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  • This is kind of scary. It will be interesting to see how all this turns out. When the CPU itself has an exploit, well.......AMD might be getting a lot more business this year. Read about this here. AND please please please make sure you are getting windows updates as well as updates for all the daily software you use, especially software having to do with your perosnla information.
  • The price of RAM is just nuts. When considering building a PC you better have real munch money saved up. A basic ryzen 3 or intel i3 build can take you into the $700 area easy.
Bored? Wanna have some fun with the family? Try this:
So how much can a solid state drive speed up your computer?
Do you remember pong? Asteroids? Pac Man? We've come a long way........
archived before 2017
  • Don't worry. If you use WIndows XP, even though support will end for it in May 2014, you can still use the operating system with no problems. The only people who have to really be concerned are those who are on networks or business enviroments. If you do daily normal use with your computer (web, favebook, office, ect) then you will be ok. I do recommend you use either firefox or Chrome as your main browser. Internet Explorer 8 in XP is terrible, and Internet explorer on windows 7 is just as yuck yuck.
  • Want to turn your notebook or desktop into a speed demon. Upgrade to a SOlid State Drive. At this time (4/14) your can get a 240GB SSD for around $125. SOlid state drives have no moving parts. It's memory that acts as a hard drive. Windows and Macbooks can boot up as fast as 7 seconds. PRograms open instantly. Large data heavy applucations run so much faster. I have them in all my laptops (2007 macbook pro, 2009 macbook white & HP dm1 mini notebook) and they are truly amazing. I haven't gone the desktop route yet because I need the largest possible hard drives I can get into my systems (2 custom rigs, 1 Dell Precision and 1 2013 Mac mini). When the price of a 1TB drops some more I will probably make the change on my desktops as well. I highly recommend the upgrade. You can turn an old slow moving Dell Lattitude notebook into a speed freak. Get in contact for more details.
  • Windows 8.  Do you need it?  If you run windows 7 and love it, and you should, its a great operating system, then nope.  It’s a waste of money to upgrade to it.  Here’s the problem.  With windows 8 the operating system is basically 7 with a few improvements behind the door, mainly on the technical side.  What they did in their infinite wisdom was remove the Start button.  If you use an operating system without a touch screen, then not having the start button will drive you nuts.  Windows 8 is geared towards touch screens.  Even with the touch screens it is still kind of a moot point.  Its still see the icon, click on the icon, open application.  The mouse has been replaced with touch and lot s and lots of fingerprints and hygiene concerns.  If you love your smart phone on your PC then windows 8 ius for you.  For the rest of you, stick to windows 7 and max out your machine memory with that money instead. note: Windows 10 is out. Get it and leave 8 behind.
  • Windows 7.  I am truly amazed at just how great this operating system is.  I get stuff done, and it gets out of the way.  I push my machines hard.  Stable and fast.  It’s amazing to be able to say this about an operating system.  Highly recommended.  Get the 64bit version, and max out to as much RAM as your machine can take (or that you can afford).
  • Ultrabooks.  SO pretty.  So sweet.  I actually believe ultrabooks are the intended form of the laptop.  What manufactures would have liked to release instead of the bigger bulkier notebooks. Here’s why.  Heat.  Heat kills notebooks.  Squeezing the desktop computer into the size of a smaller encyclopedia book is nice, but it comes ata price.  The heat generated from computer components is pretty tropical in intensity.  A PUC with no heat sink and fan on it, can fry bacon.  Hard drives and computer memory are usually the first victims of excessive computer heat.  Especially with ‘consumer model’ laptops.  I’m sure you or someone you know has had a laptop and within a year or two, it stops working right.  You get it checked out by a technician who knows what he or she is doing (like me!) and they tell you, your memory is bad ore your hard drive has bad sectors.  You need to replace the hard drive or memory.  This usually comes from excessive heat.  Most hard drive manufacture’s and memory makers warranty their products for at least 3 years.  In the case of memory they will do lifetime warranty (like by peeps G-Skill!), which guarantees you a full replacement after you RMA (return merchandise authorization) the memory.  SO if manufacture’s are selling product with the intent of lasting a long time, why do so many laptops and netbooks die after a year of being used?  Well quite simply its because laptop makers tend to put things out and ask questions later.  There is a big difference between Dell consumer base laptops (inspiron, ect) and their business class machines (Latitudes) and it all has to do with money.  They cannot afford to sell product to corporate clients that have a high failure rate.  Bad for business.  For consumers they say, hey… as usual.  I never see Lenovo notebooks coming in for repair.  Their consumer and business class laptops are the bst out there.  They are the few and the proud.  I own a macbook pro (3,1 – got it for writing fiction) and man does that thing get HOT.  They wer smart enough to move the hard drive n memory away from the danger zone so you can go a little longer without complications from heat taking a toll.  So what does this have to do with Ultrabooks you ask?  It’s simple.  Ultrabooks work with as few moving and mechanical parts as possible, therefore less heat is generated.  Dat is handled a lot more efficiently due to memory and storage being soldered onto the motherboard.  Ultrabooks run nice and cool.  The design in windows based ultrabooks is starting to catch up with apple.  Unfortunately they are priced like apples too, but I’m sure that will be forced to come down since windows 8 is driving people away from buying one.  If you do have the money for one they are very nice indeed.  Try Lenovo or Asus.  Macbook Airs are also very nice, they have the best keyboard in the business.
