What to look for in a cheap laptop in late 2014

So the sales fliers for the 2014 Christmas shopping season are out, and I’m seeing tons of cheap laptops. If you only have $200 to spend, they have something for you.

Some of them look like they’re even worth having. Yes, I’m shocked too. Here’s how to figure out which ones are worth taking home, and which ones are best left for some other sucker. Whether you’re shopping for yourself or someone else, you’ll probably want to keep the following in mind.

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When subversion doesn’t get you promoted

Many resources for up and coming go-getter managers tell managers to subvert or go around processes in order to get things done.

Let me tell you a story about that strategy backfiring.
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How I accidentally fixed the garage door

My garage door wouldn’t go down. You know the drill–you push the button, the door goes down for a few seconds, then reverses course, and maybe your opener blinks at you a few times. Not all garage door openers do the blinky thing though.

The reason is simple. The safety sensors couldn’t see each other, so they assumed something, or worse yet, someone, was in the way, in danger of being hit by the door, and made the opener reverse course. As annoying as a door is that won’t close, a door that mashes stuff is a lot worse.

My sensors couldn’t see each other because we’d moved some stuff around and, I guess we bumped one of them. Read the full post »

The Enerlites HOSS occupancy sensor switch – no ground required

One of the most common questions I get is whether there’s an occupancy sensor light switch that doesn’t require a ground connection. I finally found one: The Enerlites Top Greener HOSS, and it’s pretty cheap too, at $12. A Lutron switch costs almost twice as much.

But the HOSS does come with some compromises. The HOSS does require a neutral (white) wire, but most switch boxes will have the whites in there and accessible, so that’s not a big deal. It’s also a bit trickier to wire than a Lutron, and it doesn’t look as nice.

That said, it’s nice to have an option for older houses that may not have a ground connection available. People in older houses need energy savings too. Read the full post »

Diaper raid!

This past weekend was the annual Scouting for Food drive. My oldest son participated, and I was proud of him because he complained a lot less than the older kids.

In fact, he was perfectly happy running up and down people’s driveways, picking up bags, and putting them in the trunk of our car as I drove 3 miles per hour with the hazard lights on.

But somewhere along the way, something started to smell funny. Read the full post »

A new way to measure reliability and quality of hardware

Want to know what brand to buy? How about buying the one that induces the least buyer’s remorse? That’s an approach you can take with the data from Hardware.fr. It’s in French, but Google Translate works.

This doesn’t measure long-term reliability–only DOA rate and short-term reliability–but it’s data I haven’t seen before, so I think it’s a welcome resource.

What was hot in 2014? Gigabyte motherboards, Antec power supplies, Kingston RAM, Seagate hard drives, PNY graphics cards, and Samsung SSDs. Keep in mind in some categories it was a tight race. An ideal return rate is one percent or less, and no motherboard maker achieved that, though one-percenters exist in all of the other categories. Some are significantly below one percent.

It’s notable that all motherboard makes that they track are above two percent, which is a poor rate of return, and the brands they track are the good brands. I don’t think I want to know the return rate on second- and third-tier boards. The moral of the story: Burn in your system after you build it.

How to protect executives traveling to hostile countries

Slashdot ran a story about executives being targets in high-end hotels in the Far East. I didn’t realize this was a new phenomenon; perhaps I just assumed it’s been going on all along.

At any rate, it’s possible to protect against it.

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Got tech support scammed? Worry about your credit card, not your computer

A college classmate contacted me a week or two ago. A relative of hers got scammed, and she wanted to know what to do.

“Get the charges reversed on the credit card,” was my simple response.

“What about cleaning up the computer?” she asked.

That’s the easy part. Read the full post »

Comments are working again

One of my very earliest readers alerted me today that comments were broken. I traced the problem back to WP-Spamshield. I disabled it, and comments are working again. I hate to lose that plugin, but comments are important, so I’ll search for a replacement or a fix action. In the meantime at least it’s working.

Here we go again. Net neutrality is not Obamacare either.

To nobody’s particular surpise, yesterday president Barack Obama endorsed a form of net neutrality. And immediately, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) came out swinging against it, calling it, “Obamacare for the Internet.”

Sen. Cruz appears to have either failed to read, or refused to read, the four-point proposal, which is short and simple enough to fit on an index card, if not a business card. He also failed to discuss the alternative–and there is a perfectly fair alternative to net neutrality.

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