The laptop market looks like it is heating up quite nicely as I am getting ready to get a laptop near the end of the year.
I can’t wait to see reviews on these three.
The laptop market looks like it is heating up quite nicely as I am getting ready to get a laptop near the end of the year.
I can’t wait to see reviews on these three.
First Samsung announces its the Series 7 laptops that will go on sale on Oct 2, then Lenovo shows off 3 laptops in its U-Series. Supposedly based on Intel’s new Ultrabook specification… Lenovo showed CNet its U300s, U300 & U400.
The U300s is supposed to go head-to-head with the MacBook Air… which as you know if you read my recent laptop comparison is the holy grail. The MacBook Air is just too expensive at $1,299. But the U300s at $1,199 is no bargain. I am going to stay under $1,000 when I buy a laptops.
However, the U300 and U400 are going to be more affordable at $799 and $849, respectively. And the U400 is going to be a 14″ laptop. Hopefully they will put the 1600 x 900 display on the U400 and it could make a nice Christmas present to myself.
It looks like the laptop race is on. Let’s see what it brings.
I just published an article on laptops I am considering. I left the Samsung Series 9 off the list of possibilities because it is way too expensive.
Samsung just announced the Series 7 laptops. Two new laptops… 13″ & 15″. According to PCMag, the 13″ laptop is closer to a 14″ because the bezel is so small they were able to fit a 14″ screen into a 13″ chassis. Nice. And the 14″ screen comes at a resolution of 1600 x 900. Perfect!
If you read my article you will see I am on the fence between the Toshiba R835 and the Lenovo T420i. The R835 is only 3.2 pounds and gets 6-7 hours of battery life (depending on who’s review you read). The T420i is a 14″ laptop that can be had with a 1600 x 900 resolution display.
The Samsung Series 7 has the chance to beat them both. If the weight is reasonable, and the battery life is good then I might have to put the Series 7 on the top of my list.
AT&T wants to ride the wave that is the discounted iPad 1. You can get a 3G equipped iPad 1 from the AT&T web site for $429 for 16 GB (down from an original price of $629) or get a 32 or 64 GB version for $529 (regularly $729 or $829, respectively).
This is an extra $100 savings from the clearance price Apple is offering for the same hardware. You have to sign up for AT&T’s dataplan, but since the first month is free and there is no indication of a contract you could cancel the plan before the first month and keep the savings.
And yes… the iPad 1 with 64 GB + 3G is only $529 (the same price and the 32 GB).
This is a very tempting deal. For a mere $30 more than the cheapest iPad 1 just a couple of months ago… you can get the top of the line iPad 1 from AT&T.
Hurry, while supplies last.
My son got me Assassins Creed II (for the PC) for my birthday. He was so excited that he started installing it for me on my PC. Then he went to play it.
When I went to play it, it would not let me activate it under my own user ID on THE SAME COMPUTER. I contacted Ubi-Soft saying I wanted to run the game under my own user (and have my own saved games). Their response was:
Unfortunately, there is no way to activate the game with a different ubi.com account. Once a key has been used to activate the game, the key is permanently bound to that account.
This is extremely upsetting. They treat you like a criminal. Now I have to log onto my son’s account and use his e-mail address to play my own game. How unfair is that.
I will not buy another Ubi-Soft game for the PC again with these Draconian tactics to prevent piracy.
I bought a 500 GB Seagate FreeAgent USB 2.0 Hard Drive to load videos on for playing on an XBox 360. I read that you need to format the drive to FAT32 for the XBox to see it.
Unfortunately, you can’t format an external drive to FAT32 in Windows Vista. I even tried doing it from the command line. It let me think it was going to format the drive by counting off the percent done. However, when I check back in the morning there was an error message saying the volume was too large.
I downloaded fat32format. I downloaded the GUI version. I started off doing a full format. It said it would take 4-1/2 hours. I checked back a couple of time and saw it reach 3%. Then it went back to 0%. I stopped the full format, which causes the application to switch to quick format. It was done in about a minute. I copied around 220 GBs of videos.
