DoubleClicks.info About Computers for Newbies & Everyone Else

March 7, 2017

Surface Pro

Filed under: Columns — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , — Ron @ 5:54 am

I am testing a new type of computer, at least for me.  They first came into the public view in early to mid-2013 depending on where on the globe you are located.  You know the one as the marketing for this “new” computer was worldwide and abundant.  You know all the happy people dancing around to a “snappy” tune, and flipping/closing their small computers in rhythm like they were in a euphoric trance.  Yeah, you have it now, the Microsoft Windows based, “Surface Pro.”

First was the Surface, next the Surface Pro, then a 2, and 3 which has progressed into the current Surface Pro 4.  Of course, that is not all Microsoft now has. The Surface Book, Hub and in December, 2016 the Surface Studio rolled out.

First what is different about it?  It is smaller than a usual notebook, more the size of a tablet with a very thin keyboard.  Approximately 11″ x 7″ x 0.6″.  When the keyboard is attached, it is closer to an inch thick.  There is a foldout section on the back to provide a stand to keep it upright with a couple of positions.  You need that “wedge” to support the actual screen/computer as the keyboard is only a hinge with no support like you may be used to with a regular notebook.

Surface Pro 2

Surface Pro 2

The keyboard is slightly smaller than some other brands of notebooks but not significantly.  It also includes a touchpad – similar to all the others.  I choose to use a wireless USB mouse with this one which functions well.  I have been typing on it regularly for a couple of days.  I am having no problem hitting the correct keys – other than caused by my regularly average typing.  (Hallelujah, for auto-spell checking in word processors!)

You have three keyboard options.  First, you can use the keyboard like any other notebook and type on it.  Next, you can fold the keyboard over to become the back surface of the notebook. It then becomes a tablet.  When in tablet mode your screen rotates when tilted like any other tablet and you can use the touchscreen.  Finally, you may choose to detach the keyboard all-the-way and have a Windows tablet.

It has good response and speed although nowhere near as quick as some larger notebooks I have used.  I have been using spreadsheets, word processing, web browsing, email, a very few online games (no pc games or Steam) and everything works as it should.

I cannot really find a lot to nitpick about with this nice little notebook/tablet combo.

Well, OK, there is one major issue for me, the price.  For the top of the line Surface Pro 4 today you may figure about $1,400.  Oh wait, that does not include a keyboard which may be had for an additional $55 – $130.  I am currently testing an older (2014) Surface Pro 2 which again I find to be a very decent system.  The price on one of these is around $550 and again that is without a keyboard.  I pulled these prices off of Amazon so you may be able to find others elsewhere.

Surface Pro 4

Surface Pro 4

My problem is at that price I can find two equally decent regular notebooks or tablets (with Bluetooth keyboards included.  If money were no object, sure, I would not mind owning one.  However, not currently for me.

 

 

September 1, 2015

August 25, 2015

Windows 10, Part 1

As I mentioned for the last few weeks – today we will start the journey into Windows 10.

Visit Microsoft

It has had plenty of time to be tested.  Microsoft officially announced “Windows 10” (W10) on September 2014.  Then they started public beta testing or “Technical Preview” in October 2014.  If you have been paying any attention you realize that it was released to the public through a free roll out about three weeks ago on July 29, 2015.  It now comes on all new retail Windows computers.  This is supposedly the last version of Windows to come out, no more XP, Vista, 8.1, 7, etc.  W10 will be updated when needed.

Well, have you taken the plunge yet?  I have asked readers who have installed it to send me questions over the past weeks.  I have received many, so thanks!  Keep them cards and letters rollin’ in!

From my own experience, I have applied W10 to all of my computers, except company owned work systems.  That would be four computers I have updated.  There were no real problems.  However, one of my very old “experimental” systems ran very slowly with 10. I need to note that it also ran very slowly with anything past XP.  I ended up removing 10 from that and putting back Ubuntu which I had previously.

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July 14, 2015

Chromebook Update

Over time I have received emails asking about Chromebooks.  I wrote about mine when I got it almost two years ago.  Since the emails keep coming there must be interest in them.  This is not hard to imagine since they are a very good deal for many people.

