Tag Archives: Computer

Coming Full Circle



Surface Pro 3
Surface Pro 3

Over the years I’ve made use of most every personal computing device as it came along. I’ve have been through a long succession of desktop and laptop computers (both Windows and OS/X), along with expensive but rather limited use PDA type devices, and in more recent years smartphones and tablets (both iOS and Android).The capacitive glass touchscreen smartphone era was ushered in by the iPhone. Next came the capacitive glass touchscreen tablet, a device that ate into laptop usage. In the past couple of years larger screen smartphones have taken a bite out of both tablet and laptop usage.

Admit it, it’s happened to you. You are sitting there in front of your desktop or laptop computer with a keyboard and mouse, and you find yourself reaching up and touching the monitor screen trying to pinch and zoom. You are in good company — it’s happened to virtually everyone that’s gotten used to using a capacitive touchscreen phone or tablet.

When I first got an iPad, I realized pretty quickly it was quite good at being a media consumption device. Naturally over time, I found myself trying to figure out ways of doing more with it. It was a bit frustrating, because I almost wanted it to be more of a laptop with real productivity software (not limited “apps”) that I could use a mouse with (specifically forbidden by Apple for use on the iPad).

I have to admit to never using Windows 7, 8 or 8.1. Windows Vista had been such a frustrating experience that around 2006 I jumped over to Apple machines in a big way — three Mac Minis, two Macbooks, one original Apple TV, two iPod Classics, one iPod Touch 4th gen, and two iPads.

Microsoft has to be given credit for trying to blend the capacitive touchscreen interface with the traditional computer interface. Of course, their first attempt at it — Windows 8 and 8.1 — was badly bungled.

With Windows 10, Microsoft has really nailed the blending of the capacitive touchscreen experience with the traditional mouse interface.

Lately I’ve found myself getting excited by the idea of being able to have a high-performance tablet device that could also run real software applications — not just very limited “apps” — that could also function as a desktop class computer. Importantly, real productivity software demands the option of being able to use a mouse instead of fingers if need be. Editing audio or video, for example, demands the precision of a nimble pointing device that can’t be matched by fingers on capacitive glass obscuring the image.

All that being said, I’ve come full circle. I want a high performance tablet that has a great screen, fantastic performance, plenty of storage and a real computer operating system that when attached to a keyboard essentially turns into a high performance laptop computer.

One of the things that has driven me a bit insane about the world of Apple and OS/X (along with iOS) is their penchant for routinely taking valuable things away. I became fairly proficient with Final Cut Express, and Apple arbitrarily decided to stop developing it. For years I used a podcast recording application for OS/X called Ubercaster that pretty much stopped working with OS/X Lion, and the developer stopped developing it. My choice was to stop upgrading OS/X or stop using Ubercaster with no one piece of software that could directly replace it.

My Macbook Pro 17″ from 2007 still works, except the moust button is stuck in the “on” position, rendering it useless. I could get it fixed, but the machine is at least 8 years old and has a high-hour LCD — probably not worth spending any money on at all.

I am not very loyal when it comes to brands or technology. Though I started out with DOS and Windows and mostly moved over to OS/X about 9 years ago, I can easily move back to Windows.

Two days ago I purchased a Microsoft Surface 3 Pro tablet and keyboard with a 256 gigabyte SSD. So far, the experience has been great. The Microsoft keyboard offers a great typing experience. Unlike the cramped and compromised netbook sized keyboards, the optional Surface Pro 3 keyboard works as well as any laptop keybaord I’ve ever used.

To Microsoft’s credit, much vintage/legacy software works just fine on Windows 10. Adobe Audition 1.5, which is at least 10 years old at this point, loaded and functions on Windows 10.

I now have a 12″ high resolution tablet that offers incredible performance. It can turn completely on and off in seconds. I can use it either as a tablet or as a laptop. I have a capacitive touchscreen that I can pinch and zoom if I want, but I’ve also got a touchpad and mouse cursor, completely my choice — whatever I reach for without having to think about it.

