Mac Mini Upgrade

I have two Mac Mini’s — one of them I use as a computer, and the other I use as an over-the-air HD-DVR connected to my home theater.

I decided to upgrade the machine as I use as a computer to an SSD hard drive, replacing the stock 5400 RPM drive. I replaced it with a Crucial M500 240GB SATA 2.5-Inch 7mm (with 9.5mm adapter) Internal Solid State Drive CT240M500SSD1 purchased via Amazon for $159.99.

Dismantling a Mac Mini is quite a bit above my comfort level, so I took everything to a local Mac dealer I’ve had very positive dealings with in the past and paid them to make the swap.

The results are nothing short of phenomenal. Restarting the machine to fully back up takes about 29 seconds. Curiously, starting the computer from pressing the power button to fully up takes 24 seconds. This is much, much faster than boot-up sequence with the original 5400 RPM hard drive installed,

The machine has 8 gigabytes of RAM installed. Even with that much RAM, the overall feel of the computer once booted up is quite snappy comparing it directly to the otherwise identical HD-DVR machine that is still running it’s original 5400 RPM stock drive.

Hands down the best bang-for-the buck upgrade for any computer is an SSD drive. The speed boost is stark and will make a huge difference even on a machine with only 2 gigabytes of installed RAM.

If you have an older machine, particularly a laptop that has a decent processor but is in need of a serious speed bump, consider an SSD drive.

SSD prices are still high compared to conventional spinning drives, however I’ve found that simply adjusting my thinking a bit makes SSD drives much more affordable. A 120 gigabyte SSD drive sells for around $100 on Amazon. In an era of giant, inexpensive conventional external hard drives and ubiquitous home networks, it makes much more sense to use those external drives as shared storage to store photos, videos and other media, and get away from the idea of storing stuff on the computer itself. By using a 120 or 240 gigabyte SSD as the boot drive, it becomes possible to enjoy a massive computer speed boost and move media off to networked or external storage.

Logitech Ultrathin Touch Mouse T630 (Review)

t630-stock-image-side

The mouse has been around nearly since the humble beginnings of personal computing and, unlike the PC and its software, this tiny peripheral has changed little. But time and technology eventually catch up to even the simplest of objects and the lowly mouse is no exception.

We have witnessed the introduction of cordless versions, first with USB dongles and later with Bluetooth technology.  Buttons have changed, scroll wheels have appeared, lasers replaced track balls and countless other small, but meaningful, progressions have taken place. Mice have evolved from a simple input device to a specialized mouse – from desktop, to gaming, and even travel varieties.

It all leads to today’s innovations in peripheral technology, which Logitech is exploiting in its latest release – the Ultrathin Touch Mouse T630.

In a market becoming divided by user behavior, the T630 falls squarely into the category of travel, thanks to its compact design. There is nothing fancy here – no software need be installed and there are none of the click buttons contained in today’s high-end gaming mice.

This is purely about form and style conquering added, and mostly unneeded and extraneous, features that simply are not a necessity to today’s busy traveler. The T630 is all about compactness and ease of use.

This is a mouse you grab from your travel bag, pop on the desk and get started with. There is no need to worry about the extras – there are none. It just works.

Design and Style

The T630 is tiny, measuring in at a scant 3.25 inches in length, 2.25 inches in width and 0.5 inches in depth, though that tapers quite significantly towards the front end.

The little wedge-shaped peripheral is black on the top, with metallic silver sides and a small Logitech logo running across the rear of the top surface. No buttons or scroll wheel are visible, giving the mouse a very clean and sculpted look.

Several small buttons are present on the outside of the T630, but these are carefully hidden on the underside so as not to subtract from the good looks.

Setting up the T630

Unlike the more sophisticated gaming mice on the market, the Logitech T630 Touch Mouse comes with no software to setup, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few tricks to getting underway – they simply are not complicated steps.

First, and fairly obvious, is that you must make sure your computer supports Bluetooth, but that is not a stumbling block for much of today’s hardware. You will also need to enable the service, which is frequently off in laptops due to battery-drain concerns.

In Windows 8, head to the Charms menu and hit Settings and then Change PC Settings. Next, tap Wireless and, under Wireless Devices, you will find the option to toggle Bluetooth on and off.

