Tech – for Everyone

Tech Tips and Tricks & Advice – written in plain English.

Wednesday’s Food For Thought

I only have time today to share a few item I hope you will find of interest.

I have a list, and I go through it each afternoon. I find that the more I can check off a “Yes”, the better I feel:

  • did I make someone smile?
  • did I answer all my mail?
  • did I ride a bike, or take a walk?
  • did I learn something new?
  • did I do a “random act of kindness”?
  • did I tackle an unpleasant chore?
  • did I tidy up a mess?
  • did I receive any money?
  • did I “stop and smell the roses” and/or appreciate nature’s beauty?
  • did I do anything nice for ME?

(I am curious.. Do you have a list like that? Does it work for you?)

Some “Tech News” items..

* The slow and steady evolution of cross-platform malware

Malware isn’t just for Windows anymore. As the number of Macs rise, the economic incentive for criminals to build cross-platform attacks rises. And so do the stakes.Read more..

* Over 1.5 million Visa, MasterCard credit card numbers stolen?

U.S.-based credit card processor company Global Payments is about to announce more details about the security breach that recently saw millions of credit card numbers stolen. It doesn’t look good.Read more..

* HTC One X is the best HTC device I have ever used (review & gallery)

HTC is focusing on quality instead of quantity this year with the HTC One series their premier launch device line. The HTC One X is fantastic and I have never used a better HTC device.Read more..

* California thanks Facebook for 800% boost in organ donors

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Blowing my own horn department: Loyal readers might like to know that I have added to my already busy schedule, and now am writing for Find The Best.com, as their “resident expert” in Desktop and Laptop/Notebook PC’s.

Find The Best is a relatively new concept: a “comparison engine” (on virtually any subject or item).

FindTheBest.com | Unbiased, Data-Driven Comparisons.

FindTheBest is an objective comparison engine that allows you to find a topic, compare your options and select the best choice for you.”

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Today’s quotable quote:The kindest word in all the world is the unkind word, unsaid.” ~ Unknown

Copyright 2007-2012 © “Tech Paul” (Paul Eckstrom). All Rights Reserved.


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All we really have, in the end, are our stories.
Make yours great ones. Ones to be proud of.

May 2, 2012 Posted by | advice, computers, Internet, News | , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

My First Look At Android, part 1

What?! No Netflix?!

Loyal friends of Tech – for Everyone will know that I generally write about Windows PC’s, specifically, and computers and the Internet, generally. (A ‘special theme’ here being cybercrime and Internet security.)

They will also know that I really have not talked about mobile devices: smart phones, like the iPhone; and tablets, like the Galaxy Tab and iPad. Except maybe to say that pedestrians and bicyclists who have their heads down, and are ‘texting’ instead of looking where they are going really ‘frosts my cookies’. (I won’t tell you what I think about drivers who text.. but maybe you can guess..)

click to see how this image was made in Photoshop (tutorial)

Well this past year, Apple’s iPad caused many folks to label 2010 as the “Year of the Tablet”. And this year’s Consumer Electronics Show was – surprise! – all about new tablets and smart mobile devices (the object formerly known as “cell phone”). And we are bent on moving to the “cloud computing” model. So.. my guess is these units are here to stay.

My exhausting and thorough, in-depth analysis and research (ahem) led me to believe that the main players of the operating systems for these ‘smart’ mobile devices are Apple, Android, RIM Blackberry, and Windows.. kinda in that order.

I won’t bore you with the reasons, but I am avidly not an “Apple guy”. I repair and support them at Aplus Computer Aid, sure. And I give the iPod, iPhone, and iPad due credit for being ‘revolutionary’, sure. (There are plenty of Apple-enthusiast websites out there already.) Short version: when it became time for me to go shopping, I tried really hard to avoid Apple.

I will come back to this subject, but for now, I only have time to say that I am currently putting through its paces an Android 4G smart phone that, it seems to me, has all the bells and whistles. Here are some of my initial impressions of Android. Quickly:

My first “pros”:
* Lots of free “apps” and kewel ‘widgets’.
* Intuitive. Snappy. Easy. (Haven’t had to look at the manual yet.)
* Seems to do everything, and .. if it doesn’t, quick as a blink, I can download “an app for that”.

My first “cons”:
*
For my getting-older eyes, I think I want a larger screen than the smart phones have.. perhaps a 7″ tablet. Unfortunately, my understanding is, the ‘phone tablets’ are not available in the US.
* Netflix ‘streaming’ is not available for Android
(iDevices and Windows 7 Mobile only).

That last was, you may be surprised to learn, a fairly big disappointment to yours truly. I put in a call to Netflix, and was told that I am not the only person on Earth who wants a Netflix app. I was told that because of the difference in the nature of Android, and because of DRM issues, Netflix has work to do, and cannot release a single app, but has in the pipeline – and coming “very soon” – device specific apps. The more popular your phone, the sooner you will get an app.. is the way it sounds to me.

