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Ramblings from the Marginalized » Technology


Technology October 21st, 2009 by HMTKSteve

Just to let everyone know the Windows 7 Upgrade Family Pack is now available to order via Amazon.

This special upgrade version of Windows 7 includes product keys for 3 PCs. Yes THREE PCs. With the base upgrade version of Windows 7 costing over $100 it is in your best interest to pick up this one while supplies last.

Yes, I have ordered this for my family and we will be upgrading a desktop, laptop and netbook to Windows 7.

Technology June 26th, 2009 by HMTKSteve

As many of you know I have been running Windows 7 on my netbook and I have been greatly impressed with it.

Microsoft has now released an early upgrade offer where pre-ordering the newest version will save you a lot of money. You can preorder the Home Premium edition for $49.99 (about half off) or you can order the Professional version for $99 (about half off).

Technology May 11th, 2009 by HMTKSteve

I don't know whether to laugh or cry. I just got an email from Dell telling me about their new 'Della' service:

Introducing Della, designed exclusively for women where style, technology and mobility meet. Dell Home helps organize your busy life with ultra portable netbooks that go everywhere you do. Personalize your Mini 10 at Della with exclusive artist designs, and make it all your own. Experience the freedom, experience sophistication, experience Della today.

Introducing Della! Life is complicated. Technology should be fun.

After glancing through the Della site I had to wonder if this is something good or something patronizing. The gamer in me remembers all of those super cheezy 'games for girls' video games from the 90's that looked like something a guy who had never met a girl would design.

Designer 1: I hear girls like horses.
Designer 2: Yeah? I heard they like dolls.
Designer 1: Let's design a game with horses that are dolls!
Designer 3: I knew a girl once... She liked to clean.
Designer 2: We can make a series of mini-games where the girl cleans up horse poop!

Girl with game talking to parents: You bought me a game where I have to clean up virtual horse poop???
Brother of said girl: Are you done cleaning up horse poop? I've got muties to mow down!!!

So... After giving it some thought I asked my wife her opinion.

After spending a few minutes on the site she told me that this site is a good thing. That a site like this is good for Dell in that it is aimed at educating their target audience and helping them find the right computer for their needs. Whether that need is processing power or something that is stylish and matches her shoes.

In that end I pronounce the new Della service as a good thing.

Technology April 18th, 2009 by HMTKSteve

After upgrading my Acer Aspire One to Windows 7 I noticed that the fan had gone from an annoying little background hum to the sound an old hard drive makes as it drags its broken heads across the platter while it boots up or runs long. I thought briefly about opening up the machine and taking a good long look at the fan but I didn't want to deal with the hassle of reattaching the rubber feet.

Curious to see if I was the only one having this problem (and looking to fix the low level fan hum problem itself) I did what most people do and I searched online for similar problems.

After visiting several forums full of AOA owners with a similar problem I found a link to a small program that runs in the tray and allows me to set the temperatures for the fan to work at. I also found many references to Linux users with the same problem but since I'm not using Linux their guidance is useless for me now. If in the future I decide to throw a form of Linux on here I now know where to go.

I have to say that the program works great in Windows 7 and now the fan does not run unless the temperature of the CPU goes above 70 degrees Celsius. It then shuts off when it falls below 68 degrees Celsius. Most of the time the CPU runs below 45 degrees Celsius.

I still need to investigate why the fan was making those horrible screeching and scratching noise but with the program running it never makes that horrible noise. Not even on boot up. It may have just been a case of overuse.

If you are looking to quiet down your Windows 7 AOA netbook why not follow the link and download the software? Your ears will thank you, as will your battery.

Acer Aspire One (AA1) Fan Control for Windows XP/Vista

Technology April 17th, 2009 by HMTKSteve

For the past few days by Acer Aspire One Netbook has been in the hands of my daughter. She's been walking around the house goofing off with it and watching YouTube videos. This evening she asked me to install the NetFlix plugin so that she could watch some of the on demand movies in our NetFlix queue.

The first thing I did was fire up Internet Explorer and go to the NetFlix site to download the plugin.

Because my daughter is using a user account and not an admin account I had to enter my admin password during the installation process.

The plugin install went just fine but then Netflix told me that I needed to update my copy of Media Player. After a 24MB download Windows 7 informed me that the software I was downloading was older than the software that is already installed. Figuring that NetFlix was simply confused I rebooted the machine.

Sadly the version of Media Player that ships with the Windows 7 beta is not compatible with the NetFlix plugin for Internet Explorer. Downgrading is also not an option.

If watching on demand movies from your NetFlix account is important to you don't use the Windows 7 beta. Hopefully this problem will be fixed before Windows 7 ships this fall.

Technology April 7th, 2009 by HMTKSteve

Today I thought I might take the time to load Windows 7 on my netbook, the Acer Aspire One. Because the netbook lacks a DVD drive I needed to think up a good way to get the software on the machine.

I considered putting it on my USB flash drive but I only have a 1GB model and Windows 7 requires 2GB+ of space. I thought about buying a 4GB model but I couldn't convince myself to shell out $30 for 8GB of storage.