I don’t know about anyone else, but the two-in-one experience — a tablet that can function as a high performance laptop — is the new next step in the ongoing story of my usage of computing devices.

 


Nyxio VioSphere Splits your TV and PC



Nyxio is a new company that is looking to integrate your computer and your TV.  They have a product, the VioSphere, which literally splits your monitor screen into half PC and half television.  The VioSphere is a touch-screen monitor that has a built-in web-cam and microphone to allow you to video-conference while you are watching that big game on the other half of your screen.  It’s like the old picture-in-picture TV features, which allows you to watch both or go full-screen with one or the other.

It functions like an all-in-one PC with a DVD burner also built-in. While it runs on the Windows platform they also are partnered with Bluestacks to include Android apps as well.  It also comes with a wireless keyboard and built-in WiFi.  As for the TV end of things, it just takes a normal coax input.  The VioSphere comes in a wide range of sizes spanning 21″ (although their website states the low end at 32″) all the way up to 65″.  A price point isn’t given in the video, but you can learn a lot more info on the product.  You can also visit Nyxio online for additional information.

Interview by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central for the TechPodcast Network.

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LG Pentouch For a PC and TV



The new LG Pentouch technology connects to your TV and a computer to bring touch-screen technology to your flat screen TV.  The Pentouch consists of the box for connecting a Windows PC to the Plasma TV, which comes along in the package.  It all works on WiFi so there won’t be any messy cables either.  It’s geared more towards a business than home user as it essentially turns the TV into a whiteboard, but there are a lot more features than just that.  You can also edit Office documents and there are two pens included so that two people can work on the screen at the same time.

There is no exact release date yet, although LG hopes to make it available in the early Spring.  There is also no price point as of yet, although with a plasma TV included you probably shouldn’t expect it to be too cheap.  You can find out more by visiting LG and by watching the video below.

Interview by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central for the TechPodcast Network.

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Pocket Computers As Learning Devices



Normally I have very little interest in games. However, a friend got me to install an app on my iPod called “Words With Friends,” an iOS/Android cross-platform app that allows games between people and utilizes push notification to let you know when it’s your turn to play. This allows for asynchronous play in spare moments.

That caused me to start thinking about other possibilities. I searched the Apple iOS App Store for the term “vocabulary” and found quite a number of different apps, both free and paid, that are designed to help the user master words for purposes such as taking an SAT or GRE test. Or, as in my case just enjoying myself. I know, I know, it’s weird, but I enjoy perusing words and their meanings.

After experimenting with a couple of free apps, and a “lite” version of a paid app, I ended up buying a $4.99 app called “GRE Smart Vocab.” One thing I really like about the app is that it figures out your level of progress and deliberately concentrates on helping you learn words that you don’t know or have trouble remembering the meanings of. The app has two alternating modes, a study mode as well as a quiz mode.

Even though you may be penurious or feeling impecunious, acquiring vocabulary apps such as these will fill your torpid, vapid, prosaic hours with a turgid, torrid plentitude of fun.


Usefulness of Apps



As I continue to live in a world of both Android and iOS apps, I have a few observations. These should serve as lessons for would-be app designers.

The most useful apps are those that take a single to narrow range of tasks that can be accomplished conventionally on a computer browser and squeeze them down into a simple interface that fits into a small touch screen.

Speedtest is a free iPod, iPhone, iPad, iOS app that makes it instantly possible to check Internet connectivity speed. It’s certainly got snazzy graphics, but it’s basic functionality is excellent.

To date, the most useful apps I’ve found revolve around banking, bill-paying and finance. For example, with a few taps on my iPod Touch I can easily log into my local bank’s banking app and check up on the status of checking and saving accounts as well as transfer funds and even pay bills.

I can do the same for credit cards. It’s amazingly simple. Apps such as this are most effective and effecient when common actions taken are quicker, simpler and faster than handling them with a conventional computer and browser. The acid test comes if I reach for the app even though I have an open computer browser in front of me right at my fingertips.

