Tools Toys and Technology

About the Tools You Use and the Toys That Make Life Interesting

Tools Toys and Technology - About the Tools You Use and the Toys That Make Life Interesting

Deja Vu All over Again?

Microsoft recently introduced the Surface Laptop, attempting to capitalize on the growing popularity of the Surface Pro series of convertible tablets, the Surface Book and the Surface Studio. This new 13.5” laptop will initially be marketed to schools and students, but “it’s also a great choice for any Windows user looking for consistent performance and advanced security.”

More importantly, the product also introduces Windows 10 S, “a specific configuration of Windows 10 Pro that offers a familiar, productive Windows experience that’s streamlined for security and performance. By exclusively using apps in the Windows Store and ensuring that you browse safely with Microsoft Edge, Windows 10 S keeps you running fast and secure day in and day out”. Not coincidentally, exclusive use of Microsoft Edge and Bing search will be mandatory. Schools will be able to convert all their current compatible computers to Windows 10 S at no cost; registered students will also get free access to Office 365.

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The Goldilocks Chair

I’ve been refreshing and reorganizing my work space this summer – clearing out accumulated old software, magazines, retired equipment, and taking a serious look at what irritating deficiencies need to be addressed. I tend to use things until they break or become obsolete, only to realize that they should have been replaced years ago. My twin 10 year old monitors will be replaced by the time you read this column, and I have belatedly replaced my task chair – again.

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Do You Feel Lucky?

Microsoft asserts that Windows 10 is “the most secure Windows ever.” Apple “designed macOS with advanced technologies that work together to constantly monitor, encrypt, update — and ultimately keep your Mac safer.” iPhones and iPads “stop malicious software before it can ever get a foothold.” Android security chief Adrian Ludwig recently stated “I don’t think 99 percent plus of users get a benefit from anti-virus apps.”

Are independent antivirus programs now superfluous anachronisms, unnecessary residuals of a sophisticated protection racket?

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Who’s the King of the Hill?

I’ve been spending a good deal of time over the last few months testing and evaluating the Windows 10 Creators Update, which was released to the public on April 11. While advance copies are available to the 40 million members of the Windows Insiders group (free), most Windows 10 Home users will get this update automatically via routine updates over a several month period. Those using the Pro, Educational or Enterprise versions will have the option to delay installation until August 2017. Development has already started on the next feature update, which is due before the end of the year.

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Hey You! Get Off of My Cloud!

Cloud computing is a big business that continues to expand rapidly. Revenues increased 21% to $110 billion in 2015 and are expected to double in two to three years. If you use a personal computer, you are likely to be utilizing cloud computing every day, even if you’re not quite sure just what cloud computing is!

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Is Free Software Just Too Expensive?

Everybody loves FREE! Computer vendors and software companies first started routinely charging for software licenses in the late 1970s.  In the early years of home computing, many of us learned from each other through meetings, books, magazines and sharing free software by mailing floppy disks to one another. The hidden cost then was a steep learning curve (free software ordinarily lacks user manuals or support services), and that anticipated updates might never be forthcoming. The Free Software Foundation (1985) and the Open Source Initiative (1998) continue to advocate free software availability to this day. Free software became widely available in the mid-1990s as internet access became commonplace. Continue reading

AI Yai Yai !

Amazon’s surprise bestselling tech product for the 2016 holiday season was the Amazon Echo; sales are 8 times more than the 2015 holiday season. A voice controlled wireless speaker that can stream music from Amazon and other music services, Echo features Alexa, Amazon’s own version of the jinni in the bottle. Alexa is rapidly morphing into a multi-featured “digital assistant”, one of many such intelligent or smart artifices offered today.

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Another Nice Mesh You’ve Gotten Me Into!

Does it seem that wireless gadgets are everywhere? Over the past 16 years, wireless speeds increased a thousand fold and over 47 million global hotspots are now available. There are more than 8 billion wireless devices currently in use; two billion of these are smart phones.

Today smart TVs, connected thermostats and security systems are commonplace. Manufacturers are increasingly adding intelligence and connectivity to products not commonly considered “high-tech,” such as Wi-Fi connected coffee makers, door locks, slow cookers and refrigerators. The Wi-Fi Alliance predicts that the total number of connected devices will exceed 38 billion by 2020.

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Whole Lotta Shoppin’ Goin’ On!

While you may be just beginning to start your holiday shopping, retailers began plotting their holiday marketing schemes last St. Patrick’s Day. Surely you remember stumbling over those huge Christmas displays while shopping for Halloween candy! Retail sales prognosticators predict a 3.5% increase in sales this year. Internet sales estimates are much higher, ranging between 11% to 24% increases this year.

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Drive Hard, Drive Fast

Once categorized as esoteric and obscenely unaffordable, the substantial benefits of solid state drives are increasingly coveted. SSDs are among the fastest selling items in consumer electronics today.

Early prototypes were developed by 1975 and a few consumer products briefly appeared in1982. Flash memory, now used in all modern SSDs, first appeared in 1995 in military and industrial settings. It was not until 2005 that the first mass market SSD arrived. Samsung released a 32 GB SSD for “only” $699, igniting a market explosion that continues to this day.

It’s easy to see the major advantages of an SSD over the more commonplace hard disk drive (HDD).

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