Since Microsoft will be ending Windows 7 support in less than a year, many computer users will have to decide if they will move onto the much-maligned Windows 10. Alternatively, depending on their needs, they could opt for a Mac or Chromebook. But what if you are happy with your current computer and don't want to buy new hardware? In that case, Linux can save the day. The excellent Netrunner, for instance, is a great option for Windows switchers that fear a change of user interface.
If you are open to moving away from the traditional Windows-like interface, another superb Linux distribution to consider is deepin. If you aren't familiar, deepin is a very stable operating system that focuses heavily on appearance. Quite frankly, it puts Windows 10 to shame in that regard -- its "Deepin Desktop Environment" is far superior to the dated and boring interface found on Microsoft's latest operating system. Today, deepin 15.9 becomes available for download with a huge list of changes, including new multi-touch gestures and improved power management.
Streaming music is all the rage these days, and for good reason. It is affordable and convenient -- long gone are the days of spending $20 for a single CD. Seriously, folks, that is what many albums were selling for before Napster and other piracy offerings leveled the playing field. Nowadays, for a paltry monthly fee, you can access more music than you can possibly listen to in your lifetime. It rules.
There are many quality services from which to choose, but my favorite is Apple Music. It works well on my iPhone, iPad, and Apple TV, but also, it is compatible with Windows, Android, and Amazon Alexa too. Sadly, there is no web version, but I digress. I happily give Apple $10 each month to be rewarded with a great music listening experience. If you are a Verizon unlimited customer, you may no longer need to pay for Apple's streaming service. You see, the cell provider will now be providing complimentary access to some of its customers.
Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos may be having a difficult time in his personal life right now, but professionally, the multi-billionaire is doing phenomenally. Amazon's stock is through the roof, and there seems to be no slowing down the online retailer. Long gone are the days when the company just sold books and other manufacturers’ products -- these days, Amazon offers its own hardware and services. Not only is its line of Echo speakers wildly profitable, but there is Kindle, Fire HD tablets, and Fire TV media devices too.
One of Amazon's greatest devices is the Fire TV Stick. This little HDMI dongle is insanely affordable at just under $40, while offering access to many popular streaming media services, like Netflix, Hulu, and its own Prime Video. Seriously, folks, even though this particular model doesn't offer 4K video playback, it is still a great value. Today, Amazon announces that the popular Fire TV Stick will soon come with the amazing Alexa Voice Remote. That must mean the company is raising the price, right? Actually...
Microsoft is killing Windows 7, so you should switch to Netrunner 19.01 'Blackbird' Linux distro now!
Windows 7 is an excellent operating system. It is a no-nonsense computing experience that just works. There are no ugly live tiles or forced updates. Conversely, Windows 10 is largely trash. Don't get me wrong, Microsoft's latest operating system isn't all bad, but it has many poor design choices, and the intrusive telemetry makes it feel like you are being spied on when using your own computer. Worst of all, it has proven to be very buggy -- it has been deleting important user files! That is scary stuff...
Many Windows users passed on both Windows 8.x and Windows 10, opting to stay on Windows 7. You know what? I don't blame them. Unfortunately, starting today, the Windows 7 death clock begins ticking away. You see, in exactly one year, Microsoft will end support for Windows 7. While the operating system will still function, it is foolish to use an unsupported OS. These folks will have to decide if they want to "upgrade" to Window 10 or opt for something entirely different. Today, Netrunner 19.01 "Blackbird" -- a Linux-based operating system that is reminiscent of Windows 7 -- is finally released. If you don't want to run Windows 10 on your PC, you should definitely give Blackbird a try before the Windows 7 support ends.
All monitors are created equally, right? Oh, heck no. Quality can vary wildly. Even when two displays have the same specs on paper, the actual appearance can be quite different. That's why it's important to stick with reputable brands that are known for producing solid products.
