Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Touchscreen Desktop Monitors - do you hear a train?

Viewsonic has a big, beautiful monitor that doubles as a standalone tablet, the VSD220.  For those making the transition to a desktop version of Windows 8, you'll want a touchscreen.  And this one includes a built-in webcam.

However, consumer reviews are showing that this model is not quite ready.  First, it is only a 2-point multi-touch screen.  Windows 8 works best with 10-point multi-touch.  Second, the drivers aren't available;  Windows 8 will not recognize it fully. 

This monitor connects via HDMI, as it should, to carry audio and video in one cable.  But your PC or laptop might not have an HDMI port.

Here's's video review.

It's exciting to see where the future - and, in this case, not so far off - is headed.  But - especially if you have a limited budget - I would pass.  If not, it is a lovely, large Android device that can display the PC/laptop Desktop.

In fact, for the budget-conscious and bleeding-edge-adverse, I would wait at least 6 months to a year to let the technology develop & refine - and for the prices to drop.

My $0.02 worth!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

I am such a GEEK

I cannot believe that I'm excited about a new Windows release.  But it's more than the operating system - it's the new tablet from Microsoft.  Tablets, actually.  There's a lite version and then a full Windows 8 version.
Add this music to your workout routine when you need a boost:
I've been running Windows 8 on a spare PC for about 4-5 months now.  I've added a free app to bring back the Start button & menu and that makes most of the difference for me. It actually seems faster than Windows 7 - which is faster than XP with decent hardware.

The New York Times article & video sum it up well, although they don't show the Surface tablet, which is a real game-changer, in my opinion.  That's pretty much what I expect - those looking to do desktop computing a la XP or even Vista/7 will find both the Windows 8 "Metro/Start Menu" & the new desktop without the Start button frustrating.  But those using a touchscreen - like an iPad - will find it much better for basic browsing & reading emails.  I love not having to have a keyboard to check the weather, read my emails, pull up soccer highlight videos.  Just point, touch, swipe.  And oh-so-easy to carry around.
Ed Bott's article describes the new Surface RT tablet, the Lite version.

And Win8 is pushing the boundaries by having what I'd call smart icons - icons with changing information.  Like a Skype icon with caller ID, or Weatherbug with some basic weather info.

But when I want to compose emails, blog posts, letters - give me my keyboard!!!
So here's what I love about tablets & my iPad:  
  • content that I need* - weather, radar, email inbox
  • content that I want - netflix, Pandora, YouTube, NPR and then some
  • wireless & charger-less - I can go days without recharging, don't need to lug around power cables & blocks
  • in other words, lightweight & very portable size
  • reasonably large screens, very sharp displays, even bright enough to see in daylight (not the original iPad, though)
  • no need for a keyboard or mouse to *easily* navigate
  • onscreen large button keyboard for small typing tasks
And what I want from my desktop PC:
  • a LARGE screen!  multiple screens if I so wanted
  • my keyboard (particularly the Logitech K800, wireless & backlit keys) with a keypad
  • Windows Office - Word, Excel, Access, PowerPoint
  • Printing maps, documents, web pages as needed 
  • File management, vast storage, backup 
If & when I buy a Windows 8 PC, it will be a Surface with Windows 8 Pro - or equivalent other brand.   With a keyboard that doubles as a protective cover that can be disconnected.  I will keep my wireless keyboard & mouse, as well as an external display.  Perhaps set up a docking station.  And a 3 year warranty would be reasurring - as portable devices are much more prone to accidental damage.  I will add a free Start button/menu app and everything will be great!

I'm really itchin' to see the Microsoft Surface & similar tablets.  Like I said, such a GEEK!
* what I *think* I need but really what I want

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

I admit it.  I love the iPhone and the iPad, the iPod & the Shuffle.  But the Samsung Galaxy III has a larger screen!

Until I buck up and take the plunge, I'll have phone envy.  So watching an iPhone 5 and a Galaxy III in a blend competition does make me a bit green....

click for YouTube video

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Tick, Tock - Windows 8 & Surface Tablets are Knocking Yet?

PC Magazine - among other sources - tells us that Microsoft will have stores opening by the end of this month (October 2012 for those keeping track).  Click for the article.

