What Is The iPad Good For?

There should be an image here!After reading this today, I found myself thinking that the piece oversimplified the idea of the iPad and, to a larger degree, tablet computing in a very big way. The fact is, the size and battery life, bundled with the application delivery system, is going to be the start of something amazing. The reality is that the iPad, bundled with a real keyboard (yes, they make them) is actually just what the doctor ordered for busy bloggers and others in the writing realm.

Now this is not to say that the iPad is perfect for all situations. I, for one, prefer the value of a low cost netbook from ASUS instead. It’s got the same battery life, and it’s cheaper as well. But there are indeed some venues where a laptop styled device is not going to cut it. And it is here, in which I see the iPad and others like it blossoming as the user adoption continues. The one area where I think the above linked article really nailed things on the head was with how compelling multi-touch interaction has become.

In the end, I think the iPad releases of the future will be addressing any perceived shortcomings felt by users today. The key of course is in making sure Flash is not an expected experience. As lame as it may sound, Flash is very much a part of today’s technology world just as Java once was. Long story short: Flash still has a few years left before people will stop asking for it. Apple, foolishly, jumped the gun with this belief that no one is going to miss it. It seems the interest in Android devices has proven that wrong.

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Laptops On Fire Bad For Everyone

Imagine working along on a laptop only to have it end up catching fire. Yeah, to point out what a bad day this would create is beyond obvious. Apparently Toshiba is the latest laptop vendor to jump on board with the “bursting into flames” problem.

This, of course, has turned into a massive recall in which a number of Toshiba laptops are being sent back out of fear of potential for problems with that whole catching on fire issue. Kind of a big deal.

It’s clear that despite heat being a fact of life with computers, there need to be some massive changes as to how these heat issues are to be dealt with in the laptop world. In the PC tower world, water cooling was all the rage for a while; it’s too bad something like it couldn’t be worked out for notebooks in the near future.

Here We Go Again – $100 Laptops

Seems like every six months or so we try again with the idea of selling $100 notebooks with the third world in mind. Sometimes with Linux, other times with Windows. In each instance, the notebook winds up being cheap, underpowered, and really difficult to point to as a success.

Well clearly it is that time again. Enter the Cherrypal notebook named the “Africa.” While I support the desire to put technology into the hands of kids who might otherwise be left out, I am still skeptical about the resources on this computer actually being usable.

What’s your take? Think we are ready to try the ol’ $100 notebook routine once again? Maybe we have already done this with slightly more expensive netbooks instead? Whatever it may be, I’d love to hear your comments on this. We’ll all be waiting for your thoughts!

In the meantime, I will continue to toy with the idea of actually purchasing one of these. While they are cheap and obviously best suited for those in need, there is still a temptation here.

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Are Dell Latitude E6500 And E6400 Notebooks Suffering From Performance Problems?

What some are describing as ‘throttlegate’, involves the Dell E6500 and E6400 [and other model] notebooks from performing properly. According to some reports the notebooks are running at 95% below their stated cpu speed. It is unknown if the issue is an overheating problem or not. Dell appears to be investigating the matter according to a comment left over at Engadget which stated:

Dell’s Chief Blogger Lionel Menchaca dropped the following in comments, which is something of a positive step:

We’re aware of concerns raised in this post and others like it. At this point, our teams are looking into the details. When we have more information to share, we’ll update customers via a post on Dell’s blog, Direct2Dell.
Here is the latest on the Dell blog:

Throttling is a power management methodology used throughout the industry to balance system performance, component temperature and user experience. Throttling optimizes performance, regulates component temperatures and skin temperature (the amount of heat you feel at external touch points) while using a laptop.

Under normal conditions and use (i.e. a typical office environment and running a typical set of applications), customers won’t see any issue at all. At this point, we’ve only heard from a small number of customers who have reported issues related to throttling. Those issues arose under more extreme thermal and usage models. These customers report more throttling than expected, plus they tend to experience a prolonged recovery time that sometimes requires a reboot to recover from the throttled state. In those scenarios, users may see slower system performance.

