Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Merry Christmas and a happy new year


Clipart from Corel Draw and Page setup in LibreOffice

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Desktop PC's coming back as 'Androids'.

Ricomagic is one of hundreds of companies in China that make small runs of computers (10,000 per week). Most of these manufacturers have noted the desktop PC has disappeared from the retail sector, and realise the time is right for a small inexpensive computer to fill the place. The model shown is priced at US $143 (NZ $170) and is a 1.6G quad core with 2G of ram and a 5MP built in camera for Skype. This unit runs Android and is capable of everything that a normal PC does. Its primary input is keyboard and mouse, with HDMI (modern monitors) or AV (old TV's) output. I have  personally been using an Android system for everyday use for the last month and I have found there is an application for everything I have needed from word processing to electronic circuit design. Best of all there is no updating and virus checking required. Unfortunately these systems will have to be bought online as they compete with the more expensive 'Windows' computers and retailers prefer upselling products, especially ones that slow down with time or catch a virus making the subsequent sale sooner.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Desktop Monitors

As  the Desktop PC has virtually disappeared from the retail stores several manufacturers are putting an Android Computer inside a conventional monitor. If a computer is not connected to the monitor an internal Android system will immediately start up and can be used as a Desktop computer when a keyboard and mouse are connected, either by wireless or USB. Android has a large number of online and offline applications to choose from including browsers, e-mail clients, office suites, media players, games etc. Printing and scanning is achieved through wireless printers or cloud printing. Files can be stored on an external hard or flash drive. Virus checking and updates are not required. The monitor in the picture is a Viewsonic 24" with a resolution of 2560 x 1440 and should be around NZ $500. Sound is built in to the monitor.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Lenovo's Android Laptop

Lenovo, the second largest PC manufacturer, is starting production of an Android laptop simply called the A10. These will run on the same hardware as the Windows 8 RT computers that failed to sell due mainly to incompatibility with Windows 7 and prior programs. As Android is now a household name and holds over 70% of the Mobile market (Phones & Tablets), Lenovo hopes these could sell even though they manufacture Chromebooks that would suit this computer better. Android does work well on a Laptop for Internet, e-mail, media playing and has many office suites to choose from. Also Lenovo is starting to put an Android computer into their latest Monitors meaning a PC can be connected or just use the built in Android computer as a stand alone system.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Intel branches out

Intel and Microsoft have partnershiped each other for more than 3 decades but now with the declining PC market Intel is looking at other avenues. The Mobile phone and Tablet market have generally used 'ARM' chips as Intel had little to compete with them, until the arrival of the low power 'Haswell' chipset. As Windows 8 has not been well received Intel are now looking at the Chromebook market to recover in the PC market. Acer, Asus, HP, Lenovo and Toshiba are all releasing new model Chromebooks of which some are using the Intel chips. These are selling for under US $300 and are capable of word processing, media playing and picture editing without an Internet connection, contrary to the misconception that they only work with the Internet. More offline applications are appearing each month. These units are maintenance free and will not slow down with time. They are automatically updated from Google so always have the latest software on them. New Zealand is always slow at bringing new ideas in but hoping they will be in the shops for Christmas.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Is your next computer a tablet

As the desktop computers disappear from the retail stores the tablets are taking over. Most people in the older age group will worry about being able to manipulate and see these newer touch screen devices. It has to be remembered that the important specification is the "Dots per inch" (dpi) value. This is a characteristic of the screen resolution and the diagonal dimensions of the screen. The higher the dpi value the clearer the picture. A typical high resolution desktop screen has only 100 dpi compared to a 7" tablet having over 300 dpi. That is 3 times clearer and brighter. The other factor going for tablets is the "Pinch to zoom" feature making it easy to read small print with one movement. Security is at a much higher level for tablets except for the Windows 8 pro tablet which uses the standard windows 8 OS and needs the normal virus checkers and updates.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Chrome Browser App Launcher for Windows.

