2009
01.30

So I have this friend, Jeff Neet, who is a fellow CompSci major here at Mines. He has been passing various tips to me on how to better use Windows, and what better than to pass these tips on here?

  1. Want to quickly access a program that’s in your quick launch bar? Just hit Windows + <position in quick launch bar>, using numbers 1 through 0 (10) for the app in question’s position. So for example I have Windows Explorer as my leftmost Quick Launch app (Windows+1) and Google Chrome right next to it (Windows+2). If you have more than ten quick launch apps, you’re outta lck on eleven and beyond, but this is great for a quick keyboard shortcut to launch your favorite programs.
  2. Want to place some but not all, of your windows side by side, pushing the rest to the background? Select the windows you want, then execute your favorite window arrangement command. How to select? Just Ctrl-click them in the taskbar, just like with files in Explorer.

Got your own quick tips? Post them in the comments, and you’ll receive the thanks of all our loyal readers.

2009
01.27

It’s here, folks…2TB of glory. That’s right, 2,000 GB, 2,000,000 MB or two trillion bytes (and then some) of storage in a single desktop drive. The drive speed is quite good as well, despite the tweaks Western Digital makes to “Caviar Green” disks that favor low vibration and power consumption over raw speed. The price, $229, is a bit high. However this is suggested retail price, and nobody onine ever follows that. Another bonus: the drive isn’t part of Seagate’s 7200.11 series (which includes the erstwhile champion 1.5TB drive), which has had a nasty habit of firmware problems. Or, for that matter, the 500GB drives that called in dead after a firmware update.

This drive should be awesome for external use, even over a high-bandwidth link like FireWire 800, and looks to hold its own very well in the internal space as well. I can’t wait to get one myself…video chews up a lot of space!

If you’re looking for model numbers, this is the WD20EADS by the way. If you want to scale back a bit in price and capacity, a 1TB version is out now (and has been for awhile), with a 1.5TB version coming soon.

So if you need something bigger…for storage…this drive is just the ticket.

2009
01.26

In response to another paper staff, Mike Rose, yes, DNS (Domain Name Service) choice may in fact make a difference in how fast your downloads may be. The case: Akamai.

First off, a rundown on DNS, aka Domain Name Service. The best way to describe the process, and the role of DNS servers, is a numerical rundown:

  1. Your type in a web address, which must be converted into an IP address (like 138.67.1.1) for your computer to connect to the website you want.
  2. Your computer sends out to a DNS server to get the IP address of the site you want, querying “up the ladder” if needed (if it doesn’t have the IP stored in its records).
  3. The DNS server sends the IP address of the server you want to connect to.
  4. Your browser contacts the server and goes along its merry browsing way.
This is somewhat of a simplification, however that’s the way DNS servers work.
2009
01.21

Think solid state disks (SSDs) are expensive? Well, sort of, but not so much anymore…you can get a 250GB drive for under $700 now…less if you’re buying a new Dell

However hard disk technology is also advancing at a rapid rate, with 500GB notebook drives out now for cheap and 2TB drives right around the corner

Comment here on what you think about this storage madness. Additionally, look for a post on why you want to keep your provider’s DNS servers rather than switching to your own: faster downloads from some sites.

2009
01.17

Have a Windows Vista (or, for that matter, 7) computer? Is it running slower than it should be? Windows, starting with Vista, has a built-in feature to use flash drives to speed up your system. Its name: ReadyBoost.

To make it work, just plug in a rather large flash drive or put a memory card into your computer’s built-in reader if it has one (my computer has an SD card reader). When Windows asks you what to do with the new-foud drive, tell it to “Speed up my computer”. Let Windows pick the optimal size, or shrink the amount dedicated to ReadyBoost if you want to store files on your drive as well. Click OK and you’re in business.

The principle of ReadyBoost is thus: flash memory is better at accessing small bits of random information than hard drives, since there’s virtually no “seek time” involved in locating, and starting to read, a file. As such, Windows can use a flash drive to cache (store temporarily) various small files it might need for quickly opening and running programs, rather than having to go to the hard drive when files are needed. This, needless to say, speeds up things, especially if you are running Vista on, say, 1GB of RAM. Even my Windows 7-powered laptop, with 3GB of memory, got a bit peppier when I gave it another 3+ GB of SD card space to chew on.