  • The mac thang, 2013. Mac computers only.  First off I can say the Retina display is the kind of marketing genius you wish you could do for yourself.  Like creating the Retina Pizza. A pizza with 3 times the toppings of a regular pizza.  I was lucky enough to be able to get a couple macbooks on the cheap.  A macbook white and a (3,1) macbook pro.  Even though they are a few years old, the displays on thos e things are pretty incredible, especially for creative writing.  Extra bright and crisp.  Trying to pass off a display that is twice as sharp to normal people seems more of a hustle.  No one is reading text magnified x40.  If your going to get the recent macbook pro’s, do it for other reasons than the retina display.  The new macbooks are kind of the direction that computer manufactures all want to go.  Give the end user less choices and you the excuse less reason for something to go wrong on the manufacturer end.  For computers this can be a bad thing for power users.  You want the option to be able to add more memory or replace a hard drive.  You want to be able to change your own battery as well.  Apple, and soon other computer manufacturers are going to opt to remove this choice from the table.  Not good.  The cost to max out a macbook pro is some very serious coin. You have to do it if you want your ensure your machine is up to date.  8gb is the new standard for memory for a PC or mac.  Windows 7 will use 2GB of RAM just starting up and remaining idel.  Same with apple OSX.  The more memory the happier these OS’s run.  So with Mac’s I’ll say this.  If you can afford a Mac, then get one because they are well crafted machines despite the flaws.  The resonate art, design and function in many ways.  Just keep in mind that if your buying new, max out the macbooks memory and storage.  Eventually you’ll want to do that and because of everything being soldered on the motherboard, you cannot upgrade.  A great alternative are the 2010 2011 macbook pro’s.  I believe the heat issues aren’t as bad as the older pro’s, and you can max out the memory to 8gb, and in some cases 16GB.  I recommend OWC for any mac related upgrades your thinking of doing. The Macbook air is also a great choice for people how need a nice portable machine that won’t overheat on you in heavy use.  The MacBook keyboards are the best in the business, which is why I wanted to try one.  Something so simple can make a world of difference in the creative process for writers.  The Mac Pro desktop is supposed to get an upgrade, but those things are already priced like Lexus so I don’t see the re-fresh being a better choice.  Right now the Imac out-trumps the Mac Pro desktop in terms of everyday speed.  Those are also nice machines if you can afford them, the Imacs. 
  • Beware of Yahoo Mail.  Just for Poop’s n giggles, if I were you I would start a gmail account and import your yahoo account into it just for safe keeping.  Yahoo email gets hacked way too often for it to be a coincidence.   I personally think they have something going on with these 1-800 numbers people find when locked out of their yahoo accounts.  They always want 2 things.  To remote in on your computer and then they want you to pay money to get your account back.  Don’t fall for it.  Contact yahoo directly, this type of service should always be free and will NEVER require that anyone should have acres to your computer.  After you get your account back, move to Gmail, send a blast stating your new email address, and then drink Pepsi and enjoy the good life.
  • Vista or XP?  It’s like this.  I’m a nerd.  Big time.  So I’ll try to give you the scoop in non-nerd talk.  Here it is, unless you have MAC money, you’ll have to settle for the Windows experience.  Microsoft seems to get a kick out of making all consumers who purchase new Windows operating systems what they call ‘Beta testers’.  This means that you use software that is half done and needs work to get right.  You end up being the beta tester by calling or emailing Microsoft support complaining about something that isn’t working right with your OS.  They write it down and add it to the list of the hundreds of other bug fixes that need to be done.  Rather than get it right BEFORE releasing, they choose to put it out ‘as is’.  They have done it with every version of an operating system they have ever made.  This being said, when it comes down to it, Vista with service pack 1 (sp1) is pretty rock solid.  This doesn’t really mean much though because other than the brighter look and better indexing feature (with better indexing than xp, you can search for anything with vista in seconds), Vista offers nothing special; especially for the money Microsoft wants for it.  Seriously, if you have XP or an XP machine with a dual core processor, don’t waste your money on Vista. The way I see it it was released to push new hardware.  There is no logical reason that a 4 year old  XP machine should not be able to run Vista, but that’s how they do things at Microsoft.   Vista has got so much bad press that Microsoft already has another operating system in the wings slated for a 09 release called…..taa daaaa Windows 7.  Vista has been out like what…2 years or so?  They say Windows 7 will be the OS they should have released in the first place, and that being said, it isn’t all that exciting from what I’ve seen from the Beta’s.  It’s the same windows.  They need to make their OS exciting again and make it an easy buy.  1 version for everyone.   I’ve used Mac’s Leopard and Unbuntu’s Beryl and I can tell you, folks are going to get tired of the same ole Windows environment. These alternative operating systems are pleasant to look look at, easy to use and run fast on hardware that uses 3 times less the requirements to run the full version of Vista.
  • Mac, PC or linux box?  It really depends on how you like to spend your money.  If you have money drippin’ out your but cheeks, then MAC is the way to go.  It’s true that you can get the same type of PC in terms of speed and power in the PC field for half of what you pay for a glorified MAC, but when you use a MAC day to day you’ll see where all that money went.  That’s if you have it to spend.  MAC’s, configured to mirror similar built PC rig, can take your lunch money.  MAC binds their OS with their hardware, and their hardware isn’t exactly top of the line anymore.  The Leopard OS is so good that it can make bargain basement components shine.  I’ve used Leopard.  It’s almost sexual the way it runs.  Like a hot chick who is really there just for you.  That’s the MAC OS.  If you have the cash, spend it. 