Google have released an Application Launcher for Windows users that allows offline apps to run inside their Chrome browser. It is started by clicking on the small hatch icon at the bottom of the screen and the popup box shows the first page of applications. Although not many apps at the moment it is expected to be a large part of Googles strategy to eliminate the need for the standard Windows desktop and eventually make the underlying operating system redundant, as most general purpose computing requirements can be met in this way. Mac and Linux versions are nearly ready for release. Firefox is doing something very similar but has not been released to the public yet.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Ubuntu usage

Click to enlarge
As a Ubuntu derived user I am often asked why the user numbers of Ubuntu are so low. It may surprise you but its possible that world wide the numbers of Ubuntu users could be higher than Microsoft users. Note I said Users not Computers. Brazil has 35 Million school children all using Ubuntu but has only half a million computers, therefore each computer has 70 users. Expanding these figures across South America, Asia, Eastern Europe and China the user to computer ratio is probably similar. Western nations are possibly the reverse having several computers to the user. The Internet usage figures for Ubuntu are very low but this is because Western nations use their computers for large data rates to play games and stream movies but poorer nations use them for computing which has a low data rate as their internet networks are too slow for video streaming. As the picture shows Ubuntu is a multiuser system which by clicking on one of the squares will put it full screen and this becomes the active user. This function is useful for poorer countries who have many users per computer.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Fastest growing Laptop segment

As the Laptop market keeps shrinking there is one segment of this area that is expanding rapidly. It is the Chromebook that now makes up 25% of the under US $300 sales. These are maintenance free machines that are primarily used for Internet and e-mail but can play music and movies offline. They act more like a tablet with a keyboard rather than a touch screen. Software can only be loaded from the Google store, hence the high level of security. Unfortunately these computers are not available in the retail shops of New Zealand but can be bought online for around NZ $350. It would be nice to be able to try before buy but the NZ retail industry has no interest in a computer that doesn't require continual maintenance, as this is where they make their money, Antivirus and Registry cleaners etc.


Friday, July 12, 2013

Mini Desktop PC

Minix are now making small Intel based Desktop computers. These are sold for less than US$120. The price is low as the user has to supply their  own  RAM and Hard drive to complete the system. Ideal if you have an XP disk and want to continue using XP. Unit size is approx 7" x 7" x 2.5". Ports include 6 USB with two of them being 3.0, 2 Ethernet jacks, HDMI output, and standard keyboard, VGA and audio connections. As it uses a conventional BIOS Windows 7, Linux or Android could also be installed. Unfortunately nobody seems to be bringing these PC's into New Zealand but they can be occasionally found on Trademe.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Tiny Computer Mother boards

Variscite are making computer boards for use by PC makers that are extremely small for their computing power. The 2 Euro coin shown in the picture is about the size of our 50 cent piece.

The DART-4460 features a 1.5 GHz dual core 'ARM' processor with 1GB of RAM and 8GB of Flash Hard Drive. It's a complete system with WiFi, Bluetooth, HDMI out, SD card support and USB ports. This unit has been optimised for Android / Linux and would be capable or running Firefox, Chrome, Libreoffice and VLC media player. Power requirement is about a tenth of a Watt so it could be sourced from the HDMI outlet which connects to the Monitor or TV. Keyboard, mice and cameras can be run from WiFi or USB ports.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Mint 15 Live or Install DVD

With Microsoft's continual change of Desktop layout's a look at the alternatives could be worthwhile. Linux Mint 15 would be a good choice for those familiar with XP, as it keeps to the basic XP layout. It is a free download and has an installation time of around 15 Minutes. I tested this distribution on an entry level single core Toshiba laptop that came with Windows 7 preinstalled, that I considered to be too slow to be usable. Boot time over 2 minutes compared to Mint's 35 seconds. Mint was ready to go on broadband Ethernet, and wireless with just knowing the wireless password. A laser printer and Multifunction printer scanner installed themselves without any intervention. Firefox with flash, Thunerbird E-mail, Libreoffice 4, VLC media player and DVD burner software was already provided on the distribution. I added Cheese camera and Skype applications which immediately worked. Virus checkers are not required. The only drawback is for iTune users as this is not supported.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Android desktop computers are coming soon

