Category Archives: computers

Plugged In: Upgrades to speed up your photo computer

By Joe Kashi, for the Redoubt Reporter

My photo-printing computer was running too slowly, so much so that I often thought that it locked up when post-processing photo image files with Lightroom 3.4.

Clearly, it was time to upgrade that computer. While I was at it, I decided to update the operating system by installing the current 64-bit version of Windows 7 Professional.

Although I initially resisted installing Windows 7 until it was proven and reliable, I’ve found that the 64-bit version of Windows 7 Pro is a very worthwhile operating system upgrade. It does more and does so more conveniently and attractively. If nothing else, lockups seem less common with 64-bit Windows 7, and the system at least indicates that it’s still working, even if slowly.

I’m not comfortable using any new operating system for routine business work until Microsoft tests and ships a comprehensive “service pack” of fixes for that new operating system. Even after Windows Update installed Service Pack, not all existing Windows programs worked with the preferred 64-bit version of Windows 7 Pro. Some mission-critical business programs simply refused to run on Windows 7, despite automatic compatibility adjustments. That’s not Microsoft’s fault, at least not this time. That balky program simply needs to be rewritten to a more modern 64-bit standard.

Before you make a leap of faith and convert your entire office to a newer operating system, test any needed business programs on a single test-bed computer system and ensure that they work properly. Vendor salespeople, sadly, don’t really know.

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Plugged In: Oh no, not again! Adventures in installation

By Joe Kashi, for the Redoubt Reporter

This isn’t the article that I intended to write this week.

Instead of an article comparing photo-quality printing, here’s another white-knuckles computing experience, “courtesy” of programmers who deleted the XP operating system when I uninstalled their software.

It all began innocently enough, on a dark and stormy night. Of course, most of our nights have been stormy recently, so that’s not as much news as a routine weather report.

I arrived at work early one recent morning in order to update a computer at my law office before my first client arrived. Nothing fancy, just uninstalling an old 2003 version of Microsoft Office and installing my shiny new copy of MS Office 2010.

Unfortunately, unlike all prior versions of MS Office, Office 2010 no longer installs on the relatively modern and highly stable 64-bit Windows XP x64 operating system that I use.

Oddly, Office 2010 still installs on older 32-bit versions of Windows, so I decided to install it on a Windows XP computer I occasionally use to process trial exhibits. I didn’t want to try returning opened software or write off the purchase price. Inadvertently, I proved the old maxim about “Penny-wise, pound-foolish.”

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Plugged In: Trip down computer memory lane

By Joe Kashi, for the Redoubt Reporter

Doing more with less, rather than constantly upgrading technology, is not only financially sensible, but can teach us a great deal about what’s truly needed and what’s not.

I recently resurrected two older Fujitsu B-2130 notebook computers that have sentimental value for my wife and myself. These 11-year-old, battery-powered computers are small, thin and light, with a magnesium metal case, excellent screen and usable keyboard.

In many ways, they’re more ergonomically usable than new netbook computers with smaller, “wide-format” screens and tiny keyboards. What these computers lacked were modern operating systems, CD/DVD drives, fast processors and the ability to use lots of DRAM memory.

Besides resurrecting two potentially useful older computers, doing more with less was in itself an interesting technical experiment, one suited to tight financial times.

The Fujitsu’s Intel Celeron CPU runs at a mere 400 megahertz. The hardware won’t even recognize more than 192-megabyte DRAM, a ridiculously low amount by today’s standards. Continue reading

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Plugged In: Science of success: Parents should model learning

By Joe Kashi, for the Redoubt Reporter

E = mc2.

We’ve all seen this apparently simple equation, but how many of us know what it really means?

Because this is a technology column of sorts, I suppose that it’s arguably relevant, as a lead into this week’s column, to make a plea for improving our basic science and technology literacy.

Both computing and photography are technologically based. Improving your own general technical understanding is key to improving your business efficiency and your photographic technique. I’m not referring here to changing your cell phone ringtone or setting your camera to full auto mode.

Our culture prides itself on its perception of being technologically advanced compared to others. Our economy critically depends upon being in the forefront of scientific and technological advances.

Although American scientific and technological supremacy was obvious as recently as 1990, the new reality, by all measures and surveys, is that the basic scientific and technological knowledge of most Americans now trails the average among nearly all industrialized countries.

While 47 percent of Chinese university graduates take math, science or engineering degrees, only 16 percent of American students do so. At the same time, the April 18 issue of The New York Times reported that, although 20 percent of all American students now graduate with a degree in business, an astounding 45 percent of those graduates are forced to live with their parents a year later. They have no job.

So, here’s my suggestion. Brush up on your own basic science and technology. Then, help your kids improve their own knowledge and attitudes about math, science and technology so that they, and the U.S., remain competitive. Remember, parents can be the most effective teachers of all.

I’ve found two easy-to-read, yet comprehensive, books that give a good nonmathematical understanding of basic science. The first is by Bill Bryson and entitled “A Short History of Nearly Everything.” The second, “The Canon — A Whirligig Tour of the Beautiful Basics of Science,” is by Natalie Angier, a prominent science writer. Both books are understandable, fun and, best of all, accurate.

By the way, E=mc2 was first understood by Albert Einstein in 1905 as part of his theory of Special Relativity. It tells us that mass and energy are equivalent and that a tremendous amount of energy is produced when even a very tiny amount of mass is converted into energy.

It’s the equation that explains why the sun can shine for billions of years. It’s also the equation that resulted in the atomic bomb. Continue reading

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Plugged In: Protecting data — choose safe over sorry

By Joseph Kashi, for the Redoubt Reporter

Data is the principal reason that businesses and individuals use computers, unless you’re a gamer. Having spent New Year’s Day rebuilding my own law office file server as proactive preventative maintenance, data protection is very much on my mind at this time.

Data may be as basic as your e-mail and family photos, or critical to the survival of your business. In any case, protecting your data from loss is one of any computer user’s most critical, yet often-neglected, tasks.

Protecting your computer data can be as basic as locking your house or car to slow down thieves and buying basic insurance to protect you in case of loss. Data security has two components. The first is to ensure that data is not lost through theft, fire or operator error. That’s this week’s discussion. Continue reading

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Plugged In: Camera reviews are in, just in time for shopping

By Joseph Kashi, for the Redoubt Reporter

Later in this week’s column, I’ll look at hardware upgrades and free programs that improve your computer’s performance, but first, let’s patriotically stimulate the economy.

As regular readers may recall, after the big Photokina 2010 trade show ended in late September, the Redoubt Reporter discussed many of the top new cameras and made some Christmas purchasing recommendations.

Since then, 1001noisycameras.com, a serious camera review website, polled sophisticated photographers for their opinions about the best new cameras in each major category. Here’s how a national sampling of serious and professional photographers rated the new cameras. Continue reading

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Plugged In: Smart computer purchases a study in necessity

By Joseph Kashi, for the Redoubt Reporter

One or two poorly performing portions of a computer can severely degrade overall performance, so this week, we’ll consider high-quality, cost-effective components appropriate for a new or upgraded PC.

Next week, we’ll look at free and inexpensive programs that identify those bottlenecks and help correct them.

System boards

The system board is the single most critical, and complex, part of your computer system. Most modern computers contain few, if any, traditional expansion cards anymore.

The hardware and functions that used to reside on six or eight plug-in expansion cards are now integrated directly into the “chipset” on the system board, which is sometimes called a motherboard. Usually, that means you’ll get more functionality, speed and reliability for less money. Continue reading

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