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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Microsoft Surface or iPad? ....details and specs

For those who like the click.
It's light, it's got style, it's loaded with Microsofts' newest OS Windows 8 RT.
But the one question remains. Is it better than the iPad?

Microsoft has clearly spent a lot of time making this thing look and feel just right. The device is fully developed by the Redmond, WA company. Hardware and software.

The Surface isn’t flashy—it’s less outwardly gorgeous than the new iPad—but it is delightfully functional. It’s got a kickstand built invisibly into the device, and, even better, Microsoft created an ingenious case that includes a “pressure sensitive” touch keyboard right inside the cover. Of all the attributes, the keyboard is is the Surface’s killer attraction. You likely have seen the commecials and the sudden "click" of the keyboard locking in witht he screen. Classy

So how do does the Surface compare to Apple’s latest iPad?

Well, for starters, there are two versions of the Surface, an Nvidia Tegra 3-powered model running Windows RT (available now) and a more business-friendly Intel Core i5-powered model running Windows 8 Pro (likely coming in January).

Some other points of difference include storage size: the Surface with Windows RT comes with 32GB of built-in storage, double the amount inside the entry-level iPad (16GB). Plus, the Surface includes a microSD Card slot for expansion, something the iPad doesn’t offer. The Windows 8 Pro additional will start with 64GB.

Another feature that’s unique to the Surface is its full-size USB port, which should accommodate all sorts of peripherals. You can plug in everything from USB drives and printers to cameras.
Both the fourth-generation iPad and the Surface with Windows RT cost $499. Pricing for the Surface running Windows 8 Pro has yet to be announced. Check out the chart below to get a closer look at the differences between these tablets.
iPad (Forth Generation)
Surface (Windows RT)
Surface (Windows 8 Pro)
Price$499 $499TBA
CPU Apple A6X dual-core Nvidia Tegra 3Intel Core i5
OSiOS 6Windows 8 RTWindows 8 Pro
Display9.7 inches
(2048 x 1536)
10.6 inches
(1366 x 768)
 10.6 inches
(1920 x 1080)
9.5 x 7.31 x 0.37.37 inches thick .53 inches thick
Weight (pounds) 1.44 1.49 1.99
16GB, 32GB,
32GB, 64GB 64GB, 128GB
PortsLighting connectormicroSD, USB 2.0,
Micro HD Video, 2×2
MiMO Antenne
microSDXC, USB 3.0,
Mini DisplayPort, 2×2
MiMO Antenae

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Task Manager - how to use it and ending processes

Processes are programs or pieces of programs running within Windows. It's normal to have a great many of them. As I write this, I have only seven running applications, but 120 processes. And Windows is running just fine.
To examine your processes, right-click the taskbar and select Task Manager (Start Task Manager in Windows 7), then click the Processes tab.
It's easier to study the long list if you sort them. To do so by name, click the Image Name column header.

You may want to sort by other columns. Click the CPU heading to see what's hogging most of the processor's attention.
You'll notice that most of the processes aren't hogging anything (or at least not enough to register). That's why you can have so many of these running and still get good performance.

If you're using XP, you may notice an outrageous hog named System Idle Process, taking up almost 100 percent of your CPU cycles. Don't worry. System Idle Process isn't actually using anything. It's just a placeholder for unused cycles. Vista and Windows 7 don't have this misleading process.

You can also sort by Memory to identify a different kind of hog.
Want to know why a particular process is up? The Image Name and Description columns should help. To make the Description column readable, expand the Task Manager window by dragging the right side of it further to the right. Then expand the Description column by dragging the edge of its header to the right, as well.

If the Description still doesn't help, visit and search there.

Before you kill a process, make sure that everything you're currently working on is saved to the hard drive. Then select the process and click the End Process button (Or Right-Click).
After you've read the scary warning, click the other End Process button.

Be warned: This may crash a program, but it likely will not.
If you want to keep a process from loading in the future, you'll have to identify what program loads the process, and uninstall that program.

Age old computer priciples that have stood the test of time

Technology is always moving forward. The next best thing is around the corner it seems.Hardware gets faster and operating systems are upgraded to the newest features (or we hope so). It's just a natural step in computing laws. But just because your 6 year old Vista desktop is obsolete doesn't mean some computer advice ever does. Take the following list of age old computing wisdom. Most of the principles apply today as they did 20 years ago.

When in doubt, punch out
If something isn’t working on your PC, don’t wring your hands and yell at the screen. Just restart the system. That simple act alone will fix many of the problems you may be experiencing. When your PC restarts, it clears out all the temporary files in the RAM and relaunches the operating system. This wipes away any files that may have been giving your PC fits—and the operating system starts fresh and unfettered by whatever was affecting it. If you want to do these things without restarting, click Start, then Run, and type %temp% into the command line.

Expect your battery to let you down
It's simply Murphy's Law: Your laptop or tablet will poop out the moment you need it most. That is life. Always bring your power cables with you on the road, and if possible invest in backup and secondary battery options.

Crowdsource your troubleshooting Chances are, the help resources at your device manufacturer’s website won’t address your exact headache, but if you type an error message or problem you're having into Google, you'll inevitably find helpful information from poor souls who have encountered the very same issue.

Back everything up Never get caught with just one copy of anything that you want to keep. Always back up your data, and then back up your backups. Consider backing up both to an external drive and to a cloud storage service. It’s a good idea to keep separate system and data partitions—back up your data partition daily, and back up your system partition (Windows as well as your installed programs) at least quarterly.

Remember that thumb drives are your friends
It’s very easy to lose track of the recovery discs that come with a new PC, so keep a USB drive with recovery software on it in case something goes wrong. Store it away in a safe, easy-to-remember place. And in that same safe place, keep both electronic and print copies of all your software keys.

Look to last year’s model for a better value
Tech manufacturers always charge a premium for the latest and greatest hardware—and typically you don't really need the world's fastest processor, graphics card, or I/O technology. So do yourself a favor and consider buying hardware that was best-in-class during a previous manufacturing cycle. It will likely be heavily marked down, but still wholly capable and packed with performance.

Skip the extended warranty Don't be a sap. Extended warranties are designed to prey on your fear that the hardware you just purchased is already on its death bed. From a return-on-investment perspective, extended warranties almost never pay off—except for the companies that sell them.

