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Tag: Upgrade

Mac Mini Upgrade

Posted by tomwiles at 5:04 PM on November 4, 2013

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.

Feeling Used by Apple

Posted by KL Tech Muse at 3:35 AM on October 24, 2012

Yesterday at noon I had the newest iPad an hour later my iPad 3 was old and out if date. What happened in that hour is Apple announced a new iPad. Now I understand as an early adopter of Apple products that I am living on the bleeding edge and at times I will get burned. However this feels like someone handed me a wick for a candle and then lit it as I walked away. After all it hasn’t even been a year since the iPad 3 came out. The iPad is not cheap either, even the low-end one I purchased was over $500 if you include taxes and shipping. This is not a spur of the moment buy for most people.

What is the main differences between the iPad 3 and iPad 4? The iPad 3 uses a dual core A–5 processor, while the iPad 4 uses an A6x processor, which according to Apple is twice as fast. They also upgraded the front facing camera and changed the connection from the traditional 30 pin connector to the new 8 pin lightning adapter. iPad 4 with cellular capabilities comes LTE enabled while the iPad 3 does not. None of these are huge differences, certainly not something that would spur an upgrade under normal circumstances. So why did Apple make the announcement now? Initially I had two thoughts about this; the first is they are feeling the heat from Google’s Android line and the Kindle Fire, the second is they are feeling the heat from Wall Street. I quickly dismissed the first thought nothing I have read indicates that Apple is feeling pressure from either Google or Amazon when it comes to the tablet market. No, the pressure that Apple is feeling is coming from Wall Street. Wall Street is increasingly a what have you done for me lately entity, and by lately I mean since yesterday. This forces companies to do things that are against their long-term health, in order to satisfy Wall Street’s short term needs, unfortunately Apple maybe falling into this trap. I believe that a quicker upgrade cycle is bad for both the consumer and Apple in the long run. The bottom line is if you own a iPad 3 like I do, I don’t see any reason to upgrade at this time. The iPad 3 will do everything it did yesterday just fine.

Gazelle – Convert Your Unwanted Gadgets Into Money

Posted by Andrew at 10:22 PM on February 8, 2011

Andy talks with Anthony Scarsella, Chief Gadgets Officer at Gazelle, purchasers of previously-enjoyed (second-hand) gadgets. Now over 4 year’s old, this is big business with over 250,000 gadgets models available for trade-in.

When compared to ebay or craigslist, Gazelle simply gives a superior customer experience. Free shipping is included, boxes are sometimes provided and there’s no question about whether the purchaser is reliable or not – payment is typically made in week or less. Gazelle provides an online chat where people can ask questions about models or condition.

Basically, there are three steps…first find your gadget on the Gazelle site and put in some information about condition and accessories. Gazelle will then make you an offer: if you accept, you ship the gadget to them. On receipt, Gazelle checks the gadget over and if it matches what you told them, they send you the money within 5-7 days. Easy-peasy.

Anthony reveals some of the economics of the market, including how sales of previous generation phones peak when new models are announced.

Interview by Andy McCaskey of SDR News.

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Windows XP to 7 upgrade step by step

Posted by Matthew Greensmith at 6:14 PM on October 29, 2009

I decided to devote a large part of last weekend to upgrading my main system to Windows 7.  In the interest of science I decided that I would read no guides or tips beforehand, I would test how easy it was using only the information and instructions that came in the packaging.

So the stage was set for the install.  The system I am upgrading was very powerful when I built it 5 years ago.  While I do most of my web surfing on it, the main use for the system is to manage my media, either syncing it to my portable player or streaming it to devices on the network.  It started this process with Windows XP Media Centre Edition installed; I had a brand new copy of Window 7 Home Premium upgrade to work with.

Stage 1 – Preperationxp27 - device mgr xp

Even the packaging for Windows 7 made clear that a clean upgrade was only possible if you were upgrading from Vista.  The claim was though, that even though the main programs would need to be re-installed, the settings would be maintained.  I have never had a software upgrade that ran well so my confidence was not high.  Given that the test is to see how easy it is to have a usable system after the upgrade I took a few notes first on the beginning state.

When I performed a Vista upgrade on a relative’s computer the main issue I had was with a lack of drivers for all the installed devices.  At that stage it has already been 3 months or so since Vista was released and it was months more after that before all devices had working drivers.  I have a number of extra components installed so I am interested to see how many work after the upgrade.

xp27 b4 upgrade advisor devices

Microsoft has released an upgrade advisor to check which parts of the system are supported under the new environment.

