Earlier this year, Microsoft successfully blurred the lines between laptop and tablet with the Surface Pro 3. Yes, the company had attempted it twice before, but the small screens on the previous models made it a less-than-ideal laptop replacement. On the Surface Pro 3, stretching the screen to 12-inches and making it lighter finally achieved the portable productivity nirvana of which many of us dreamed.
While this was great for many, others like me had a dilemma; we do much of our computing at home. Sure, I need a portable machine for travel and working in, let's say, Starbucks; however, at home in my office, I want to use a big 27-inch screen, keyboard and mouse. This was achievable by using Bluetooth peripherals and connecting my monitor directly to the Surface. Sadly, this proved clunky and I needed a better way. Supposedly, that better way is now available with the official Docking Station, so I bought it. The question is, how is it?
Sometimes I wish the internet could just be a place to exchange wholesome information, such as cooking recipes and tips on Linux, but sadly, there is a dark side. There are deviant people lurking on the web doing all sorts of horrible things. Yesterday, a hacker leaked the private pictures and videos (nude and semi-nude) of many celebrities, and they have spread across the net. For these celebrities, who are real people, I am sure it has been a very trying time; their privacy has been destroyed and I offer my sympathies. For the many people (if they can be called that) viewing and spreading the pictures, the occasion has been dubbed "The Fappening"; a way to proclaim their...enjoyment...of the photos. At least once a celebrity has confirmed that the photos of her are legit and not fakes.
If you choose to search for, and view, these leaked photos, I am not going to judge you for eating the forbidden fruit. However, I won't even mention the victims' names to help you look. Quite frankly, my concern is not just for the celebrities, but more for the public as a whole. For those who were considered paranoid about distrusting the cloud, this justifies their concerns. While I don't think it is time for people to run away from the cloud overall, I do think people should be wary of using cloud storage services for intimate photos.
Nowadays, it feels like many children can be unappreciative (I'm sure yours are great though!). Whenever I go to Walmart or Target, there are sure to be whiny little ones begging and demanding things from their parents. If their parents do give-in and buy whatever they want, there is a chance it will be broken within a week.
This is the problem with buying a child a laptop. Sure, they may need a computer for school, but if you buy them an expensive unit, they could ruin it by spilling juice on the keyboard or stepping on the screen. In other words, buying a top-of-the-line laptop for a child could be like flushing money down the toilet. Luckily, Microsoft has the perfect back-to-school deal; a $199 15.6-inch laptop, that looks very sexy and thin.
Linux distributions and goofy names go together like peanut butter and jelly. There is a method to the madness though, as code names make it easier to search for version-specific issues. Still, I wish the names would be a bit less silly. Case in point, the new version of Ubuntu, 14.10, is code-named "Utopic Unicorn". Sigh. Whatever.
Regardless of what it is called, Ubuntu is a great distribution, especially for beginners. Today, Canonical announces that Beta 1 of 14.10 is available for immediate download. However, only the alternative flavors are available; the default Unity version no longer participates in official beta releases. Gentleman, start your downloads!
My biggest hobby, other than tinkering with computers, is listening to music. As a young kid, I discovered my love for music by watching MTV in the 1980s. While I love all genres, I am truly a Hip-Hop fan. Say what youy want about rap music, but there is much knowledge in the lyrics. Sure, some of it is ignorant, but I have learned countless lessons from KRS-One, De La Soul and Common to name a few.
Unfortunately, the internet and piracy threatened the future of the music business. It was a perfect storm, as album prices were getting extremely high around the same time broadband connections became widely available. And so, people justified their theft by decrying the cost of CDs. While online music sales from places like iTunes were more reasonably priced, the damage was done -- album sales were forever doomed. Luckily, streaming services are here to save the day. Things like Beats Music and Google Play Music All Access offer unlimited music in exchange for paltry monthly fees; piracy simply is not worth the effort. As can be expected, these services are driving the final nail into the coffin of album sales...and that's a good thing.
When I was a kid, generic foods were a staple in our home. Rather than have Lucky Charms or Froot Loops, my mom would buy whatever knock-off brand that Pathmark or Waldbaums was selling. An easy way to know if you are getting off-brand cereal, is that it comes in a bag rather than a box. While not as tasty, it at least provided nutrients and calories. It's not like there were rocks or sawdust in the package.
Unfortunately, the Windows Store has been full of knock-off apps that equates to buying a product and getting an empty box. You see, devious "developers" have been filling the store with phony apps that resemble legitimate ones. This means people were spending their hard-earned money on deceptive garbage, and these low-life developers have been getting paid. Today, Microsoft says enough is enough and removes 1,500 of the offending apps. If you were deceived by one of them, you can even get a refund.
Technology is almost always shrinking. The only thing that seems to keep getting physically bigger is displays (monitors). This is the reason that smartphones are now getting huge -- people like more real estate on which to work. Before the smartphone was popularized, cell phones were getting ridiculously tiny.
Home computers have been shrinking too -- laptops keep getting thinner, and desktops keep getting smaller. However, desktops still command too much of a footprint on a desk. The tiny Raspberry Pi, when paired with Linux, showed the world what could be, but Windows machines would never achieve such size, right? Wrong. Today, Zotac unveils a Windows computer that is impossibly small -- the ZBOX PI320 pico.
When it comes to technology, it is almost impossible to stay on the forefront. You will drive yourself nuts, and empty your wallet, chasing after every new thing. Got the newest and most expensive graphics card? Yesterday's news within months. The newest iPhone? You can make that claim for one year at best.
