Archive for Computers

Why Data Backup is Important

When I talk to people about their computers, I always try to bring up the topic of backup and a surprising number of people simply don’t backup their data. Data backup is the simplest and most cost-effective method for one to recover their lost data. Backup really isn’t that hard, all it takes is some planning and of course, a little money. I personally think that cost is the the single factor hindering people from backing up their data. People often say there’s nothing they would miss if it was gone, but think of all the documents, and pictures that could be gone in a blink of an eye.

Backup might seem unnecessary and expensive, but is far cheaper, than paying for data recovery one time. Data recovery services can cost anywhere between $300 and $2,000 with no guarantee of data recovery.  It is important to keep in mind that approximately 13% of hard drives fail every year and when they do, it’s expensive and time consuming to recover data from them.

Every hard drive will fail, and often without warning. It is a fact of life and the only way to be prepared is to have a backup . Yes, there is some expense involved with most backup methods, however, it gives one peace of mind that they will not lose their data in the event of a hard drive failure. Even in less dramatic circumstances, like accidentally deleting a file it takes a lot of time and effort to get it back.

There are numerous ways to backup one’s data, the most important thing is that they do it! The most basic method is to backup to an external hard drive, both Windows and Mac OSX have automatic backup built-into their respective operating system. In addition to being the simplest method of backup, it is probably the least expensive, only requiring an external hard drive.  So how big of a hard drive does one need? It is best practice to have use an external hard drive that is 1.5-2 times the size of one’s primary hard drive. For example, if one has a 500 GB internal hard drive, they should use a 1.5- 2 TB external drive as most backup systems keep multiple versions of each file. Local backup is a great in the case of a simple hard drive failure, however, if there is a disaster such as  theft, fire or flood, those external drives are often right next to one’s computer so it is just as vulnerable as the original hard drive.

Online backup services such as Carbonite or my personal favorite, Crashplan protect one’s data from disaster by backup up one’s files to the cloud automatically.  So if disaster strikes, all of one’s files are safe in the cloud. Backup services typically charge around $50-$60 annually per machine usually, so it can be more expensive than the one time expense of an external drive. Crashplan does offer a free plan for up to 2 GB of data which may be enough for the causal user. Crashplan also allows users to backup to friend’s computers for free as well, giving users the most amount of choice of backup options.

However, there are many advantages to backing up online such as the ability to access all one’s files remotely from any device by logging into their account and complete data protection that local backup doesn’t provide.   Online backup is growing as more work turns to the cloud, however some may have privacy concerns with putting all their data in the cloud. It is important to keep in mind that most backup services use some level of encryption to protect data. Another concern is online backup relies on a network connection so those with slower internet connection may take much longer to backup their data and to restore data in the event of data loss.

So which is the best backup? Personally, I use both I have a local back-up and cloud backup to get the best of both worlds and a stronger backup. In fact, Crashplan’s application can do both cloud and local backup. However, no matter what method one choses, the important thing is that they backup their data.

Also, don’t forget mobile devices. All mobile platforms offer some type of backup, iOS has automatic backup to iCloud and Android devices can backup to Google.  Mobile devices play a bigger part in our daily lives each passing day and are probably more at risk than a computer hard drive. Smartphones and tablets can be dropped, lost, stolen much more easily than a computer by size alone. In the event of data loss, it is much more difficult to recover data from the solid state memory used in smartphones and tablets than it is from traditional hard drives. Not having a backup of your digital life is like leaving your most valuable things on your front lawn, unprotected.

When to Repair a Computer Vs. When to Replace It

 

TechRecyclingBinIn my previous article, I explained how to make an ailing computer last longer, however it’s not always feasible to save an old computer. At times, it is difficult to determine whether it is and is not worthwhile to repair a computer instead of replacing the machine all together. Computer repairs can become very expensive, unless one is able to do the repairs ones self, and the parts alone are very expensive. There are a number of scenarios where it is better to repair a machine, but then there are times where the repairs would be far more costly than an equivalent new machine. Some repairs are very simple and many times can be done by the user, especially software issues. Extended warranties, although costly at times, can cover the cost of typically expensivly repairs such as motherboard replacement.  Unless one is a computer repair expert, who can take computers apart and put them back together in their sleep, there are certain repairs that have to be done by a professional computer technician and can be very expensive. Below are lists of scenarios that are best remediated by repairs and some that are best resolved by flat-out replacing the machine.

