Wednesday, August 1, 2012 is a Hoax

OK, so being that I really liked Outlook and all its interconnected glory and that I,  like many users, wish that Outlook Web Access was a free service,  I jumped at the chance to try is Microsoft's update to the popular Hotmail email service. It is packed with Skydrive support among other cool features.

So I log in, and what do I see?   A new mail screen!   BUT........I have seen this before.  Hmmmm.
So I hover the mouse pointer over the Outlook logo....and down comes this new menu.......

Its the Metro Mail app from Windows 8!  And the People app and the Calendar app and of course Skydrive.

 So then is a trick to get you to use the new metro apps in Windows 8.  These new apps are functional and efficient but nowhere near the level of Outlook.  Plus what was one app is now three and then there are the colors.....its like an AT&T Wireless commercial.   It seems Microsoft has confused "thinking outside the box" with actually jumping into another one.

So enjoy (or not) the new Hotmail interface.


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Brilliance and Stupidity of Windows 8 part 1

Metro UI =  Start Screen 

     So I have been on hiatus from blogging....Why you ask?  I installed Windows 8.  (insert bad words here)  This issue is so big I cannot address it in one post.  This is part one.   Part one is about what Windows 8 is as an operating system.

         I will not rant about my calamity with Windows 8. I will instead address first the mindset Microsoft seems to be working under. Followed by the brilliance of Windows 8 and the stupidity of Windows 8.    To be fair, there are many positives to Windows 8.  There are also many  poor design decisions.  Yeah, I can defend that.  Read on.

But first, Microsoft's basic assumptions as it seems now:  As gleaned from,  the MS building Windows 8 blog, and the user experiences (of Windows 8 Consumer Preview and Release Preview) of myself and many other bloggers and journalists.

1. There is no such thing as market saturation.  People simply change devices. (If you have a smart-phone or tablet why do you need a laptop or desktop?)
2. Computing Convergence into other devices means the end of PC's
3. People will ditch PC's for tablets and smart-phones. (these are also PC's)
4. Touch screens mean Nobody will use a mouse anymore.   ( Because we will be using tablets and smart-phones right?)
5. One user interface will work for everyone and everything.  (Hey, it works  for apple. Because a tablet is just a large smartphone, right? )
6. Pretty is more important than functional.
7. Pretty means minimalism.
8. Minimalism is the best way to be functional.
9. Computers are used to mostly update Facebook and watch Netflix videos from the cloud.  Oh, and listen to Pandora.
10. All computing will be done from the cloud.
11. We now call the internet : "the cloud" (Because everyone understands the 90's corporate IT diagram reference) (Plus, clouds are pretty. See #6.)
12. If people do not buy Windows 8, its because they changed devices again. (Not because people already own Windows 7 PC's that still work fine. See #1.)

Is this satire? YES, but it is also true.   Just read the posts on the Building Windows 8 MSDN blog.   Are these assumptions correct?  It depends on what task you are performing and in what environment.  All together they are crazy.  Individually they could work in the right context.  There can be a happy medium, but the context and the details must be considered.  There is no magic bullet that works for everything

       Now,  To be fair, Microsoft is not the only company to embrace the assumptions above. Google has embraced at least some of these and so has Apple.  It is a flawed line of thinking that mostly comes from really bad analysis of sales figures and other empirical statistics.  Statistics being the most popular form of empirical data that can be made to support the opposite of what is true.  CEO's will then say the "data doesn't lie."  Which is true of the data, but not true of the statistical analysis. Politicians and Advertisers love statistics for that reason.  That, however, is another post.

And Now.. The upsides to Windows 8

1. Metro UI is a great Idea! The Metro UI is embodied the new Start Screen.  It goes like this:  The Start Menu is replaced by the Start Screen.  Icons and Widgets become one and the same in the form of tiles.  These tiles save space and allow for greater flexibility.  The tiles offer updated information and can be re-grouped and re-sized according to category or task.  Unfortunately this only applies to the Start Screen and not the desktop.  Also, there are very limited customization options.  So, if you don't like the retro pastel 60's colors, then...uhh.