I hooked it up the the XBox 360, went into Media Library and the portable device was there. I selected a video and it started playing. Smooth and easy.
Now that the dust has settled on the Apple iPad I thought I should take an objective look at the device. Yes, I dinged it for not having a real OS or stylus support. But those were emotional issues, not issues for the target audience of this device.
Apple is not targeting artists and photographers with the iPad. They are targeting the “75 million people that already know how to use the iPad.” That’s right, this is for all the iPhone and iPod Touch owners out there that only need basic computing in a portable device.
With that in mind here are 8 tasks the iPad handles extremely well… and why I want one.
That’s just a sampling of the things the iPad does very well. Of course there are the books, and the New York Times. I am sure more of the big papers and magazines will build apps to show their content. Let’s not forget the iTunes stuff like Podcasts & music.
Above are all the tasks I would actually use the iPad for. That covers 95% of what I would do with a laptop. For the other 5% I will stick to my desktop.
See, I am not such a critical pessimist after all. I think the iPad is very cool. And I want one.
I was checking my stats, for no good reason and saw a 50% increase in traffic over the last couple of days… mainly due to the Apple iPad Hits & Misses post. Wow! Thanks for visiting!
I was planning an article title Apple iPad… After the Storm. I was going to publish it in March on my regular site (did you read my predictions there on Jan 25?).
With all this hoopla I think I need to get some info out. I am going to break it down to a series of major tasks the iPad would be perfect for. Then you can decide how many of these tasks are task you do. If your task are the same task then you are a fit for the iPad. I will post an abbreviated list over the weekend. Pretty rough, but something to feed all your appetites.
Come back later this weekend, you won’t regret it.
I am writing this at lunch… while the event is going on. So I will come back to finish editing it tonight. I did my own predictions for a slate style tablet computer back in November and on January 25th. Now we will go over the hit and misses. Not just mine, but Apples. Apple missed the mark on a few items, so let’s not let them off the hook. I will start off with the first couple of big misses (IMO):
Hit: $499-$829. I am really glad they did not hit the $1,000 mark fully optioned.
Miss: 3G component is $129 of price… not counting the monthly fees of $14,99 for 250 MB or $29.99 for unlimited data.
Miss: iPad OS, not OS X. It’s like a Ginourmous iPod Touch. Maybe Adobe with come out with a decent Photoshop Lite for the iPad… and at a reasonable price.
Miss: No Stylus Support. This is the biggest disappointment. Why would Adobe make a Photoshop Lite for the iPad without a stylus?
Miss: No USB Port. The iPad uses a dedicated 30-pin connector. So much for using an external hard drive or DVD or Blu-Ray drive. Also no SD slot… but there is a camera connection kit that will let you import pictures from an SD card.
Hit: Keyboard Dock! Pair this with built-in Bluetooth and you have a decent computer you can use at a desk. One of the pictures showed it on a plain stand which makes it a great picture frame when not being used.
Miss: iPad OS, not Mac OS X, so the keyboard and mouse are less useful… but still welcome.
Hit: Runs Apps from the App Store.
Miss: Runs them full screen (original size or pixel doubled, 2X size). No multitasking, no multiple apps side by side in a “window.” This looks silly with a 3.5″ app in the center of a 9.7″ screen.
Hit: New SDK for iPad devlopment… available today.
Miss: No OS X (see a trend here) or support for real applications.
Hit: 3G is unlocked and uses GSM microSIMs. Includes free WiFi hotspots (AT&T).
Miss: 3G plans are AT&T, so why not a way to tie to your iPhone plan? Maybe other carriers will offer better plans to entice you away from AT&T.
Hit: Movies & TV Shows. This was expected… and all from iTunes. Until I know more I will assume it can get content from your Mac or PC running iTunes. Hopefully that means it will run your own content as well as iTunes Store content.
Miss: Screen is 4:3, not 16:9. Oops! Black bars on all your movies.