Philips is a brand I trust for monitors, as its products have historically been of high quality. Not only do they offer a great picture, but they are long-lasting too. The company has two new models that are sure to excite computer enthusiasts. Windows 10 users in particular will love the integrated Windows Hello cameras -- you can login with your face rather than a password. That's not all that makes them special, however -- they also have integrated USB-C docking stations, with features like Gigabit Ethernet. Hardwired LAN access from your display? That is so cool!
While I appreciate hardware makers and game developers pushing the boundaries of what gaming can be, it is important to remember one important fact -- fun trumps all. In other words, it doesn't matter how much processing power a computer or console has, or how beautiful a game's graphics are, if it isn't fun to play! That's probably a big reason why retro-gaming is so popular these days.
For Linux users, gaming is getting much better these days, especially with Steam support. One game in particular, however, has brought much joy to Linux users without the need for high-end graphics cards. Called "SuperTuxKart," it is essentially an open source clone of Mario Kart, that is simply fun to play. While the title character is the Linux mascot, there are Windows and macOS versions too. Thankfully, the game is about to get even better, as networking is being added -- allowing you to play against others over LAN or the internet. Today, following an alpha period, that feature finally becomes available in beta, with version 0.10-beta1.
Goodness gracious -- we have come such a long way with storage. Floppy disks, which were still prevalent in homes and universities less than two decades ago, held just 1.44 MB of data. Flash storage changed everything, however, as diminutive USB thumb drives and storage cards offered ever-expanding capacities. Quite frankly, it is unreal to see how many files can be held on a card that is smaller than a postage stamp these days, such as micro SD.
For photographers, full-sized SD cards still reign supreme, and today, Lexar unveils a new card with an insanely large capacity -- 1TB. Yes, folks, you can hold an entire terabyte of data on a tiny SD card. The dream of many is now a reality. It offers 95MB/s read and 70MB/s write.
Today at CES 2019, Toshiba announced a new SSD series. Designed primarily for PC manufacturers, the "BG4," as it is called, is an NVMe SSD that features 96-layer 3D flash and up to 1TB capacity.
While the drive is not necessarily intended for consumers to buy directly, it will undoubtedly find its way to them through PC purchases. So yes, it is OK to be excited for it, folks -- especially since it is significantly faster than its predecessor, the BG3.
There are a lot of devices that charge with USB-C these days. With that said, there are many that don't. It is for that reason that it is wise to get a charger that offers both USB-C and USB-A charging ports. This way, you increase the possibility that you charger will not only meet your needs, but the needs of friends and family too. You can be seen as a super hero to your significant other while on vacation, for instance, when your charger can juice up essentially any device.
Today, popular company Satechi launches two such chargers, and they look quite elegant. The 75W Dual Type-C PD Travel Charger offers two USB-A ports and two USB-C ports, allowing you to charge up to four devices at once -- how cool is that? The 30W Dual-Port Wall Charger Adapter has just one Type-A port and one Type-C port. While the latter charger offers fewer ports, it is also smaller, making it ideal for tossing in a bag. It also offers foldable prongs (USA variant only). The 75W variant is designed to lay on a desk or table, so it has a long removable cable.
Thunderbolt 3 is great for many reasons -- it is fast, uses the USB-C connector, and allows you to expand the capability of your laptop. It used to be notebook owners were very limited for gaming, for instance, as you couldn't upgrade the graphics. Even if you opted for a quality mobile GPU from, say, AMD or NVIDIA, it still wouldn't compare to a high-end desktop graphics card. With Thunderbolt 3, however, you can easily add a top-tier desktop GPU to your laptop by leveraging an enclosure.
Today, VisionTek launches a new such enclosure, and it looks amazing. I tried -- and loved -- the company's previous model, but it was rather large. This new model, called "Thunderbolt 3 Mini eGFX," is smaller, and believe it or not, is less expensive too -- all while retaining the same functionality. Not only does it allow the user to add a desktop GPU to their laptop, but it introduces USB-A ports, Ethernet, and SATA 3. And yes, it will charge the laptop while connected too.
