Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Your Own Personal Radio Station

Last.fm is quickly becoming one of my favorite websites.  The concept is simple, you type the name of a musician or a genre and music by and similar to what you selected is played until you choose something new.  You cannot select individual songs, but you can skip to the next song and mark which songs you like and what songs you don't want to come up again.  They have both old and modern music and everything from classical to reggae.

Where last.fm really starts to shine is when you create your own free account.  With your own account, last.fm will keep track of what you listen to and what you skip.  Based on your patterns, it will tailor your music selections to what your listening patterns are.  Also, the website will store your most recently searched "stations" on your front page, so that you may go back to the ones that you liked.  Last.fm is not only available on your computer, but also the Xbox, iPhone and Android phones.

Monday, March 29, 2010

I'm Still Here

Sorry for the delay in new posts, I have been busy getting caught up on some personal tasks the past few days.  Stay tuned tomorrow for something different and new!  As always, thank you for your continued visits.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A Quick Note on Virus Protection

Well, two quick notes actually:

  1. Never have more than one antivirus program installed.  Not only does it not offer you more protection, the programs often can conflict with each other and bring your computer to its knees.  In fact, if you get  a virus, both programs will try to simultaneously remove the virus and this could render your computer unusable.
  2. I know I posted about Microsoft Security Essentials being a great antivirus program, but you may wonder why I am not recommending a full security suite that has antivirus, spyware protection, a firewall, phishing filter, popup blocker and all of the other fancy features that the major antivirus companies advertise.  The truth is, Windows has all of those extra features built into it.  Typically, the full security suites replace Window's built in protection with their version.  They do this with varying degrees of success, but they almost always use more of your computers resources.  I have not yet found a program that is worth the price and the loss of resources.  All you need is a good antivirus program that also scans for other types of malware.  Security Essentials is just this.  

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Whys and Whats of Updates

I have mentioned that it is important that your computer gets updates, but I have not mentioned what updates and why they are so important.  So lets get to it.

The Why

Updates fall into four major categories:

  1. Bug Fixes.  When there is a glitch in a program, device or your operating system that gets past final testing, the only way these can be fixed are through updates.
  2. Security Enhancements.  As programs get more widely used, they also get more widely abused.  Security enhancements remove any known vulnerabilities in your applications.
  3. Performance Improvements.  If you want things to work faster, some updates are put out to do just that.
  4. New Features.  If application developers are feeling generous, they may even add new features to your programs through updates.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Free Stuff Part 3

Microsoft Office is a must have program if you want to write any type of document or presentation.  Well, not exactly.  The truth is, Microsoft Office Documents are what makes the business world go round, but that does not mean that Office itself must be the set of programs to open the documents.  While I would argue that Microsoft Office is by far the best office suite available, it is not always the most affordable.  Enter Open Office. 

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Review Review

Yes I know, I haven't gotten to many product reviews, but the truth is, writing a good review takes time and I do not want to skimp on the details for the sake of getting the post done.  I am hoping to have a new one ready for next week.

In the mean time, fear not, while I look forward to sharing my thoughts on each and every gadget and program I can get my geeky paws on, others have done so before me.  If you are ever interested in learning more about a specific product, service or program, search Google for the name of what you are looking for followed by the word "review".   By using this method, you will be much more likely to get results that contain detailed reviews as opposed to simply pages selling and discussing the products.  Always remember:
  • Be as specific as you can, model numbers for products work great. 
  • Never put too much faith in one review, instead look for trends among many.  
  • Always consider your source.  While reviews always have some subjective aspects, a website that is dedicated to the downfall of Apple is not the best place to learn about the newest iPod.

Monday, March 15, 2010

My First Post From a Cell Phone

So I am writing from my phone not because it is easier or because I am out some place away from home, but rather to demonstrate how far technology has come.  I know, this is nothing new to most of you, but I am doing it to make a point that you may have not ever considered.

If you go back 10 years ago, cell phones did not have touch screens or access to the internet.  In fact, they did not even have color screens.  The ability to write a blog post on a cell phone required an almost innumerable number of advancements in technology to make possible.  This was not done in a day.  In fact, many of the advancements that it took to get here were relatively small, but it is the accumulation of them that makes this post possible.  Again, nothing new if you think about it.

As someone who spends his days around technology and those that use it, I commonly hear frustration whenever anything on a computer changes.  Whether it is design, features or functionality, people tend to resist change.  However, you cannot get from black and white screens to blogging in bed without changes.  Rather then approaching technology as if it should conform to your experience, keep an open mind and explore what is new.  If you do this, not only will using a computer be easier, but you might learn how to do something new in the process.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Shopping for a New PC

In the early days of computers, buying a computer was easy.  The more you spent, the faster the processor was and the better you programs would run.  Although, back then that new computer might have set you back $5,000, so that part was not easy.  Today, computers are more affordable than ever, but it is also harder to pick one out.  This may be intimidating, but keep in mind, having options is a good thing.  Lets first talk about what to pay less attention to, and then we will look at what is good to focus on.  Keep in mind, great deals on computers are often on older technologies.  You may pay less, but it will not last as long.  A great value is key.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Network Backup

A network backup is not exactly different from the previously mentioned file or system backups, but rather it is a different method for doing either type.  Both the file and system backups require you to plug in some sort of storage device to the computer that you would like to backup.  With the network backup, you use another computer on your home network or a network attached hard drive to hold all of your backup data.  The hardest part of this type of backup is getting the proper equipment and setting it up.  One advantage is that your backup is always physically separated from your main computer, but the biggest advantage to this method is that you can backup multiple computers to one location.  This is great for those households or small businesses that have multiple computers that all hold important information on them.