Hit: Photos. Looks good. And it looks like it will make a great picture frame.
Hit: 10 Hour battery life.
Miss: Is this 10 hours of video on a plane?
Hit: e-Reader. Everyone expected this. Bonus the iBook Store, but again this was expected.
Hit: New York Times on iPad.
Miss: Does every periodical have to build their own app. Where’s the common platform application that publishers can feed with a subscription fee? This would have been better if Apple built an app to display newspaper and magazine content and let The Times and others create the content in a particular format. Then plug in subscriptions into the iTunes Store to get the content.
Hit: Brushes for graphic artists.
Miss: No OS X to run Photoshop.
Hit: Games. I was surprised at the Need For Speed Shift demo. I have it for the XBox 360. It looks like Apple wants more of the gaming market than just simple iPod games.
Miss: No OS X. If the iPad was running OS X wouldn’t game developers have it easier since they could develop for BOTH the Mac and iPad? That would bring a lot of game development to the Mac platform for people that have iMacs and MacBooks.
Hit: iWork? Is this really a hit?
Miss: Office for the Mac… running on OS X? Have I beat this to death yet… the iPad should really run OS X.
The screen is 9.7″ with a resolution of 1024 x 768. Not widescreen!
That’s all I can think of at the moment. They hit a lot of the marks I expected. However, the lack of a stylus and the lack of OS X means I will not be getting one until I can think of a use for it. I was considering it… if it ran OS X, but now I am not. Maybe I will change my mind. I think my oldest sone will love it since almost everything he does on his laptop is iTunes and Web. For him it will be perfect, but I want him to have more power for doing homework. We’ll see if it is good enough for a high school student’s only computer.
I just read this article on PCMag. If Apple thinks it will get away with displaying ads in the Operating System itself they will loose a lot of customers.. and one future customer… me.
I have to think that an enterprising programmer would find a way around such a thing like ad blocking software for browsers. But it is appalling that Apple would think of such a thing.
Let’s see… here is a conversation at work one day:
Boss: Joe, I need the new graphics for the web change in 10 minutes.
Joe: O.K. Boss, let me just fire up Photoshop.
Joe: Sorry Boos, I have to watch this ad before I can start working on that.
Boss: Damn Apple… I buying PCs for all you graphics guys tomorrow.
What do you think?
I just saw the teaser trailer for Need For Speed: Shift and I have got to get this game for my XBox 360!
I don’t know if I will like NFS’s switch to simulation physics from its previous arcade physics, but I have been playing Forza 2 on the XBox 360 and it is more realistic that previous NFS titles.
Let’s not forget that Forza 3 is coming out soon as well.
I will end up getting both. I like that Forza has you driving street cars. Helps my fantasy of ever owning one. NFS:S looks like it is going to mix race cars and street cars, but all the previews I have seen show race cars.
We’ll just have to wait and see.
Wow! I just read on PCMag that Microsoft is going to stop selling MS Money at the end of June. This was the first I heard about this. I use Microsoft Money… 95 edition. I started suing it in the Windows 3.1 days. Here’s the story…
I originally wrote my own “checkbook” program in the DOS days because Quicken couldn’t do a couple of things I needed. In Quicken 3.0… when you reconciled your checking account against your bank statement, if you found an entry in error you could not edit it. You had to leave the reconcile function, find the order to edit it, and then start the reconcile process all over. Or… you could let Quicken enter an adjustment transaction. Neither of these options were good enough for me. Also, Quicken 3.0 had limited text “graphics.” I liked entering checks in a form that looked like a check on screen.
So I wrote my own check book program that used the extended ASCII characters to draw forms on the DOS text screens of the day. I enabled editing transactions while reconciling, and could run the entire program off a floppy if I had to (someone asked for a copy and needed to run it this way).
