Lenovo and Best Buy team up for a $149 laptop this year

Cheap laptops are nothing new this time of year–they’ve been practically a holiday tradition since 2002 when Sotec released a decent laptop for $900, which was jaw-droppingly low for the time–but this year, Best Buy is selling a Lenovo Ideapad 100s for $149.99, which, while not jaw-droppingly low given the number of $199 laptops that were available last year, is still the cheapest name-brand laptop I’ve seen. Note: Best Buy has since raised the price to $199, but Ebay has limited stock of the same item for $129.

I’ve seen some reviews, but there is one thing I haven’t seen anyone bring up yet: This is a netbook in every way, except I think we’re supposed to call them cloudbooks now. So keep that in mind. The machine is probably worth $149.99, but it made some compromises to reach that price point.

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Make your own null modem cable

Make your own null modem cable

One of my coworkers needed to make a null modem cable last week, and most of the sites he found made it far, far too difficult. Here’s how to make your own null modem cable.

Most of the time, you only need three pins. In fact, I never needed more than three pins, no matter what I was connecting. Usually, a 3-wire null modem cable is more than sufficient.

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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.

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Vigilante router security

Last week, Symantec discovered a worm that infects routers and takes measures to make them more secure. For lack of anything else to call it, Symantec is calling it malware, and most of the security echo chamber is probably howling over this, but I think I understand why it was created.

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Involving security in your top-secret projects

This past summer I toured a large company’s “innovation center,” where they try new, risky things. “We don’t involve the legal or IT security departments in this stuff,” the tour guide said.

I wish I was surprised. And while I’m sure the tour guide thinks he isn’t missing much, it could be a missed opportunity.

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I miss the sound of a modem carrier

“I know this will sound crazy,” my boss said. “But I miss the sound of a modem connecting.”

I don’t think it’s crazy at all. That chirping was the sound of a hard-won victory, at least if you’re of a certain age.

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The TP-Link TD-8616. It’s a modem. It seems to work.

The TP-Link TD-8616 is a low-priced, acceptable replacement for whatever DSL modem your ISP issued you. As such, it’s less exciting than a can opener, but a DSL modem is one of those things that you shouldn’t ever think about. Just like your can opener, the only time you’re likely to have any opinion at all about your DSL modem is when it’s not doing its job well. This is my review of the TD-8616.

The TD-8616 is just a modem, but then you can pair it with a router with whatever capabilities you want, including the ability to run third-party firmware on it, which I recommend of course. Might I suggest a TL-WR841n running DD-WRT?

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Commodore 16 and Commodore Plus/4

Commodore 16 and Commodore Plus/4

Dan Bowman kindly pointed out to me that former Commodore engineer Bil Herd wrapped up his discussion of the ill-fated Commodore TED machines on Hackaday this week. Here in the States, few remember the TED specifically, but some people may remember that oddball Commodore Plus/4 that closeout companies sold for $79 in 1985 and 1986. The Plus/4 was one of those TED machines. So was the Commodore 16.

What went wrong with those machines? Commodore miscalculated what the market was doing. The TED was a solution to too many problems, and ended up not solving any of them all that well. Read more

The way home security ought to be

Last week, the show formerly known as Pauldotcom featured the creator of Iguardian, a dead-simple Internet security device. It’s a tiny computer a little larger than a pack of gum that you can plug inline between your router and your modem for extra protection. Basically it does what most people think a router does.

If you want to know what it actually does, read on. Read more