June 27, 2010

The “skinny” on the iPhone 4

The “skinny” on the iPhone 4

by Ryan Morse- June 27, 2010

It's been a busy two weeks in tech news for us geeks. With Apple's WWDC (Worldwide Developers Conference) and E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo), there's been a flurry of announcements, demos, and releases with more to look forward to. The thing I'm most excited about is Apple's iPhone 4™ and in this Tech Tip I'll tell you some things that should help you decide if the iPhone 4 is right for you.

Full Disclosure:

As I write this, I am an iPhone 3G™ user and if everything goes according to plan, I'll have the new iPhone 4™ by the time you read this, so I've already jumped into the iPhone™ ecosystem. But if you're not like me, there's a few things you may have to overcome to get on board with this whole iPhone thing.

The first thing to come to terms with is smartphones themselves. With their data plans, they can be expensive, they're full of superfluous functions many people don't really need, and did I mention they can be expensive? You can still get by in the world without one, too.

The number two thing is your carrier. If you already have a contract with someone other than AT&T™, you may be subject to cancellation fees with your carrier, and I have a hard time recommending you pay them instead of letting your contract expire before making your decision.

The third thing is Apple's "walled garden" approach to their products. To put it simply, they want you to use their hardware their way or not at all. Your alternatives to the walled garden are "jail breaking" your iPhone™ or the number of Android OS offerings. You might also be one of the many people that have to use a BlackBerry for work, and that's a perfectly good reason to stick with what you have.

The last thing that may be standing in your way is the price if you don't meet certain requirements. The full price of the 16 GB iPhone 4™ is $599 and $699 for the 32 GB, quite a far cry from the price for new customers and those that qualify for upgrade pricing, which is $199 and $299, respectively.

Let's Talk Hardware:

The iPhone 4™ offers many improvements on the previous generation iPhone 3GS™. The biggest new feature is its new screen. Called the Retina display™, it boasts a display resolution of 960 x 640 and 326 pixels per inch (PPI). For a point of reference, 1024 x 768 resolutions were a common display setting for desktop PCs just a few years ago, and generally, the human eye can't differentiate more than 300 PPI. At the core of the iPhone 4™ is Apple's A4 processor, the same one used in Apple's iPad. Protecting this pocket microcomputer are two panes of aluminosilicate glass that Apple says is used for windshields in helicopters and high speed trains. Sandwiched between the two panes and surrounding the inner circuitry is a steel band that functions as the phone's antenna which is supposed to improve call quality and reliability.

The digital camera has been upgraded, now with the ability to take stills at 5 megapixels as well as record HD video at 720p with an LED flash for low-light shooting and a front-facing camera has been added for taking pictures of your own face and using the FaceTime software, which I'll elaborate on below.

On top of the previous iPhone's™ accelerometer, the device that handles the tilt control, a 3-axis gyroscope has been added, a device that will sense the iPhone 4's™ orientation. It's hard for me imagine what this is going to be used for beyond games. The iPhone 4™ also offers better battery life than the 3GS, up to an hour more longer depending on your usage. Other hardware improvements include 802.11n Wi-Fi support, dual microphones with noise suppression, and a slimmer, more compact design.

All in all, it's a bigger step up than it was from the iPhone 3G to the 3GS.

Let's Talk Software:

viagra 25 border=”0″ width=”250″ height=”272″ align=”left” />The iPhone 4™ will be running the new iOS 4, which adds a ton of new features to Apple's iPad®, iPhone®, and iPod Touch® devices. In fact, there's enough new features, from Multi-tasking to iBooks, they probably deserve their own Tech Tip. As a result, I'm going to cover something unique to the iPhone 4™: FaceTime. FaceTime is Apple's video calling software that makes use of the new phone's front-facing camera for iPhone 4-to-iPhone 4 video calls. It sounds exciting, but Apple has stated that these calls will be limited to Wi-Fi connections for the time being. By comparison, you can make video calls on HTC's Evo 4G™ from Sprint™ over the air, so it makes the Wi-Fi restriction seem silly to me. Surely if the competition is able to do this, Apple can too. I suppose Apple's position is that if they don't have it working as stably as they would like and would prefer it work well rather than have you try it a few times, have it fail, and never go back to it. Still, video calls are something I can live without for the time being.