Preview of Microsoft Surface Tablet
They expect to have Windows 8 available for purchase.  I expect that the Windows 8 Surface tablets will be there or not be far behind.
I'm not recommending a buy at this point, especially for anyone looking for a deal.  My approach is cautious - wait 3-6 months for a good deal and at least 2 weeks to a month for consumer reactions to the new hardware & software.
For those buying Windows 7 PCs - with an optional upgrade to Win8 for $15 - remember that the key feature of Win8 is touch.  Few Win7 laptops and fewer PCs come with touchscreens.  Still, I would recommend the upgrade as insurance for future-proofing the OS as well as resale value goes.
In any case, I'm planning to visit the store in the Columbia (MD) Mall - when Surface arrives.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Do you have a backup plan? This past Friday night, a powerful storm blew through here, wreaking as much havoc in downed trees and power outages as Hurricane Irene from last year's Labor Day weekend. The rain began falling hard around 11:30 pm in my 'hood, then the electric was gone a few minutes later. Verbose today? It's Tuesday and BGE won't even estimate when power could be on. So I brought the iPad with me to the Stoneleigh Cafe at the end of my street for a cuppa Joe and a bagel & schmear. Iced coffee - it's another Code Red day for extreme heat. Yesterday, I was able to connect at home using a UPS - an uninterruptible power supply, really a surge protector with a lead acid battery to give me time to shut down my desktop PC. I connected the cable modem & router to the UPS and logged on with my laptop. So I'm one-finger typing here, but I've got other work to do and the iPad's battery life allows me to leave a power cord at home; it's also much lighter than the laptop. It's nice to have a backup. I only wish that my neighbor with that real backup - a generator - would offer to run my 100' cord to my refrigerator! It's easier to win the lottery than it is to find ice in this town.

Monday, June 25, 2012

I'm the Prognosticator

For the first time since IBM PCs burst onto the scene, Microsoft & their hardware partners have a machine - at least in prototype - that looks sleeker than its Apple counterpart.  In my opinion.


What the Windows machine has to include - and looks like it does:
  1. A touchscreen at least as friendly as the iOS & Droid counterparts, i.e., intuitive multi-touch
  2. Operable as a tablet only or with a keyboard - and the keyboard comes standard
  3. Runs onboard Office
  4. Will run at least 98% of legacy WinPC apps going back to XP
  5. Is friendly to Google and all of the Google apps
  6. Can print locally as well as from the Cloud - with simple setup
  7. Has full-size USB 3.0 port(s)
  8. Has GPS
  9. Priced competitively
  10. Built-in Classic menus with - yep, I'm asking for it, most will as well - the Start Button & Menu
So that's my short list.  I like what I've seen so far.

Here's a report from Good Morning Silicon Valley. Pictures, too, from Mercury News. Release info from Redmond Magazine, and then a review of Win8 running on an iPad from Redmond Magazine, also.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Don't DropKick the DropBox

So I've been busy with other non-computer projects.  Decided to take a look at DropBox, a free & then pay-as-u-need-more-space app & website to give you easy cloud storage & sharing. 
The free account has a 2 GB limit, but you can get more by completing some easy tasks as well as referring others to DropBox.  Think of it as Facebook Albums that can hold any kind of file, not just pictures.

It was pretty easy.  Setup was:
  1. sign up for an account
  2. install the DropBox app on my PC (or laptop, iPod Touch, etc) & then on my iPad
  3. copy folder of pics as a test
I then shared the photos with a friend.  My friend needed to setup DropBox before being able to view the photos.

I could view the photos at the DropBox website, or by using the DropBox app.

Overall, the process was very easy.  If you have problems with this one, you can call me to find out where the Start button is.

Pros:  Free.  Easy-to-understand upgrades for more storage.  They make everything as easy as possible.  Additional space offered for trying more features or referring others to join in.  May be used free indefinitely.  Sharing was easy once I read the help file.

Cons:  Shared content cannot be viewed without installing DropBox software on a device - gotta be a member.  No cost, the software overhead isn't large, but still - - oh, all right, at least it's a level of protection.  Must sign in to have access.
What I didn't like is more a pet peeve  
I added a folder of pictures, then installed the app on my iPad and watched as the pictures became viewable.  Cool enough.  I then deleted some of the photos from my DropBox folder on my PC, but they remained viewable on my iPad. 

I closed out of the app on the iPad.  When I reopened DropBox on the iPad, the deleted pics were no longer listed.  

So my minor complaint is that if the pics appear "instantly" when loading, I'd expect them to disappear just as "instantly."  

Good to be back.  Have a nice day!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

It's a Lovely Day to Sit Under the Apple Tree

Click to see something Resolutionary!
Nothing like gettting out from under a rock.  And what a day;  it's sunny and warm!  Go sit under an Apple tree.

The new iPad has been announced by Apple, along with pricing.  When the Apple store reopens shortly, the new iPad, 3rd generation, will be available for pre-ordering.  It will be available March 16th.

