Oct 31, 2012

Oct - 24 2012 | By

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The guys talked about the new Windows 8 saying it's relatively inexpensive. Paul restated what he said in the last show, that doing an upgrade over an older version of Windows is not a good idea.
– If you've been using Vista, this is a chance to move on to a better OS.
– If you've been using XP for some time and haven't reloaded it, it may be suffering from what Paul called 'old Windows syndrome'. He said that after about 3 years it starts to go 'pear shaped' and, in a business setting, it happens even sooner. He didn't say what he meant by 'pear shaped'. <I think he meant it gets sluggish>. An upgrade to Win8 is something to consider, in this case.
– Remember to backup your data and be sure it can be restored before upgrading.
– Some versions of an operating system have a discounted price for the upgrade. You'll normally need to justify your ownership — usually you'll need to insert the disk from the older OS. Additionally, the copy of the older Windows has to be legitimate and authenticated (Microsoft has to know that it's legitimate).
– One way to go is to take out the old hard drive, put in a new one and then install the new operating system.
– When you install an operating system, unplug any external drives, including flash drives. This is especially true when installing Windows XP because you may end up with it being installed to a weird drive letter (rather than the typical C: drive) and you'll have to start over.

Rather than upgrading, consider getting a new computer. The costs of new machines are pretty low. If your machine is up to 7 years old, it should still be good for web browsing, word processing, etc. If it has a dual core CPU, so much the better. A single core CPU that's over 2 gighertz in speed is ok too. Having 1gig of memory (RAM) is advised — memory is not that expensive.

Glenn said Fry's has a 15.6" ASUS laptop dual core computer with an E2 Vision AMD chip, 4gig memory, 500gig hard drive for $278. There is usually a $16 to $18 recycling fee. It has Windows 7 and you can upgrade to Windows 8 Pro for $14.99. The sale lasts 2 days.

The Microsoft Surface tablet has debuted last week. Mentioned in the last show is an article about it.

The Google ChromeBook is also out. It's a 12" notebook built by Samsung. It operates on a Google operating system, similar to Android, Glenn speculated. Paul said it mainly runs the Chrome web browser and everything is done on the web. The base model is $249 that uses wi-fi. The $449 model comes with 3G connectivity <cellular and optional, as noted below> including 2 years of free 100 megabytes per month data allowance from Verizon. With both units you'll get something like 100 gigabytes of web storage, but it's free for only 2 years and you'll have to pay a subscription fee after that. So, do your homework before jumping in. <It was mentioned in the last show>

Paul mentioned that the app stores for both Android and Apple iTunes have approximately equal number of apps — at about 700,000.

Microsoft is being sued for patent violations in the Surface tablet. The problem is the tiling feature (icons are presented as tiles on the screen). Another company is claiming ownership of the idea that a running application shows a thumbnail view of what's going on in the background. <There's an article about the suit here.>

The Surface runs Windows RT and Paul wasn't sure what the RT stands for — maybe 'runtime' or 'real time'. It looks a lot like Windows 8. <As I understand it, RT is Windows 8 made to work on the ARM processor, which is popular in the tablets. >

The Mac OS from about version 10 to the current version has been pretty consistent in the user experience. However, going from Windows XP to Windows 7 has required acclimation for many people and may have caused some to migrate to the Mac. With Windows XP it was possible to make it act like an earlier version (Windows 2000 or '98) but Windows 7 or 8 can't be made to act like XP, Paul said.

Glenn read off some specs for the ChromeBook: the $449 version is the model 550, comes with apps built-in, 12.1" display, less than 1" thin, 3.3 pounds, 6 hours of battery time, boots in less than 8 seconds, dual-band wi-fi, gigabit Ethernet, a 3G modem is optional. The $249 base model has a 11.6" display, it's .7 inch thick, 2.42 pounds, 6 hours battery time, boots in less than 10 seconds and dual-band wi-fi

Glenn said he saw the Samsung Galaxy Tablet 2, mentioned in last week's show, on sale for $289. And Paul noted there is a huge shakeout going on in this market. The Android operating system is free of royalties and that contributes to lower prices.

Paul mentioned the model PD20, a 7" tablet running Android 4.03. < <I think this is the one mentioned in last week's show. This MIGHT be the unit, I'm not sure & I don't endorse the website.>. In using Android, you're tied to Google and you'll sacrifice some privacy (they'll know what files you store, what websites you visit, etc.). You can opt out of the "privacy act", but many features will no longer be available.

Glenn thanked the people who've become KVMR members.

Paul talked about cost of expertise and he related a story involving the ship Queen Mary. At one point the ship was in for repairs and the onboard engineers couldn't get the boilers running so an expert was called in. He spent a half an hour and eventually used a big wrench to bang on the pipes to get it working again. The charge for the service was $1000 and the captain was suspicious of an overcharge and asked he itemize the bill. The mechanic said it's $10 for the couple of minutes I spent banging the pipes, and $990 for knowing where to bang.

