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This page documents random thoughts, observations, hardware and software reviews, criticisms, rants, anecdotes, tips, tricks, and discoveries by Blake Nancarrow. The notes here pertain specifically to information technology. They are dated and arranged in reverse-order, the newest items at the top.

2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 | 2005 | 2004 | 2003 | 2002 | 2001 | the '90s


Index of Postings

12 Dec - a good thing about Vista new!
29 Nov - early present new!
14 Sep - media check
5 Sep - large SSD drive
6 Jul - happy 40000 day!
29 Jun - Nexient files for protection
2 May - good resources
30 Apr - ASUS price drop
25 Apr - nice netbook
24 Mar - learning DW CS4
3 Mar - Phil likes Eee PC 1000HE
25 Feb - first 12 GB RAM machine
6 Feb - Tiger sale
3 Feb - Netbook watch
3 Feb - Pageflakes DOA
2 Feb - Netbook watch
31 Jan - Presenter View rocks
22 Jan - rare
18 Jan - flash on sale

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12 Dec 2009 - a good thing about Vista new!

I'm loathe to run Vista on my home office network. Win 7 sounds like an improvement. But still. My XP is working fine. It ain't broke...

That said, I think file tagging is brilliant. Yet not enough to make me up-convert.

And the more I thought about it, the Sidebar is great stuff (or the Dashboard on the Clearly Superior Operating System). I want live apps (small apps, applets, gadgets, widgets, whatever) on my desktop. To fetch the weather, moon phase, upcoming events, have a wee bit of fun, etc.

I have settled on Yahoo! Widgets.

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29 Nov 2009 - early present new!

I've been considering a digital pen for some time. I write a lot of notes "in the field," in little notebooks, scraps or full sheets or paper, on clipboards, in meetings. Often I'm sketching things, doodling, drawing. And I'm tiring of transcribing the text. And, frankly, scanning is not an easy thing for me to do; I have a good scanner... it's complicated.

I even considered a more sophisticated option along audio spectrum. I looked at modern digital recorders and their speech-to-text options. But nothing was really grabbing me. This solution didn't help with visual elements. And it also would not work in environments where I needed to be quiet.

There are a few entries in this arena. Many digital pens require special paper. I didn't like that option, even though some let you print your own.

the zPen

A few days ago, the weekly e-flyer from the-store-formerly-known-as-Radio-Shack arrived. And I wandered into the Clearance area. Well, well. The Dane-Elec zPen was deeply discounted. I ordered it.

I like how it does not require special paper, can store thousands of sheets, can reproduce pages in a visual/graphical form (like scanning), has good OCR options, and is ultimately rather compact. When I must use pen and paper, I look forward to being more efficient.

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14 Sep 2009 - media check

I picked up a cheap SD memory card today, 8GB, for use in as digital film in a point-and-shoot camera. This common format is recognised by John Smallberries and John Little John computers facilitating image transfer.

I'll be decommissioning my first digital camera and its associated media, two SmartMedia (SSFDC) memory cards.

So, this means its time for a media check:

Here's the updated media checklist, grouped by class, and with recent additions or updates italicised:

  • magnetic disks
    • 3-1/2" floppy diskettes (low density DD and high density HD)
    • 5-1/4" floppy diskettes (low density 2D and high density HD)
    • 9" floppy diskettes (without reader)
    • IDE hard drives (various capacities)
    • SCSI hard drives (various capacities, internal, external)
    • 5-1/4" removable hard disk cartridges (e.g. SyQuest)
    • Zip-100 disks (with drive)
  • magnetic tape
    • computer backup tape cartridges (couple of different types)
    • computer magnetic tape (reel, without reader)
    • video tapes, VHS (LP, EP, SLP speeds)
    • video tapes, Beta
    • a video tape, Digital8
    • cassette tapes (metal, chromium, and standard formulisations)
  • optical discs (and drives)
    • CD-ROMs
    • CD-R and CD-RWs
    • DVDs (region 1 and region 2)
    • a DVD-RAM for DVD-CAM (which I don't have a reader for)
    • CDs (audio)
    • multimedia enhanced CDs (A/V)
  • solid state memory cards
    • Compact Flash (CF) memory cards
    • Secure Digital (SD) memory card
    • Psion SSD RAM memory cards (various capacities)
    • Psion SSD Flash memory cards (various capacities)
    • a SanDisk cruzer mini 512MB USB memory stick
    • a SanDisk cruzer mini 1GB USB memory stick
    • a Lexar JumpDrive 512MB USB memory stick
    • a Sony 4GB USB memory stick
    • a MultiMediaCard (MMC) 1GB memory card
    • a storage cartridge for Nintendo 64 game controller
    • a storage cartridge for Nintendo GameCube console
  • digital media players
    • Apple iPod (hard disk)
    • Samsung yepp (flash memory)
  • IBM mark-sense computer cards
  • vinyl "albums" (LP, EP, and 45)
  • identification cards with magnetically encoded strips (various)
  • 35mm slides and negative film
  • canvas
  • acetate film
  • paper (way too much paper)
  • and my brain (when not too frazzled)

