WiFi Router Adventures

If you want to read about my adventures in upgrading my WiFi Router, you can check out this posting on my Tech Blog. Luckily, it only took me two tries to get a good working WiFi router. And best of all, it seems that my Zune HD can can access the internet through this WiFi router very quickly!

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Windows 7 Pre-Sale Pricing… False Advertising?

I noticed in the newspaper this morning that Fry’s Electronics is having a 1-day sale of Windows 7 Professional full version (pre-order) for $129.99 US. Since the full version retails for $299.99 US, this seems like a great deal. However, upon close inspection of the ad I noticed that this version is being called “OEM for System Builders” which made me a bit suspicious.  Since I normally build my own systems for my own personal use, you would think that this “system builders” label would apply… and it does, in a way.

After googling “OEM System Builders”, I learned that this particular version of the OS has a limitation where you can only install it on one computer. It is also tied to the motherboard of the computer so you can’t replace the motherboard at a future date and reinstall Windows 7. So you basically can only install it one specific computer and that’s it.  Since I often upgrade the motherboard on my main desktop system on a regular basis (for speed-up reasons or to replace a defective board), the OEM System’s Builder version wouldn’t work for me.

So just a friendly warning if you run across an ad like this in the newspaper or on http://www.newegg.com, etc.  I’m planning to wait until after Oct 22nd (official release date) and head down to my local Costco store to pick one up.

The Mac Evaluation is Over…and The Verdict Is?

specs_optical20060228In my last posting I mentioned that I was exploring the possibility of switching to an Apple Mac system. Specifically, I was looking at a Mac Mini so I could minimize my investment in a new system and reuse my current hardware (i.e., wide screen LCD monitor, keyboard, mouse). I was able to spend some time at the local Apple Store and talk with a long-time Mac user who worked there, and also had about 2 days of hands-on stick time with a Mac Mini connected to my current LCD Monitor and hardware. Below are my findings:

I have to admit that I was enamored by the coolness factor at the Apple Store, which was loaded with iMacs, MacBooks, iPhones, and iPods. I visited the store in the late afternoon, and it surprisingly filled with customers. I opted to try out a Mini Mac configured with a 2 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo (4 MB Cache), 2 GB of RAM (667 MHz Bus), 120 GB hard drive (5400 RPM), which was the high end model. As you can see from the specs, the speed of the components are those typically found in a laptop (most desktop PCs have hard drives running at 7200 RPM). Of course, this is necessary to fit everything in such a tight, compact package of the Mac Mini.

Instead of giving a length comparison between the Vista OS and Mac OS X, I’ll try to just highlight what I thought was important in my decision whether to switch. First, the Mac booted up very fast (less than 1 minute) and was ready to go, compared to my Vista PC which takes more than 1 minute to boot up, and even then it continues to load system processes in the background as I try to start up Firefox or Outlook. Also, I found the Mac system very snappy in performance, with no noticeable lag in any activity I was doing (albeit, I was just checking email, web browsing, and working with Excel spreadsheets). It seemed that the Mac OS (with UNIX under the hood) was a very well tuned, efficient operating system.

The one thing that really stood out for me, was the appearance of the Mac interface. It reminded me of the various flavors of Linux that are currently available (e.g., RedHat, Ubuntu, etc) with the fonts and appearance of the drop-down menus and windowing system. I’ve always liked the high-res icons that are used in these Linux system, and they are also present in the Mac OS. So, on the surface the Mac OS appears to be just another flavor of Linux that you can download for free from the Internet (although I can’t comment on a performance comparison). Continue reading

The File That Won’t Delete!

mechanicMy wife’s Windows Vista PC was giving her lots of trouble over the past several weeks, with applications crashing, FireFox not saving cookies, general slowness, etc. With all my digging and Googling I couldn’t figure out the cause of the problems, so I decided to wipe the disk clean and do a fresh install. But instead of using the same disk drive, I bought a new 250 GB Western Digital SATA drive and was planning to use this new drive as the primary disk and the old drive as the 2nd (slave) disk. That way, my wife’s data files will still be available and I don’t need to worry about backing them up, reloading them, etc.

Fortunately, her HP Desktop PC came with the Vista OS install files loaded in a small partition on the original drive and I was able to use an HP program to burn a Windows Vista Install DVD (which will only work on her HP machine). Having the Vista Install DVD on hand, I plugged in her new SATA drive as the primary disk and switched the old drive as the secondary disk. I then reloaded the Vista OS onto the new primary disk, and went though all the Windows Online updates, etc. So, everything worked out just fine.

