Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Point of a Desktop?

What is the point of a desktop computer? For most people a desktop offers power, expandability and easy maintenance at the expense of portability. This is why desktops work well in the office but what about at home? What if you like like to be on the computer in the living room while watching TV as well as in the bedroom or office for "real work"? Is this the true place of the iPad?

The last time I made this decision I went for a desktop with lots of power so I could power 2 monitors plus a TV and a laptop that was super light and portable. I assumed I'd be using the desktop when I was at home and that I'd need a Intel Core i7 processor, 8 GB of RAM, 1 TB HD, etc. But what for? I almost never use my desktop except for watching movies and occasionally running a virtual machine.

On the other hand I use my laptop every day all the time. Sometimes I take it to work for an additional screen. I use it while watching TV - especially football (the 49ers are horrible this year and I'm forced to watch their pathetic attempts online) and while in my personal office for work and fun. Gaming? That's what the XBOX 360 is for of course.

At this point I feel like my desktop is wasted and devaluing. I have a few servers that are handled remotely and my laptop can extend to at least one 19" LCD offering a much more "stationary" experience. So that's what I've done. I've removed my desktop and one of my two monitors and am now using my laptop as my only computer. If this works I'll have to decide what to do with my TV (maybe get an Apple TV) but I'll deal with that issue when it comes.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

New MacBook Air vs. Old MacBook Air

The new MacBook Airs (MBA) arrived yesterday as Apple showed off two new models with 11" and 13"screens. Both models come with SSDs (the 11" only has a 64GB drive), larger, longer batteries and a much needed case redesign that adds one more USB port and removes the annoying flip down port cover that the original came with.

As you can imagine I felt the need to compare my 13" MBA to the new model. Besides the obvious case and battery changes what does the new version have that mine doesn't? Two things: the ability to expand the memory to 4 GB and an updated graphics card. Not bad for a year old model! That spells good news for current MBA users; you have little reason to upgrade to a new machine, unless you didn't get an SSD, want an smaller screen and/or want to upgrade to 4GB on memory (which again is only available on the 13" model).

The 4GB of memory is the main thing that entices me... and maybe the upgraded processor. But is upgrading from a Core 2 Duo 1.86GHz processor to a 2.0GHz processor worth $100? One of the case design flaws that I've learned to deal with is having the mini Display port, USB and headphone jack right next to each other. With a USB cable plugged into the slot there is no way to get a headphone jack plugged in. That means living with just adequate sound.

Is it just me or does an 11" screen on the new MBAs make it seem like Apple is targeting would be netbook users? Maybe higher-end netbook users? Maybe that's just a coincidence.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

MacBook Air Year One

I took my MacBook Air (MBA) into the Apple store yesterday because the screws in the casing appear to be stripped. I was a little surprised when they told me the warranty would expire in one day. It took a minute but it's still a little hard to believe I've already had it for a year.

While I reflect on that year of use I can't help but think of the problems I've encountered with it:
  1. Initially I had a problem with bootcamp that the "Geniuses" at Apple couldn't solve
  2. Then I had a malfunctioning fan that made a strange noise
  3. Now the screws are stripping out of the case.
These issues really haven't been that bad, more of a hassle than anything else. Yet I can't help but wonder what will the next year bring? Do I want to drop an extra $200 to extend the warranty for the next two years? Or just suck it up?

Regardless of how long it takes to repair I'm going to have to survive the next few weeks without a laptop. Maybe if I can't make it that long I really don't need a laptop anymore..? In fact maybe I can replace it with an iPad like I discussed a few days ago. After all I can just write my blog posts on my iPhone like I'm doing right now!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

New site using

I just paid for the premium service at and moved my domain to it. I like the design of the site and how it essentially points to all my other sites Flickr, My Technology Fetish, SearchNrecovery, LinkedIn and Facebook status (if it ever updates - at this point its out of date by 10 months).

Friday, October 8, 2010

iPad replacing a laptop

Have you ever given much thought as to whether an iPad could replace your laptop? Lately I have been. Maybe it's been the rumors of new MacBook Air's (MBA's) coming out which will really antiquate mine. Or maybe it's the promise of a brilliant looking touch screen (when will laptops also have touch screens?). The problem with an iPad and probably any mobile device (read Playbook, Kindle, etc.) is that most of them will be designed for consuming media and not creating media.

I guess it really all depends on the user but as it turns out I do quite a lot of consuming media (reading blog posts, news sources like the Wall Street Journal, Wired and, etc.) and creating media (writing blog posts, writing a report for the occasional class, taking notes in OneNote, creating virtual environments, etc).