Here is a very quick rundown of  Chromebooks (CB from here on out).  They were created by Google and run the Chrome browser operating system, also by Google as is the Android OS. 

Chromebooks are relatively inexpensive usually from $199 to $400.  Microsoft OS notebooks (Windows 8.1 now) run from about $350 to $1500.  Yes, you can find higher and lower prices on both types.  I saw a very nice CB on sale the other day reduced from $199 to $129. 

Chromebook computerChromebooks resemble notebook computers.  They are slimmer and lighter than a regular windows notebook weighting in at around two pounds.  You may perform any online functions the same with either type of computer.  One big difference with a CB is that everything is done online.  So you do need an internet connection to use it at full efficiency. 

You can perform some of the functions without being connected to the internet but for it to operate to the fullest degree you need a web connection.  It is a cloud based device meaning that everything it does is stored on or taken from the web. 

I can do most personal business work from my CB with only a couple of exceptions.  With the free Office Online app Microsoft released a while back (office.live.com) I can work in Office from my CB.  OK, for you Google fans, yes, you can also use Google Docs but I find Office to be much better…online and off.

Office Live           Google Docs

I cannot do all of my corporate work without logging into my business computer; however, for the average users that is fine since you may not work for a large business.

Another difference is they do not have an internal hard drive.  They do have a small internal SSD, Solid State Drive.  The one I have has a 16 GB drive – the same as my old phone.  Well then, where do you put stuff?  The Cloud is the answer.  I put all of mine on Dropbox (use the following link for more space, "rd.dblclx.com/use-Dropbox"), Copy.com ("rd.dblclx.com/freeCopy" same deal with that link but more space) or Google Drive which you must have to set up your CB.  Yes a Gmail account is required to use your Chromebook. 

image                    image

One of the questions I often get has something to do with people hearing that Chromebooks are outselling regular notebook computers – is that correct?

Well, OK, they are selling a lot of them and many people (myself included) promote them at every turn.  Still when you consider that over 90% of the world’s PC market is made of the Microsoft operating systems nothing can touch them at this point in time.  The remaining 9-10% are split between Apple, Android, Linux, Chrome and others.  The current percentage for the Chrome OS is slightly over 1% and expected, by some, to be 2% by 2017.

Chromebooks are not killing the competition but are part of it and I hope their use grows.    

June 30, 2015

Windows 10, Part 2

Last week we looked at Windows 10 requirements and a few other housekeeping tasks regarding getting it for free.  Today a few questions I have received about it for the last several weeks are answered.Windows 10 logo

First, why is it free for the first year?  The main reason seems to be that Microsoft wants everyone using it.  The money they once made on OS sales has continued to drop over recent years.  Apple stopped charging for upgrades to their OS several years ago.  And as always the Linux operating systems, (mainly Ubuntu) have been free since their inception; though used by few. 

They will even be rolling it out to users with pirated (read illegal) copies of those qualifying versions of Windows. However, these versions will still be unregistered. I do not believe there has been any clarification as to what that means for the users.  MS just wants everyone in the world on Windows.

I have been using W10 for a month or so now and have a few thoughts about it.  You will probably wonder if you should opt to get it for free or not.  I would suggest if you are a normal user, i.e., not a geek like me, you may want to wait for month or two after the original roll out.  The main reason being that some things will most likely have to be ironed out during the first few weeks of the OS.  This is standard.  So wait and get it after all the news stories are over.

Next, will you like it?  I think that for those who loved Windows 7, you will most likely appreciate 10 and for those who hated Windows 8.1, you will most probably like this version. 

The much hated Metro screen is gone.  And yes, the Start Menu from W7 is back as in the past, plus it has a few of the "Live Tiles" on the right side.  Those tiles can be rearranged, added, deleted, etc. so you can pretty much do with them as you would like.  In the test version, you could not totally remove them all but rumors abound for the final version in July.

MSIE 11 to MS Edge logosAnother big change is the default web browser.  Microsoft Internet Explorer (MSIE) has been around for 20 years.  When W8 was released MSIE was, and is, at version 11.  However, this all changes with W10, it has been rebuilt from the bottom up and will been known then as "Microsoft Edge."

