Monday, December 31, 2012

ARM devices coming to the desktop

 Before computers can be sold in the marketplace they need to be certified for radio and electrical interference levels. This is a good place to find out what is planned for the next devices to be manufactured. They must be the end product not just a prototype.  Giada is a well known manufacturer of small desktop fanless computers in the commercial sector and has just put up an 'ARM' chip (phone chip) computer for registration. It is also listed on their website but no price yet. It comes preinstalled with Android 4.0 but will take Ubuntu or possibly 'Windows 8 RT'. Libreoffice now works on an 'ARM' chipset and I am running the latest version on my 'Raspberry Pi ' without any problems which also uses the 'ARM' chipset. This is not a stripped down version and has the Spreadsheet, Presentation, and drawing packages complete. With the Firefox Browser and VLC media player already working this should satisfy most computing needs. Standard Windows 8 and earlier Windows versions do not run on 'ARM' chipsets, but Windows 8 RT does but will not run standard Windows software. It looks like the cheap phone systems are going to make a push for the Desktop computing area.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

2013, Year of the disappearing laptop

The desktop computer was noticeably missing from the retail shops by the end of 2012. By the end of 2013 the Laptop will probably meet the same fate. Looking at the projected manufacturing for all internet ready computing devices brings the following numbers:

Smartphones: > 800 million
Tablets: > 200 million
Smart TV's > 200 million
Laptops < 200 million

Only one in five computing devices will be a Laptop.

Laptops were designed for mobile computing but the Smartphone and Tablet do it so much better. They are capable of surfing the net, doing e-mail, viewing photos, playing movies or music and editing documents. In fact everything a computer does but easier. Advantages are as follows:

One third the weight
No Virus checking needed
No maintenance on the operating system
Long battery life
Small portable size
Always on, ready to use
Can be much cheaper
Can Pinch to Zoom and Pan

Although some Laptops will have touchscreens these are very tiring to use as there is no wrist support like a mouse has.

Typing on a small screen takes a while to get used to but is helped by using word prediction and pinch to zoom for seeing the words. As Pc's have progressively got more complicated and harder to use the Apple and Android systems have been made simpler and more logical to use. Microsoft will try to come back in 2013 with Windows 8 RT not Windows 8. There is a vast difference but the RT version ( that cannot run traditional windows programs ) is not on the shop shelves yet.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Desktop computers

Intel, best known for manufacturing CPU's for Windows computers, are now starting to produce complete desktop computers. These will be sold without RAM, Hard drive or Operating system, but come with USB and HDMI ports. Just add the Ram and Disk drive you want. Install XP or a Linux distribution of choice. Next install the latest Firefox / Chrome browser, Libreoffice and VLC for media playing, all of which will continue to support XP.
Tablets are making Laptops redundant but these are no substitute for Desktop computers. It is estimated that over 80% of large businesses use XP. Even though these computers are designed for commercial use there is certainly no reason not to use them in the home. All you need is an old XP disk and certification number. There are a number of manufacturers also putting something similar on the market next month. Unfortunately these computers will only be sold from Online Stores. XP disks are still readily available for sale, new and used, but not by Microsoft.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


Asus has just started selling its latest 12 inch Laptop for just US $199. This is not a Windows machine but is based on the "Second generation" ChromeOS. This is a reliable system with basically just a web browser and file manager, kept up to date by Google, and used mostly Online. The first generation of ChromeOS didn't do well due to lack of Offline applications, but this has largely been fixed with the addition of Offline document editing, picture viewing, music and movie players. Ports for USB, SD cards, HDMI output are built in. A 320Gb Hard drive is used for local storage. If you use a computer mostly for surfing the Internet, E-mail, writing documents and media playing without needing a Virus checker this could be a good cheap choice.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

A Linux Distro from New Zealand

The Desktop may look bland but this is on purpose. The Menu, which is on the bottom left is equally simple. The idea is that the user controls the items in the Menu and Desktop that are shown. The operating system underneath is based on "Ubuntu Long Term Support". Installation is automatically setup for NZ with the latest Firefox Browser, Thunderbird e-mailer, VLC media player, Eye of Gnome picture viewer and Libre office 3.6. There is a quick setup for "Wine" which allows a great many Windows programs to run. Ubuntu repository gives access to thousands more programs, mostly free. This is a first release of this operating system (1.0.0), hoping to take advantage of the confusion that is going to be left behind in Windows 8.(Widows 8, Windows 8 RT, Windows Surface, With or without Touch Screen).

