Saturday, August 16, 2014

Random Thoughts: Thinkpads, Netbooks, and Linux, Part 1

Well it's time for another Random Thoughts post I think. I fixed the Asus Eee PC 1005PE, as well as mostly fixing the ThinkPad T41. I didn't document the process as it didn't go as smooth and I would have preferred it to go, so I figured I would regretfully skip doing it this time. But, the key thing is I have 2 more usable laptops to play with!

For the Eee PC, I needed to replace the LCD cable and my neighbor just so happened to have a broken screen for a similar 1001 model. So I took the cable and put it into mine, so now everything on it works again. I also put the 500GB hard drive back in, and installed Windows 7. I did notice the fan now makes some noise but it works well otherwise so I am not going to mess around with that one again!

The next laptop I repaired is the one that UPS broke. My friend ordered the new hinges and the bottom panel for me. I replaced the hinges, so it can be used as a laptop now and I plan to do the base sooner or later but that will take some time. I figure that with at the least the hinges in, I can move it around with me without any worries, and then replace the bottom when I have some extra time one day.

In this, I installed a 60GB hard drive, since it is IDE that is the largest my neighbor had, and I don't have anything larger either. I have the 512MB DDR SODIMM it came with still under the keyboard, and added a 256MB chip to the slot on the bottom. I have no idea why they decided to have one of the slots under the keyboard since they had plenty of room otherwise.

So what I am doing with this system? I figured that Windows XP is getting to be too old, and too slow, so I went with Linux. I was going to use straight Ubuntu and then install LXDE, but it proved to be slow as well so I downloaded Lubuntu, and it runs a good bit better now. Granted it can still use some tweaking, but it seems that everything is working so far. This includes the Wifi and sound, as well as suspend, though I did not test hibernation yet. The one thing I did notice that doesn't work are shortcut keys for volume, but that isn't a major issue right now.

I will be posting more as I use it more, as it been quite a good while since I used Linux much. I have Dropbox installed, as well as Libre Office, so I think I am good on the software side as it came with Firefox and Pidgin already.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Trigger Fist on iPad mini Retina

I tried out Trigger Fist tonight to see how well the game is, and it's quite good. You don't get the full rendering as in PS3 and such, but the gunshots were realistic enough.

The speakers on my white iPad mini Retina made me have an enjoyable gameplay. I'd recommend if you have some time to kill. :)

Friday, August 8, 2014

Singularity 2014 Part 6

David, Tsubasa and Mikey were quickly transferred to a discreet bunker, where they were told to wait for further notice.

This was when singularity was already occurring. Every machine was already connected to each other by internet and Bluetooth. Collective intelligence of the machines were already much smarter than humans, so humans were either cyborgs or became cyber-monks. 

The study was that singularity will occur in 2045, but the quantum computer chip developed by a Canadian company was the breakthrough technology for this to occur.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Random Thoughts: Collections

Something that has been on my mind a bit lately is that the other day I decided that I needed to  clear out some of the old computers I don't use. I gave away a bunch of old desktops as well as a few laptops that were in various states of repair, and I have to admit it made me happier than I thought it would.

One of the computers I decided to get rid of was my Packard Bell 486, which was my first computer, and I will admit I didn't really feel any sentimental attachment to it anymore. It has made me rethink something, and that is that I use old computers for an excuse to work on my book. I am not saying this is wrong, but I am saying that getting rid of the older stuff opened a door for me in my opinion.

People often ask me what I use these for, and I can answer that for the most part, I use them as a digital notepad. I will either write my book, type up some cook books I find, or just generally use them to post on this blog. Once again, I am not saying it is a bad thing, because I didn't get rid of all of them. To be truthful, I don't like collecting desktops, and the laptops really didn't work well for me. Of the working ones I have away, one was a Toshiba I was given that had the keyboard placed too far up on the unit, so typing was uncomfortable.

The keyboard is a major point for me when you consider that I said they are mainly used as a digital notepad. I have always said that if it has a text editor and a way to get the text off and onto a modern PC, I could make use of it, and that is still true. I have been thinking more and more though of focusing myself on things like laptops though as I can store them with far less needed space than a desktop I may never use.