Most of the creating I do could easily be done via the web - except the major word processor companies don't allow editing through mobile browsers. Have you ever tried to log onto Google Docs or Windows Live Apps from an iPad or mobile phone? You can read but you can't write! Sure I could still blog through but I wouldn't be able to upload new flickr pictures or test / create new virtual machines. It's not like I do that often but when I want to I want to now not later!

Maybe future tablets will fix this functionality gap or maybe Google and Microsoft will fix the problems themselves. I mean who wants to have to buy additional Apple word processing and spreadsheet apps when there are perfectly good versions online? In the meantime computer manufacturers have no reason to fear iPad's cannibalizing laptop sales - at least not from me!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

MacBook Pro vs. MacBook Air 128 SSD Benchmarks

I recently purchased a new MacBook Pro (MBP) with a 128 GB SSD drive and given my desire to benchmark SSD performance in my MacBook Air (found here, here and here) I've decided to do the same with the MacBook Pro. 

I ran AD SSD Benchmark on the brand new MBP and here are the results:

As you can see the sequential read speed was 196.19 MB/s and the sequential writes were 159.83 MB/s. (I wish I knew the manufacturer specified read and write speeds as a comparison.) I won't know the performance decreases until the machine has been in use for a number of months so I'll have to re run the tests in six months or so and post those results.

Until then here are the specs for the MacBook Pro:
  • 15 inch MacBook Pro
  • 2.4GHz Intel Core i5 Processor
  • 4GB Memory
  • 128 GB SSD model number AGAA0206 (manufacturer is probably Samsung)
  • NVIDIA GeForce GT 330M Graphics card with 256MB memory
You can compare* the above benchmarks to my MBA's drives sequential read speed of 90.98 MB/s and read speed of 29.00 MB/s.

*These numbers are actually not quite comparable because:  
  1. The MBA is a used drive, which means most of the performance degradation has already occurred while the MBP is still brand new and as fast as it will ever be.
  2. The MBA is tiny and so the drive inside is only a 1.4" form factor compared to the 2.0" form factor for the MBP. I'm not sure how this affects the drive but again not directly comparable.
Also here are some numbers from running the new SSD drive in Windows 7:
  1. Cold Boot Time was about 58.9 seconds
  2. Shutdown Time was about 10.2 seconds
  3. Time Launching Apps:
    1. Firefox was about 1.5 seconds
    2. IE was about 1.2 seconds
    3. Visual Studio 2008 (no solution opened) was about 0.9 seconds 
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    Wednesday, October 6, 2010

    Memory for a Dell PowerEdge 860 Server and Precision T3400 Workstation

    I've been shopping for memory for a Dell PowerEdge 860 rackmount server and for a Dell Precision T3400 workstation. The specs aren't 100% clear on what type of memory it uses so here it is:

    • For the PowerEdge 860 it can take either PC2-5300 or PC2-6400 ECC (error code correcting) unbuffered, unregistered 667MHz 240-pin modules. The maximum these machines can handle is 8GB or 2GB for each of the 4 slots. The memory must be installed in pairs of modules. 
    • For the Precision T3400 workstation it can take the same as the PowerEdge 860 or even PC2-8500 modules. I believe the maximum memory allowed is 16GB on these machines.
    The good news is if you have PC2-5300 they should be compatible across both machines. Unless you've turned off ECC for the T3400.

    Monday, October 4, 2010

    Pictures of my old Samsung Q1 with Windows 7

    This was originally posted to on April 23, 2009:

    I promised these photos of Windows 7 running on my UMPC a while ago:

    This is a picture of my Samsung Q1 with Windows 7 running. You can see the desktop with the Beta Fish (one of my favorite backgrounds) and the new taskbar. If you look closely you can also see the Windows 7 build information in the lower right hand corner!

    With Windows Vista installed my Ultra Mobile has a Windows Experience Index of 2.0. As you can see with Windows 7 it only has a 1.5 rating, which means either Windows 7 didn't like the drivers or that Windows 7 is a little more intense in terms of it's requirements. Microsoft has stated the minimum requirements are the same, so I would venture to say the drivers may not be perfect. Does anyone know if Samsung plans to support drivers later than Windows Vista on their Q1s?

    I wonder if other manufacturers of UMPCs will support Windows 7...? With Windows 7 going to be out near the holiday season and Windows 8 on a time line for 2011, I think were up for an exciting time in the Ultra Mobile world! The last picture I took shows My Computer with how much hard drive space the basic Windows 7 install took up.