Windows 8 Laptops

Windows 8 Laptops are now the main computers sold through the retail outlets. However, unless over $1200 is paid for one they do not have a "Touch Screen". Basically you have a "Touch Screen" interface without an actual "Touch Screen", making them difficult to use. There is a "Tile" that allows an old type Desktop to be used, but many parts taken for granted have been omitted with this version. The more expensive "Touch screen" types are awkward to use in a laptop but should be easier to use on a "Tablet" which is what this interface was designed for. Microsoft have put aside a billion dollars for advertising these to let you know how easy they are to use. These laptops should not be confused with the new "Windows 8 RT" types which look the same outwardly but are totally different inside and  do not run any Windows 7 / XP programs. The alternative Desktop can only be accessed from the Tiles, and the machine can only be shutdown from the Tiles. No doubt some hacker will soon find a way to get around this. Boot up time has been halved as it only recalls an image of the last session on startup. Program speed is approximately the same as for Windows 7 on a similar machine.

Friday, October 19, 2012

7 inch Tablets

Although 7 inches sounds small for a monitor it is a good size for a Tablet as it fits in one hand nicely allowing the other hand for manipulating the images on the screen. Readability of the text is about the same as a paperback book with the added advantage of "Pinching to zoom" to enlarge the text or images easily. Weight is also a helpful factor as the 7 inch tablet is approximately half the value of a ten inch tablet such as the iPad. Prices range between $100 to $400 depending on the options and specifications. Useful options include SD card reader, standard USB input and HDMI output. The USB port can be used for a keyboard while the HDMI output is useful for viewing the sceen on a TV or a projector.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

$100 TV sticks

TV sticks are starting to appear on Trademe for under $100. These Android gadgets will turn a TV with a HDMI or DVI port into a 'Smart TV' allowing the viewer to surf the internet, E-mail, watch movies, view pictures, play music and create documents etc. These devices are new and are appearing on Trademe as this site is New Zealands largest online retail outlet. The usual retail stores would prefer to sell New TV sets with these features rather than $100 sticks to keep older sets updated. Wireless networking is used for broadband, keyboard, mouse, camera etc, although the USB port could also be used for these with a multiport USB hub. The USB port is needed to supply the device with power.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Desktop computer in a keyboard

Several Chinese manufacturers are now utilising the space under a keyboard to insert a full computer with several USB ports and a SD slot. A standard VGA socket is provided to connect to a Monitor or TV. Wireless networking is used to connect to the internet. This is a much better idea than putting the computer in the monitor which also means the prices of these are generally  under $200. The Operating System is held on an internal hard disk but is not provided in the price.

Samsung Apple Courtcase

Main Mobile phone news points to a USA jury awarding Apple a Billion dollar settlement with possible banning of most Samsung phones. Even NZ papers are printing the story without any mention this is not a global problem for Samsung especially when The USA is only around 17 percent of the global market. China is about 25 percent and is not saturated with phones. NZ is totally unaffected as we do not recognise ridiculous patents.

The trial was held 15 miles from Apple's headquarters with a jury foreman that holds a software patent himself, so Samsung being a foreign company had lost before the court case started. The jury decided it was impossible to tell the two phones shown apart as they are both rectangular with round corners. Yes that is now a valid USA patent. I wonder which American company has the patent for a car with four rounded wheels. The modern mobile phone has approximately 250,000 patents around it. It must be difficult to make something that misses all those patents.

Friday, July 27, 2012

HDMI and DVI ports

The computer industry used the DVI port for digital quality displays (Left side). The consumer industry (TV's etc) decided the DVI port was too big to fit in the sides of slimline TV's and therefore turned towards the HDMI port (Right side). The HDMI port incorporated the Audio whereas the DVI required a separate cable. Electrically the signals were compatible so it is possible to buy a DVI to HDMI cable and run a separate Audio cable for connecting a HDMI device to a DVI device. This is useful for connecting DVD / USB players to computers / monitors and vice versa.

Android on a Laptop without a touchscreen.

Android 4.0 (Icecream) runs well on a 7" Laptop. I am now running my Asus 7" Netbook on this operating system which does not have a 'Touchscreen' and has only 500Mb ram. My system boots in under 30 secs and surfs the web in a fast HTML 5 Browser. Youtubes work perfectly as does picture viewing. Movies need to be MP4's. Google marketplace is usable but care has to be taken in selecting apps as a laptop can only be run in 'Landscape mode'. I use an external mouse similar to the picture shown. Wordprocessing is achieved with Google Docs. The software requires the use of wireless only. My built in camera worked well with Skype.  Virus checking and updates not required.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Dell are focusing on India

Dell  computers are opening retail stores in India after their success of doing this in China. The major difference from the "Western" stores is that these computers come pre-installed with "Ubuntu". Clearly these nations prefer their computers to be Virus free and without endless "Security Updates" or computer speed degrading.