If you are using Windows 7, then first you will need to turn on the Bluetooth device and then look for it under Device Manager. It’s not uncommon to find the item marked with a yellow warning triangle, requiring you to right-click and update the driver.

t630-bottomWith these minor procedures behind us, turn the T630 belly-up, where you will discover three buttons. One is a channel-switch marked “1” and “2”. This allows you to pair the mouse with two different computers and move back and forth by simply toggling the little switch one position to the other. Choose the side you wish to begin with and then flip the on-off switch to “on” – it will now show green as opposed to the previous red.

Lastly, press the tiny button marked “connect” and turn the device right-side-up. At this point you should see a tiny pin-prick of light shining from a hole near the top-rear of the mouse – a spot so small you really can’t see it until it suddenly lights up. This will blink a blue color as it searches and turn solid one it has paired with your PC. After a few seconds it will go out. You are now connected and the mouse should work immediately.

If you do not see any light during this process then the mouse may need to be charged. It works with Micro USB and you will find the port on the bottom, near the rear end. A small cable ships with the T630, but today’s phone charging cords can also be used. The light will come on, this time in green, as the mouse charges. When the light is out then the device is fully charged.

Using the T630

As previously noted, the top surface of the peripheral is smooth, but the buttons are still present, though the clicking action, which is still audible, is actually carried out on the bottom of the device. Both left and right are located in the same positions as on any typical mouse.

Scroll wheel functionality is located in the center, just ahead of the Logitech logo. Click once to enable and again to disable.

t630-topThis peripheral also has several gestures that make it simple to use. For instance, while many of us are used to a scroll wheel, you may find scrolling up and down a page easier on the T630 Touch Mouse by simply swiping a finger towards the rear of the mouse for page down and towards the front for page up.

If you are using Windows 8 then you will encounter two additional handy gestures – swipe in from the right to access the Charms menu or in from the left side for the list of open apps. A slower swiping motion allows for side-to-side scrolling of a wide page.

Finally, tap two fingers simultaneously near the center of the mouse to gain easy access to the Start button, though this may be a Windows 7-only option, as it did not seem to work under Windows 8.1, which does have a Start button, though it’s less functional than its ancestor.

Final Conclusion

I should preface this by telling you that the Logitech Ultrathin Touch Mouse T630 is likely not for everyone. Users with large hands, for instance, may experience problems. In fact, despite that my hands are pretty average, using this mouse took some getting used to – it, at first, practically felt as if there was nothing at all under my hand. I came from a Logitech M185, which is a typically shaped mouse, though smaller than a standard “desktop size” mouse. The T630 dwarfs it.

When it comes to functionality, the Logitech device contains everything you expect from a basic mouse — left and right buttons and a scroll wheel. But it comes with several useful bonus features, such as swipe scrolling (a feature we’re all used to from today’s mobile devices) and easy access to the Windows 8 side menus.

Setup is also simple enough for any user – the Bluetooth links up to the computer with no hassle and adding a second paired device is just as easy. An on-off button allows you to save on battery when the peripheral isn’t in use, and recharging the battery can be done anywhere thanks to micro USB compatibility.

If I had to give you one complaint about the T630 then it would be sensitivity. Namely that the little device has too much of it. I find that the slightest movement of my finger has me scrolling down a page when I am not expecting to do so.

The bottom line here is that the Logitech Ultrathin Touch Mouse T630, which has just gone on sale for $69.99, is a great mouse, providing you can adapt to using such a tiny device. For those just looking for an easy fit in a travel bag, as opposed to daily use, it excels, but may be a bit pricey for limited use scenarios.

Logitech releases M560 mouse for Windows 8

We are only days from the release of Windows 8.1, the successor to the much-maligned operating system that Microsoft pushed out to customers this time last year. As you all likely know by now, even if you haven’t used it, there is much that is different in Windows 8, such as the Charms menu.

To go along with these changes, new devices have been popping up. Logitech has been one of the leaders, producing mice that use gestures to call up these features. Recently, I have been using one of these peripherals, in the form of a Logitech T630, which is a small travel-size mouse.

Now the company is releasing a desktop version tagged the M560. “Whether you’re a righty or a lefty, use a fingertip or palm grip, its deep sculpted contours and soft rubber grip keep your hand comfortable, even after hours of scrolling, searching and clicking”, Logitech announces today.

logitech m560

The M560 features a Windows 8 menu button that sits behind the scroll wheel for one-touch access to the functions you use most, including the Apps Switch and Charms Bar, while two customizable thumb buttons allow you to switch from the traditional Windows desktop and apps to the new, full-screen Windows 8 interface. These thumb buttons can also be customized.