Paul said his Mac uses the Mountain Lion operating system and it has sandboxing — when you run an application, it operates inside a sandbox (it runs isolated from the rest of the apps). The Google Chrome browser is like that — if something crashes in one tab, it doesn't affect the other tabs. The Google ChromeBook inherits that trait.

Michael called. He started with computer in 1984 using the Sinclair ZX81, went to DOS, an now uses Linux. He encouraged the guys to talk more about it and promote it. He thinks it's superior to both Mac & Windows. It has 10's of thousands of programs, most of which are free or ask only for a donation.
– Paul works with Linux and Glenn had a ne tbook with Linux, but Linux just wasn't embraced by the public.
– It is useful for recovering data from a hard drive when an operating system refuses to boot. <This was talked about in the last show>.
– The guys don't think Linux will ever make it into the mainstream.
– One of the things holding it back is that it comes in different flavors. Currently, Paul prefers the Ubuntu version from ubuntu.com
– It can be used to resurrect older computers that are not adequate for running the latest Windows or Mas OSes because it's requirements are more modest.
– If you don't want to burn a CD with Linux, you can get the Ubuntu folks to mail you one for a donation of a few bucks.
– Some familiar programs run on Linux: Firefox and OpenOffice or LibreOffice and Celestia for example. <See comments about OpenOffice and LibreOffice in Favorite Programs & Utilities>
– It's a "tremendous educational resource" for the kids and there are "oodles of games".
– A number of departments at KVMR run Linux.
<Before downloading Ubuntu, you may want to read this article about the Gnome version of Ubuntu:
Don't like Ubuntu's Unity? Try the new Gnome Remix instead>
<If you want to burn the Linux CD yourself, here are a couple of programs for burning an ISO image:
Infra Recorder…download it here
ISO Recorder>

John called. He looked up chromebook & found that it runs on an ARM processor.
– The ARM has been around for awhile. The original ARM was developed in Cambridge England for the Psion organizer, as Paul recalled.
– It's been licensed out to manufactures in Asia to make CPU's based on the ARM instruction set.

John asked if there is a future for the ARM processors; is it competitive with AMD & Intel?
– Paul said no. It uses a reduced instruction set.
– It's mainly geared to portable devices (phones & tablets).

John is also a fan of Linux and wondered if it can be loaded on the ChromeBook, which runs on an ARM processor?
– Yes. Paul thinks you should be able to make Linux run on a Chromebook.
– Linux has been compiled to run on many processors.

Bongo called. His solution to maintain privacy on his cell phone is to put it into a "crown royal box", which acts like a Faraday Cage or to wrap it in aluminum foil.
– Glenn wondered if a mylar bag would do the same thing, but Bongo said he wouldn't trust it because it's so thin.
– <I wonder if turning it off would be just as effective, or would it still leak information?>

You can find out what Facebook knows about you. There's a link on the settings page. It will allow you to download all the information they know.

Webb called with his observations about experts. He's worked in the tech industry and has noticed, from the way the engineers talked, that they are "a breed of their own" and their designs are often counterintuitive and even frustrating. "It adds to the burden of having to learn how to do these things because of the way they've got it all set up". Paul thought it has more to do with 'committees' than engineers. A well-thought-out idea gets submitted to a committee that then ruins it.

Alan Stahler sent an email with another example of a Faraday Cage: the microwave oven.
– Paul said DON'T do this: Put lightbulb (the old fashion filament type) in a dish of water in a microwave <maybe he said WITH a dish of water, I couldn't tell from the audio>. You'll get a fireworks display when you turn on the microwave.
– DON'T do this either. Put uncracked chestnuts in the microwave oven — they'll explode.

The Curious Forge is located 520 East Main Street in Grass Valley
Tomorrow they'll have their monthly 1st Thursday of the month open house. And this weekend they'll have workshops. If you're interested, email Glenn: zen at kvmr dot org. The Curious Forge website is thecuriousforge.org.

Bonnie called. She wanted to know if "aluminum wallets protect card strips from being read by people who have readers", like credit cards.
– That's just a magnetic strip and one would have to get VERY close to read it.
– A more serious concern is cards that have RFID chips, which are read by radio transmitters/receivers. Metallic screens (Faraday Cages) are needed. So if you use solid aluminum, that should do it.

Paul mentioned the Nevada City Hackathon is happening Dec 1st & 2nd. Also see the notes for the last show for more info.

Last updated 7:59 PM 11/4/2012
corrected – some rephrasing for clarity
added link – article about: Microsoft is being sued for patent violations
added link – specs for: model PD20, a 7" tablet running Android 4.03
added link – article about the Gnome version of Ubuntu
added links – a couple of programs for burning an ISO image
added link – def: instruction set & reduced instruction set
added line – def: compiled