Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Chrome Laptop: Good battery life.

After allowing the laptop to stay on the charger overnight, I've been using it cordless for the past several hours (looking up directions and fixing baked unbreaded chicken wings). I've been at it for probably 1 1/2hr, and the battery status shows I've only used 12%.

10hrs battery life without sleeping? And with wireless enabled the whole time? Not bad, as an early rough estimate. If it handles sleeping like Windows CE/Mobile, it probably uses very little power while sleeping (remember, it has almost instant to/from sleep), and could probably go a week (or more) between charges with light use.

1 1/2hrs to fix some wings? Yea, I'm slow in the kitchen, but this included cleaning the wings/removing tips and the loose folds of skin, preheating the oven, cleaning out the dishwasher, etc. But not the actual baking - they're cooking now. I've got a timer app going in another tab, and a second instance of the app ready for after turning them.

And now that this post is done, the battery meter is down by another 1%. I'm also slow with typing and editing my thoughts. :)

Monday, December 20, 2010

Chrome OS

I just received a Google Chrome OS laptop, a small laptop that runs a beta (pre-release) version of the new Chrome OS operating system (which is redundant, I acknowledge - "OS" stands for "Operating System"...).

Initial notes: The outer box had nothing about what it was or what was inside, other than a warning that a lithium-ion battery was inside. The inner box box is covered with a diagram of what I must conclude is supposed to be a "better mousetrap." Inside were the unit, the battery, the charger, and two sheets of paper. The larger one only had a very brief overview on the buttons and info about the service (wifi and 3G, all info is automatically synced, apps are available frm the Chrome store). The smaller one had diagrams of how to install the battery, and how to plug in the charger, and a safety guide that was written to be fun to read. It actually said not to blend it, then commented that we'll never know if it will blend. Later it mentioned the operating temperature range, and said that it was redundant because they had already said not to bake it. Oh, and the larger page said that 3G service is included for two years with 100MB/mo, and additional plans are available. The only thing I'd question is that the smaller one said not to use it until the battery was charged - yea, right - I plugged it in to charge, then turned it on, letting it finish charging while I play with it. I'm typing this on it now.

The OS is Google Chrome with a few additions on the Tools menu to handle stuff like touchpad click speeds and touch-to-click. If you are familiar with the Chrome browser, you know most of Chrome OS.

The display is about 12.2" (based on a measuring tape) and doesn't seem very high-res, but it's perfectly suitable for the purpose. I didn't see any settings other than hardware brightness buttons, so I'm not sure what the resolution actually is. There is a built-in camera, but I don't see any info on the resolution or any controls for image quality. Since the only OS is the web browser, there is no picture-taking or video-recording software, so I couldn't use that to determine the camera resolution.

There is one USB port, primarily (if not exclusively) for a mouse, and there is a VGA port - but again, I didn't see any settings for it.

An interesting point is the touchpad. There are no separate buttons, and touch-to-click doesn't work until the initial OS setup was complete. Then I found that the touchpad itself is a mechanical button. That's right, you can mechanically click anywhere, not just via tap. That's more precise, since you don't have to lift your finger from the pad - you just push a little harder. But once the OS is going, you can use the more common tap-to-click too. And the pad is multi-touch, at least some. You can tap with two fingers to right-click and you use two fingers to scroll, scroll-wheel style.

The keyboard has large chiclet-style (short throw) keys. The large keys make touch typing easy, despite the small unit size. There are no F keys (and no Windows or Context menu keys) or numeric keypad, though the keypad is rarely on a unit this size anyway -- and I'll have to get used to Ctrl-W instead of Ctrl-F4 to close a tab. And there is not Caps Lock, for what it's worth. Where the Caps Lock normally goes has been replaced by a dedicated Search button, which opens a new tab with the Omnibox (address/search box) selected. (Though this can be changed in the Settings to work as Caps Lock instead...)

