Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Intel Museum: Fab-ulous

I'm spending my weekend in Santa Clara CA, and just a little way up the street from my hotel is the Intel campus.

What is very cool is that they have a small but excellent museum there that is open to the public. There you can not only experience the history of Intel; but the history of computing, especially in the last 30 years.

Intel was founded in 1968 by two guys, Robert Noyce and Gordon Moore (Moore's law), who worked for Fairchild Semiconductor. They thought better of naming the new company Moore-Noyce (more-noise) and so Intel was born.

There are displays of everything from how chips are made to a trip through Intel's marketing strategies. One really neat thing is that the entire floor of the museum is made of perforated "clean room" tiles.

I wandered the museum by myself. Then I took a free docent-led tour that was both fun and informative.

One of my favorite things in the museum was an original Altair 8800. After all, it is the computer that started it all for the home user.

My other favorite thing was the silicon ingot. The docent told us that it was just like the ones they actually make the wafers from, but that is was shorter than the ones they use in production. The ingot on display would produce 12 inch wafers.

The museum is free and is open 6 days a week. There are both static and interactive displays that are fun for all ages. If you find yourself in Silicon Valley with an hour or 2 to spare, the Intel Museum is a great way to totally geek out.

A Review of Windows 7 -

"I believe it is the best version of Windows Microsoft has produced. It's a boost to productivity and a pleasure to use. Despite a few drawbacks, I can heartily recommend Windows 7 to mainstream consumers."

If this were just hype, I wouldn't be passing this article from the Wall Street Journal along; but having used Windows 7 for a while now, I don't want to go back to XP. In my opinion, and the opinion of others I've talked to, this is the most "ready to go" Windows ever. You don't have to wait until Service Pack 1.

If you need a new computer and can hold out a few weeks, get one with Windows 7 pre-installed. If you are using an older version of Windows like XP or Vista, I recommend upgrading to Windows 7 if your equipment meets at least the minimum requirements and you are up to the task of doing the upgrade. This really is the best Windows ever.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Down to Earth -- the other side of inflight WiFi

I'm back on the ground today and have a few more comments about Southwest Airlines WiFi offering. I still think it is a wonderful option, but there are a few downsides.

The first downside is that there are no AC seat power ports, so when your battery is done, so are you. As Southwest points out, they have recharging stations at their gates. I've never had any trouble getting a recharge at a Southwest gate when I needed one. In fact at my home airport, Sacramento, we have free airport-wide WiFi so it is a pretty sweet deal waiting for a flight at the Southwest gates. But I digress.

Another downside is that each and every web page I opened was framed with a fairly wide strip across the top. This top frame allowed me to return to the Southwest-Yahoo portal, and did give some current flight info like the altitude, but it was entirely too big and intrusive, especially when I was paying real money for the privilege. I did think the Southwest-Yahoo portal itself was nice, and once logged on, it the portal itself could be ignored.

The content is filtered, though I didn't encounter a problem. This is a mixed downside. I really don't want to be subjected to someone next to me talking loudly on VOIP or surfing porn, but like all content filtering, it is not perfect, so be forewarned. I didn't have any trouble doing anything I wanted to do. That included watching some news videos, Yahoo IM, email (POP3 and SMTP -- not relegated to Web mail), and flight tracking (with Southwest's own portal and also my favorite flight tracking sites).

The last downside is an unwieldy log in process. First you have to give you name, email (for sending the receipt), and agree to the terms of service. Once you do that you have to enter your credit card info including security code and full address. This is a real pain in the air. How much easier would it be to be able to pre-register your credit card with Southwest for this purpose, and then log in, agree to the price, agree to the terms of service and be good to go. I found it very cumbersome to log in from a cramped airline seat on a dim, battery powered screen. They type was small, gray and for security the cc number was obscured by dots. This was good for your seat partner having a hard time seeing what was going on, but it also made it difficult to enter the proper info, all the while the battery was draining its precious minutes. I had pre-stored my cc number in an encrypted file and memorized the date and security code. With my pre-planning I didn't have to actually pull out a card and I did that part via cut and paste, but it still wasn't a particularly easy maneuver.

That about wraps up the things I felt could have been better. I wish I had a way to give this feedback directly to Southwest Airlines. It is meant to be constructive. Still, no matter what the drawbacks were, the benefits of having WiFi in flight were greater. It was a wonderful experience, and just like I've sought out airlines that check at least one bag for free, offer in-flight TV, and offer WiFi and/or recharging stations at the gates, I undoubtedly would prefer to have the option of in-flight WiFi. According to Southwest, they should be offering WiFi for the entire fleet sometime in the first quarter 2010. There is no plan to offer in-flight AC seat power ports.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

A Glimpse of the Future

I'm sitting on a Southwest Airlines 737, 40,000 ft above the western United States between Denver and Sacramento. On the first leg of the flight the WiFi didn't work for some unknown reason, but it was fixed during our stop in Denver. So far I've emailed, and Yahoo chatted with a few of my closest friends. Now I'm trying my hand at "sky blogging". I usually leave my computer in its bag so I'm learning to type while bouncing across the sky. 1.7 Mbps down, but it errored out on the Speakeasy upload test. But awesome download. I'd love to know more about the technology. If it is satellite, I'm not seeing the latency that I usually see. I'm also guessing at $10 for a 2 hour flight, that not a lot of people are partaking of the Internet goodness here. This is one of only 4 WiFi equipped planes that Southwest has, so getting to try this was just lucky on my part. When it works, it is on the pricey side, but it is awesomely and geeky cool.