-Does this mean you should rule out the PC or a linux box.  By all means NO, but understand this.  ALL problems rooted with PC’s with Windows 2000, XP or Vista can probably be traced to something that was caused by internet access.  I have 3 main computers, low grade laptop (single core Celeron, 1.5gb ram) running Vista Home, a productivity PC running xp pro (2.40ghz dual core athlon, 4gb ram), and my music computer which runs xp pro (3.04ghz Pentium 4, 2GB ram).  My music computer does not touch the web.  In fact the network card is disabled and there is no phone card.  NO web.  I can tell you that I have absolutely no trouble with my music computer.  Ever.  There is no virus program on it, everything gets scanned before it gets put on it.  It’s just the OS and my music software.  No firewalls, no spyware programs.  None of that crap.  It runs great.  At one point I had it running for 3 months straight, no reboots needed.  XP pro without the internet is basically a MAC.  One of the most stable operating systems I’ve ever used for productivity (next up is AMIGADOS J).  You connect XP to the web and that’s when the darkness comes.  All kinds of evil crap comes out the woodworks.  You have to install virus scanners, spyware programs, malware detectors, firewalls, all kinds of stuff just to keep your pc safe.  MAC’s and Linux boxes don’t seem to have the bull’s-eye target on it that hackers love like Windows does, but give it a couple years and I think they will start to work on Leopard and Linux, especially since they are becoming more popular.   If you do productivity I would suggest getting 2 computers, one  that accesses the web and the other that you just do work on.  Dual core machines (refurbished or lightly used)  can be had for $200 online.  That’s the selling point of the PC.  More for your money.  That PC you buy that doesn’t touch the web will bring you joy joy feelings.  That PC that is connected to web will catch internet HIV from time to time.  Its just a fact of nerd life.  So basically what I’m saying is that you can get 2 pc’s for the price of what you’ll pay for a glorified MAC.  A dual core processor with a clock speed at 2.20ghz or higher running xp pro will be fast enough for anything you want to do. 