The Logitech M560 is on sale now, retailing for $39.99 and comes in your choice of black or silver.

Logitech unveils Special Edition Logitech Touch Keyboard K400 in White

Logitech has recently been releasing a line of new slim keyboards with built-in mouse pads. The latest in that line is the brand new K400 Touch Keyboard, which now comes in a limited edition white version.

The special edition keyboard boasts all the features you are used to in the traditional Logitech Wireless Touch Keyboard K400, including a built-in touchpad, long range wireless and plug-and-play connectivity, only now available in a bright white color.

While the keyboard can certainly be used on the desktop, the keyboard layout is also optimized for the living-room environment — it’s compact, and gives you direct access to media and entertainment keys. The keyboard even stores vertically, making it easy to put away when not in use.

The special edition Logitech Wireless Touch Keyboard K400 in white is expected to be available in the U.S. and Europe this September for a suggested retail price of $39.99 and GNC is attempting to get a review unit, so stay tuned.

logitech k400 white

WD My Passport Edge drive — the good and bad

If you are looking for a small, portable hard drive for your laptop then there are several choices on the market and hard drive prices continue to reach new lows. The one I settled on, mainly because of a price deal, was the WD My Passport Edge. The stipulation was that I was buying a drive that specifically said “for Mac”. There is a version that is not labeled this way, and is generally the same price, but at the moment of my purchase the Mac one was cheaper. No problem since, after all, a hard drive is a hard drive, right?

wd my passport edge

The Good

With 500 GB of storage, the little USB drive packs plenty of extra space into its enclosure. When I say “little” I mean that quite literally, as the dimensions are 4.4 x 3.4 x 0.4 inches and 4.6 ounces. In addition to the sleek design, the drive also is USB 3.0 (backward compatible of course) and comes with pre-installed software to work with Apple Time Machine.

The Bad

I am sure the Apple software is great, but I purchased with for Windows, and there is a process that needs to be carried out to make that work. That pre-installed software blocks Windows access.

As I plugged in the drive, I heard the familiar USB connection chime, but a trip to Explorer showed no extra drive. Normal trouble-shooting resulted in the same thing — I unplugged and re-plugged, switched ports and the like, all to no avail. A trip to device manager showed the drive, no problem. A PC reboot also produced all of these same results.

It turns out you will need to open Explorer and right-click on Computer (“This PC” if you are running Windows 8.1) and choose “Manage”.

Now, locate the WD My Passport drive — the simplest way is to unplug the drive while watching the console. Pay attention to which one disappears. Then plug it back in and again and pay attention to see which drive appears (it should be the same). Likely you will find it listed as “Disk 1″.

Move to the lower pane and right-click on the WD. Choose “New Simple Volume” — wording may vary based on Windows version. During this setup process you will be prompted to enter a volume name — I simply named it “WD My Passport”. If you choose none then the drive will be named “new volume”. You also must choose a drive letter, but the default should be fine (F in my case). You can always go back and right-click the drive later and rename it or change the drive letter.

Conclusion

The above steps fix the problem, and now you have a small and elegant looking hard drive that will easily fit in a pocket and holds 500 GB of data. For the price, this drive can not be beat, but setup is a bit of a trick.

Microsoft introduces new Wireless Mobile Mouse 3500 Artist Editions

microsoft 3500 mouseMicrosoft has always been labeled as a software company, and there is some reason for that — mainly Windows and Office. But when the company introduced the Surface tablet, it was not the first foray into hardware. Many people tend to forget that Microsoft produces some of the most popular hardware on the planet in the Xbox and Kinect. It has also long built excellent mice and keyboards, used by many businesses around the world.

Today Microsoft announced six new versions of its popular 3500 model wireless mouse. All of the new editions are a part of the Artist Series. Dana McClure, Deanne Cheuk, Kustaa Saksi, Matt Lyon, Joy Deangdeelert Cho and Si Scott all contributed to this latest line of peripheral devices.

Microsoft’s Brandon LeBlanc tells us “each mouse features a snap-in nano USB transceiver, BlueTrack Technology and a two-color battery light indicator”.

The line will be available soon and retail for a reported $29.95 U.S. You will be able to grab one from both Microsoft online and brick and mortar stores, as well as other retail locations, which the company did not specify.

