Oct
07
2008
0

Benefits of Cloud Computing

Most people don’t even realize that they’re trend setters.  With the increase in online or website based programs, more and more people are turning to “cloud computing.”  This term refers to a process where all the computational heavy lifting is not performed on a user’s computer but rather an external computer.

Clouds, Computing?

Clouds, Computing?

The most common example of cloud computing is probably “Google Docs,” which is Google’s online suite of office productivity software.  It includes programs for spreadsheets, presentations, and of course document editing.  It can open and save in its own format, OpenOffice format, and Microsoft Office formats.  Even Adobe released a free online version of Photoshop.

Cloud computing is basically the process of outsourcing your math.  There are a lot of situations where this makes a lot of sense:

  • Money. Lower computing requirements mean you don’t need as powerful a computer, saving you money.
  • Money. Lower computing requirements also mean you won’t need to purchase an upgrade or new computer as often, saving you money.
  • Time. Nothing to install, upgrade, or troubleshoot.
  • Money. Web server updates mean you don’t have to purchase software upgrades, saving you money.
  • Scaling. Need another copy of a program?  Just fire up a new computer and launch a new web browser.
  • Fewer Resources. When the program never actually runs on your computer, it uses no memory.  When your computer isn’t working hard running a program, it uses less power.
  • More Resources. When the program is never installed on your computer, it uses no hard drive space.  On the flip side, many cloud computing programs allow you to save your work or files online – giving you more hard drive space than what’s on your computer.

So, how does all this technobabble about cloud computing apply to you?  Well, every time you use this website’s online web-based permanent disability calculators and EAMS search functions you’re letting my web server do the number crunching for you.

You’re, quite literally, letting me help you save resources, time, and money.

Sep
24
2008
2

When to Repair A Laptop

Okay, your laptop doesn’t work.  What do you do once you’re done grieving?  Your options are to:

  1. Fix it yourself. Slowest and cheapest solution.
  2. Pay someone to fix it. Moderately time consuming and expensive, and potentially fraught with peril (your laptop could get damaged or ruined).
  3. Get a new laptop. Quickest and most expensive solution.
Computer Help

Computer Help

Setting aside the idea of diagnosing and fixing the issue yourself, which is just not an option for most people, the choice is usually between fixing and getting a new laptop.  With computer processing power, RAM/memory, hard drive space, and battery life constantly increasing while prices consistently decrease, the ideal time to repair versus buying a new laptop is always going to be a moving target.  There are three main factors to consider when making this decision.

Cost

Cost is probably the single biggest deciding factor.  The good news is that your laptop can probably be repaired.  Sight unseen, it will probably cost you between $200.00 and $500.00 including parts and labor.  A new laptop will cost you roughly $500.00 for a bare bones machine, $1,250.00 for a nice machine, and $2,500.00 and up for a ridiculously powerful machine.

Lifetime

For most people a computer has a 3 year timeline of usefulness.  After that something about the computer will be too outdated to be of use beyond basic usage.  If your computer is more than 3 years old, you’ve had a good run.  Replace the poor thing.

Time & Need

If you need a computer for your business, every hour without your computer means you’re losing money.  If you don’t need it for your business, you’ve got more time to decide.  Your time is important and your downtime is even more important.

Formula

Here’s my totally unscientific and completely quantifiable formula for determining with nearly totally complete guesstimate-approximation of whether you should repair or replace your laptop.  First, let’s assume a constant – the amount you would spend on a new laptop and set that equal to the original purchase price of your current broken laptop.  The formula is as follows:

  • O = Original cost of broken laptop
  • A = Age of broken laptop in months
  • R = Repair cost
  • L = Lost work hours
  • H = Hourly rate

Repair your laptop if:

  • [(42-A)/42]*O – (L*H) – R > 0

Replace your laptop if

  • [(42-A)/42]*O – (L*H) – R < 0

Verdict:

I need to get my laptop repaired.

How about yours?

Sep
23
2008
1

RIP Laptop 1-5-2007 to 9-21-2008

Sonic Screwdriver

Sonic Screwdriver

My laptop, a Dell XPS M1210, stopped working on Sunday night.