 

When to Repair:

 

1. Software Issues: Software issues can typically be troubleshot or if all else fails, the program can be uninstalled and reinstalled to resolve most issues. If reinstalling the program does not resolve the issues,there may be an underlying issue with the operating system.

2. Minor or Easy to Replace Hardware issues: These would be failures with hardware such as RAM, Hard drives, disk drives and batteries which on most computers are easy to access and affordable to replace. Many of these can be done by the end users or can be done affordably by any computer repair shop. This is also a good opportunity to consider upgrading, for higher performance if the computer can handle higher performance hardware.

3. When Covered Under  Warranty: If the computer is covered by the manufacturer’s warranty, and if the issue is covered by the warranty, or if one bought an extended warranty with their computer, then contact the warranty provider to help troubleshoot the issues being experienced.  Depending on the warranty’s coverage, if parts need to be replaced, the warranty should cover the parts and/or the labor to make the system functional at no additional cost. It is worth noting however, that many times the machine needs to be shipped out so be sure to backup all essential data in case the hard drive needs to be replaced or if the computer needs to be reformatted.

4. Virus/Malware: Many computer issues are cause by a virus or some sort of malware, which in many cases can be removed or can be wiped out by doing a full system restore. While virus removal may make buying a new, cheaper computer may make it seem worthwhile to just replace a computer, the physical hardware is still fine. Worst case scenario, reformatting the hard drive and performing a system restore will eliminate any issue.

When to Replace:

1. Major Part Replacement on Older Machines Out of Warranty: Unless one comfortable totally dissembling a computer and replacing the parts on their own, replacing parts like the motherboard or laptop screens can be extremely expensive. This is due to the fact that the parts are far more expensive than hardware like hard drives, which are mostly interchangeable. The actual replacement process can also be labor intensive, making it an expensive endeavor. Replacing these more expensive parts may be worthwhile if the machine is a couple years old, but if the machine is over three or four years old, it may be wise to consider simply replacing the machine.

2. Major Physical Damage: If the computer case or body is completely broken, and is not covered by a warranty that would cover accidental damages, the computer should be replaced. Desktops may be able to have the internal components  moved to a new case, provided all the internal hardware is still functional.  If the hard drive is still intact, data may be recovered by putting it in an external enclosure or connecting it to a SATA to USB adapter.  Data can then be copy any data to another computer, thumb drive or another external hard drive. If one wants to continue to use the hard drive as an external hard drive, it is highly recommended to run a hard drive test on any drive that has been in an accident to assure data integrity.

3. If the Computer is Older than 5 years Old: After five year, unless the computer is under an extended warranty or can be easily fixed, it may not be worthwhile to invest too much money in that computer. System restores and minor hardware issue may be able to keep a machine going for a while. However, when a computer gets that old, it’s not worth investing hundreds in a machine that can easily breakdown again soon.

4. When Repairs Cost Almost as Much as a New, Equivalent Computer: If repairing an old computer will cost over 66% the purchase price of a new, equivalent machine, it is best to just replace the machine. Although the repairs may save money in the short term; in the long term, a new computer will deliver much higher performance and can be more energy efficient. As Moore’s Law states, computing power doubles every two years, meaning if a machine is four years old, that would give you quadruple the computing power and many times, for less money.

It is worth mentioning that if one is looking for a new computer, the cheapest computer is not always best. One must be sure it has all the necessary features and has enough power to accommodate one’s increasing needs in the future. One good rule of thumb, is to look at computers approximately in the same price as one’s current computer. Although just about any new computer will be faster than a computer that is several years old, this rule should provide one with a similar class of computer. If one wants to upgrade to a higher class of computer, they can spend more, but for those who want a newer computer similar to their old machine, this rule will help.