Read the manual You might be surprised at what you can learn by reading user manuals. It’s natural to just jump right in and begin doing the things you expect a device or application to do, but I've found that by reading the manual I can learn about features and functions I didn't know existed. Reading the manual can increase the benefit you derive from your device, and make you feel a whole lot better about buying it.

Consider the total cost of ownership
This mostly applies to purchases of printers and subsidized phones. If you intend to do a lot of printing, pay close attention to the cost and efficiency of consumables, namely the ink or toner. And if you're investing in a new smartphone plan, consider what you'll be paying month to month...

Resist the urge to impulse-shop
A tech geek is never more dangerous than when perusing the aisles of a brick-and-mortar hardware store. If you absolutely must purchase a new toy in person, make sure to do your research beforehand. Don't be swayed by the razzle-dazzle of salespeople, and arm yourself with deep product knowledge before you enter a store. Also, always ask the retailer to match lower Internet pricing, if you can find it. (You'll want to bring your smartphone with you.)

Keyboard shortcuts: Use them, live them, love them
You can work far faster (and look way cooler) by mastering keyboard shortcuts for the programs, services, and operating systems you use every day. To learn these shortcuts, check out PCWorld's numerous articles containing keyboard shortcuts for every major OS and many popular applications. Get started with Windows 7 shortcuts.

Build your own
More often, building your own PC can be a less expensive proposition than buying a prefab system—and even when it isn't cheaper, building your own ensures that you get the precise configuration that fits your needs (this is especially true for gaming PCs). frequently publishes building guides, so you'll never be able to claim we never showed you how!

Keep your software up-to-date
The message windows reminding you to update your software can get annoying, but it’s a good idea to stop what you’re doing and click the 'Update now' button. You'll get the all the functionality the software has to offer, and you'll also obtain vital security patches that can protect your system from software crashes and data loss.

Use an ergonomic keyboard and mouse tray
You might not realize how much time you spend at your desk. Hours can fly by when you’re “in the zone,” and those hours of typing and mousing add up. Carpal-tunnel syndrome and other repetitive-stress injuries are a real risk for the information workers of today, and they can cost you dearly in pain and missed work. A small investment in adjustable, ergonomic keyboard and mouse combos, coupled with some research on correct positioning, can save you a lot of trouble.

Encrypt sensitive stuff
Encrypt any file you wouldn't want to share with a thief, including email. My program of choice: TrueCrypt. But don't bother to encrypt the entire drive. Just create a TrueCrypt volume and keep your sensitive files there.

Hide those cables
The tangled mess of cables and wires under your desk will only get worse and worse—and you won’t realize how much it bugs you until you finally clean it all up. You can bundle groups of wires by running them through toilet paper tubes, or binding them with pipe cleaners or small bands of Velcro, and then use binder clips to tie the bundled wires to the underside of your desk, or any place where they’re out of sight.

Stay wired when you want to connect
Wired ethernet will always be faster and more reliable than wireless networking. If you regularly do something (for work or play) on your home computer that relies on a constant Web connection, you may be better off using a wired Internet connection. Wired connections are capable of far faster data speeds and are simply not subject to the many factors that can disrupt a wireless connection.

Put your router in the middle
Position your wireless router as close as you can to the center of your home. This action can help ensure that all the wireless devices in your home are within range of the access point. You’ll also find that the signals coming from your router are more likely to reach their destination if the antenna is elevated off the floor a few feet.

Stop thieves
People store gigabytes of vital information on their portable devices, yet they rarely think about protecting their devices from theft. One of the best things you can do is to install a GPS-enabled antitheft program on your laptop, tablet, or phone. If your device goes missing, the software will lock the OS, report the device's location to you via GPS, and in some cases even capture and send some photos of the thief.

Investigate crashes
If your PC seems to crash frequently, the Windows Reliability Monitor (Control Panel > System and Security > Action Center > Reliability Monitor) can help isolate the cause. The utility keeps track of all hardware and software crashes and warnings, organizing them by date. By clicking on one, you can see the full details of what happened.

For gamers: Update your drivers
Confirm whether you have the latest drivers for your PC's graphics and sound hardware. Game developers create their titles using the latest features and functionality in graphics cards. If you’re using older drivers, your graphics card might not be up to the task of rendering the game properly on screen.

Take a screenshot
Save a screenshot (or snap a photo and save it to Evernote) of every weird problem or crash you see. Having an image can help immensely if the problem becomes chronic and you need assistance in fixing it.

Change your router's default SSID
The easiest thing you can do to improve the security of your wireless network is to change both the login and the password for your router to unique alphanumeric phrases that only you know. Since finding the default login and password for almost every router on the market is child's play online, leaving your router at the defaults allows anyone to gain access to the wireless network in your home or small business.

Shun 'Free Public Wi-Fi'
The 'Free Public Wi-Fi' network you might see listed on your Windows laptop when you're in various public places is the result of an old Windows XP bug that causes the OS to set up an ad hoc data-sharing network for connected PCs if it can't connect to a trusted wireless network automatically. Connecting to this type of device-to-device ad hoc network rarely poses any immediate danger, but it won't get you onto the Web, either. And malicious users could spy on the connection and steal valuable information from you.

Say no to cookies
Enable the Do Not Track feature on your browser. This feature will send a message to the websites you visit that it is not okay for them to install cookies in your browser that will record your movements around the Web. Unless you want that to happen, of course.

The best tip of all: Take a break
Every so often, take an technology sabbatical. Go 24 hours without looking at a screen. It's good for your eyes, and it reduces the chance of burnout. It also reminds you of how powerful personal computers of all shapes and sizes have become—and that thought alone might make everyone a little more tolerant and patient when problems arise.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Five differences between Windows 7 and Windows 8

Windows 8 release date is only a few weeks away, yet some consumers are still asking if it is worth the upgrade.
Even today Microsoft today released an update for the operating system that it says provides improvements in "performance, power management and battery efficiency, media playback, and compatibility."
So you yourself may be asking whats the difference and is it worth upgrading?

Well, here is a list of five new features in Windows 8 that may help you make up your mind.