Edge has "Page Annotation" built-in meaning you can write notes on a web page with your mouse, or finger if you have a touchscreen device, then you can save the graphics and/or send them in emails, Facebook, Tumbler or any other social network. Also, "Reading Mode" is in Edge which allows you to read a web page more like a magazine.  It will remove ads, extraneous graphics and other junk from the page which does not pertain specifically to the article you are reading.  This is available in other browsers now, but Edge is catching the MS browser up with features offered by others in the past. 

Add info to a web page

More to come next week.

June 23, 2015

Windows 10

For a while now I have put off installing Windows 10 which also led to me not writing about it; however, this has now changed.

I installed the "Windows 10 Insider Preview" several months ago and have been putting it through some paces.

Windows 10 logo

Windows 10 will be given away free to people who have a computer with specific Windows Operating Systems on them.  If your computer has Windows 7.1 SP1, 8.1 (Windows phones too) then you will get the free upgrade.  If you are running 8, upgrade for free to 8.1 and you will be covered. 

The version of the OS you have affects which version of W10 you will receive.  If you have Windows 7 "Starter," "Home Basic" or "Home Premium" versions you will get W10 "Home."  If Windows 7 "Professional" or "Ultimate" you get W10 "Pro."  For W8.1 you get W10 "Home" edition.  For 8.1 "Pro," "Pro Student" and "Pro WMC" you will get W10 "Pro."

Your computer must meet the following minimum criteria.  A 1GHz, for 32-bit computers 1GB of RAM or for 64-bit 2GB, 20GB of space on the hard drive, and at least a DirectX 9 graphics card and a 1024 x 600 pixel display.  Basically most any modern computer today will meet those requirements.  Even my nine year old Netbook could run W10. 

Next, why is it called W10 when W8.1 was the one before?  Well first off a short history of their naming conventions. They started with "Windows 1" through "Windows 3," then Windows 95, 98, ME, 2000, XP, Vista, W7, W8, W8.1 and now W10.  They are not very orderly in their naming.  I have heard reasons such as possible programming confusion between the "9" in W9 and the nines in Windows 95 and 98.  Although, that sounds unlikely to me; I guess it could be possible. 

I have also read that the Japanese consider nine to be unlucky because in Japanese the word for nine sounds similar to the word for "pain" or "anguish" and MS did not want them to feel uncomfortable about Windows.  The bottom line is, only a few at MS know the real reason and right now they are not sharing. 

Microsoft Windows 10 upgrade iconNow if you qualify and want Windows 10 for free you must download and install it within a year of its official release date.  At this moment the date for release is July 29, 2015.  If you have a qualifying computer you will see a small Windows icon on your taskbar near the time.  To get W10 click the icon (shown in the graphic on right). 

You will be asked to enter your email address if you want to receive notifications of its arrival and several advertisements about how great it will be.  You do not have to enter your email but you do have to click the, "Reserve your free upgrade" link.  It will then be downloaded sometime around Wednesday, July 29. 

January 21, 2014

Chromecast

This is a very popular way to convert your "almost" smart TV into a fairly intelligent one…at a very low cost.

If you have not heard about it yet the item is called Chromecast which was developed by Google. It is a dongle…STOP!  Some of you may need to know what a dongle is so let me explain.  

A dongle is a relatively small device which plugs into a computer and can take on different jobs depending on what the dongle was created to do.  For instance, it could be used as an adapter to allow a specific device to be used like an external hard drive or a game controller.  A dongle could also be utilized to allow you to plug one sized cable into another size, like converting an USB plug to a micro USB plug. 

The Chromecast is a small device measuring roughly 2.8" x 1.4" x 0.5" and looks a lot like a thumb-drive (another dongle type device).  It is very light weight, too at about 1.2 oz.

Chromecast is a digital media device which you plug into an HDMI port on your computer.  HDMI is the larger USB plug present on many newer digital televisions.  It allows you to transfer uncompressed video data and compressed/uncompressed digital audio data from one device to a compatible computer monitor, digital television, or audio device. In other words, instead of plugging your new Chromecast into your TV you could plug in your notebook computer and do about the same thing.  However, you would be putting wear and tear on your much more expensive computer to watch streaming shows on your TV.

