Thursday, December 03, 2009

Which netbook to buy? Product comparison & review

I am always interested in the latest netbooks so when I see a review like this one from Time, I take an interest. I broadly agree with their top three choices. I ended up buying the Toshiba NB200/2005. I did not like the keyboard when I bought it, but I am slowly getting used to it. The problem with these smaller netbooks is that its easy to knock them, so you trigger a HDD protection feature. I think if you don't need to upgrade yet, then you will be better off waiting for the next generation of netbooks which I suspect will be better in several ways:
1. Offering globally integrated, seamless telecommunications - whether through Skype or Google.
2. Offering a solid state, high capacity hard drive for better data protection and far longer battery use, say 15-20 hours.
3. Offering better sound & cameras
4. Better keyboard design and USB locations
Andrew Sheldon

Friday, October 30, 2009

Toshiba NB200 netbook review

I am always on the lookout for new computer devices that allow me to work more efficiently. Of course we like to buy cheap as well, but most of all we need basic functuality and good design. Having just purchased a Toshiba NB200 over the internet for just $NZ610, I'd have to say you get what you pay for. The problems I find with this computer are:
1. The keyboard design is shockingly bad. The 'Alt' key is too small. Better to have one big one than two small ones. The backspace key just doesn't sit right with me. I always seem to be hitting the wrong one '\'. The feel of the keyboard is terrible too, though I do manage to get a few letters out before I stumble. My fingers seem to slide too easily over the keys. Unlike some Sony models, the keys are not 'rimmed' to give some traction on keys.
2. The arrangement of USB ports is bad. I was not happy having three of these right up the front sides of the computer. I want them at the back.
3. The hard disk protection utility appears too sensitive. Just placing a USB memory stick in the computer is enough to start the utility.
The computer has decent HDD space of 160Gb, reasonable memory of 1Gb considering its running Windows Xp. It was a special deal so I got a free 6-cell battery, so I get plenty of battery life. The screen is fine. I might yet grow to like this computer, but I just cannot see myself getting used to it. It seems probable that the unit was discounted because its running the old Win Xp operating system. Or have reviews been poor? I think it must have been a sentimental purchase for me because I really loved my Toshiba Libereto I bought 15 years ago. I would be using that computer today if it could be upgraded.
The other computer we looked at was the Sony W series. We were interested in a solid state hard drive, though I must say I was not overly pleased with its design either. A 5-star computer remains elusive.
Andrew Sheldon

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Vaio P Pocket Sized Notebook closer to perfection

About 10 years ago I had a mini-laptop which closely resembles some of the mini-notebooks that are becoming available today. The Toshiba Libereto was a product ahead of its time. The Toshiba office in Tokyo even had a museum showing the models. People were coming in to upgrade it because they liked it. The product had a small but loyal following. Back in those days the hardware was pretty sluggish. Today the specs offer much greater speed, but there were several features which I particularly liked about the Libereto:
1. The tracking ball was on the right side lid of the computer, next to the LCD display
2. All the superfluous drives were external, which meant you had a very light, compact computer
3. I was able to pick up a really good leather bag in Vietnam suited to this computer. I have been keeping this bag for my next model.

The latest copy by Sony 10 years later is the Vaio Pocket Sized (P-series) Notebook has a 8" screen, an Intel Z520 Atom 1.6GHz processor, 2GB of RAM and 128G-256GB solid state drive. The unit is clearly designed with speed in mind. This is a durable beast since SSD's have no moving parts, ensuring greater security for your data. The SSD is the same drive as in your smartphone. You also get GPS, WiFi (802.11n), Bluetooth and WWAN, a LAN connector, a headphone jack, a multi-card reader and 2 USB 2.0 ports, a 5Mp webcam.
Probably the worst feature is the tracking ball in the centre of the keyboard. I was prefer it if they used Toshiba's idea of a tracking pad on the screen. This was an innovative pressure pad which worked really well. It will be disappointing to use the Sony ball. There is a built-in 3G phone, but it works for Verizon only. The computer is about 60% of the size of a standard computer.
The standard battery offers a 4 hour battery life, doubling to 8 hours if you obtain a second battery. The power demand is 68watts, which is quite high, so expect better battery life in future with competitors. The unit is shipped with Windows Vista.
Having used this type of computer I can tell you they are really good for travelling. Of course the features and connectivity are so much better today that the dial-up I had to tolerate, though I still long for that Toshiba tracking pressure pad. I'll be watching for the Toshiba solution!
Andrew Sheldon