Finally, for those who decide to replace their computer, be sure to take the old computer to a location that properly recycles old electronics. Also if the hard drive is still functional, run a hard drive eraser like DBAN to securly erase sensitive information and prevent it from getting into unwanted hands.

 

Six Ways to Extend The Life of Your Computer

Computers are great tools, but no matter how fast and “tricked out” they may be when they are new, they will eventually become too slow. After years of use, computers become slow both from use and from the increase in system resources required for newer software. Sure, computers aren’t nearly as expensive to replace as they once were, but it is also very possible to resuscitate a slower old computer. All it takes is a little time and possibly some money, but  it can make an ailing computer like new or even better! Most of these recommendations aren’t very difficult to do, and many can be accomplished by end users. These tips work both on all computer Windows, Mac, Linux, etc, however, because of certain hardware designs, certain Macs may not be eligible for all these upgrades.

1. Run A Cleaner Program Regularly:

Computers accumulate temporary files, cookies, application caches and  old  files that are no longer relevant. Most programs have a way to clear the temporary file, especially web browsers, but  users would have to dig into each application individually. Cleaning programs like the ever popular, free program, CCleaner, make it easy to delete any temporary files and other unneeded files across the entire system. CCleaner also has an application uninstaller, although most applications either have an uninstaller or can be uninstalled via the user’s operating system, however CCleaner is more thorough. Many times, applications leave files behind on users’ hard drives, which CCleaner will find and remove completely. Running a program like CCleaner regularly, will make keep one’s computer run faster and prevent some issues.

2. Uninstall Unneeded Programs:

If there are programs that never get launched, or came with the computer that are never going to be used, consider uninstalling them. Use an uninstaller program like CCleaner, mentioned above, to free up system resources. Another good program is PC Decrapifier, which can go through an mass-remove programs it identifies as junk. By keeping only the necessary programs, system resources are freed up and keep the computer running faster and make more hard drive space available for user information.

3. Reformat and Reinstall

If the first two tips don’t provide enough of a speed boost, then one may want to consider reformatting their system completely. First, backup all data to a flash drive or external hard drive, as doing this will complexity erase the user’s hard drive.  Then either insert the system restore disks, if they came with the system, or boot into the recovery partition using the function keys at the boot screen, see user manual). Newer Macs can be booted into a special recovery mode that will downloads Mac OS over the internet and install it without recovery media.  Doing this will reset the computer to be like new and can help to clear out a lot of issues, including viruses. Personally, I like to do this every year or so just get a fresh start and rebuild my system for optimal performance.

4. Upgrade the RAM:

Upgrading the RAM is a very affordable and straightforward way to significantly increase a computer’s performance. Crucial offers a memory finder tool allowing users to search their computer model to find the type of RAM it uses. It also will tell one the maximum amount of RAM that particular model will recognize. Crucial does sell RAM, but I recommend copying and pasting the amount of RAM into Newegg or another site, as Crucial is very expensive. Upgrading RAM can greatly increase a computer’s speed, for example, if a machine has 512 MBs of RAM and can take 2 GB, that can theoretically quadruple a computer’s speed.  Performing a RAM upgrade is typically a very simple process, only requiring taking out a couple screws. It is worth noting however, that many Macs are much more difficult to upgrade due to the new unibody design.

5. Replace Standard Hard Drive with Solid State Drive:

Solid state hard drives offer a significant performance, since solid state drives, or SSDs, use flash memory instead of the spinning platters used by standard hard drives. Flash memory is significantly faster and provides much faster boot times and faster performance overall. SSDs are more expensive than standard, spinning hard drives, but in my opinion, the speed boost is worth it! Combining a SSD upgrade with a full operating system reinstall will yield a very significant speed boost.

6. Replace the Battery for Laptops:

In the case of most computers, the battery won’t last the life of the computer, especially for users who frequently uses their battery. The lithium-Ion battery that are used in laptops have a set number of charge/discharge cycles, meaning once the battery has been charged and discharged that many times, the battery needs to be replaced. Batteries can be found on Amazon or other sites online by simply searching for the laptop brand and model with the word “battery”.  There are often two options when choosing a battery, the standard capacity and  the high capacity that has a longer life, which are often not flush with the case and heavier. Sometimes, it has a little extra “kick stand” just adding height, while other times it is larger.  However, for those who prefer longer battery life and don’t mind some extra size and weight, high capacity batteries are a good option. Once again, this is not possible on Apple laptops and if a battery needs to be replaced, it needs to be taken to an Apple Store or Authorized Apple Repair Center.