2. Windows 8 boots over 50% faster than Windows 7 and is generally faster everywhere. It will run better on older and slower hardware than Windows 7 did and Windows 7 was faster than Vista.

3. It works great for tablets!  For those that already have a Windows tablet, it will help you do more with less. It will be the wonderland you hoped for.  If you already have a Windows tablet, Windows 8 is a must-have.

4. Windows 8 includes an new run time engine called Windows RunTime (WinRT) which is a great new type of program that will run on either x86 or ARM processors.  These types of programs are the heart of the new Windows Store which is an app store accessible only through Windows 8  Windows 32/64 programs still run great.  All the ease of installing apps on your android phone, but now on Windows!

5. With the new Intel processors AND the speed of Windows 8 it will be possible to run Windows 8 on a x86 phone!

6. IE10 is tightly integrated with Windows 8 and offers a metro style app version of the browser.  (Similar to Android and iOS)  This should mean a smoother experience.

7. Windows RT will come with MS Office for the Metro interface.

8. Most keyboard shortcuts still work.

9. Its Cheap !  Windows 8 pro upgrade will only cost $39!  Even from Windows XP!  If you just bought a computer with Windows 7, then it only costs $15!!!

The Devalued Desktop

Reality Check:  The Downsides

1. Microsoft is now telling you how you will compute. They are being rather closed about it.  This is a first.
2. The desktop is deprecated.  Therefore there are few if any concessions to the desktop user.
3. The color scheme is a retro take on the 60's (again)  So if you don't like pastels well...
4. Control panel does not control all, and there are now at least 2 other control panels. They are not interconnected, so you cannot get to one from the other. (that's crazy right there) Notice that in the desktop screenshot (above) that control panel is pinned to the taskbar.  That is not default. It was added by the MS employee who made the screenshot. That is an MS screenshot. Even they seem to be annoyed by the interface choices.

5. No DVD/Blueray support, (You have to pay extra for that....from someone else) Costs about $100
6. No start button and/or abbreviated desktop program list.  You must get to your programs through the Start screen.  No button for that. Either move the mouse to the lower left corner or hit the Windows key.

7.  The Start Screen does not quite have all of the functionality of the start menu, and it takes up the whole screen. This is really annoying if you are in desktop mode.  (This is totally fixable without detracting from the Metro experience, so at this point I will assume that this is intentional) Further, since more screen space is used, it would not be hard to include a search/run box pinned to the screen. (currently its hidden by default. As is every other functional menu in Windows 8, save for the Taskbar.)

8. No transparency/Aero

9. Media Center is now a download only for Pro and above. And you have to pay for it.  That interface is now redundant as Metro would have served that purpose easily IF Microsoft had bothered to port the rest of the Media Center functions to Metro, but they did not, so now there is a possibility of 3 UI interfaces on Windows.  4 if you include the command line.

10. Add to the mix Windows RT which is the ARM port of Windows NT from years ago with the Phone 7/Metro interface and a desktop which cannot run classic Windows programs.  To add to the confusion  Windows ARM tablets can only run Win RT programs.   WinRT programs have a desktop and a Metro mode that look identical to Windows 8 on x86 processors, but cannot run the same programs.

11. You will not be able to install Windows RT on your Asus Transformer, Acer, Samsung, or any other Android tablet.  You have to buy a new device. Same goes for Windows phone 7/8. So much for the software and hardware being separate.

12. Your new Windows 8 tablet or desktop is Locked to Windows.  You can only install Linux versions that have been approved by MS.  (Sounds similar to apple, so much for software and hardware being separate.  See #11)

13.  The many different versions of windows will still remain, but they have new names.  Home Premium is now just Windows 8,Windows 7 Pro becomes Windows 8 Pro, and Windows 7 Enterprise becomes Windows 8 Enterprise.  Plus Windows RT which is only for ARM tablets.  (Windows 7 starter and Windows 7 Ultimate are gone.)

14. The new logo for windows is um, not compelling......

15. Management of a desktop is now much harder and much less intuitive. (See #2)

Example 1:   Previously to get to Control Panel from the desktop you just clicked the Start Button and then clicked on control panel.  Now, you put the mouse in the lower right hand corner,  wait for the menu bar to slide out,  then click settings, then click control panel.  What was 2 steps is now 4.  (On android there are still just 2 steps to get to control panel.) Then, there are 2 other control panels as well.