Also, it has almost instant wake/sleep. The system opened a tutorial on first start that says the wakeup takes 1.12 seconds. You can do a real power-off if you want, but it's not needed.

All info is tied to a Google account, like bookmarks; they're automatically synced with desktop Chrome if you have sync set up there. And apps are synced -- they don't have to be installed per-device. Oh, and there is no wired network option.

About my only test so far on performance is a simple Flash test. It has both Flash 10 and Adobe Reader embedded. I played the trailer for Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, and it stuttered some at 480p, much less at 720p. Fine; use it for browsing; use something expensive for video. My only fear on that side is that it probably won't handle more involved Flash-based games very well.

Anyway, this will be my primary browser for a while, as I said I would do in my trial submission. I'll try to post regularly, but any lack of posts just means it acts as Chrome should.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


Looks like Woot will be having a WootOff tomorrow!

Why do I think so? They sent me a coupon, together with the suggestion to "check Woot every day for more to choose from—on some days (like, say, tomorrow) a LOT more!"

YAY! Lots of good deals, and lots to waste money on - just less than one would normally waste on the same stuff!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Music brings emotion

This isn't my normal type of post here, but that's OK - It's my blog, and I can write what I want to - :)

You know how something, a song, a place, a type of weather, will sometimes bring a feeling with it? At church, in our choir, we are preparing an arrangement, "Press On", by Dan Burgess. In this arrangement, there's a phrase, "when we're deaf to the song".

I get a little teary at that spot, and I attributed it to a generic idea of not being able to hear the beauty of music. But this time, I realized - and remembered - that there's more to my feeling than that.

Some time back, probably around 2000, a friend of mine got an ear infection. She lost both eardrums, and became completely deaf in both ears. (Fortunately, they grew back, over time.) And she played violin. She had to keep up her practicing. But she could not hear, and there was a chance she would never hear again. And she cried. And those who knew her cried with her.

And here I am a decade later, crying myself when the memory is brought up, even just vaguely, by the lyrics of a song.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

AVG: False Virus Reports on Many Websites

AVG is reporting lots of sites, including Yahoo webmail (includes AT&T) as having a Framer virus. It's a false positive... An update is needed, as soon as possible...

Friday, July 2, 2010

UWantSavings.com: Good Customer Service

I have not ordered much in the past from UWantSavings.com, but on my recent order, I was so impressed by their customer service that I had to add them to my Good Deals list.

They offered 100 Sharpie-brand markers for $29.99 with free shipping. Not just regular Sharpie markers, but a wide variety - regular, fine, broad, highlighters, Professional-series markers, and so forth; these usually sell for about 50¢-$5 each, depending on the variety, and this has no shipping or sales tax. Further, since they offered a free Restaurant.com $50 gift certificate with a purchase of $50 or more, I got two sets. Yes, 200 markers might last me a while, but I know that Sharpie-brand markers will hold up until I need them.

The day of delivery, I got an email with a bold banner instructing me to "check the porch - your order has been delivered!"

I found the box by the door, and I, being a conscientious shopper, counted them. There were 194. I emailed, hoping somebody might send an email apology and drop a half-dozen pens in an envelope in the mail.

That's not what they did. I got an email THE SAME DAY confirming a return and credit for the entire cost. Not just one set, but both. And not a RMA, but an updated receipt specifying that they had already been returned. (Granted, I have not seen a credit clear my account yet.)

And today, three days later, I received a box by UPS with 100 more markers. No receipt, statement, bill, anything - just 100 markers. That's customer service in action.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Computer upgrade, just not as I planned...

At work, there was talk of our personal computer hardware. I said I was planning on upgrading mine. I just did so, but not in the way I intended - though I still plan on doing that later.

There has also been talk of using a second computer for side tasks, like email or minor web browsing, to take those tasks off the main computer. Not just a seperate monitor, but a separate PC. I decided to follow up on that idea, and started at PacificGeek.com, where they sell cheap refurb systems, like an HP P4 3.2GHz for $99. That would work fine for web browsing. But after upgrading the memory from 256MB to 2GB and the HD from 20GB to 200GB, it would cost closer to $250.

