Saturday, August 01, 2009

The Trend Towards the Small

Buying Hardware - Again !

A few weeks ago I decided that the little Asus that I bought back at the end of last year really needed a CD/DVD reader/burner. I decided on a little white Lite-On and changed my supplier, for once, and sourced it from CompUSA online.

Now, I have the feeling - gained from looking at their web sites - that either TigerDirect and CompUSA are owned by the same people or else they use the same web design company ! Their sites are amazingly similar and, after you've bought something, work identically.

Now don't get me wrong - I don't think that this is bad in any way, as I really like TigerDirect. Anyhow, Above is the little white burner that's replacing my old HP 300 single-layer DVD burner. It's very nice, and powers off the USB port on the Asus, so I now have optical disc reading and writing on-the-go.

And Again
Next to hit the wallet was the DD, who informed the AG and I that she would need a computer for school work next year (she'll be 15). Deep within me I really don't agree with the "need", as surely many parents won't be able to afford it, but I decided to bite the bullet anyhow, so asked her to do the research and tell me what would be good. She came back with a well-reasoned case so, much to her surprise, I think, I agreed, and a package arrived for her last Friday.

Having seen me happy with my 17" Acer, she asked for the Acer Aspire One, so I paid my normal visit to TigerDirect and here it is.

It comes with Windows XP - she specifically asked for that and not a Linux version so that life would be easier for her in school. I know that OOo works quite happily with MS formats, but not (yet) the XML ones.

As you can see, it's a blue-black PC very similar to the Asus that the AG appropriated from me!
It has 3 USB ports, microphone and headphone sockets, a LAN socket and a VGA socket, just like the Asus. The battery is a 6-cell LiON model, just like the Asus, and the screen is 10.1". It has the same Atom cpu, 160 GB hard drive, SD-card reader, and gigabyte of memory, easily expandable to two. The one thing that it does not have that the Asus has is a bluetooth link. Not that I've used it yet, but ...

Two things that it does not have are a floppy drive and an optical drive. I just asked her from chance whether a floppy drive would be useful and the answer was an enthusiastic "Yes", as floppies are very much the standard medium in schools. Shows how much I know! So a box will set off from the east coast, very soon, with a USB-powered floppy drive. Coincidentally, I originally bought it with my own big Acer, because it doesn't have a floppy drive either. I've never ever used it!

The need for an optical drive is a very different thing - you can't do without CDs and DVDs. So I opted for the Samsung shown above, as Tiger Direct didn't seem to have the Lite-On that I bought.

The Acer comes, as I said, with Windows XP. That's going to mean a registration session with Microsoft sometime soon. It also comes with an install of MS Office 2007, good for just a few weeks. After that you have to pay. Minimally $168 dollars. That's a lot to ask of someone who's only paid $300 for the entire PC and OS. Luckily, I have a copy of MS Office that she can use - as I don't, having upgraded to OOo - but many people don't have this luxury and have no knowledge of the alternatives in the marketplace, such as WordPerfect Office, OOo, and Star Office. All of these will produce pretty much everything that MS Office will, and cost less or are free.

The next software to ask for installation was McAfee's anti-virus software. This being a NetBook and very often bought by or for a young age-group, I think that the inclusion of an anti-virus pack is an excellent idea. However, this again is a limited-time offer, demanding that the user pay up after 90 days. There's another $79 (on offer right now at $49), but their web-site is strangely silent on the matter of updates and whether or not they charge annually (like most anti-virus products). We'll be looking at Avast too, I think. They have a personal version that costs only an annual re-registration.

Finally, it comes with a copy of Carbonite. This is an online backup program, that claims to take a look at your system when you stop using it for a while, and, if anything has changed, sends off an encrypted backup to Carbonite to keep for you. Their site claims that single-file recovery is "easy" and that you can also restore your complete PC if, for example, it's stolen. The cost is $5 per month and, to be honest, I think that it might well be a very good investment for a netbook that spends a lot of its life on the road.

Unforseen Consequences Department
I think that it's a good bet that Yahoo! didn't think twice when they retired versions 6 to 7.5 of their IM service (YIM), forcing upgrades to their users. Sure, you can get Yahoo! IM client for Linux, but who wants to have an IM window open for each of Yahoo, AIM, MSN, gMail, and who knows what else?
Yahoo kills Yahoo Messenger 6-7.5 and Pidgin fails
Pidgin is an open source program that allows you to have IM connections with people on pretty much every IM net, all in one window (or more, if you want) so you can keep the rest of your desktop for you. Pidgin, it seems, operated on the YIM version 7 protocol, so stopped seeing YIM when that protocol vanished.

It's taken just a month for Pidgin to work out what happened, move to the newer protocol, and get new versions out - it runs on Windows and Linux, and supports over 60 different user languages!

Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics
Yeah, well. That's true, and all that, but Mozilla are kinda pleased right now: Firefox is reaching its billionth download this week. Yes, that's billionth with a B! The polling guys are saying that they have over 20% of the browsers-in-use market right now. Wow!

Pink Floyd
If you like the Floyd, give The Australian Pink Floyd a listen. I've been listening to them on NPR here in Philly for the last hour and I'm a fan. They're playing across the US right now. See a review on the TributeHub site.


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