Windows 8 reveals its intentions

Microsoft has given new guidelines for Windows 8 devices. Phone 8 will be made only on "Dual core" chips meaning they are going for the top end market, iPhone and Androids Galaxy etc. They are going to set up their own manufacturing which has upset the original hardware partners who are bound to swing more to Android devices. Windows 8 Tablets for the consumer will run on "ARM' chips meaning they will not run programs designed for Windows PC's. These tablets will run Windows RT and be called "Surface tablets". Like Phone 8 they will require  "Dual core" chips.

Monday, May 28, 2012

US $74 Android 4.0 USB stick computers

These tiny stick computers hold a complete Android 4.0 system in them. They are used on TV's or Monitors that have a USB port and an HDMI port. A lead is plugged into each port from the device and a wireless keyboad, mouse and internet connection is used. Storage is via a SD card that is slotted into the side of the device. As the cost is so low, expect to see alot more of these devices coming onto the market. They can be used for E-mail, surfing the internet, watching movies, showing pictures, playing music and word processing.

Via Motherboards with ARM processors

Via are now manufacturing Motherboards to replace existing PC's with ATX Motherboards. Physically they are a direct replacement, but half the depth. These boards run the ARM chipset (Phone and Tablet chips) instead of Intel's chipset. They will not run Windows XP or 7 but will run Android 4.0 or Linux using a USB keyboard and mouse as well as using a touch screen monitor or TV. 'Windows 8 RT' would theoretically run on them but Microsoft will probably not sell their Operating System to allow this.

Nano PC desktop computers

Foxconn, the iPhone manufacturers, are now making tiny fanless desktop computers which will sell for under US $200. They will come without memory, hard drive or operating system but will happily run XP or any modern Linux system such as Ubuntu or Fedora. Just add memory and flash drive of choice. These computers feature a dual core atom processor, USB 3.0, VGA output, HDMI output, wireless and ethernet.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Office suites

Office 15
Microsoft has been previewing a new office suite called Office 15. This is a simple version designed with Tablet use in mind. It will have a totally different interface from the previous offerings from Microsoft. This is an off-line application as opposed to Microsofts Office 365 which must be connected to the Internet for use. Office 10 will still be available for business use on Desktops. 

Windows 8

Windows 8 is going to be split into two directions. The first will continue to use the Intel chipset with a windows 7 base and a "Tiled Metro' desktop. It will run Windows 7 Applications. The second system will use the 'Arm' chipset (phone chipset) and will have the same desktop but will not run any Windows 7 software. This will make it alot cheaper so to be able to compete with Apple and Android products. New applications will only be able to be loaded from the 'Microsoft Store' similar to Apples iTunes. A new Office suite will be used called Office 15. This will be simpler than Office 10 and will probably not have the ribbon menu's. To be competitive this system has to be easy to use, reliable without the need of virus checking and cheap. The second system is aimed at the domestic market of Tablets, TV's and Media centres. Unlike the Vista and Windows 7 market Microsoft does not have a monopoly so they will have to produce something that actually works and easy to use. They will have to do better than the 'Phone 7' which after a year has only about 1% of the smartphone market.

Friday, January 27, 2012

e-Books and e-Readers

Click on me to enlarge
e-Readers were originally designed to look and feel like a paperback book. A special graphic screen for this was developed and was called called e-Ink. The Kindle among others used this technology, as it gave a high contrast, unpixelated view even in direct sunlight. These devices had a slow refresh rate meaning they could never be used for movies. As Tablets became more common they were being sold as e-Readers combined with web surfing. If used over a period of time, as in reading a novel, it will soon become apparent that sore eyes will be an issue along with poor visibility in bright light reflecting off the screen. (Jack of all trades but master of none.) e-Ink does not suffer from these effects and the readers are under $200 NZ. The battery life of e-Ink systems is measured in months unlike Tablets which are measured in hours.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Images in Tables

If accurate placing of pictures in a word processor misbehaves by jumping all over the place a solution could be to insert the pictures in the cells of a table. The example shown was done in a simple word processor called 'Abiword' but should work in any modern wordprocessing package. The borders of the cells can be removed after the table is complete. The Pictures were resized in their accompanying cells for correct alignment.