What we learned from the customers we’ve talked to is that we could improve thermal algorithms that dictate throttling thresholds on our mainstream business-class product line. Previous BIOS revisions for some platforms were not optimized for certain extreme operating conditions.

They have listed all models which are having issues and have released revised BIOS updates to correct the problem. Here is a list of models that may need an updated BIOS:

Comments welcome.

SiliconIndia source

Engadget source

It’s Called A Netbook, People

Sometimes I cannot help but wonder where Microsoft comes up with some of the most confusing ideas I have ever heard of.  I mean, the idea of renaming netbooks to “low cost small notebook PC.” I suspect this will be about as successful as renaming podcasts to netcasts and PCs to Windows boxes. In short, not going to happen, folks.

But this is brought to you from the same company that thought that the once used Clearification campaign for Vista would interest potential users by striking a chord with the Generation Y users.

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Uh, all that made me want to do is rush out and promote home schooling if this is what’s making sense to kids today, yikes. And what does this nonsense have to do with Vista? At least the Seinfeld commercials were “remotely” related to the Vista OS, sort of. If nothing else, it is pretty funny what with the Platinum Clown Card and all.

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But coming back full circle to the idea of  Microsoft trying to rename the netbook, they clearly do not have the PR magic to even dream of pulling this off. Despite some entertaining pieces from the past…

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Microsoft needs to work on its software and quit trying to remake already logical standards into something more complicated than they need to be. Besides, it’s a whole lot easier to do a commercial for Windows 7 on a netbook than “Windows 7 on a low cost small notebook PC.” It’s so obvious, but maybe this is why Microsoft’s commercials generally don’t do that well anymore these days? Who knows?

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Just How Critical Is Gaming Support To PCs?

Despite the economic slowdown, it seems like nothing is going to even encroach on PC gaming sales no matter how bad things get. As you can see from Google Trends, PC gaming remains a hot search item which leads me to believe that it is still doing strong in the marketplace.

But despite this, I have to ask – is gaming really driving the notebook market? My gut tells me no and I see no indication of this changing. I believe that gamers will want a full desktop system with a notebook for what a notebook does best. Bringing the web with them when they are on the go.

So considering the fact that notebooks seem to be out pacing desktop machines, does PC gaming dictate the future of the desktop PC as we know it? This is the question that has been on my mind for sometime. There is still a lingering feeling that as notebooks and now, netbooks, continue to gain market share, the desktop PC is going to largely be left to geeks and gamers.

Am I wrong on this? Are there other strong indicators showing that new desktop purchases are going to make a rebound sometime soon? Hit the comments, would love some feedback on this line of thought.

Water Cooled Macs?

Sounds like something that is too good to be true, understanding the benefits of running a cooler system. Water chilled MacBooks would be a serious boon to the user, assuming it can be done effectively. I think that most people will agree that adding water to anything other than a tower PC is begging for trouble. In short, springing a leak in a notebook is very different than with a tower PC.

Can it work and just as important — does it make sense for Apple to pursue this? If Apple has taught us anything, it is that it is clever with its form factors and hardware work. So if anyone can make water cooling notebooks a reality, it will likely be Apple, I suppose.

Am I nuts in the belief that in the end, this idea, should it come to fruition, would be a huge mistake? Hit the comments; set me straight on this.

Is Apple Ripping You Off?

If you were to take the article seen here at face value, my article’s title may very well be the reader’s conclusion. Once you get past the rabid Mac fans who have made their perspective clear in the comments, there is finally one comment that actually sheds some light on what I think is the most likely answer:

Comment from CNET:

“The reason Apple hardware is so expensive is that they have to subsidize all of the software development from hardware sales. Developing all that “cool” software costs, and since they don’t sell the software (OS X, etc.) they have to compensate in hardware prices…”

Now I happen to be one office door away from my wife’s pricey iMac and I would be the first to admit two things that are undeniable – they are indeed expensive and they are also REALLY great machines. Yes, I went there, they do cost money. Despite what many people claim, in the end the Mac does cost more component for component than a well shopped for PC built to spec. And that is the key, being able to carefully shop around for your components or use the lesser quality hardware that Dell slaps in their boxes.

