PC… who needs it, anymore?!

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I was at Costco yesterday, I was totally surprised to see that there was a desktop model on display, the others were All-in-One loaded with Windows 8.

I think owning an All-in-One is just silly. Imagine standing and swiping away like a restaurant waiter to get to the webpage you want, or worse try typing a letter in WORD using the screen-keyboard. Sure, you can sit and do the same, but I bet after 10 minutes, your arm will get tired. Besides, All-in-One is not new! If you have been following the evolution of Microsoft’s OS, Acer and HP had touch-screen all-in-One since Windows 7, just that no one was buying them. To be honest, even if an iMac 27″, I doubt I will get one, or salivate to get one; it’s just not practical. This will only make sense if you using the computer passively: watching videos, playing music and games, etc.: touch here, touch there…

If you connect the dots, iPad and tablets are doing exactly just that. Sure, you may also occasionally type an email, reply to text, post a picture, … but the difference is that tablets and iPad are lighter and totally mobile. I can type anywhere I want with a blue-tooth keyboard, and it is just as good, if not better.

Another point why PC is dead? Before you might need to bring work home, but laptop has become so cheap that you likely can use one of your offices’ to do real work. It means the days you had to use your home computer to finish a report was so yesteryear. Likely, you get a laptop on loan, and VPN into your office network to get the files you need, and work away. This also means even thumbdrive is another technology of the past; besides, your company probably never allows you to download stuff on a thumbdrive anymore for security reasons. Remember those thumbdrive-gates, where public servants lost drives with sensitive information on them, and worse they were un-encrypted?!

Of course, some will argue that they still need a home computer to edit their photos, home movies, and stuff like that. Seriously, how many people are really doing those?! Never mind some people still have a hard time understanding an OS! Besides, Photoshop, InDesign, iMovies, …are really meant for the pro.

So it became apparent last week when I decided to get the last few bucks out of my Netbook (remember those?!), I installed Lubuntu hoping to get more speed out of the thing: Gateway 11″ LT311h, WinXP. It did and I was happy that finally everything was working with this Ubuntu version 12.04. Its WIFI was working seamlessly (three years ago, I was still struggling with it to recognize my router, and it never did, I used ethernet …long story). My next dilemma was whether to get a new battery, so that I could use it at cafés, etc, and mostly for writing stuff like this. Gladly, I didn’t. I found an inexpensive ($14) blue-tooth keyboard, Logitech designed by ZAGG, to pair with my iPad2. In fact, with iOS7, it works even better.

Here is the deal, companies like CloudOn, Google, are offering workable version of Office derivatives (Word, Excel, Powerpoint) in the Cloud, and files created are sync-able with Dropbox, Google Drive, and the likes, which means as long as there is a WIFI connection, I can work on those files as I please. Of course, one caveat is that you may not want to work on anything confidential on an open Hotspot. But at home, it’s game!

So iPad and tablets are in and laptop will soon be out, but not entirely, students still need them. Commercial laptop will remain, unless we revert back to terminal.

Mind you, I still prefer to write my blogs using my 15.6″ laptop, but for simple outdoor writing with a café au lait, my iPad/Logitech duo is nothing but perfect: light, truly functional, and practical now!

P.S. I use iWriter (Apple’s App) for basic non-format writing.

Watch out! USB 3.0 has arrived.

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This is a topic I find most people didn’t really know about is USB devices and connections. To keep it simple, you want to match the device (DVD-ROM, Portable HD, WebCam, Printer, etc) and connection of the same standard version, i.e., USB 2.0 connection on your laptop with a USB 2.0 device. During the switch of USB1.0 to USB2.0 most companies didn’t want you to know about the change, so that they can keep selling USB 1.0 products, and it caused some problems, for some products are not backward compatible. So you don’t want that to happen, although it is said that USB 3.0 is backward compatible.

At the end of the day, what does an average consumer needs to know about USB?

  1. It is a standard for connection of peripheral equipment to your PC.
  2. New standard is about new transfer rate, i.e., USB 3.0 (5Gbit/sec) is faster than USB 2.0  (480mbit/sec).
  3. On your computer, it is daisy-chained, although you will see multiple USB ports, i.e., you are sharing the same port for multiple extended equipment. In other words, the speed of data transfer is reduced by the number of devices attached.
  4. It’s backward compatible, and the lower denominator is the connection speed. In other words, connecting a USB 2.0 portable DVD ROM to a USB 3.0 will only transfer data at a maximum speed of a USB 2.0 port(480mbit/sec).
So this means when you buy a new computer, check which type of USB ports it come with, I have seen some with both USB 2.0 and USB 3.0, and know which one is which. Since it is still fairly new-ish, USB 3.0 devices will be more expensive as usual for companies to make more money, so make your decision based on return on investment(ROI); in other words, if you have a USB 3.0 port on your computer, and you really need to buy a new portable drive, it would make more sense to buy a USB 3.0 drive than a USB 2.0’s, maybe not so much on a cost/MB perspective, but for future usability and time saved on backing up. It’s all up to you, but at least arm with knowledge of what you are paying for. Do you own research!

