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ON that Personal Computing Nirvana Again

This will be a fairly short post – because all I do is refer to this piece I wrote recently:

Motorola Takes Us a Step Closer to Personal Computing Nirvana–and it’s Not Even a Computer

Why bring it up again?  Because Walt Mossberg just validated the concept:

Today’s best smartphones are really hand-held computers. They run a vast variety of applications, from productivity programs to games, that mimic what laptops do. Their biggest limitations for serious work, gaming, Web surfing and multimedia are their small screens, cramped keyboards and tinny speakers.
So, what if you could use the brains and connectivity of such a hand-held computer to drive a laptop-size screen, keyboard and speakers, thus overcoming these limitations? Well, Motorola Mobility has devised a new phone and accessory that aim to do just that: to make the phone the only computer you need.

Read his full post here.

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I’m Productized Again – This Time By Dell

dellz First there was Nokia, with the secretive, luxury, yet-to-be-released Nokia Erdos.  Back then I said:

Come think of it… I think I Open Source my name.  Apple, Dell, Sony, BMW, Mercedes..etc, I’m looking forward to your Erdos models.  Just don’t forget to send a courtesy unit.

Dell listened: they are coming out with the Latitude Z luxury notebook, the first notebook to charge wirelessly.  Whose next?   BMW?  Mercedes?

I’ll be happy to add these brands to My Z-life.  Just remember to send a courtesy product :-)

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The New Lenovo: Nice Hardware, Dumb Support

Lenovo, home of the (formerly IBM) Thinkpad’s is not exactly known as a price leader: those Thinkpads have a great reputation and a matching price-tag.  But times are changing, and Lenovo is becoming budget-friendly: the recently announced Ideapad U series, the G550, and the all-in-one Ideacentre are all “cool” computers with an attractive price.  For all my love of Netbooks I admit I got tempted to get my hands on a new Ideapad U350 – basically somewhere in between a superslim notebook and a netbook, for $599 – not a bad price.

And of course getting the free Windows 7 upgrade put me at ease that I won’t be stuck in Vista prison for long…  but wait!  How will I install the upgrade?  Lenovo says:

Each upgrade kit will be mailed separately and contain:

  • Windows 7 Certificate of Authenticity
  • Windows 7 OS Upgrade DVD
  • Lenovo Drivers / Apps DVD1
  • Instructions on how to upgrade the operating system

But there’s a small problem: this unit does not have an optical drive at all – which is all fine with me, in fact I’ve removed it from another, heavier laptop: all I need is a lightweight, portable productivity tool, won’t be watching DVD’s.   Still, the prospect of installing DVD-based software without a DVD-drive is not that heart-warming, so I fired up this email inquiry to Lenovo (after some struggle to find an address):

To: websales@lenovo.com
Date: 07/18/09 10:04
Subject: Windows 7 upgrade for Ideapad U350
I’m considering a U350, but wonder how the upgrade to Win7 will take place since these units don’t have an optical drive. If the upgrade is done via download, does that mean Vista has to remain operational and I can’t get a a ‘clean’ Win7 install?
Thanks a lot,
Zoli

Today I received the following non-response:

Dear Zoli,
Thank you for contacting Lenovo, the makers of ThinkPad and ThinkCentre products.
I understand that you want to know if you can place an order for a U350 and want to know about the Windows 7 upgrade. You also want to know how to upgrade since these computers does not have an optical drive. I request you to please contact our Sales Department to get accurate information about the upgrade and to get help in placing an order,
If you have further questions or concerns, please feel free to contact us at 866-42-THINK (84465) option number 2. We will be happy to assist at that time.
Once again, thank you for contacting Lenovo.

What load of crap!  Why should I call Sales Department?  Doesn’t his email address read Websales?  Customer Service 101: respond at the channel you were contacted at.   And it’s not like I am asking for a very difficult, individualized answer: in fact my question is so obvious it should have been answered as part of the Win& FAQ @  Lenovo’s website.

Serious loss of credibility… what kind of support can I expect when I have real problems?

(Cross-posted from CloudAve)

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Your Computers Are Slowly Killing Themselves

How old is your work computer? – asks the Wall Street Journal.

Mine is a year-and-a half old.  The dual-core former screamer (obviously not the one the the pic to the right) has become an average slow machine now that quad-core is the standard, but I could not care less.   I don’t need a faster, bigger computer for work, in fact not even for video-conferencing or watching movies.

In fact I (and most of us) don’t even need  1-2 year-old computers, either, now that browser is the computer.

Now, you’ve heard this a zillion times, but let me present another side: the more you use your computers, the slower they get.  In fact it gets worse:  you don’t even have to use your computers, they get slower by themselves.

Why, and more importantly, what’s the solution?  Read the full article on CloudAve – while at it, might as well grab the feed here. smile_shades

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Apple vs. Windows Pricing: It’s All About TCO

The debate du jour: should you pay twice as much for a Mac than you’d have to pay for a Windows PC?

