Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The New Arrival

Nope, I'm not talking about a baby.  I'm talking about a laptop.  My laptop.  The wait is over!

I'm looking at an HP DV7-1270US right now, in all it's bronzed glory.  It's running an Intel Core 2 Duo P8600 at 2.4GHz, with 4GB of memory and a 320GB hard drive.  It's got a Blu-Ray player strapped to a 17-inch, 1440x900 screen, drived by an NVidia 9600M GT video card.  It's sleek, sexy, and all mine.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Is the Dell Adamo More Beauty than Brains?

In a world that seems to be constantly trying to catch up with Apple, it's really no surprise that Dell has just released their response to the MacBook Air, known simply at the Adamo.  At only .65 inches thick, it gives the Air a run for its money in the ultra-slim category.  But does it measure up in technology?

I started my learning experience by visiting the Adamo's public relations website,  Like something from a runway in Paris, the Adamo's website more style than substance.  You get an eye-full, for sure.  Slender models clutching and caressing an even more slender notebook computer.  What you don't get, however, are any sort of specifications.  So I moved on to plain old, traditional, not-so-sexy for more details.

Continuing with the sexified theme, Dell offers two starting packages, which they refer to as "Admire" and "Desire".  The "Admire" package offers a 1.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor, 2GB of DDR3 memory, and a 128GB solid state hard drive as a starting point.  The "Desire" package bumps it up to a 1.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, 4GB of DDR3, and adds mobile broadband to the mix.  At the time of this writing, "Admire" is going for $1,999 and "Desire" is priced at $2,699.

Since we're throwing all caution to the wind, and money is no object, let's take a look at the "Desire" package.  After selecting the package, you're given the option to add accessories.  In the interest of fairness, I'm going to stick with the base "Desire" package.  However, if you're so inclined, external hard drives, CD/DVD burners, cases, and other accessories can be had with the same Adamo look, of course for an Adamo price.

Clicking the "Buy Now" button finally gets us to a page (the Cart Summary, of all places) that gives us the Intel CPU model number.  So now we know the following about Adamo "Desire":

CPU: Intel Core 2 Duo SU9400 (3MB Cache, 1.4GHz clock speed, 800MHz Front-side Bus)
Memory: 4GB of DDR3 running at 800MHz
Hard Drive: 128GB solid state
Display: 13.4 inch WLED Display (1366x768 resolution) with webcam
Video System: Intel GS45 Integrated Graphics with 256MB shared memory
Networking: Gigabit Ethernet, Intel 5300 WLAN (802.11n), Bluetooth, Dell Wireless 5530 Broadband card
Battery: 40WHr Lithium Polymer boasting over 4 hours of life (depending on usage)

Really not bad.  Dell's got a pretty strong contender.  So let's take a look at Apple's MacBook Air.

To be fair, I've decided to compare the Dell Adamo to the higher-end MacBook Air, pricing in at $2,499.  I picked the "Desire" Adamo, so I've got to do the same for Apple.

Finding the specs on the Air was no problem on  All you've got to do is click "Mac" at the top of the homepage, then find the Air in the lineup along the top of the page.  Once you click on the Air, choose "Tech Specs" and you're where you need to be.

Here are the Air's specifications:

CPU: Intel Core 2 Duo (6MB Cache, 1.86Ghz clock speed, 1066MHz Front-side Bus)
Memory: 2GB of DDR3 running at 1066MHz
Hard Drive: 128GB solid state
Display: 13.3 inch LED-backlit glossy display (1280x800 resolution) with webcam
Video System: NVIDIA GeForce 9400M graphics processor with 256MB shared memory
Networking: Optional USB Ethernet Adaptor, AirPort Extreme (802.11n), Bluetooth
Battery: 37WHr Lithium Polymer boasting over 4 hours of life (depending on usage)

So there it is, by the numbers.  Is the Adamo going to out-perform the Air?  I'm not entirely sure yet.  Certainly, the Adamo has the potential.  Looking closely, however, it would appear that the Air still has the Adamo beat in certain key areas.  Front-side bus speed is huge when it comes to CPU performance, as well as cache size.  Since both machines use Intel chips, a fair comparison can be made.  I think Dell is going to have to step up their specs a little bit to edge out the $200 cheaper Air, especially for customers who are both Apple and Microsoft savvy.

