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Archive for October 2010

Productivity Review: Dexpot

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As many of you already know, I frequently test out new and fairly inexpensive software that I come across or that someone recommends I check out. This blog entry is no different, as I have found another nice piece of cheap programming that I am certain you will like as much as I do. Without further delay I present you with my newfound gem of the internet:

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Before the advent of multiple monitors and of tabbed browsing, the computer world looked to a concept that offered a simple solution to the problem of too many open windows. As you can see in the picture to my left, this desktop has a taskbar filled with open programs and switching between them can be a bit of a hassle, especially when trying to do real meaningful work. Notice in this example, I am running just a few programs that someone might use during the day and normally at the same time. MSN Messenger (no open chats at the moment), Internet Explorer (used for IE specific items), Google’s Chrome (default browser in use), Windows Live Writer (writing the very blog you are reading), Windows Media Player (to listen to music while I work), and Windows Live Mail (still opening). Needless to say that this desktop is very crowded and since it is a laptop, a pain to manage and move the windows around while working. Surely there must be a better way to deal with these windows and organize the way I think and work on a daily basis.

 

image Enter Dexpot, a program designed for the average user and built for the sole purpose of creating a desktop virtualization environment. What exactly is desktop virtualization? Imagine being able to increase your desktop screen space by up to 20 screens, each capable of holding its own windows and running programs. Want all your chat programs on one screen? Done. Want all the articles you plan on reading open on another screen? Bingo. Want your email all the time but do not want to see it until you are ready? Yup. Want to listen to music without having the player on your screen? Indeed! Just look at the screen to the right and you will understand what I am talking about. This is called the Desktop management screen and it is used to give you an overall view of each program you have open and on each desktop. Here there are 4 desktops and the same programs running as in the above example. Notice how clean everything looks and how easy it is to understand what is going on from screen to screen. Do not forget that each of these windows is part of the same computer, it is just that Dexpot has created an way to show you the screens as if they are their own unique computer. Want to lend your computer to someone who needs to run something? Not a problem, just give them a screen that is clean and they can do what they need to do without seeing any of your email, work, or conversations that are going on.

 

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The best feature that this allows you is the ability to customize your desktops as if they are totally separate. Imagine different screens for work, home, and a guest, each with their own icons suitable for what you do at work, at home, and what programs you want anyone using your computer to have ready at hand. Lastly you can actually change the background of each desktop screen to suit the work you are doing there: Lookto your left and you will have a better idea of what I mean. Each of the 4 desktops (which technically, you can make up to 20) has its own background. Also note that one of my backgrounds is totally black, which is my normal default screen because I like minimalist design. On top of all this is the programs cost: Free to use for regular people, about 12-20 Euros for a corporate license. So give it a try and test it for yourself. If you like it, keep it and help these guys by referring them business. They make a great product and deserve to be rewarded for it.

 

You can learn more about it and download a copy here: http://www.dexpot.de/index.php?id=home

Written by Josecito

October 16, 2010 at 4:32 pm

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An attempt at optimizing resources in a computer

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With the addition of the netbook I got my mother and wrote about in the other page, I needed to find a group of useful applications that were not memory or processor intensive, yet could do their jobs easily and are quick to learn. It is with that in mind that I began a serious review of the software my mother might be using and by review – myself.

 

  • Adobe Acrobat Reader versus FoxitReader

images images (1) The first contenders for size cutting and optimization I found in the PDF readers that we all take for granted. For years those of us who use PDF’s have defaulted to Acrobat Reader by Adobe for out PDF format conversions and printing needs. Alongside this we were required to install Adobe Air, the exclusive downloading program required for updates an installation. “Ok, that is not so terrible, its a needed application” ; you think to yourself as you use this monstrosity, never realizing the size or processing power this sucks out of your machinery. Even while you are not reading PDF’s, it is there..checking for updates, stealing clock cycles, getting incrementally larger and less beneficial.

So where did we stand on Hard disk usage? Well when I checked my Add/Remove Programs location, Adobe Acrobat Reader in its latest incarnation used up a mind bloating 112MB of space! Not that much you think?! Well compare that to Foxit Reader, which loaded in at a trim and respectable 9MB!!! Yes.. only 9MB of space needed to do the same task, a savings of about 90%. Added to this is another 30MB (for Adobe Air) or so that is used to install and constantly update and recheck your 112MB leviathan. To be more specific, that means there is a program sitting in your precious RAM memory (the one needed to run the stuff you use all the time) that just looks and looks and looks for new crap to install on your machine. Foxit Reader does have this but the size is nowhere near 30MB, heck the whole program is less then a third of just the install program Adobe uses. For those of you who think I am pulling hairs with this one think logically for a moment: Many PDF files that you view are around 500kb –10MB in size. Why would you want PDF reader that is magnitudes larger then the file it is trying to read? That can be compared to someone who owns a pair of glasses that weigh 50lbs and is only used to read store receipts!

