Thursday, March 29, 2007

Friendly spam

Everybody who uses e-mail knows what 'spam' is. It's probably one of the most hated things you'll encounter while using the Internet. I used to get tons of it! Penis enlargement, viagra, prescription drugs, green cards and whatnot and there's nothing much I could do about it except loose my temper occasionally. I remember the times when I used to check e-mails every 5 minutes or so. Whenever the little 'letter' icon appeared in the system tray I went "New mail!" but my excitement was too often squashed under the sense of annoyance after realizing that it's just more spam. Thankfully regular spam seems to be on the decrease. Which brings us to a different breed of spam!

The Internet is accessible to almost everyone these days and whoever has 5 minutes free time is forwarding 'funny' e-mails. Friendly spam is sort of like friendly fire. The sender's intention isn't to upset or annoy you. But the end result is just that, annoyance and possibly anger. Just make it stop! I appreciate a good joke. I also like to see a funny video or browse through a collection of beaufitul photos every now and then. But when these things start coming in by the dozen, they become undigestable and time consuming. I have better things to do, thank you very much.

People please, if you really have to share every little piece of doo-doo you find on the Internet, at least ask approval. That way you will spare the portion of your friends who don't approve of that sort of e-mails. And for those of you who don't like recieving friendly spam but don't say anything about it... tell it how it is (and try to be nice :))!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The hype over Windows Experience Index

If you don't know what Windows Experience Index (WEI) is, go here. Here is just the first paragraph outlining the idea behind WEI.
The Windows® Experience Index is a new feature built into Windows Vista™. It is designed to help consumers understand how well Windows Vista and the software running on it will perform on a specific PC. The index achieves this by assessing the performance of the PC and assigning a score to it. The higher the score, the better the PC will perform.
In theory this one number should be telling you how well your PC will perform under Vista. To me this sounds just too good to be true. How can a two digit decimal number reflect the overall system performance? Basically, WEI benchmarks your PC in five main areas: processor, memory, graphics, gaming graphics and primary hard drive. The lowest value will become your base score. Here's an example:
Processor:         3.5
Memory (RAM): 2.9
Graphics: 2.3
Gaming graphics: 2.1
Primary hard disk: 3.5
The report is telling me my graphics card is the weakest component. Is it really? Well yes. Does it mean I can't run Vista properly? No. It just means I won't be able to play any recent games. But I already knew that so how does that help me?

Windows Experience Index is supposed to help Joe Average choose the right hardware. However, who's going to explain to Joe that a graphics card with a sub-score of 2.3 would suffice for his web-surfing needs? This clearly demonstrates that the base score on its own can be misleading. If we go back to the graphics card example and presume there's no other "weak" hardware, the base score will also result in 2.3. Explain that to the customer! I can already see the kids whining "Dad, this PC sucks because it only scores [insert number here]!".

Seriously, this reminds me of the days when it matterd how many 3Dmarks you scored. While they may be cool to play with, synthetic benchmarks don't give you a real-world assessment of your system! In my opinion WEI will result only in two things: more bragging teenagers and more hardware being sold unneccessarily. Will it give a better "user experience"? I sincerely doubt it.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Toshiba Portege M100 odyssey

A couple of weeks ago I bought a used Toshiba Portege M100 laptop for a fairly good price. At first glance it was a perfect laptop for my needs: not too big or heavy, decent CPU, plenty of RAM and good battery life. Infact, it runs Windows XP almost as good as my desktop Athlon XP-M 2400+ (Barton core) system! The only area where this little beast fails is 3D gaming but I didn't buy it with gaming in mind so that's fine by me.

As I was saying, the laptop is great but there's a catch. After a while I noticed strange grey spots on the LCD panel. At some angles they were barely visible while at others you could see them all over! Naturally this bothered me a great deal. Since I couldn't come to an agreement with the guy that sold me the laptop, I went hunting on eBay. Eventually I picked one up for $50 from the States. With postage on top it cost me $80 which is fine considering that the official Toshiba repair shop charges $800 for a brand new panel. However, it was a bit risky since I wasn't sure would it work as the item was sold as untested and "as is".

Well, I got the replacement panel today and immediately went to work. Thanks to and their disassembly guides, I was able to disassemble the laptop, replace the screen and put it back together again in about half an hour! And guess what? It worked! The replacement screen also has a few spots but these are a minor annoyance and I barely notice them.

I came to the conclusion that this is a common issue with Toshiba Portege M100 series. I say that because this is the 4th screen that I found with the same problem which is a shame considering the fact Portege laptops used to be Toshiba's prestige product line!

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Power-saving in the PC world

In the March issue of Moj Mikro magazine there's an interesting article on electricity saving in your own home. The author does make a few good points however I'm going to try and expand that even further.

The fact is, the supply of electricity is becoming a big issue in the world as our needs appear to be growing continuously. So what is the industry doing? Honestly? Almost nothing! As with cars, the computers have been folllowing the rule "bigger is better" for years. Bigger screens, dual-core processors, monster video cards, multiple oversized hard drives and more. The result is the need for more power! If you could go by with a 300W power supply only 3 years ago, you now need a minimum of 500W to run a high-end PC (or at least that's what the salesmen want you to think). Many manufacturers today even produce 1000W power supplies, a product unimaginable 20 years ago. For comparison, my first Peacock PC had a 125W power supply!

However, that's not the end of it. Nowadays appearances matter too! Computer modding is becoming more and more popular. It used to be the domain of only a few enthusiasts but now the industry is taking over and almost anyone can "mod the box". LED fans, cables, neon tubes and water cooling all cause more demand for electricity. In the end, the consumer is the one who's paying for all this. Is that the price of progress? No, it's the price of commodity and excessive luxury. Think about it. How many people actually need all that? I believe that through popular media and the Internet in general, the industry is doing a very good job of convincing us all about what we need. Just in case you were wondering how much electricity does a computer consume, follow this link.

So what can we do to save power? A lot actually. I'll start by telling you what I do nowadays. I used to be one of those guys that left the computer running all day long mostly because it was convenient not having to boot every time I wanted to use it. Now I turn it off whenever I know I won't be using it for more than an hour. Why should I leave it on, when it's not doing anything? I also turn off the speakers when I don't need them and the same goes for the printer. The fact is electric devices use power when idle. Watt by watt, it all sums up.

P2P users might argue that they need the computer 24/7. That may be the case but does it have to be an Athlon X2 4800+? The solution of the problem lies in mini-ITX, a form factor Via pioneered about 5 years ago but not many people know about it (I will refer to them as Epia boards). Epia motherboards have a small footprint (17cm x 17cm) and most importantly don't use a lot of power. A typical system with 1 stick of RAM, 1 hard drive and an optical drive needs less than 100W! To reduce the power consumption even further you could use a laptop hard drive and throw out the optical drive. This allows for a very compact, quiet and energy efficient system. The C3 processor may not be a synonim for computing power but if all you need is a home-server and p2p client, I can't think of a better solution.

Thanks for reading!

The Intro

My name is Bojan Kotur and I live in Ljubljana, Slovenia. I'm a software developer and I mostly code in C# which means I do Windows stuff. However, my interest in computers doesn't end there. I'm also an avid collector of old computers (i.e. Commodore, Atari, Sinclair,...) although I did have to reduce the collecting to a bare minimum due to the lack of storage space. In my spare time I like to go scuba diving as well as mountain walking.

It just happens that I started this blog on International Women's Day but it won't have much to do with women. As I'm a self-proclaimed geek and a gadget freak, it will be mostly about computers, gadgets and the stuff I find out along the way. Who knows, maybe it'll do for some fine reading. Come back and see ;)