How many types of storage media do you have?

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5 Sep 2009 - large SSD drive

In an e-flyer from Expansys (UK) I noticed a large Solid State Drive in SATA industry standard hard disk form factor. The Intel X18-M 80GB 1.8" drive. GBP 135.

This is the first one like this that I've seen. There are probably others. Larger and smaller. Regardless, this will become a common option. And of course they'll get faster, provide greater capacity, with longer life spans...

It still makes me kinda chuckle though. I've been using SSD technology in my palmtop computer for 15 years.

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6 Jul 2009 - happy 40000 day!

Happy birthday or anniversary or special event day!

If you're a regular spreadsheet user, today is 40000 day.


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29 Jun 2009 - Nexient files for protection

Nexient Learning Inc filed for CCAA backruptcy protection today.

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2 May 2009 - good resources

If you need to do some DIY support or you wanna hack your ASUS Eee PC 1000HE (or similar model), there's lots of good users-helping-users in the Eee User community site.

They have good forums! I've already learned some great hacks.

There are some other sites and resources out there... But you need to be a bit careful. Some started up when the flash-drive units were launched and they've never embraced the platter-storage machines.

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30 Apr 2009 - ASUS price drop

You can find the ASUS Eee PC 1000HE for $420 in Toronto...

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25 Apr 2009 - nice netbook

asus1000he.jpg (5775 bytes)Tried Phil's ASUS Eee PC 1000HE netbook.

Very nice keyboard, tactile key response, good size, good layout. Keys are black so a little hard to read in the dark.

Screen is very nice. Tried panning mode and decided almost immediately against it. I don't like it! They offer a "compressed" mode which I thought satisfactory despite a bit of distortion.

The whole machine, even with the extended battery, is slim and lightweight. Phil said he's getting 9 or more hours out of the battery. That is amazing.

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24 Mar 2009 - learning DW CS4

It's been a long time since I looked at Dreamweaver. A new version that is.

I have to teach a Dreamweaver CS3 course soon. So I'm refamiliarising myself with Adobe's latest incarnation of the venerable web site authoring tool.

I'll report back soon as observations, findings, improvements, and things still not fixed...

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7 Mar 2009 - Phil likes Eee PC 1000HE

Phil and I have been chatting and comparing notes on netbooks. Today, he bought an ASUS Eee PC 1000HE from a little shop here in Toronto for $440 plus taxes, cash only...

He loaded Office 2003, Starry Night (runs faster than on his PC), Firefox, MSN Messenger (despite my warnings), and AVG. He plans to remove the Skype, Outlook Express, StarOffice 8, and other bloatware.

He checked the screen resolutions for me: 1024x600 is native but it can display 1024x768 with panning, 1024x768 compressed, and 800x600. He found that output to an external monitor can be bumped to 1280x1024!

He likes the keyboard but finds the touchpad buttons require a heavy press.

His first battery test yielded 6 hours, and it was still going!

Hard drive and fan are quiet.

It sounds awesome! He's very happy.

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25 Feb 2009 - first 12 GB RAM machine

I know this is not a big deal for servers and larger computers. But this is the first 12 GB RAM personal computer I've seen.

From Tiger Direct... Barebone Asaurus, 12 GB DDR3 RAM, Intel i7 Quad Core, 1 TB hard disk, 650W power supply...

