Hardware

Windows 8 Laptops for $200

I have written recently about low-priced tablet computers running Windows 8.1. These are obviously available at that price because Microsoft recently slashed Windows’ license fees that are charged to vendors. Now even full-sized laptops are available at prices not seen before: $199.

To be sure, these are low-end laptops. They aren’t very fast, have mediocre video, and limited storage space. Still, a Windows 8 computer for $199 is going to appeal to a lot of people, especially during the holiday season. While I haven’t tested them myself, I believe these low-priced laptops are capable of running every Windows genealogy program available today as well as thousands of other programs.

A Portable and Secure Hard Drive that you can Slip into your Pocket

The Western Digital My Passport Ultra is a portable drive that you can slip into your shirt pocket. Best of all, it features 256-bit hardware encryption and integrated local and cloud backup solutions that allow you to make use of your Dropbox account to create a an additional backup. It is one of the better devices available today for making backups and for carrying your information with you. From a privacy viewpoint, the Western Digital My Passport Ultra is a great portable hard drive that has the capability to encrypt everything on the drive to keep it safe from prying eyes in case it is lost or stolen.

Apple 1 Computer Sells for Record US$905,000

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In the October 8, 2014, newsletter I wrote, “Here is a Chance to Own a Piece of Computer History: an Original Apple 1 Computer.” I wrote about a History of Science auction at Bonhams New York here an original Apple 1 computer was to be sold. Auction officials expected to attract bids between US$300,000 and $500,000. They were wrong.

The computer sold for US$905,000, becoming the most expensive Apple computer ever sold.

Details may be found at http://www.gizmag.com/apple-1-computer-sold/34422.

The Recent Growth of Chromebooks: Right For You?

I have written often about Chromebooks, the low-cost competitor to Windows and Macintosh laptop computers. (My earlier Chromebook articles can be found by starting at http://goo.gl/LoScjt.) I purchased one of the first Chromebooks and still use it often. As Mark Spoonaur writes in Laptop Magazine:

Whether it’s because of their very affordable prices or an aversion to Windows 8′s complexity, more and more shoppers are buying Chromebooks. There are some valid reasons to choose a Chromebook over a Windows machine, including a very intuitive interface (it’s largely browser based), a lack of upgrade headaches, and less worrying about malware. And while Chromebooks have limited offline capability, there’s a growing number of apps that work without a Wi-Fi connection.

In fact, sales of desktop and laptop computers have been declining in the past few years; but ABI Research found that, in the most recent quarter, Chromebook shipments increased by 67 percent, quarter over quarter. The research company expects that, year over year, Chromebooks shipments will double. (Details may be found at http://goo.gl/dT2nBb.) ABI Research Analyst Stephanie Van Vactor made a statement that “Consumers are hungry for a product that is cost effective but also provides the versatility and functionality of a laptop. The growth of the Chromebook market demonstrates a niche that is gaining traction among consumers.”

Turn Your Cell Phone into a Portable Scanner

One of the most useful, low-cost gadgets is an affordable, foldable, quick setup, photography lightbox. The StandScan Snap can digitize business receipts, documents of all sorts, photographs, jewelry, coins, or even items you wish to sell online. By using a large-screen television of a computer projector, it can even be used to project live demonstrations using small objects with an iPhone’s Airplay or similar software on an Android phone.

The Standscan Snap is a foldable lightbox made from a high-quality recycled laminated card stock. It is easy to put together as the various tabs snap into place. There is no software to download, no drivers to install, and no cables to connect. You can begin using StandScan Snap within seconds of opening the box. Simply snap the frame into place, switch the lights on and start shooting.

The Standscan Snap folds up at any time and easily fits into a laptop carrying bag, making it great for traveling. Best of all is the price: $34.95.

Here is a Chance to Own a Piece of Computer History: an Original Apple 1 Computer

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The upcoming History of Science auction at Bonhams New York could provide fine opportunities for investments in rare collectibles, including a 1976 Apple 1 motherboard. According to Bonhams, around 200 Apple 1 computers were built and were the first pre-assembled personal computers to hit the market. This particular model is believed to be part of a first batch of 50 and was sold for US$666.66 at the time. It is said to be in working order and, complete with vintage keyboard, Sanyo monitor and owner’s manual, is expected to attract bids between US$300,000 and $500,000.

HP Stream Laptops and Tablets will provide Windows on a Budget

I have written often about Chromebooks, the low-cost laptops that boot quickly, never get viruses, and provide the functionality that most computer users want. These lower-powered computers typically sell for $200 to $300. They need to be connected to the Internet to run most programs although there are a number of exceptions.