Update: A quick Google tells me this is Ku band satellite. Now that I'm settling in I'm seeing some latency, but it is not as bad as Wildblue's heavily traffic shaped service. I certainly feel that I'm getting a good service for a high but not prohibitively high price.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

OnComputers Radio show Podcast 10-04-09

This is the On Computers Radio show podcast for 10-04-09. You can listen live every Sunday from 10AM to 1PM Pacific that's 1PM to 4PM Eastern. Join us for the live show and chat. If you prefer, you can download the same MP3 file here via ftp.

Links from the Gregg Zone

1) I am pretty sure this is the first green link I have put up that I almost feel I should apologize for, but there is no way I could resist something like pee power. It seems that those guys at Ohio State have really come up with something interesting this time. They say one cow can produce enough urine to provide hot water for 19 houses, hard to resist a comment on that. They say if they can convert a car battery, 90 mpg. I am not going to comment on the obvious lap top remark. All kidding aside this not only looks like a workable idea, they say it can be available in six months.
2) This started out with a conversation with Joe over the reality of money’s value, I was talking about how money has no real value, it only has a virtual value because all of us playing the game agree to use it as currency, and that value is arbitrary. Looking around for Google ammo to express my point of view I ran across this. While making my point it has a very Gregg Zone Link plus. Seems there is a very real economy rising in the third world using cell phone minutes as currency, replacing cash. Check this out
3) This is one of those sites to educate your self in almost any area that interests you. If you like to follow new areas of interest like taking a course at the community college on a new subject that started those curiosity juices flowing. This may be something you are interested in, it is a free online educational site setup by Rice University in a new and innovative way. You can contribute your knowledge, and benefit from others in a very open environment.
4) This is something that was announced last year, I just saw it last week thought that it is very interesting, another of those promising technologies that seem to be popping up everywhere. Sometimes it looks encouraging the way technology is pacing our planet worries. This is one of those win-win type situations using excess heat and co2 coming from power plants, combining it with sea water to make cement. It reduces the co2 created in making the cement, and then sequesters excess co2 in the finished product. Very cool
5) A very interesting geek offering this week, I was recently introduced to the idea of a national wireless mesh network and I started looking into it; this is an extremely interesting idea. I am posting two links the first deals mainly with cars, they have this in the testing stage now in Europe by wirelessly connecting lots of cars to each other they can, by using break sensors, and other sensing devices in the car communicate road conditions, weather hazards like black ice, along with a lot of other stuff to other cars. Article here
But, this pales when compared to what Massachusetts is up to they are talking about complete and total wireless access statewide, everything. Every cell phone, traffic light, lap top, car, everything serving as a mini cell tower sending data along. This could be huge, they want it to be free it would change everything.

Earl's Cyber Steals and Deals

New: Rosewill Amplified Directional Indoor HDTV Antenna for $15 + free offers the Rosewill Amplified Directional Indoor HDTV Antenna, model no. RMS-DA8300, for $14.99. With free shipping,. It supports both analog and digital signals

New: USB Sound Card Adapter for $4 + free shipping offers this USB Sound Card Adapter for $5.49. Apply coupon code "DEALSA092822" to get it for $3.99. With free shipping, it's $2 under our July mention and the lowest total price we've seen for such a device. It allows you to plug headphones and microphone into a USB port on your PC

3-Foot HDMI to DVI Cable for $4 + free shipping offers this 3-Foot HDMI Male to DVI Male Cable for $4.99 with free shipping. Coupon code "DEALSA092820" cuts it to $3.99. That's the lowest total price we could find by a buck. Deal ends October 5

New: Seagate 1TB SATA 3Gbps Internal Hard Drive for $80 + $6 s&h
Fry's Electronics has the retail-boxed Seagate 1TB Serial ATA 3Gb/s Internal Hard Drive, model no. ST1000340AS-RK, for $79.99 plus around $6 for shipping ($0.09/GB). . This drive features a 32MB cache and runs at 7200 rpm.
Posted 3 hr 4 min ago More Serial ATA Hard Drives Fry's Electronics Coupons offers the Kingston 16GB DataTraveler 120 USB 2.0 Flash Drive, model no. DT120/16GB, for $29.95 with free shipping ($1.87/GB). That's the lowest total price we could find by $5.

Today only, offers the Sunpak FlexPod Flexible Tripod in six colors for $3.99. With $5 for shipping, it's the lowest total price we could find by $9. Designed to be functionally similar to the Gorillapod, this tripod bends and twists to secure your digital camera to "just about anything." Google Images has several examples of the similar Gorillapod in action

Samsonite Camera Bag with Built-In Compass for $6 + $5 s&h
Today only, offers the Samsonite Camera Bag with Built-in Compass, model no. SB602BLU, for $5.99 plus $4.50 for shipping. That's tied with a 1-day deal from Features include an adjustable shoulder strap, functioning compass on the top, a snap clasp on the top of the bag, carabiner, and more.

I-Inc iF-281DPB 28in Widescreen LCD Monitor w/ Built-In Speakers $259.97, Oct. 3 12 PM

TigerDirect has the I-Inc iF-281DPB 28" Widescreen LCD Monitor w/ Built-In Speakers for a low $259.97. $27-$47 Shipping. Tax in FL, IL, NC.

1920x1200; 3ms; 800:1; 500nits; VGA & HDMI (HDCP)