Give it a try and see for yourself : http://www.foxitsoftware.com/pdf/reader/

  • Microsoft Office 2003 versus OpenOffice

images (5) images (2) The next item that I reviewed was my office products bundle. Microsoft Office is notorious for their ability to bulge their word processing programs and add in so many unneeded and complexity to their software as to render them useless to everyone. To create a better environment for writing documents, using spreadsheets and powerpoints, etc., we have to determine how much of these tasks will be done and how many of the features will be used, not forgetting the size of the documents created and the user’s demands. After careful introspection I have come to the conclusion that most people do not use their word processing programs with sufficient complexity to merit anything complex. Most people in their lifetimes write resumes, simple letters, and the occasional flyer, reports (which the most I have seen people write is around 100pages, usually 40). None of this can really justify what Microsoft did to their line of Office products. A quick look at the install lists of my Office Suite indicates that, including the compatibility pack for 2007 file formats (the docx crap), this dung heap dirtied up about 2GB of space!!!! Do not forget that this might not include all of the updates and security patches to repair MSFT’s flawed designs. So…2 gigabytes (2,000 MB or 2,000,000 KB) is being taken away from my computer, all in the name of providing me with a resume writer, a letter writer, and an envelope maker (the only three things I have used it for in the last 4 years)!!! Let me check how much space each of those documents used up on my drive: the most recent resume took up 51KB, with another 24KB for a references page, the envelopes are made instantly and are not saved so 0KB, and finally a cover letter for a job application that used 143KB. Let me add that up for you: the three documents that I made using Office took up 194KB of space but needed about 2,000,000 KB of space for the program that I used to make them!!! Does not seem justifiable in my mind. Added to this is again, another updater program that takes up RAM and your computer’s resources that could be better used towards doing the things you wanted to do while on your own machine.

images (3) images (4) As a worthy substitute, let me recommend OpenOffice. The footprint in your machine is around 400MB and does not have the added bonus of MSFT’s security flaws and constant patching of bad programming. It is free, does nearly everything that I could think of doing in MSFT’s Office 2003 products, and does it much faster (as in the computer runs better because the program is written better) then Office 2003. It includes conversion utilities to read MSFT’s files and it can save it as an MSFT file in case someone needs to view it who does not have it. The layout of the program is very simple to use and reminds me of the glory days of Word 2.0a on my old Compaq LTE Lite laptop, which was the word processor that I used the most during college. One of the things that I love about this changeover is the lack of hassle I get from MSFT regarding upgrades to the Office 2007 trash heap.

 

images (7) images (6) Many of my friends, neighbors and clients have bought newer Laptops and Desktops recently, only to find that they were cheated out of a full working copy of Office 2007. Why on earth would MSFT do this? Profits of course. They sent out ‘trial versions’ of the new software, instead of including it in the total package as a means to generate more revenue. The problem is that you do not really have the program, and it will constantly remind you of this, and when the 30 days are up, it will stop working. Usually people find out that their program no longer works at the worst possible time: when they have to write something up ASAP and send it out for processing. This is what MSFT is hoping for: they give you the program, force you to need it, then they tell you that you can buy it immediately for a low low price (which is not low at all) and with a credit card. My humble suggestion to anyone using Office products? Uninstall it and get used to using Open Office or any of the other myriad of better written and easier on the machine programs. Do not buy into their bulk if you have the ability to opt out. They have written poorly performing programs since 2002 and most of what they made is not really a new program but an overly expensive update of a prior version. If you doubt me, try to find an old copy of Microsoft Word 2.0 or Works 4.5 (circa 1995-2000)  watch how fast it loads and how easy it was to write a letter or quick report. Granted they do not have the features that the new Office can do, but I can not see how the original word processors are measures in Megabytes and the new ones are in the Gigabytes. A 1000 fold increase in size, all so that we can do what? Add a picture to a report, make a slide show, a business card, adding up a row of numbers and making a pie chart, or an advertisement?! I am not buying that malarky for a minute.