Example 2:  The desktop has a lock screen that you have to swipe up with the mouse to get out of. Then you can input your password.  This makes sense for a phone or tablet, but not for a desktop.

Example 3:  If, for some reason you get a blue screen of death.   Information that was previously posted allowed you to track down the driver or application that crashed the system. That is gone.  It crashed, and windows will no longer tell you why.

Example 4:  Say Malware causes errors on your disk, so you run Chkdsk.  It used to tell you what it was doing, now it just tells you when it is done.  Who knows what it did?

16.  If you have to learn an entirely new operating system just to run Windows 8, then why not learn another operating system? Like Unix, Linux, OSX or dare I say Chrome OS?  Before Windows 8, no one would even ask that question.

17. Hard core Mac users love it, which is always a bad sign.  MS is now opening its own stores to compete with Apple.  (Cause we all wanna be like Apple, right?)

So, Windows 8 is a great idea, but like Vista, it is executed poorly.  So far, Microsoft has alienated its vendor partners (with the Surface tablet release) and power users.  If they do not make some concessions before release, they will alienate corporate users and their regular users as well.   (Except for boomer retirees who check Facebook and watch Netflix videos while listening to Pandora. they will love it.) Yes, I have a lingering suspicion that MS has been over taken by executives of Apple and Ikea.  Ikea builds the box and Apple shoves you into it...and MS ordered the hit.

Thats all for now.  until part 2......

Think I'm nuts?  Tried Windows 8?  Let it rain comments....


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The PDA is Dead no wait, its the PC. Yeah, that's it. Or Not.

My Old Desktop

         Every three months or so, some pundit is writing an article pronouncing how the "fill in the blank technology" is dead.  The PC is dead.   No, its the Netbook.  No, the laptop.  They cite sales figures and analyst projections trying to be ahead of the trends.  This ridiculousness is hype for the sake of hype.  Technology exists to perform a task for people.  It is very rare that any single task would fall out of use.  It is common however for tasks to be preformed on other devices or multiple devices rather than just one. The death of a device is more rare, slow and complex than the hype suggests.  Technology doesn't really die.  It just converges.

     Our first example is the PDA  the most famous being "Palm".  It was a digital assistant that fit in the "palm" of your hand. It allowed you to keep all the contact info you already had on your PC and take it with you wherever you went as well as take notes, and keep your calendar appointments.  It converged when RIM came out with the Blackberry which did all of that plus added instant alphanumeric pager style messaging. .   We now call this "Texting".  Followed by mobile email corporations soon adopted this tech in droves.  Microsoft came out with Windows CE for the same overall purpose.    The first smartphones were either Windows CE, Blackberry or Palm based.    They were largely looked at as luxuries rather than tools and adoption was limited due to high prices and complex designs.  Apple raised the bar with the iPhone and the rest is history.

The PDA did not die then.   It converged with communications technology. It became an App. You probably use those features every day on your smart phone.

     Remember the Walkman?   Indeed most people now use their smartphone as their portable music player.   The desire for a portable way to listen to audio will always be there.  Its function, however,  may be built into another device that fills the same portability role as the Tape/CD/MP3 player did.  The MP3 player did not die then, it  just converged. 

(Insert Picture of IPad here, but you have to imagine a picture, because the lawyers have not yet invented a way to sue what you think about.)

Now about the Tablet vs PC hoopla

     I assert to you that the Desktop PC is no more dead than the Desk it sits upon. Saying one technology type will replace another is akin to saying that you will replace all of the furniture in your house with one universal piece.  Not likely.  Not because its not possible, but because its not comfortable.    Comfort drives the technology.  I read in a chair. I eat at a table, I sleep in a bed. I work at a desk or bench.    I do this because these devices are best built for this task.   I can read in my bed and sleep at my desk.   I do not regularly because it is not comfortable.  There is no universal gadget that will replace everything.  That's just silly.    