Pricing will stay the same as the previous generation.  The iPad 2 will remain available from Apple, at $100 off at each price point.

New & improved - the new iPad features:
  • 4G/LTE from Verizon, Rogers, Bell, Telus, and AT&T
  • Retina display at 2,048 x 1,536
  • iOS 5.1 (available for compatible devices, as well)
  • iSight 5MP camera with advanced optics
  • a faster quad-core processor
  • voice dictation (Siri Lite?)
  • 10 hours battery life, 9 on 4G
  • iPad can serve as a hotspot for up to five other wireless devices
  • Wi-Fi only
    $499 16GB
    $599 32GB
    $599 64GB
  • Wi-Fi + 4G
    $629 16GB
    $729 32GB
    $829 64GB
If you've seen an iPad 2, you will notice the sharper display of the new iPad.  Looks fast, too.  Pretty neat stuff. 

But Hey!  I'm still a PC.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

TED Talks
Are you a member of Mensa?  Do you like smart people whom share their knowledge, experience and passions?  Then TED, short for Technology, Entertainment, and Design, can provide you with hours of videos of TEDTalks.

Here is a TEDTalk from November of 2011 that is not only informative, topical, and very relevant to many people whom own or operate electronics that accept or are manipulated by wireless communications.  Avi Rubin, a professor of Computer Science at the Johns Hopkins University, describes how many common as well as hi-tech medical computer-controlled devices have been hacked.  His specialty is in trustworthy computing.

In addition to many of the electronic systems in late model cars, Dr. Rubin provides these examples of implanted medical devices that are designed to be reprogammed wirelessly, yet do not have security features to prevent, uh, undesired changes:
  • insulin pump
  • artificial pancreas
  • programmable vasectomy
  • artificial neurostimulators
  • obesity control
  • artificial vision
Overall, his talk was humorous, yet ultimately sobering.  You might enjoy many of the other TED presentations.  Go to  But not while you're at work!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Changes to the Look of Gmail

I have not heard one person tell me that they like the New Look of Gmail.  Me neither.  But I'm getting used to it and learning some of their tricks & shortcuts.

I've switched my Theme to High Contrast.  It helps when I'm looking at my Inbox or any other email list.

One feature that seemed to disappear was the (show me the) Oldest/Newest when sifting through the list of emails.  It's there, actually.  Here's how:
Gmail's List View
Here's the 1-2-3: 
  1. go to your Inbox
  2. move your mouse pointer to the 1-100 of x,xxx and hover there
  3. as the Newest/Oldest box will appear, then click on Oldest
And, yes, I was on Papa John's Facebook page, wondering when my Free Pizza email from Papa John's will arrive.  I think the positive buzz is turning negative as hungry Rewards members have been expecting to order a pie tonight!

Contacts is not gone, either.  For much more about Google Gmail's new look, go HERE

For your Contacts, click on the little pull-down triangle next to Mail and the box to switch between Mail & Contacts appears: 

Tasks opens up a pop-up over either Mail or Contacts.  And when you want to go back to Mail, do the same thing;  the pull-down will be next to Contacts.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A Screen Shot is Worth More Than a Thousand Words

Circled All Programs in Paint on a Screen Shot
So you see something that you'd wish your tech nerd friend could see.  Perhaps your friend could explain it, fix it, or show how to work around it.  But they're not available.  What to do?  Take a Screen Shot!

Some Background Info
Ever wonder what the PrtScn (or it might say Print Screen or PrScr) key is for, now? A long time ago, it did what you might think. Push it and your printer would print an image of whatever was on your screen. It was kinda cool.  And helpful.

But that's not what it does in Windows today.

When you press the PrtScn key, you won't see anything happen.  But an image of your entire screen is placed on the Windows Clipboard. Now you can do something with it.
Like email it to a friend.

Here's How
We need to make a file out of it. Let's only use what's available in every copy of Windows.  
  1. press PrtScn - I know, nothing "happens"
  2. open Paint - click on Start, All Programs, Accessories, and then Paint
  3. paste - you should now see an image of your screen
  4. save this image to a file - but change Save as type to either JPEG or PNG  for a much smaller file
  5. email your screen shot as an attachment - remember where the file was saved (usually Desktop, My Pictures or My Documents)
Note:  "click" means left-click. "Right-click" means, well, you got it.  And "double-click" means left-click-twice.... 

Can you see the value of this?  A picture is often so much clearer than any written explanation.  The screen shot also saves the time in typing.  