While no piece of electronic equipment lasts forever, these tips can help a computer last a while longer before a computer needs to be replaced. This is helpful when new processors or other new technologies are about to come out to hold oneself over with their current computer, until computers with the new technology comes out.

How to Backup Your Data…..and Never Lose Data Again

Everyone who has a computer, must  have a way to backup their data. Not only do they need to have copies of all their essential files up but, it needs to be regular and automatic in order to be effective.

What’s Not a Backup

A lot of people say oh, my files are backed up, but if it is not regular and automatic, there is a much higher risk of data loss. Some examples of bad backup strategies are:

  • “I copy my files to a flash drive/external hard drive every now and then”
  • “I burn my files to a CD/DVD when I remember”
  • “I email files to myself every now and then”

While these methods do create extra copies of files, they are not guaranteed to be the most recent, nor are they automatic relying on the person’s memory which may not be the most reliable when it comes to regularly backing up.

So if all those strategies are not good backups, what does it take to have a good backup? These are of course just my thoughts, but ensure that data is safe and I am proud to say, I have not lost data in very long time.

3-2-1 Backup

One of the most popular backup methodologies is the 3-2-1 backup. This method encourages using more than one backup and utilizing multiple types of media for backing up. So what does 3-2-1 mean?

3 copies of every file

Those files should be on at least 2 different mediums, whether online, external hard drives, flash drives, CD/DVDs, or any other storage mediums.

1 of those copies needs to be off-site in the event of fire, flood, theft or any other physical damage to your home or office, which could leave backups in that location just as vulnerable as your computer.

In my opinion, online backup is the best way to backup your data because it is off-site and very secure allowing users to encrypt their data so it can only be accessed by the user using an encryption key they create. But as the 3-2-1 strategy suggests, no single method is perfect and it is best to have more than one backup, using multiple types of media.

My Backup Strategy:

Personally, I use CrashPlan which is $50/year for unlimited data backup for my computer both the internal hard drive and external hard drives. In addition, I   have a secondary backup of all the data on my internal hard drive using Time Machine on my Macbook. All my documents are on Dropbox which offers 2 GBs of storage for free (and can be increased either by recruiting new users or by purchasing more space) so all those files are backed up on Crashplan, Dropbox and on my Time Machine Backup. I admit, I might be a a little extreme with my backups but, it is great to know that my data is safe in case the worst happens.

Backup Strategies: 

While my backup strategy may not work for everyone,  there are so many options for backing up and protecting your data.

External Hard Drive:

The most basic method of backing up data is setting up an external hard drive for automatic backups. Lifehacker has a great set of instructions on setting this up on both Windows computers and Macs using their respective built-in backup systems.

Online Backup:

My favorite method of backing up data is online backup. Online backup is great because the data is kept off-site, securely. So if there is a robbery, fire or other disaster, an external hard drive is just as vulnerable to damage as your computer. With online backup, you pay for the service either monthly or annually and data is automatically uploaded as files are created or change as long as the computer is connected to the internet. It also means that users don’t need to remember to connect your computer to an external hard drive in order to backup. The one disadvantage is those who have many large files, the initial backup may take weeks or months. However, the benefits of online backup when it comes to connivence and safety   There are many choices for online backup services, and I have used several different services over the years.