Metro UI
The most visual change is clearly the new Metro user interface. Microsoft has scrapped the traditional Windows user interface with the start button we have all become so used to. Instead, Microsoft has taken inspiration from its Windows mobile phones to replicate the Metro user interface in a desktop capacity. While the new interface may seem confusing at first, it really doesn’t take long to adjust to it.

New Task Manager
The Windows task manager is one aspect that hasn’t changed much over the years and has been in need of an upgrade. Windows 8 features a redesigned task manager that simplifies the way in which users manage processes and computer performance. The new task manager is designed to provide users with a simple but effective interface that is specifically optimized to deal with common tasks.

The Lock Screen
The Windows 8 lock screen is similar to that of Windows Phone 7 and is optimized for both desktop computers and tablets. The lock screen consists of a few main components including the background picture, battery and network icons, login screen, and a few choice widgets that you can display on the screen to provide real-time updates relevant to the application. The widgets are customization to only display selective information.

New File System
Windows 8 Server will be introducing a new file system known as ReFS (Resilient File System), which replaces the traditional NTFS file system. The primary focus of ReFS is on the resilience of data; this is achieved in part by making the file system simpler. Basically, ReFS is a more reliable and efficient file system that is less prone to crashing and errors. However, when errors do occur, ReFS is designed to detect and repair issues without causing any file corruption.

ARM Support
Windows has always been based on x86 systems and has not had support for ARM-based devices up until now. A lot of work has gone into optimizing Windows 8 for both x86 and ARM processors. Through its support for ARM-based devices, Windows 8 provides a consistent computing experience across devices including tablets, smartphones, and traditional desktop computers.

So these are the five major differences between Windows 7 and Windows 8. A vast majority of people have  consumers have already registered at the Microsoft website for Windows 8, yet some consumers have held off the upgrade either because of pricing,, or the change of the GUI (Start Screen and removal of the Start Menu)

Friday, September 28, 2012

Rented computers captured consumers having sex

If you rented a computer, you probably should not have been blogging without your shirt on.
On Tuesday, seven computer rental companies agreed to a settlement with the federal government after it was discovered that they were unlawfully capturing photos of customers by using illicit software that controlled a computer’s webcam.
The Federal Trade Commission said the seven companies involved had worked with DesignerWare, a Pennsylvania-based software maker, to create a program that secretly captured “webcam pictures of children, partially undressed individuals, and intimate activities at home.” This included people who while engaging in sexual activities in their homes were being recorded on their rental computers.
The webcam software, called PC Rental Agent, had been installed on approximately 420,000 computers worldwide, according to the F.T.C., and as of August 2011 it was being used by approximately 1,617 rent-to-own stores in the United States, Canada and Australia.
In a news release issued by the F.T.C., Jon Leibowitz, the agency’s chairman, said the software had also captured consumers’ private e-mails, bank account information and medical records. In some instances the software was able to capture Social Security numbers, medical records and doctor’s names. Most disturbing, the webcam captured pictures of children.

The settlement agreed upon by the F.T.C. will ban the rent-to-own companies from using monitoring software of any kind and prohibit the companies from tracking a user’s location without that person’s knowledge or consent. All of the stores involved are also prohibited from using any of the information collected from the computers to collect outstanding debts. The companies will also be monitored by the F.T.C. for the next 20 years.

The companies involved in the settlement include: Aspen Way Enterprises; the Watershed Development Corporation, which operates under the names Watershed and Aaron’s Sales & Lease Ownership; Showplace Rent-to-Own; J.A.G. Rents, operating under the name ColorTyme; B. Stamper Enterprises, which operated under the name Premier Rental Purchase; and C.A.L.M. Ventures, which also operates under the public name Premier Rental Purchase. The full articicle can be read here:

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Windows on a stick (or ANY OS for that matter)

Windows To Go is a brand-new feature in Windows 8. It allows Windows 8 to be installed on a USB drive and run on any computer – just plug the USB drive into any computer, restart the computer, and you’ll be using your Windows 8 environment. Unfortunately, this feature is only available in Windows 8 Enterprise – even Professional edition users don’t get to use this. But... there is an alternative!

You can easily install Windows, Ubuntu or any other Linux distribution using UNetbootin. Installing an operating system to a USB thumb drive is simple using Unetbootin. Essentially it's a four step process, much faster, and saves you from burning the ISO image on a new DVD.

Before you begin, you need the following:
-USB Flash Drive (4GB minimum)
-Windows 7 ISO Image file

1. First download the Windows 8 ISO image here. (Sorry folks..this is only the Consumer Review version..not the full version)

2. Now insert the USB drive, run UNetbootin, and select Disk Image as ISO. Browse your local drive for Windows 8 ISO that you downloaded and click Open. Now Select Type as USB and choose the drive. Once done, it will look like a bit similar to the screenshot shown below.

3. Click OK and it will begin extracting all installation files to the USB drive. The whole process will take some time(10-15 minutes), so have patience.

4. Once the installation is complete, reboot your computer.
Now while your system is starting up press the key to bring up the BIOS screen depending on your manufacture (usually DEL,  F3, or ESC).
Change the startup order to boot USB by default, usually you will have to press F6 to move the selected USB device on top. Once done, save changes and restart the system.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Adding a Start button on Windows 8 desktop

So you may have played around with Windows 8 Consumer Review and are itching to download the final version Oct 26th. (If you're a subcriber to TechNet it's available now via download). You may have experimented with the Start Screen, wandered through the Windows Store and downloaded a few apps, even created a Picture Login.

However you still miss that old friend of yours the Start Menu. Microsoft has stated several times on why it axed the Start Menu, but it seems most consumers still like the old with the new.
The company has received a lot of criticism via its Building Windows 8 blog and other resources, a fair amount from PC users are unhappy over the changes.

 If you still need your old friend there are a couple of Start Menu alternatives available*.

 Stardock, the makers of Window Blinds, has created Start8, a start menu that looks familiar with Windows 7 users. With a fully skinnable menu, users can search for Windows 8-style (Metro) apps with it, Full support for Jump Lists, a unified Search.
Additional functions are users can boot directly to the Windows 8 desktop and of course quick access to shut down, devices, music, documents, videos.

