Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Five Dollar computer.

The company that make the Raspberry Pi series of Educational computers have released another model "Raspberry Pi Zero" that costs a mere $5 dollars (NZ 7.60). This is basically a stripped down "Raspberry PI Ver 1" but with a 40% speed boost and double the RAM. There are no Internet connections so this unit is designed for Off line use. It is powerful enough to run a full version of Libreoffice or stream a HD Video. As it only has one USB port a USB Hub would be useful to give extra ports needed for keyboard, mouse, flash drives, bluetooth etc. Physical dimensions are 65 x 30 x 5 mm. General purpose Input / Output connections are available but require wires to be soldered in. All common programming languages are supported.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Date for final Win 7 licence's given

Microsoft have announced that 'Original Equipment Manufacturers' will no longer be allowed to preinstall win 7 or win 8.1 on computers after October 31 2016. Win 7 is on over 50% of desktop computers and Microsoft clearly wants to change these to win 10 so that the Win 7 perpetual licence's are replaced with a service licence allowing a yearly service fee. This date may be the trigger for determining the definition of 'Life of the device' terminology that is used in the 'End user licence' agreement of Win 10. In short, when a fee is required to run the mandatory updates. 

Saturday, October 3, 2015

China gets a new XP defacto Desktop computer.


China's still uses XP for most of their computers and do not want to change. Their Government has tried to move away from Microsoft for several years due to the spyware that comes with Microsofts newer Operating systems, but this has been largely unsuccessful. In the last year they have hired Western specialists to build a reliable low resource Operating system on which they can then add on a XP look and feel Desktop. The new system has been named as Neokylin and is currently being installed on all Government computers. Unfortunately their is no English version available. Chinese retailers sell this Operating system preinstalled on Dell Laptops which have been reported to sell as fast as Dell Laptops in China with Windows. Germany, Austria and France combined developers to design something similar with English as an option. This is known as Q4OS and is completely free but not preinstalled anywhere. Using a very simple Desktop interface called 'Trinity' allows this to be run on computers with only 128Mb of RAM. The downloadable image comes complete with the latest Chrome browser, VLC media player and Libreoffice 5. 

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Windows 10 update

Microsoft want all Windows users on Win 10 as soon as possible and are now downloading it onto computers with Win 7 and above even though it has not been requested. If it is possible to do this undetected then they obviously have control of your machine and could start the upgrade at their convenience. Windows 10 is not owned by the customer but given as a service which is free until "The supported lifetime of the device" is reached. Unfortunately Microsoft have not given a definition of this but have stated it will be variable for different "Form Factors" which possibly means a Laptop does not have the same life as a Desktop. Most critics are putting the time span between 2 to 4 years, and that is when the payments begin. 

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Google Docs dictation.

Google Docs now has a method for Dictation. This only works in the Chrome browser and online. When using Google Docs goto the Tools Tab and enable "Voice Typing". A small microphone icon will appear on the left of the page. Click on it and speak into the microphone and Google will translate the speech into text, displaying the result on the page. Useful for non typists.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Cloud computing

The idea of Cloud computing has been around since the days of 'Main frame computers' and 'Dumb terminals', where the programs resided on the 'Mainframe Server' and the user gave instructions and saw the results from the 'Dumb terminal Client'. These early systems only used text, shading and line drawing and were only on a private network. Fifty years on we are doing a similar thing but with pictures and movies using an Internet connection which is hundreds of thousands times faster, but the basic principle is the same. Still a Client, Server type of operation rather than individual programs on a Personal Computer (PC). In cloud computing the PC only has to be able to send a request to the main server eg Google, Azure etc and display the results back on the monitor. The main processing is not done on the PC and the PC is called a 'Thin Client'. The 'Chromebook' is an example of a 'Thin Client'. Windows 'RT' was similar but has been dropped by 'Microsoft' but a replacement could be Windows 'Cloudbook' low cost computer.

Libreoffice 5.0

Libreoffice releases a major upgrade on Aug 5. The basic uncluttered layout still looks the same with better usage of the side panel. In the word processor, photos can now be cropped inside the application. This feature has long been asked for. It is still a free open source program for Windows, mac and Linux. A viewing only app is available for Android but editing is in progress.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Windows 10

Windows 10 appears to be getting ready for a shift from a one time life license to a subscription based service. The update service cannot be turned off and as Microsoft will now own the software on your computer they have the right to do whatever they like to it and charge accordingly. When they start to charge will be determined by the undefined term "life of the device" which basically means when the computer no longer can apply the continued updates correctly. The update may be free but that is not much good if the security patches can no longer be applied. Microsoft obviously has every right to make money from Windows 10 but the terms should be made clear from the start. The paid pro version will be allowed to hold back updates as there is no guarantee that a security patch will not affect a third party installed program and this would be disastrous for businesses. Home uses will not get the choice. Beware of free gifts as they are not always what they seem to be. 

Saturday, June 27, 2015

What are 2 in 1 Laptops

Laptops that are designated as '2 in 1' can be used as a normal PC laptop or lift the screen off and use as a Tablet. Microsoft is currently pushing these to help boost their Tablet marketshare which is sitting at a low 2 percent, Android having over 80 percent and Apple at around 15 percent. If this is a Windows machine the Tablet configuration still needs the usual Antivirus, Registry cleaning and security update maintenance. Android and Apple products did not need these and they cannot run Legacy Windows programs, while the Windows version can, but Hard Drive space could be a problem. These computers usually have a 'Flash Drive' as a Hard Drive and are only generally 32 or 64 Gb in size. 

