Archive for the ‘Computing’ Category
One thing you don’t often think of for home use is a rackmount computer system.
However, that’s really what you should be looking at if you’re into something like serious gaming. Usually for gaming you’ll be sold the top end home computers but you can get a lot more for the money if you look at rackmount systems which basically start where the high end home PCs leave off so you’ve a lot more scope for heavy duty computing power.
Your only additional upfront cost is the rack itself but that’s something that doesn’t need to replace when you’re upgrading the components of your system.Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.
What laptop do you use?
A few years back, that would have been an easy question to answer as laptops were so expensive that most people only had their work one.
Prices have dived though and that’s even before you consider the additional categories like netbooks and the newer tablet computers. For that matter, would you consider an ebook reader as a very small notebook computer? I suspect that most of us wouldn’t although the Sony runs a version of Linux so technically speaking it is a very small computer.
With that price drop the baby computers have long since ventured into home use and a growing number of people use several of them. I find that I use the little Acer netbook that I bought basically as a toy much more than both my other computers put together. Whilst it may not be as fast as them, it certainly makes up for lack of speed though sheer portability.Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.
The rise of the barcode scanner
The humble barcode scanner was always the poor relation of computer input devices historically.
It was there simply to read numbers and any processing was done behind the scenes by proper computers. Mostly it was used in industrial contexts though most people came across it in the supermarket where, of course, it is indispensible.
However, the usefulness of a simple printed code that can be read by an equally simple device has led to the widening of its use through the barcodes “printed” on computer screens that allow you to load software directly onto your Android phone.
These new barcode readers are mainly software that interprets the photograph taken by the camera in the phone so they’re considerably more sophisticated than the humble scanners that were formerly used in supermarkets.Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.
Adjusting to the ASUS tablet
After much debate as to the best tablet to get I finally settled on the ASUS transformer.
Why that one? Well, my first criteria was that I wanted a bigger ebook reader which eliminated all the 7″ tablets. In practice it seemed to leave the Motorola Xoom and the ASUS transformer. Ignoring the price difference (quite substantial) the Motorola has a non functional microSD slot which doesn’t strike me with confidence for the rest of it.
Anyway, the move to the ASUS went really smoothly. First up was a PDF reader which would normally be the Adobe one but it’s not really a runner if you’re reading more than the odd brochure so I’ve opted for Repligo ($5) which has all the facilities that the Adobe one should have had. In many ways, it’s the equivalent of the Sony reader software but for Android ie you can do the essentials like jumping to a page number and enlarge the font which are features generally absent from PDF readers on tablets.
Also essential is the Screen Filter (free) application which turns down the brightness to a more appropriate level. You might think that you’d want something that sets the screen brightness directly but leaving it on automatic with the filter means that it adjusts automatically for changing light conditions but with a dimmer backlight than the standard setting gives you. Not only does this bump up the battery life somewhat but it saves on eyestrain.
The ASUS comes with Polaris office which, in theory, is handy if you feel the urge to run up a document with the onscreen keyboard but would probably be a lot more useful with the optional keyboard attachment. It includes word processing, spreadsheet and presentation packages, all of which seem fairly basic.
Sketchbook Express (free) combined with a capacitative pen (£5 from Maplin) is proving to be very handy in running up illustrations for the assignments. Whilst the capacitative screen is very nice when doing the finger swiping, it would be a lot more convenient to be able to use a normal stylus and certainly more accurate when drawing.
Playing videos isn’t as easy as it should be as the supplied player doesn’t currently support a whole lot. Adding Moboplayer (free) sorted out the majority of those with the rather flaky VPlayer (free) adding the final piece. Moai FLV (free) handles FLV files. Incidently, although the BBC iPlayer won’t run, you can just go to the iPlayer site and play the videos from there.
Overall, it’s a very nice tablet that does all that I was wanting it to do plus a lot more besides.Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.
Sorting out PXE-E61 on Ubuntu Linux
Wendy’s laptop downed tools a few days ago. Completely downed tools in fact as it wouldn’t even boot from the Ubuntu live USB flash drive that I keep for such situations.
Ubuntu was unhelpful in diagnosing the problem as it just went into the Grub menu and no further. However, it’s a dual-boot machine so I had a go at starting it up in Windows which threw up “PXE-61E media test failure check cable”. Not overly helpful given that it’s a laptop and doesn’t have a drive cable as such. Even more interesting was that a) Grub loaded and b) it was able to access all the files on the disk (you can try this via Grub’s ls and cat commands eg cat (hd0,6)/boot/grub/menu.lst).
Anyway, I thought I’d have a go at reinserting the drive. No luck, but since Grub could see the drive contents I thought I’d have a go at copying off the files. Nothing doing re booting the machine via the live USB flash with the drive in. However, it booted up fine with the drive taken out which in turn opened up the option of installing Ubuntu on a USB drive. That worked just fine.
Wendy’s laptop downed tools a few days ago. Completely downed tools in fact as it wouldn’t even boot from the Ubuntu live USB drive that I keep for such situations.
Ubuntu was unhelpful in diagnosing the problem as it just went into the Grub menu and no further. However, it’s a dual-boot machine so I had a go at starting it up in Windows which threw up “PXE-61E media test failure check cable”. Not overly helpful given that it’s a laptop and doesn’t have a drive cable as such.
Next step was booting the system up from the USB drive that I’d just created but with the old disk attached. That worked fine too and I figured it was off to buy a new drive. Last thing software-wise worth trying was to run the Ubuntu disk-utility on the old drive which sorted out whatever was the problem with it and it’s working fine now.
So minus a day or two of messing around but plus a fully bootable Ubuntu drive and fresh backup.Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.