Headache: buying a computer?

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Nowadays it’s such a headache to buy anything, and honestly, there is just too much information. I don’t even want to use a supermarket trip as an example.

The first developers of IBM PC computers negle...

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So a brief history of how 30 years ago it was kinda no-brainer regards to buying a personal computer(PC), cause there were few choices:

  1. IBM PC – expensive
  2. Apple MacIntosh IIe -expensive
  3. Commodore 64 (I still have one) or Commodore VIC 20 ($200 1982’s $ ??)
At that time, no one really cared what processor was in it, cause the “whoa” factor was a personal computer, in other words, it is unlike today’s marketing ambush of speed, cache, memory, and space, which in effect complicated the buying experience and turning it into sweat and indecision. It includes me, and I consider myself a tech-savvy guy.
So back to the question. One thing is for sure, desktop is mostly obsolete, unless you are a gamer who wants a cool-tower with LED lights and a dedicated HVAC inside the chassis to do some heavy duty cool 3D images rendering; otherwise, you are determining which laptop to buy, or, netbook. Tablet like iPad is still a niche, so I am not going to mix this in the decision tree.
As usual, Apple is switching the paradigm again when it upgraded the components of its latest line of MacBook Air, a netbook, and introduced iCloud, which means even laptop may sooner than later joins the obsolescence fade. WHY? the clear physical distinction between a laptop and netbook is really the absence of a DVD-ROM! Keep that in-mind. Beyond that, a netbook does everything a laptop will do, granted slower in a multi-task environment. So why 2 product lines ? Simple, revenue diversification! So a person like my mom might get talk into buying both… 1 to use at home and 1 on the road (not that she will ever need to).
Back to the paradigm shift or is it? Think about it, if your application is delivered from the “cloud” and movies, and music, and everything else, why do you need a DVD-ROM, or a laptop? In fact, Apple had done nothing but brought back the mainframe idea, so nothing is “really” new! (For those who remember the University computer terminal’s green screen with a white rectangular cursor? and remember it blinking while compiling… ) Yes, one difference, there is no lab technician dictates which applications are available. Otherwise, the future netbook like MacBook Air is really our old VAX terminal.
Are you still with me? So let’s get to the decision tree, shall we:
(for use in the next two years)
  1. Laptop or netbook? Value for money: get a laptop, unless your needs are strictly web-surfing, checking emails, occasionally use of Word, Excel, and the odd movies on Youtube, then get a netbook.
  2. Processor: look at your budget and pay for the best you can get, Intel i7 if not i5. i3 is really dual-core in disguise for marketing. If you are more advance check the differences among all the models, and what is the latest e.g., i5-2410m is now replaced by i5-2420m… (honestly, it has become the cereal aisle…read the fine print of their differences). Don’t overlook AMD processors! It’s really a debate of brands here.
  3. RAM: as much as possible, usually comes with 4GB (let’s not get into OS utilization efficiency, i.e., Windows 7 32 bit can’t address memory above 4GB, I believe, so 6GB is wasted of money, anyway… google if you may).
  4. Hard-drive: larger the better, and RevolutionPerMinute 7200 sightly better than 5400; the newest fashion is Solid State Drive (SSD) used in Macbook Air.
  5. Video card: I never like on-board stuff, i.e., Integrated Intel 3000 videochip shared memory, see if yours come with dedicated video card like Raedon or Nvdia, i.e., the card does it own processing and not relied on motherboard management.
  6. Apple or PC? Apple (check my APPLE page re: opinion), you will always pay a premium! PC, there are some bargains out there.
So if you only have $500 to spend, go to your favorite store and start comparing based on my list above.
My opinion on brands:
  1. Acer or Asus? Asus computers are better made.
  2. Sony has style but at premium, cause it’s SONY …
  3. Toshiba, Fujitsu, Samsung or LG: your personal taste.
  4. Dell: I am not a big fan, cause once you go through their ordering process, an advertised $399 machine becomes $599.
  5. Lenovo is my personal preference; it’s robust and well-built. especially the old IBM Thinkpad line, but a bit boring to look at or to carry (Lenovo, China, bought IBM PC operations)
  6. HP: I owned a few, and still have this laptop. HP really has quality control problems (once in a while, I have to blow dry this tx1110.ca to get it boot again, check my blog on this later)
  7. Apple: I love but can never justify in my head the extra that I have to pay.
So there you have it, I hope it helps a bit. I haven’t talked about the OS, cause really there are only two, Mac OS and Windows. (for Linux check my blog on this later), and obviously any decision made will first be based on your budget, so if you have a low one likely MacOS is automatically out the doors.