Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ category

Buying a Computer

March 3, 2010

Sometimes it is as important to know what not to buy as it is to know what is good to buy. This blurb offers both.

First, what to buy. Apple, apple, apple. My own personal favorite is the Macbook. Not just any Macbook. It has to have at least 2 gig memory, intel hardware, superdvd drive, external 1gig USB storage, airport card, wireless mouse and keyboard, video cable to use an external monitor, spare battery, powersupply, externally powered USB hub, at least a 120gig hard drive, and another external passport 120gig drive for the time machine backup software.

All the items described above will allow you to use the most recent OS-X software, WindowsXP in dual boot (if you must), default to the most reliable system available (OS-X). This setup is an excellent desk top solution and still provides the best in portable operation. The system is as fast as anything else out there and fully multi media capable. It can even do Netflix on OS-X as well as WindowsXP. Only use WindowsXP professional with ONLY SP2 and no versions of Explorer more recent than 7 with 6 preferred. Get updated and disable automatic updates. Get a personal firewall installed. One that monitors when programs want to connect to the internet. Then disable all those stupid programs that insist on calling home everytime you use them. Just disable the calling home feature, not the program itself. It is not good to let the software supplier update his software without letting you know in advance how that update will effect you. This is particularly true about software that is rarely used.

All that above software and hardware will cost around $2000 or less depending on if you buy new or used. It will be a complete and final answer to any computer needs you may ever have as concerns a personal computer.

Most all the above features can also be had at lower cost ($1000) by opting for a used iBook to support all the peripherals. It will be slower and less capable but the only feature you loose will be the ability to run Windows.

Now, what not to get. The easy answer is everything else. Specifically, avoid Dell, HP, Acer, and other first and third party vendors of complete systems. If you must to the PC route, build your own. Don’t use budget parts. Get new parts and go for quality. Read user reviews before you buy. Buy on-line mail order to avoid having to pay sales tax.

Do not try to build your own laptop. Panasonic and Sony make decent laptops. All others are junk.

Price Check

February 26, 2010

I have quit buying stuff at the local True Value store because they no longer offer true value or any value at all.

Most recently I needed a J-trap for a sink repair. I could not use the cheaper PVC type. I needed the old fashioned brass type. I went to the true value store first because it is closer. They wanted $10 for the part! I figured I could do better at Home Depot and I did. Handy Homer wanted $7 for the same part. Still more than I wanted to pay but certainly better than $10.

Today I heard that True Value stores are having a 20 percent off sale. That sounds like a good deal until you realize that their everyday prices are nearly 30 percent higher than the competition.

Home Depot would have to raise their prices by almost 10 percent to give you the same deal you would get at True Value 20 percent off sale.

Negative Political ads

January 21, 2010

When politicians come up for re-election empty handed, with no significant positive accomplishments, they resort to amplifying the negative accomplishments of their opponents.

Currently we have the two major candidates both running negative ads.

I believe this is an admission on their part that they have no good news. Just bad news about each other.

I believe it is time to let someone with a better outlook have a crack at the governorship.

Off Air TV

November 22, 2009

Seems that most of the new digital channels are in the UHF region. We do have basic cable but getting something for nothing is too big a plum not to pick it up if you can.

So, we added a four bay UHF TV antenna to our ham radio antenna. We mounted the TV antenna just on the other side of the mast from the ham antenna rotator.

We feed the TV antenna with open wire line hoping that the feedline might pick up some VHF signals as well as providing the absolute lowest attenuation of the UHF signals.

Seemed simple enough. We modified two U-bolts to fit the oversized mast and proceeded to mount the antenna.

The first problem was that it interferred with the rotator. So we made two metal stand-offs that would support the TV antenna out and away from the rotator.

The second problem was that the feedline was just a little too short. One lousy inch to be exact, but enough to have to solder extensions onto the existing feedline in order to reach the feedline connections at the antenna.

Took the better part of a day to make and install the necessary parts but finally finished.

Now all we need to do is hook up the feedline in the attic and see if the new antenna works.


November 22, 2009

Automated Teller Machine.

That is a device that gives you back your money and charges you for the convenience. Leave it to the banks to come up with ways to screw the public.

Here they save thousands of dollars by not having to hire a human teller. A human teller that does not charge you extra for getting your money over the counter, but using the machine which saves the bank money can cost you plenty.

Yes, but it is so convenient. It is convenient. Especially for the muggers just waiting for you to withdraw your cash. People hardly ever get mugged in a bank lobby.

ATMs facilitate crime and allow the banks to rob you too.

We don’t use ATMs.

We try not to do business with banks that have ATMs. Even those who do not charge an ATM fee because we do not want to become targets for muggers.

Sony DVD Player

November 16, 2009

I believe this DVD player was the first ever to be introduced to the market. I know it is at least 10 years old. Maybe older. My recolections about this device stop at ten years.

It was a joint Christmas present from our children. All three of the offspring pooled their resources to buy this thing for us as Sony was very proud of the product. As I recall it came in at around $300.

Last month it stopped working. It lost the ability to recognize discs. It kept tellin us there was no disc present when we loaded a DVD into it. Hey, I wonder if the DVD fairy turned it into a politician.

Last night I finally decided it was time to look inside this high dollar bit of technology and see if its brains had fallen out.

It turned out to be the spindle motor. The spindle motor had quit turning. Luckily it just had a stuck shaft. Dust, dirt, bubble gum? I did not find anything to clean out. I got it turning again by pushing on the spindle with my finger. One gentle push and it was off and running. Maybe it was just asleep or tired.

I ran a couple of DVDs through it. Let it run all night with the cover off. Both covers. The case cover as well as the drive cover. Big sign on the drive cover cautioned about looking directly into the laser. I was suprized to find it had a visible red laser. I was also surprised to find the little red dot started out at the center of the spindle and moved outward. I had always thought the head read from the outside to the center.

The drive is not all that happy with the top cover off. Seems the top cover contains a spindle tamer that helps stabilise the disc when it spins. With the cover off the disc sort of wobbles a bit before it finally gets up to speed. The important thing is that it works with the cover on or off.

Now the player is all back together and sitting, ready for use, in the console in the den. Hoping it will last at least as long as our DVDs last. No blue-ray here. Way to soon to get involved in another ‘Beta VS VHS’ like controversy. Besides, we don’t have another $300 to throw at blue-ray.

Off Site Backups

September 25, 2009

If your data has value, I mean real value, if it is worth something significant, if it would cost your serious money to restore it, or if it is not at all restorable, then (and only then) is off site backup justified.

Even when off site backup is justified, you need to re-examine the advisability of entrusting something SO valuable to people you don’t know or the pitfalls of sending something of value over the internet, round trip.

I find it somewhat dumb to send my important data to someone and pay them for the priviledge. Ever hear of identity theft?

I am not implying that off site backup services cannot be trusted but why do you want to trust someone you don’t know?

You would be better off giving your data to your neighbor for safe keeping.

If you don’t have any friends or neighbors you can always clone your hard drive and keep it ‘off site’ in a safe deposit box at a local bank.

Yes off site storage is needed if your data has serious value. For most of us it would be sufficient just to keep a cloned copy of the hard drive in a safe place in our home. Of couse, if your home were destroyed in a fire you would loose the original and backup hard drives together.

Doing your own off site backup is not as convenient as backing up off site electronically with the help of a backing up service but doing it yourself is most likely cheaper and far more secure.

When you can purchase a 400gig hard drive for under fifty dollars, you really can’t complain about backup costs.