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Recovering deleted files from USB flash drives

I just deleted a folder accidentally from a USB flash drive connected to my computer. There are several reasons why I prefer to use a flash drive to a HDD drive:
1. They have better durability because they have no moving parts
2. They can more easily backup and move between computers

I did not know until now that any deleted files are not recorded in the Recycle Bin, which means when I accidentally deleted a folder, I needed a tool to recover my lost files. There are several programs available. These are the steps:
1. Do not attempt to do anything before you do this. If you start recreating or deleting files, you could be hindering your chances of recovering your desired files.
2. Download Recuva software from
3. Install the software
4. Run the application from your desktop
5. Having identified the files you want to recover, press the RECOVER button.

Its really simple. You can search by date, quality of residual file, or the file name. I suggest doing all three.
Andrew Sheldon

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Solid State Drives (SSDs)

If you are in the market for a computer my advise is that you cannot go past the solid-state drive based computers which are starting to enter the market. We have yet to see a really outstanding machine. I viewed one last week which came close, but it suffered from a bad sound system. There are a number of things you want to look for on such a computer:
1. Memory: About 100Gb of SSD memory would be adequate because you will eventually be able to substitute it will USB-based flash drives as the capacity of those units improves
2. Flexibility - make sure that the unit is easily upgradable, that the main components are easily accessed
3. Keyboard: Some mini-laptops and micro-laptops can sacrifice on keyboard layout. I find it annoying that the DELETE key gets smaller, or the shift key. You really want to type on the thing as if you were using it. If you cannot get used to it in 30 minutes you probably never will.
4. Sound system: I want to hear the sound of music and videos on my computer to establish how good the computer is for VOIP, TV, music, etc. I prefer a built-in microphone too because those headsets are designed to break.
5. USB slots: I want three USB slots at least, and four would be better when you consider that you might like to swap or backup data between drives in future. More important still is the need for those slots to be located in the right position. I use the mouse on the right side, so I want this side free of USB slots. I also don't want a DVD device because the only time I use them is for installing software. In time, software will come on flash drives anyway.
6. Windows 7: The Vista operating system is a joke. With it we actually lost basic functionality. Maybe Win& will redeem the MS crowd. Anyway stay with Win Xp for now; and hope for a better Win7.
7. Battery life: I want a mimimum of 4 hours of battery life, which means you want a 6-cell battery on a small laptop, and more for a larger computer.
8. Optional extras: I want the power for adding discretionary functionality as external devices. For instance, the DVD can be external capacity.
9. Wifi: I want to be able to use my mini-laptop at coffee shops around the world.
10. No extra software: I'm tired of computer manufacturers who place a lot of crap on your computer. I don't want all these extras which are going to slow down my computer.

For a basic word processor and entertainment system, that is all I need.
Andrew Sheldon

Monday, May 25, 2009

Cheapest domain names in Australia & NZ

If you are looking for the cheapest domain names in Australia and NZ, I recommend the Crazydomains website. Note that they have cheaper domain names than websites in NZ; probably because of their larger turnover. When you are selecting a domain name give it a lot of thought because it can make all the difference in the world in several respects:
1. Cost of retaining the domain name
2. Your search ranking (relevance) according to the Google search methodology
3. Corporate credibility - better names convey credibility than a cheaper name which no one else wanted.

If you want to know more about the Google rankings refer to
Andrew Sheldon

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Sony Ericsson Xperia™ X1 vs Nokia E71, E61i Smartphone Review

This is a smartphone released by Sony Ericsson. I used to love Sony products, but then about 6-8 years ago they went off and did really stupid things. I can guess they centralised their design people somewhere. Regardless, from that point everything has been very bad. The Sony Ericsson Xperia X1 is an alternative to the Nokia E71. I actually have the precursor Nokia E61i. Nokia first released the E61, and I guess after complaints, they added wifi and a more powerful processor to the same unit. I love my E61i, but it is not without its problems.
1. I have trouble hearing people
2. The camera is not very good quality - but ok for me. The issue is you can't see how good the pictures are on-screen, until you get home and look at them on your computer.
3. The slow processor - I can type faster than it can think - which says nice things about the keyboard, but a negative for the processor.

