Posted by Robyn on Nov 21, 2009 in Technology

It seems like I spend the majority of my life waiting for technology.

I got my first “pocket PC” when I was in the fourth grade (1988), and it was really just a glorified calculator that could also store notes and phone numbers. Before anyone had ever heard of a “smartphone”, I was plugging my cell phone into my iPaq to download emails in a painfully slow process.

I still like my iPhone, but I’ve had it for almost a year, and that’s virtually unprecedented. I’m starting to get that “new smartphone” itch again. But there’s nothing better out there. Sure, there are Windows Mobile, Android, and WebOS devices that are different, but they all do the same stuff. There’s nothing new.

I started my HTPC project before anyone had made an HTPC case, and before the term had been invented. Hardware and software were both scarce and expensive. I started my home server project before an OS existed for it. I got in on the WHS beta, and never looked back. It’s working well as a media repository, but I’m still waiting for better MCE integration, tuner support, and the ability to record directly to the server.

Right now, I’m waiting for multi-stream CableCARD tuners to come out, and I might even need to rebuild my virtually brand-new HTPC for the DRM to work. My shiny new UMPC died within weeks of owning it, and it’s still not exactly what I want it to be. (RIP Wall-E) 4G wireless internet is awesome, but still only available in a few cities.

At least Office 2010 is finally in beta, and I should get my hands on it next week. Of course, the company I work for still uses Windows XP on all its training computers, and that’s not likely to change until our customers move to Windows 7.

I hate old technology!


And by “old”, I mean everything available now. I want all the NEW technology that isn’t out yet.

For example, I want a capacitive multi-touch convertible tablet PC that weighs less than 2lbs, has an HD screen, awesome graphics, a fast CPU, tons of RAM, gigantic ultra-fast SSD, integrated 4G, and 24-hour battery life, running Windows 8, for less than $500.

And I want it today. Why is that so hard? Grr.



Ubuntu Karmic

Posted by Robyn on Nov 7, 2009 in Technology

Here is my somewhat belated review of Ubuntu 9.10 Karmic Koala: I like it.

It took barely two hours from disc insertion to fully operational OS with my files and primary applications installed and configured. All drivers were recognized, and only one restricted driver was needed (nVidia). Even that process was straightforward, and my monitor is running beautifully at its full 1080p resolution.

While installing applications, I opened terminal a couple of times out of habit, but it turned out I never needed it (a small miracle of its own). I now have Skype, Dropbox, and even Microsoft Office (via Crossover) running smoothly. I bit the bullet and went with the 64-bit version, so getting Flash working properly in Firefox involved a jumping through a couple of hoops, but I’m currently streaming Jon Stewart from Hulu with great success.

Overall, I think Ubuntu is getting smoother, prettier, and more user friendly with each version. Between Ubuntu Karmic, Windows 7, and Snow Leopard, I think this is the strongest trio of consumer operating systems… possibly ever.


WTF, Over

Posted by Robyn on Nov 2, 2009 in Technology

Dear people who make cool stuff that I want badly but can’t afford,

Why are SSD’s so freaking expensive?



Fujitsu Lifebook U810 (aka Wall-E)

Posted by Robyn on Nov 1, 2009 in Technology

Wall-E arrived in the mail yesterday, and he is just as cute as promised! Turns out, Woot actually got their hands on the U810 revision that comes with the 60GB hard drive and AT&T 3G modem (which is getting replaced with a WiMax card). It also came with the 4-cell battery shown in the photos, and not the smaller 2-cell battery listed in the description.

The laptop came with Vista Business as well as a “downgrade” disc for XP Tablet Edition 2005. However, I didn’t bother playing with either. I installed Windows 7 right out of the box, and I am LOVING it so far! I was able to install the full Fujitsu driver package from the CD (external drive), using compatibility mode with Vista. Touch screen works perfectly once calibrated from the control panel.

Granted, this is a single-touch, resistive screen, so you don’t get all the Windows 7 multi-touch features. But folding the screen into tablet mode is something I’ve wanted the capability of doing for a very long time. It’s so handy!

Got all of my applications and files loaded yesterday, and was able to do a full range of testing today. Battery life is an outstanding 4-5 hours typical use. It resumes from S3 sleep to a usable desktop in about 6 seconds, and resumes from hibernation in about 15 seconds. Full boot takes about 90 seconds, which is fantastic for a device like this! Youtube shows Vista taking four or five minutes to boot, so I was concerned.

Aero runs great – better than it did on my last netbook. Flash video also seems smoother than on an Atom CPU. The lack of hyperthreading does hurt multitasking performance, though. I’d say the 800MHz Pentium M-class CPU does an honorable job of running Windows 7, especially when paired with only 1 GB of RAM.

This is a cute little “family photo” of laptops was taken at my parents’ house this evening. My dad has a 17″ HP, and my mom has a similar 15″ HP, along with a 9″ Acer netbook. We stacked these all up with my new Fujitsu and snapped this picture. How cute!


New Toy

Posted by Robyn on Oct 25, 2009 in Technology

Okay, so many of you know that I went through several netbooks over the past couple of years, starting with the 7″ Eee PC 4G, progressing through a couple of 9″ Acer models, and finally the 10″ Eee PC 1000HE. Well, as features increased, they outgrew my purse. The Acer was barely small enough, and most of the 10″ models top 3lbs, which is just too bulky for me to carry everywhere.