Chromebooks have been selling like hotcakes. Amazon publishes a list of the company’s 100 best-selling laptop computers at http://www.amazon.com/Best-Sellers-Computers-Accessories-Laptop/zgbs/pc/565108. As I write these words, Chromebooks are the third, sixth, twelfth, fourteenth, and fifteenth most popular laptops on the list. I stopped looking after #15.

HP obviously has been paying attention to sales numbers. I suspect HP’s sales of Windows laptops has been dropping due to competition from Chromebooks. (HP also makes Chromebooks but I suspect the profit margins on Chromebooks have been slim.) Now the company has announced its own line of low-cost laptop and tablet computers that run Windows 8.1, apparently designed to compete with Chromebooks.

The new tablet computers start at $100 and $150 respectively, and will run full Windows 8.1, not Android or iOS. The 11.6-inch and 13.3-inch notebooks are priced at $200 and $230.

Zuta, the Tiny Printer that Fits in a Briefcase or in Your Pocket

I travel a lot. Of course, I always take along a laptop computer. …and a tablet computer … and a cell phone. I use them often while traveling and occasionally have a need to print something. Of course, packing a printer in the suitcase is close to impossible these days. To be sure, there are a few compact printers that are advertised as “portable” but I have always found them lacking. They are either a bit too big and bulky or else they print slowly or only on special paper that feels “waxy” and rubs off on your fingers. In short, I have never found a portable printer that I wanted to carry with me… until now.

Zuta is a tiny printer that is entering production now. It is expected to ship in January or soon after and will have a price tag of about $240. To be sure, it will be a slow printer at 1.2 pages per minute but it is compact, not much bigger than a softball. You won’t use the Zuta to print a book but it should work great whenever you need to print two or three pages. It will print on normal paper as used in almost all other inkjet printers.

Chromebooks vs. Windows Laptops: What Should You Buy?

I have written often about the advantages of Chromebooks when compared to Windows systems. (See my past Chromebook articles by starting at http://goo.gl/nz9UMN.) Now Laptop Magazine has published a side-by-side comparison by Anna Attkisson of Chromebooks versus Windows. If you are considering the purchase of either a Windows or Chromebook laptop, you will want to read the article.

Attkisson compares the following:

Are DVDs and CDs Disintegrating?

There have been a number of articles in this newsletter and elsewhere in genealogy publications about long-term storage of magnetic and optical media. Many of us are concerned about the life expectancy of CD-ROM and the newer DVD-ROM disks. Tina Sieber writes in the MakeUseOF web site, “While estimations predict a life time of up to 200 years for optical discs, we can never be sure when they are really going to break. However, by being aware of what determines the life span of optical discs and what causes them to break, you can make choices and significantly increase the survival time of your stored data.”

Tina describes music on CD and movies on DVD disks, but her comments apply equally to computer data stored on DVD-ROM disks.

You can read her article at http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/cds-truth-cddvd-longevity-mold-rot/.

Magic Wand Scanners for $23 and Up

I have written often about the Magic Wand scanners that slip into a purse or a larger coat pocket. Genealogists usually can find dozens of uses for these. I use then for scanning pages from old books and for scanning the utility bills printed on paper that I receive in the mail. I prefer other scanners for making digital images of photographs, especially color photos.

The Daily Steals web site is offering a variety of Magic Want scanners with different capabilities at ridiculous prices: only $23 for the basic scanner and $59 for the top-of-the line Magic Wand scanner with built-in wi-fi networking. Those prices even include free shipping to U.S. addresses.

At these prices, the scanners will sell out quickly. You can find them at http://www.dailysteals.com/heist/#heist/1053.

The World’s First Mobile Phone?

According to an article in The Daily Mail, Philadelphia experimenter W W McFarlane invented a mobile telephone in 1920 that required three pieces of stove pipe stuck to a board as an aerial. It reportedly worked over a range of up to 500 yards.

I find it interesting that the person talking on the “telephone” in the above picture was not driving. I wish people today would not drive and talk on the phone simultaneously.

I Added Four Terabytes to My Personal Cloud

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In the past 18 years that I have been writing this newsletter, I think I have written the following statement at least a dozen times: “The price of disk storage keeps dropping.” Today I am writing that statement one more time. This weekend, I purchased a four-terabyte NAS hard drive and added it to my in-home network. I now have even more space for my backups and those of my family members. Best of all, the price was so low as to be undreamed of only a few years ago. You can do the same.

I elected to purchase a network-attached storage (NAS) drive, not the normal USB drive.

