. When your budget is tight, finding ways to store a lot of data gets more challenging. The mass mind from LifeHacker puts forth a lot of good ideas though many of them involve a few hours or more of setup. Most of the solutions include networking which makes the most sense if the data you want needs frequent accessing, though if you are looking for archiving data, just going with bare hard drives is probably the cheapest way to go.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Build Your Own 3D Home Theater PC

Posted by Chris Gohlke in "Digital Home Hardware & Accessories" @ 03:00 AM

"At its core, the home-theater dream can be distilled as follows: We want our movies to feel as cinematic as possible. And we want to be able to record and watch as many shows as possible on the biggest-possible TV screen."

I have zero desire for anything 3D, so I'm going to save bunch of money on the next major upgrade cycle. Plus I've found with the expanded capabilities of the current generation of gaming systems, a HTPC is becoming more of a niche item. But, if you've want to live on the bleeding edge, check out the full how to guide.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Tiny PC, Big Aspirations

Posted by Hooch Tan in "Digital Home News" @ 11:00 AM

"It’s certainly compact enough to get lost under your HDTV, just 5.7 x 3.9 x 2.0 inches and made of sturdy metal and silver plastic. Although there are rubber feet for standalone use, you can also VESA mount it to the back of your display. Ports include audio in/out/microphone on the front, together with two USB 2.0 and a miniUSB, then VGA, HDMI, two further USB 2.0 and gigabit ethernet on the back."

Tiny PCs are nothing new. In fact, there are some PCs which are considerably smaller. Traditionally smaller PCs have also offered smaller processing power though recently, these liliPCs have been growing more and more powerful. The ARTiGO A1100 is no exception though it bucks the trend of most recent PCs that go with Atom CPUs. VIA is the little known competitor to AMD and Intel offering x86 compatible CPUs with really low power profiles. Unfortunately, it seems as if the A1100 seems better designed for office type applications, lacking in multimedia strength. For those of you thinking this might make a great tiny server to tuck away in a small corner, there are other options as well, even smaller, like the SheevaPlug. The A1100, which a nice concept, looks like it may be seeking a niche to fill.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

TV Tuners For Your Viewing Pleasure

Posted by Hooch Tan in "Digital Home News" @ 02:00 PM

"If you'd like to consolidate your devices, a TV tuner is the perfect add-on for your media center. We've briefly discussed TV tuners before, but the state of modern television can make the buying process a little overwhelming. There is no one-size-fits all solution to buying one, so we've created this guide to sorting out whether a TV tuner is right for you, and how to go about buying the right one."

If you are not able to make the streaming TV switch, or live somewhere outside the US, and you follow legal distribution channels, you likely have a cable or satellite box or thirty in your house. While most providers I know of offer DVR solutions, having an all-in-one solution is mighty tempting, and there actually are some options. Recent advances in digital TV have made things a bit more complicated for most people, having to hook their cable box up to a capture device, and then there's the IR blaster, but if you are geek enough to set up your own DVR box, you probably are up for hooking it up to cable or satellite. One huge benefit is that once you do so, depending on your software, your tv watching and recording becomes available everywhere. It is like a cross between a Slingbox and standard Media Center software. Yes, some packages even support mobiles like the iPhone and Android devices. Now you will never have to be far away from your friendly tv who loves you very much!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Seagate FreeAgent GoFlex Ultraportable Family of Products

Posted by Chris Baxter in "Digital Home Hardware & Accessories" @ 07:00 AM

Product Category: Portable storage device
Manufacturer: Seagate
Where to Buy: (affiliate)
Price: $90 to $170 USD depending on storage size of hard drive, $99 for the Net Media device, $130 for the GoFlex TV HD, and $20 to $40 for the different cable options
System Requirements: Windows® 7, Windows Vista®, Windows® XP (32-bit & 64-bit) operating system or Mac® OS X operating system 10.4.9 or higher and a USB 2.0, USB 3.0, FireWire 800, or eSATA port.
Specifications: The GoFlex Ultraportable drive: Height - 111mm (4.39 in), width - 83mm (3.19 in), length - 14mm (.57 in), and weight - 150g (.33 lb).


  • Wide variety of attachments and accessories that actually extend the capabilites of the drive;
  • The GoFlex Net Media Sharing Device is an easy and fun way to share your files on the network;
  • Using the optional cable attachments can greatly increase the performance of the drive.


  • User Interface for the GoFlex TV HD Media Player needs work;
  • Taking advantage of all the accessories the product has to offer can get expensive.