 This Blog is written on my desktop  PC, not because I cannot do it another way, but because I would like to keep my neck straight and not have to hold the device while I use it.   Also I like my humongous screen, which makes it easy to edit photos without having to zoom in/out all the time.  I can blog from my phone and my tablet as well, but it is not as comfortable. Just because I can work anywhere does not make anywhere the BEST place to work. Conversely it would not be practical to have a tablet with at 27 inch screen.  That too is silly.   Although, Samsung may try it. 

Tablets have been around for business use for the past 15 years. The IPad is the most famous of  course, mostly because it refined the interface and the hardware specifically for tablets, then exploited the possibilities.  In short it just performed better.   The way one uses a computer will define how useful a tablet such as the IPad is.  For a high school or college student, the tablet would a be huge help. Mostly because taking notes on a laptop has always been cumbersome, and battery life is always an issue.    For seniors and those that only do light computing, Tablets are a great solution.  Tablets are more likely to make paper obsolete rather than the Desktop PC.  Having used a Tablet as a Desktop PC, I can say I prefer the regular Desktop PC for serious work.   Simply because it makes my body hurt less.  Because I am a desk...with a larger screen that is easier to read.  Yes it is that obvious.

The best use of a PC then is when you need to work for long periods of time and you want to be comfortable.  Remember the PC was originally sold as a business/office tool.  It still does that better than a phone or tablet.

Do paper note pads replace loose paper?  No, that's silly.  They are very similar but have different uses. 

But PC sales are down you say.  I say of course they are I already have one. And so does everyone else.  I have at least 5 PCs not including tablets.  It will be awhile before I max out my hardware.  Welcome to PC saturation.    This is called convergence.  We all spoke so hopefully about what that would mean in 1998.  Now, as we watch it happen, people are surprised?  The point was to ingrate computing into our collective experience.

Here is the point: A technology device never rises above its basic use.   Put another way: As long as a device is useful, it will still exist.  regardless of what analysts say.


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Last Chance to save your Hard Drive

Comforted by the fact that you have backed up your data, you are shocked to learn that your drive failed and its backup never happened.   In a stooper you try to reboot hoping its just a random glitch.  Nope.  You then try to get used to the fact that if you want your data back you are going to have to pay,  and pay big for data recovery.

Hold on.  You actually have a couple options left.  There is no guarantee it will work and you may still have to pay at most about $200, but at least its not $2500.  Possibly the fix is free.

To attempt this recovery you must be crazy, cheap and desperate.   I am all of those and have recovered 3 drives.  If you have already lost everything then you really do have nothing to lose.

A Bit of Background:

In their brilliance, Hard Drive designers decided that the best way to connect a sealed chamber (where the platter and heads are)  to the other electronics and the PATA or SATA connectors is to use a pressure contact point.  A technology invented over 100 years ago.  Yes, your high-tech, 2 terabyte hard drive has contact points like an old model T distributor.    <Heavy Sigh>    Their solution to deal with dust and carbon build up ( a common problem with points) is to use a foam gasket that both evens out the pressure on the contacts  and filters the air that reaches them. 

Bad news: dust conducts electricity.  It is therefore possible that your hard drive firmware is either full of carbon and not properly connected or that it is just plain shorted out.  If this is the problem,  It is cheap or free to fix and you can do it yourself.
This is the Hard Drive's Firmware

This recovery is only possible if: 
  1. You did not drop the drive.  No impact damage.
  2. The drive still spins up without making noise first.  Not spinning up is OK.  Clicking is OK but only after spin up.  (If the heads have contacted the platter then you're done.  Call your Data Recovery company and save your pennies cause you are gonna pay.)
(Unless of course you are a crazy pirate and plan to make you own clean room and swap the heads yourself...that is a different post. >:-) )

 Here are you options:

Option 1:  Clean the Firmware. (Pics below)

