Tablets and Desktops and Ultrabooks, Oh My!

Thursdays are my day to post about whatever I really want. Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about getting myself some new hardware. I don’t do as much computing as I once did. But I feel, simultaneously, like I want to do more. I’ve become that type of geek who used to be a gamer and had to fiddle with his own hardware – now I’m the type of geek who keeps his six year old dinosaur running and also has a netbook.

So I’m thinking of killing two birds with one stone. My desktop I currently hooked up via HDMI to my TV in my living room, running at 1080p, and has a wireless mouse and keyboard (don’t ask what model, it’s embarrassing). In theory, I could replace both my ailing netbook (with a semi-functional hard drive and a broken left click) and my old desktop (which growls when you first turn it on, squeels when its accessing data, and was “upgraded” to a dual core CPU only about a year ago) with one device. And I love the look of these Ultrabooks. Super portable, super powerful, and most of them have some form of HDMI and of course a USB slot, meaning I could keep it tucked away when not in use, and it would serve as my desktop.


Yeah, that really is a functional computer, the Acer S3

These things are loaded, too! I don’t know how they don’t burst into flames. Intel i5’s, i7’s, 8 GB of RAM, terrabyte hard drives, solid state hard drives: you name it, they’ve got a model with it! I haven’t seen any quadcore i7s, yet, and the i7 models are all 15 inches and above – none are 13 inches. I believe that’ due to the necessary heatpiping used in these units, which are mostly passively cooled (heat is dispersed over a wide area, similar to the way tablet or phone “cools” itself, not pushed out with fans like a traditional PC). They carry a heavy pricetag, but everything else out there that I’m looking it is similar to “powerhouse machines” that friends of mine built two or three years ago. I feel like the progression has been towards minimizing the machine, rather than increasing the power. This is one of the reasons I haven’t bothered upgrading my desktop.

Still, the more I work on fun little side projects, the more I have cause to crunch data. I’m getting back in to various forms of media: compressing video as I begin digitzing my DVD collection (more on that later), potentially editing some video for this site, and getting back in to some audio editing and mixing has appealed to me for a while. I also do a lot of work with virtual machines, and wouldn’t you know that my motherboard is so old that I can’t use hardware virtualization on my CPU. No, not even with a hacked BIOS update. Trust me, I’ve checked. It would be nice to virtualize things a little better. In several instances, I feel like the crappy Atom CPU in my netbook does a better job than my desktop.

So, if it’s about time, I need to consider several things. Is it worth it? Is now the time? Are there deals coming down the road, or is everyone excited for tablets and the iPad specifically that there’s no point in going forward? I look at things like the HP Folio, ASUS Zenbook, Acer Aspire S3, and the Samsung Series 5 – which may be a little bit bulkier than the others, but is still impressively tiny, which I kind of like because it actually boasts a full size HDMI port.

What’s everybody else doing? Ignoring it and waiting for Windows 8 tablets? Going for first gen Ultrabooks? Building a new Bulldozer-based gaming PC for only three grand? Oh decisions decisions. I think I’m going to try and at least hold out until the vouchers for free upgrades to Windows 8 are unveiled, likely to come out some time this summer, but I don’t think I’m going to wait all the way until October when Windows 8 launches – when it’s official, I’ll probably buy a tablet. But what will I end up doing before then? I’ll keep you posted, but if you have any words of advice, leave them in the comments, I’m open to listening!

2006 – Senses Fail – Still Searching


I love Music Monday. It gives me an excuse to tell you about something I have a strange affection for. I never thought of myself as a big “Screamo” fan. I don’t need people yelling at me. But I find myself coming back to this album time and time again because there’s just something about the passion with which it’s sang.

Senses Fail is by no means a “new” name out there, and this album is more than half-a-decade old at this point. When Still Searching was released it was already their third full length album and I had no interest in hearing it. But when a friend told me to give it a listen, I found a few songs I really liked. I listened to it again this week and realized: I have memorized almost every single song on the album. How did that happen?

I have the 2006 original release but there is also a 2007 Deluxe Edition that I haven’t heard, but it gives you a whopping SIX extra tracks. But when listening to the 2006 version, I immediately remember long car rides, tapping the steering wheel to these songs.

