Sunday, December 6, 2009

Cool Tech

Note: I’ve wrote this and not sure I like it much. I’m not sure it has much value in it but I’m posting it anyway. Sorry but this one just might suck on so many levels.

Here are a few things I’ve been playing with or wanting. I’m a Windows Media Center nut. I love it and think it is one of the best things about Windows 7. If you are worried about Microsoft's latest operating system, don’t be, it kicks ass. If you are even thinking about upgrading to it just do it. If you use Vista now you will love it. You old XP users might be harder to convince that it is better because of the learning curve. Trust me it is easy to use and learn where MS moved everything to. I’ve had two friends who used XP that I got to try 7 and they just dig it. I’ve said it many times that once I loaded the beta version back in January the was no way I was going back to XP. 7 runs so much faster on the same system that was once running XP and is rock solid stable. If you are running Vista your machine can run Windows 7 without a problem. An upgrade for a XP machine may or may not be possible. If you have any concerns if your system can run Windows 7 download and run the Upgrade Advisor for free from MS.

Of course you can say screw upgrading and just buy a new system with Windows 7 already installed. There are many good sub-500$ system out there to choose from. My advice, for what it is worth, is to buy a system with at least a dual core 64bit processor (CPU), 2gigs of RAM with 4gig being all you really need unless you do a lot of video editing. At this time I have five browser tabs open, watching two live HDTV football games, email and I don’t know at least four other programs open and I am using just under 3gigs of the 8gigs of the RAM I have installed on this system. If your new systems uses on board video, like most cheap systems do, then it will share the system RAM so you can see why more is better. Of course it goes without saying that you want to make sure the new system is running Windows 7 64bit. Hey it’s the latest greatest and the future so no need to be buying yesterdays tech if you can avoid it.

Now you know what you need or want lets take a look at what I happen to think is one of the coolest little PCs I’ve seen in a long time. It is perfect for a Media Center PC being nice and small so it fits easily in your entertainment system cabinet. Plus it has all of the system requirements I just listed above. This little Acer fits the bill for a Media Center PC, sometimes labeled as a HTPC, short for Home Theater PC. Not only will this tiny thing do Media Center prefect it makes a great “do most anything you do day in and day out computer.” This would make a great computer for anyone who wants a small quite low power consumption PC like Grandma want. Add in the fact it has the video power to drive large HDTV you can plug it in directly to your HD wide screen TV via HDMI and has digital audio out so you can plug it into your surround sound system and you’ve got, in my opinion, the prefect little HTPC. No it doesn’t have all the horse power that a big quad core PC does but it doesn’t have the high price tag of one either. This is on my very short list for Christmas if anyone feels generous.

OK so the Acers cute, but what are you going to do with it and why would you want it plugged into your TV? Why to record TV of course. In other words you just got rid of that TiVo DVR that you pay a monthly fee to use. Just add a TV tuner to the Acer either using a USB tuner like the one I use. Or better yet buy a digital network TV tuner. (damn it… it’s 30 bucks cheaper then when I bought it two weeks ago… bastards) Just as the name implies this device is plugged in your network router. This model has two tuners so I can watch and or record two shows at the same time. The bonus is any Media Center PC on your network can see and use it. Since you already have a wireless network in your house with this set up you don’t need to run a cable to a USB tuner. The Acer has wireless N (fastest wireless at this time) built in so you can connect wirelessly to this tuner. I’ve even been able to stream TV wirelessly to my netbook with this setup. With my TV as one of the four monitors and my 1080P LCD monitors plus my sound system plugged into my hotrod PC I have better picture and sound quality then just using the analog signal from my cable company and the puny speakers in my TV.

Now for some motorcycle tech. I don’t know about everyone else but I like to take my laptop with me on road trips so I can post about my trip as it unfolds. My friends and family have enjoyed this in the past but my laptops were getting old and even being smallish they was still kind of pain to haul around. Enter the netbook. To be honest I thought these things were a joke and a waste of money. Then while at a friends I picked his up and started playing with it. I was hooked and could see instantly how perfect they are for a motorcycle. The little Samsung N130 I bought fit perfectly in my inside my coat pocket and weighs all of about two and half pounds. It has all of the things I wanted in a netbook. Great battery life at over fives hours so far, wireless N and Windows 7 but sadly it is only 32bit. The little Atom CPU inside most all netbooks is just a single core and only 32bit.