With all of this said, I would also point out that a Mac provides value for what you are getting. The OS, the included software and the fact that generally speaking, the quality is above average. And was the iMac sitting my wife’s office worth the grand+ that it cost me? Based on her usage, yes. Would I spend that much on a computer for myself? Not unless it was a nice notebook. And that said, I did recently spend that much on a Linux pre-installed notebook. So for me, it is less about the money and more about what I am getting for the money. My needs just happen to differ from those of my wife, with regard to technology of course.

I think that saying Apple hardware is “overpriced” is a dangerous statement. In the end, I think the user is paying for perceived value and perceived or not, it is very real to people who are using OS X. I would never argue against that. If the value is there, who can possibiy argue for someone buying a product at any given price that enables them do to what they need to do?

What I see as unfortunate, is a Mac is at a price point where someone willing to use Windows or these days, even pre-installed Linux for that matter, would end up with more machine for the same money spent on the lower end of the spectrum.

Again, I am talking about what I can get from a PC OEM for $600 vs what I can get for the same money at Apple.com. The numbers are there, so what do you think? Understanding that we are not speaking as to quality, rather Joe Average simply looking for a machine that can do the basics. High end to high end, things are much closer. It is the low end market however, I see people missing an oportunity with OS X.

Oh, by the way. I have used a Mini and they are not all that great. So I do not consider this a good option when compared to taking the same money and buying a comparable OEM box elsewhere. Most casual users would like to also receive a new monitor, etc with their $600-800 purchase. Apple is not providing this to my knowledge. Am I wrong?

Three Hundred Dollar Dell Notebooks – Eee Killer?

Have to admit, despite the fact that I cannot seem to make Dell products appear at my door step for the life of me, this news of a Dell competitor to the ASUS Eee is rather compelling for what it is. And much like we have seen with the ASUS Eee, you will be able to run either Linux or Windows XP with these upcoming Dell machines.

Speaking for myself, I honestly cannot see the value in something like this. Why would I want this Dell or the Eee which provides me with ultra-tiny keyboards and barely usable resolution? Honestly, if I want a portable device, it would be my Blackberry or an iPhone. Now this is not to say that I do not understand what Dell is trying to do. This graphic clearly illustrates the different levels of usage as Dell believes them to be. And like ASUS, they are trying to shove a product that in my opinion we really do not need. I simply fail to see the value in these toys?

Think I am nuts? Hit the comments and set me straight on this matter.

Best Notebooks For Your Money

Obviously, the Apple Macbook Pro ought to have been on this list as it does a fantastic job running Windows via boot camp. Yet again, Acer and Lenovo seem to be coming out on top. Frankly, I think Acer makes a great notebook with Lenovo remaining a crowd favorite amongst the enterprise class.

What I have been trying to figure out is “why”?  What about those two models has people feeling so confident in the two offerings? Each is generally well made to be sure, but there are HPs that might in some instances, surpass the quality if not blow it out of the water in a collective sense.

Think you have a notebook that is better than any of the ten listed? Want to share which one it is? Hit the comments and sound off with what you believe to be king of the notebooks and why.

OLPC vs Classmate PC

Never laid eyes on a Classmate PC in my life outside of the provided demos on the Intel website. This said, I have done fairly extensive testing on the Sugar OS used for OLPC computers. Based on what I have seen, there is no contest – the Classmate stomps the OLPC pc into dust with regard to value for the dollar.

Now this is not a Windows vs Linux argument, as the Classmate also offers Mandriva as an option instead of Windows XP should it be deemed needed. And the Mandriva option provides the same software options (for the most part) as seen on XP in this instance. No, the Sugar OS and Mandriva may both be Linux at their core. But Sugar OS is the single most confusing and least valuable thing I have ever seen.