-Where does Linux stand in all this.  It’s like this, if you do not need to run Microsoft  or Adobe software, and you don’t have $1500 - $4000 for less for the money MAC, then Linux might be for you.  I’ve used linux in the form of the Ubuntu  version of the OS.  You can install it from a CD image which you can download, or order a installation CD.  After you install it you basically have everything at your disposal that you’d need to be productive.  Photoshop like graphic program (GIMP), Office suite (Open Office), a Standalone word processor (Abiword), as well as all the other tools you have in Windows and Leapord.  Mp3 player, Instant message program, FTP, Firefox, Web design tools, and much more.  Best of all this operating software is going to cost you nothing, and it can run on yesterdays technology and move faster than Windows or Osx.  You can run Ubuntu on a $150 desktop that can scored of craigslist and as long as you don’t have the need to run brand name software or play games, you’ll be all right.  Yep, Linux ain’t for playing video games, and the list of brand name software makers who make software for linux is never going to be like Windows and Mac OS.  But that’s what is missing from todays computer environment.  The lack of variety stunts true growth and innovation.  Linux is growth and innovation, just like Apple Leopard.  Only difference is that this is all free for the end user.  You can add different things to Ubuntu to make it similar to the windows or mac experience.  Beryl will give Ubuntu the 3d look of Mac Leopard or Windows Areo, and I must say that it looks more exciting than the big two’s offering.  Of course there is a learning curve with Ubuntu, as well as all of the different factions of Linux OS’s (there are many different types of Linux OS’s), but the basic Windows / Mac structure is there.  File Edit ect.  You can also dual boot Ubuntu from a windows machine, or you can run it from a CD to test it out.  I’d give it a try if you fit the category I mentioned above.  Not everyone needs a $250 operating system and $150 - $600 photo editing software.  I mean have you seen the size of Adobe Acrobat?  What’s that all about.  How can the software makers of pdfprimo and Foxit Reader do what acrobat does and be 90% smaller than the adobe installer?  This is where the beauty of alternatives comes in.  Linux software is small, tightly written, and stable like good government job.  Check it out.