The computer world will be watching the clash of the hardware giants.  I guess time will tell who comes out on top with the thinnest gear on the market.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Geek Tip

Last week, I ran into a problem at work that I feel is probably going to start plaguing people more and more as we attempt to use legacy software on newer systems.  You've probably noticed that fewer and fewer PC manufacturers are offering floppy drives as a standard feature on their systems.  In fact, some PC makers aren't even offering a disk drive as an option in certain models.  For legacy software that expects a floppy drive, this can be a real issue.

I ran into this very problem last week.  We've got a training program that requires a floppy drive for the storage of information.  Each person who takes the training is required to have their own floppy disk to store testing and training data.  Of course, the new computers we purchased don't come with floppy drives.

In order to solve the problem in a simple fashion, and not have to rely on old media and technology (the floppy drive itself), I came up with a solution that seems to work pretty well.  It's a DOS trick that's been lost to newer technology, but does the trick in this case.  It is the "subst" command.

The "subst" command allows you to assign a drive letter to any directory attached to your computer.  The command structure is simply "subst <drive letter> <destination directory>".  So, if you wanted to make a piece of legacy software think you've got a floppy drive, but actually store the data in a directory on your C: drive called "data", you'd type "subst a: c:\data".  In our case, we wanted to store the data on a USB memory stick with the drive letter of F:.  I used the command "subst a: f:\".

You don't have to toss out your legacy software quite yet.  Certain tricks can be used to keep things going.  The "subst" command is just one example.

WoW Weekend

So this past weekend was fun.  World of Warcraft and code all weekend.  Yep, I am a geek.  And it was good.

We set up four computers, two of while are dual-monitored, and played video games into the wee hours of the morning, both Friday and Saturday nights.  The goal was to get my character on World of Warcraft to level 70 before the end of the weekend, so I can start joining them on raids.  We achieved this goal and then some, getting me to 70 and getting me some gear.  For those who don't play, or don't speak the language, this is a good thing, and will allow me to play with them online more often.

We also spent some time talking about our own video game, now known only as Pirates.  I'll give you more details as we close in on a beta, but for now I'll tell you that we've got a good idea of our next step, and will be working one or two nights a week together to get things done.  We're still in the basic coding stages, setting up communication between the client that my younger brother is hacking away at, and the server, which is my responsibility.  We're hoping to have solid functionality set up by mid-June, when we'll do another one of these weekends.

So it was a good time.  We had some laughs, get really tired together, and generally just bonded over computery goodness.  Many more weekends like this are planned.

Oh, and sorry to everybody for missing the Geek Toy last Friday... I was busy pwning nubs.  Anyway, here's a little web tid-bit to make up for it.  Play with THIS for a while...

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Police Don't Twitter

This goes out to all those addicted to Twitter, the Web 2.0 application that lets you micro-blog from your cell phone.

The police are not reading your Twitter.

For those not keeping up with blogging news, the hot story at the moment is about David Prager, who decided to tweet about the intruder in his bathroom. While the intruder was still there.

There may come a day when local law enforcement finds a way to use technology such as Twitter to their advantage, but today is just not that day.

So all you micro-bloggers out there: Be careful, and remember that thing in your hand is still a phone.

Preparing for a Weekend of Madness

This weekend is going to be nuts. Tonight, I am packing up my tower PC, 22-inch flat screen monitor, keyboard, and mouse, and making the 160-mile trek north to see my brothers. Why the PC, you ask? Because I come from a family of geeks.

This weekend is going to be all about video games and coding. And it will be wonderful. The four of us are working on a massively multiplayer online role playing game, or MMORPG. If you don't know what that is, look up World of Warcraft on Wikipedia. You'll get the idea.

And if you want to join us, log on to WoW, Daggerspine realm, and look for the group kicking ass.

