Windows 8 Preview

Looks like Windows 8 is gonna be pretty slick:
http://theverge.vid.io/v/5b7e484a-6334-11e1-ab41-123139255418

Spotify Experience

OK, so I’m done lamenting over my long, lost LaLa service . . . it let me listen to all sorts of new music and decide if I like it (then, I’d go grab it to purchase and actually felt gooood about it). So, then Apple comes along and gobbles them up . . . thanks alot.

So, I heard news of our friends across the pond having this super-fantastic service called Spotify. There, they could pay a fee and get all-you-can-eat service . . . still, something about the “rental” model just didn’t seem to thrill this “old-school” music consumer (even if I have adopted MP3 downloads pretty heavily lately).

Then, yesterday, I get my invite to spotify (it was hidden in my spam filter – woohoo!). Now, you might ask, “did he just jump into the paid model of service?”. Nope. Ready for this? So far, the free version is every bit as good as LaLa’s old service . . . AND, I can play the files again! LaLa would limit to 30 seconds after the first full listen. Right now, I’m jamming out to the Marty Stuart Ghost Train Sessions with wreckless abandon (pretty good, btw, BTrain).

So, looks like happy days are here again . . . if you work at your computer all day – I can leave this humming through my speakers as I work. Now, the paid version ($9.99/month) would let me dump any and all music to my iPhone, but I’m gonna stick right here for a while . . . this is pretty dad blame sweet.

www.spotify.com

LM

Carbonite Backup Service

Chances are, within your lifetime, you will have a hard drive crash or get a virus that corrupts your computer. Case in point: I had some weird attack on my laptop a few months back and it crippled my computer. I thankfully backed up my client files and important information to my external drive (I have this set to do nightly . . . whew), so after a good while of restoring, I was back in action.

I always planned on going the online backup route, but all the free (you know what I’m talking about!) services capped at around 25 gigabytes of storage. I have 100’s of gigabytes to deal with, so I figured I’d just stay with my double nightly backup (one to external, then that backs up to my desktop).

However, Thursday I needed a file that I saved on my machine the wrong way and my external file listing was freaky (didn’t show ANY files). After a reboot, I found the files, but this got me nervous.

So, now I’m trying out http://www.carbonite.com. They allow you to backup an unlimited amount of data  for just over $50 per year . . . I figured it’d be worth it if it worked well. I started the service on Friday. I’m almost half way uploaded at this point, but once the files are backed up, each time you save something, it will upload it to the backup server. Now, that’s just cool.

I can access the backed up files from anywhere a browser is handy. So, now I have the peace of mind that all my important information is away from the house (in case of fire, disaster, etc.).

I’ll post a follow up after a while of use, but I think it’s going to be an obvious business expense issue. If you want to try it, enter the code “tnt” for 2 months free. There are other free versions (and I say go for it if you don’t need the space), but if you have lots of data (I’ll upload all my photos next!), this is almost a no brainer!

Update: It’s August 9th and my 100 GBytes isn’t done yet . . . whew. Otherwise, it runs pretty low key in the background. I can pause for an hour, 4 hours, 8 hours, etc. to get some work done. Nice feature.

Ubuntu Netbook Remix

OK, so I was quite excited to give my wife a nice little happy by way of the HP Mini 1000 computer a few years back. It was small, stylish and would even fit into her purse for her to use at a moment’s notice when she needed to get online. She LOVED it. Windows XP worked at a nice clip, the smallish, but ample 8 GB Solid State drive was totally silent . . . it seemed like I nailed it.

Enter the “Windows XP + Time = Piece of Junk” phase. After a few months, this darling of a computer turned slower than my 5-year-old on the first day of school. It was unbearable just to get running and could barely even open the web browser (which is the main reason I got it – for her to surf and tinker on the web for email and such).

So, there it sat for almost two years. I re-installed Windows a time or two, but it quickly slowed to the same sad state.

I’ve been anxiously awaiting the upcoming Google Chrome operating system to try out, since it claims to be lightweight and nimble on small “netbook” computers, but then I remembered another solution. I tried Linux (Ubuntu) a few years back on an old Pentium II 450 MHz machine. I was pleasantly surprised at the speed of getting around even on that ancient computer. So, I headed back to http://www.ubuntu.com to see about a copy for this netbook. Well, they had a flavor tailored just for it – cool!

I was debating (for about 5 seconds) about the install since I had only USB (no disc drive) to install with, but then saw the simple set up through making an installer out of a USB drive. Seriously, anyone who barely knows how to run a computer could do this process. Kudos to Ubuntu for making it so painless.

So, I downloaded the ISO file of Ubuntu (took about 30-40 minutes on a decent broadband connection), created the USB drive, and even got to try the system out by running it from the USB drive first to see if everything worked. There is a testing app built in to see if things like sound and other basic hardware are compatible. For the HP Mini I’m on, everything was ready to go, save some WiFi issues (see below). Ubuntu hit a home run this time, it seemed. On my previous install (the old PII computer), there were several drivers missing and some patchwork to get it running right.