So I decided to look at the Dell Outlet. Sorting by price quickly showed a computer at $289 for an Athlon Dual Core processor with 4GB RAM and a 250GB hard drive. I did some comparisons between models, decided I liked the cost/performance Inspiron Desktop 570, and filtered to them to try to find the one I looked at earlier.

Because of the place I had been in the list, I was at the end after applying the new filter. And I saw the one at the end, for $399. I wanted to see what made it worth $100 more than the one next to it. And I found it had an Athlon II X4 630, 2.8GHz quad-core, with 6GB RAM and 1TB drive. Either the processor or the extra RAM is worth the $100, but this has both. Additional bonuses over the cheap one at PacificGeek include DVD-RW, 7.1 audio, and both VGA and HDMI. And I added the 3yr support for $99, since I prefer 3yr warranties to 1yr on stuff like hard drives. I figured the $50/year for years 2 and 3 is worthwhile since some drives will die in that time and, and the warranty will pay for itself. (In comparison, any component warranty would require I mail the old part off, at a cost of another $10; this includes next-day in-home repair.)

And I added a nice Dell 21.5" full-HD monitor for $139, which is less than the generic 21.5" I got last month from TigerDirect (my job practically requires multiple monitors; it becomes much easier with 3). And all of it was with free shipping - the stuff's supposed to be here Tuesday. And 5% cashback by using a link from DiscoverCard.com was a nice bonus.

It is all $668, with sales tax. Just for comparison, ordering new would cost $990, for the same stuff. $399 for the PC, $139 for the monitor, $99 for the warranty, and $31.85 in sales tax. OK, so it's $668.85...

I normally build stuff myself. Simple breakdown, based on cheap prices: $90 for Windows 7 Home Premium, $80 for the hard drive, $25 for the DVD-RW, $150 for the RAM ($50/2GB), $35 for the case, $20 for the power supply... and I'm out of money already. Still have to get the motherboard, processor, keyboard, and mouse. And some of those parts might have 90-day warranties, certainly not three-year on-site. So, I might could beat the normal price, but not the outlet price - not even close.

Ooma: No Google Voice Extensions for the Hub

Ooma has just clarified that they will not offer Google Voice Extensions to users of their traditional Hub product line, but only to those who purchase the new Telo product.

This is despite the fact that the Telo was not even available for months after the original planned release of GVE. GVE was originally slated for spring/summer 2009 with Telo scheduled for a holiday 2009 release.

The Google Voice Extensions was a key feature in my decision to go with Ooma, and was the main reason why I later expanded my system with two Scout units. I find it hard to justify $350 in new equipment just to get features that were announced for my current equipment.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Supper - cajun roast chicken

I'm fixing a chicken for supper. It's a 6lb whole chicken in-a-bag I got cheap near its end date. Took it home and stuck it in the freezer - the thick plastic it was encased in did really well.

I was planning to fix it Friday (frozen does fine in a Crock Pot, as long as you allow plenty of time), but I read the directions - turned out it has the giblets inside it. Some like them for gravy, but I don't, and they're not supposed to be cooked together anyway.

One main way to defrost big things is to soak it in water, the other is to put it in the fridge. I chose to combine ways, partly since I then wanted to wait several days, and partly because I thought my fridge might be too cold to thaw it. I put the chicken, still in plastic, in a stock pot (which I thought I might need, since the chicken wouldn't fit entirely in my Crock Pot), covered the chicken with water, covered it and put it in the fridge. The next evening, I checked on it - the chicken was encased in almost 1/4" of ice. I dumped the water and loose ice, removed the coating ice (which was mostly loose), and refilled the water. Checked it again Monday, and the water was still water and the chicken seemed soft. Drained the water and put the chicken back in the fridge, still in the pot, for later.