It is also worth noting here that desktops never change. If they have a USB port, or a PS/2 port for the keyboard, they aren't anything special as I will just hook up a keyboard to them and use that. Now, I wouldn't say this is totally true as I wouldn't mind a complete retro setup of say a classic Mac, or an IBM PC with a Model M keyboard, but for the most part I want to stay away from desktops.

One of the things I prefer to collect, from a writing standpoint, are various handhelds such as old smartphones. I did a lot of writing on my Pre 3 for example. The reason being, they tend to get better battery life, and can be put in my pocket and turned on instantly to where I left of in case I get an idea on the go. Of course it does depend on what I am using. I wouldn't do much writing on something like my HTC Evo 4G because even though it has a huge battery, it lacks a keyboard. It is the same reason I wouldn't do much on the Shield without an Bluetooth keyboard.

One of the things I would love to do however is go out into the middle of no where. I mean no cell phone service, or power, and just camp out in a tent. Perhaps into the woods of Alaska or Canada, with nothing but one of the PDA's I collect. The ideal model would be something much like the Alphasmart Dana, which is pretty much made for writing. Well, technically, they are made for schools. The Dana was the model that ran Palm OS, so I could use some different programs for writing, and with it having 2 SD slots, I could hold a lot of files and transfer them to a laptop with no issues.

The real reason I would choose something like this is that they can use a NiMH battery pack, or run off standard AA batteries. This means I wouldn't need to worry about keeping it charged and I could just work on the book or something. My problem is sometimes I can get too distracted by things like Youtube or Facebook, or talking to a friend and I don't get anything done. The camping part would be nice because I could get away from it all for a few days and focus my thoughts more effectively on the story I am trying to write.

One of the things I do that is different from the way most people do this whole novel thing is that I don't really plan ahead. I have the basic story idea, and I just write what comes to mind whenever I decide to work on it. I also feel that writing can't be rushed if you want it to turn out well so sometimes I get an idea and have no way to really do anything with it because I am working. I have to say that is one of my biggest flaws as well, but normally I try to remember them at the least.

I may have said it before, but George R R Martin, the autor of a Season of Ice and Fire, the book series that Game of Thrones is based on, said that he still uses a DOS PC for writing because he likes the software better. I will take it one step further and say I agree, but he missed the point I have to make. I like it for the fact that its not distracting. I can focus more with an older PC or PDA or whatever.

I don't just mean with the Internet, but also games and stuff. When I was in school, I carried a PDA, starting with a Clie SJ33, and extending to various other models of Clie and Palm and even Pocket PC models like my Axim and iPAQ but my favorite was something from 1999. I love my NEC MobilePro 780 and I still use it from time to time as well.

The thing that it had one thing that none of my other PDAs, or even my various Android tablets or old phones do, which still amazes me nothing has touched on it yet. It could do multiple files at once. That means I could do 2 word documents and switch between them without closing either of them. I said I don't do any outlines or brainstorming, but it could be very helpful at times when you want to go back and check on something from 5 chapters back to see what you said. Imagine how much of a pain it would be if you needed close the chapter you were working on to go back to check the name of someone from a previous chapter.

The Pre 3 may be the only one that can do this now that I think of it since I can open a new document in the program I use in a new card, but this was with the built in software. It was also easier to switch between programs. Imagine having to do a report and going back and forth between Word and Excel. Perhaps I have just been spoiled by the old Windows CE, but multitasking was easier back then in my opinion.

One thing for sure though, I am going to try and post more on this blog, so sometimes modern technology is more useful since I have a Blogger application on my Nexus 7, but sometimes I think about the steps we have made aren't always forward. You can see what happens in my mind all day when I am working on cutting as many lawns as I can in a day.

We have gone from mechanical keyboards to rubber dome keyboards, and while they can make a thinner laptop, they don't always feel quite as nice as the old buckling spring keyboards. Or the fact that we can make these really thin laptops, but I often wonder why. If the screen is 13", such as the Macbook Air, it really isn't any more portable than the 13" Macbook Pro now is it?