The one hurdle of the whole process, getting my wireless card to work, was actually not so bad, thanks to http://www.ubuntuforums.org. There are so many great users and developers in this community, you can find solutions to most any issue. I simply searched “HP Mini Wireless” and found a solution within the first few threads.. It was a sort of advanced move using the terminal and some code, but was straightforward and fixed my wireless issue (now, I’m writing this from the couch rather than the office tethered to ethernet).

So, how does it run? Let’s just say I’m impressed. I counted seconds during boot time and it was just over 20 from off to fully running. I’m anxious to see how this stacks up over time. Even the Firefox browser is quick to load – this is encouraging, since the same program on my work computer, with much more horsepower, is a beast to open. The use of the menus and programs is smooth and satisfying. They’ve done a great job with the look of the icons and layout. It’s similar to using a Mac, in my opinion. Of course, there aren’t allot of swooshing graphics, but the minimal use of fades and highlights is really effective.

The layout of the menu is along the left side in the Netbook edition and gives you a good, concise layout of all of the software options (games, office, internet, settings, etc.). There’s a nice “Favorites” folder at the top to place your most used programs – I like this already. I’ve read that I can switch to the default view of Ubuntu if needed, so I might try that later.

There’s the software app that lets you choose from various applications (most free!), so I’m excited about digging in. I probably won’t get too crazy – I only have 4 GBytes left on the machine, so I might give some time to add things to see how performance progresses. Oh, I mean, my wife might give time . . . it’s her machine, after all, right?!

I’ll leave it at that for now and come back later for an update. I’m glad Linux is progressing as it has. This is a major improvement over even 2 years ago and I look forward to seeing their progress. If you have a machine to fool around with, I highly recommend trying Ubuntu. I don’t advise using it for your main machine (yet), but it’s a great alternative to Windows for light duty computing. Enjoy

FYI, to set the driver for the HP Mini wireless chip, head to the terminal app in Ubuntu, then enter the following command:

sudo apt-get install bcmwl-kernel-source

Reboot and you should be good to go. You’ll need to be hooked in via Ethernet to enter the above command, btw.

Update: August 2nd

Wow . . . I mean, seriously, this machine has a whole new usefulness now. Standby mode is snappy. When you open the lid, the screen zips back to life and connects to the wireless by the time you open the browser. Good stuff. Chromium is still my favorite browser and on linux, it’s no exception – super fast. I’m tempted to use the bookmark sync feature in Google.

My Life With Roku

Back in November, I wrote about Netflix streaming and the new (at that time) Roku box. Well, Alison took my hints and I recieved my shine (tiny) Roku box for Christmas this past December. Yeah, it’s all I wanted it to be.

After 8 months with the device, I can say (IMHO) that it’s all it’s cracked up to be. Netflix is adding more and more movies to their streaming service all the time. My kids say “Can I watch Roku” instead of “can I watch TV” now. The great thing is, and I hope they keep this up, is that several shows allow you to stream new episodes very soon after their air date. Heroes (NBC) lets you watch the new episode from the Roku player the day after the new showing. Maggie gets to watch Sonny With a Chance and other Disney programs in the same manner.

Aaaaand, many shows are now in HD quality. I never thought it’d get there, but 720p resolution on my 32 inch widescreen looks close to spectacular. I’d like to test it out on a larger Hi-Def tv . . . gotta wait on that though!

Oh, and did I mention that it’s wireless? It used 802.11G wireless, so it’s plenty fast to pull in shows rather quickly and with good quality.

All in all, a great piece of hardware. You can pick them up for $100 at several places. You will need a minimum Netflix package of $8.95/month (that gets you one disc in the mail at a time too). If they keep up the trend, cable might be a thing of the past soon. Oh, and iPhone and Wii are rumored to get Netflix streaming too . . . that’s just too cool.

The Disc is Dead

If you’ve kept up with high definition television in the least, you’ve probably heard about Blue Ray and HD-DVD. These new formats are the “replacement” for your standard DVD player. While both of these options offer great picture and so on, I think it’s too little, too late for the format. Here’s why . . .

I mentioned in an earlier post that TiVo has downloadable movies through Amazon. I use this feature alot. It’s simple to use, and gives instant (almost) gratification. I find a movie, I enter my pin for payment (from my Credit Card already authorized) and within the hour I have something to watch. I don’t have it in high definition, but that’s ok for now. It still looks as good as a DVD and is formatted for my widescreen TV so it looks just great. I say that to say, I can see the jump to hi-definition for downloads working just as well. I have 2 HD tvs, and all I’ve used them for is DVD (480p) signals. Once HD is in place (2009 hopefully), I can possibly upgrade to an HD TiVo and continue. No discs. No problem. And, I can buy the videos if I’d like and keep them on the player or download whenever I want after purchase. The one drawback is that I cannot take the movies with me on my laptop or burn them to DVD. I don’t mind this, but if they could figure that out . . . that’s just icing on the cake.

The second reason I don’t see the new DVD formats working is that they can’t get on the same page. The movies to watch are split down the middle (HD-DVD has some, Blueray has some, but not both). And studios won’t commit to sell to both camps. That fuels my download option even more.

To sum up, it is my opinion that the growing amount of portable electronics for video on-the-go is growing at such a rate that disc media just isn’t going to be a viable option for movies. And, hard drives are cheaper by the day.