Are netbooks truly dead in 2013?

Many websites have been parroting a recent report from Digitimes which is ready to call a “time of death” for netbooks, but are they really going the way of the dinosaur? Yes, it is true that Asus is killing its Eee PC line and Acer may follow suit with its line, but it certainly does not ring a death knell for an entire industry.

In fact, I would argue that the platform is alive and well, but only transforming. After all, we just got brand new Chromebooks from both Samsung and Acer, which could very easily be classified as the next generation in this product line.

Larger Front

Let’s face it — the world is still hungry for affordable computers and the attempt to force us to move to overpriced “ultrabooks” is certainly not cutting it with the average consumer.

In short, I find this entire report to be overblown rubbish. It looks at one thing and ignores several others in order to draw a questionable conclusion for sensationalism. Then again, I expect no less from many sites — page views are money and I get that. But, look at the big picture. The market is constantly evolving. The new netbook may well be the Chromebook, which Acer themselves produce. The form factor and price fit the bill. Only the name has changed.

Samsung Series 9 Notebooks

If you are in the market for a new notebook computer then you may want to check out the latest offerings from Samsung with their Series 9 version, which was announced at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas just recently.  Samsung calls it the world’s thinnest laptop, which is saying something given the MacBook Air and all of the new UltraBooks that were unveiled at CES.

The new Samsung Series 9 will come in both 13 inch and 15 inch versions.  The new laptops are extremely thin and light and sport all-aluminum bodies.  In addition, the Series 9 has a back-lit keyboard, a 128 GB or 256 GB SSD, an Intel Core i5 or i7 processor, and a high-resolution 1600 x 900 screen.  The Samsung Series 9 notebooks should be available sometime this spring for an as-yet-undisclosed price.  You can get a look at the 15″ version in the video posted below.

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

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Laptop, Netbook, Smart Phone, Tablet – An Interactive Graphic

A new interactive infographic posted today gives a quick overview of the features of four different devices – a laptop, netbook, smartphone, and tablet.  If you are shopping for one of these devices this holiday season, and wondering which you should get, then the infographic linked below will give you a good starting point.  To get a general overview of what features are included with each type of device you can just hover your mouse over a device and the features it includes will be highlighted.  Hover over a feature and see which device it requires.

The infographic was posted by Chris Byrd, Corp Comm Social Media Team to the Dell blog.  Dell, of course, has a horse in this race – they make devices in all four categories.  However the graphic isn’t brand specific, but just gives an overview of features.  This by no means will tell you exactly what to buy, but it’s a cool, fun way to get you started in your shopping research.

Laptops, Netbooks, Phones & Tablets Interactive ComparisonLaptop, Netbook, Tablet, & Smartphone Comparison Interactive by Dell

Transit Case/Keypad for iPad

A couple of weeks ago I finally bought an iPad. At the time of purchase, I also bought a inexpensive Griffin iPad case. For about $90, I could have bought a case that came with an integrated Bluetooth keyboard, but I thought that was a bit much for something I really didn’t need considering I’ve got laptop computers coming out my ears.

I was eating in a Flying J truck stop a couple of evenings ago and when I came out of the Denny’s restaurant and into the truck stop’s convenience store area I happened to notice they had a table set up with marked-down items. They had a small quantity of Bluetooth Case/Keypads that also came bundled with a 12-volt USB charging port and AC USB adapter port with the Micro USB charging cable (“Transit” brand model #11017), marked down to $15.

For $15, I figured I couldn’t go wrong!

It turns out that I ended up with a tremendous bargain. The keyboard painlessly paired up with the iPad Bluetooth, and to my surprise the case is for an iPad 2 so I can use the iPad’s built-in cameras. I was even more surprised to discover that when folded up, it is engineered to automatically put the iPad to sleep and also automatically wakes it back up when it is unfolded just like the Apple smart covers. When folded, it isn’t much thicker than the typical third party cushioned iPad case, and when unfolded props the iPad screen up in a vertical laptop-style position. The iPad fits securely in position in the sleeve, yet is easily removable.

As I expected, the 45-hour charge silicone rubber keyboard does not offer the greatest typing experience in the world, but it’s a million times better than trying to touch-type on glass. The typing experience is very similar to typing on the typical netbook keyboard.

For $15 dollars, I am in geek heaven.