Google Chrome OS Laptop : Not such a good deal

July 29, 2012

Google recently announced their latest revision of the Chrome OS laptops (Chromebooks) where these laptops run Google’s simplified Operating System. So, these laptops will boot up really fast (<10 seconds) and uses the Google Chrome Browser as the main interface. So you can only run Google Chrome apps (which are usually Adobe Flash apps or HTML5 apps), and most of your operations are performed while connected to the Internet.

I was considering getting one of these laptops for when I travel, since it would be nice to have a long-battery life laptop on the plane or while waiting in the Airport. Of course, I’d like to do the usual stuff (e.g., read emails, web browse, check the weather, check maps) which I believe I can do using the Google Chrome OS. One thing that is a major requirement is to have the ability to develop Android apps which I often do while on a long flight (since I have a few hours of uninterrupted time). Since Android apps are developed using a Java-based app called Eclipse, getting this to work on the Chromebook is probably unlikely.

Besides that, these Chromebooks (made by Acer and Samsung) are kind of expensive considering the have limited functionality (and limited storage space). The prices seem to be $400+ US which is high to me. If they were going for $200 to $300 that would be more reasonable, since I can get a full Windows OS laptop for $300+ range. So in my opinion, these Chromebooks have a ways to go before they get accepted in the world of cheap laptops and tablets.

Currently, I have a 2-year old Dell 11z netbook laptop which has worked well (with Windows 7), but on my last trip the 6-cell battery that usually lasts 3-4 hours died after only 1 hour on a flight. So, I guess I’ll just visit and spend another $50 to get a new battery!

Evernote : My new information manager

November 1, 2009

evernoteI love using the Google search engine (who doesn’t?). I can very easily and quickly search for anything on the Internet using any web browser, and find the information that I’m looking for in a snap. Often, I’ve wanted to have a Google-like search engine just for my personal information which can be accessed on my PC or on the web. It turns out I may have found my answer with a product called Evernote.

Evernote is a cool product that can store various bits of information in a central database system “in-the-cloud” (Internet), on your PC, or on your smartphone. You can create multiple “notebooks” and store “notes” in each of them. Notes can consist of plain or formatted text, web page content, pictures, and audio. The single most useful feature I’ve seen, is the ability to easily grab content from a web page and save it to Evernote. A perfect example is when I come across a web site and I want to look into it further at a later date, I can easily save the full web page (or a portion of it) to a note in Evernote. In fact, there’s a FireFox browser plugin that easily does this for you.

All data stored in Evernote can be searched using a text string, just like with the Google search engine. In fact, if you store images in a note that contains text (say, when you snap a picture with your phone of product description at the store), Evernote can recognize the words in the image for the search! Speaking of snapshots, the Evernote app that runs on your smartphone (iPhone,Blackberry,Windows Mobile, or Palm Pre) interfaces with the Evernote database very nicely, and you can use the camera on your phone to easily snap a picture and store it in Evernote as a note. The Evernote site suggests using your phone’s camera for taking snapshots of business cards, airline tickets, travel receipts, etc. which is a great idea if your phone has a good camera (unfortunately, the camera on my Moto-Q phone is crappy). Read the rest of this entry »

Windows 7 Family Pack – 3 copies for $150

October 27, 2009

win7_familypackIf you’re like me and you have several computers in your home, Microsoft is offering a Windows 7 Family Pack for those wanting to upgrade multiple PCs. You get 3 licensed copies of Windows 7 Home Premium for the price of $150 US. Since a single copy of Win 7 Home Premium is selling for $120 US, that’s a good deal. Note, this is for an “upgrade” price, so you need to have a copy of XP or Vista on your machine. However, I did a clean upgrade where my PC’s hard drive was wiped clean, so I’m not sure how the upgrade checks for a prior Windows copy?

In my home, we have lots of PCs and laptops so I do plan to get the family pack to upgrade a few laptops and one desktop PC. If you want to save even more money, you can order your family pack from Costco for $140 US. Now, I don’t think Microsoft will be offering the family pack indefinitely, so I suggest you not wait forever to get one if you’re considering it.

Remotely connecting to your PC

October 15, 2009

remote_desktopOften I need to work from my kitchen table because I have to keep an eye on my young son or new Labrador puppy from wrecking the house. As such, I use my trusty Dell Latitude D610 laptop to remotely connect to my office desktop PC (located upstairs in my home). What that means, is that I’m controlling my desktop PC from my laptop running applications, etc. just as if I was sitting in front of my PC.

