What happened to Packard Bell?

What happened to Packard Bell?

What happened to Packard Bell? It ceased operations in the United States in 2000, after a 14-year reign of terror on the consumer market.

But there’s more to the story than that. The Packard Bell story is a brilliant piece of marketing. The computers were terrible, but the marketing was as good as it gets. And that’s one of the reasons people remember it as one of the more prominent of the 90s computer brands, even if they don’t usually remember it fondly.

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Consumer routers are the security vulnerability of the year, so far

Today I found an article in PC World that gives a somber assessment of the state of consumer routers, like the device that probably sits between you and the Internet.

I’m glad this is getting attention. There’s a lot more to it than what’s in the PC World article, but I’ve droned enough about what’s bad about consumer routers. It’s bad now, and it’s going to get worse before it gets better. Kudos to PC World for providing a bit of an action plan.

What if you want to go beyond what PC World is talking about? I’m glad both of you asked. Read more

What on Earth is a Mainframe?: A review

I’ve been reading David Stephens’ self-published What on Earth is a Mainframe, (also available on Amazon) which is as close to z/OS For Dummies as we’ll ever see.

I deal with mainframes at work from time to time. I interacted with an old IBM mainframe of some sort when I was in college, using it to get on the Internet, do e-mail for classes, and write programs in Pascal. That mainframe has been gone almost 20 years now, but it’s more mainframe experience than most of the people in my department have.

That’s the thing. Mainframes have been on their way out for 20 years–which was why Mizzou retired Mizzou1–but they aren’t any closer to the door now than they were when I was in college. I wouldn’t call it a growth industry, but there are some tasks that haven’t managed to migrate down to smaller iron yet, and if they haven’t by now, maybe they never will. But the universities aren’t producing new mainframe administrators–ahem, IBM calls them system programmers–so while it’s not a growth area from a numbers perspective, it’s a marketable skill that isn’t going away.

That’s where this book helps.

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12 PC tasks you should be doing and aren’t

Here’s a jewel from earlier this month from PC World: 12 easy, crucial PC tasks you should be doing and aren’t. They’re mostly related to performance and security. No wonder I like the article.

A couple of the items won’t give the kinds of gains they used to–in this era when everyone thinks they need a 3 TB drive and they’re using less than 1 TB of it, cleaning up unused data isn’t going to do all that much to improve performance. But there’s some benefit to removing unused programs, especially unused programs that run at startup.

Most critically, the article tells how to automate a lot of these tasks. Automating it so that it just happens without you having to think about it is even better than doing it. If you’re not doing these 12 things because the computer is already doing them automatically for you, then that’s OK.

Happy 30th birthday, C-64

To celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Commodore 64’s release, PC World–a magazine published by the same company that once published RUN, a magazine dedicated to the C-64 and other Commodore 8-bit computers–had someone try to use a 64 for a week.

Not surprisingly, they found the 30-year-old computer not up to 2012’s demands.
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Macintosh malware continues to evolve

Security experts have long warned that [Apple’s] delay in delivering Java patches on Mac OS could be used by malware writers to their advantage, and the new Flashback.K malware confirms that they were right. — PC World magazine

Last week I argued that a Macintosh-based botnet currently being distributed via Word document would likely change distribution methods, perhaps to a PDF document, in order to spread itself more effectively.

That, to my knowledge, hasn’t happened, but today I learned of the above example of Mac malware doing exactly that, jumping from Java vulnerability to Java vulnerability. Read more

HP has a brilliant idea

After last year’s flip-flopping on getting rid of its not-quite-as-profitable-as-they’d-like PC business, and the resulting self sabotage, HP needed a good idea to try to undo the damage.

Their idea is completely unoriginal, but it’s tried and true and more likely to work than anything else they could possibly do: Bundle their premium PCs with premium-level customer service and charge a little more.

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Lessons of the HP Touchpad

At full price ($499 for the 16 GB model and $599 for the 32 GB model) the HP Touchpad was a colossal flop. Like AT&T’s first PC clones of the mid 1980s, it was a me-too product at a me-too price that wasn’t quite as good as the product it was imitating. So, basically, there was no reason to buy it.

At closeout prices, it became an Internet sensation. The few web sites that have it in stock can’t handle the traffic they’re getting. At $99 and $149, it’s selling like the Nintendo Wii in its glory days.

And I think there’s a significant parallel there that highlights the missed opportunity.
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