Give OpenOffice a try: www.openoffice.org

 

  • Internet Explorer 8 versus Google Chrome

images (8) Last but certainly not the least is the browser switch. Let me be the first to declare that I was a hard sell on Google’s Chrome browser. I was one of the early adopters of Chrome and tested it using my PC and frankly, it annoyed the hell out of me. I have used IE, Chrome, Firefox and Opera over the years and always managed to return to IE. Yes it is a bloated, poorly written program that should be substituted. The only hinderance to changing IE for another browser was that the IE browser was generally the browser that worked with the least number of errors over the longest timeframe. I tried Firefox but it felt just as sluggish and constantly required me to install add-on after add-on to do the stuff that I normally did. I tried Opera on the Wii, which has potential but still has compatibility issues. Lastly there is Chrome, a browser that was designed with the internet in mind, a browser that was meant to load pages faster and more reliably then IE. Well the Beta version that I tried sucked the big one. Not only did most pages give me trouble, but the browser functions seemed to run slower then even the slowest of IE’s bad days.

images (9) That was the past, today’s version of Google Chrome loads incredibly nice and so far has not crashed, nor has it given me the errors that its previous Beta wrought upon my screen. Chrome is the originator of Tabbed browsing, a feature that saved memory and resources, and allowed security to be much tighter when online, and was later adopted my MSFT for IE. Chrome’s browser has very little security problems, an omnibar (which is a combination address bar and search bar) and almost no extra screen space wasted on framing the internet page that you are viewing which results in more space to see what you wanted to see online. When using google as the default search engine, Chrome has the ability to quick search..meaning as you type what you are looking for, it offers suggestions based on other peoples searches and offers you complete sentences, saving a lot of time typing and retyping to find what you need. For example: Firefox is an option to search as you type ‘firef’, yes two letters less may not seem like much but over time, they result in longer lasting keyboards, and a more satisfied client base.

So let us look at the real meat of the issue: Size requirements. Chrome needs about 100MB to install on your hard drive, IE 8 states that it needs 200MB for an XP PRO system (the one I am doing the benchmarking since it is the most stable OS in circulation) Chrome uses about 128MB of RAM to run on your system, this is the same that IE 8 states it uses on your machine (I don’t buy it…try a test yourself and see if it stands up to scrutiny).

The problem I see with the MSFT stats is that they are disingenuous. A simple thought arises, when I install IE 8 onto my computer the first thing that happens is a 10 minute wait while IE downloads and installs all the security fixes, patches, and backend junk that they did not bother to fix when they shipped out the browser the first time. This never happened with Chrome which makes me believe the 100MB figure is close and that the 200MB figure stated my MSFT is much, much larger (especially when you think that those security fixes are installed in IE /OS and can not be reliably measured at a glance).  A better indication of IE 8’s size might be this: Uninstall IE 8 and all its components, then make a mark of your HD size. Reinstall IE 8 and its components and updates and compare the 2. The difference will be what IE 8 adds to your computer and what inevitably gets loaded into your RAM everytime you use it (that is b/c MSFT is notorious for making loading a bunch of ‘in case you need it crap’ mandatory).

Give Google’s Chrome a try and see if you agree with me: www.google.com/chrome

 

So in changing out those three programs, I saved myself about 2-3GB of Hard drive space and a large chunk of available RAM and system resources. Seriously give it a shot, and experiment for yourself. You’d be pleasantly surprised!

Written by Josecito

October 13, 2010 at 6:32 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Another piece of hardware in the family

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Well nothing really all that exciting to post here except for the recent purchase I made of a netbook for my mother to use. To get everyone up to speed, my mom is usually the last person to get any tech upgrades and I felt that she would need something at least to use while working on genealogy or at the library, or simply to enjoy in her spare time. Right now she owns an older model HP Pavilion (800 MHz, 512MB RAM on XP PRO) that was originally my twin sister’s computer, that I have since morphed into a useable machine for her and her family history/email usage.

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This machine is a little different, it is a netbook that I bought from someone really really cheaply and then reconfigured it to do the basics but in a more modern environment: Check and Sync her email using Windows Live Mail, Browse the internet and play games or watch videos on YouTube via Google Chrome, write reports, letters, spreadsheets, powerpoints, etc using OpenOffice, view and manage pictures (Live Photo Gallery), webchat/video conference (Live Messenger) make movies (Movie Maker) and finally read PDF’s using Foxit Reader. I must say that I was amazed at what I could tweak on this extremely minimalist piece of machinery and still have it perform almost 90% of what she does on a day to day basis. The main loss was any CD installed or large hard drive programs, which is what the main computer is designed to complete. Hopefully this will allow her to spend her time organizing the family history and bills in one area (her desk) thus keeping it clean, and her more personal stuff or internet based entertainment can be done on this one (with the exception of using it while traveling). The battery was still good on the machine and it runs most applications in about the same amount of time that her older desktop runs them, which translates into an enjoyable user experience.