The classic argument for the archaic nature of the Sugar OS is that it was designed for people who have never even seen a computer before, much less a desktop OS as we know it. Be this as it may, the fact is that their is really nothing compelling or worthwhile offered on the OLPC computers themselves that provide the same level of funcionality as the Classmate running XP or Mandriva.

Where the Classmate has clean, understandable demos illistrating how the various features work, we have a touchy-feel-good speech about how in tune the OLPC is and how it is going to change the world. Nowhere on their website does it clearly indicate to anyone where the actual learning is coming from or what software is to be used to enable kids of the third world to succeed.

This said, there is some basic software offered on the OLPC: Oo Write, an RSS reader, among a number of other applications. Unfortunately, the Classmate PC has a clear advantage as it is able to demonstrate how students will use their computers in lieu of this “Mesh-feel” nonsense with no clear examples given with the OLPC and Sugar OS. Sadly, there was more time “exploring each other’s feelings” than actually creating solutions that are going to allow kids to take what they learn on these machines and use some of it in real life.

At the end of the day, the OLPC is the biggest joke I have ever had to witness. Once thrilled about the idea, today I cannot believe that these things provide anything from a teacher-student standpoint outside of a “trippy” looking user interface. Seriously, no issues with the hardware, but the developers desperately need to rethink the UI. Never used a PC or not, becoming comfortable in something so off-the-wall serves no one as using a typical desktop could one day lead to something like a job in front of a real computer. This is where the Classmate differentiates itself from the OLPC in my opinion.

Ultra-thin Is In?

Overall, I thought this article was well done. It’s simply sad however, that its creator is forced to put up Vista against Leopard – for people who have tried it, there really is no contest. Bear in mind that I do not really care for OS X myself. I cannot not place a reason on any one thing per se, it is just not for me. Also keep in mind that my wife uses OS X herself religiously. So I would certainly not say that I am anti-Mac. Same goes for Vista, I have Vista “Ultimate” installed in one of my household PCs as well. I just have yet to really find it all that appealing for regular use. But for anyone to seriously state in title or otherwise that thin notebooks running Windows Vista are in any way “Air Killers”; even when considering it is a hardware comparison, is missing a greater point I think.

By and large, Apple is successful due to its implementation of everything “just working” without a lot of blue-shaded excuses. The article’s author is right about one thing though. Most people are not going to buy a Mac to run Windows. Only geeks do that or those required to use Windows at their place of employment. So holding a Toshiba notebook in comparison as the previously linked article has done, is not going to hold a lot of water with the same audience that is willing to drop a few grand on a new Mac. For them, it is largely about the OS, with limited points regarding its overall feel I think.

Speaking for myself, I can think of a number of other things to spend three grand on instead of any notebook of any sort. For most people, $1200 will get you a notebook running any os of your choosing. All of this ultra thin stuff seems to be more about ego than function. Unless it does something amazing with the battery life, which these new ultra-thin notebooks might, then I can honestly say I have officially entered a real yawn-fest.

Think I am wrong? No worries, I have an open mind – sell me on why I should consider an ultra-thin notebook for my next upgrade.

Dell Making A Comeback

Not saying that there are not more bumps in the road to come from HP, among others, yet it does feel like Dell has begun to regain its “landlegs” again. According to this recent CNET piece, Dell has seen an increase in earnings, which is certainly promising. Apparently its grassroots efforts and notebook push have been paying off.

Frankly, I think that if it does well this holiday season, Dell could be in line for a healthy recovery from the woes it had not too long back. So now the question is whether or not it can keep this momentum. With Costco selling Dell PCs and now it looks like Best Buy is getting into the mix, one has to wonder if Dell is rethinking its original business model? Sure, it still pushes on with its made to order structure, but is this changing?

What do you think? Is it time for Dell to rethink things and just go all out retail? Hit the comments; tell it what you would like to see from the company.