Hard drives are no different and are probably the longest-running way for manufacturers to take money from nerds. I bought a 4TB drive earlier in the year thinking it would be high-end for some time, but sure enough, it is now yawn-worthy. Why? Today, Seagate begins shipping 8TB hard drives. Yup, twice as big as my 4TB drive. I haven't learned my lesson though as I already want one!
Cruising is something that is near and dear to my heart. As someone who grew up very poor, my family never went on vacation -- it was a waste of money. This was the mindset that I was raised to have, thinking travel was stupid, when money can go towards bills. This thinking was dangerous though, as I became an adult that almost never left New York. It's a cliche, but life is short, and it is silly not to see the world.
What broke this frugal trance was cruising. While a normal vacation is very expensive and far from my grasp, a cruise can be very affordable as all food is included. Over the last 8 years, I have been on 7 Royal Caribbean cruises, and a couple of weeks ago, I went on my first Celebrity cruise (it's the same company). To say I like Royal Caribbean is an understatement -- I love it and am proudly a Platinum member of its Crown and Anchor Society. Unfortunately, technology on the ships has been very lacking. As a computer nerd, not having tech was maddening, although sometimes freeing too. Today, Royal Caribbean appeals to nerds, with the help of Microsoft, as its Quantum of the Seas ship goes high-tech.
To call Amazon a book-seller at this point is simply not accurate. The company has blossomed into so much more; manufacturing smartphones, tablets, e-readers and pretty much selling everything under the sun. Hell, as a retailer, it is a one-stop-shop for anything, such as streaming media, groceries, and hygiene products to name a few.
Yes, Amazon is trying to be all things to all consumers and quite frankly, it is working. Today, the company's tentacles grab yet another endeavor as it acquires video-game-streaming company, Twitch, for close to a billion dollars.
It is often said that variety is the spice of life, so it is appreciated when a manufacturer takes a risk on a product design. Even though I am a Ford man, I was a huge fan of the Honda Element -- a boxy cross-over vehicle. Many people thought it was ugly and ultimately, the manufacturer stopped making it. However, I thought it was pretty and sexy. In other words, beauty is in the eye of the beholder -- what is ugly to some is pretty to others.
Today, popular case manufacturer, Lian Li, shows-off a new Mini-ITX case, called the PC-Q19. It is tall, skinny and weird-looking and I love it. However, I predict that it will be quite the polarizing design, just like the Honda Element. Do you think it is ugly or pretty?
Last year, I eagerly pre-ordered the Sony Playstation 4 and got it on launch day. This was a happy moment for me, but I did have some trepidation. You see, Sony's reputation had been soiled for many years. If you recall, in 2005, the company severely impacted the security of many Windows machines with its CD rooktkit software. Any other company likely would have lost its supporters over such a disgraceful tactic, but Sony has a long history and it weathered the storm. However, fast-forward to 2011, and the PlayStation Network was hacked. This was not a small thing; personal identifying information of 77 million people were exposed. As a result, the company's reputation was severely impacted. Unfortunately, as a PlayStation 3 owner, I was included in that group and had to sign up for identity theft protection (Sony paid for a year of the service).
Somehow, I still bought the PS4 and after only owning it a very short while, I got an email from Sony that my login credentials needed to be changed for security reasons (irregular activity). Enough was enough -- I decided to return the PlayStation 4 and be done with Sony for all things that require network connectivity. Today, the PlayStation Network is once again in the spotlight as it has been taken down for hours by a denial-of-service attack. Sony has confirmed the attack, saying that so far, there is no evidence of stolen information.
When it comes to building a computer, there are many routes to take. Of course, if you are wealthy, you can throw money at your build and achieve something wonderful. However, for many of us average folks, money can sometimes be tight. If you are on a budget, you can aim for either cheap or inexpensive; there is a difference. You see, cheap components are of low quality, but inexpensive can mean high quality at a value.
For my last few major desktop builds, I have trusted G.SKILL exclusively. My brand loyalty is due to past performance; the manufacturer's memory has proven to be reliable and reasonably priced. Today, the company sets my heart aflutter, as it announces the Ripjaws 4 Series DDR4 Memory Kits.
I am gong to let you in on a secret -- I love the Apple Wired Keyboard. When I say "love", I mean it; if legally possible, I would marry it. Whether I am on Linux, Windows or OS X (Hackintosh), it is the keyboard of my choosing. Why? Build quality and the speed at which it lets me type. The effort needed to press the keys is very minimal and the height of the keys allows me to move my fingers quickly. The problem is, it stands out and looks ugly on my desk. You see, my desktop, monitor and mouse are black, but then Apple's product is an angelic white that is out of place and simply doesn't look cool.
Unfortunately, I do not anticipate the fruit-logo company producing a black variant any time soon. Luckily, Satechi announces a new keyboard that may be destined for my desk -- the unimaginatively named BT Wireless Smart Keyboard. It looks a lot like Apple's keyboard and comes in both black and white. While the "BT" stands for Bluetooth, it is not a wireless-only affair. You see, it has a USB port and can double as a wired keyboard too!
Chromebooks are amazing computers. Part of the genius of Google's Chrome OS is its lack of freedom; a seemingly crazy statement, I know. You see, users cannot install software locally, which in turn, also blocks viruses and malware. In other words, limitations become a strength from a security standpoint. However, sometimes the limitations of the OS are not a positive, but a negative.
For business users in particular, using Chrome web apps exclusively is a non-starter. Sure, some small business users can get by, but many large companies rely on specialized software -- mostly for Windows. Today, Windows programs come to Chromebooks -- sort of. Google announces that Citrix Receiver is coming to Chrome OS. Will this massively disrupt the business market?