Think about why we are able to make these thinner laptops. We have cooler running processors that use less power, so they don't need a massive cooling system anymore, and we can have thinner batteries but why not use this is a different advantage? If we can cram a Core i7 into a Surface Pro 3, which is pretty thin, why not add a lot larger battery? What I want to do is make a true endurance laptop.

I am not talking about getting a few hour battery life, or even 10 hours. I want to see a laptop that can run for over 24 hours STRAIGHT. I want to see a laptop I can charge every other day or so when I need to use it off the grid for a while. I guess this is something I may never see anytime soon but I have hope… I still remember the rumors of fuel cells promising this, with instant refueling to boot! That was back when I was still in school, probably about 10 years ago now. They even had prototype MP3 players…

Friday, August 1, 2014

Mr Penguin's PC Repair Introduction

So, this is something I wanted to post on Wednesday but I had trouble getting around to it. I was installing Windows XP ad getting all the updates on what should have been a new toy I couldn't wait to post about, but thanks to UPS, this is not the happy post I wanted it to be BUT I think I can save it!

On Wednesday, I got a nice ThinkPad T41 from a friend. He found it in a scrap pile at a thrift store but it was in excellent quality, so I am not sure why they had it with that stuff but that isn't my issue. That means that normally they pull any RAM or hard drive, and sell it without a power supply, but that isn't the issue yet either. Though, they did miss the 512MB stick of RAM under the keyboard! I have spare hard drives, and a spare ThinkPad adapter.

So, what is the issue? Well I said it was because of UPS, and it turns out from the looks of the box they had dropped it. They dropped it hard enough to break the hinge and corner of the bottom chassis. Lucky for me, the screen, which is a lovely 1400x1050 resolution, is fine. The rest of the laptop is working great and I am using it to type this up.

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Now, I am going to fix this laptop once I get the parts, which my friend said he should have spares he can send me, as well as another old laptop of mine. I have an Asus Eee PC 1005PE with a bad screen cable an my neighbor just happened to have a similar, or same model as I didn't look at the label, that is in very bad shape and said he would give me the screen cable from.

So this got me thinking. While I don't think it is something that I have ever posted here, my friend who sent me the ThinkPad and I have a running joke. I have a small stuffed penguin that I like to place in pictures, and while the majority of it is more of an inside joke, he is named Mr Penguin. So I have decided to start a new column here, which may not see a LOT of posts, but there will be at the very least a few. So allow me to introduce…

Mr. Penguin's PC Repairs!

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Tuesday, July 29, 2014


I'm using Racket now for testing out stuff!

Random Thoughts: Post PC?

So, in the last post, I mentioned the Shield, and that got me thinking again so it is time for MORE Random Thoughts! This is what happens when you cut grass all day. It makes your mind wander, so I figure I could keep this going for a while, and it’s a great excuse to use my Type Cover 2 more!

I want to talk a bit about "Single Use Devices", or SUDs. Ok, so maybe that isn't a real term, but I mean things like eReaders and such. There is something else that Engadget recently posted as well, which ties in with this for me. The post, talks about the "Post PC" era.

I am going to nitpick this article and say what I feel should be posted instead of this. Sorry but this has to be done for the sake of anyone who actually knows what is going on. Engadget was wrong, and this how I feel. Let start shall we?

"First, there was the iPod. Then came the iPhone. And finally, the poster child of the "post-PC" era: the iPad."

Okay, how is an MP3 player, or even the iPhone or iPad that REQUIRE the use of a PC to function? Now, unless something has changed, they all need to be connected to iTunes to be activated. This means you can't just take it out of the box and play with it. Like I said, unless something has changed, this is as far as I know.

"What wasn't necessarily obvious when Steve Jobs helped popularize the term in 2007, is that eventually the barriers between all of these specialized, single-purpose gadgets -- the PC included -- would break down. The stalwart personal computer would still have a role to play in this world, but it would be greatly diminished."

Ok, first part of this, I don't see these single purpose gadgets really breaking down. Since 2007, not much has really changed in my opinion. We still have things like the Kindle that remain popular, which is only good for reading books. How about dedicated cameras such as a DSLR? You don't see journalists using an iPhone to take pictures at a press conference.