Well, I have recently acquired a 5.6″ Fujitsu Lifebook U810 Convertible Tablet Ultra Mobile PC, courtesy of sellout.woot’s phenomenal deal. I am SUPER EXCITED about this cute little thing, as it meets nearly every possible desire I could have about a mobile device. Runs a full desktop OS (I’ll be installing Windows 7), has a decently high resolution, tablet input, and keyboard when needed. And it’s only 1.5lbs.

Only problem is that it’s too small to really be called a netbook, and UMPC is such a mouthful — especially “Convertible Tablet Ultra Mobile PC”. So, I need a nickname for this cute little thing. Ideas?


Server Update

Posted by Robyn on Oct 12, 2009 in Technology

Okay, so it was six votes to one, with the trump vote coming from my hubby, who wants the server to “just work” and not have to be “upgraded, fixed, or messed with” all the time.

New motherboard is sitting on my desk, waiting for the data to finish backing up, so I can install it. Said backup should finish some time early tomorrow morning. Will post updates as I go.

Also, I will probably end up using the PCI SATA card anyway, so I can max out the number of hard drives I can connect.


Server Fail

Posted by Robyn on Oct 12, 2009 in Technology

After its magnificent recent achievement of Mordor, my server has decided it’s had enough. The motherboard, anyway. I am backing everything up as we speak, and I’ll be heading over to Fry’s tomorrow to pick up a new motherboard.

It will be one of these two:

$79 – GIGABYTE GA-EP43-UD3L – Cheap, has most of the ports I will need. Expansion will be limited, and after filling all the PCI-e 1x slots with cheap SATA cards, I’d still be stuck with four drives on a PCI SATA card.

$134 – GIGABYTE GA-EP45-UD3P – More expensive, but has dual gigabit LAN and firewire, which my old board had, and I would miss. Has more on-board SATA ports and a second PCI-e 16x slot, which could house a PCI-e 4x SATA card.

If their website is trustworthy (which is by no means certain), the Fry’s here in Wilsonville has both of these boards at the same price as Newegg. So, which one should I get?


OMG, change your baby’s diaper!

Posted by Robyn on Oct 8, 2009 in General

So, I’m sitting at the allergy clinic, waiting my 30-minute sentence to make sure they don’t need to stab me with an epi pen and rush me to the hospital, and this couple just walked in with a really stinky baby. I almost puked a little. She obviously has a poopy diaper.

But the couple just plopped her down in the play area without even taking her into the bathroom to change her! Now, I can understand if she let one loose in the car on the way over, but there’s a nice, big, private bathroom right by the entrance here with a changing table.

Seriously gross.



Posted by Robyn on Oct 4, 2009 in General

So I did the math, and between all the shows I’d like to watch on a regular basis, it’s well over a 20-hour-per-week commitment. Now, I watch TV for entertainment. What the networks have given me this fall is a part-time job. I already have two jobs. I don’t need a third.

We have an HD DVR in the living room, but with the silly 160 GB hard drive restriction, it fills up pretty fast, especially with HD content. But we also have no less than three computers in the house with a total of five TV tuners all feeding one massive home server storage repository. These shows can be viewed from the HTPC, or any other computer in the house — just not in HD glory until the multi-stream CableCard tuners come out next year.

So, I had to make some choices about what to watch live (which requires agreement from the husband), what to record in HD (which will need to be watched within a few days), and what to archive in SD for later viewing. Forcing my hand in this decision is the fact that many of these shows come on at the same time.

Treating this as a job, I naturally used tools I would use at work. In Excel, I created a combination of spreadsheets to organize the shows by priority. The result is shown here, as entered into Microsoft Outlook.

Green: Watching Live
Yellow: Recording on HD DVR
Red: Recording on HTPC and archiving on Server

Naturally, all the reality shows are 90% fluff and commercials, so those go straight to the HTPC for later viewing with the benefit of fast forward. The Daily Show and Colbert Report aren’t available in HD, and I often go to bed too early to watch those live anyway, so those get recorded on the HTPC. And there’s no way I’m convincing my husband to watch Vampire Diaries with me.

The rest was mostly negotiated with my hubby, based on our mutual preferences. Both green and yellow shows will be scheduled on the HD DVR, and we’ll watch whichever ones we feel like at the time. This is just a rough estimate.

And finally, as a backup, everything in green and yellow is also scheduled to record either on the HTPC or my desktop, just in case the HD DVR fills up. Since the server has over 9TB of storage, space really isn’t an issue.

So there, the planning phase of this job is complete. I sure hope this pays well…


Google Wave

Posted by Robyn on Oct 2, 2009 in Technology

Google Wave seems like it might revolutionize my entire concept of communication. Synchronous and asynchronous are no longer meaningful.

I have studied E-Learning concepts at length, and the divide between synchronous and asynchronous interaction is at the core of all instructional design theory. But what I’m beginning to realize is that “E-Learning” in its present form is a misnomer. The academics (myself included) have tried to dress it up with fancy terms like “distributed learning”, but it’s just the same old correspondence courses and recorded lectures recycled and dumped onto the web.

The technology behind Google Wave has the potential to change everything about instructional design. Not just from an “E-Learning” standpoint, but from every angle. As the internet evolves, the world is changing.

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