After 6 years of use the program started to loose transactions. I may have hit a DOS memory limit or something. I was now programming in Windows, but did not have the time to invest in writing a program in Windows, so I bought MS Money… I think it was the first or second version for Windows 3.0/3.1. It did everything my program did, but it did it in Windows graphical world. Forms for data entry and editing amounts as you reconcile. Cool!
When Windows 95 came out I was beta testing it. I also got a beta MSN account. MSN beta testers were given a free download to the Windows 95 version of MS Money… if you downloaded it from MSN within the first 60 days of Windows 95 going live.
I downloaded the install and I am still using it. That’s right… I am running Microsoft Money 95 (actually version 4.1, but the first for 32-bit Windows 95).
I tried buying Money 2000 in case the Y2K bug was going to be an issue. I struggled with Money 2000 and its browser interface until I was blue in the face. It was a huge step backward in usability. So I reloaded Money 95, restored my Money 95 data file (it was converted to the 2000 format, a one way conversion) and re-entered two months worth of transactions from my bank statements.
From February to March 2007 I compared Quicken to Money. I really, really wanted to make use of online banking. My goals were simple. 1) Connect to my credit union to balance my check book so I didn’t have to manually reconcile to the monthly statements I get in the mail, and 2) setup budgets so I can see how much money I have left to spend as the month progresses. The budget part was super easy as I setup only two categories, Bills and Other.
Both failed my very simple budget requirements. All I wanted to know was home much money I had left to spend of my monthly budget as I entered transactions. This was beyond either program. Feel free to read the gory details yourself.
Quicken stopped connecting to my credit union and I was forced to use Money 2007. It did not last. I was too frustrated with the reconciling of transactions. Money 07 did not allow easy tagging of categories to certain transactions it found in my credit union’s data. It would not do a good job matching up transactions I entered manually to those it got from my credit union, causing double entries and other strange anomalies. In the end it was actually easier when I manually reconciled my paper statement to Money 95. Plus the budget feature was worthless requiring me to do double entry with my spreadsheet. Back to… Money 95.
When I abandoned Money 2007 I switch back to Money 95. I did not go back to a saved copy of my Money 95 data file. All that would get me was 12 years worth of historical transactions with no categories and no budget information. So I started a new data file.
I have been using Money 95 ever since. Things are easier. My credit union has redesigned their statements so that it is very easy to reconcile to Money 95. And I have gone to a new budget system that eliminates the need to keep track of our spending.
I call it the Cash Budget. At the beginning of the month I withdraw the cash we would use for all non-bills. Bills are mortgage, credit cards, electric, water, cable, phone, etc. Groceries also fit in with bills. I budget these only, so when I am already sitting at my desk writing checks I just enter the checks in Money 95 and my budget spreadsheet.
The cash is the key. We have a budget for how much we can spend on other things. Other things is everything that is not a regular bill. Clothes, dinners out, movies, ice cream at Sonic. Name it and it is in this section of the budget. I take the cash at the beginning of the month and put it on the dresser. We just pay cash for everything. When the cash runs out there is nothing left and we have to stop spending.
It is so simple, but so effective. I wish I had thought of it sooner. Actually, I had thought of it years ago, but was never bold enough to do it. Now we are doing it and our miscellaneous spending is much better controlled.
So… to recap… 1) the paper statements are simpler making reconciling easier, 2) the budget spreadsheet is easier with only a couple dozen items a month to enter, and 3) the cash spending is easier. All this is easier and it is now more effective than ever at managing our money.
MS Money 95, an Excel Spreadsheet, and a pile of cash each month makes for a great way to manage finances.
Just like the rest of you I checked in on a live blogcast from Apple’s WWDC. I like what I am hearing about the MacBook Pro refreshes. The 15″ MacBook Pro will start at $1699. That’s a little more than I wanted to spend for my next laptop ($1,000 – $1,500), but it is low enough to put the MacBook Pro in contension. I will have to check out its specs over the next couple of days.