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2009
01.11

The belle of the ball at last week’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) was Palm’s Pre, a new smartphone with a new oeprating system, made for rapid development, easy search, and in general a web-connected smartphone experience. All well and good, and I love Palm products, but a few omissions and worries:

  1. What’s the price? If it’s too much, nobody buys and Palm dies. On the other hand, there’s no such thing as too low. Hopefully Palm will price their product at $199, the same as the 8GB iPhone (the Pre has 8GB of internal memory as well). The problem is that the Pre isn’t an iPhone, and yetPalm may think their product superior enough to price it as high as $399 rumoor has it. $299 might work, $249 maywell be a good price, $199 is great…but $399? Not to Palm: you may be convinced of your product’s superiority…but you’re not Apple. Customers are the ones who need convincing, and subsidizing your phone heavily is one way to do that.
  2. Where’s the memory card slot? That’s right, looks like the Pre doesn’t hae one. Granted, neither does the iPhone, and the Pre has a wwhopping 8 GB of internal storage, but still, when all other Palm products have SD or MicroSD cards, why not the Pre?
  3. Is the keyboard decent? No, I’m not talking about a comparison with the iPhone’s touch screen. More along the lines of the Blackberry or some of HTC’s mobiles, like my own HTC Mogul. Hopefully Palm made the keyboard better than that of the Centro; the little chiclets on that phone’s face are just plain hard to type on.
That’s it, three beefs. Otherwise, my nitpicks are either small or nonexistent. Viva la Palm! In English, I want a Pre, stat! In case you’re wondering, I’ll review the device as soon as I can; this just might be bigger than the iPhone.
2009
01.10

…and maybe slap your gramma, but I’m not that type.

UPDATE: I’ve put the download of Windows 7 English 32-bit up here. Note that you’ll still need a key from Microsoft. Get it quick, before my bandwidth runs out!

In all seriousness, the response to Microsoft’s new operating system, due out when Microsoft is good and ready (a close paraphrase of their words at the recent Consumer Electronics Show), was absolutely phenomenal. Microsoft said it themselves. So phenomenal, in fact, that they had to farm out downloads of Windows 7 to Akamai, an outfit known for providing high-speed downloads at high prices, and one who is incidentally just a few hops away from the Mines network.

Server troubles aside, put succinctly, Windows 7 gives the performance of Windows XP with the features of Windows Vista…and then some. As anyone who downloads the beta will find, the operating system is stable enough to be used in a production environment (I’m doing just that) and feature-complete enough that, in most cases, you won’t miss whatever version of Windows came on your coputer for its system-centric addons.

Windows 7 has been retooled a fair amount so it will take some getting used to, especially if you’re upgrading directly from Windows XP. Though you can change some settings beck to their old positions, some streamlining on Widnows 7 is irreversible.

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2009
01.10

Another Apple announcement: DRM-free iTunes…all of ‘em. Or rather, 80% of their library now 100% in a few months. But the devil’s in the details:

  1. Tiered pricing. If a song is new and/or popular, Apple pushes the price up to $1.29 for the single.Old songs are 69 cents. The remaining lot are 99 cents still. Seems like albums are still $9.99.
  2. Not all songs are DRM-free yet. I just purchased a song from iTunes a few days ago, after Apple’s announcement of their going DRM-free. The song wasn’t available elsewhere online, at least not from the DRM-free stores I frequent (AmazonMP3 and Lala). It was 99 cents, 128 kbps and laced with FairPlay DRM. Wonderful, just wonderful.
  3. Got DRMed songs in your library? Double the bitrate and unlock the DRM, all for only 30 cents per song. What, you say? nearly one-third the price I paid for the song itself? Yep, welcome to Apple.
2009
01.10

Nope, not spam. Not what she said, either. Apple on Tuesday released its second notebook to have a built-in battery, and this one’s the biggie in the family.

The Macbook Pro 17″, in its six-and-a-half-pound “unibody” incarnation, will have a non-user-replaceable battery. Roughly comparable to a ten-cell unit form anywhere else, this lithium polymer unit sits below the front-right side of the notebook’s casing, and propels the LED-backlit 17-inch model of Apple’s pro notebook to a crazy eight hours of battery life if you use integrated graphics, seven if you use the Macbook Pro’s dedicated chip.

I gotta ask, why?

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