The second part is more of what is really annoying me. What do they mean greatly diminished? We still need desktops and laptops to do serious work since tablets are not meant for this. Sure, I have Office Suite Pro 7 installed on my Nexus 7, but it is hardly a replacement for a real office suite as it lacks many basic features I would like to have. For example, being able to set the default page, paragraph, and other formatting settings for every document. You need to set these all manually if they differ from what they have default such as line spacing. I won't even bother to get into things like editing photos and videos, or anything like that.

Ok, onto the next slide…

"At the time, the notion of a world powered by portable, single-task devices seemed very, very far away. Palm Pilots and brick-shaped Nokia cellphones were then considered to be cutting edge. There were no smartphones -- a BlackBerry in 1999 was simply a two-way pager. "

Oh man where do I start with this one! For one, the Palm Pilot was never meant to REPLACE your computer, it was meant to be an ACCESSORY… Did they even check anything when they typed that? I mean seriously, the whole point of the Pilot was that it connected to your computer to sync over the information.

"Long before Apple, Samsung or ASUS actually made successful tablets that broke through to the mainstream, HP was experimenting with the now familiar form factor. The company's TC1100 (pictured here) was a simple slate with a detachable keyboard. In 2003, it was a unique, if slightly awkward design. "

Ok, now there is only one thing to say here: That is a PC…

"These days Tim Cook relies on a very similar setup (i.e., an iPad with keyboard) to run Apple nearly every day."

I guess it is a lot easier when you run a company that makes the hardware and software since they ca make you custom software. I can do most of what I need to do for this blog on my Nexus 7, it doesn't mean I am going to though!

"It was the iPod that heralded the coming of the post-PC era. It was the first of many single-task devices that redefined what we expect from our gadgets. But its glory was shortlived as, soon enough, Apple began folding its functionality into the smartphone. And thus, the era of convergence got under way."

What? The iPod needed a PC to load music onto it… Hardly POST PC there…

"When people talk about the post-PC era, generally their timeline starts with the iPhone. Apple marketed it as the first smartphone to put the full power of the internet in your pocket. Before its debut, browsing the internet on a phone was an impractical and painful experience. In just a few short years, however, and in no small part thanks to Apple, it would become the backbone of the mobile computing experience."

Once again it needed to be HOOKED UP TO A PC to function at all when you first got it. The early ones didn't even have software, it wasn't a smartphone but a feature phone. Plus, how is having the internet Post PC? I need more than just the internet since I use my Surface for pretty much everything.

"Of course others, including Microsoft and Samsung, saw the coming mobile revolution. Samsung's Q1 was an early (and misguided) attempt to build a small computer with a touchscreen for staying productive on the go. The company's key mistake here was the focus on productivity and not media consumption. Successful tablets that came after focused more on media and casual web browsing."

Again, that IS a PC. Plus, focusing on productivity was more important at the time, and for me, it still is…

"For years now, PC shipments have been in a free fall. Obviously, the market for traditional computers has changed -- it would be silly to deny such a thing. Big PC makers like Dell and HP see that truth reflected in their bottom lines, all the while Apple continues to reap the benefits. But that doesn't mean that the personal computer is dead or has been altogether replaced by some dramatically different gadget. What’s happening instead, is that the distinction between PC and post-PC devices is blurring; consumers are finding room in their lives for PCs, as well as tablets and smartphones."

Yeah, even tablet sales are slowing down as well… Can it be that newer hardware just isn't that much of an upgrade anymore?

"Laptops and desktops are borrowing inspiration from their tablet brethren. Many Windows machines now feature touchscreens, but more importantly even our more stationary computers a being built around the cloud. Windows 8 (which runs on desktops and tablets) and OS X have a heavy focus on web services. And, of course, there's Google's Chrome OS -- a new type of desktop operating system designed for a time when constant internet connectivity is an everyday reality."

Again, this is PC stuff. If it runs Chrome OS, or Windows, it is still a PC. Also, what does the cloud have to do with Post PC?