 

images (1) So what about stats? Well for starters this little baby was purchased for $50! Yes, a $50 used netbook with a working battery (2.7 hour+ charged capacity still!). Still more interesting is that it only has a SD Card has a HD with a capacity of 8 GB! Yes, this computer stores all of its data on an SD CARD (you know, the kind that you use in your camera or smart phone to store pictures)!!  The RAM is pretty small at 512MB, but for running XP Home and the lighter applications, it has been shown to meet my demand (with some small quibbles from software bloat). Oddly enough this machine has a slower Celeron Processor (like the desktop) that runs at about 900MHz, which for a 2008 machine could have been installed with something running at 1.5GHz minimum. What is clock speed you ask? That is the number of calculations that a computer can do in a given second, and generally the larger the clock speed will result in a faster computer (all things being equal). Finally, this little netbook can still be upgraded. If the need arose or money found its way to making this run better, I could replace the 512MB RAM chip with a 2GB RAM, and replace the 8GB SD Card with a 32GB (or even higher) one, thus making this machine much more competitive with a current machine worth about $250-$400.

 

To summarize: I got a great deal on a netbook that was outdated, fixed it up and tweaked it to run modern apps and be useful to my mom, and did it for $50.

images (2) Let this be a lesson to all of you who think that the latest is the greatest : in some things it is, but in the tech world, just like the car markets, you can usually save a lot of money by adopting the slightly aged piece of machinery that someone else no longer wants. In this way you save on the depreciation costs and still get value out of it for its remaining years. If you doubt this, remember that I am writing this on an ASUS W5000A, made in or earlier then 2005, using XP Pro, and I have no intentions of upgrading for the foreseeable future (if I do, it will be because my applications are no longer functioning or from a major hardware failure that I can not repair for less then $50). It only has a 60GB Hard drive capacity (less then 50% used) and 750MB RAM with a 1.75GHz Centrino processor (of which I under-clocked to 800MHz for nearly all my work). It can and has done everything I wanted it to do since I bought it in Bogota, Colombia two years ago for $325 (650,000 pesos then). Could I have spent more and bought a nicer pc? Yes, for about $500 extra. Could I have spend just a little more and bought a new netbook? Yes, for around $400 (800,000 pesos) I could have bought one, but then I would have lost a lot of the features I needed in a laptop. Those features (a moveable camera, card reader, IO ports and Disc Drive) I used and continue to use for PC repairs, data backups, upgrading or testing. Suffice it to say, a 5 year old laptop does the job that I need it to do with only one exception: battery power. Naturally I am a heavy user and that used battery that gave me 2 hours of juice when I first used it is down to only 20-25minutes. A new battery is about $100 which is pretty cheap, but not cheap enough for my tastes (I would just buy another laptop or netbook at that price and upgrade it).

Written by Josecito

October 12, 2010 at 1:54 am

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Hello world!

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Welcome to WordPress.com. This is your first post. Edit or delete it and start blogging!

Written by Josecito

October 2, 2010 at 7:53 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Test Posting and another ticked off Microsoft User

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Ok so this is a test of my blog, which for all of you who read this should know was NOT my idea! Apparently Microsoft has gotten lazy after developing a great program and a simple to use item called SPACES on its Windows Live platform. So today when I posted an update about the new Beagle I was told that so many people complained about not being able to do a lot on Spaces (which is not true) that they chose to ‘enhance’ my blogging experience (which I was unaware that I requested an enhancement) by sending me to WordPress. The real reason why they are doing this is the same reason why Microsoft does anything: to force sales of products that are not needed and to abuse the trust that many loyal users have given their more quality controlled programs in exchange for the almighty dollar. I have been happy using Live Writer and Spaces, and like about 90% of users, have no desire to change my blogging site. I have no desire for a richer experience (how much better can letters written on a screen get?), nor did I have any desire to increase my audience. Truth is, the company appears to be discontinuing its working products in an effort to force people to upgrade to Windows 7. That’s all this is. The new version of Live Essentials is Vista and 7 only and can take the migration to WordPress perfectly. The old version (of which they are no longer supporting) is for XP users (about 70% of the market) who are happy with a working product, see no reason (other then the desire to piss money down a toilet) to upgrade and lose programs, data, and gain a shitload of headaches as they are then forced to upgrade equipment (I mean really…my laptop has worked fine and will continue to work for the next 2 years thanks to my own memory/CPU management..) to do the same things they did the day earlier.