Motherboards that have been optimized for Android are starting to proliferate in the Chinese factories. These are ARM based (phone chipset) boards with a ssd drive of only 4G, which is ample for Android. They are clearly intended for use as a cheap Desktop computer, probably under $100 with a suitable case. Android is capable of running all Multimedia (videos, pictures and music) via VLC or XBMC. There are many online and offline office suites with Libreoffice almost ready for Android with 'Nightly builds' for testing. Web surfing and e-mail are well supported already. Keyboard and mouse are via USB or wireless. User files are stored with USB flash drives or external hard drives. There are other USB ports, rs232 ports and General IO ports that can be run from header connecters that are mounted on the motherboard. Dimensions are approx. 4" x 3".

Friday, March 15, 2013

Libreoffice 4.0

Libreoffice has just released version 4 of their Free Office suite. This has similar functionality as Microsofts Office 2013. The Menu  structure has not changed since version 2 making it easier to remember how the different sections work. Installation is extremely easy as there is no registration requirements. It is available for Windows (XP and later), Macs and Linux.

HP's new "Chromebook" Laptop

HP has now entered into the Google chromebook laptop era with a 14" device at around US $320. This comes with all the usual ports and a 16Gb Flash drive. Samsung, Acer, Asus, and Lenovo also market 12" versions of these. Originally designed for consumer use they are being picked up by the educational and business sector as a reliable cheap laptop that is mostly used online, although offline applications are being added daily. These computers would serve most customers needs without the worry of updates and viruses. These are compatible with HP's range of E-Printers and other manufacturers of "cloud ready" printers and scanners. Reliable sources say that approximately 10% of manufacturing in Laptops are Chromebooks which are expected to rise considerably over the coming year. Google Docs is the preferred Office suite, but Quickoffice or Microsofts Office 365 have been reported to work without any problems. An offline Mediaplayer is included for viewing films and pictures or playing music.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

QR Codes

QR codes or 'Quick Response codes' can hold up to 3000 characters of text. These are normally used by mobile phones for displaying data, holding an e-mail or web address. Using a QR application and holding the camera to focus on the code it will automatically decode the information and display it if its text or open a browser if the data is a web address and display the contents. The picture shown holds an item of text from our blogsite. Try it with your smartphone but remember to get a free QR code reader from your app store first.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Using Google extras

Google is more than a search engine. In the latest Chrome and Firefox browsers it can be used to view PDF, JPG and PNG files, play Flash videos, use as a file manager, create and edit Documents, Install apps on mobile devices, watch the latest news for NZ and the world. Looking at the black menu bar there are several headings that can be clicked on. 'PLAY' is used for installing applications on Phones and Tablets. 'DRIVE' opens the application for creating and editing documents, spreadsheets and presentations. The only requirement to use these is a free gmail account. Make sure a hard to break password is used. The file manager is invoked by entering 'file:///' in the address bar.  

Friday, January 18, 2013


Chromebox Layout
The Chromebox is a type of Desktop computer that has a similar comparison to a Chromebook being a type of Laptop. Both of these devices are limited but secure everyday computers for surfing the net, doing e-mail and using office applications. Although they are primarily designed to be used on the internet there are now offline applications for watching movies, viewing pictures, playing music and editing documents that have been downloaded to the local drive. This makes the unit useful for most users. The operating system is called ChromeOS and is designed by Google. Lenovo, Acer and Samsung are presently manufacturing them and they are a big hit for schools as they are easy to use with low administration costs. Amazon have Chromebooks listed for sale and are regularly the biggest seller in the Laptop category.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Using a tablet as a Desktop computer

 After purchasing a $150 Tablet from the Warehouse I decided to see how it would perform as a desktop computer. Plugging a standard keyboard and mouse via a USB adapter proved to work perfectly. A remote Logitech mouse also worked. The HDMI output was connected to a conventional TV as shown in the picture. This setup enabled me to surf the Internet, check e-mail, view pictures, play music, watch AVI movies and edit documents. It was noted that the Tablet display went to sleep when playing movies, presumably to save power. The external power pack could be plugged in to stop draining the battery. The Tablet used Android 4.0 and wirelessly connected to the Internet. Skype also worked using the Internal Camera.