What can I do with those old computers?

By Jake Edwards | Monday, April 28th, 2008 | Permalink | 1 Comment

Its common these days to have old desktop pc’s (or even laptops) which are broken down or malfunctioning sitting in the corner… degrading… wait no, they can’t do that! But don’t despair! You can do something useful with them!

Big lists have been made up of possible things to do with old computers and these can be seen here: http://www.shadowlive.net/?p=15

Mind you, even that list is not exhaustive. You could even make it into a gaming server for garry’s mod that you can your friend can play on or just a small web developer server. I would eventually like to expand PortWiki to include guides on creating such servers.

Malware for Mac’s

By Jake Edwards | Saturday, February 16th, 2008 | Permalink | No Comments

As Mac OS X (unfortunately) becomes more and more popular, the amount of malware will increase for the operating system. This means that in the future, mac users will need to watch their single clicks to ensure they don’t download anything nasty of the Internet or from other sources such as email and removable media. Currently Mac users are lax about security – blindsighted by the supposed security of Mac OS X. This will need to change however, as they will need to learn the cautious security measures to ensure they are not infected by malware.

Personally I won’t be fussed when more malware, viruses, keyloggers and trojans are developed for Mac operating system – it will prove that OS X is after all, NOT as secure: bragged about on the Apple website.

“Cyber-criminals have begun to notice consumers’ growing attraction to Apple Macs during the past year… This trend has led to a number of viruses and malware created by hackers for the purpose of attacking consumers who purchase Mac computers… Mac users need to be aware that, while the threats that exist right now are few in number, they still need to take adequate measures to protect themselves.” http://www.vnunet.com/vnunet/news/2207808/criminal-hackers-turn-mac-users

MacBook Air

By Jake Edwards | Wednesday, January 16th, 2008 | Permalink | No Comments

“You could hear the collective sigh from the crowd” (Forbes, Jobs Fails To Wow At Macworld). The MacBook Air dosen’t set any standards, instead has been descibed as a “anorexic fashion model, [the] MacBook Air has made too many compromises for the sake of being skinny” (apc, MacBook Air: 10 Things Wrong With It). And so true that is. Below I have extracted from the above linked article 10 reasons why MacBook Air isn’t anything special:

1. 80GB iPod hard drive being used as a system drive. It’s 4200 RPM slow and after years of encouraging people to amass a horde of digital media, how can Apple really expect people to fit their iTunes library, digital videos and so on onto 80GB? With notebook hard drive capacities topping 500GB in a single 2.5″ drive, surely Apple’s customers would have preferred a slightly thicker form factor with a beefier drive?

2. Non-expandable memory: 2GB of RAM soldered onto the motherboard… sure, that’s a lot of RAM today, but if I were buying a notebook worth between $2500 and $4300 (AUD), I’d sure as hell want the ability to add some extra RAM in later to cater for future Mac OS X upgrades, virtualisation and memory hungry apps like the Adobe suite. (To be fair, other subnotebooks also have soldered RAM, and sometimes have only 1GB, but still… looking at this from the perspective of someone looking for a thinner, lighter MacBook Pro, this is a significant limitation.)

3. 64GB flash-memory as an option in place of the hard drive is nice, but for $1400 (AUD)more, it seems unlikely many people will take it up.

4. One USB port: not only is the MacBook Air expansion-limited on the inside, it can’t connect to many things at once on the outside, unless, of course, you carry a USB hub with you, which kinda defeats the purpose of having an ultraportable notebook to begin with. And since it’s a recessed design (a flap on the side of the notebook has to pop open for you to access the port), quite a few USB accessories aren’t going to be able to plug in there without the use of a USB extension cord.

5. No wireless broadband: if anyone’s going to buy this notebook, it’s the regular traveller who is tired of toting 3KG of extra cabin baggage everywhere. These people are also exactly the same people who find wireless broadband really, really useful. But despite the fact that HSDPA modules can be manufactured as small as a postage stamp, Apple didn’t include one. Guess what you’ll be using that one USB port for? A soap-on-a-rope style wireless broadband dongle, or a fat broadband stick. It’s not a very elegant accompaniment to the world’s thinnest notebook.

6. Underpowered, last-gen processor: despite Apple claiming the MacBook Air has the ‘latest’ processor in it, it’s actually a slow old 65nm version of the Core 2 Duo, topping out at 1.8GHz. Presumably Apple’s legal eagles would argue that since Intel made a special version of the processor that has a smaller chip casing than others, it is literally using the “latest” release from Intel. But in this case, “latest” certainly doesn’t mean “better”.

7. No microphone port: sure, it’s not the most essential feature given the proliferation of USB microphones, but again, I’ll point out: one … USB … port.

8. Non-replaceable battery: you have to send the entire notebook back to Apple for replacement of the battery. Which will have attrocious battery life within about two years. Note to Steve Jobs: this is not an iPod.

9. Thin but not that thin: Steve Jobs says the MacBook Air is thinner at its thickest point than competing notebooks. But the Fujitsu Q2010 is only 19.9mm thick at its thickest point, and that’s 0.5mm — yes half a millimetre — thicker. However, in the Lifebook, you get integrated HSDPA/3G/GPRS, an ExpressCard slot (34/54), SD card slot, two USB ports, inbuilt VGA out, Ethernet, Firewire, fingerprint sensor. I’d say that functionality is worth an extra half millimetre.

