Thursday, May 31, 2012

Windows 8 Release Preview

Installed the Windows 8 Release Preview on my Dell Inspiron Duo. It does run a bit smoother than the Consumer Preview and there are some minor, yet noticeable cosmetic changes. More apps are available from the Store such as Box and Rowi (where are you Dropbox?!?).

As I have mentioned before, the best experience with Windows 8 will be using a touchscreen capable computer, but it is still easy to navigate with just a mouse and keyboard. Looking forward to the final release in a few months.

Here is the link to download the Release Preview from Microsoft.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Dust: The Silence Killer (of computers)

I spent today helping my wife take down and store items in her classroom for the summer break. Of course my job was to break down her computers for storage. When I started doing so, I noticed a large amount of dust around the cords and case of the computer. As any experienced computer support technician would know, if you see dust accumulating around the vents of a computer, you can bet there's more inside. Out of curiosity, I decided to open the cases of the computers to see how much dust was inside. The pictures tell the tale.

Most people fail to realize that dust (as well as lint and pet hair) inside a computer can lead to fan failure and component failure. Dust that finds it's way into the computer's fans, power supply or even heatsink can cause the computer to overheat and heat is the biggest cause of component failure in computers.

If a computer's fan is running louder than usual, it can be a sign that dust build up is becoming a problem. As dust accumulates on the blades and in the motors, the fans have to work harder to keep the inside of a computer cool. If the dust buildup goes unchecked over a period of time, the fans will eventually slow down or fail completely. This can lead to overheating inside the computer case, which can cause component failure. Worst case, this could lead to data loss.

The bottom line is that a clean computer will run cooler and last much longer than a computer clogged up with dust. Taking the time to clean out the dust is one of the easiest ways to ensure the longevity of a computer. Regular cleaning can save on costly computer repair/maintenance fees down the road. Five minutes with a can of compressed air every other month is much cheaper than a trip to your local computer repair shop.

As far as my wife's classroom computers goes, I have the cans of compressed air ready!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

What I Use: Logitech Wireless Solar Keyboard K750 & Logitech Wireless Touch Keyboard K400

Ok, let's admit it, keyboards are boring but they are an essential part of a computer. Keyboards are designed for the input of text and other characters into a computer as well as control the operation of a computer. When it comes to keyboards, I prefer function over coolness but that does not mean you can't have both.

Logitech Wireless Solar Keyboard K750
I recently purchased a Logitech Wireless Solar Keyboard K750 to replace my aging Logitech diNovo Edge keyboard that was the first keyboard I ever considered cool.  It is one of the most stylish keyboards on the market. I loved the diNovo Edge. That is until the K750 caught my eye. A solar-powered, wireless keyboard. No batteries required.  No need to connect it to a base to recharge. All it needs is a light source.  Don't get me wrong, the diNovo Edge is an excellent keyboard, but I hated the delay while Bluetooth connected before I could use it when I turned on my computer. The K750 uses Logitech's 2.4Ghz wireless Unifying receiver. Not only is there no delay, but it also works with my Logitech Wireless TouchPad so there is no need for a separate wireless receiver to be connected to my computer. Plus, the K750 is small, sleek and does not take up much space on my desk (especially when you include the charging base).

Logitech Wireless Touch Keyboard K400
I also ran across the Logitech Wireless Touch Keyboard K400. Basically, this is a compact keyboard with a 3.5-inch laptop-like touchpad. The keys are a little closer together than Apple's Wireless Keyboard, but not by much. It is still comfortable to type on.  This is the perfect keyboard for those who are using a home theater PC. I am using it as the keyboard for my Dell Inspiron Duo when I have it docked in the Duo Audio Station. I'm also considering getting another one to use on my Windows Home Server. The two things that I don't like about this particular keyboard are that it requires 2 AA batteries and that it doesn't feel as sturdy as some other keyboards. Neither of which are deal breakers.

It is extremely rare to find a keyboard that is functional AND cool but I found two that not only have a decent coolness factor but are functional for day-to-day tasks. If you are in the market for a new keyboard, I highly recommend both the Logitech Wireless Solar Keyboard and Logitech Wireless Touch Keyboard if they meet your needs.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Refurbished Computers: Not necessarily new but new to you

In today's world, computers have moved from being a luxury item to becoming a necessity, but let's be honest, every computer is out of date the moment you take it out of the box based on how fast technology is evolving. The latest and greatest today might not be so in a few weeks.  This is why buying a refurbished computer is a great way to save some money on your next computer purchase.

I have purchased multiple refurbished computers over the years with no regrets (from Dell). Additionally, I have bought refurbished computers on the cheap and put that savings toward upgrading components such as the hard drive and memory.

Basically, certified refurbished (also known as reconditioned or remanufactured) computers are ones that have been returned to the manufacturer and have been retested, or in some cases rebuilt, to ensure that they meet the original factory specifications and are then repackaged. In many cases, these computers are ones that were from canceled orders or returned to the manufacturer unopened. Legally, these computer cannot be re-sold as new.

Occasionally, you will run across a refurbished computer with some noticeable cosmetic damage such as a scratch but nothing that would affect the performance of the computer. Computers with these conditions are sold as Scratch & Dent. Still a great value even though it might not be shiny and fresh from the factory.

The best place to buy a refurbished computer is straight from the manufacturer. When you purchase a refurbished computer directly from the manufacturer, you generally get the exact same hardware warranty as you would if you bought a brand new computer with the option to purchase additional support if you choose. You also have a return policy if you are not satisfied.

In today's economy, it's amazes me that people can easily accept buying a used car but are skeptical about buying a refurbished computer. Buying a refurbished computer is one of those rare bargains you can trust. Why?  Because it comes from the manufacturer with a guarantee. So if something goes wrong, you're covered. No hassles.

The links below will take you to the outlet store of several computer manufacturers that sell refurbished computers:

Dell Outlet
HP Outlet and Refurbished Store
Apple Store
Lenovo Outlet