Friday, March 12, 2010

The System Backup

 A few days ago I wrote about how to back up just your files.  While that is a good start, a full system backup is a better option for most people.  With a system backup, you can have a new hard drive installed in your computer and get everything back the way it was with a few clicks of your mouse.  With this method, not only are your personal files backed up, but your entire operating system, installed programs and any other files are duplicated.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

I Have a Problem

Yes, I said this week I would cover three main types of backups.  Yes, I have only covered one.  There are still two days left!  First, I have to come clean about something.  Something I am not proud of.  Something not many people know about.  I have a problem.  I like mice.  Not the little furry things pictured here, but the kind that you use to control your computer.  Well, not the kind you probably use to control your computer, but the kind that you could be using to control your computer if you are as big of a Geek as me.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

A Great Way to Get Music

Downloading music has changed many times over the past 10 years or so.  Some music could only be played on some devices.  Some music seemed free, but then became better known for costing people thousands of dollars in law suites.  Today, the biggest source of legally downloadable music is iTunes.  For iPod owners, this is the most direct and easiest way to get your music.  However, there is a great alternative for both iPod and non-iPod users alike.

Monday, March 8, 2010

The Most Basic Backup

File:USB Flash Drive.png

A file backup is the absolute most basic type of computer backup that you can do.  The idea behind a file backup is to make sure that your most important files are located at least one place outside of your computer.  In fact, if you copy your files onto a website, portable device or another computer, you are already doing a file backup.  None of your programs are backed up by this method, so you need to make sure you have all of the disks or downloads saved to reinstall your programs.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

My Current Top 5 Gadgets

  1. Motorola DROID Smartphone
  2. Microsoft Zune HD
  3. Logitech Harmony One Universal Remote
  4. Jawbone Icon Bluetooth Headset
  5. Razer Orochi Mouse
Honorable mention:  Lilliput 7" USB Monitor

A top 5 sounds better than a top 6 list, but I could not leave off my awesome USB monitor.  I would love to do reviews of all of these products, but just in case I do not get to it, I strongly approve of all  of the above products.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Do you Back Up?

The estimated annual failure rate of hard drives is typically believed to be around 3%.  This means that if you put 33 people in a room, with computers of any age, at least one of them will loose all of the data and programs saved on their computer this year.  The truth is, the part that stores your data, your hard drive, is one of the most likely components in your computer to fail.  Because they spin at such a high speed and are extremely sensitive to shock, your hard drive will often give out long before the remainder of you computer does.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Your Time Will Now be Wasted

Today on Lifehacker.com, one of my favorite blogs, they shared a great website for creating your own abstract art.  The website is here.

There are a few sliders at the bottom that let you control different aspects of the drawing tool.  By playing with them, you get all sorts of different effects.  I have little talent when it comes to art, so I find playing around with this website to be quite fulfilling.  I can't stop.  In fact, I probably spent more time playing with the picture for this article then the article itself.  Enjoy, and don't say I didn't warn you.


Thursday, March 4, 2010

When is a Computer Old?

People often joke that computers are out dated the day after you buy them.  More often than not, I hear the argument of, "It still works, so I don't need a new one".  These are both ends of the computer replacement spectrum.  To better understand this debate, you have to first better understand the concept of what a computer is.

Many people look as computers much in the way they do appliances or cars.  You pay a high price, they depreciate over time and you use them until they no longer work.  While there might be newer versions out, the old ones will still wash your clothes, cook your dinner or get you from point A to point B.  It is very easy to make the comparison and I can completely understand how this would make sense.  This gets even easier to justify for someone who uses their computer for little more than email and the internet.  Either way, taking this approach to computers is fundamentally flawed.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Blogging, My Week One Review

Technically Monday marked my first week writing for the BareGeek blog, but I have not gotten around to finishing this article until tonight.  I plan on checking in regularly to discuss my experience blogging as blogs themselves are a type of technology that others may be interested to learn about.

Setting up the blog was easy.  Picking my topics has been a piece of cake.  I even have a long list stored up of ideas to keep me going.  The hardest part has been the writing.  It is time consuming and I have to constantly remind myself to stay focused on each topic.  Some nights I can write with ease, others I am distracted and barely make any progress.  Blogger has a great feature that lets you sit down and write posts that you can set to post at a latter date.  This lets me write a lot when I am focused and then have it post at some point in the future.  I am getting faster at putting ideas together, but it can still be difficult at times.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Apple Makes a Move for Cell Phone Dominance

Whether you have heard of HTC, or not, you probably soon will.  In years past, HTC has made cell phones that were later re-branded by many major cell service providers.  More recently, they have been selling smartphones under their own brand name with great success.  Their phones are available on almost all of the major carriers and run either Windows Mobile or Google's Android operating system.

Today, Apple filed suit against HTC claiming that the majority of their phones infringe on 20 of the patents that Apple holds.  Most of the patents are vague and will be difficult to clearly enforce against HTC.  Apple is asking for triple the damages and for an injunction on all sales of HTC phones.  Apple has alleged similar violations against Nokia and Palm, but has not taken such extreme action against these companies.  It would, on the surface, seem that Apple is looking for money, but the truth is, they are gunning for much more than that.

Monday, March 1, 2010

My Top 10 Tips for Technology Success

  1. Save often
  2. If it doesn't work, restart it
  3. Never forget your charger/batteries
  4. Do research before any technology purchase
  5. Keep it dry, unless it can get wet
  6. Think before you click
  7. Be patient
  8. Don't be afraid to explore
  9. Asking for help is OK
  10. Google can find the answer to almost any problem