 

The reality is that MSFT is not doing what they did best during the XP years: make a reliable OS that is backwards compatible, and can be customizable to suit 90% of current and future equipment and can be run using existing processors and RAM without slowing down the system. I remember when well written programs were considered a matter of pride and the days long since passed when an OS was meant to run programs that you use and to NOT get in the way of doing the things that you want to do. I have no real problem with MSFT wanting to make a new OS, using newer capabilities. But the issue I have is that they should have layered the OS so that you could run the skeleton that runs the machine, and then add on components piecemeal. I do not like a flashy computer, and I hate the idea of a program that can not disable visual excess. After all, I like my computer clean, fast, simple, and ready to do work. I do not need a desktop icon that is shown in 64,000,000 + potential colors, I do not need a taskbar that can become invisible (especially when the older computer had a great low memory line of code that did it better : HIDE TASKBAR). If I am not using a game and I am not running the most memory intensive crap on earth on my laptop then I do not want the additional garbage automatically loaded to support them.

The truth is this: Windows XP Professional can in as little as 64MB (128 really), Windows Vista needs 512 MB (a 4-8x increase), and Windows 7 needs a bloated 1-2GB (that is 1,000MB-2,000MB, plus another 1,000MB if you want to run your old programs in XP!).

So I have to ask myself: I have an XP Professional Computer with 750MB of RAM which runs the programs I use and has done so perfectly. Why do I want to spend money to buy a new laptop to run a program that will not be able to run those programs I need yet take 10-30x the memory and system resources to do it?

Really… all that you are buying is poor programming and wasted resources. If you have a computer with 2GB or less RAM you shouldn’t use 7 or Vista as they will just overwork your computer.

 

Thank you Microsoft for once again showing up and ruining good things that you did in the name of the Crappening (the tendency for a good product or service to become a bad product due to cost cutting or the excuse of ‘improvements’)

Written by Josecito

October 2, 2010 at 5:06 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

The Latest Addition

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bella2 006 So my sister Colombia’s birthday just passed and my father comes in with her gift: a female beagle puppy. Naturally she was cute and loveable and fun to play with and care for. After careful consideration we have named her Bella. Of course as many of you know I am a lover of all things canine and furry, this particular doggie will be a welcome member of the family. She has one issue: cherry eye, and according to our neighbor and several online sites is very easily correctable and a common issue. Originally she was purchased as a pet for a woman with Alzheimer’s disease but apparently was no longer able to care for her. The puppy was hit by a car and every once in a while chews her back legs, something that I feel the vet will have to evaluate and possibly medicate. Other then this issue she is as healthy as any puppy could be and extremely energetic! To put it mildly, the little girl goes for about 6 walks each day (30-45 minutes each) so that she is acclimated to peeing and pooping outside. The downside is that even this amount of exercise is no tiring her out like my old dog Rocky, even when he was young. I imagine it is the dog breed b/c Bella is meant for a tracking dog for rabbit hunting and is built for long distance chasing. Rocky was bred for guarding and had hip problems which prevented him from going more then 1/4 mile before tiring and deciding to turn back.

This of course can and I hope, will be a big advantage to me in my quest to lose weight. I will be walking her for longer and longer distances by the spring (apparently over-walking them as puppies can cause joint problems for them..so I will be increasing her walks gradually over the coming months).  My goal would be to get her into a 1 mile walk daily at night and two shorter walks : once in the morning and once again at noon. If I can do that I am sure she will sleep soundly and I will have a good base amount of exercise ( already in the last 36 hours I have been moving constantly.. a very good sign). One thing that worries me greatly with her is that Colombia will be working and rarely spends time at home and as my job starts up, I too will be out of the house for a long period of time (more if you include my future college courses)…this type of dog is a very social creature that will be left with my mother and two cats (both of whom want nothing to do with a puppy). A big concern is if she will develop separation anxiety or begin to pee all over the place and shred furniture. Even with crate training my other dog did this and I would not want to same fate to befall Bella. I have read a lot on Beagles and I worry that the only real solution is more attention or another dog for companionship (which I think most people should do for company…as most people leave their pets alone for way too long and treat them like furniture.

Written by Josecito

October 2, 2010 at 3:48 pm

Posted in Uncategorized