Android remix for the Desktop

Jide, one of the originators of Android, has announced the arrival of a new Android that will be housed in a setop box that is more in line with Desktop use. This will have multiple resizable windows and a taskbar making it's usage similar to a standard Desktop computer. As these use a standard Monitor / TV, Keyboard and Mouse and is not provided with the device, the price is low, approx US $30. The price and Hardware is similar to a 'Raspberry Pi 2' which I have been using as a Desktop computer for the last few weeks which runs Firefox, HD video and the full Libreoffice quite adequately using the 'Raspbian OS'.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Dell 's inexpensive Ubuntu laptops

Dell have added a 14" and 15" Laptop to their budget range at around US $200. These are aimed at consumers who want a low maintenance computer that is easy to use with well known applications. Pre-installed software includes Chrome browser, Libreoffice and VLC media player. There are thousands of extra downloadable programs, mostly free, in the Ubuntu software centre. These computers are now available in retail outlets in US and China. We may be lucky enough to get them in NZ someday at a reasonable price.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Internet usage.

Click on to enlarge
Mobile users for the Internet have overtaken those using the tradional Desktop / Laptop method. This is probably due to the high reliability and ease of use of a mobile phone or Tablet when compared to a Windows system that has to battle Viruses and Operating system problems.

The new Windows 10 or is it.

What is new in the upcoming release of Windows 10. The Kernel is still based on NT from the Xp days and the API's (Application programming interface) even earlier. Nothing new. The Desktop is partially returning to the old Windows 7 configuration.  Internet Explorer is replaced with the 'Edge'. This is only to catch up what other browsers are already doing. Cortana the personal assistant is similar to what Apple, Android and Chrome browser have had for several years. Still nothing really new. Virus checking still required as with previous Windows versions. Windows Media player has been completely removed, that's new. A free update for one year and then a yearly subscription thereafter. That is new. The subscription price will be dearer for the Enterprise version citing a higher security rating due to extra features. As Microsoft knows you will love this new version the BIOS will prevent any other operating system to boot including their own earlier versions.

Monday, April 27, 2015

India shows how a Deskop should look

Click to enlarge
A new Desktop using 'Ubuntu' as a base is now available as a free download from 'SuperX-grace'. This has been modelled on the Android or iOS look and a great deal of thought has gone into making the Desktop extremely easy to use. There are basically only two screens, one for 'Favourites' and one for 'All Applications' that are split into logical groups. The Icons can be shifted around easily from favourites to all applications. There is no control panel, just another category in the 'All Applications' screen. Preloaded applications include Firefox, Chrome, Thunderbird, VLC, Libreoffice and Gimp. There are thousands of other applications that can be downloaded from their own App Store.

Windows 10 and what is wanted

Windows 10 is reported to be what the users want in the way of a desktop. Microsoft is bringing back the Windows 7 menu interface but I suspect the users really want the easier to see and use, old Icon configuration instead of the floating 'Tiles'. Other Operating systems such as Android, iOS and chromeOS have removed the 'Menu' completely and just use a 'Single Click' to launch an Application. They have considered that the rest is totally unnecessary and over complicated for the average user. The Technicians utilities are still there but are hidden. When the Windows 10 computers arrive they will be locked down so no other operating systems can be installed including older versions of Windows.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Intel's Compustick

Intel has just released another HDMI computer stick for TV's or Monitor's. This one comes in two versions. Windows 8.1 with 2Gb RAM and 32Gb storage for US $150 or Ubuntu with 1Gb RAM and 8Gb storage for under US $100. The RAM and storage differences is due to Ubuntu requiring less than Windows to run smoothly. Both options use a wireless keyboard and mouse and have a full size USB port plus a SD card reader.

Chromebook, Chromebox now the Chromebit

Google and Asus have announced a third device for the Chrome Operating system. Known as the 'Chromebit' it will be a computer on a stick that is plugged into the HDMI port of a TV or Monitor for less than US $100. It has one full size USB port for extra storage and the keyboard and mouse are connected via bluetooth. There is 2Gb of RAM and 8Gb of local data storage built in. Although ChomeOs is designed for Internet use it does have an offline media player for movies, music, pictures and pdf files.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Puppy Linux 6.0 review

Puppy Linux was started 10 years ago by an Australian Electrical Engineer who believed that an operating system does not need to be as complicated as the mainly used Windows. He started with an inherently secure linux base and removed everything that was not applicable for home use. The result was a very fast small system that has no updates or virus checkers. It is designed for personal use and installs in a few minutes with the inbuilt ability for dual booting with Windows. I have personally used it as my main operating system for several years, always booting in under 20 Seconds and never slowing down. The only application that automatically updates is the Browser with the built in E-mail client. Puppy linux is a live CD that can be installed on a Flash drive or a Hard drive.

Windows 10 free - Sort of

Windows 10 is going to be a free update for all computers running XP to Win 8.1. What is not being stipulated is how Microsoft is to Monetize this. The most likely outcome will be a yearly subscription. When a computer is updated the original license will be cancelled so there is no turning back. Older programs may not work on the new system so care needs to be taken before updating. The release is scheduled for the middle of 2015.

Sunday, January 4, 2015


The Chromecast dongle finally received Google approval for use in New Zealand in December 2014 and is available in most electronic stores for about $60. This tiny device turns a legacy TV into a smart TV. Simply plug it into the HDMI port and put the flying lead into a USB port for use as a power source. Initial setup is that the wireless network is identified and password given. This is a one time requirement. A Smartphone, Tablet, Chromebook or PC can be used as a remote control for the device which allows the internet streaming of Web pages, TV shows, Movies and Youtubes. It is also possible to mirror the Remote devices screen to the TV screen. At the moment only 'Quickflix' ($13 per month) is available for NZ but 'Netflix' is coming in March. This allows instant viewing of the latest TV series and movies over a broadband connection. Phones and tablets have many applications that are designed purely for Chromecast .