Apps such as these should include all of the primary action-oriented elements present on the main website. If seemingly small elements are left out, it can reduce an app’s usefulness. For example, the iPod/iPhone/iPad/iOS GoDaddy app includes most of the action elements of the GoDaddy.Com website. However, the app neglects to include PayPal as a payment option which ends up forcing me to use the main GoDaddy.Com website anyway – a partial but serious fail.

In short, to make any splash at all, apps must be designed for accomplishing their tasks even better than a conventional computer and browser.

Do you have some apps you believe fall into this category? Let me know in the comments.


MiSee TX Computer In A Box



Scott Elliot talks with Charlie of CTX Technologies. Charlie demonstrates a prototype concept computer that has a functional projected virtual laser keyboard and a pico projected screen.

The technology will be shrunk down for use in smart phones and tablets.

Interview by Scott Elliot of Geek News Central.

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The Xi3 Modular Microcomputer



David Politis of Xi3 Microcomputers (http://xi3.org/) presents the Xi3 Modular Computer. It is an extremely small form factor and operates on only 20 watts of power, yet contains a dual-core AMD Athlon x86 processor operating at 2 gigahertz. The standard model ships with 2 gigabytes of DDR 2 RAM and 8 gigabytes of solid SSD solid state drive memory.

The Xi3 is revolutionary in several different respects. Not only is the unit as small as possible, the motherboard is broken down into three modular, replaceable components. Thus it becomes possible to upgrade to the latest technologies such as USB 3.0 once it becomes widely available in the near future or to higher-performance future CPU processors.

Imagine the Xi3 as the heart of a high-performance, low-engergy-drain, absolutely silent-running Media Center PC. Since it’s x86 architecture running on a dual-core processor on a high-performance SSD drive it can easily boot Windows 7 Ultimate in 30 seconds flat.

Why didn’t someone think of this before?

Interview by Jeffrey Powers of The Geekazine Podcast and Tom Newman of The Fogview Podcast.

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Igugu Internet TV



Mario Cisneros talks about Igugu TV (www.igugu.com), a hardware and software combination that turns your existing Windows-based computer into a TV set top box enabling you to easily get over-the-top television content from your computer to your flat panel television.

Igugu has three kit offerings, including $99 dollars for the remote control unit and software, $129 for the remote control unit, software, and miscellaneous wiring kit, and $249 for a wireless version.

Interview by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central.

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Smart Phones Getting Smarter



Smart Phones Getting SmarterWith my recent purchase of the Sprint HTC Evo 4G, I’m on my third smart phone. It’s been quite an interesting ride.

The first one was an HTC PPC-6700, running Windows Mobile 5 with the original incarnation of Alltel EVDO, integrated WiFi, and a slide-out keyboard. The phone had terrible battery life, and the operating system was sluggish. I personally found the slide-out keyboard to be next to useless, and it’s presence made the phone too thick. On long phone calls or with intensive data usage, the phone could get hot enough to cause it to lock up or reboot without good ventilation. Nonetheless, I kept it for a couple of years, passing it on to one of my younger brothers when I was done with it.

Smart phone number two was a Sprint HTC Touch. It had the same sized screen, but was much thinner and sleeker. It had a bit better battery life than the 6700, but not by much, and no WiFi. The operating system was still a bit sluggish. Sprint and HTC upgraded it to Windows Mobile 6.1, and with the integrated GPS chip, it functioned with the included Sprint GPS Navigation software, which is actually quite good. For about a year and a half, I used this phone as my podcast aggregator (with a paid aggregator app) and playback device, which actually worked reasonably well. A $20 dollar keyboard app gave me an iPhone-style onscreen keyboard to replace the next-to-useless software keyboard included with Windows Mobile. I used this phone up until a few days ago, keeping it for about two and one half years.