Summary: Seagate has a family of portable storage devices and accessories that are aimed at keeping up with technology, making networking your storage devices easy, and delivering the media content on that storage to the place it is most useful, your TV. I got the chance to test and review these products to see if they can deliver what they promise. Was I disappointed or did they succeed at what they were designed for? Read on to find out. Read more...

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Build a Home Theater PC Inside an Ikea Besta Cabinet

Posted by Reid Kistler in "Digital Home Hardware & Accessories" @ 04:00 PM

"Many of us use computers to power our home theater experience, but the last thing anyone wants is a noisy PC tower uglying up the living room. Here's how [a] reader... converted Ikea's Besta media console into a well-hidden, well-ventilated HTPC."

This is one of those DIY projects that most people will look at and exclaim either a) "What a cool idea!" or b) "Why would anyone want to do that?!?" Having helped to convert an old console television into a stereo cabinet, I found this project intriguing, but ultimately I fall closer to category "b" above, if only because there are a number of nice looking HTPC cases that should make the task much simpler. Still, given a suitable donor computer and a (less expensive!) cabinet, I could easily understand the appeal of being able to show off such a project. Read the full story at - which includes a number of pictures of the project in various stages of completion - and then let us know what you think: Is this the type of weekend DIY task that you would be willing to undertake?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

When it Comes to Storage, SSD or HDD?

Posted by Hooch Tan in "Laptop Thoughts News" @ 09:00 AM

"Solid-state drives (SSDs) make for a pretty great upgrade, but they aren't without their downsides (most notably, their high cost and low amounts of space). While the answer to "are they worth it?" is fairly subjective, there are a number of factors that can influence the usefulness of a solid-state drive."

While solid-state drives definitely appear to be the future, traditional hard drives will probably be here for many, many years to come. Their huge storage capacities and fair transfer speeds have kept them in the running and the standard choice for most consumers but SSDs are increasing in popularity, especially in notebooks. While I am tempted to jump onto the SSD bandwagon, my storage needs outstrip my speed needs, and external storage devices are just too much of a hassle. Still, I am waiting for the day when a 500GB SSD can be had for under $100. Okay, you can stop laughing now.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

New Canon PIXMA Printers Are Touchable

Posted by Hooch Tan in "Digital Home News" @ 03:00 PM

"Designed with ease-of-use in mind, the new Intelligent Touch System is a game changer for overall printer usability. Consumers will find it easier and quicker than ever to navigate through menus and perform everyday tasks with back-lit touch sensitive buttons and a new light guidance system eliminating buttons not in use thus reducing opportunities for mistakes."

You can tell that it is approaching Back-to-School time when you start seeing companies announcing more new products than the number of broken-promises a politican makes during an election year. Canon's latest line of PIXMA printers include some of the newer features like Full HD Movie printing, but new to the line is an adaptive touch sensitive control panel. Touch controls are hardly new, but the Intelligent Touch System, as Canon has labelled it, actually changes depending on what options are available. Instead of all buttons being visible, and guessing which ones are appropriate, the active buttons light up to let you know they can be used. A neat system which will certainly help those who are less tech savvy.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

How The Best Of The Past Stack Up

Posted by Hooch Tan in "Digital Home News" @ 02:30 PM

"From the original 200MHz, 8MB-of-RAM 1996 Dream Machine up to this years 12-core, 24-thread, 24-gigs-of-RAM version, the ultimate computer has grown exponentially more powerful. But that's not much of a shocker (we've all heard about Moore's Law, and all) so we decided to delve deeper into the history of the Dream Machine. We collected data about the vital statistics of each years machine, and made a bunch of graphs showing how they've grown."

Looking at the charts at Maximum PC really helps give a perspective on how much computing has changed and advanced over the years. On paper, the numbers as significant, though in some ways, I feel as if computers have not changed that much. They still cause problems at the most inopportune times and I still find myself waiting for it to complete various tasks. Of course, the problems are a bit less frequent, and the tasks I have it do are much more demanding, so it seems as if there's a law to match Moore's Law (or the common mis-interpretation of it) where what one demands of a computer will generally expand to fit and sometimes exceed the available computing power. Did any of you have one of the "bleeding edge" computers when they came out? Was it worth the thousands of dollars spent?

Monday, August 2, 2010

Dvorak On Desktops

Posted by Hooch Tan in "Digital Home News" @ 02:00 PM,281...,2367202,00.asp

"I've always been the biggest proponent of powerful desktop computing and always felt like I was paddling against the tide. For the last decade I kept hearing about how the computer is becoming an appliance, and that mobile devices will rule the tech world. It's true, for surfing the Internet you can use anything from a dumb terminal to a phone. You do not need a quad-core machine with a two-terabyte drive."