The reports showed that Outlook Express would not be available and the game port would not work.  No great loss for these as I do not use either of them.  More worrying though was that my network card was listed as not compatible.  I have recently put in a new wireless-n router so I took the precaution of buying a new wireless card prior to starting the upgrade.

As you can see from the image to the right, the majority of my devices came up as being supported.

Once I had a level of confidence that I could support Windows 7 on this PC I was ready to start upgrading.  The only change I made to the system was to upgrade the RAM to 2GB.

Stage 2 – Settings transfer

xp27 b4 easy transfer startFirst step of the XP upgrade process is to run the Windows Easy Transfer program.  This is designed to take all the settings and files from the old to the new system.  There are options to save these to disk, USB media or a network share.  If the Windows 7 and XP installs are on different computers the transfer can also be done directly across the network.  In my case I set the target as a directory on another drive in the system.

While the process completed with no errors it took a long time.  Even though there was only about 260GB of data the process started at 5:05pm and didn’t finish until 12:51am, nearly 8 hours later.  Given that the processor was much busier than the disk during this time it appears like this was more than just a simple file copy.

Stage 3 – Install

The actual install on Windows 7 itself was a breeze.  I chose to install to a brand new directory so I could still boot XP if everything went pear shaped.  Even though I was using an upgrade version the install didn’t complain and there was very little interaction needed over a 15 minute process.  Within half an hour of shutting down XP I was running the Windows 7 side of the Easy Transfer.  This time I didn’t wait for the finish, I left it to run and went to bed.

xp27 7 system properties

In the morning the transfer had finished and I had a working system.  The next step was to check whether it was functional.  The Easy Transfer Report showed a few strange issues, including the “programs without identified manufacturers” including 5 Microsoft Programs.  Happily, even though the upgrade assistant claimed my system wasn’t up to Aero, it was running happily.

Stage 4 – Is it working?

A Device Manager repoxp27 7 device mgr after installrt showed that there were 5 devices that did not automatically find a driver.

-MS  Keyboard with Fingerprint reader

-Soundblaster Audigy

-Avermedia TV tuner

-SB Gameport

-DLink USB wireless-g NIC

This last was of course the problematic one as it prevented me getting onto the Internet to find drivers.  Thankfully I was pre-prepared with my brand new replacement NIC.  Such cunning, such foresight, such misplaced optimism.  This is where I ran into my first actual problem with the install.  The Netgear wnda3100 wireless n USB NIC came with a Vista driver that would not load and management software that crashed 5 seconds after it loaded.  As I no longer have any UTP running to my study from the router this would have been a problem without the miracle of multiple computers and flash memory.

Doing a few searches I found that it may not have been Microsoft’s fault.  The general feeling around some of the forums was that the Netgear 64-bit drivers were flaky to begin with and people had similar problems with Vista.  I managed to find someone who had hacked a driver to actually work located http://www.wnda310064bit.webs.com/ So thanks to unnamed author who gets some link love and a $10 donation.

xp27 7 device mgr after autocorrectNow back on the Net I ran an autocorrect feature that Windows 7 provided.  This managed to find drivers for 2 of the remaining issues, the SB Audigy and the TV tuner which both now worked.  This left just the gameport, which I was unconcerned about, and the fingerprint reader on the keyboard.  While the whole keyboard is listed in the report, the reader is the only function that does not work.  How ironic that the only device that caused me a lasting problem on a Windows OS was a Microsoft problem.

I was also having problems with the system freezing coming out of hibernate.  I am currently avoiding this by diasabling the auto-hibernate feature.

Stage 5 – Application re-install

The big test was next.  The two biggest worries I had going into this were Firefox and iTunes.  Firefox has a number of plugins, greasemonkey scripts, and heaps of favorites and links.

xp27 7 firefox after re-install

I was very pleased with this install though.  No only were all of the mentioned features there instantly after install, the new version of FF remembered all of the tabs I had open under XP when I shut down.  I had left a number of tabs open as what a I though would be an unfair test of the upgrade and was pleasantly surprised with the result.

xp27 7 itunes after re-install

The iTunes install went just as well with all of my songs and playlists surviving intact.  Most importantly all my podcast subscriptions, listened stats and player sync details came up automatically.  I did need to re-authorise a couple of songs though, which highlighted again for me the danger to consumers of DRM.  Almost all my digital media is DRM free because I stayed with CD’s until iTunes offered DRM free downloads.  I have 5 iTunes DRM’ed songs though that I bought for my daughter because she bugged me at a weak moment.  I have already used 3 of my 5 total re-authorisations and they were only purchased 2 years ago.