  • Backblaze: Backblaze is similar to Crashplan (see below) as far as features and price however,  it doesn’t have the option to external hard drives or friends’ computers.
  • Carbonite: Carbonite is probably the biggest name in online backup but, it has it’s limitations. The most basic plan is $60 per year, and it limits which file types it backs up and it only backs up data on the internal hard drive. For those who want to backup external hard drives,  will need to get the Plus account which is $100 per year and only is available to Windows users and to automatically backup video files, they will need a premium account which is $150 per year and once again only available to Windows users.
  • CrashPlan: CrashPlan is what I currently use to backup my data, it cost $60 per year for unlimited backup for a single computer including external hard drives. There is also a less expensive 10 GB backup plan and Family Plans that are better are a better price for 3 or more computers as well as multiple year options for extra savings. In addition to a strong online backup service, Crashplan can also backup to external hard drives and to computers of friends using Crashplan as well.
  • Mozy: Has a 50 GB backup plan and a 125 GB backup plan for $6 and $10 a month respectively, which for many users is more than enough storage space.  This works out to be slightly more than the Unlimited backup from Crashplan and does not offer all the advanced features Crashplan has. The other issue I had with Mozy was when I used it, granted this was several years ago, was the Mac version had a fair amount of bugs.

One of the other advantages of these backup services is because the data is backed up to the internet, it is accessible anywhere there is an internet connection and all the services listed above have mobile applications, making forgetting a file a thing of the past. Now, any file backed up is accessible from any web connected computer or mobile device.

Other Strategies:

Some people may be apposed to paying for online backup despite the enormous benefit however, backing up data is still important. They can automatically backup to an external hard drive as described above but off-site backup is still essential. There are however, other ways of having an offsite backup without paying for an online backup service.

This can be done by having two or more backup drives and rotating them out to a safe location. For example, leaving a backup drive at a friend’s house or in a bank safe deposit box. By backing up data to a drive and then putting it somewhere safe, your data will be safer than just backing up to a local external hard drive.

Another more affordible method of off-site backup is using the free Crashplan application as described above and backup to a friend’s computer that also has Crashplan installed. This takes less effort than swapping hard drives out every now and then. The problem with both solutions however, is they are limited to the size of the external drive or the friend’s computer. Online backup is still the best solution but, the most important thing is that all your important data is backed up and in multiple places.

Final Backup Tips:

  • There is no such thing as too many backups
  • Data Recovery from failed drives costs over $1,000 on average.
  • Hard Drives have a 13% failure rate annually- See Crashplan’s graphic of various media’s life span.- Choose your media wisely!
  • Backup everything, even if you don’t think you need- especially if you have unlimited backup, USE IT!
  • Once your backup plan is in place, you don’t really have to do anything and you have the peace of mind knowing your data is safe

Password Best Practices

Last week, I spent the better part of a day changing all my passwords for my computer and all my other web accounts. This is something you should do semi-regularly for optimal security, especially now that more and more information is accessible online. I say should because  I haven’t changed my passwords in over 5 years! So after going through all this I decided I would share some of my best practices and tips for passwords so yo can keep you digital information safe.

Password Requirements:

The first thing you need to do when coming up with a password, is to determine how long you want the password to be. Most sites require a 6-8 character password, but I would recommend making a longer password for extra security and to be future proof since, longer passwords will most likely be required in the future.  You also may want to use a longer for more sensitive information, such as banking to protect the more private information. Strong passwords don’t use words, or phrases but instead, are comprised of random characters. Many times, sites require capital letters, lowercase letters and numbers. Some sites also require use of special characters  ($, &,@, etc) but some sites don’t allow them so if you use the same password on multiple sites, you might have trouble using certain characters depending on the site. In order to have the strongest password, you should include all the previously mentioned characters (Capital letters, lowercase letters, numbers and symbols) but as I already said symbols can get tricky because not all sites use all the symbols, so you may want to avoid them.

Creating A Strong Password

Once you know how long you want your password to be and the types of characters you want to include, there are several ways to generate a password. When I changed my passwords, I used PCTools.com’s Password Generator I like it not only because it let me choose which types of characters I want to include and in the same sense, not include, but it also will generate multiple passwords at once. I generated 50 potential passwords and then took parts of some passwords to make my password. This will provide ore security than just copy and pasting a password from the generator, and also allows me to use characters or segments that are easy for me to remember. Generators are the easiest way of making a new, strong password and although there are other ways of making secure passwords using algorithms, which is what I was going to try and do, but this is just so quick, easy and secure.