Incredible. All for $1250...

(Of course, you need a 64 bit OS to exploit this...)

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6 Feb 2009 - Tiger sale

Two sales, actually.

  • Hitachi 1 terabyte internal hard disk for $110
  • Acer Aspire One 120 GB HDD refurb $300

Hard disks are getting close to $100 per TB! When I spotted one of the first ones, in October 2007, it was $330. I bought my external 1 TB in March 2008 for around $200 or $250.

And this is the first Acer netbook I've seen below $300.

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3 Feb 2009 - Netbook watch

Received a e-flyer today. The Acer Aspire One Netbooks with 1GB RAM and 160GB hard disk and Windows XP are on sale at The Source for $400.

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3 Feb 2009 - Pageflakes DOA

What happened to Pageflakes?!

Nothing coming up when I try to hit

For more than a few days now I have not been able to access my portal page(s). "Address Not Found" error messages in Firefox.

Looks like I might need to investigate NetVibes and ProtoPage...

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2 Feb 2009 - Netbook watch

The e-mail ad from Tiger Direct showed up a few moments ago. The subject line caught my attention today. The Acer XP Netbook, normally at $400, is on for $350. Hmmm. Over 10% off!

This particular selection is for the disk-less unit. It contains 16 GB of flash memory for permanent storage. That just seems too small...

The hard disk machine is $40 less, down from $470. It includes a 160 GB platter drive. Now that's breathing room.

I read an article or headline somewhere, don't remember where now, don't remember when, maybe a week or two ago, saying that these machines were going to get cheaper and cheaper.

About a week ago, I was talking to Gerry about his new unit. We both suspected that flash memory will continue to get cheaper and in turn they will start cramming more into these tiny computers.

I wondered, out loud, about the future. Perhaps by the time I cannot find Psions out there in the eBay-kijiji-used-cloud, the Netbooks will be much more powerful and fewer dollars.

Huh! As I think about it now: I bought Psions Series 5xx machines for $900 or more new! Could buy 2 Netbooks for that coin...

So, today, I decided to start a price watch. Let's observe the trend.

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31 Jan 2009 - Presenter View rocks

Back in August 2007, I kinda slammed PowerPoint's Presenter View. I attacked it for not offering the same keyboard shortcuts as normal mode and for not letting us use the pen...

I was wrong about these things!

I learned that all the keyboard shortcuts work. Pen mode works too, so you can still do your doodles. What is important though is that you're on the right side of the fence.

You must move the mouse pointer to the "slide" monitor, not the Presenter View monitor.

The more I use Presenter View, the more I like it.

Never noticed the built-in timer! Nice.

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22 Jan 2009 - rare

I bought a Psion Series 5mx from an eBay seller today. Goofed a week or two back and missed a good auction... Oh well.

Perhaps I'm being too choosy. I wanted a UK machine. I prefer to use The Queen's English. Still, the selection was limited. There are not nearly as many of these fantastic palmtops as there used to be...

What am I going to do?

I still haven't found a new portable device that I think I'd be really happy with. Ironically, modern devices would require me to make concessions and compromises.

A 15 year old device!

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18 Jan 2009 - flash on sale

While at Business Depot to pick up a copy of MS Office 2007 Home and Student edition for a client, I thought I'd wander over to the USB memory key drive section to see if anything was on sale. Ah ha!

USM4GL_lg.jpg (10537 bytes)Sony 4GB sticks were on sale for $15! But there were none on the shelf.

Asked Sales Dude if they had any more in stock. Yes, a half-dozen or so. OK. So, then. Stoner Sales Dude trundled off to find some. Finally returned with a couple. Sweet.

The Sony USM4GL has a retractable cover. Blue LED inside (which only lights during data transfer). Comes with some security software; I'm going to start using TrueCrypt again. Fairly small (and thin) form factor. No write-protect switch. No lanyard included.

Now I'll begin to shuffle about my data. Things were getting a little crowded on the 1GB I was using for business and work files. The 512 MB for astronomy was jammed to the rafters.

I paid twice as much money ($30) for 1/8th the space in Jul 06. So, now it's about $4 per GB.

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This page was last updated on 26 February 2013.
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