There was a time when the Sound Blaster, and its manufacturer, Creative Labs, were household names. Today the product is a bit marginalized, even though it’s historically very significant. What does a Sound Blaster do, and should you care?
A Sound Blaster provides audio capability for a PC, usually slightly better than what comes built into modern PCs. Before sound came standard, Sound Blaster was the most popular and best supported type of sound card.
People ask me all the time what the most important part of a computer is, after they find out I work with computers. And I always surprise them when I say the power supply. Your computer is only as stable and reliable as the power supply. But how long does a power supply last? Of course it depends.
A good name-brand power supply can last many years. Cheap power supplies, in my experience, typically start giving you trouble within three years. Paying double for a power supply doesn’t necessarily guarantee double the life expectancy, but the odds tend to be pretty good.
Last Christmas we bought our sons a Nintendo Switch. And of course we put it in the room of the house that has the worst wi-fi reception. So I quickly looked for an Ethernet port. When I discovered the Nintendo Switch does not have Ethernet built in, I looked for solutions.
The distinction between Super VGA and XGA matters more when you’re talking projectors than when you’re talking monitors. In the 90s, we didn’t talk about XGA much. XGA was a semi-proprietary IBM thing, available for high-end PS/2s, while SVGA was the open standard.
On projectors, XGA means a 1024×768 display, while SuperVGA or SVGA means an 800×600 display. Vintage CRT monitors didn’t make that distinction since CRTs don’t operate at fixed resolutions. While LCD monitors care about the difference, they automatically negotiate the resolution with your computer so they hide the distinction.
I saw a blog post the other day suggesting you should buy a workstation computer for home use. But I didn’t think it made a very convincing argument beyond saying it was a way to save money. So why buy a workstation computer, then? In a word, quality.
True workstation-grade computers, like an HP Z, Lenovo Thinkcentre or Dell Precision, are expensive computers built with best-of-breed components for reliability, not just performance. As such, once they hit retirement age, they still have years of useful life left in them, so they represent an incredible value.
Why are there two standards for computers, and why do Apple computers enjoy a cult following while PCs seem bland and boring and offer nothing but a low price? I think Simon Sinek’s theory of the Golden Circle applies to computer marketing and provides a good explanation.
Apple marketing starts with why they build things, proceeds to how they build them, and ends with what they are. PC marketing generally emphasizes compatibility and price, which leaves you vulnerable to someone beating you on price, and doesn’t build a following.
Are laser printers good for home use? I recommend them. Their upfront cost is higher than a low-end inkjet but they tend to be more reliable and economical in the long term, especially on the extremes. If you print only occasionally, consider a laser. If a ream of paper lasts you about a week, consider a laser.
Laser printers tend to be very reliable, but not all of them are designed with service and repair in mind. But generally speaking, the cost of owning and operating a laser printer is lower than that of an inkjet.
It’s possible to use a modern AC adapter to make a power supply for vintage machines. Sometimes this is desirable, because the modern supply may be more reliable than the old ones. But we have to know how to wire it. Here’s how to find positive and negative DC wires so you can wire the supply up properly when you change its plug.
To find the positive and negative wires, apply power to the AC adapter, set your multimeter to DC, then apply the red and black leads to the output and find a combination that gives you positive voltage. Whichever wire is connected to your multimeter’s red lead is positive, and the one on the black lead is negative or ground.