Password Managers

I’m sure that most people don’t have as many accounts as I do, but even for the average person, it is not easy to remember all the accounts you have registered for and ultimately need to change the password of.  Password managers can make this much easier, as long as you keep it up-to-date. There are applications that manage all your password, the most popular application is a free and open source program called KeePass, Mac OSX also has a password manager called Keychain built-in to the operating system and I believe integrates with Safari. Speaking of browsers,  every modern browser allows you save you passwords within the browser, but even with a master password, it isn’t very secure. My favorite password management solution is LastPass, which is what I use for all my passwords. It’s a browser extension that will sync your passwords to the cloud, encrypted and is protected by a master password. LastPass synchronizes your passwords between multiple computers and if you pay $1 per month you can use an app it on your smartphone to access your passwords as well. LastPass has a extension for all major browsers and an app for every major phone platform, even WebOS and Windows Phone. The browser plugin also has a built-in password generator that will generate a new, strong password and automatically put it in the form. The other huge advantage of using any password manager is that it makes sure you don’t forget to change the password for any of your accounts.
Tips:

  • If you have to write your password(s) down (which you really should never do), hide the paper is written on. (Don’t hide it under the keyboard or tape it to your monitor)
  • Try and Change Passwords at least once a year, more frequently for more security.
  • When Changing passwords, many sites will have a meter to show how strong your password is, use that before changing your password to make sure you have a strong password

The iPad As A Computer

Since the original iPad was release and subsequently followed by many competing tablets, tablets have taken off. In fact, some people have replaced computers with tablets and some chose to buy tablets instead of a computer. I don’t think this will really hurt the computer industry but, this has greatly impacted the netbook market. Tablets typically are lighter, more portable and have better battery life than laptops and netbooks. Personally, I replaced my netbook, which I used mainly for notetaking in class, email, and surfing the web with an iPad and can’t find anything that I need to do that the netbook could do and my iPad couldn’t. For many people this is the entire extent of what they use computers for, making it a possibility for those people to use just a tablet instead of a computer. Don’t get me wrong, computers will alway have their place and I think most people will still have a computer and many will have both a computer and a tablet to have the best of both worlds.  But for those who only use their computers for surfing the Internet and checking email as many do, the iPad would be a perfect device. One example of this would be grandparents or other older people who just want a computer for communicating with family and web surfing.  The iPad is also great for tasks like word processing as well as long as you have a good app. I use QuickOffice, it is $15, but, it edits word, excel and PowerPoint documents and even connects to Dropbox, Google Docs and many other cloud services making it easy to get work done whether on a mobile device or computer. Another good test case for this is someone who only wants For many users, this is the extent of their computer usage and for people who have never used a computer, an iPad is much easier and simpler to use and learn.

Currently, the iPad is not able to operate as an independent device, it instead, must be first connected to a computer and sync with iTunes to initially setup the device, synchronize data and to upgrade the operating system. When iOS 5 come out in the fall, the iPad will be able to be setup as a stand-alone device, can sync over wifi both to a computer and the cloud and iOS updates will be done over the air. iOS5 will also be adding a lot of other features that will let the iPad work as an independent device even if you don’t have a computer.  iOS 5 will cause many people realize that the iPad and other tablets already do more than they need a computer for and they could just get that instead of a computer.

The iPad is great for travel, on my past two week long trips, I just took my iPad and iPhone and left my computer at home. When I go on vacation I usually just do basic computing tasks like surfing the Internet, checking email and maybe writing a little. As long as I can get a good Internet connection, my iPad des everything I need, since I don’t usually do video editing or anything else that my iPad can’t do. The iPad is much lighter than a laptop and is so thin it can go almost anywhere. I probably could just bring my iPhone but, the bigger screen is nice to have for writing longer e-mails and working on documents.

There are a few accessories that I highly recommend for people who are considering using an iPad instead of a computer. Every tablet user should have a case of cover and screen protector just to keep the device protected, but if you want to use it as a computer-replacement, I recommend these additional accessories:

1. Bluetooth keyboard

For all those who aren’t full fans of or uncomfortable with the on-screen keyboard the Apple Bluetooth keyboard or any Bluetooth keyboard can help those who prefer a physical keyboard over the iPad’s touch screen keyboard. There are even cases that make an iPad look a lot like a laptop with the iPad on the top half of the case and Bluetooth keyboard on the bottom with a clamshell design. These are typically more expensive  than a regular bluetooth keyboard, but could be good for those who are used to working with a laptop. A standalone Bluetooth keyboard is usually between $30 and $70.