(Data source: NPD)

Just about everyone attributes the price difference to Apple’s marketing, Brand Power.   But I think by focusing on out-of-the box prices, they all miss the boat: it’s all about TCO.  Total Cost of Ownership.

I started to chronicle the hassle of just running a Vista PC and dealing with random, unexplainable failures, but more or less gave up.  Compare this to the anecdotal evidence of my Mac-user friends, who, despite occasional hiccups all agree: it just works.

I don’t know how you value your time (heck, sometimes I wonder about mine), but most computer users probably are not in the minimum wage bracket. Considering the days and nights I spent trying to fix this Vista monster, I’m quite sure I would have been better off paying more upfront for a Mac.  My TCO would have been lower.  And not even my Virtual Invoices can make up for that.

See today’s debate on: Apple Watch, DailyTech, TechBlog, Mark Evans, Microsoft Watch, Technovia , jkOnTheRun, The Digital Home, Hardware 2.0,

Update: Finally, some sanity – here’s Jake:

Focusing on out-the-door pricing seems too narrow to ask such a broad question. It would be very interesting to see a comparison of expected full costs (not just OOTB) for each of the major O/S.

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Laptops Are Crippling Us

Who buys a desktop anymore? Laptops outsell desktops, they are almost as powerful, more flexible, are with us at home, at work, on the road, in the air, in bed, in the hot tub ( see update at the bottom), and finally they don’t look ugly at home. I haven’t had a desktop for 8 years now.

And now I am about to take a huge step back… going against a trend. Why? It’s simple: laptops are unhealthy. Well, that’s an understatement. They are crippling us. It’s really simple, says the Harvard Medical School:

“When the keyboard is in the proper position for the wrist, the screen is not in an adequate position for the neck and vice versa. Using a laptop is a trade off between poor neck/head posture and poor hand/wrist posture.”

“In “A”, the laptop is too high and distant, with the user’s arms raised and outstretched, resulting in unnecessary fatigue in the shoulders, neck, back, forearms and hands. In “B”, the user has the laptop in the lap, which facilitates good arm position, but the user’s head is dropped, causing muscle tension in the back, neck, shoulders and chest. In “C”, the laptop is on a “standard” surface that is too low and close for comfortable viewing, and too high for upper body comfort. Notice that the hands are higher than the elbows, the wrists are resting on the edge of the worksurface, and the low back is not supported. This position increases risk for injury to the neck, back, elbows, and wrists.” - explains Working Well Ergonomics

There’s only one way a laptop can be ergonomically correct: by raising the screen (i.e. the entire laptop) on a stand / docking station and using an external keyboard at a proper position. I’ve seriously considered doing just that.

But all that gadgetry is quite expensive and I’d still be limited to a 15.4″screen (anything bigger is a brick to carry), while standalone wide-screen LCD’s are much larger, crisper, and really inexpensive today… so I am about to buy a desktop system basically for the screen.

Have you tried buying a flat screen recently? Not all models are ergonomic (in fact most aren’t) and it’s close to impossible to find out online – you have to touch it live. You get data like analog / digital, all the inputs, aspect ratio, brightness, contrast ratio, response time, and the like, but hardly any site selling LCD monitors tells you if they are vertically adjustable. That should be priority #1. As LCD screens become fashion objects, they are getting lower and lower – many stand so low, that they are hardly any higher than a laptop screen. That’s ridiculous. Look at the chart above – clearly, the only ergonomic screens are those with variable height (unless you want to put your old Encyclopedia Britannica to good use as a screen stand).

Of course I won’t be glued to my desk all the time, so I will still have to fall back to the laptop. This is where the Web comes to help. In the past, switching from my default computer required a bit of preparation: moving my Outlook.pst files and several other essentials, updating settings, old programs ..etc. Since I ditched most of my desktop applications and am using a combination of Gmail and Zoho apps, this is no longer an issue – I’m no longer tied to any physical computer, both my data and applications are identical, no matter where I access them. So, in a somewhat roundabout way, Office 2.0 improves my healthsmile_wink

Ergonomic desktops, here I come!

P.S. I was contemplating all this when I found BL Ochmans post. Thanks for collecting all the information!

HolidayUpdate: OK, that hot-tub usage above isn’t that rare after all. I barely posted this and now I am reading Robert Scoble typing away from the beach at Cabo while his wife is at the spa! Robert, get off your computer! There are things like .. the sun, the ocean, the hot tub, the pool to enjoy (hm should I mention the poolside bar?)

Update (7/23):  What you put your computer on also matters. See desk buying advice at Web Worker Daily.

Update (8/6/08): Gotta love this by Assaf:

You see, the most expensive piece of hardware to maintain is the one I run: eyes, back, fingers. It’s very, very, expensive to repair, and it requires a lot of downtime. So that’s the first TCO on my mind when purchasing a new computer.

Update (810/08): Opinion: Why laptops will kick desktop PCs to the curb