Get a 14-inch HP Chromebook and Free 4G Wireless for $179.99 or $199.99

I have written often about the low-cost Chromebook computers and how useful they are. I own one of the earlier Chromebooks and use it often. Now Rick Broida has found a bargain that is appealing. (I love the bargains that Rick finds!) This Chromebook has much better specs than my aging computer.

The refurbished HP Chromebook 14 is available for $179.99, plus $5 for shipping. That’s for the white model with 2 gigabytes of RAM memory. If you want 4 gigabytes of RAM and your choice of white, turquoise, or peach, the price jumps to just $199.99.

The best thing of all is the included 200 megabytes of monthly wireless data connections, courtesy of T-Mobile, at no extra charge. This laptop is not limited to short-range wi-fi networks, although it can use wi-fi also. As long as you are within range of a T-Mobile cell phone tower, you can read and write email messages, surf the web, and do most anything else you want to do online. There is no annual contract and no credit card required to activate the service. (I have the same service in my iPad and use it often.)

HP announces an Android-powered Notebook

For a long time, most of us assumed that laptops and the smaller “notebook” computers would always run either the Windows or the Macintosh operating system. In the past few years, the Chrome has taken over the lower-priced laptop market, as shown by the list of best selling laptop computers updated hourly by Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Best-Sellers-Computers-Accessories-Laptop/zgbs/pc/565108. As I write these words, Chromebooks account for six of the top 15 laptops being sold today by Amazon.

Now there is a new contender: Android.

Hands On: HP’s new 7 Plus, an Excellent $99 or $119 Android Tablet

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Hewlett-Packard has a new tablet computer that I think is a bargain. The HP 7 Plus retails for only $119, but HP has been selling them at an “introductory price” of $99. This low-priced tablet has most all the features of tablet computers that cost much more. The $99 price even includes free shipping. I purchased a 7 Plus a few days ago and now am impressed with this tablet computer. It runs all the available Android tablet applications, including genealogy programs. It also is an excellent ebook reader, capable of storing hundreds of ebooks, including Kindle books, ePub books, PDF ebooks, and more. It stores and displays thousands of digital photographs and MP3 music files, and it can even store and play several full-length Hollywood movies when riding on airplanes or on the commuter train. Not bad for $99!

Forget Linux – A Chromebook is the Perfect Replacement for Windows XP

Here is one more article about Chromebooks. This one was written by Daniel Price and is available on the MakeUseOf web site at http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/forget-linux-chromebook-perfect-replacement-windows-xp/.

You can read my earlier articles about Chromebooks by starting at http://wp.me/p5Z3-8J and at http://wp.me/p5Z3-fO.

Google Glass Now On Sale in US, and I Got Mine!

That’s me, wearing Google Glass shortly after taking it out of the box.

Google is making Google Glass available to everyone in the U.S., as long as supplies last. The devices being sold are clearly labeled as “beta,” meaning that not all bugs are stamped out just yet. The company said it still considers this to be part of the Glass Explorer Program, otherwise known as “beta.” It is not a full-blown consumer launch, which is expected to happen later this year. At this time Google is also limiting orders to U.S. customers only.

Being an early adopter, I ordered mine weeks ago, and it arrived yesterday. I am still learning how to use it.

A Chromebook Laptop Computer for $99

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I use a Chromebook often and love it. It boots up within seconds and never gets viruses. It is a very capable computer that surfs the web, reads and writes email, plays hundreds of games, and works well with Facebook, Twitter, and dozens of other online services. It does require a wi-fi Internet connection to accomplish most tasks, however. Chromebooks normally sell for $200 to $350 or so. Today, Rick Broida’s CNET Cheapskate column lists a well-known and highly-rated Acer C710 Chromebook that sells for $99 and that price even includes free 2-day shipping.

To be sure, that price is after a mail-in $20 rebate and the laptop is factory recertified, meaning that it was returned to the factory for some reason, then checked out and offered for sale again. It includes a 90-day warranty. I already own a similar Chromebook but if I was looking to buy a new laptop, I’d consider this one carefully. It is an excellent laptop computer for yourself, a child, a grandchild, or for an adult with limited or no computer experience.

Grace Hopper and the UNIVAC

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Look at the handheld tablet or smartphone you carry in your pocket or purse. It seems difficult to believe it is far more powerful than the Univac-I computer that weighed 13 tons, had 5,200 vacuum tubes, and took up a whole garage. Only 46 Univac-I computers were ever built but it revolutionized the world.

Grace Hopper, born in New York in 1906, was an associate professor of mathematics at Vassar when WWII broke out. Volunteering for the US Navy Reserve, she was assigned to the Bureau of Ships Computation Project, where she worked on the Harvard Mark I project (a calculating machine used in the war effort), from 1944–9, co-authoring several papers.

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