2. Airprint Compatible Printer

 

If you want to print anything from your iPad you need to use AirPrint. As of right now a printer needs to have a special air print driver so you can wirelessly print from your iPad. Apple has a list of compatible printers listed on their website, and I think AirPrint will be built into most printers soon.

3. Camera Connection Kit

For those who take digital pictures, you will need the Camera connection kit which is $30 so you can copy your pictures onto your iPad, but in my opinion if you wan to do any kind of photo management or editing you should stick with a computer. But, this is a nice accessory for clearing off memory cards while your traveling so you can take more pictures.

4. AV Adapter

if you want to display your iPad on a bigger screen like a HDTV or other monitor, you need the AV adapter to connect it to a device via HDMI. Remember that to mirror your iPad screen you need to have the iPad 2, the original iPad will only output supported apps. If you have a new Apple TV, you can also display your screen wirelessly over your home network.

I’m not saying these new tablets will replace computers, computers will always have their place. However, the most basic users and new users who have a limited needs for their computer might be better off with an iPad or other tablet device. One thing to keep in mind though is that if you are considering having a tablet as your only computer, then you may want to consider the 3G models because they will allow you to have Internet access anywhere you can get a cell phone signal and might be easier than having to setup a home Internet service provider. Tablets are still relatively new technology and there are a lot of things it can’t do, for some, it works and they don’t need do anymore than you can already use an iPad for. For people who are very basic users, or those who have a netbook in addition to a regular computer  the iPad is a good choice. It is not a replacement for the majority of users, but it is a great travel device or additional device to a computer; however it is very simple to use, so the most basic users would be able to do what they need to do without being overwhelmed.

Maximum Laptop Screen Size

I recently was looking at laptops in a store and I was shocked by how big the 17 inch screen laptops were. It’s one thing to see a picture of a 17-inch laptop on a website, but in person, when you see various laptops right next to each other, you can really see that although it is a 2-inch (diagonal) difference, it makes a major difference in the size of the laptop. Personally,I never bought a  laptop with a screen larger than 15-inches; I think with that size, it give a big enough screen without being too bulky and cumbersome to travel with. Even though I don’t and haven’t carried my laptops with me a whole lot which is mostly a personal preference.  If you need a bigger screen than my recommended 15-inches and don’t mind it not being portable then I would recommend just getting a desktop computer so that it could be connected to as big of a monitor as you want. The one reason that I would recommend someone getting  a larger screen laptop is if you need it for graphic-intense purposes like graphic design, video editing or video games while your on the go. Those are just some of the tasks that benefit from the larger screen while some people need that type much workspace on the go, I think most computer users don’t. Another important reason is if you have issues viewing things that are small, then you might want to choose a larger screen laptop so you can make things large enough to be easily read.

If you want the best of both worlds, you could get a smaller screen laptop like maybe a 13 inch laptop  and then when you need a larger screen, you can  connect it to a larger LCD monitor so when you need the big screen when you work at a desk but if your traveling, you can just use the laptop’s monitor. This solution works great as long as you don’t need the large screen when you travel since, traveling with an extra monitor is even more cumbersome than a larger laptop. The other downside of this, is that the smaller screen laptops usually have less power for example, the top-of-the-line 13-inch MacBook Pro is still significantly less powerful that the entry 15-inch MacBook Pro. This is most likely because of the obvious fact that the smaller laptop has less space inside the case so parts have to be smaller in order to fit, and typically smaller  component are typically less powerful. This is a consideration that is important if you need you computer for high power tasks. But either way unless you have graphic-intense purposes for your laptop or if you have vision issues, I think that most people should get laptop with a 15-inch screen at the most to maximize usability as well as portability

 

Evernote-Note Syncing Done Right

The built-in iOS Note app leaves a lot to be desired, the main issue I have is the poor syncing. Although it does have a sync function, it only lets you sync to a notes folder in you email account which doesn’t let you edit elsewhere and just provides a backup of it. This is okay but, what if you want to edit on multiple devices and keep in sync between them all.