However.. this fact does make the iPhone appear more attractive. At least to Netflix users.

To read Part 2, click here.
And also, Android Adventures – Part 3

Copyright 2007-2011 © “Tech Paul” (Paul Eckstrom). All Rights Reserved.


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February 14, 2011 Posted by | Android, Apple, cellular, computers, gadgets, hardware, Internet, mobile, PC, Portable Computing, software, tech | , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Replacing your hard drive

Hard drives die, and that’s a fact. In fact, it happened to me just the other day.
The HD that died was a very old and very hard-worked unit that came in a Dell Pentium-III (circa 1999) workstation, and I was not terribly surprised by its demise (actually, when you think about how hard-drives operate, it is more surprising that it lasted as long as it did.).

There is no real way to predict when a hard-drive will fail; and there’s no real “rule of thumb” that says, “replace your hard-drive every 10,000 miles.” Basically, you just run it until the wheels fall off, and then replace it. There is an option available on some motherboards (enabled in your BIOS) called S.M.A.R.T., which monitors your hard-drive’s activity and attempts to warn you when certain parameters may be indications of looming failure.. but this has had a dubious history. If you have S.M.A.R.T. enabled, and it warns you of such a thing, it’s certainly time to make a system backup.. but you may get two days, or two years (or longer) more service.

When my drive failed, my replacement steps were greatly aided by the fact that I had an “image” (sometimes called a “ghost”, or “ghost image”) backup, which I simply copied to the new drive. I simply cannot iterate enough: do you have a full, system backup? Stored someplace other than on that drive? If not, I will say that this is definitely a situation where an ounce of prevention will save you a ton of pain. To read my article on automatically making system backups, click here.

Tip of the day:Buy the right type of hard drive. Currently, there are two basic “types” of replacement hard-drives. [A brief aside: there is some new hard drive technology that has reached the consumer market — namely “hybrid” drives, and “solid state” drives. These drives use Flash Memory (such as in a thumb drive) to improve performance and/or remove moving parts. While these drives are the wave of the future, they’re quite expensive.. and “new”. When it comes to these drives, I advise “Wait.”] These two types are the older IDE and the more recent SATA. A quick glance inside your computer will tell you which one you have.

The cables will tell: If your PC is more than a few years old, you almost certainly have an IDE/ATA drive. These are also called “EIDE”, “ATA”, and “DMA” and sometimes have the word “Ultra” attached.. as in “UltraATA”.
Newer computers use “serial” ATA, or “SATA”. This newer Standard is faster, and uses a skinnier cable.

40pin.jpg   sata.jpg
The older, IDE cables (that run from your motherboard to your drive bays) are typically grey and are wide ‘ribbons’. The newer SATA cables look more like cables than ribbons, and are usually colored — red and blue being popular.

The next step is to “set the jumper” on your new hard-drive. This is a small plastic ‘bridge’ which fits over two contact pins.
jumper.jpg

The two main choices are “Primary” (often called “Master”) and “Slave”, and unless you have multiple hard-drives on your machine, you will want the Master jumper position.
(Some of the nicer hard-drive manufacturers will have the jumper there already, but it pays to check.) There may be a diagram for jumper positions on the hard-drive itself, or the instruction sheet which came with it. And the manufacturer’s website should list it as well (this comes in handy when the replacing drive is itself older).

Now completely power-down your PC and unplug it. Use an anti-static wristband, or ground yourself by touching the computer’s metal frame before reaching inside (do this each time) your computer– a very small electrostatic discharge can ruin your whole day. Unplug the 4-wire Molex power lead, and the data cable from the back of the deceased hard-drive; and then remove the (typically, 4) screws holding the drive into the drive bay.

Reverse the process to install the new drive. The cables should only ‘clip on’ in one direction, so don’t try to force them onto the drive.. they should slip on to the connectors fairly smoothly.

Now power-up, and boot your PC. Since there is no operating system on the new drive (no Windows to load), you will see an error message, and that’s okay unless it says “disk not found” (read this message carefully!). A “Disk not found” message here means that the PC’s BIOS does not recognize the new hard drive. If this happens, the first thing to do is hit the F2 and enter (system) Setup and make sure the entry for “Hard Disk 0” is set to “Auto”– if it is, power-down and double-check and re-seat your cables and the jumper to ensure everything is correct and then try again.
If it still fails, you may have a defective unit: take it back to the store.

The next step in hard-drive replacement is to load (and update) Windows, your programs, and your files. This is a arduous, all-day process.. unless you have a good backup.

Copyright 2007 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.

December 13, 2007 Posted by | add device, Backups, BIOS, computers, hardware, how to, PC, shopping for, tech | , , | Leave a comment