Symptoms:

  1. Totally unpowered screen.
  2. Computer will not boot from the hard drive, USB stick, or CD.
  3. Hard drive light indicator shuts off after 1 second.
  4. After 1 second, I cannot hear the hard drive spinning.

Tests:

  1. Do the LED indicator lights still work when I disconnect the power cord and leave the battery in?  Yes.
  2. Does the computer recharge said battery when the power cord is plugged back in?  Yes.
  3. Remove hard drive.  Insert new working hard drive to see if computer will run.[1]  No dice.
  4. While hard drive is removed, insert it into another laptop to see if that computer will run.  Yes.

Eliminated problems:

  1. Battery. The computer is able to use the battery to power the LED lights.
  2. Power jack. This is a common problem for laptops.  The AC adapter power jack sometimes becomes loosened over time and eventually slightly disconnects from the motherboard.  My computer is able to draw power from the power jack and recharge the battery, so the power jack is fine.
  3. Software. A new working hard drive does not fix the problem.
  4. Hard drive. Another laptop is able to boot using my hard drive.

Doctor Who

Doctor Who

Possible problems:

  1. Motherboard. The motherboard is the most likely culprit since (a) I can’t see the BIOS (Built In Operating System) boot screen when I power on the computer (b) the hard drive stops spinning afer 1 second and (c) motherboards going bad are not an uncommon problem.
  2. Monitor. I can’t rule this out as the problem or as a secondary problem.  A motherboard failure would explain the dark screen.  A monitor failure would not explain why the hard drive isn’t spinning up or why the hard drive light shuts off after 1 second.

Learning that the hard drive is not the problem is a mixed blessing.  While I’m glad that my hard drive and information is safe, it means there’s a much bigger problem. Hard drives are easy.  Insert screwdriver, remove hard drive, replace, rock on.

MacGyver

If the problem is something other than the hard drive, you can’t fix it with a screwdriver.[2]  But, I figured I’d give it a shot anyhow.  I’ve fixed laptop problems similar to this before – opening it up, finding a broken wire strip, fabricating a new part, and MacGyver-ing it back into the case.  Its extremely difficult, precise, and time consuming work.

I removed the hard drive again, opened my laptop, pulled out the keyboard, removed the monitor, blew out dust and debris, and visually inspected the motherboard without finding any obvious defects.  At this point, I need to turn it over to someone with the expertise and equipment to fix the problem.  :(

  1. Yes.  I just happen to have extra laptop hard drives lying around. []
  2. Unless you’re The Doctor. []
Aug
13
2008
0

Mojave or Vista, its still junk

I recently saw banner advertisement for something called, “The Mojave Experiment.” The “Mojave Experiment” consists of hidden camera videos of people (who had negative opinions about Vista, but had never used it) being shown the next version of Windows, codenamed “Mojave.”

The Twist: Mojave was really just Vista.

Critical flaw #9: People who haven’t tried Vista by now probably don’t know enough about computers to tell whether the program they’re using is good or bad.

Shocking development #7: Everyone loved Mojave! Riiight. Everyone thought Vista could do wonderful things and was fast and responsive.

Here’s what they’re not telling you:

  • How many people tried “Mojave”
  • Which version of Vista these people were shown[1])
  • What kind of hardware were these “Mojave” machines running[2]
  • Whether these people actually used “Mojave” or merely watched the interviewer use “Mojave”
  • What programs they’re showing these people and whether those programs would work on other versions of Windows

I would be astounded if this bit of propaganda changed a single person’s mind. More than 18 months after Windows Vista’s launch on January 30, 2007, people still loathe it. People hate it so much they’re telling their friends.

Here’s a business tip for Microsoft: Don’t try to convince people they want your product. Just learn from your mistakes and build a better product.

  1. There are eight versions (four consumer, two business, one Ultimate, and one Red edition []
  2. Vista requires four times the RAM, three times the processor speed, and ten times the hard drive space of XP. []

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