Last night, I took the chicken out, opened it, removed the paper-wrapped giblets, and, per the directions, rinsed the whole thing inside and out. Not difficult, since it's hollow all the way through from top to bottom with holes on each end.

Then I decided to pull the skin off. I normally do that before cooking pieces. And this was much easier than with pieces - it was basically like taking its clothes off. Slid a knife under the skin and "unzipped" it down the front. Then pulled the skin off one-piece-pajamas style, over the legs and such. The wings wouldn't cooperate; the skin tore around one wingtip, but I had to cut the skin around the other. Then I pulled off the larger fat globs; not all, since it will add flavor. Then I re-rinsed it.

Washed my hands, put the skin and fat in the bag the chicken came in, put that in a small shopping bag and tied that shut, then put that in another bag and tied that shut. Then put it in the trash.

Sprinkled cajun seasoning inside the chicken, and put it in the Crock Pot, where it's now squishy enough to fit. Then sprinkled a tsp of seasoning on top, and put 1/8c of water on that, to have the seasoning run down the sides. Sprinkled another 3tsp across the top, to cover all visible areas well, and sprayed water over it to wetten it all.

Then put the crock in the fridge until this morning. Put it back in the holder about 9:30 on high (to warm up), then on low about 9:50. The pot's now got liquid about half-way up, a perfect gravy base. It's likely already almost done, but I don't get off for another 6 1/2 hours. That's another good thing about Crock Pots - they don't overcook, other than maybe veggies getting too mushy.

I think I'll start looking for these more often.

Thursday, May 6, 2010


Have you seen the commercial for help with organization for ADHD? The website was ADHD... something. And there was a phone number too...
(Just imagine all the stuff I'd post here if I didn't get distracted...)

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Latest purchases: video card and monitor

In the past week, I have made two investments in my new job.

The new job is technology support from home, and this role requires I have a lot of windows open at the same time. Web-based email (in addition to my personal work-oriented and personal-oriented email accounts), two lists of approved tools, a list of procedures, the procedure I'm currently working with, a softphone client, a phone status window, a call status window, two chat programs (one as backup in case the other fails), three chat sessions (team, supervisor, and tech advisor), and our combination ticketing/remote support program that is best run full-screen. Oh, and web pages researching any issue questions. Then you add my notes during basic training, break-fix training, and various policies and procedures.

In all, two monitors (one 24" 1920x1200 and one 22" 1680x1050) are completely full with overlapping windows.

So, last Thursday, I ordered a video card. A PCI card, since my computer only has one PCIe slot and cards that can handle more than three monitors are VERY expensive. (This one.) It's by Sparkle, a company known more for their power supplies, but with a lifetime warranty on their video cards if you register your purchase with them. It can handle full-HD and HDCP (copy protection normally used for things like Blu-ray movies). Unfortunately, PCI can't handle the bandwidth (simultaneous information) to support full-HD video (1920x1080 at 30fps). But it will do just fine for what I need. And besides, it's the best we had for years... Even better than most people had for years - it's got 256MB of DDR2 memory. Back when computers only had PCI for video, most computers had less than 256MB of main memory.

So, when the card came in yesterday, I installed it. I connected up a 17" CRT (conventional tube) monitor I had sitting around. And I found out that:
1 - the monitor only supports 1024x768 at higher than 60hz, and 60hz at high resolutions has visible flicker on a CRT. It'll do 1280x1024, but only at 60hz. And that gives me a headache almost instantly. So, I'm stuck with 1024x768.
2 - It puts out a lot of heat. I already have two LCD monitors on my desk, and a tower computer with a 2GHz Core 2 Duo (processor), 4 1GB DIMMs (memory modules), seven hard drives (RAID5 with 6 500GB drives installed three years ago and a separate boot drive) and a primary video card. So, I already have far more heat than I want.