 Another alternative is ViStart 8. ViStart has all the functionality the Windows 7 Start menu has and then some more. It's completely skinable and there are already a variety of extra start menu skins and buttons available to customize your Windows look.
You can download from the website. Setup is slightly complicated, but it should be doable by users of all experience levels.  Take note that it contains third party offers in the installer that you may not want to install (two on separate pages on the test system).

 *There is an issue that concerns many developers involving third party Start Menu apps.
Microsoft has stated after its release of Windows 8 on October 26, 2012 the company may not allow the circumvention of the startup process. So if you try either of these programs and upgrade to the full version, lets be hopeful that Microsoft has soften is stance with allowing users alternatives to the Start Screen.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Google to expand free WiFi network

Earlier this year, Google (GOOG) partnered with Boingo Wireless (WIFI) to bring a number of free Wi-Fi hotspots to New York City. The program, which was sponsored by Google Offers, quickly expanded to eight different malls across the country.
Boingo on Tuesday announced that it will bring an additional 4,000 Google-sponsored hotspots to dozens of cities nationwide. Unlike the previous program however, it is only available to users of Android devices and Windows and Mac OS X laptops.

“Google Play is the first to take part in our newly expanded Wi-Fi sponsorship network, which reaches millions of consumers each month with place-based brand engagements,” said Dawn Callahan, VP of consumer marketing for Boingo. “Sponsorships like this give users the free Wi-Fi they crave, advertisers the consumer interaction they need, and venues the revenue to offset the costs associated with providing a high-bandwidth Wi-Fi experience.”

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Apple releases the iPhone 5

Apple’s newest mobile juggernaut is called the iPhone 5 (despite actually being the sixth iPhone to hit the market). Looking very elegant and sleek, it’s 20% lighter than the iPhone 4S, 18% thinner, and it's two-toned frame is crafted out of (what else?) glass and aluminum.

The iPhone 5 boasts a larger 4-inch Retina Display. That means a 16:9 display runs at 1136 by 640 with five rows of icons. The battery life? — 8 hours of 3G talk time, as well as 8 hours of 3G and LTE web browsing to be precise.
The iPhone’s audio system has been built up with a smaller (but improved speaker). There are also now three microphones in the mix: one on the front, one on the back, and another on the bottom.
That oft-rumored miniature Dock Connector is real: it’s all-digital, has eight pins and it’s called “Lightning.” Yes, there’s an adapter for it, but no word yet on exactly what it will cost you.

Unfortunatly, instead of running up the megapixel count, Apple has stuck with an 8-megapixel camera. That said, the backside-illuminated sensor is smaller so performance in low light is much better.

Nothing new of course but the iPhone 5 will support 4G LTE networks. That's in addition to the current support for GPRS, EDGE, EV-DO, and HSPA data networks. LTE has a single chip for voice and data, a single radio chip, and a "dynamic antenna" that will switch connections between different networks automatically.

Samsung and Android on top of market - so far

The operating system numbers are in, and Android is clearly on top. Gartner, a top research/analyst firm reports that Android sales capped nearly 99 million in the 2nd qtr with Apples iOS in a distant second.

Sales of smartphones were up by 42.7% to 154 million units, with Apple and Samsung together accounting for 83% of all smartphone sales. (Ironic to say the two are butting legal heads in court these days).
Samsung’s Galaxy line of devices accounted for more than half of all Android sales, reaching 45.6 million devices sold.

Apple’s iOS-based iPhone devices captured 18.8% of the smartphone market (versus 18.2% the year before). Gartner notes that sales of the iPhone fell by 12.6% compared to Q1. This may be likely as consumers are holding out for the launch of the iPhone5. (Apple just announced the iPhone 5 today in San Fransisco) For the iPhone release live coverage and specs check out CNET.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Windows 8 - using Win32 & WinRT side by side

October 26 will be the date Windows 8 will be available preloaded on new PCs and also to those purchasing it through one of the upgrade programs Microsoft has announced recently. Based on previous Microsoft statements, it also seems October 26 will be the date that Windows RT-based (WOA) Surface PCs/tablets from Microsoft will be available via the Microsoft Stores and select online outlets.

Why still have a desktop?
The desktop mode is present in Windows 8, and for good reason. Windows 8 running on traditional x86 systems need the desktop mode to support thousands of legacy desktop apps. These applications are written for Win32 operating system and they’re not going away anytime soon. And a desktop mode that’s optimized for keyboard and mouse input is extremly useful.

Why have a Metro* Start Screen?
The new Metro* style Start Screen in Windows 8 and Windows RT allows developers to create a new style of applications that will run fullscreen and in a sandboxed environment designed to be easy to install, maintain, and above all else, secure and touch-friendly.

Microsoft seems to be going all in on its Windows 8 Metro style apps, but yet it still wants to hedge a desktop mode on Windows RT is a good thing. WinRT solves many of the problems of Win32, from an apps perspective. (Writing NT services, drivers, etc is still handled using Win32)

Apps created for WinRT are safe, secure, and sandboxed...they can't wreck other apps, can't cause "Windows rot," and all install very quickly. They feature isolated storage, installation under single folders, and require user consent to access the general file system.
When Microsoft introduced WinRT, it's considered as a major technology shift. This is part of it, a modern, truly different app platform that is far more different from any previous Operating system. In fact the last time

*The term "Metro" is being phased out by Microsoft. This is due to trademark issues with a company of a similar name, Microsoft stated that "Metro" was only a codename and that an official name was to be unveiled. No official replacement of the Start Screen UI has been announced, however the terms Windows 8 style and Modern UI style have been used interchangeably by Microsoft employees and White Papers to refer to the new app platform.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Introducing Goophone I5, And is willing to butt heads with Apple

When is an iPhone not an iPhone? When it's a Goophone.
GooPhone is a little known electronic company based out of China, and has recently released a video showing thier latest and greatest device called the Goophone I5. Being a blatent iPhone knockoff, you'd expect Apple to run to the courts on this faster than a cell phone signal.
However the Chinese tech company has already filed a patent on the device and is ready to reverse the tables on Apple claiming patent infrigments once the iPhone 5 is released. On the video the similarities between both devices such as the case and screen are obvious but the power connection is smaller and the device runs on Android.

In China it's a huge business of being what is called a “patent troll,” or filing for a technology patent before global brands get around to it in hopes of getting paid off by the brand. Such is the case when Apple paid China tech company Proview $60 milion in July. Proview had claimed it had ownership of the iPad name in China and that trademark rights were being unlawfully used.