The solution is Evernote, Evernote allows you to sync notes between your computer, your mobile device, and the web. You can also take pictures and annotate them with notes and sync them as well. The notes sync back and forth and can be edited on the desktop and mobile platform, while the can be only read online with the free account. It great for any notes or other information you want  anywhere and easily searchable. You can also clip websites to remember and easily access them.

One of the best things about Evernote, is that its free, there are applications for Windows, Mac OSX, iOS, Android, Windows Mobile, Web OS, and Blackberry. There are limitations on the free account like the amount of data to be uploaded, no encryption and more. The premium account provides more upload, better support, SSL encryption, and Offline access for either $5 per month or $45 for the year.

Evernote is a fantastic way to organize information and access it anywhere, it is perfectly useable without the Premium account and is a great way to have notes wherever you go. I use it now instead of the built-in iOS notes app and has really been a great improvement. In fact, I wrote this whole article in Evernote on my iPod Touch and then copied it online from the desktop application.

Google CR-48 Laptop Thoughts

Last week, Google announced their Chrome OS laptop used to test Chrome OS the CR-48. Right now, this laptop is just for testing but it will be available  for consumers next year. Although I am a huge supporter of cloud computing, and Google’s cloud services, I think there are some issues with the Chrome OS. I’m not alone, the creator of Gmail (a former Google employee) said that Chrome OS will die in 1 year. I believe that this is partially because of the decline of the Netbook form factor but also because you MUST have an internet connection to use Chrome OS. I thought that this was a good idea for a “pure cloud netbook” but, then  I realized that even with cellular internet (which is built into the CR-48) there are still areas where you will not have an internet connection. This would make the computer useless. This needs to be addressed because although the areas that don’t have a cellular connection are getting fewer and fewer, they still exist and leave the device incapacitated. The other issue I have with Chrome OS is that it looks like a bigger version of the Chrome web browser, and that doesn’t seem to be a good user interface for an operating system. I think that Google is too late for the netbook market and agree that Chrome OS will probably merge with Android to integrate with the mobile market which is a more logical decision.

Is The Netbook Dead?

Netbooks (formerly know as Ultra mobiles PCs)  became a major technology trend in late 2007 starting with the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) and the Asus Eee Pcs. The original Intel Atom processor had the ability to provide enough power  for a inexpensive, portable computer. However,  it’s 3 years later and people have become more dependent on their computers and more mobile. Some people (like me) just use their netbooks for taking notes and some web browsing. While others use their netbooks as their computer when they are on the move and need more power out of them.

Personally, my netbook is only used when I am in class and before classes. Otherwise it sits in a drawer and is never used on weekends. My feeling is that for my uses of a netbook, I would be able to replace it with an iPad or other tablet device (possibly with a bluetooth keyboard), especially now that the iPad has the key feature of multi-tasking. The iPad is much more portable and has all the apps I know and love on my iPod Touch. It also gets vastly better battery life and has better synchronization both of applications and data. It also is really fast, my netbook is sluggish at times which I attribute to both the hardware as well as it running Windows XP. I have tried several “netbook editions” of Linux but, there are a lot of compatibility issues. The iPad is also thinner and more portable than a netbook. I also can see myself using the iPad outside of the classroom a lot more because of all the great applications available through the app store.

For those who need a more powerful portable computer, they should take a look at the lightweight computers. The best example of this is the Macbook Air but, there are also Windows alternatives like my friend Michael Plasmeier’s Lenovo U350. These computers are double the price most netbooks but, they provide a full computing experience and full powered computer operating system. These computers might not be the the fastest, but they are powerful enough to get most things dones when you are traveling.

Although Google is just releasing their first Chrome OS netbook, I think more people will opt for the either the portable full-featured computer or a tablet like an iPad instead of the netbook. They may be more expensive but, they deliver more features, and power and most importantly, more portability.

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