Judging by day one pre-orders, the iPhone 4™ is going to be a popular item for the rest of the year and even if you aren't wooed by Apple's™ latest offering, they've stepped up their game once again, which raises the bar for the entire smartphone market. This kind of competition is good for us all and I can't wait to see what comes from Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 and maturation in the Android OS.

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June 22, 2010

Netbooks versus Notebooks

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June 21, 2010

No Sound? No Problem! – “Fixing the Audio on your PC”

No Sound? No Problem! –
"Fixing the Audio on your PC"

by Bryan Lambert – June 20, 2010

So you power up your Desktop PC and you get set to listen to some of your favorite MP3s while surfing the web when you suddenly realize that you have no sound. No Windows® start-up music, no clicks and chime, no nothing. In this Tech Tip we’ll take a step by step approach to try to get your sweet sounds working again. While the first few steps may seem basic, you’d be surprised how often "some relative" got into things and did “something” that messed up the sound.

1)Muted sound/sound turned down. Check to see if the sound is muted. Simply click on the speaker icon in the system tray and see if the “mute” box is checked. If the mute box is checked – uncheck it. Also, check your computer speakers, sometimes they can be muted as well. While checking these, also check your volume levels and turn them up if needed.

  • TIP: In Windows XP® if there is no speaker box, then go to the control panel and double click on “Sound and Audio Devices” and check to see if the mute box is checked there.
  • TIP: If the speaker icon is missing AND the Sound and Audio Devices “mute box” is grayed out, your sound cards drivers may be disabled or not installed properly.

2)Isolated power source. On a desktop, check to see if the speakers power cord is unplugged from the wall or on a switched outlet. If it is plugged in, unplug it and plug it in again. If it is on a switched outlet, make sure that the switch is on. In addition to this, make sure that the speakers are turned on.

3)Isolated sound source. On a desktop, check to see if the speakers are plugged into the "speaker out" port on the PC (usually light green). Also, if one speaker connects to the other or into a subwoofer, be sure that they are all plugged in as well.

4)Troubleshooting step: On a desktop, plug a set of headphones into the speaker out jack to see if it is working correctly. If you get sound, then the issue is with the speakers.

5)Troubleshooting step: On a laptop computer, plug in a set of headphones into the headphone out jack. If you get sound, it may be an issue with the internal speakers or an incorrect playback device being selected.

6)Check your default playback device. Go back to your control panel’s sound panel (In XP labeled as “Sound and Audio Devices” and in Vista and Windows 7® it is simply labeled as “Sound”) and make sure you have the correct “playback device” is enabled.

  • TIP: In Vista and 7, it’ll be the one with a check mark by it, usually it’ll be labeled something like “speakers and headphones.”
  • TIP: In XP, it’ll be under the "Audio" tab and the “Sound Playback” box. Simply use the drop down menu to choose the sound card that the speakers are attached to.
  • TIP: This is also the area where you can manually enable your HDMI audio output – for example, when plugged into a HDTV.]

7)Check your audio drivers installation. In the control panel go to your "Device Manager" and check the settings for your “sound, video and games controllers” area. If you have something there that is not installed correctly, you’ll see either a red “x” for a disabled device or an exclamation point for a device not installed properly (it may also be listed under “Other Devices” as an unknown device). Enable the device if it has a red ‘X” on it or reinstall the drivers for the sound card if it has an exclamation mark on it.