Physical security and tracking

A laptop is stolen every 53 seconds in the United States. To put that in perspective, one out of every ten laptops will be lost or stolen. So how do you prevent your device from joining these horrifying statistics? Beyond keeping your portable gadgets under your constant supervision, there are a few simple tools you can use.

Almost all laptops now have an industry-standard security slot. Cables that hook into that slot can anchor the laptop to a table or desk. The average cost for one is $35 to $50. The real benefit of these locks is in shared or well-trafficked spaces like dorm rooms or cubicles where a stealthy thief could slip an untethered laptop into a bag in just seconds. Cables don't provide 100% fool proof security, as the cable can be cut, but they work more of a deterrent.

As tablets become more popular, there are cases that lock onto the tablet and then hook into these standard laptop cables for similar protection.

Another option is a laptop alarm which are about the size of a deck of cards. It attaches to the laptop and plugs into the USB port. If you need to leave your device for a few minutes (or hours) you can arm the alarm. Then, if someone tries to move it, a loud piercing alarm goes off, so loudly obnoxious that a thief would abandon his attempt in a hurry.The only problem I see is that one could just plug the USB.

Tracking Programs
If your laptop has been stolen, you can track it's location using tracking software.
Lojack costs about $40 a year, there is a free version of Prey available.
Find My iPhone offers free tracking services for iPhones, iPods, iPads, Macs and PC laptops. Lookout provides a free tracking program for Android devices. These programs will let you clear your device data remotely so that the thief can't raid your information to steal your identity.

Data Back-Up
One important note: think about the value of your data. For most people, it's worth more than the device itself. Backing it up means that all the hours of work won't be lost along with your hardware. Automatic backup programs like Carbonite or Mozy cost about $60 a year and, in combination with a physical back up of media (purchased music), they can fully protect the time, information, and media on your device.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Samsung reveals its Galaxy Note 2

Is it a phone?...Is it a tablet? - Well from what I've seen I guess you could call it a "phablet"!
It remains in a class of its own with the huge AMOLED bright 5.3" display and classy stylus.

In some ways it's design is familiar with the Galaxy S III, with the same rounded edges, glossy finish and extra software piled atop its Android base. Powered by a quad-core Exynos processor clocked at 1.6GHz it houses a 3,100mAh battery. There's also Samsung's reliable 8-megapixel camera sensor on the back, capable of 1080p video-recording. Of course Jelly Bean will be the Android version.

Just like the Galaxy Note 10.1, the Galaxy Note 2 contains a host of new S Pen gestures. The stylus device now enables a virtual pointer/cursor on the Galaxy Note 2's screen. This happens without the stylus touching the screen and functions almost as a physical laser pointer would.

More info on the device here:
(Video courtesy of Android Central)

Monday, August 27, 2012

10 Best free and open source

These days, you can quite easily buy a brand-spanking-new computer and install all the software you need for free, using applications offered under the GNU/Open Software License. 
You can get a free operating system, image editor, a free sound editor, office suite, media player, file archiver, PDF creator… the list goes on and on and on. The vast majority of them are cross-platform. 
Listed below are 20 invaluable and indispensable open source applications that you really should be using, if you’re not already.

Mail Client: Thunderbird
With its speedy searches, strong security and superb add-ons, Thunderbird has to be the best, free email application available. If you’re prepared to spend some time tailoring your email environment with add-ons, you’ll absolutely love it. Outlook users will feel right at home. Addons available from customization, themes, and importing VCF's (contact cards)

Photo editor: GIMP
As for most Photoshop users understand, image editing software is expensive for most people, but GIMP provides a free alternative. It performs every major function you could desire, including working with layers, image retouching and editing, transform, resizing, cropping. File formats include GIF, JPEG, TIFF, PNG, PSD, BMP...etc

Office Suite: Open Office
With the ability to create text documents, spreadsheets, presentations and databases, OpenOffice is an accomplished rival to Microsoft Office, which clearly influenced OpenOffice’s design. Microsoft Office users will feel completely at home and find that OpenOffice performs just as well, if not better.

Operating system: Ubuntu or Linux Mint
Ubuntu is a free operating system that’s quick and easy to use. Recent figures suggest that around 50% of Linux users have Ubuntu installed and was, until recently the number 1 choice for Linux ditros. Linux Mint has taken the top lead. Mint is actually based on Ubuntu but it adds a custom desktop and menus, and avoids the new Unity desktop which Ubuntu utilizes.

Accounting/Small Business: GnuCash
GnuCash provides a great, free alternative to paid-for accounting software. Designed for personal and small business use, it offers bank account, stock, income and expense tracking, in addition to double-entry accounting.

Music/sound editor: Audacity
Users can record and edit live audio; cut, copy, splice and mix sounds; and convert ageing tapes and records into digital format. Formats supported: MP3, WAV, MID, AIFF,
and Ogg

Zip Compression: ZipCentral
ZipCentral is a free and easy to use ZIP file manager with all the utilities you need to manage your zip files. It can also create Self-Extracting archives and archives spanned across multiple files. ZipCentral supports Drag & Drop to and from Windows Explorer Context menu.

FTP: FileZilla
FileZilla is a hugely successful, cross-platform FTP client. It’s also available as a server, for Windows only. Created in January 2001 by Tim Klosse as a class project, FileZilla has gone on to become the 5th most popular download of all time from

Windows users can consider PDFCreator a credible rival to Adobe Acrobat. Creating PDFs is as easy as printing, literally, as once installed, you can select PDFCreator as your printer, letting you create PDFs from practically any application.

Blogging/Website: Wordpress
WordPress is the world’s most popular blogging platform, used by a staggering 202 million websites. As simple or as complex as you want it to be, WordPress is supported by a wide array of plugins which can be used to transform a standard blog into anything you could possibly desire.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Why Android rocks

I like the robot.                                    
He's user friendly, open source and based on the Linux kernel.

Back in 2005 when the search giant was only 7 years old, Google did a very smart thing. It bought out and acquired a small but little known company called Android Inc.
Larry Paige and company understood the potential for this Linux kernel OS on a phone and went forward creating the Open Handset Alliance, Android Open Source Project, and built from there.