The 13″ MacBook Pro (yes, 13″ Pro, the MacBook label is only on the older “white” version) will start at $1,199, just a little down from starting at $1,299. I will have to revisit my reviews of reviews of 13″ laptops here. I was close to giving up on the MacBook because the last refresh, which brought us the aluminum chassis, got a slower CPU allowing the competition to catch up. I will look into the MacBook specs over the next few days and plan an update to my laptop comparison spreadsheet.
I clearly have not been blogging enough lately. I just checked my stats and I dropped below 500 hits per day in mid April and this blog has been averaging in the 430-450 hits per day range since then. I need to post more stuff.
I know one topic that should drive a lot of traffic. I need to load Windows 7 with the new virtual machine software to test running in XP compatible mode. Then I need to test Outlook 2000. This will probably have a lot of interest for people running Vista and still trying to use Outlook 2000.
If I can get some free time I will try that. But I have to do a lot of prep work. First I have to install Outlook on Windows XP and set it up with an e-mail account. Then I have to send mail to and from it, and create a few contacts. Then I have to backup the data for that. Then the actual work begins by installing Windows 7, setting up virtualization, install Outlook 2000, and finally import the XP/Outlook generated data.
That will take several hours. I am hopeful it will work a lot better than Outlook 2000 on Windows Vista.
I just picked up The Orange Box. This includes Half Life 2: Episode Two, Team Fortress 2 and Portal (it also includes some others, see screen shot below).
Well, I wanted to play it but that will have to wait a bit. Apparently, the install downloads the games from the Internet rather than install from the 2 DVDs that came in the orange box.
At this point I just assume wait for the install to finish, but I don’t like it. At least I have a fast connection.
Yes, I like many others downloaded the Windows 7 Beta. For me this is a first. No, not the first time I loaded a beta of an operating system, but the first time I waited until the public beta.
Over the years at one time or another I have had a subscription to MSDN (Microsoft Developer Network), and this subscription would get me copies of the Windows OS in very early beta stages. I tested Vista long before it was a public beta.
For the first time in a very long time I do not have an active subscription to MSDN at the time a beta of the latest Windows is available. Mostly it doesn’t matter. Although I am a programmer, I have not done much with my MSDN subscription except play with it in recent years. My company is still running Windows XP and that doesn’t look to change anytime soon.
Times are tough, so my company let all the developer subscriptions laps. Darn, although I only played with it myself. My previous AVP believed that it was worth the cost for programmers to have it even if just to play. He felt, as I do, that having access to this and playing with all the new “toys” was worth it to keep programmers interested in new technology and have them looking for way to get that into regular work. I can’t agree more. If you are a developer you should convince your boss that this is something you need. Maybe you can get your company to spring for a copy that is shared amoung a few developers to help justify the cost.
Enough about MSDN, this is about Windows 7. I like it. I have not done any timed tests, but it does seem to boot faster. Maybe that will slow down once I load a bunch of software. I am running Windows 7 in a dual boot fashion. I do not use Microsoft’s boot manager. This is the menu that would appear when you first start your computer asking which version of Windows to run. I could do that, but I prefer a safer approach.
I have two hard drives in my computer, C: & D:. I go into the BIOS of the computer and set the second drive (D) to be the first drive to boot. This basically switched the drives and C: becomes D: and vice-versa. At this point I boot with the Windows 7 DVD in the drive and the OS starts installing. When I am done “playing” I reboot, get into the BIOS and switch the order of the drives. Instantly I am back to Windows Vista with much less chance of something going wrong.
Overall I like Windows 7. It is cleaner and a little more intuitive. Then again, it does some things different from Vista, so intuitive is a relative term. I like the task bar, but it takes getting use to. I have not loaded any application, but within using Explorer and Media Player and such it has been a very pleasant experience.
The main reason for installing Windows 7 is to see how well it works with the XBox 360 as a media extender. Vista’s Media Center won’t recognize MP4 files. I heard Windows 7′s Media Center was going to support any files that Media Player supported. Sure enough, I was able to play movie I ripped to MP4 format. This format is support by both my Zune 80 and my sons’ iPods. I am looking for maximum playability with the least number of formats. With Windows Vista Media Center I am forced to rip movies to WMV and MP4. MP4 for the Zune and iPods, and WMV for the XBox.