-If you must try to install anything inside your computer, please please please unplug the power first and then press the power on button to cycle any remaining charge. By doing this you avoid the risk of shorting out any of your sensitive components like memory or your CPU. I get a lot of customers with fried motherboards from attempting to be a geek without the proper dweeb skills. Try to get a tech to install your internal pc goodies. So much that can go wrong. Just a little advice.

-Windows 7. It's nice they are getting around to releasing what is really VIsta Service Pack 3, but to make people pay a premium for it is just wrong. I recently moved from Vista back to XP on my notebook and I must say, you don't really get just how messed up Vista was until you feel it. With XP back on my little $399 Compaq it now runs 3 times faster and it doesn't have that rubbery feeling that Vista did. Everything is where it should be. I hope Windows 7 really is the proper XP pro replacement. I love visiting Mac stores, but that's just about as far as I Can go with that. They are nice, but not that ni$e. Windows 7 will have a lot to prove, especially with the price tag it carries and those ridiculous "home version', "school version", "business version", Medium Apartment size version" series they are doing all over again. When I get some hands on time with WIndows 7, which should be soon, I'll write about it.

-It’s funny.  I find I’m having to remove Norton and McAfee from customers computers in order to get wireless networking and speed back to the pc’s.  Whatever happened to Norton?  I remember those box covers from the eearly 2000’s with the picture of the serious looking dude in the white shirt looking like he was born to do nothing but kill evil computer virus’s.  Norton was a great virus program back then.  Now they (along with McCafee) have become bloated.  Norton still has a great detection rate, but it’s like running a second Operating system on your machine.  It’s so bloated that you have to run a special uninstall application they created in order to fully delete it from your machine.  That sux.  Virus suites should barely be noticed.  You want good virus protection without giving up half your computer resources?  Try some of the free alternatives like avast, Avira, Kaspersky.  I personally run Avast.  It’s a great free antivirus program but you do have to have good "”surfing sense”.  Don’t click when they tell you you’ve won a free Xbox 360, stuff like that will give your computer HIV. 

-A lot of customers I come across are kind of  lost as to what they can do with a home network.  With a home wireless / wired network you can do the following:

    • the most obvious thing is being able to get online with any wireless capable device like a laptop, ipod touch or portable video game system.
    • You can network share a printer.  This is a better way to share a printer.  WHen you share a printer that is connected to a computer, if that computer is turned off, you can’t print.  With a network printer which is connected to your router (or switch…i’ll explain), you can print to it no matter which computers are turned on or off.  With a Switch, which allows you to add more connections to your network, you can even have more than 1 printer connected to share.  You can also share Network hard drives in the same manner, so anyone wishing to backup files can write to the network hard drive.  This way if something goes wrong with the hard drive on your computer or laptop, you have backup copies of the files on your network drive.  Very nyce!
    • You can also share share folders on your network from any computer connected to your router whether it be wired or wireless.  This is a nice way to share files, but an even better way is with a network hard drive (like i mentioned above) which can be accessed no matter who’s computer in on of off.  Throw a bunch of movies, music and ebooks on it and anyone on the network can access the goods. 
    • With a wired network you can share large files between computers with a lot of speed.  This is nice for families that have kids (and adults) who like to collaborate on things.  Want your brother to add some funny text to a picture you took?  No need to put in the usb flash drive, copy it, go all the way to the basement and give it to him to copy.  Just open up his public folder on your network and copy and paste it there.  Now instantly he has it.  This is also good for small business owners and folks who do a lot of computer related productivity work.  Like art students sharing a apartment.
    • You can attach video game units on to your network.  Wired or wireless.  Also you can host LAN parties where everyone brings their laptop and plays PC  games together.  The notebooks plug into your router.  If there isn’t enough inputs on the router then you get a switch.  Nice thing about switches is that you simply plug them in and they figure out things by themselves.  You plug in yout router output into the switch, then connect the other devices (notebooks, printers, ect) and the switch automatically figures out where everything is suppose to be routed.  I have a switch on my router.  My router only has 4 inputs, which are being taken up by my desktop pc, ps2 and network printer.  The one input that's free is connect to the 8 port switch, and my network hard drive, xbox 360 and photo printer is connected to that.  Keep in mind when you buy a switch you will lose 1 input to your router output jack. 
    • If you have a strong enough router, some people share an internet connection between 2 homes or apartments.  Hey why not?  It’s not like that money tree you planted is generating free cash.  Just be sure you know the limitations of the internet service provider you have.  I know Comcast is notorious for having hidden usage caps (usually 250gb per month), so watch the downloads when you do this.  You can try one of the free usage monitors here.
    • You can also share programs with a home network.  One computer with a copy of Adobe Acrobat can be used across several machines.  When you print, you can chose the printer you want to use.  Select the adobe acrobat printer and print the file to your machine.  If you want to make pdfs for free (without the bloat), you can try PrimoPDF.  An alternative for viewing pdfs (no bloat) is the Foxit Reader.