So, another investment in the job. Today I ordered a monitor, after receiving an email from Buy/com. It's by AOC (this one), a 21.5" LCD display that supports 1920x1080 for $143.99 total. It will put off less heat than my CRT, and double the viewable area. And comes with 3-yr warranty on most, 1-yr on the actual display, and the first 90 days includes free shipping. It was actually from TigerDirect, but sold through Buy.com. The price was $149.99, less a $6 coupon (automatic with the link from the webpage) and free shipping. Interestingly, the direct price is $154.99 plus shipping. As a bonus, the reviews are very positive. Good color, good menus, good brightness (technically, it's pretty standard), good contrast (30000/1 static).

Anyway, I better make sure I work out with the job. I've got to pay for this stuff.

Saturday, April 24, 2010


I will start Monday working for Support.com.

This is a company (publicly-traded and all that) which offers computer support. Pretty much the only requirement of your computer is that it runs Windows XP or later and can connect to the Internet. We will fix problems, install software or accessories, configure a home network, and so forth. Support.com offers subscriptions starting less than $17 a month on an annual plan ($19.99 on a month-to-month plan), or we will meet specific needs on a case-by-case basis starting at $49.99.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Avoid Internet Explorer (and definitely don't use F1 if you do use IE)

I'd seen this, but didn't think enough about it at the time to pass it on, Then I realized that lots of other people may use Internet Explorer, which I don't.

There's a website hack that lets any website do anything on your computer, if it can persuade you to just press F1 (Help).

All it needs is you to use Internet Explorer. You can have all your updates installed, and you can have antivirus running and fully updated, but this still works. They think it requires Windows 2000 or XP, but it's better to be safe, even if you have Vista or Windows 7.

Sometimes legitimate websites get hacked and have problems like this one, and the owner may not even know for a while.

So - don't press F1 in Internet Explorer!

Better yet, don't use Internet Explorer - use Chrome or FireFox instead. They're not only safer, they're faster.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Apple iPad: Misses all sorts of marks

The new Apple iPad. The device that has been anticipated for years. The device that was expected to make laptops (and netbooks) obsolete.

The problem is that it doesn't.

It has a 9.7" 1024x768 resolution screen. That's only about 79DPI (dots per inch), not a very high resolution for a screen that size. In comparison, a lot of new phones have 3.6" 800x480 widescreens, which equates to about 250DPI. Note that it's also not widescreen, which most devices are now. Even the iPhone -- and every MacBook -- is widescreen. I'm not sure, but (other than the items that use a large portion of the front for physical controls) this may actually be the only non-widescreen Apple device.

In addition, it's an LCD screen, not OLED that most new cutting-edge phones use. LCD drains the battery more, doesn't have as bright of colors or as good of contrast. It tends to get washed out if used in bright light, like, say, outdoors.

Worse, it uses the iPhone operating system. You can't use Mac programs like Microsoft Office or OpenOffice.org. Yes, the iPhone interface is popular and well-liked, but you can't edit a spreadsheet with it, or not with the same programs you're used to.

Some have referred to the new iPad as a large iPhone. But the iPad can't make calls.

There's no camera, like the iPhone has.

There's no GPS, like the iPhone has.

It can't run multiple programs at the same time, though this is like the iPhone. But unlike any other smartphone out there. You can't, say, stream online radio while surfing the web at the same time, like you can on any other smartphone.

It can't play Flash content, which many websites use. No Hulu, no Youtube.

While tablet PCs generally serve as laptops without a keyboard, the iPad has no real expandability. No expansion slots, and not even a USB port. It's designed - again, like a large iPhone or iPod Touch, to dock with your computer and use iTunes to sync. Which means it's not a replacement device; it's an extra one.

And the price. The cheapest one is $499, more than most netbooks. The highest is $829, about the same as a MacBook. But without the ability to do most of what a MacBook can, and in fact is designed to connect to a MacBook rather than replace it.

If they come out with a version that actually uses a full Mac operating system, they may have a winner. But this isn't it.