Tools needed:  #6 Torx screwdriver, Mr Clean Magic Eraser or 600grit sand paper, Contact Cleaner Solution, cotton balls,  and an external USB hard drive adapter.
Steps to clean:
  1. Use the Torx screwdriver and remove the firmware from the bottom of the drive.
  2. The carbon build up on the contact points and other places will be obvious. Clean it off with the Magic Eraser or sand paper.  Notice that the foam gasket is full of dust. Shake the dust out of the foam gasket.
  3. Do not go nuts.  Be VERY gentle.
  4. Wash the firmware down with the Electro-contact cleaner and cotton swabs. Make sure it is completely dry.
  5. Reassemble with the foam gasket (exactly the way it came off) and connect to a external USB hard drive adapter. (Do not try to boot from it yet.)
  6. If it works, then copy your data to a safe drive and then slap yourself for getting into this mess.
  7. If this does not work then go to option 2.
Carbon build up

Contact Points to be Cleaned

HDD Spacer Foam Gasket

Option 2:  Replace the Firmware. (Pics below)
Steps to Replace:
  1. Look at the pictures below and notice the circled numbers.  You need to find firmware with a  number that match these as closely as you can.  Match the complete model number first.
  2. Search for model number on Ebay and on Google.  You will either find the firmware alone at about $35-$50 or You will find the entire donor drive at about $100-$200.  If you have a feeling that swapping the firmware won't work then buy the whole drive.  The matching donor drive will save you a bit of cash if you have to send the dead drive out for recovery. 
  3. Move the firmware from the new drive to the old drive. 
  4. Plug it in to the USB adapter to test.  (Again, do not try to boot from it yet.) If it works, then copy your data and then slap yourself for getting into this mess.

Firmware number.

Original Drive and Donor Drive

Remember, just because you can now access the drive does not necessarily mean it will boot.  Firmware can be flaky. It can partially or completely fail.  All you need is for it to work enough that you can get your data off.   Now, before you start ranting about whoever made your hard drive, know that all desktop hard drives use this design.  This type of failure can happen to any drive at any time.  The moral of this story is that dust and hard drives do not go to together.   So, clean your system! Or buy an SSD. 



Monday, February 27, 2012

Relatively Free Phone Service

  So,  you have a smartphone and wireless and data plan, but you don't want to completely cut the cord on regular phone service.  What's a geek to do? Magic Jack Plus?   Net Talk Duo?  Skype In?  Nope, its gotta be Ooma.  Its regular land line phone service made relevant.   This analog wonderland begins with the box.   This is the Ooma Telo.
The Ooma Telo

Simply plug this into a free port on your router or switch and follow the instructions to register Ooma.  You can then log in to Ooma, where you will see this beautiful login screen.

Once you log in, you will then see your Dash Board.  Where you can see quickly, who has called, and where you can listen to voice mail messages.

When you switch to preferences you can then see more of the Awesomeness that is Ooma.

For $0 plus taxes ~$3.50 per month you get basic phone service with call waiting and caller ID with unlimited long distance.  For $10 per month more you get their Premium Service which includes all that plus:
  1. Full Google Voice support (Yes, you can tie a real phone line into your Google number)
  2. Forwarding of voice mail mp3 files to multiple email addresses.
  3. Message notification to multiple email addresses.
  4. Call screening 
  5. Call forwarding
  6. Multi-Ring (currently for only one other number)
  7. 911 notifications (notifies you if someone calls 911 from your home phone)
  8. Free number porting. (for basic service they charge $40 for number porting)
 The complete list of Premiere Features is here.
Then there are the options such as a WiFi adapter, Bluetooth adapter for syncing with your cell phone, a Handset that gives you advanced control over the Ooma Telo, International  calling options, and they keep adding more. 

  Probably the best part of Ooma is that they continually improve their service. It is still developing and still gaining steam.  Plain old telephone service was stale and dying, but then Ooma made it relevant.
OK, I can feel it, how much for this wonder box they call the Ooma Telo? Right?

THE COST:  From Costco in the store, The Ooma Telo is $179 plus tax.  It is also available on Amazon and Walmart for about $229  You will have to decide if you want the Premium Service for $10 per month and then there are the Taxes at about $3.50 per month. Remember, those Taxes apply no matter who your VOIP Phone provider is. Even if it is Magic Jack or Net Talk.  Is Ooma perfect? Nope.  Is it better than any other traditional service? Yes, by miles. 