-Do you favor yourself a dweeb like I do?  Then download the iso (or order the cd) of Ubuntu.  It’s a free operating system based on the Linux Kernel.  You can run it off a CD without it touching your windows install.  It will find drivers for your components.  It comes with a office suite, photoshop alternative, firefox, media player, and more.  It has cool effects which you can add like the one you’ll see here.  Again, it’s free.  You can run Microsoft and Adobe software  (actually all software made for windows) using Wine.  It runs on old PC’s, very fast. 

-I've been getting a few computers with dead hard drives. Every now and then when you use your computer, put a ear close up on it. A dying hard drive will emit a high pitch squeal. Its not going to be super loud, but you should be able to hear it. A heathly hard drive runs quiet. If its just squealing then you have some time to back your data off of it to an external usb drive. If you hear a kocking sound, that's usually a drive that has had it. IT will ocst a lot of money to get the data recovered when its dead like this since the insides have to be removed to get to the files. Always have a backup plan. External hard drives are cheap now.

- From a design standpoint, you have to love Apple's website.

- Never clean a LCD or Plasma monitor or TV with Windex or any other glass cleaner. That would be a bad move. Always use a cleaning spray specifically designed for LCD's n Plasma screens. Like the one's you'll find here.

- Wondering if you'll be drenched with rain? Live in the Chicagoland area and suburbs? Bookmark this!

- I get asked a lot of questions. I kept a list of the most common one's. I'll do it Q & A style :)

- Beware of scams. This one really pertains to Yahoo mail. Everyone Yahoo mail seems to get compromised no matter how careful you are with your account, or how strong your password is. I never get this sort of thing with gmail users or Hotmail users unless they have their personal email addresses in their yahoo accounts.  It seems to work like this.  You get messages from your friends saying that you sent them a email which looks like spam, or you get locked out of your account because your password was changed.  Upon doing a search you find a number to call, like 866-562-7219, which is supposed to be yahoo’s customer help.  Now all you want is your password reset so you can log back in to your email account and reset it again and get on with your life.  Not so fast.  The guys on the phone, which sound like they are in the middle of India, have one thing on their mind.  To get you to download a remote access file of for you to setup your computer so they can access it (that’s never good).  They do not tell you up front that they are a pay service, which means anything they do for you will not work, because they are a pay service.  They will either tell you that your machine is infected, even if you’re working on a machine with a fresh install of a operating system.  They will even give you a reset password, which of course won’t work, all so they can get you to allow them access to your machine.  They will then tell you it will cast anywhere from $99 and up, and tell you to borrow the money from someone if you don’t have it (no joke).   If you ask too many questions they will get rude with you and eventually hang up.  This kind of thing is disturbing because its attached to a well-known and trusted company like Yahoo.  Every single compromised account that sent me bogus email was from I don’t like the odds of it being them every time.  Keep in mind that you can log into email services like yahoo, gmail or Hotmail from ANY computer.  You should also be able to log into your email account even if you had a virus provided you have internet access.  Point is this is another sick scam.  Don’t fall for it.  Contact yahoo directly, makes sure the person you are talking to states that they are an official Yahoo company.  DO not pay a dime to get your email account back up and running.  In fact if you do, export your contacts and forward any important emails you need to keeps to a shiny brand new gmail account.  I haven’t come across a hacked gmail account yet.  It is sad that people have to deal with creeps like this.  If you do come across scum like this, report them.  There’s a chance Yahoo might not know what’s going on.  A real slight chance.


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