Today we have the newest Android version "Jelly Bean" which contains several graphics updates to make the animations more "fluidlike and buttery".

More of the features of "Jelly Bean" include:
User-installable keyboard maps
Expandable notifications
Ability to turn off notifications on an app specific basis
Bluetooth data transfer for Android Beam
Offline voice dictation
Improved voice search
Improved camera app among other improvements.

Besides the customization, the availability of apps on the market is enormous. Applications are a major driving force when a customer chooses a phone. Apple still has the lead over at the App Store but Google is fast catching up and is expected to overtake iOS apps numbers in 2012.

One of the best things about the openness of the Android platform is that if you're unhappy with the stock OS, you can install one of many modified versions of Android (called ROMs) on your device. Installing a ROM can be tricky as the device must first be "rooted", then the ROM needs to be installed correctly. It's alot like installing a newer version of Windows with the bells and whistles. If you want more info about  ROMS head over to the pros at XDADevelopers forums.

Google encourages open source and developing of apps.This gives developers the ability to
create & develop apps and post them on the Market (Google Play).
Both the Windows Mobile and the IOS from Apple are closed source. Until recently Microsoft had shunned the open source world but now realizes the importance of collaboration.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Windows 8 RTM milestone reached

Last week Microsoft announced the RTM milestone has been reached. This means they've completed the development and testing phase of Windows 8 and is ready to release the code to PC Manufactures for OEM versions (Release To Manufacture). The OS will be available to the public beginning Oct 26th.

If you have Windows XP, Vista, or Windows 7 you qualify for an upgrade to Windows 8 Pro for only $39.99 in specific markets.

More information on the upgrade can be found here.

Microsoft has blogged that there are going to be three versions of Windows 8. This keeps it simple as opposed to previous versions which to say was confusing.

For PCs and tablets powered by x86 and AMD processors (both 32 and 64 bit), there is two editions: Windows 8 and Windows 8 Pro. For most consumers, Windows 8 will be the right choice. It will include all the features above plus an updated Windows Explorer, Task Manager, better multi-monitor support, and language support.

Windows 8 Pro is designed to help tech enthusiasts and business/technical professionals obtain a broader set of Windows 8 technologies. It includes Windows 8 standard features plus features for encryption, desktop virtualization, PC management and domain connectivity. Windows Media Center will be only available as an "add on" to Windows 8 Pro. If you are an enthusiast or you want to use your PC in a business environment, you will want Windows 8 Pro.

Windows RT is the newest member of the Windows family. This single edition will only be available pre-installed on PCs and tablets powered by ARM processors and will help enable new thin and lightweight form factors with impressive battery life. Windows RT will include touch-optimized desktop versions of the new Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote.

Monday, August 6, 2012

NASA/JPL Mars Curiosity rover landing

(Aside from the typical tech blog entry)
The Mars Curiosity rover landing caught my attention last week and I've been following it closely. Congrats NASA and JPL for the Curiosity Rover Landing on Mars! Just watching it on NASA TV it was a tense few minutes watching for the acknowledged from the rover.

 It had an unusual landing deployment. As the rover was 200ft in altitude the "skycrane" would deploy the rover by tether and lower it for touchdown. The skycrane would then fly away.
 Touchdown :)

Sunday, July 22, 2012

iPads handed out for Qantas in flight entertainment

If you are ever the one to rake up major flight miles flying to/from Australia on a weekly basis, and your tired of squinting to see the tiny LCD screen in front of you here's some great new for those long endurance boring flights.
Qantas Airlines now offers iPads not only to first class or business, but to all passengers flying the 767's in thier fleets. The rollout of the iPad program started last year with the removal of the in-flight headrest systems.

Why the switch to tablets? It has everything to do with weight. Typically an in flight LCD system weighs 3lbs verses the 1.5lb for the iPad. This is an tremendous amount of wieght reduction that the airlines seek to gain in fuel economy which on a typical 375-seat 767 could see the iPads pay for themselves within years, if not sooner.

American Airlines on the other hand, plans to deploy 6,000 Galaxy Tab 10.1 devices onboard select flights beginning later this year. The tablets will replace the airline's current personal entertainment device in the First Class premium cabins of the 767's flying transcontinental to and from Europe and South America served with 767-300 aircraft; and transcontinental flights departing from Boston to Los Angeles served with 757 aircraft.

More information can be found over at Engadget

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Microsoft reveals Office 15

Yup - you heard it correctly..Office 15.
Years ago I still recall Office 95 with the bland gray borders, the basic Excel formulas, the introduction of "Clippy" in Word. Now Microsoft is taking the Office suite to bold territory...The Cloud

It's the most complete overhaul of the Office products revealing a new web-like look, the ability to start video chats from your email program, add YouTube videos to essays, and share any documents online with Facebook friends.

We live in the cloud era, and Microsoft says that the new Office has been designed accordingly. "We're transitioning Office as a cloud service" said CEO Steve Ballmer, introducing Monday's launch.

"Rather than store documents on your computer, Microsoft's newest edition of Word will store letters, essays and more in the cloud," corporate vice-president Kirk Koenigsbauer said.

Microsoft stated in it's Office Blog that it will make it easy to sign in to upload your documents so you can use the same Microsoft account that you're already using with other Microsoft services, including SkyDrive, Hotmail, XBox, and soon, Windows 8.  If your business or school is a customer of Office365, you can also use that account to connect to your work world while away from your desk.

This brings to mind of the battlefield between Microsoft and Google. Google as you know already has Google Docs where you can upload documents, presentations, spreadsheets and share & collaborate these with coworkers.

Office 15 users will also let users share documents to Facebook or as a blog post from a pop-up menu, and other programs including Outlook, PowerPoint and Excel will feature low-profile menus that only expand when selected, making the programs look more like web pages.

The verdict is still out though. Even as Ballmer claims that Office 15 "is the biggest and most ambitious release in our history", the true test is how well the Office platform ties in with Microsoft's cloud servers.

It's a brand new redesigned look from the ground up and configured with the Metro Windows 8 touch interface in mind. It will take time though as using any office products from a tablet is still awkward for me, but using the platform on a PC, I'd say Microsoft has a powerful suite.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

UK High Court rejects Apples claims against Samsung

The case is part of a bitter, worldwide intellectual war between Apple and Samsung, and the High Court in the UK has determined that, even though the Galaxy Tab 10.1 is "not as cool" as the iPad, the court saw in favor of Samsung.