As consumers use less and less local storage because of the cloud and streaming media, you would expect manufacturers to stop focusing on massive hard disk drives. After all, solid state drives are faster, albeit much more expensive from a capacity standpoint. And yeah, long gone are the days where PC manufacturers touted massive local disk capacity as a selling point. But still, there is a need for cost effective hard drives for data centers, servers, and more. Hell, there are professionals -- such as media creators -- that can benefit from a roomy hard drive as well.
Thankfully, companies are still pushing the boundaries of what is possible with a 3.5-inch form factor. Toshiba, for instance -- with the help of helium -- has reached yet another milestone for its traditional hard drive portfolio. Its new MG08 drive is a 3.5-inch conventional magnetic recording hard disk drive with an impressive 7,200 RPM speed and a massive 16TB of storage capacity -- making 12TB, 14TB, and 15TB models look like "old hat."
The 2019 Consumer Electronics Show hasn't officially started yet (it begins tomorrow), but there are already tons of new products being announced in anticipation. Quite frankly, there is too much stuff being unveiled lately, making it not much more than a bunch of noise. Trying to keep up with all the new products is an exercise in frustration -- I wouldn't be mad if CES was canceled forever.
There are so many new Windows 10 laptops this year, for instance, that it can be hard to get excited over them. And yet, one has managed to tickle my fancy. No, it isn't some hardcore gaming machine. It doesn't have a unique form factor or any bells and whistles. Actually, I am attracted to its affordability and cute design. Called "Notebook Flash," it is a basic laptop from Samsung with a textured body, rounded keys (Samsung calls them "typewriter"), and speckled paint-job on the rear. It makes me smile for some reason.
In 2019, streaming media is ubiquitous. It seems like everyone has a Netflix account -- not to mention Hulu, Spotify, YouTube, and more. Hell, as more and more people cut the cord, even live TV is being streamed over the internet. If you are a big fan of consuming media, you are definitely alive at the right time. Of course, to enjoy streaming media, you need hardware to do so. Many TVs are "smart" these days, meaning they have the ability to access services without the need of a media box.
With that said, smart TVs are often quite dumb in this regard -- they can be outdated (abandoned by the maker) and offer deficient user interfaces. That's why many people still buy things like Apple TV and Roku even when they have a TV with similar functionality. While I love my Apple TV, Roku remains the best value -- its hardware is very capable and affordable, while having access to many popular services -- including free movies! That's why it should come as no surprise that Roku has reached an important milestone -- more than 27 million active accounts! Wow.
When playing video games online, a headset can really enhance the experience. True, a lot of it is unfortunately having trolls insult you while using foul language, but overall, voice communication is a positive experience that can make online gaming more fun. Not to mention, the headset allows you to hear in-game audio without annoying other members of your home. Hell, wearing headphones can arguably give you an edge over speakers, as you should be able to better hear enemy movements, for instance.
Today, HyperX announces a pair of new premium headsets -- the Cloud Orbit and the Cloud Orbit S. Both are quite similar, except the latter utilizes Waves Nx technology, which tracks the gamer's head movements for a more immersive audio experience. With that exception, the hardware and specs are identical.
Many home consumers don't really need Windows anymore. With so many things being web-based nowadays, it is much wiser to opt for the more secure Linux-based Chrome OS. Not satisfied with only using web-based solutions? Chromebooks can now run Android apps too, giving the user a huge library of quality apps. In addition, Google is currently testing the ability to run traditional Linux programs on Chrome OS. Even though the feature is technically in beta, it works wonderfully -- I have successfully installed and used GIMP, for instance.
Since more and more consumers are choosing Chrome OS, computer manufacturers are increasingly offering quality Chromebooks. In other words, these laptops are no longer just meant to be low cost. With that said, there is no reason a great Chromebook can't be affordable, and today, Acer unveils a beautiful such product. Called "Chromebook 315," the 15.6-inch laptop is powered by AMD's excellent APUs (a combination CPU and GPU). So yes, this is a Chromebook with Radeon graphics! There are three display options from which to choose, with one of them offering touch -- a nice option for Android apps. The top-firing speakers should make it great for consuming media too.