"The feature gap between a laptop and tablet has eroded dramatically. A device like the iPad is now so powerful and its productivity tools so robust that Tim Cook says he does 80 percent of his work from one. But that would not have been possible just four years ago, before iOS finally added multitasking (albeit in a limited form). See, what on the surface sounds like anecdotal evidence that the PC is dying, is really proof that the tablet is becoming more PC-like. And while Cook thinks everyone should start ditching their laptop for an iPad, it will probably never happen. Because it's not horsepower that's driving tablet sales, it's price."

Oh this is a fun one! Tablets are getting more powerful hardware wise, but what about the software? I find for most things, my Nexus 7 just isn't cut out for work. I said before I feel the "productivity" of tablets is very limited for Android or even iOS.

"As Stephen Baker, an analyst with NPD, points out, the real boom in the tablet market happened during the holiday season of 2012. Why that year? Well, that's when the race to the bottom kicked off in earnest with the debut of the iPad mini, Google's Nexus 7 and the follow up to the Amazon Fire. The latter of which started at a price of $160 -- a far cry from the $500 of Apple's larger slate. The message here is clear: As tablets have become cheaper, they've proliferated, killing off the netbook and the idea of the second PC."

Uh, DUH? People like cheaper things? Why spend money on a laptop with a tablet is so cheap?

"It's no surprise that the netbook was the first real victim of the post-PC boom. These small, under-powered machines weren't very useful for anything beyond casual web browsing. But, thanks to the advent of high resolution multitouch screens, it's now much more comfortable to kick back on the couch with an iPad and catch up on your Buzzfeed lists than it is to balance a cramped mini-laptop on your knees."

Yeah in this case a tablet is better suited for this, but calling netbooks weak annoys me. I was able to use one as my main PC for some time, and that meant Firefox, Thunderbird, Pidgin and iTunes running almost all the time with extras thrown in as needed.

"Over the last year, sales of both tablets and smartphones have slowed dramatically according to NPD, IDC and Gartner. If you ask Stephen Baker, that's because the market is quickly reaching saturation. Thanks to $200 Android tablets and powerful mid-range handsets, nearly everyone who wants a tablet has been able to buy one. Now, sales of iPads are actually declining and PC sales have finally stopped falling."

Ok, yeah this is true. Also for me it is because there are not really much of an upgrade anymore. Most tablets are the same specs, in a different brand. I could get a new Android tablet but what good would it do me?

"Even our most reliable way of distinguishing between PCs and tablets -- form factor -- is disappearing. Devices like Lenovo's aptly-named Yoga are the result of putting laptop design through a blender. The Yoga's strange and surprisingly agile shapes allow it to be used as a tablet, a desktop or even in your lap."

Yes, this is true as well, but what about the fact that these devices existed before even 2007? They have had screens that turned around and folded back down so they could be used as a tablet, all Lenovo did in this case was make a hinge that folded down the other way.

"Microsoft's Surface is perhaps the best example of how our definition of "PC" is still stuck in the last decade. It combines a touchscreen and a touch-friendly UI with a detachable keyboard and its own app store. But it's still more than capable of handling spreadsheets and photo editing. So does that make it a tablet? Is it a laptop? We'd argue that it's both."

Now, as I am writing this on a Surface, I feel I am the authority on this subject so to speak. It is both, it is a TABLET PC. The old term that was coined back in the day before Post PC was a thing. I will say this, the Surface RT is a tablet since it can't run all of the x86 software, but the Pro models are tablet PCs.

"Especially now that Apple's slowly merging OS X's functionality with iOS, it's harder to draw a line between an iPad with a keyboard and a MacBook Air. 12-inch tablets, like the multi-tasking monster that is Samsung's Galaxy Note Pro 12.2, are becoming common alternatives to 13-inch laptops. By now, it's clear that the original vision of the "post-PC" era simply hasn't come to pass. Instead, manufacturers have set mobile devices and traditional computer on a collision course. Which means that it's time we retire the talking points around the "post-PC" for a buzzword that's way more appropriate: convergence."

This is something I agree with but I have something to say anyway! I have seen the Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 and I can say that is pretty large, and the multitasking is neat, but I still don't see Android as taking over any time soon.