Enough with the iPod already

Yes, we get it: iPods are the "in" gadget.  It doesn't take a whole lot of searching to realize that.  Just check out the Technorati Gadgets homepage if you don't believe me.  They're everywhere, and no, they're not going anywhere soon.  But do they have to be all we read (and write) about?

Don't get me wrong, I've got nothing at all against Apple.  I am of the generation that grew up on Oregon Trail running on an Apple IIe.  My first computer (thanks Dad!) was an Apple II+, which I used to learn BASIC and assembly language.  I wouldn't be the pillar of a geek that I am today without my introduction to computing on Apples years ago.  But I've grown up, and I realize there's more to the world than iPhone, iPod, and Macintosh computers.

And so do a lot of other people.  It stinks trying to find news or information about your Zune, your HP DV7-1270US laptop, your ASUS M2N-E SLI motherboard, or your LG Glimmer (just in case you're curious about my own personal gear, there's a bit of a rundown) amidst the cacophony of web-chatter concerning Apple products.  And it really only gets worse in the world of blog.

Yes, Apple's gear is the badge of the "hip".  I get that, and I understand that the stuff I use isn't quite as cool as all that.  But I use it.  And so do quite a number of other people who couldn't (or just didn't want to) pay Apple's over-the-top prices.  We're here, and we're ready for something to read.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Movie Magic or Tiny Teacups?

So I'm feeling prolific today.

According to's Tech and Science section, Rice University has developed a material that can cloak objects from human vision.  Now just how cool is that?

Apparently, the magic is in the dimples.  No, not those things that make babies cute.  Gold nano-dimples, perfectly aligned in the material, channel light from all directions into a specific, uniform direction.  This allows the material to force light to go away from a viewer, thus effectively making the cloaked object invisible to human sight.

Harry Potter fans shouldn't rejoice too soon, however.  It seems this stuff only works in slab form thus far, making it pretty difficult to tote around, and pretty uncomfortable outerwear.  Tree-huggers, on the other hand, can take heart.  The applications for this stuff transcend back yard games of hide-and-go-seek.  It seems that the "nanocups" make great directional magnifying glasses, giving engineers the ability to focus light where ever they want to, including onto solar panels.  Nanocups could help drastically increase the efficiency of solar cells.

So we can all go to bed tonight knowing that science is bringing us closer to fantasy, and that fantasy might help power the world.

IPRUTILS for SCSI on Linux

I've been working on installing Fedora 10 on a PowerPC Power4 IBM server system.  All was well, except I couldn't see 12 of its 14 hard drives.  Perhaps things weren't as well as I'd thought.  Anyway, I could not for the life of me figure out what was going wrong, until I read this and this and this and this.

It seems that there is a special driver that needs to be installed in order for linux to detect and use the SCSI drives on my particular 7025-6F1 pSeries 620 server.  I know that it should seem self-explanatory.  "Duh, yeah, it needs drivers."  In my defense, however, previous x86 IBM servers I'd worked with that include ServeRAID SCSI adaptors didn't need me to do anything to get their SCSI-based storage to work.  I'm wandering into new territory here.

So I'm thinking / hoping / praying that IPRUTILS is the ticket.  I'll post my installation notes once I get everything working.  For those out there who are struggling with a PPC-based Linux server, take heart.  You are not alone.


I've decided this thing needs a kick-start, and so I did a little research, and joined up with Technorati.  As you can see below, there's a link to my profile in the post below this.  Don't get too excited... no super-sexy photos to be had (though I could post some lifted men's magazine photos if that'll make you feel better), just some basic information concerning the blog.  Writing posts has never been about me... let's keep it about the geek stuff, shall we?

So I've decided to join a directory.  I've found my readership, well... lacking.  I write this stuff for you, people!  Anyway, I'm hoping that Technorati pushes some traffic my way.

