Sunday, November 30, 2008

Dad, did you have Playstation's when you were a kid?

This is the question my 6 year old son asked me recently. He was quite surprised when I told him we didn't. Instantly I felt a bit old but it also got me to wonder what kind of gaming and technology will be around when he's an adult. What was around when I was a kid? Being a kid growing up in the 70's there was slim pickings. I knew nothing of computers or video games.

My first introduction was to Pong. I remember my grandfather(the old man was on the tech savvy side in the 70's) setting up Pong on an old black and white TV he had lying around. My Aunt(who was a year younger than I was) and I played for hours.

My second introduction to was when we finally got an Atari 2600 game console. We had Space Invaders, Asteroids, Pacman, Defender and many others. My sister and I would play for hours until our thumbs wore out. I remember wearing out the controllers that we'd need new ones soon. Reminds me of my son wearing out the the rubber cover on Playstation analog controllers. I actually still have the console in my basement though I'm not sure if it's the same one we used. It's missing the power cord I believe. I can't bring myself to sell or trash it. Maybe someday I'll make a project out of it.

Today although were a bit behind as far as gaming consoles still chugging along with our Playstation 2. There are a wide variety of gaming consoles Xbox360, Nintendo Wii, Playstation 3 and not to to forget PC gaming. What will we be playing twenty years from now?

House cleaning

Recently my brother-in-law came across some old computers from a house he was cleaning out with a friend. He came across and eMachines W3107 PC. He didn't do too bad for a freebie. It came with Windows XP Pro with Office 2007(which I recently paid $$ for...grrr) . It's upgradeable and a decent machine. He told me of other computers that were at the same location and thought I'd be interested. I said sure being a sucker for old computer stuff. Heres a quick list of stuff....

HP Pavilion 6635 with Windows XP Professional freshly installed. It has a 533mhz Celeron CPU and a 10 GB hard drive. Not too bad for a beginner or someone just to do Internet surfing or email.

Sony Vaio PCV-RS320. This one was a mixed bag. upon picking it up I heard and felt something moving around inside....

The processor fan/heatsink had come loose and was rattling around inside. Not good. The green hold down lever was broken and another heatsick to another chip was floating around too. It was also missing the hard drive which was also dissapointing. Also the hook for the second heatsink had been ripped off the motherboard. That probably more than anything renders the motherboard useless. With a new motherboard/RAM/Hard drive it's rebuildable.

If you thought the previous units were on the old side how about this one? This is a Pentium MMX class AOpen PC(possibly a home or business server). What made this interesting is the pull-out bays they had. It does have a hard drive inside but unfortunately it's not the boot drive which I believe went inside one of the pullout bays.

It does power up but won't boot. It's too old for much use but is an interesting unit.

Also included was a Sony Trinitron CRT monitor(17" I believe). This one isn't too bad and works well. I like the built in speakers and the flat screen. Not a bad catch in exchange for some computer work.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

I must be a computer geek when...

I start taking pictures of the computers they have at the hospital where my new son was born. They had these mobile workstations in the hallways. I didn't get to see actual model numbers but the couple I looked at were either HP's or Dell's. Of course the hospital had Ethernet jacks everywhere. I liked the workstations themselves which were your basic laptop with a standard keyboard and mouse attached. They all ran Windows XP as far as I could see. Pretty neat to see them used in action.

Also Born on Nov. 20 was...

My son Samuel so forgive me for not being around much. I'll be back soon.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Happy Birthday Windows!

On this day in 1985 Microsoft released Windows 1.0(officially 1.01) . The world would never be the same.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Ultimate Steal

My 60-day trial of Microsoft Office was about to run out. I was able to save enough and buy the Ultimate Office 2007 for only $59.95. Being a part-time student productivity software is a must. This is a great deal for college students. You basically need a student email(example: and you should be all set. It has all the essentials like Word, Excel, PowerPoint and more. It does take a short while to download and install. You can find out more about it here.

Google brings us LIFE

Buzz Aldrin on the Moon.

Marylin Monroe looking over a script.

A tattered flag from the Civil War.

Google working with LIFE magazine has begun publishing LIFE's picture archive. These are photo's and images from 1700's to the present and many have never been published before . You can read more about it here on Google's official blog or can go here to access the archive. Published above are just a sampling of what I found. I'm a history buff so I found this addicting and cool.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Upgrade: Ubuntu 8.04 to 8.10

This one is for those Linux fans out there. I made the plunge and decided to upgrade my Linux PC from Ubuntu 8.04 (Hardy Heron) to 8.10(Intrepid Ibex, where they get these names I'm not sure). I run my Ubuntu on an older Pentium III Compaq for the sake of trying out Linux. In truth I don't use it a whole lot but it is useful and it kills time some days. I'm not going to get super detailed step by step instruction but, maybe just share my thoughts and experience with it.

My first recommendation is to visit the Ubuntu website which has instructions on getting you started. One of the first things they recommend is to make sure your current version 8.04 is up to date. So you go to the Update Manager by going to the System->Administration->Update Manager.

I click Check button and find out I have 85 updates to do. Like I said I haven't used this in awhile so I got behind a bit. Yours may actually vary. So I click Install Updates and begin the process.

They aren't kidding when they say "Please wait, this can take some time".

This is what it should look like when your done updating. It does take some time so don't be in a rush.

