Category ArchiveComputing – general

Computing - general &Curmudgeonliness 24 Jul 2007 10:50 am

Laser printer drum needs replacing. Solution: buy new printer!

I’ve been using a Brother HL-2040 laser printer for the last couple of years. It’s a small, cheap (available these days for under $100 after not too much shopping around) and fast (up to 20ppm) printer that produces good quality. Frankly, I’ve been very happy with it.

The toner cartridges for this printer cost around $75 (for the genuine item), and last for around 2,500 pages. That results in a fairly average cost per page.

The image transfer drum lasts for 12,000 pages, and costs around $120 (genuine item — once again, with not too much shopping around). In other words, the total price for a set of consumables is just on $200.

Remember… a whole printer with cartridge and drum costs under $100.

I’ve just inserted a toner cartridge, and my drum is up to 10,000 prints. In other words, when this toner runs out, the drum will be dead. (I’m not sure whether the printer’s software will disable printing until the drum is replaced.)

The only economically sensible thing to do will be to throw out a perfectly serviceable printer and buy a new one.

How silly is that?

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Computing - general &Nerd stuff (technology) 11 Jul 2007 03:42 pm

Travels with Vista – security suites

I know that not everybody believes in so-called Internet Security Suites. These collections of security products are designed to keep your net-connected PC free of nasties such as virii, spam, spyware, adware and the like. It is sometimes suggested that these products are, in fact, unnecessary bloatware, and that the operating system (particularly if it’s Windows Vista) can do just as good a job.

Personally, I prefer to run a security suite. I believe that applying the expertise of a specialist security company can help protect the PC from on-line threats. I’m happy to pay the subscription price if the product does a good job.

Sadly, my experience is that it’s really hard to find a Vista-compatible security suite that does do a good job. Here’s a quick summary of my experiences with some of the big names…

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Computing - general &Nerd stuff &Nerd stuff (technology) 23 May 2007 10:24 am

More gold in old computers than in gold ore; same for copper!

Every ton of discarded electronic equipment contains 17 times more gold than a ton of gold ore and 40 times more copper than a ton of copper ore. Amazing. More here.

Computing - general &Nerd stuff (technology) 16 May 2007 02:55 pm

Thinking about a colour laser printer? Watch out for running costs…

On a number of occasions recently, it would have been really handy to have a colour laser printer at the House of Nerds, in order to produce business-quality colour printouts.

I thought seriously about buying one of the nifty little Samsung CLP-300N devices ($A599 RRP, available for less than half that price at IT Estate). Then I did the sums on running costs and quickly changed my mind.

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Computing - general &Nerd stuff (technology) 07 May 2007 12:31 pm

Nerd goes to Sydney CeBit: disappointing

Last week I took myself off to the CeBit IT industry trade show, held in the Sydney Exhibition Centre (SEC).
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Computing - general &Flying Nerd recommends &Nerd stuff 10 Apr 2007 11:18 am

Another screen shot utility

Window Clippings looks like a nice utility for capturing windows in either XP or Vista environments.
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Computing - general 03 Apr 2007 03:55 pm

ZoneAlarm Internet Security Suite – don’t use a download manager

Checkpoint has released an update to my Internet security suite-of-choice: ZoneAlarm Internet Security Suite (ZAISS). So I downloaded it, of course.
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Computing - general &Humour &Nerd stuff &Nonsense 12 Mar 2007 01:19 pm

New Apple product announced: iRack!

An innovative new offering from Apple?

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Computing - general &Nerd stuff 28 Feb 2007 03:35 pm

Flying Nerd working for Microsoft (without pay)

I’ve been accepted onto my first official Beta program – the Beta for Microsoft’s forthcoming Windows Home Server (WHS).

The idea of WHS is that it can provide:
* centralised (and automated, if required) backup for all PCs in the home
* simple access to network-based shared (or dedicated) storage – without requiring user knowledge of drive configuration
* simplified remote access to data on networked PCs.

I’m looking forward to installing the software on my server over the next few days. I’ll keep you posted on how I find it. I’m REALLY interested as to how well this would suit an organisation such as a church with several staff.

Independent article about WHS is here.

Computing - general &Family 07 Feb 2007 11:17 am

Thinking about Microsoft Office 2007

By all accounts, Microsoft’s new Office 2007 suite is something pretty special. Apparently the new user interface paradigm (hey, I am a marketing guy!) exposes more functionality than ever before. I reckon this would be a good thing for the modern e-family. All four of us make pretty extensive use of Office applications in many aspects of our lives. So, what would it cost us to upgrade our current fleet of PCs to Office 2007?
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Computing - general &Flying Nerd recommends 06 Feb 2007 02:32 pm

Fabulous little screenshot application

UPDATE 14 FEB 07: Version 2 is out and it’s not free any more. Still a great little app…

Like many computer nerds, I find myself often wanting to take a screenshot of an application window or just a small region of the screen. Like everybody who has ever tried this, I have found Windows (XP)’s built-in ‘print screen’ function to be woefully inadequate.

Well, here‘s a beaut little tool that’s free for non-commercial use: WinSnap.

WinSnap allows you to capture:

* the whole screen, or
* a user selected part of the screen, or
* an application window, or even
* a collection of application windows.