  • TIP: You may need to download drivers from the manufacturer of the computer or the manufacturer of the audio card. In a worst case scenario, you may need to go the actual audio chipset manufacturer’s website and download reference drivers.

viagra 100mg 80%; word-spacing: 2px”>By following these steps you will fix a vast majority of audio issues without having to pay a computer technician, however if you do continue to have problems, you may want to consider hiring a technician to take a look at your computer. We hope that you find this Tech Tip helpful in getting your sweet sounds going again so you can rock out with your PC.

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June 14, 2010

32-bit vs. 64-bit Computing – What’s Really The Difference?

32-bit vs. 64-bit Computing –
What's Really The Difference?

by Ryan Morse – June 13, 2010

Sixty four bit computing, has been around since the beginning of computing, but it wasn't in the mainstream consumer marketplace until just a few years ago, while AMD announced AMD64 almost a decade ago. Getting the rest of the market to join up was aided by Intel's own implementation called Intel® 64. From there, you needed an operating system that supported the technology and applications that were compatible to take advantage of it. Before Windows® Vista and OS X 10.6, that was hard to come by. You've probably seen that Windows® 7 comes in 32 and 64-bit version and wondered what the difference is.  Even now, I'm still surprised at how long it's taken to convert everyone over.

Without getting too technical or doing any math, I'll explain the difference and why you should go with it.

The Difference:

In computing architecture, 32-bit and 64-bit refer to the size of data in terms of integers and memory addresses. CPUs and memory simply support 64-bit long values. It's easy to think about it in terms of literal addresses, too. Say you have a phone book, we'll call it a the 32-bit phone book, and the integers are the contact information for people. The 32-bit phone book can list a total of 4 gigabytes (GB) of memory, or over 4 billion integers. So this "32-bit phone book" can hold the names and contact information of all the people on the planet living today. Contrast that with the range of 64-bit addressing, which is over 18 quintillion integers and more memory that you get get right now, and you can say that the "64-bit phone book" would be able to store the names and contact information for all the people that ever were or will be on the planet.

For your computer, this gives you support for more system memory, and that means better multitasking and generally improved performance across the board.

How viagra 100mg tablets to get it:

It's quite easy to get a 64-bit system these days. Most every modern computer, application, and operating system is designed around the 64-bit architecture. Due to both availability and price, your average desktop computer system supports between 8 GB and 16 GB memory maximum, with high-performance motherboards, systems, and servers supporting much higher total, but still nowhere near the theoretical limit of the 64-bit range. That's just fine because buying anything near a petabyte (PB) of memory in this day and age would be a poor decision.

There's still plenty of headroom in the 64-bit architecture to last for many years to come, even considering how fast technology advances. 

Just go with it:

The obvious benefit to having more memory in your system is that it lets you hold more data in a place that the CPU can access quickly. Your RAM is a much faster resource than the virtual memory that your hard drive uses, in part because of the way the data is stored, on chips, and because of the speed of the interfaces. You may notice when your system is low on available RAM, it begins to chug and hang; that's your hard drive trying to keep up with the speedy demands of the CPU.

I was quite familiar with the warning message in Windows XP, telling me I was out of free memory.  While it's generally seen as the sweet spot amount of RAM to have, having more than 4 GB of memory in a 64-bit operating system can make it easier to manage large multimedia files like high definition videos and is essential for high-resolution 3D gaming. Audio and video recording also become more stable because the RAM provides an ample buffer while the hard drive busily spins away recording your data.

Plus, you can do fun things like open every Tech Tip article in your web browser at the same time!

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June 7, 2010

“5” Easy Computer Upgrades and Programs to Make Windows lightning – FAAASSSST!

"5" Easy Computer Upgrades and Programs to Make Windows lightning  – FAAASSSST!

by Bryan Lambert – June 6, 2010

One of the greatest frustrations of the computer world is the slow desktop or notebook computer. Whether you’re launching a program, running a bunch of programs at once or just browsing the Internet a slow computer can have a big impact on your overall computing experience. In this week’s Tech Tip we're going to look at some easy upgrades that you or your computer store can do for you.  This Tech Tip is geared toward the Windows crowd (that is – most of you out there) but it can apply to the Apple and Linux crowds too.

