Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Don't buy a notebook computer…unless absolutely necessary

The things burst into flames for no apparent reason, and in the end you are left with a piece of useless crap. Most of the time.

As you can tell from the previous sentences, my experiences with these types of computers have been quite ugly. Most of the time, I tend to miss keys whilst typing on them left and right, especially with these MacBook keyboards; those are absolutely awful. There's also the inconsistencies in touchpads: MacBooks still have that separate button, MacBook Pros have the type where you must push down to click, and then there's those lovely Synaptic models. I'd prefer mice to any of those touchpads any day.

What I'm really concerned about is the hardware inside the case. Because notebooks these days are rather cheap, meaning a hell lot cheaper than a 1990s era Toshiba Satellite back then, when a hardware component becomes faulty and/or simply becomes unusable, the consumer may simply buy a new computer and leave the old one in the dust. There's one major source of e-waste right there. Hello environmentalists?

But if you are those who are keen on getting the most out of your hardware, like me, and would prefer repairs over clean-sheet replacements, expect to grumble a bit. Compared to people certified to mess with desktop computer hardware, those in the notebook business number a bit less. A major reason for that is simply how notebook hardware works: parts are small and even the slightest error can basically render the whole computer useless. For example, the pins of notebook hard drives are especially prone to shorting, so repair procedures may involve more equipment than a comparable desktop repair.

Apart from repair, there's not a whole lot of ability to customise notebooks either. The fact that a lot of parts necessary to run a notebook must fit in a confined space precludes many customisations that can be done on a desktop. Forget about overclocking the notebook CPU when you know that all you'll do is burn the computer down. Those Western Digital 1 TB hard drives may not fit in your hard drive bay because they're slightly thicker than lower capacity drives. And there's plenty more you can't do on a notebook that can be done on a desktop…

You get the idea for the "unless absolutely necessary" part.

Monday, 8 March 2010

Apple is going crazy...again

First the iPad; now the iKey?

Read the title of this post. Let it seep in for a moment.

The iPad is essentially a blown-up version of the iPhone or iPod touch with less features. The iKey, as described in the Slashdot article, will allow users to wave their portable electronic device over a receiver-like thing on their door or other unlockable item, which will then unlock after a PIN or some other passkey has been entered. It seems that the same device will be able to unlock anything a user sets up with it, thus reducing the amount of keys you carry.

Sounds good in theory, but when you put in all of the possible attacks, interference, no electrical current and other problems into play, you may have a nightmare. And then add in the patents Apple are applying for.

Yes, patents. Please don't make me discuss them, especially in the context of computers and software. Patents are so evil that they make me sore from talking about them for over two minutes.

Friday, 5 March 2010

Webcamgate, episode one, part two

Mike Perbix is out.

About time, too. It is simply way too tempting to mess around with something you take great pride in while also having so much power in your hands. Guess Dilbert has a point…

In other complications, it finally mentions if the computer is a loaner or not. According to the article, it is, but until the computer name is disclosed, the fact cannot be confirmed. Also in the air is whether the student paid a US$55 insurance fee required to take the computer off-campus.

Here's the fishy thing: the student was disciplined for something completely unrelated to computer theft. If the assistant principal disciplined the student on the grounds of an uninsured computer going off-campus, this controversy would have never happened at all. However, because the assistant principal decided to bring up a possible behaviour issue on the student's part while at home, there's your privacy allegation.

Even at this stage of the case, both sides can be at fault. Interpret at your own risk.