With this tool, you can

* capture windows with rounded corners (without having the capture ‘square up’ the corners
* rotate the captured windows
* add drop shadows
* add watermarks.

If you take screenshots, you WILL find this application useful.



Computing - general 31 Jan 2007 12:16 pm

Thinking about Vista

Being a nerd, new stuff interests me.

I’ve steered clear of the Windows Vista beta programs as I just don’t have a computer in the house that can ‘go down’ without impacting other family members. But now that Vista is released and the upgrade pricing (particularly for the Academic version — which is applicable in many home situations) is not too bad, I’m thinking about and planning for the upgrade.
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Computing - general &Humour &Miscellaneous &Nerd stuff 29 Nov 2006 09:26 pm

Technical education video: how modems work

My eyes have been opened. Now I want to know how this broadband thingy works…

Computing - general &Music &Nerd stuff 28 Nov 2006 11:45 am

Scathing (almost amusing) review of Microsoft Zune

I don’t have an iPod.

I do have a portable, digital music player. It’s a Rio Karma. And it’s now an orphan. Rio has effectively exited the market, and my Karma has no long term future. When it dies, I’ll either have to buy a used replacement on eBay, or join the iPod throng.

Anyway, that’s a rather irrelevant preamble…

Microsoft has introduced its own portable digital music player: the Zune.

I found this review to be amusing. And disappointing. I had hoped that maybe Microsoft would introduce a mass-market product that would avoid what I perceive to be the pitfalls of the iPod: the less-than-stellar MP3 codecs and the proprietary nature of the iTunes Music Store.

No such luck.

Guess I’ll keep hanging around out here in left field, buying ALL my music on CDs and ripping to Ogg Vorbis for playing on my orphan.

Church &Computing - general &Nerd stuff 22 Nov 2006 10:50 am

Recording Skype calls

I wrote some time ago about using Pamela to record Skype calls — particularly as an aid to keeping a church congregation in touch with sent/supported missionaries.

I’ve just seen details about another (simpler) Skype plug-in that claims to do the same thing: PowerGramo.

I haven’t used PowerGramo, and so I can’t recommend it. If you try it out, please post a comment!

Computing - general &Flying Nerd recommends 17 Nov 2006 03:29 pm


As promised, herewith some observations on the FreeNAS Storage Area Network application.

After my bad experience with the Netgear SC-101 (here), I was (again) the owner of two unused 200GB IDE hard drives, and I still wanted to have a free-standing backup location for the family’s computers.

A quick search led me to FreeNAS, an open source project based on the FreeBSD operating system.
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Computing - general &Nerd stuff 16 Nov 2006 10:12 am

D-Link DNS-323 NAS device

In response to Neil‘s comment on my post about the Netgear SC-101 NAS (Network Attached Storage) device, I suggested that the new D-Link DNS-323 might be worth a look.
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Computing - general &Nerd stuff 14 Nov 2006 08:39 pm

Netgear Storage Central — possibly the worst computer product I have ever owned!

After a rebuild of the UltraBox (my home PC), I had a couple of 200GB IDE drives ‘spare’. I decided to make some sort of NAS (Network Attached Storage) device to allow the household’s various PCs to undertake regular backups.

Despite some (ahem) mixed reviews on various sites, I invested $155 in a Netgear SC-101 Storage Central box (see here).

The SC-101 looks like a great concept — it’s small (smaller than a toaster), cheap, flexible (supports just about any IDE drives) and promises great operational flexibility.

Downsides include the fact that it ONLY works on PCs (not Macs – but that’s not a problem for me) and it uses a proprietary file format (not FAT or NTFS – but this shouldn’t be a showstopper for a backup device).

Sadly, in reality the SC-101 delivered so much less than promised. On my Core2Duo-based machine, it failed on so many levels. I’ve attached part of my support submission here:
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Computing - general 10 Oct 2006 05:11 pm

Windows Vista prices – joke, right?

Windows Vista Home Premium will cost $A455.

This must be some kind of joke. $455 for an operating system for a home computer? I nearly choked on my Fibre Plus when I read that.

Unless there is a SUBSTANTIAL upgrade discount (56% off list will see a retail price of $A200), I reckon the Nerd fleet of computers (2 x desktops and 1 x laptop) will be running Windows XP for a long time to come.

Computing - general &Flying Nerd recommends 18 Sep 2006 06:39 pm

Possibly the most useful tool for your PC

Yes, it’s a big call.

But those who have installed some form of ‘desktop search’ application will usually swear by them.

For a couple of years now, I’ve been using Yahoo Desktop Search – a free program that can be downloaded from Yahoo. YDS works in the background to index all your files and emails, and allows a near-instantaneous search when you’re looking for something. The underlying technology for YDS came from another company: X1. It’s my impression that Yahoo has lost interest in YDS. The updates seem to have stopped flowing, and the level of support is poor.

But the news is not all bad. In fact, it’s good! X1 has made their full X1 desktop search tool – the latest version – available for free from their website. And it’s a really tremendous tool.

I’ve installed it so that X1 has taken up residence in my Windows taskbar as a little search box:

X1 in taskbar

and as a toolbar in Outlook:

X1 in Outlook toolbar

Highly recommended.

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