Which, I suppose, is today's technological lesson on blog promotion.  Get out there and promote, peoples!  Joining a directory can be one of the most valuable things you can do to push your traffic to the next level.  Since this blog is hosted by blogger, and Google owns blogger, there wasn't really much for me to worry about when it came to submitting to search engines.  SEO is still important, but my posts are on Google automatically.  However, people aren't necessarily looking for blogs when they type their query into Google, and I know personally that I try to avoid blogs when searching on certain subjects.  That's where Technorati comes in.

At Technorati, blog search is all they do.  You know the people visiting Technorati are in search of a juicy blog to read, so posting there is playing to their interests already.  Then all you have to do is write some entries with good content in them, and you're off to the races.

Technorati Verification...

Technorati Profile

Friday, March 6, 2009

Geek Toy Friday - Netbooks

Anyone who has read this blog at all knows that I'm in the midst of shopping for a new laptop computer.  The market is full of fantastic options right now, and for the right price, you can get a machine with as much, or more, horsepower than a desktop computer.  There are monster "notebook" computers out there with quad-core processors, 18.4 inch screens, dual screens, full keyboards, 8GB of memory and 1TB of hard drive space.  It's enought to make any geek drool.

But what about those of us who want to go a bit smaller?  There is a small-but-growing market out there that is catering to just that market.  They call it a "netbook", and they're everywhere.

With screens ranging in size from 8 to 10 inches, and prices ranging from $300 to $750, these things are small in every way.  They typically either run a flavor of Linux or Windows XP Home, and are typically powered by Intel's Atom CPU.  Models such as the Acer Aspire One come with 1GB of RAM and 120GB hard drive.

One thing you won't be doing with a Netbook is play high-end video games like Crysis or World of Warcraft.  What you can do, however, is check email, browse the internet, write documents and balance your checkbook.  You can keep a schedule, keep a diary, and keep up with your friends on Facebook.  And you can do it all with a computer that fits easily into a purse, backpack, or messenger bag.

So here's to the Netbook, today's Geek Toy.

Monday, March 2, 2009

The Laptop Hunt Continues

A while back, I wrote an entry about how I'm on the hunt for a new laptop.  Certain, ummm, financial restrictions have made it so that I can't make a rash, impulse buy, so I've been forced to very carefully consider what make and model of laptop to buy.  It has also forced me to become quite the lunatic when it comes to knowing about what laptops are available right now.

So I wanted to write a little bit about a brand of computer that I haven't given nearly enough attention to.  That is HP.  Using's search facilities, I've been able to narrow down my criteria for a shiney new laptop, and the computer maker that keeps coming up on my list is HP.  I grew up on Apple, just like most from my generation, and so that's what I was used to pretty much until I entered college.  My first PC was from Gateway, a computer my mom was gracious enough to purchase for me.  After that, I started using Dell pretty much exclusively, and never gave anything else much of a look.  Until now.

When I started searching for a new laptop, I decided that I was going to try to be open to just about anything.  My older brother just purchased an Asus, a machine he's completely in love with now.  And for good reason: it's a solid machine at a solid price.  That lead me to the conclusion that being open to something new might be a good thing.  So I've been looking at Asus, Acer, Dell, Toshiba, Gateway, and now HP.

I've gotten advice to stear clear of HP.  People I've spoken to feel that you're going to pay a premium for the name.  They say that there are a lot better machines out there for the same price.  I'm not sure I agree.

I've done the legwork on this.  HP seems to be competitive, price-wise.  They're also very competitive when it comes to features.  You've got to look closely.  It's in the details.  For example, you could be looking at an HP and another brand, both with the same processor, amount of memory, screen size and resolution, and hard drive space, but the HP will have room for expansion that the other might not have.  Perhaps the HP might be $50-$100 more, but that price difference might be the difference between a computer that lasts you three years and a computer that lasts you six, because you have the option to upgrade memory.

The bottom line of what I've learned over the past three months is that there are a lot of choices out there.  Every single one of them is worth the time to scrutinize.  Don't narrow your options, and don't discount a PC maker just because somebody else doesn't think highly of them.  The PC world is very competitive right now, which is great for buyers, and pushes the manufacturers to produce the best possible product for the lowest price they can.  Keep your eyes open and decide for yourself.