10. Oh, and no Ethernet port: yeah, OK, you can order the optional USB Ethernet adaptor, but that one time your router stops working wirelessly and you really need to log in via Ethernet to fix the configuration… hope you’ve got that USB adaptor with you.

It seems this latest Apple product definitely is not worth the price tag…


Blueant Bluetooth X5 Stereo Headset, Microphone & Audio Streamer

By Jake Edwards | Thursday, January 3rd, 2008 | Permalink | No Comments

My desk was overflowing with junk and there was a headset cord travelling right through the middle of it all, during a voice call to my friend in South Australia I moved my head slightly and half of the junk went on the floor – it wasn’t fun. The next topic of conversation was “are there Bluetooth headsets with a microphone?” and there is. The X5 Bluetooth Stereo Headset was the answer, but more so, it comes with a lot more features than expected.

The X5 is not only a headset, but a microphone and the package includes an Audio Streamer which lets you stream music from any device such as an MP3 player, a CD player, Computer or other device supporting the usual 3.5mm Headphone jack to your headset. But that is not all, it operates in stereo. You may think to yourself ‘so what – stereo’ this however makes all the difference, this headset supports what is called A2DP which is cd quality, stereo audio, over a Bluetooth connection and it definitely is noticeable.Physically the headset is in a ‘street’ style, with the headband passing over the back of the head and speakers hooking over the ears. The package comes with 2 USB cords and an AC adapter which can all be used to charge the headset and audio streamer (when using it on my computer, I also plug in the USB keeping it at a constant charge). The Audio Streamer also has a small magnet on its base which makes it easily stick to the side of your computer keeping things neat.

Along with the audio streamer function it can be used as a normal headset, just without wires! The headset supports up to 10 memory pairs so moving from my PDA to my phone is a breeze. Battery life is greater than 12 hours constant streaming and greater than 200 hours standby. The broadcasting range is specified on the BlueAnt website at 10m in open space however I have used it at 10m with several walls between me and the audio streamer providing me the freedom to listen to music on my computer and answer plus talk on any calls I may get on Skype or similar. The MFB (Multi-Function Button), sometimes in combinations with the other buttons (including volume up and down buttons), allows you to easily perform functions such as play, pause, stop, next song, previous song and replay last song in stereo mode while in voice mode you can answer call, hang-up/reject call and redial the last number.

One downside of the headset is that during voice mode (when the microphone is active) the sound quality is decreased as it is required to sacrifice the stereo capability to accommodate for the microphone stream. This however is only during microphone use (voice mode) which is easily changed back to stereo mode after a call with a single press of a button on the headset. The audio streamer would also be more useful if it acted as a Bluetooth radio/dongle when connected via the USB which is the only other let down.

I can recommend this headset to those who are looking for a wireless headset and microphone solution or just wireless audio streaming around the house or while riding your bike. BlueAnt integrate brilliant functionality that is definitely worth the $129 (AUD) that I paid for it at Dick Smith Electronics (even though it is quoted at $200 AUD on the BlueAnt website).

Scratched Disk + Toothpaste = Readable Disk

By Jake Edwards | Monday, December 24th, 2007 | Permalink | 2 Comments

It seems Toothpaste is a decent disk cleaning abrasive for removing minor scratches that may be preventing dvd/cd rom drives from reading it correctly.

I had two DVD disks about 4 years old that were scratched enough that I could only copy half of the 4.7GB off for both of them. About to throw them both out in frustration, I had the sudden idea of cleaning the disks with toothpaste as I have heard before, but had never tried it myself. Using a small cotton bud and a small dab of toothpaste (normal, no extra strength or special versions) I cleaned the disk in a inside to outside motion. After cleaning and the removal of the toothpaste (using just a small cotton bud with water), I dried it, stuck it in my machine and it read. No errors 🙂

I definitely won’t be using this disk again but i was able to extract the data and put it onto a new disk. All fixed.

Dell Laptop – SigmaTel Sound Chipset & Stereo Mix

By Jake Edwards | Tuesday, November 20th, 2007 | Permalink | No Comments

Got a Dell laptop and with the SigmaTel sound chipset and stuck with all it’s advanced features such as lack of stereo mix? Dont worry, a solution is here. 

Note: The solution below no longer applies as Dell have finally released a driver update supporting Stereo Mix. Check the Drivers and Downloads section of the Techincal Support on Dell’s website then use the appropriate utilities to locate the new driver.
The drivers release date is marked as the 12/4/2007, v., try this direct download link: R171789.exe

Firstly install the Dell SigmaTel drivers, then simply go to http://au.lge.com/support/software.jsp then set the Product field to Notebook, leave the Series to All, Choose your OS and set it accordingly then make the subject SigmaTel. You should get three results , you want [Sound/2000/XP] SigmaTel Sound Driver Ver XNOTE(LE50). Download this driver and install it to get Stereo Mix on the SigmaTel chipset. Simple 🙂

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