Caveat:While Ooma is truly a great product,  I am not saying that I would ditch Skype for Ooma. I love Skype and still use their service, but with Ooma's options and features I can integrate Skype into Ooma without too much work.   

Did your hear that?  I can actually hear the cost of phone service dropping. :-)


Sunday, February 26, 2012

Wanna Save Power? Feed Your PC Granola!

  Windows power management has come a long way since Windows 95. With CPU's and components consuming power at ever increasing rates with the increase in computational power, Manufacturers have been adding more power management techniques and technologies to their components to try to limit power consumption.  Most just rely on the power management software built-in to their Operation system.  That said more recently with the rise in energy costs,  OS's like Windows and OS X and Linux have greatly improved their built in power management software, but more can be done.  Enter Granola. 

  Granola is a power management software company.  They replace the built in OS power management software with theirs.  It is more efficient and scales performance better.  If fact they claim you won't ever notice its running.  I run it, and I don't.  The screenshot above is from my computer.   I am saving 41% CPU energy and I never notice. Also, it looks like I am saving 2 dollars per month just by running a piece of software.  While the environmental impact is awesome, its impact on my PG&E bill is where I value it most.  If I multiply this by the number of machines running in my house,  the saving become significant.   Now as I have tested this on multiple systems, the newer the hardware, the less you will save by running this software.  On newer systems CPU energy savings hover between 1-5%.  Even then, the software is so light an unobtrusive, I would run it anyway. 

  Now imagine if large corporations with thousands of systems and servers ran this software.  The savings would be substantial.  Alas,  those souls will have to pay for licenses.  Home use, however,  is free and has already saved me enough money to buy a Starbucks and/or multiple mp3's.   Not bad for 30 seconds work.  Get it here.


Thursday, February 23, 2012

A Lamp Made from Car Parts

Parts all clean, but I have this left over camshaft....
 So I couldn't figure why my Truck kept loosing coolant.  Well, after pulling the heads off I found out.  A cracked head which caused a blown head gasket made the inside of my motor smell like death.  So, a "top-end" re-build (Means we are leaving the crankshaft, rods and pistons a.k.a. the "bottom-end" alone) was in order.  There was water damage on the camshaft so it was in need of machining, but the cost of that was roughly equal to the cost of a better cam.  Needless to say I bought a new cam and picked up about 30 horsepower.
I see a lamp in your future.
 Newer late model roller camshafts are gun drilled. That is, they are hollow in the middle to reduce weight, but they are still VERY heavy.  When I took the above picture, an idea echoed in my head.  LAMP!  Its hollow in the middle so a lamp kit would be easy to mount.  I just need to find a base for the lamp; A very heavy base.

So I went to our local exotic wood showroom Southern Lumber.  I had them cut a 2 inch thick by 7 inch square piece of Pau Ferro. Pau Ferro is a tone wood sometimes called Bolivian Rosewood.  It is often used for fret boards on guitars and in the making of other musical instruments. As dense hardwoods go, it is cheaper than other woods like Ebony but is just as beautiful and durable.  Most importantly though it is heavy, really heavy.  This is very important to ensure that the lamp is stable and not top heavy.  I paid about $40 for my piece, but you can order it here online from Rockler Woodworking for about $23 plus tax and shipping.
Pau Ferro Blocks from Rockler Woodworking. Awesome.

Camshaft cleaned and test fitted on the block.

Disclaimer:  Before the  extreme environmentalists go nuts, this piece of Pau Ferro cam from a tree that was felled before I was born, and no one had cut a piece from that sample in 15 years. No new rainforest was cut down for my lamp.  Oddly enough recycled woods are more expensive than conventionally harvested, yes I did check there first.  (that will be a different post)

I bought a Lamp Kit and the Threaded Rod Extension ( both are available at Lowe's or Home Depot)    then I drilled a hole through the center of the block.  I cut the threaded rod with a hack saw to fit the length of the cam. ( I had to make a spacer for the threaded rod so that it didn't slide around as the rod is smaller than the hole. I used over size bolts and filed them to fit the hole in the cam.) Then I used a 1 inch spade drill bit to counter sink the hole I already drilled in the block. you do this to make space for the nut that will hold the lamp together as well as space for the cord to come out the bottom so that the lamp will sit flat on a table.   I then used a saw to cut a channel for the cord. A simple staple from a staple gun keeps the cord from falling.   In the end it looked like this:

Here is the finished lamp.  I was unsure of the shade I should use so I just picked a neutral tone. (Shade was purchased at Lowe's for $10)  I still may change the shade. Is there an Art Direction for this lamp?  Yes, yes there is.  Wood is organic, yet the wood here is cut into a square block, metal is hard and cold, but this cam is machined into very round flowing shapes. Its all about contrast. PLUS there's the shiny metal and blinky lights..... so
The wet spots on the cardboard are Teak oil.  I used Teak oil because it penetrates dense woods better and leaves a beautiful dark tone.  The total cost for the lamp since I had a camshaft already was about $60, but you might be able to do it for $50.  The key is already having the Camshaft.  A new cam costs $200, a used one costs $60.  That could make the total cost between $110 and $250 for the lamp.  

For me, the best part about this project is that this camshaft came from the Truck that sits in My driveway.  The truck runs great, and the camshaft could be re-used at anytime.  No car parts were harmed in the making of this lamp. 


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

All of Your Tech News in One Place

So, you've discovered RSS feeds. RSS which is short for Really Simple Syndication, is an easy way to grab the news on the web and read it without opening a web browser.  Widgets, Gadgets and other small programs known as RSS Readers allow you scroll through news that is important to you in a very short period of time.  There is just one problem.  You have to subscribe to each feed separately.  If you have to reload your program or RSS reader, you are stuck having to remember all the places you subscribed to.  There is a better way.   One web page that will load all of your RSS feeds on to one Web Page and display the headlines from all of them.   It will save your settings with a simple login.   What is this nirvana?
Default view. You can always add more feeds.

 Yep, this is a shameless plug for a website that has saved me time and connected me to more tech news than I can handle.    Above is a screen shot of the basic configuration.    A word of warning: This website will make you the most annoying person to talk to or share news with, so be polite.  When someone asks you if you heard about some New Awesome Titanium Alloy Super Phone or a Fragger Surprise Video Card, just smile and let them finish.  Because we both know....of course you have heard about that!


Logitech Revue is Dead, But Long Live its Keyboard

For those of us who figured out early on that the best use of a Media Center PC is to hook it up to your big screen TV, we have faced one nagging problem:  A good Media Center Keyboard.   I and my children have broken and/or worn out more Media Center keyboards than remotes, and we use the remotes more often.  Oddly enough, the death of the Logitech Revue has in a way saved my Windows Media Center PC experience.

Computers connected your big screen TV re-invented what your large HDTV is used for. When the Logitech Revue arrived powered by Android, everyone in the tech-world had high hopes for Google TV.   I was no different. I was excited to see Android powering the next media center TV.  What we got however,  was a letdown to say the least. The version of Android that came with the Logitech Revue was crippled and did not even include the much loved Android Market. Not to mention the price. At about $300 for everything, it was too expensive and too limited.   Although Google TV is still alive( and the Revue has been updated to Android 3.1) , production of the Revue is not.  The upshot: the keyboard The Revue has the best multimedia keyboard to date and it can still be purchased at Amazon for about $45.  It is not a native Windows keyboard so there is no right click button and the driver support is sketchy on Windows.
The K400 looks very similar to the Revue keyboard.

There is hope!  Enter the K400.  Logitech released the K400 after the demise of Revue and every batch sells out on Amazon. It also costs about $40.  It has native Right Click,  supports Windows, has F-keys, an off switch to save battery and a brilliant touch-pad.  It does not have the awesome arrow keys or the full screen button, but it does add a left click button in the upper left hand corner.  Is it perfect? No. It is however better and simpler than anything else out there. At just $40 for the keyboard and Logitech driver support you really can't go wrong.  I'll have a long-term review later to see if it survives my kids.   Two wishes:  A built-in universal remote Harmony style, and back-lit keys.  Does this mean the revival of the Media Center?  With Windows 8 on the horizon we will have to see.