“They do not have the same understated and extreme simplicity which is possessed by the Apple design,” Judge Colin Birss QC said. “From the front they belong to the family which includes the Apple design; but the Samsung products are very thin, almost insubstantial members of that family with unusual details on the back,” the judgment said.

This comes as a relief for Samsung which last month Apple files an preliminary injunction in a San Jose court. On 26 June 2012, Apple was granted a request for a preliminary injunction against the sale of Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 in United States by District Judge Lucy Koh in San Jose, California.

This in effect prevents the sales of the Galaxy 10.1 tablet in the U.S until July 30th. That's when the CEO's of both companies will appear in court. The sales ban takes effect after Apple has paid a $2.6 million bond to protect against damages suffered by Samsung if the injunction is later found to have been wrong.

The UK High Court judgement can be read here.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Google reveals it's first tablet - a competitor for Kindle Fire

Google released it's first tablet today and it looks promising for the Android giant.
Called the "Nexus 7" the tablet seems as a direct competitor for the Kindle Fire.

The tablet has a 7" 1280 x 800 HD screen, powered by Nvidia Tegra 3 quad core processor, and will run the next version of Android 4.1 dubbed "Jelly Bean". The device comes with either 8GB or 16GB of internal storage and 1GB of RAM. The tablet is powered by a 4,325mAh battery offering up to 8 hours of active use. The tablet is jointly developed by Asus.

Pricing has also been confirmed: $199 for the 8GB model and $249 for the 16GB.

Google had previously sold an Android smartphone called the "Nexus One back in 2010, but discontinued sales as it had not lived up to expectations.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Apple and Samsung in settlement talks

Many in the tech industry are familiar with Apple taking legal actions against Samsung. Of course Apple has a long history with litigations, trademark infringments, and patent suits with other major corporations including Microsoft, HP, eMachines, and HTC.

In early 2011, while Apple was in court against Motorola, Apple went to court against Samsung, alleging Samsung had infringed on Apples intellectual property. The claim included the Galaxy S, Epic, Nexus S phones as well as the Samsung Galaxy tablets. The original complaint includes allegations that Samsung infringed on elements of the iPhone's look -- its rectangular shape, rounded corners, silver edges, black face and display of icons. By August, 2011, the legal battles extended to 19 ongoing lawsuits in 12 courts in nine countries on four continents; by October, the fight expanded to 10 countries.

The battles became so widespread that a US court ordered Apple and Samsung Chief executive officers into settlement talks to sort out their patent disputes or at least limit the number of legal actions. This prompted a technology magazine to report the court's directive for the two companies to, "get a room".

So now here we are in May 2012, and low and behold both companies are in the beginnings of settlement talks to find a resolution before a full-blown jury trial gets under way, scheduled for July.

It's understandable that it's fierce competition in the tech industry, especially when it comes to patent and design infrigments and every corporation has it's right to protect it's investments, but I believe Apple goes to the extreme. When it comes to "likeness" and "design", there will be phones you come across will have a similar interface and style which will remind you of a another android or iPhone.

More information can be found at this CNN article:

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Google adds 'Google Drive' for cloud computing

In the "it's about time dept", Google has added Google Drive to their plethora of online applications towards the cloud highway.

Google Drive
Google Drive is a simple but nifty syncing program which adds a folder to your desktop, phone or tablet and plops all your online files within Google Docs and make them available offline. Syncing takes place when online. 
It's available for Windows and Android platforms currently. iOS users will have to wait until Google releases that version.

If you have a Gmail account, then you have Google Docs. Google Drive comes with free 5GBs of storage but for $30 a year ($2.50 a month), users get 25GB to use for Google Drive and Picasa, plus 25GB of Gmail storage. This is strong competition with Dropbox, Box and SkyDrive. 

Check out Mashables original story here

For the application go here

Monday, April 16, 2012

Microsoft goes Open Source

Microsoft has always been a sort of "closed door" when it comes to it's programs and coding.

Historically the company has closely guarded it's software code so products such as Office and Windows can't be copied.

So when the Windows giant announced last week the creation of the wholly owned unit, "Microsoft Open Technologies Inc." it came to a surprise for the tech industry and some scratching thier heads. "Huh?...Microsoft and open source?"

The idea is for MS to more quickly release such programs and ensure existing Microsoft products are compatible with open-source software. And it makes sense.
With stiff competition from companies which have produced fine open source software such as Google (Android), Mozilla (FireFox), and Linux it was inevitable that Microsoft had to acknowledge open-source in a real way.
There's a great article about the subject at the Wall Street Journal here.

Changing the default folder when opening Explorer

When you open Windows Explorer from the Taskbar in Windows 7, it defaults to the Libraries view. You might want to set it to a different location that is more commonly used, such as the Documents or Pictures folder.

Today we'll see how to change the target path to allow you to customize which location opens by default.

Set Windows Explorer Startup Location
To change the default startup location for the Windows Explorer Taskbar icon, if you have no Explorer screens open, hold down the Shift key, right-click the Explorer icon, and select Properties.

Windows Explorer Properties opens up and you’ll want to click on the Shortcut tab so we can change the Target.

Lets change the Target to the Documents folder instead:
Copy and paste this into the field:
%SystemRoot%\explorer.exe /n,::{450D8FBA-AD25-11D0-98A8-0800361B1103}

Now click Apply
Now when you open Windows Explorer from the Taskbar it defaults to My Documents :D

You can set it to other locations if you know the GUID (Globally Unique Identifiers) for the object or location you want it to default to.
Recycle Bin: {645FF040-5081-101B-9F08-00AA002F954E}
My Computer: {20D04FE0-3AEA-1069-A2D8-08002B30309D}
Network Connections: {7007ACC7-3202-11D1-AAD2-00805FC1270E}
User Accounts: {60632754-c523-4b62-b45c-4172da012619}
Libraries: {031E4825-7B94-4dc3-B131-E946B44C8DD5}

Monday, March 26, 2012

Windows 8 Consumer Preview

Microsoft is finishing work of Windows 8 and should be completed by the end of this summer, setting the stage for PC and tablet sales for late October according to the MS release schedule. Microsoft has had the Consumer Preview version available to download since Febuary 28th here.
The consumer preview version is NOT a final version of the operating system, and it will expire on January 15, 2013. DO NOT INSTALL OVER YOUR CURRENT version of Windows. It's advisable to create an ISO image for a bootable CD so you may install on a separate drive or partition. Follow the directions closely on the Microsoft download site.