Enter now the Evo 4G. I have to say this is probably one of the most impressive, satisfying gadgets I’ve ever owned, and that’s saying something. Compared to the HTC Touch, the Evo is about ¾ of an inch longer and ½ an inch wider and about the same thickness as the Touch. The Evo’s large touch screen is spectacular, and the Android operating system is extremely responsive and smooth regardless of how many apps I have running. The integrated WiFi hotspot is fantastic and works incredibly well, though it can cause the need to reboot the phone after downloading about 1.5 gigabytes of data. The Evo stays very cool while in use.

My conclusion? The best computer is the one that’s in your pocket.


Changing Out to a New Computer



I told myself a long time ago that I would only upgrade my main computer if a new one could triple the performance. It would be so I don’t sit and waste money every year just to buy a machine that was a few MHz faster than the previous one. I know I can get by with an increase in RAM, an updated hard drive or new video card.

This machine was 6 times better.

The kicker was that I was trying to do video on the old machine and it would take forever. I was sitting there waiting for items to load…. and load…. and zzzzzzzzzz… huh? oh. It’s still loading.

WARNING – GEEKY STUFF AHEAD: The new machine is an AMD Phenom II 945 with DDR3 support. The processor is a Quad-core – 3.0 GHz processor. It has a 6 MB L3 Cache. With the AM3+ board (The M4A78T-E from ASUS), this machine  will power through what I need. With the 2 PCIx slots (yes, I said 2) for the connection of ATI’s CrossFireX technology, along with the build in dual video support and HDMI support, this could easily become a fully functional home theater.  I even have a USB. Firewire AND eSata port on the back, so it can connect to my favorite storage drive and back up data.

WARNING – ENVIRONMENTAL STUFF AHEAD: The best part about this proc / board combo is that it runs at 140W. Add a hard drive and DVD RW: You are looking at 190 Watts to run this computer. My other machine took almost twice as much to run. I have a 450 W power supply which will be perfect for this.

I am also not a high – end gamer, so those of you looking for better frame rates and overclocking will probably be laughing at this.  Still, if I want to change out the heatsinks, double the power supply and put in 2 high end dual graphics cards to build a computer video wall, then at least I have the computer to do it.

The best part is I might be able to knock 3 computers down to 1 (if I wanted). I will most likely have 2 in the end, though.

Being that I have had the previous machine for 3 years now, it has complied with the George Carlin comedy skit and accumulated a lot of “Stuff”. Even half-way through it’s use I reloaded XP because of a hardware crash – yet there still seems to be a lot of data I have to account for.

Therefore it’s a slow process of loading and configuring, then bringing over the large amount of data. The last machine was still running all EIDE drives; 2 of them were on a EIDE controller in which I striped the data amongst the two disks. The 320 GB was perfect for 2006, not so much for 2009. Therefore, 4 – 500 GB SATA drives are in order.

Yes, I said 500 GB drives. Why? Well simply put, even though I read that Terrabyte drives are reliable, tech friends say they see too many RMA’s on the drives. While I do not have to worry about petabytes of data just yet, I want to make sure my machine will survive for a while. When I see the repair requests go down, I’ll get a TB for an external drive.

Once I have all programs loaded, then I will set aside time to bring over the big programs. Changing data. My websites – for example. That way I don’t have mismatched data across 2 computers.

I still have a long ways to go before I am done swapping out the machine. I might even have a hard time trying to find the software and reg keys I used so long ago. By the end of the week, though, the switch should be complete. Then comes the fun chore of….

Backing Up:  I did it before I started moving data around and I will do it when it’s all complete. Acronis will get the task of imaging the drive. I will also use an external to back up all data on a regular basis. That way, if any major failure occurs, I can restore ASAP.

Operating Systems: Right now, it’s XP. Windows 7 will have it’s own partition, as well as Ubuntu. The system comes with ExpressGate – a quick loading OS for easy Skype, web browsing or media playing. But will I Hackintosh the system? Well, the board comes with ATI graphics. There is a version out there that does let you use ATI, so I’ll have to see about that.

So not only could this replace 3 of my computers, it could also replace my TV. It’s really interesting to see how far we’ve come with technology. Yet the real question is: “Where will computers be when they triple this new system?” One can only drool right now….