Songs about sadness, depression, and people not understanding you. Nothing new here, nothing that wasn’t in prior emo music or even grunge from the 90’s. What sets Senses Fail apart, I feel, is the genuine talent in the band. Vocals are showcased in the title Track, Still Searching, where we switch between guttural growls and beatiful harmonies on the fly. Instrumentals are highlighted when you listen to the metalicious guitar solo in Sick or Sane. And the lyrics are the writing of someone who, I think, is being honest with their listeners. “I’m not the same kid I was when I was younger, I just thought you should know…” and “I hope my mother and my father think / that they raised a healthy boy / — who needs the help of a shrink / to even leave the house” are lyrics from the title track.

Interviews with people who have been diagnosed with genuine depression seem to echo these exact thoughts. The person with depression is deeply concerned with other’s impressions if they were to find out about this medical condition. It’s something doctors explain away as perfectly natural and clinically common, but the person battling depression is still stuck fighting a stigma. I’ve heard it and read it in research papers time and time again, which makes me think that these thoughts weighed heavily on the minds of the band members as they put this album together.

There seem to be lots of personal glimpses throughout the album, and it’s always interesting to see topics like depression handled with care. An interesting departure on the album is the last track (on the 2006 version), called The Priest and the Matador. It’s a very slow song told from the perspective of a man who, evidently, had some sort of brain anurism and is about to die on the street, surrounded by strangers. “Here I lie / I’m staring at / clouds in shapes of / dogs and cats. / I hear a woman / start to yell / oh dear God, I / think he fell.” As the song reveals itself, the protagonist wishes he could get the religious figures around him to leave him alone – but what I find fascinating is that they include in the song how he won’t give up on our subject. The priest who rushes to his side, the stranger who wants to pray with him, and the unwillingness to cooperate. His certainty that religion isn’t going to save him – his conviction that he is beyond saving seems to contradict the album title, Still Searching. It seems clear that something bigger is wanted out of life, but the fear that religion might not be the thing to fill that gap is ever present. A battle many people in our society have.

But I’m not here to discuss religion with you. You can do that on your own, and while you discuss – give this 2006 “new classic” a listen, and see if you have a religious experience of your own.

Need to mute your Android ring tones & notifications? Use Mute.

Mute. from MNO Company is one of my absolute favorite apps on the Android. It’s the simplest, most elegant, most useful app I own. Have you ever had to go in to a meeting, turned the “ringer volume” on the side of the phone down, only to have something like MEDIA volume or NOTIFICATION volume still up? Android made that quite confusing. Mute. makes it easy again.

With one tap, I can literally Mute everything on the phone, EXCEPT for alarm clocks. Just install the app, and place a shortcut on your home screen. When you tap it, you will see a little pop up at the bottom of the screen alerting you that you have been muted, press it again to unmute. Here’s another selling point, it’s totally free, so head over to the Android Market (sorry, Google Play?) and download Mute. for Free.

My IT Toolkit

Nothing specific from the help desk today, but I just wanted to refer you to several tools I use frequently in my job. Some of them I have been using for years, and one of them for literally over a decade. These are applications I trust and I use. I am in no way affiliated with any of these products, and am only recommending them because they genuinely work for me! Put some of this stuff on your flashdrive and you’ll have the Swiss army knife of IT toolkits.

Antivirus:

Anti-Malware:

Password Recovery:

Data Recovery:

Drive Imaging:

Now I know some of you may say I left out some other useful tools, or your favorites – this isn’t a comprensive list of everything I use regularly, these are just some of the ones I immediately turn to. I’ll gladly say I also use several resources like RogueKiller and ComboFix from BleepingComputer.com, sites like InternetHealthReport.com to diagnose internet connectivity issues, and use other products like Microsoft Steady State, Comodo Time Machine, RollbackRX for keeping a system in running order, MetaSploit, BackTrack, and ImmunityCanvas for pentesting, and Acronis TrueImage or even Norton Ghost when they’re called for in system imaging. But the list above are some of my favorites. If they’re not working for you, I’d encourage you to find something that will by using AlternativeTo.