Extra Tips
  • PrtScn takes a picture of the entire screen, as you see it
  • Alt+PrtScn captures only the active window
  • Highlight - when in Paint, use brushes to underline, or circles/squares to outline or otherwise draw attention to the part of the screen that's important
  • Close Paint as soon as you're done saving the file - you might mistake the Paint image for the programs and desktop behind the Paint window
  • PrtScn does not work on blue screens, any BIOS or other startup screen - rule of thumb:  If you cannot open Paint, you cannot take a screen shot
a Blue Screen of Death (BSOD)

Thursday, January 26, 2012

As Good As New

Here's how I could have saved 50% on a new keyboard.  And why buying online can be better than in the store.

Used Can Be As Good As New
My old wireless keyboard had some sticky keys and other keys were becoming difficult to press if not pressed straight down.  I wanted a backlit, preferably wireless keyboard.  Gaming keyboards are normally backlit nowadays - but I didn't need the high-end quality that most gamers demand of their hardware.  Even though I yell at the screen from time to time, I'm not generally banging hard on the keyboard.
Still, the Logitech K800 Wireless, Backlit Keyboard was a big upgrade for me.  I found the $99.99 list price K800 at Staples on sale and, with another discount, bought it for about $70 last fall.  It comes with a manufacturer's 3-year warranty. is selling the very same K800 as refurbished for $49.99 through 01/31/12 with the same 3-year warranty.  Click here for this deal.  I certainly would have bought it here.
Logitech K800 Wireless, Backlit Keyboard
Some products are as good used as they are new.  Most come looking brand new, down to the plastic cling wrap over the glossy plastic body parts. 

I recommend Dell & HP's outlet sales, as they carry their own full warranty.  I find Dell's outlet website easier and with a better stock at most any time than HP.

I helped a client replace a PC and the savings were easily $250.  This Dell PC came with 6 GB of 1,333 Ghz RAM, Intel i5 Core processor, Gigabit LAN, 500 GB 7,200 RPM SATA2 hard drive and built-in wireless b-g-n LAN.  It cost under $450 delivered.

Logitech has a great reputation for most of their products and especially their keyboards & mice.  So, even though a used mechanical product might wear out more quickly, I recommend this one because it comes from a reputable company and offer the same-as-new warranty -- their warranty, not a 3rd party warranty.

Saving Money Through Warranty Coverage
I built my own desktop PC myself.  Since all of the parts were bought separately, I received - and used - the components' warranties that offered between 3 to 5 years of coverage (lifetime on the memory).  Under these manufacturers' warranties, I ended up replacing the motherboard, half the RAM, and the 1 TB hard drive.  Oh - yes, it paid to buy online, as I was easily able to recover my detailed sales receipts.

I might have saved some bucks by building it myself but I really saved on not paying to replace the failed hardware.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

CES Time!

I admit it.  I love new, shiny things.  For me it was first anything I could take apart.  Tools came next.  Then, my bike, then stereos, then cars and, once I was mobile - I grew up in a suburban island - the world opened up.

The annual International Consumer Electronics Show, better known as CES, takes place in Las Vegas around the 2nd week of January.  Acres of BIG, tiny, shiny, flashing, turning, glowing, ..., well, you get the idea.  It's where many next-big-things are unveiled.  From the Washington Post: 
  • By The Numbers: More than 140,000 people are expected to visit more than 3,100 exhibitors. The show spans some 1.8 million square feet of booths and exhibits, which is equivalent to 31 football fields.
Woot! is at this year's CES and I had to waste some time watching them set up their booth.  Pretty cool.  Here is their video, courtesy of YouTube:
(Click for) Stupid Woot! Video Podcast
Don't know Woot?  Bargain outlet for lots of shiny tech that's sometimes crappy and sometimes great.  Then, there's the Woot-off.  And all the Woot spin-offs.  Go.  Shop.  Waste time.  It's Crap-tastic!  Occasionally, some G-R-E-A-T deals!

Oh, yes - CES, itself.  Many tech sites & news outlets are already reporting.  Check out: &
This Week in Tech - - Watch CES Live -
ZD Net -
and, for goodness sake, the tech section of Google News -

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Flashy, Creative, Visceral, Unique and ...

AdWeek gives us their best of 2011 commercials (click on pic to go to AdWeek's posting, with the top 10 as video clips). 

Some - most - I'd never seen. So I don't watch alot of TV; I still found all of them - even the gruesome video game spot - stunning. If you have time, enjoy. But be warned - the spot for Dead Island is not for the faint of heart.

The winner - by popular demand, certainly by Web views - of which I cannot disagree, I enjoyed the first time as well as every time I saw it.  Volkswagen's The Force.