Once plugged in and the easy five minute setup is done, you can stream (watch from the internet using your home’s wi-fi) movies and your favorite TV shows to your large screen television.  This is much better than watching from your small computer monitors like many people do now.  There are many other devices out there which already do this; however, the prices range from $70 to close to $200 and some have a recurring fee.  Chromecast costs only $35 and has no future expense.  It is very inexpensive and Google updates it with new features regularly which allow it to do more.  Now for you Apple folks out there it does not work with Apple TV, sorry.

Once you plug your Chromecast into your TV it has a small port on the other end to plug in the power cable.  Most televisions will have a power port on the back, if not you can plug it directly into a wall socket. 

If you have accounts (some requiring a fee) with Netflix, YouTube, Hulu Plus and/or Google Play Movies or another you can watch them on your TV now.  If you listen to music on a site like Pandora you can run that through your TV speakers too.  Even better, if you can play something in your Google Chrome browsers on the computer or phone you are broadcasting from, you can watch it on your TV using Chromecast. 

One example of this is what happened with a buddy of mine and his wife who are big "Castle" fans.  They do not have cable TV so every week a few days after the original broadcast of the show they would watch it at ABC.com on their notebook.  Now they start it up on the same computer at the same site and it is then sent to their big screen TV.  This is much more comfortable and easier to see.

Here is the bad (or good) news.  In my opinion you will not have to use Chromecast in the future. It and devices like it will become obsolete.  I believe that in the very near future you will only be able to purchase Smart TVs and they will already have wi-fi capabilities already built into them.  A large number of new sets today are already set up that way.  But until you buy your new TV, $35 is an easy way into the future.

September 17, 2013

Recycle Bin

imageI talked to a young lady recently about how she used her Recycle Bin.  As if you did not know, the Recycle Bin is the trashcan icon on your Windows desktop.  It is usually located on the lower right or upper left corner of the screen.  It displays as empty or full.  When full, whether it has one file in it or one million it will look the same.  

She told me that she uses her recycle bin for storage of files that she may need one day…WHAT? WAIT!  The recycle bin is designed for discarding files, not as a place to keep them.

There are many ways your recycle bin could be emptied. Then you would have no files left.  Consider if your hard drive were to self-destruct and you took it to be repaired. They would not be trying to save your recycle bin but your My Documents folder where all of your files you may one day need should be stored.  I would even unenthusiastically recommend that if you think you may use a file again you should create a folder on your desktop and store those files there.  But your Documents folder is the preferred and safest method for the majority of users.

I also recommend backing up your important documents somewhere.  That way when the inevitable hard drive crash comes you will have the important documents safe somewhere else.  I always recommend Dropbox (bit.ly/use-DropBox — caps count in that URL and if you use this link you get some extra storage).  That is where I keep all of my backups.  With it being free for up to 2 GB of storage most users will be covered.

Another question I get about deleting items from the Recycle Bin revolve around people needing a file they accidentally deleted.  Oops.

Several things dictate what you should try.  The easiest is if your deleted file is still in your Recycle Bin.  Just open your bin by double clicking on it, search for the file, right click on it and choose, "Restore."  It will reappear in the exact location, i.e. folder it was in when you deleted it.  Done.

However, if you have deleted it by using the, "Empty Recycle Bin" command on your bin, you could have problems getting the file back.  You may be in luck if your Recycle Bin has not been emptied for a long period of time.  There is no specific time and it really depends on how often you use your computer.  Basically when you delete a file it really is not deleted from your computer.  The file is marked so that the computer sees it and it is still on the hard drive.  The mark tells the operating system that if it needs that space on the drive to store something else it is available and can be used.  If the file you need has been used, or rewritten, you may be out of luck.

There is a tool I have used to save my life in these situations many times.  You will not know whether or not you can get it back until you try.  The app is called, "Recuva" and it is found online at piriform.com/recuva.  This application is free for the basic model which is probably all you need.

Once you run Recuva your find your file is fully useable.  There are other apps out there like this one, but Recuva has always worked well for me.

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