How I do this, is by using an application called Remote Desktop Connection (RDC) which is provided by Microsoft with their Windows XP Professional and Vista Professional OS. A small server is running on my desktop PC, and I can make a connection to it from any PC or laptop on my home network using RDC. Since my home network connection is pretty fast, I see very little response delay using this setup.

Unfortunately, Windows Vista Home Premium and Windows 7 Home Premium both don’t have the Remote Desktop Server software to use the RDC feature. You will need to get the Professional version of either OS package to have the Remote Desktop Server software. As such, I decided to look into other similar alternatives, as I use the RDC feature quite heavily for my own personal use. Read the rest of this entry »

Dell Netbook 6-cell battery is ridiculously big!

October 12, 2009

When I put in my order for the Dell Inspiron 11z Netbook, I contemplated getting the 6-cell battery since it advertises 8+ hours of life over the 3 hours for the standard 3-cell battery. However, I decided to just go with the 3-cell since 3 hours is probably enough for me to go without charging it. I’m glad I didn’t get the 6-cell battery, because it is humongously large and hideous!


It sticks out the bottom like a big wart on this sleek and elegant system. What’s the deal with that? If I had a choice, I would rather it protruded straight out the back than down like it is currently designed. Apparently this is the same battery used in the Dell Mini 10 also.

With a price tag of $150 US, I’ll go looking for a power outlet every 3 hours than pay that amount for the giant wart battery!

An extra 3-cell battery is going for $130 on the Dell web site, but since it is the same battery as used on the Dell Mini 10 you can get one for $43 on Carrying two small batteries has got to be a better deal  than one giant battery that makes the 11z or Mini 10 look so junky!

Buyer’s remorse is setting in…

October 12, 2009

buyer_remorseI often think very carefully when spending money, considering whether I really need something or not (I probably do too much obsessing over this at times!). After ordering the Dell Inspiron 11z, I began to have buyer’s remorse. Did I really need to spend $500 on a small netbook-sized computer that I would use occasionally while on travel? Do I really need it?

The Acer 751h Netbook that I bought from Costco for $280 was a good little machine, and could certainly meet my “travel companion” needs. So why did I order the Dell 11z in place of the Acer netbook? It seems the lure of adding in a WiFi-N wireless card, Bluetooth wireless card, and getting Windows 7 preinstalled for free was very appealing. But did I really need to have those options?

Later last night I decided I would try to contact Dell and cancel my order. I’d keep the Acer netbook and use it for the next 60-90 days and will make my decision then if I would keep it or return it and order the Dell 11z. That seemed like a reasonable plan (which I should have thought of before I put in the Dell 11z order!). Using the Dell Online Chat, I contacted a Dell rep at around 8 pm PST. This person was very nice, but stated that she could not cancel my online order and I would need to call their sales dept. Of course, their dept was closed on Sundays so I would have to call Monday morning. She doubted that I could cancel the order, since it was in “production” status, but said I could try nevertheless. Read the rest of this entry »

Upgrading your Laptop’s WiFi Card

October 11, 2009

wifiI recently purchased a Belkin Wireless Router that uses the “n”-draft protocol for data transmission. This newer protocol (still in draft) offers greater speed and range than the older “g” protocol. Of course, you need a wireless adapter on your connecting machine or laptop that can also talk the “n” protocol, otherwise the router will default back down to the “g” protocol when communicating with your machine.

Most older laptops and Netbook computers use the “g” WiFi protocol, while some of the newer ones use “n” (and often it’s an upgrade to get the hardware for this protocol). I recently order a new Dell laptop and I paid the extra $25 for a “n” wireless enabled card so I can use it most efficiently with my home Router system. Well worth the $25 to ensure my new laptop’s WiFi¬† doesn’t become obsolete so soon.

So, what if you have a laptop that doesn’t have a WiFi card, or if your laptop has a WiFi card with the older “b” or “g” protocol? Luckily, these WiFi cards are somewhat standard and are easy to replace/upgrade for most laptops. If you can upgrade the memory in your laptop, you can certainly upgrade the WiFi card as well.

For example, I have an older Dell Latitude D610 laptop that uses a Mini-PCI WiFi-g card. It works ok, but I always seemed to have a rather low connection speed and signal strength when connecting to my home router (although conditions have improved since I upgraded the Router from “g” to “n” recently). So what are my options? As it turns out, there is a YouTube video that explains exactly how to change out the WiFi card in my Dell D610 laptop (imagine that?). You simply open the small cover on the bottom of the laptop, disconnect two small wires, pop out the old card, and do the reverse to install the new WiFi card. Very simple. Read the rest of this entry »