Windows 8 users will find the new Metro desktop getting used to. Chris Perrilo has his father test drive it, which he found the desktop a little confusing at first. For anyone who has ever used Windows Media Center, it's along the same lines. It's the first OS from Microsoft designed for ARM achitecture. It's the technology which also contains a wide set of instructions for tablets. Touch screen technology, rotating screen...etc.

So that in mind, a couple of videos for eye candy.

A very thorough video of the OS.

Chris Perillos ("Lockernome") video of his dad trying out Windows 8. Gives you a good idea of what regular computer users may encounter here.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Task Manager - how to use it

If you find that your system is running slow, before assuming that you have a virus or spyware, first examine what programs are running in the background. It's true that a slow computer which freezes may be the result of viruses and/or spyware, but lets not jump the gun and assume that automatically. Lets just open up Task Manager first
Task Manager is a Windows utility that's been around since Windows 2000. It provides detailed information about background programs, processes, users logged in, services currently running or stopped, network activity as well as CPU and memory usage.'s a pretty decent tool.

1. How exactly do you open it up? There are various ways, but the easiest it holding down CTL+SHIFT+ESC. Some will use the CTL+ALT+DEL, but that open up a menu with several selections including Task Manager. Lets just keep it simple shall we? :D

2. When you open Task Manager up, you'll see 6 tabs....Applications, Processes,

Services, Performance, Networking, Users.
3. Click the Processes tab
4. This tab will show you what programs and processes are running in the background.
5. You can kill/terminate one by RIGHT clicking and clicking End Process.

Now... you may ask... which ones can I end?......Thats a good question......and it takes a keen eye to determine which ones to End, however the ones listed as a System or Administrator process should not be stopped such as 'explorer.exe', 'winlogon.exe' or 'services.exe'.

'Spooler.exe' is a safe one to end only if you
don't plan to print anything. Ones like 'iTuneshelper.exe', 'Jusched.exe' or 'iPodservice.exe' are pretty safe to end as well.
The ones listed as a (your user name) usually are safe to end.

If you find any strange named processes such as "xtshbysa.exe' or 'yzghwtr.exe' chances or that you either have a virus or spyware (or both).
You'll see 'Svchost.exe' likely ALOT. This is a small executable that allows DLL's to communicate with Windows. Many programs will use this file, however if you see one using excessive memory, end it.

One word of note: Killing ANY of the processes will not damage your computer. End any of these processes and you'll likely free up memory. At worst you 'll have to restart the computer. Ending processes in the task manager is only a temporary way of freeing up memory.

For a more permanent solution use System Configuation. I'll cover that in my next entry.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The how and whys of defragmentating a hard drive

Over a period of time you may save and delete hundreds of files and documents on your computers hard drive. These files are save, moved, deleted all over sections of the hard drive.
Whenever you delete a file and empty the trash bin, that cluster(smallest portion of disk space for writing files) of the hard drive is now empty and can be used for writing over again.

Now lets say you want to save a word document which is 900bytes in size. A gap/cluster size on the hard drive is usually 512bytes.
A portion of that word document,388bytes , would have to be saved on another empty gap (cluster) somewhere else on the hard drive. Do this hundreds of times throughout the week and portions of files are spread all over the hard drive.

Defragmentation physically organizes the contents into the smallest number of contiguous regions (fragments). A defragmentation program moves files around within the free space available to undo fragmentation. This is a very intensive operation and cannot be performed on a file system with no free space. The default defragmenter which comes with Windows is okay, but there are faster and more efficient ones out there.

My preference is Auslogics, which is very fast and efficient and allows background programs running.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Linux - an explanation

Linux is an open source operating system which is free. It's considered the third top operating system trailing behind Windows and Mac.
Whats great about Linux is that it's open source. Which means the code can used, copied, studied, changed, and improved upon its design.

You may not realize it but many cell phones, DVR's (TIVOS) and routers use the Linux kernel. (The core component of the operating system). Linux systems are used in every domain, from embedded systems to supercomputers, and have secured a place in server market. Your cell phone likely runs on Android, an offshoot of Linux.

Many programmers and corporations have created their own distributions or "distros" for public use. The majority of them are simple, easy to use with a Graphical User Interface (GUI) similar to Windows. In fact, the desktops of most Linux ditros are comparable to Windows with a Menu, control panel, and desktop panel (Start bar).

Whats the advantages of Linux vs Windows?
*Linux is Open Source, which means the code can be viewed/changed.
*Linux is free
*The Linux kernel is a fast "monolithic OS" as compared to a "microkernel OS" (Windows). This speeds up commands between the OS and the hardware.
*Linux OS ditros are highly configurable
*Linux system requirements are lower than Windows. Damm Small Linux can run on run on a 486 processor with little as 128MB of memory. Ubuntu, one of the leading ditros can run on 400mb of memory and 700mhz processor. Well below the minimum requirements for Windows Vista of 1GHz processor and 1(GB) of memory. So if you have an old desktop laying around without Windows, you prob have a perfect Linux machine waiting to be used.

Many distros are downloadable from the respected web pages, and usually come as an ISO image. Which means you download the ISO and burn the image on a CD. Most ditros come with a "live" CD version which means you can pop the CD in the computer and run the OS directly from the CD therby trying it out for a test drive first before installing it on the hard drive.

Check out these well know Linux Ditros. Oh yeah... did I mention it's free?
Linux Mint - since December Mint has passed Ubuntu as the leading distro.

Ubuntu - a huge corporation, Canonical, designed the second most popular linux distro. It has since lost first place becuase of the new Unity interface, but is still has a strong following.

Fedora, Debian and OpenSuse are other fantastic ditros to try out.
Who knows.... you may like Linux so much you may make the switch permanently, or make a dual boot machine with Windows and Linux side by side.
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