Conclusion

The other programs I re-installed had no significant history to remember.  All in all a relatively quick and painless process.  A benchmark claims that the system is about 15% slower running Windows 7, which is not bad for a 5yo system jumping 2 OS generations in one step.  The browsing and podcast syncing, which are the main functions of the system are running just as well as with XP.  The next couple of weeks will show whether problems start to show up and I’ll report back on my progress.

For the upgrade process though I will give Microsoft an 8.5 out of 10.  They lose some marks for the length of elapsed time the whole process took, most of which was waiting for the Easy Transfer process to finish.  This was the only real negative though from what was a painless process that delivered a better than expected result.

iPod Touch – Upgrade Motivation Gone

Posted by GNC at 8:01 AM on September 13, 2009

ipodtouch-090909-2I was eagerly awaiting Apple’s recent fall “Rock and Roll” music event.  My excitement centered on one product, the iPod touch.  I own a first generation iPod touch and have loved it.  The applications are enjoyable and productive.  The iPod and Media functionality is outstanding.  The internet browsing experience great for a small screened computer.  When the second generation was released with an internal speaker and mic capabilities I briefly debated the upgrade.  Was the speed bump and those features worth it?  It would allow me to use Skype. . . hmm.  Still not enough.

The iPhone 3GS was released in June.  The iPhone included an amped up camera, vastly improved speed, GPS, and firmware 3.0 features made me sigh in jealousy.  Unfortunately my carrier doesn’t use the iPhone and/or subsidize it so that I can afford it where I was going to live.  And so I began looking forward to the 3rd generation Touch.  If the 3rd gen product had the new processor, highly rated camera, and improved voice recording then that would force the upgrade.  I could blog, podcast, take pictures, capture video, and then upload all from the device.  That would be worth putting it into my pocket.  Who knew?  Maybe Apple was going to throw in GPS and that would be delicious frosting.  With those features I would pay a price increase.

And yet, Apple released a Nano with the camera but the Touch without the camera.  What?  Are you kidding me?  Speculation in days prior hinted that hardware problems would keep the camera out of the Touch.  It works fine in the iPhone.  Or then maybe it doesn’t and this is Apple’s way of covering themselves.  Or maybe they left the features out so that they could drop the price and undercut Microsoft’s new Zune handheld (Update: Since original draft this has been verified in an interview with Steve Jobs).  Whatever the reason, they will sell millions of iPod Touch units, but will see few upgrades from previous generation users.  Give me the iPhone without the phone, nothing less.  This new one just didn’t come close to delivering the upgrade motivation for me.  Sad day.  I wanted to give them my money.  No doubt someone will.

Windows XP SP2 is a Must-Have Upgrade

Posted by geeknews at 11:01 AM on February 28, 2004

Microsoft is readying the Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2) upgrade for release in mid-2004. The upgrade will address many of the security problems that currently plague the company’s flagship operating system.

For example, the current Internet Connection Firewall is disabled by default and most users find it difficult to configure. In WinXP SP2 the feature is renamed Windows Firewall, enabled by default, and is prominently displayed. The new Windows Firewall will offer many of the features of third-party firewalls, such as ZoneLabs’ ZoneAlarm, a product that I currently recommend to all clients.

WinXP SP2 modifies the operating system’s wireless networking (Wi-Fi) service, allowing users to select primary Wi-Fi networks to which the system should always connect when within range. This will make laptop systems much easier to manage.

All users will be glad that Internet Explorer now blocks pop-up ads, negating the need to purchase a third-party web browser or ad-blocking application. Next to spam, I find pop-ups the most annoying downside to life online.

Outlook Express and Windows Messenger will block many dangerous file types by isolating file attachments so that they aren’t automatically executed upon receipt. By default HTML-formatted e-mail messages won’t display images, this will prevent web bugs embedded in e-mail messages from confirming your e-mail address to spammers.

Dave’s Opinion
I’m not a Pollyanna, believing that Windows is now a secure operating system, but Microsoft’s efforts will make it more difficult for crackers and spammers to ruin our online experience. But as my students constantly remind me, there’s no better line of security than an educated user. Learn all that you can about how to secure your system, keep your antivirus definitions updated daily, and don’t ever open a file attachment that you didn’t expect.

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