Dell Puts The WoW Into Notebook Computing

I have to admit, Dell may be onto something here. By taking the Netflix approach and appealing to a smaller, yet fiercely dedicated crew of 9 million plus users all ready to take their game to the next level, I see a new micro-market developing. My own brother would happily cut off and sell his own arm for one of these notebooks, I am sure. But in all seriousness, I think Dell might be entering something more than the micro-market that are WoW users. Possibly bigger than gaming users even.

Dell needs to enter the idiot proof PC market where Zonbu, gOS and the ASUS Eee have already made a name for themselves and two out of three of these have already seen the headlines “sold out” at least once. My advice – work out a deal with Zonbu. Dell would do quite well to see the words “sold out” next to their company logo. So again Dell, you have the right idea, but you are going to need to loosen the dependency on Microsoft and get serious if you intend to become a long tail company. Think about it – Dell’s marketing reach, Zonbu’s idiot proof platform – it could make a nice complement for their existing business.

And being as I still have to use a magnifying glass to locate the small text ‘Open-Source PCs” from the Dell Home/Home Office front page, it seems fairly apparent to me that the Ubuntu deal is ready for a little something extra – marketing perhaps.? Make it idiot proof. I am telling you, after using both Zonbu products myself, Dell is very foolish to not examine this micro-market as well.

[tags]Dell, PCs, notebooks, desktop PCs[/tags]

Dell Laptop Adapters – Follow-Up

I have previously done two reports concerning Dell laptop adapters for the Dell 1501 series and also for the 90 watt two wire adapter used on other Dell systems. I also made contact with Dell representatives and received a reply as follows:

Ron-

I am support analyst at Dell headquarters, and this blog was pointed out to me by Richard to take a look at. He also forwarded your email address on to me, so I’ll ping you there as well.

Firstly, I want to make sure everyone understands that the AC adapter we’re talking about is the same 90-watt adapter in use for most of our notebooks, and has been for over 3 years. As such, any problems with this adapter would not be 1501 specific.

Looking at the comments to the article you posted, the most striking feature about all the people posting is that there seems to be no *one* issue they are complaining about. For example:

Steve (feb17th) notes a problem with his adapter on his c510, which uses a different adapter altogether.

Leona (mar17) stated her AC adapter snapped off in her hand right after purchase. This is an unrelated incident, and should have been covered under warranty.

Martine (mar25) states the lead going into the adapter itself is defective, so that it won’t fit into the brick.

Jen (May23) had several problems with her notebook, the last of which was an adapter malfunction. It is unclear if it is a problem with the onboard socket or the adapter itself.

The comments are a smattering of many different problems. Since this adapter is the 90-watt adapter shipping with all Dell notebooks that require such an adapter, I am sure you can see that millions of these adapters are currently being used in the field. In many cases, when the type of malfunction you note here is happening, it is the result of plugging/unplugging the adapter in at an angle, which sometimes will deform either the socket on the system or the plug itself. Depending upon the damage, either an AC adapter replacement or a motherboard replacement is required.

There is no known systemic problem with these adapters or the 1501. Each case is the result of individual circumstances, as can be demonstrated by those commenting on the other article, and is not Dell specific in scope.

I recently wrote an article for Direct2Dell, showcasing a survey put out by our product engineers to gather information on the way people are using our AC adapters. The goal is to change the design of the product to better meet the needs of those using it. If you’d like to provide feedback to our product designers regarding these adapters, now is a golden opportunity:

Direct2Dell post

I hope this information is helpful, and I welcome any feedback you or your readers may be able to provide.

John
Dell Customer Advocate

There is another note from reader Meg who stated:

You guys just aren’t using enough muscle! :]
I have an Inspiron 1501 & at first I thought I had the same problem with my adapter, it seemed like it didn’t fit and it was too short. So, I tried put tape on it & what not but I finally got fed up & I called tech support. All you have to do is push harder than you think…I thought I was going to break it, but nope it went right in & fits great.

Hopefully this information will assist those who are expriencing problems with their Dell adapters.

Commenst welcome.

[tags]dell. 1501, adpaters, notebooks, help,  [/tags]