Now you have to tell Ubuntu what type of upgrade to look for. You go to System, then Administration and then to Software Sources. When the window comes up go to the Updates tab. Where it says Release upgrade select Normal releases.

Now you go back to the Update Manager and now it will say New Distribution release "8.10" is available. Click on Check and the process will start.

You'll get a window with some release notes. You'll then click on Upgrade.

Now you'll be downloading the upgrade tool.

Now this seems like a silly question. Do you want to start the upgrade? Of course I do. Be for warned though put aside a great chunk of time before you start. Put an addition on the house or write that novel that you've always wanted to do. I am exaggerating but, don't expect do much on your computer for a few hours.

The process now begins. The download is an estimated 764mb so it will take awhile depending on your connection. If your on dial-up your in trouble. I'd get the CD somewhere before attempting this as it probably take days instead of hours I would imagine.

Of course you don't think this went without any glitches. I clicked ok and then got this message....

To be honest I don't even know what Samba Server does.I made note of this for troubleshooting later and the upgrade continued...

On to the next step...

Not sure why we'd want to keep them. Perhaps as a backup in case something went awry. I decided to live dangerously and removed them.

Now we see that I'm running Ubuntu 8.10.At some point the system reboots. I can't remember if it was automatic or I had to do it manually. It seems I have a graphics card or screen resolution problem. I'll troubleshoot that when I have some time. It went successfully though. I don't notice much difference. My text in the System Monitor comes in discolored though. It seems to some type of graphics problem. This is an older machine and may be struggling to keep up. Figuring out the problem will give me something to do when I have some free time (haha yeah right who am I kidding). Anyway like I hinted at before this does take a considerable amount of time. I believe it took me close 6 hours or so on broadband (cable) connection. It's not for the faint of heart. Good luck and I hope this is of some use to someone. Thanks and have a great day!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Death of the CRT

I look around my computer collection and what do I got the most of? Old CRT(Cathode Ray Tube) monitors. Many are still in working order. I tend to be of the type if it still works I hate to part with it. They range from 15" ones to a small television sized 19" one which weighs a ton. Great picture but it's just too bulky for my desk. What exactly can you do with them? If you try and sell them on Ebay nobody wants them and they'd cost an arm and a leg if you were to ship them anywhere(if anyone was crazy enough to buy one). If you look around on Craigslist they practically give them away. You can see them on the side of the road put out by someone else begging people to take them. All the monitors I've got were hand me downs or freebies. The only one I ever bought came with our original Gateway eight or nine years ago. Let's face it they are gone by the way of the floppy disk( Yes I still have them too though I can't remember when I actually used one last.).

Slowly fading away in favor of LCD type of monitors which are sleeker, lighter and are coming down in price every day. Ironically I got my first LCD monitor by the side of the road one day for free. I love it. It's freed up so much desk space. My flimsy computer desktop was bending from the weight of 19" Compaq monitor I had. The now sad and rejected behemoth monitor sits on my work table awaiting it's fate. I feel it looks at me begging for just one more chance at redemption.

Now as I'm writing this on the hand me down LCD monitor I wonder what to do with all the monitors I've got. I think another trip the old computer collection at the local landfill has about once a month is in order. At least to rid me of the ones that don't work. I still can't part with the ones that work though. It's a sickness I know. I know if I saw another by the side of the road I'd pick it up and the circle would start again. Just some thoughts I had for today. Thanks for coming by.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

How much RAM?

Many ask the question of how much RAM(Random Access Memory) do I need. You might think you have enough to run your operating system but when you add other uses into the mix it changes everything. Vista Home basic requires 512MB of RAM alone. Here a sample:

Sample RAM Requirements
Application Minimum RAM Required
Windows Vista Home Basic 512MB
MS Office Pro 2007 256MB
Internet Explorer 7 128MB
iTunes 256MB
Microsoft Picture It! 128MB
Total RAM Required 1,768 or 1.77 GB

These are just a sampling of programs you might run simultaneously. If adding them up you find that you'd probably need at least 2 GB of RAM to run your computer smoothly. Of course your needs will vary but, it helps to try and forecast what you use your PC for. Buy as much RAM as your budget allows. Many manufacturers put a minimal amount of RAM from the factory to cut down costs. So you may have enough to begin with and will just cover the operating system alone. As soon as you try and do more you'll soon be singing the "I have a slow PC" blues.

Source: Technology in Action, 5th Edition, - Evans, Martin and Poatsy

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Screen sharing with Glance

Recently I came across a screen sharing program called Glance. I'm impressed with it so far. It enables to share what you see on your screen with others. What I really like about is it's ease of use. I downloaded it and I was up and running in less than 10 minutes.

To use this all you do is open the software and you inform whoever you wish to share your screen of the 4-digit code that is generated. They then open a browser(will work with most popular browsers). They go to your unique web address and punch in there code and connect to you. You can share with up to a hundred computers.

Though I see this as more of a business application it does have it's home uses too. You can share presentations, conduct meetings over the phone, share your work and edit in process. The host may use any version of Windows from Windows 98 to Vista and MAC OS 10.3.9 or above. Your guests may use a Windows,MAC or Linux machine using Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari and Opera browsers.

For a free trial you can go to the Glance website. This may not be for the casual user as it isn't a free program though they do offer a single day use rate which is fairly reasonable. I think this would be ideal for a business with a need to share information like this. Like I said it's very simple to use which I like and has a small learning curve. I like it very much and it may be worth a try for you.