TP-Link TL-WR840n vs TL-WR841n

TP-Link TL-WR840n vs TL-WR841n

If you need an inexpensive DD-WRT compatible router, TP-Link is probably your best choice. But there are some big differences when you compare the TL-WR840n vs the TL-WR841n.

I’ve been running the TL-WR841n for more than two years, so I’m familiar with it. I’ve considered supplementing it with a secondary router, and the TL-WR840n was one I looked at.

Read more

Need a Commodore motherboard? Believe it or not you’re in luck

Individual Computers is working on, of all things, a replacement Amiga motherboard that will fit in an Amiga 500 or Amiga 1200 case.

The board will use the AGA chipset that the Amiga 1200 used, but the board will be built using a modern process, modern materials, and as many other modern components as possible.

Read more

You might need a new router

Do you need a new router? If your Internet is slow after upgrading to a faster service, and if your wifi range and reception is poor, or your Internet connection just generally misbehaves a lot, you might need a new router.

Even the New York Times, of all places, has published articles extolling the virtues of new routers. If your wi-fi at home is bad, they say, think about picking up a TP-Link Archer C7 router. I like the Asus RT-AC66U myself,  but in my experience, and the experience of my colleagues, a new router makes a huge difference.

When one longtime friend upgraded to a TP-Link Archer, he told me his wi-fi improved so much his wired network was suddenly struggling to keep up with it.

Read more

Happy 20th birthday to Windows 95

It was on August 24, 1995 that Windows 95 was released, amidst much anticipation. It was the most widely anticipated Windows release of all time, and the runner up really isn’t close. The idea of people lining up for blocks for a Microsoft product sounds like a bit of a joke today, but in 1995 it happened.

I received a free copy of it because I worked at Best Buy in the summer of 1995 and I aced Microsoft’s test that demonstrated sufficient aptitude to sell it. A few weeks later I landed my first desktop support gig, ending my career in a blue shirt, which means I probably never actually talked anyone into buying a copy of it.

I got plenty of Win95 experience over the next couple of years though.

Read more

The droid I’m looking for: The $129 Moto E

On Tuesday, Motorola announced the Moto E, a new low-end, $129 phone. Sporting a dual-core 1.2 GHz CPU, a single-core GPU, 1 GB of RAM, and a micro SD slot for expandability, it’s a modest phone for modest needs. It won’t be much good for gaming, but it’ll be a nice upgrade over my aging Samsung Galaxy S 4G, and I can take it to T-Mobile, where I have an unsubsidized, bring-your-own-phone plan. Not having a subsidized phone plan saves me about $100 per year, which pays for the phone. When the phone dies, I’ll buy whatever’s available at a comparable price then, which will be better than the most expensive phone on the market right now. There wasn’t anything out there like the Moto E in 2011 when I bought the SGS4G.

I’m probably the kind of person Motorola had in mind for this phone. I use my smartphone but I don’t live on it. I use it to check e-mail, occasionally look something up on the web, use it to download and listen to podcasts, and I have a few apps loaded on it to take advantage of having a dual-core computer in my pocket, but I don’t game or use social media on it. I also don’t use my phone as a status symbol. Give me two cores and a gig of RAM, and I can do everything I need or want to do.

I’ve been tempted by several of Blu’s supercheap phones, but their 512 MB of RAM was a dealbreaker. This costs $40 more than the Blu Advance I’d been eyeing, but to my mind it’s worth it. It ships with 1 GB of RAM, which is more usable, and Android 4.4, which is better suited to the Blu Advance’s skimpy memory than the OS Blu ships with it. Plus it’s guaranteed to get at least one update from Motorola. On top of that, Motorola ships its phones with a better screen and more durable build quality than Blu does. And, given Motorola’s storied past, the Motorola name is worth at least something to me.

I’m also sure the phone will sell well enough to get an aftermarket following, to extend its life even further by delivering future Android releases to it. The Moto G has good aftermarket ROM support, so I would expect the Moto E to follow.

The U.S. release date is June 3. I have better things to do than wait outside for a store to open to get one on that day, but I may very well get one sometime in June.

Happy late 50th birthday, z/OS!

It was 50 years ago this month that IBM released the first modern mainframe, the System/360. The System/360 was notable for being the first series of systems built with interchangeable parts, rather than being custom-built. It’s also notable because its direct descendants are still in production: In the 1970s, it became the System/370, the System/390 in the 90s, and the z series today. The systems originally ranged from 1 MHz to 50 MHz in speed, and came with anywhere from 8 KB to 8 MB of RAM. To put that in perspective, the low-end model was comparable in power to an early Apple II desktop computer from 1977, and the high-end model was comparable in power to the 486 PCs we ran Windows 3.1 on in the 1993-94 timeframe. Or you could compare it to one of my souped-up Amigas, if you prefer (I do). But the same software that ran on the low-end model would run on the high-end model, and there’s a pretty good chance that software from the 1960s will run on a modern Z series mainframe today, with little to no modification.

Twenty years ago this architecture was supposed to be on its way out, but it never really went away. IBM keeps modernizing it, so I expect z/OS has a long life ahead of it. It’s entrenched, and when technology gets entrenched, there’s no getting rid of it.

There isn’t much new, young mainframe expertise in training these days, and it turns out there are certain jobs that mainframes do better than smaller PCs do. Most large companies have at least one mainframe, and it’s not going anywhere, but the people who can care for it and feed it are retiring fast. If you want some job security, you can do a lot worse than learning everything you can about IBM Z series mainframes in addition to the other things you know.

Beware the Black Friday electronics

Ars Technica ran an aptly timed article today called How to talk your family out of bad consumer electronics purchases. It’s definitely worth a read, to steer you away from bad Black Friday electronics.

There’s a great tip in the article. If a doorbuster item has a model number that isn’t available the rest of the year, you don’t want it. That’s a good rule.

Read more