Computers have been slowly turning into a commodity item. Some say it already is. As computing power becomes cheaper, we have seen the rise of computing appliances and mobile devices that can handle most consumer's day to day needs. Dvorak seems to go on a rant about how all this technology is now being used for the most trivial of applications, such as using an iPhone for a flashlight. Read more...

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Another Walk Down Memory Lane

Posted by Reid Kistler in "Digital Home Hardware & Accessories" @ 12:30 PM


"Many people today either are too young to have ever seen some early pc's or have forgotten what they looked like.... Here are 30 Old PC ads that will make you laugh and possibly appreciate what you have today."

The advertisements in the article cover a variety of computers and peripherals, and starts out with a personal favorite: a $3,400 (US) 10MB Hard Drive - although the Isaac Asimov Radio Shack ad also rates high! For some of our readers, the ads show equipment that is before their time, while for others of us it is indeed merely a walk down memory lane, as we actually used (and paid for!) equipment of similar vintage to the ones shown in the ads. The Kaypro 2 shown above, circa 1984, is not included in the main article, but rather is a bonus from my personal collection, and is representative of a number of "portable" computers such as the Osborne, early Compaq, and Columbia VP (one of which I still own). Which of the 30 Old PC ads do you find most illuminating - or laughable? Are there any you can personally relate to?

Friday, July 23, 2010

The Demise of the Netbook Has Been Greatly Exaggerated

Posted by Hooch Tan in "Digital Home News" @ 07:00 AM

"Remember all those talking heads who predicted that tablets and low-cost laptops would kill off the humble netbook? Well, consumer interest in such entry-level devices has apparently shown little sign of waning. Indeed, according to principal ABI analyst Jeff Orr, netbooks are not replacing laptops or PCs - but they are being purchased as complementary platforms."

The much maligned netbook seems to have quite a bit of life left in it. I can certainly see the appeal of a low cost, light weight computing device that is "just enough." Of course, phones are becoming that in many ways, but they do lack the form factor unless you are willing to go the RedFly route. I think that the trend of netbooks also speaks larger about consumer buying patterns as well. A single computer for a person, let alone a household is a thing of the past. Computers are becoming much more ubiquitous and we are looking to collect multiple devices, each designed to accomplish specific tasks. Yes, the age of computing appliances has arrived. Has anyone recently bought a netbook over a larger, low cost notebook lately? If so, what were your reasons for doing so?

Computer Upgrade Horror Stories

Posted by Chris Gohlke in "Digital Home Hardware & Accessories" @ 03:00 AM[p...l_time?page=0,0

"We extended an offer to our loyal readers: Tell us about your best/worst PC upgrade story, and earn yourself two of the kick-ass, custom-made Maximum PC coins we featured on the cover of that issue. We had no idea what we were in for. Hundreds of submissions later, we emerged traumatized. Drained of all emotion. We laughed. We cried. We got angry. We felt your pain. And, in more than one instance, we literally had no idea what the hell you were talking about (but thanks for trying!)."

Those are some pretty neat little coins they minted up for prizes, I bet you'll see some popping up on ebay soon. Check out the horror stories, some are pretty funny. I don't really have any good ones myself. Back in the day I would build my own computers since you could save some significant money that way. Nowadays, I just don't find it worth my time for the aggravation and minimal cost savings.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Wuala: Online Backup and File Sharing

Posted by Reid Kistler in "Digital Home Software" @ 05:30 PM

"Wuala is definitely one of the most under-reported start-ups, and there's no good reason for that. It takes the best features out of both Dropbox and Mozy to create a must-have online file storage service for anyone with a computer. Developed by Dominik Grolimund and Luzius Meisser, the technology behind Wuala is truly amazing. By using a ‘grid' algorithm, Wuala can take advantage of unused disk space across its network of users in addition to data-centre storage."

Wuala presents an interesting option for online backup, storage, and file sharing, and the reviewer for certainly is impressed with the service, which is available for Windows (XP, Vista & 7), Mac (OS X 10.4 or higher), and Linux systems. As with many online backup services, users are allocated a small amount of "Free" storage space (1 GB for Wuala), and have the option to purchase additional storage if needed. Wuala, however, adds two additional - and optional - ways to gain storage, as indicated in the above screen shot: 1) you can "trade" space on your computer, which will then be used by the Wuala Cloud to store other user's files, and 2) you can be awarded space by inviting others to join the service. Be certain to read both the linked review, as well as Wuala's own website, for additional features - some of which are apparently reserved for "Pro Users" (those that Buy and/or Trade for additional storage).

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