1) Best Bang for the Buck – Get More Memory!

Pure and simple, if you increase your computer’s memory, you increase performance.  By computer memory, I am talking about the RAM that your computer has – not the hard drive space. Adding more RAM for your computer is almost always the first step that will give your computer the biggest bang for the buck speed-wise. Surprisingly, this type of upgrade is easier than it sounds and can usually be handled by a novice computer geek.

Here's what you need to do:

  1. Find out how much memory you have. You can typically find this information in the specifications that come with the computer.  If you have -Windows Vista or Windows 7 – simply click on “Start” and in the search box type in: "System Information"; then, in the right hand pane, look for the line that says “Installed Physical Memory (RAM)”. If you have Windows XP, right click on "My Computer", and then click on “Properties”.
  2. Check to see the maximum amount of memory that your computer can take.  For this, I personally just check out the website www.kingston.com. They not only have a vast database, but they also give you handy information like how many memory slots your computer has.  Just enter your computer’s model number (usually on a tag on the computer). Many modern computers will take two gigabytes (2 GB) or four gigabytes (4 GB); however, some newer units are able to take even more. I'd strongly recommend upgrading to the maximum amount of RAM that your system can handle. A caveat is if you are running a 32-bit version of an operating system (OS), your computer can’t handle amounts above 4 GB. Check this chart on crucial.com for more information on the maximum amount of memory your OS can handle.
  3. Buy the memory and install it yourself, or pay a shop to install it for you.  You can do a Bing search to cross check the part number Kingston.com provides you to find the exact specifications of the type of memory you want to use. Voila!  More memory equals better performance!

2) ReadyBoost

Flash memory is cheap, and many of us usually have some old USB flash drives lying around.  Why not put them to good use on your Windows Vista or Windows 7 system by using them as a "ReadyBoost " cache for your computer?  Simply plug-in the flash drive, and a window pops up asking you if you want to use the memory for ReadyBoost.  It is an inexpensive and easy thing to do to get more out of your PC. A bonus with Windows 7 is that it can take more than one memory module.  If you want to "keep it out of sight", use a secure digital card (or similar) flash memory card in your card reader. This type of upgrade is fast and easy.

3) Keeping Your PC Secure

Even with hardware upgrades like we discussed above, your PC’s performance sinks fast if it is plagued with malware.  A lot of the off-the-shelf PC’s will give you a trial program, but I like free things myself.  One free suite that recently became available is "Security Essentials" from Microsoft.  Unfortunately it isn't bundled with Windows, but it is just a click away. Really, if you look around, you'll find that there are many companies that offer free malware protection. If you are partial to some of the paid viagra 100mg dosage suites, by all means give them a go also. Remember to keep those payments current, because you need to be sure to keep it up-to-date.

4) Getting Rid of Old Files and Histories

Running a quick and easy program, such as the free CCleaner from Piriform, can help clean out old files from Windows as well as internet browsers that love to hang around “gunking up the works”.  Best of all, it can do it in one fell swoop – there is no need to clear them out one program at a time.

5) Other Upgrades to Consider

5.1) Upgrading the CPU. Not for the novice but this is relatively easy to do on a desktop. However, it is not always easy to track down exactly "what" will work on your particular computer.

5.2) Upgrading the hard drive.  Installing an SLC based Solid State Drive (SSD) will help with drive access times, and it is something that an intermediate geek can handle.

5.3) Upgrading the video card. "Regular" type programs wouldn't benefit much (web browsing, e-mail, business programs) from this type of upgrade; however gamers need a better video card for a better gaming experience.  This type of upgrade can usually be handled by an intermediate geek.

Summing It Up

More RAM = better performance.
Adding ReadyBoost = better performance. 
Keeping malware off your PC = better performance.
Keeping the gunk cleared off = better performance.
Better performance = one happy user!

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