Things to look for in a netbook, again in my opinion, are Windows 7 (watch this close, ALOT of them still have XP Home on them for the same money!) a six cell battery and wireless N. After that your only other choices other then color for the most part is the amount of RAM and hard drive size. Most have 1gig of RAM installed upgradable to 2gig. For hard drive size most have 160gig drives and some have 250gig drives. After that for the most part they all use and have the same stuff inside, of course there are exceptions. A buddy of mine was so impressed with this little netbook that he went out and bought one for his wife and she just loves it.

If you are looking for or at a new system shot me an email with a link to it, what you want it to be able to do and I would be happy to give it a look. If you have any questions about anything I’ve posted here or how else I use Media Center post a comment and I’d be happy to see if I can’t answer it for you.



Anonymous said...

Good info, thanks for sharing.

Ride on,

WooleyBugger said...

I just don't get into all the newest and greatest high tech stuff, I'm a stuck in the old days sort of person. Get use to something and I keep it til it's dead. Was a time when I was younger that my parents thought I was the lateset and greatest technology person. When they couldn't get the VCR hooked up who'd they call? When they got a new cassette player/recorder and wanted it hooked up to their old cabinet stereo (Remember those)who'd they call? and then external speakers for the same cabinet stereo, again, who'd they call? Me of course as I could do all that stuff. But now-a-days I am at a loss with the technology that is outdated before it is released almost.
So when I have trouble with these new fangled gadgets and upgrades who do I call on? Well, my son of course. He keeps trying to get me to upgrade to the new windows 7. I'm afraid I'll be lost.

mq01 said...

fasthair, you're awesome. not only is this great info, but you offer to help others with it...too cool.

now if only i understood half this stuff, LOL! tv tuner? plug into my wireless router? why? will my directv be on my laptop then?

:) happy holidays fasthair. ps, bob is asking how whiskey is doin'?

fasthair said...

Mr. Torch: Maybe it gave you a idea to try out?

Mr. WB: I did the same thing growing up. My only problem is I never grew out of wanting to understand the next bit of tech. Must be why I like fixing high tech car problems.

Ms. MQ: You hit on the very one thing you can not do with a PC.. yet. Direct TV does not have any tuner cards for the computer. Earlier this year they started working on a card but abandon it. There are very few CableCard tuners for cable HDTV. What the network tuners lets me do is pull unencrypted digital HD content from my cable company and/or over the air. Once you install the TV viewing software on a PC they can see and use the tuner to view TV. Yes even wirelessly on your laptop.

Whiskey said to tell Bob cold... very cold.


irondad said...

This is a meaty meal. Like one in real life, it will just take a bit to chew and digest!

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Sir:

I agree with Wooley Bugger... Once I learn a system that is what I will stick with to the grave. I am typing this on an Apple MacBook Pro. God designed this computer, and handed it to me in an event that should be depicted on the roof of the Sistine Chapel.

I tried working on a PC and the experience had a lot in common with my second marriage. So much so, that I thought of cutting my own throat as an alternative to finishing the assignment.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad
Twisted Roads

fasthair said...

Mr. IronDad: Like I said I wasn’t sure how much of this is of any value. Maybe you will find something worthwhile once this digests and gets absorbed.

Mr. Jack: I’ve only played with a Mac a few times in my life. They seem like nice hardware from what little I’ve been exposed to. For your line of work Macs can do anything you need. However for my line of work most of the software I need to use is only written for PCs so I’m kind of locked into them. Since I started playing with PCs over ten years ago I’ve amassed a lot of stuff (junk?) and changing platforms just isn’t an option for me. Not to mention, like you, I only have the money to feed one ecosystem.