Because my main laptop recently died (it will soon be sent back to HP for repairs) I decided on a different option. HP requires a hard drive be installed in the laptop when I ship it back but they also may reformat the installed drive.

Not wanting to risk anything bad happening to my data (yes, I have backups) I decided to get another drive and slap it in for the journey to the repair shop. I ended up not buying an off the shelf laptop drive but instead picked up a 320GB My Passport Western Digital drive instead.

It set me back about $10 less than a laptop drive of the same size would and I get the added bonus of an external USB hard drive when it is all said and done. The big question will be if I leave the 320GB drive in my main laptop or put the 120GB one back in.

The 320GB external drive has plenty of space for the Windows 7 install files so that is where they went. It took about 30 mins from start to finish but Windows 7 is now installed on my Acer Aspire One netbook.

The install was mostly glitch free but I did have one major problem, the touch pad.

Under Windows 7 the Synaptics multi-touch touch pad was recognized as a standard PS/2 mouse. One without any form of scrolling nor tapping.

The mouse buttons on the Aspire One are pretty inconvenient as it is so you can imagine my annoyance at seeing tapping not working.
I tried using an XP/2000 driver and it seemed to work but then it crashed. I tried to download the Vista drivers for their touch pads but so far I have had no luck downloading them. I will do some more research and get the touch pad working!

The Wi-Fi came right up and the switch on the front of the machine still works to turn wireless on and of. The only difference is that I no longer see the notification on screen in green letters the way I did when running the copy of XP that shipped with the machine. This is fine because Windows 7 has added something that I am currently in love with, the Mobility Center.

This little Windows program is a laptop lovers dream! It allows you to quickly modify items that laptop users often spend time looking for. For example you can quickly adjust volume, power saving, contrast/brightness, turn Wireless on or off, fiddle with an external display, etc... This little bit of Windows magic will likely be my most often run application.

Why? Because I'm tired of always having to jump down to the tray or otherwise look for these settings.

It is also important to understand that not all machines get as many tools in the Mobility Center application. It depends on your PC manufacturer. Since Windows 7 is still in beta don't be surprised if some of the things you want are not there.

Because I did the full install rather than the upgrade (no upgrade path for XP) I lost all of my installed programs. This includes my anti-virus and 60 day trial of MS Office. I still have the original recovery partition and software so I'm going to try and reinstall those applications at a later date.

Aside from the touch pad issue I have also noticed that Windows 7 has identified 3 Base System Devices that it does not know what they are. I have no idea what they are myself. Windows 7 does provide some bus information so I will have to track them down when I have time.

The built-in webcam was found by Windows 7 but I currently have no idea how to use it, not that I ever used under XP! I will have to investigate some software options to see how Windows 7 handles it.
I do have to say that Windows 7 has a very Vista-like feel to it and it runs quite well on my little netbook. I'm using Wordpad to write this and the though the toolbar is a lot bigger than I would like it to be (netbooks have very little screen real estate) I am having no problems finding the tools that I need to write this article.

Technology April 5th, 2009 by HMTKSteve
Staples USB Thumb Drive

Have you ever gone into a big electronics retailer for a spur of the moment purchase? Ever got home and found out that the same thing could have set you back even less if you purchased it online? I have.

Ever walk into one of those big retailers and found two items side-by-side for the same price even though one of them was twice as good?

See that picture of 4GB USB thumb drives? Both boxes are marked $24.99 but one of them is twice as good as the other!

That's right, one of those boxes has one 4GB thumb drive while the other has 2 4GB thumb drives. All of them are made by the same company and all boxes contain the same exact thumb drives. It's just that one of those boxes gives you two drives for what the other box charges you for one.

Next time you go shipping be sure to look around. Don't pay double for the same thing!

Technology March 31st, 2009 by HMTKSteve

While going through a big stack of catalogs that came in my mail today I happened upon a catalog from Dell. unlike most people I receive two different catalogs from Dell, I receive the consumer and business catalogs. It was the business catalog that arrived and right on the front cover was a special deal on a laptop with 19 hours of battery life

19 Hours of Battery Life?

Battery life results based on Dell lab testing using MobileMark 2007 Benchmark. 19 hour battery life resulted from testing a Dell Latitude E6400 configured with solid state drive, Mobile IntelĀ® GMA 4500MHD graphics, 9-cell primary battery, and 12-cell slice battery. Battery life varies by configuration, operating conditions, and other factors. Maximum battery capacity decreases with time and use.

Naturally all that extra power comes at a price and I'm not just talking about money. The 9-cell battery sticks out the back of the machine and the 12-cell slice battery goes on the bottom. Without the extra power the base machine weighs about 4.3 lbs.

Who would want such a thing? Business travelers.

Business travelers have long purchased laptops that offered secondary battery bays. Bays that are hot swappable and allow for either a battery or an ROM drive to be placed within.

studio design_300x100

I talked with a customer service rep from Dell and he told me that the 12-cell slice battery drains first and is hot-swappable. The 9-cell (or 6-cell) is not hot swappable.

As for weight. The machine weighs 4.3 lbs with the 6-cell, 5.3 lbs with the 9-cell and 6.6 lbs with the 9-cell and 12-cell slice installed.

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