To make room on the 2nd disk, I decided to remove the old Vista OS files found in the “/Windows” folder (since my wife won’t be needing them). However, the files in the “/Windows” folder are not deleteable! After some Googling, I found a procedure for changing the ownership of all those files from the “TrustedInstaller” to my wife’s login account (using a DOS window and DOS commands), and also changed the permissions for those files. That did help me in deleting  most of the “/Windows” files, all except two files found in the “C:\Windows\System32\Macromed\Flash” folder, specifically the files named Flash9e.ocx and FlashUtil9e.exe. I tried absolutely everything to get rid of these files, but the Vista OS kept replying “Access Denied”.

Ultimately, I found a program called Unlocker which allowed me to unlock and delete those files. This freeware utility worked great, and was easy to use. So, if you’re in the same predicament I suggest you check out this fine utility.

Netbook: Not for Me

mini9I haven’t posted much over the last few weeks because I’ve been busy with the notion of getting and using a Netbook. If you check out my other short-lived blog, you’ll see that I determined that the Dell Mini 9 Netbook was not sufficient for my needs. Specifically, the keyboard size and layout along with the 600 pixel screen height was a deal breaker. I was hoping to use the Netbook for web browsing, checking emails, web blogging, etc. but it just didn’t work out for me.

I did walk away learning a lot about online file storage and document management (Microsoft Live Mesh, Zoho, DropBox, SkyDrive) along with having a chance to work with Windows 7 Beta on the Dell Mini, so if you’re interested in those topics you can check out my blog postings for more details.

Gotta Love Vista… not!

For some reason, the Zune software on my Vista desktop PC wouldn’t connect with my Zune 80. I know that my PC sees the Zune 80 because I hear an audio tone when I connect it to the USB port, however, the Zune software ignores it. Now, I’ve been fiddling with my system settings and services, so I thought I may have turned off an important system service that caused this connection problem. After several different reboots, the Zune software still didn’t see the Zune 80.

Finally, I went into the Services control panel and started re-enabling the handful of services that I turned off yesterday. Finally after turning everything back on, the Zune software recognized the connected Zune. I then went in and began turning off each of those services on-by-one, and after turning off everything again the Zune software still found the Zune! So what was the problem? I don’t know. Maybe turning on and off a service got everything working again… ugh. Let’s hope everything stays connected from her on.

Update: ( 8 Feb 2009 ) – I’m still having sporatic issues with my Zune 80 not connecting with the Zune Software. I’ve tried using differnt USB ports, but it seems that I need to reboot my Zune and my Desktop PC to have the Zune software recognize it. Coincidentally, my wife recently has been having the same problem with her Vista Desktop PC and Zune 8 GB. Sometimes the software will “see” the connected Zune, and sometimes not. I suspect it might be a automatic Vista update that was installed recently that is causing the problem, but that’s my paranoid side talking. 🙂

The Rise of The Netbooks

mini9Since it seems we just can’t live without the Internet these days, it’s no wonder that consumers want to be “connected” while on the go. For most, that means having a smartphone device that can download email or browse the Internet. The bad thing, is that most smartphones have limited screen size so the Internet browsing experience just pretty bad. In addition, I’ve noticed that a lot of people in the local coffeeshops have their laptops out and connected browsing the Internet via a free WiFi connection. So, it certainly makes sense that computer manufacturers want to fill the niche between smartphones and traditional laptops by creating a new device that is very portable but can allow for Internet activities. Thus, the birth of the Netbook devices.

The Netbooks are basically small laptops that have a 7 to 10-inch screen. These devices are usually the size of a hardcopy book (about 1-inch thick), and have a touch-type keyboard (although small). The goal is to have the device last for more than 3 hours on a single charge, and to do so required the use of a low-power processor called the “Atom”. These devices also have built-in WiFi for Internet access, with some having Wireless Cellular cards.

Recently, I got caught up with these Netbooks, and decided to get one for use with daily activities. I purchased a Dell Mini 9, which has 1 GB RAM, WiFi, Webcam, and Bluetooth transceiver, and is running Windows XP. The main storage media is not a traditional hard drive, but rather a Solid State Device (SSD) which is similar to a Flash USB drive. The size of this drive on my Dell Mini is only 16 GB, so I need to be careful about what I install. I made my purchase through Costco.com online, so I won’t actually get the unit for 2 to 3 weeks (bummer). Continue reading