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.
Continue reading What to look for in a cheap laptop in late 2014
Over the Labor Day weekend I decided to upgrade my HP Mini 110 netbook to Linux Mint 17. The Mini 110 can handle Windows 7, but Linux Mint doesn’t cost any money and I figure a Linux box is more useful to me than yet another Windows box. There are some things I do that are easier to accomplish in Linux than in Windows. Plus, I’m curious how my two young sons will react to Linux.
Linux Mint, if you’re not familiar with it, is a Ubuntu derivative that includes a lot of consumer-friendly features, like including drivers and codecs and other common software that aren’t completely open source. It’s not a Linux distribution for the Free Software purist, but having options is one of the nice things about Linux in 2014.
Linux Mint includes a lot of useful software, so once you get it installed, you’re up and running with a useful computer with minimal effort.
Continue reading Upgrading an HP Mini 110 to Linux Mint 17
A few years ago, Microsoft quietly released a security tool called EMET–the Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit. EMET is now in version 4.0, and it’s probably the best security tool you’ve never heard of. And that’s a real shame.
Modern versions of Windows and modern CPUs include several security-enhancing technologies that aren’t necessarily switched on by default. EMET is a wrapper that forces software to use these technologies, even if they weren’t designed from the get-go to use them. The idea, then, is that if a badly behaving data file tries to exploit a traditional vulnerability in one of these programs, EMET steps in and shuts it down. A real-world example would be if you visit a web page that’s playing a malicious Flash video, or that contains a malicious Acrobat PDF. The malicious data loads, starts to execute, and the minute it misbehaves, EMET slams the browser tab shut. You won’t know right away what happened, but your computer didn’t get infected, either. Continue reading EMET protects against what your antivirus cannot–and it’s free
Here are some headlines I read this past week: Dell is trying to take itself private. Microsoft is investing in Dell. Intel is pulling out of the motherboard market. AMD is considering ARM CPUs. And the PC is dead.
It’s all related.
Continue reading How the previous week’s headlines flow together
I’ve mentioned several times that I hadn’t seen Office 2010 yet, so I couldn’t comment on it, and would reserve judgment until I’ve seen it. I’ve been working for companies that were a bit behind the times on that.
I’ve been working with it for a week now. I won’t be buying it for my own use at home.
Continue reading Office 2010, early impressions
I set up an Acer Aspire One 722 netbook this week. I imagine the return rates on these things is horrendous, because the out-of-box experience is pathetic.
This one won’t be going back though. Tune it up, and it’s an adequate performer. It’s still a netbook–all that talk of the AMD C-50 and C-60 chips delivering Celeron-like performance was just rumor–but it can match an Atom’s CPU performance and delivers better graphics performance than Intel. Continue reading First impressions: Acer Aspire One 722
I’m playing catch-up a bit. This weekend, Lifehacker ran a guide about living with a computer that’s past its prime.
I’ve made a career of that. One of my desktop PCs at work (arguably the more important one) is old enough that I ought to be preparing to send it off to second grade. And for a few years I administered a server farm that was in a similar state. They finally started upgrading the hardware as I was walking out the door. (I might have stayed longer if they’d done that sooner.) And at home, I ran with out-of-date computer equipment for about a decade, just this summer buying something current. Buying something current is very nice, but not always practical.
So of course I’ll comment on a few of Lifehacker’s points.
Continue reading Living with a past-its-prime computer
If you need a dirt-cheap, dependable motherboard, Computer Geeks Discount Outlet has a refurbished Asus M4N68T-M V2 available for under $34. It’s a socket AM3 board, so it uses readily available AMD Sempron/Athlon II/Phenom CPUs and up to 8 GB of DDR3 memory (and there’s little reason not to put the full 8 GB in–4 GB DIMMs cost $19). I’ve been running one of these boards since September or so and I’m thrilled with it.
You can build a nice 4-core system around this board, or, for a budget build, drop in a $40 Sempron and 4 GB of RAM for $19 to upgrade an aging system on the cheap, or build an affordable, low-power HTPC. A low-end Sempron will outperform an Atom while using less than 45 watts.
I spotted that this weekend, and thought you might like to know.
So, The Register reports that Windows on ARM will not have compatibility with apps compiled for x86. Intel has been saying this for a while, while Microsoft has been mum. So now we know.
There are arguments both for and against having an x86 emulation layer.
Continue reading Microsoft: No x86 apps for ARM
All this talk about new computers got me looking to see what’s out there in the channel. And it looks like the glut of Pentium 4s is finally clearing, making way for the 2-core revolution. Prices are low–I’m seeing dual-core systems, both Intel and AMD, with Windows licenses, for anywhere from $180 to $280 depending on configuration and some other factors that aren’t exactly clear to me.
Sound good? Here’s what to look for in an off-lease/refurbished computer.
Continue reading Used dual-cores are coming! Used dual-cores are coming!