If you want to play MP4 files over your XBox 360 I suggest you look into TVersity instead of Media Center. It works well and supports MP4, AVI & WMV. It may do more, those are the three in my library and all work very well with TVersity and XBox.
I have not connected the Media Center in Windows 7 to the XBox yet, but it does work better than Vista stand alone. I was able to configure my TV Tuner card more easily than with Vista. Vista requires me to turn off my firewall to get updates to the TV guide. This is weird because Vista’s Media Center can reach out to the internet to offer me the choice of cable providers based on my zip code, but fails to update the guide. W7′s Media Center grabbed the guide with no trouble.
Media Player was very amazing on first launch. I used it to look at an AVI file and was pleasantly surprised at the super clean interface. Basically you get your video playing in a thin framed window. The player controls are superimposed over the video. Move the mouse away, or just don’t more it for a while, and the control go away leaving you with a completely uncluttered look to your video. It just doesn’t get any better than this. I will reserve final judgment until I see how it works with music, a library, playlists, etc. But first impressions are a good thing and I am impressed so far.
I will report more later after I get my stop watch out and time some operations and look for more things to like or dislike.
A few months ago I wrote about the problems I had with my wife’s Vista laptop and trying to map network drives. That solution turned out to be creating a directory link (scroll to the end for the instructions on create a directory link to aid in creating drive mappings).
Yesterday I hooked up the boys new XBox 360 to the network and made it a media extender to my Desktop PC running Vista/Media Center. My wife’s Vista laptop notified her about the media extender (XBox), and then she could not print anymore. The printer is in the closet with my Windows 2003 Server.
I eventually found this thread that showed how to add a network printer as a local printer. Yes, I said add it as a local printer. You select the option to create a port and I put in the IP address of the Server with the name of the printer. It mapped perfectly. I used the IP address because of the previous issue above where we needed to use the IP address to get the drive mappings working.
I hope this helps someone out there some day!
As I mentioned briefly in my article on preparing to switch to the Mac, the new MacBooks, along with new MacBook Pros and MacBook Air came out today. At first glance the 13.3″ MacBook for $1299 is probably the one for me. Here are the basic specs:
All this seems to be about what I expected. I was hoping for a lower price. They have a $999 “White” MacBook, but it seems like a slight the same old white MacBook for $100 less. I did like that the MacBook Air got upgraded to a 120 GB hard drive and the same nVidia graphics as the regular MacBooks.
Does anyone but me notice that the new MacBook is slower. That’s right, the previous $1,299 MacBook in white with 2 GB of memory and the same 160 GB hard drive came with a 2.4 GHz processor. We we get the new aluminum case and better graphics, but at a loss of speed.
The MacBook Pros seem to also have gone through a fairly mild upgrade, but they are out of my price range so I didn’t find it interesting.
A weird thing happened today. I was working from home. I usually place my cell phone on my desk next to the land line phone. I then connect my Plantronics 665 to the cell phone for hands free usage. I just hate trouble shooting computers with one hand.
Well, the Plantronics would not connect to my phone. I tried again and again. I had to go online to find the owner’s manual for the Plantronics so I could determine what the flashing lights meant, and how to pair it with a phone. The lights were telling me the battery was fully charged, a good thing.
I removed the entry for the Plantronics from the phone and tried to add it again. Nothing. I was about to look for the receipt of the headset (I got it around November 07). I then looked at my son’s phone. It had Bluetooth, so I tried pairing it to the Plantronics. It worked. This meant it was the phone. I started contemplating taking it back to Sprint, but then I realized that the phone is more than a year old (December 06).
Hmm. A phone is kind of like a tiny computer. So I tried to power it off then power it back on. Goo Goo G’Joob, it worked! Never underestimate the power of a good reboot.