Now, when I bought there were a few contenders from Nokia alone. Nokia has a model that looks very similar to the Sony Ericsson Xperia X1 - I think its the N95 model. Anyway, the problem with the Sony Ericsson Xperia X1 and Nokia N95 is that they are too bulky, the have the ugly and non-functional sliding keyboard.

For this reason I would stay clear of these models and go for the Nokia E71 - unless you have small figures. I don't. It really suits Asians or women with small fingers for that reason. The problem is not enough space between the keys, so you push the wrong buttons. Caucasians like me have to satisfy themselves with the Nokia E61i for now, or you might look at the Blackberry. But if I understand the Blackberry correctly, you need to sign up for a contract with them, and I prefer unlocked phones so that I can simply pick up a pre-paid (usually Vodafone) SIM card in every country I go to. I believe there are a limited number of countries serviced by Blackerry. But you will need to do your research on Blackberry.
I would also want to know if they have lifted the processor speed for the Nokia E71. I am awaiting a E61i upgrade - same design - just more powerful.

I might also mention that I dropped my Nokia in the toilet for about 5 seconds and it still worked. The unit is so well-built that it really is hardy. I've dropped it a few times as well. One time I kind of fumbled mid-air and accidentally pushed it away about 5m on the road, but it lived to tell the story. Most useful device I've ever had I believe. I recommend this device for writers. I can read books on it, but I have to reduce the book to 61% size. A little tight, but I can't imagine a bigger phone, so maybe eBooks need tighter formatting.

In conclusion the aspects I don't like about the Sony Ericsson Xperia X1 are:
1. The slide-type keyboards are bad because:
a. Poor weight distribution
b. The upper sliding screen gets in the way of the top keys of the keyboard.
c. the unit is bulky because it slides

For more info see:

The features are otherwise similar to the E71. The Sony Ericsson Xperia X1 does have Windows CE I believe, so that's also a good thing, but I suspect Nokia has as well in the new models. Sorry, more research needed.
Andrew Sheldon

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Learning how to sell online

A lot of my postings on this site are for equipment or devices that make our lives easier. On this occasion I want to recommend a set of eBooks produced by my partner Leah DeGuzman. Leah has been involved in online product marketing for almost 10 years. These days if you are building a business, you are likely wondering how to sell your products or services online.
Leah has written a guide to help people to develop a cost-effective web presence. She has a number of staff in the Philippines who develop the sites for you, which helps to keep your costs down. She can also provide support for you if you want to set up a site, but we recommend you spare yourself the hassle and restrict your effort to website design input, since most people want to offer some direction.

Leah is also working on a second book which will teach you how to improve the search rankings of your website. Its not enough to post articles, you actually have to spend some time promiting your site. We offer suggestions on how you can do that, or once again, she has people working for her that can do it for you if you want to give priority to other activities.

Sites That Sell - Buy this eBook!

We all learn at our own pace. Some of us were fortune to learn in a family or company certain skills from a very young age, so we developed them like a 2nd skin. Others have to learn those skills later or risk falling behind. Sometimes those skill-deficiencies stop us from achieving what we want. In effect they act as barriers holding us back. What we need are tools to help us jump over such hurdles.
If you are considering setting up your own business, then in all likelihood you will be seeking to establish a website to sell your products & services. If you would like to know how to set up an impressive sales-orientated on!

Sites that Sell! View the table of contents or buy this eBook at our online store for just $US19.95.

Andrew Sheldon

Friday, February 13, 2009

Online maps of the world

Need maps of the world for your cell phone, smartphone or just a paper copy you can print off the internet. Then take a look at this online street map. The problem of course in some countries is that the data coverage is poor, but since increasingly more people have GPS devices, the data will grow through collaboration. Of course probably the best source of data is Google Maps for the time being.
If you decide to get a dedicated GPS device I would get a Garmin Etrex Cx. If you want this feature on your cell phone, then I'd wait for the Nokia E61 to be updated. If you are Asian or a women with small fingers, you might be able to cope with the Nokia E71. Personally I would wait for the next phone in this series which will likely have more capacities, including stand-alone GPS tracking features when you are on cell towers, or satellite tracking when you are off cell towers. My belief is that in a few years the device will use both data sources simultaneously for a far more harmonious experience.
Andrew Sheldon

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Blue Ray - the next data format

The film studios and home entertainment equipment manufacturers are all supporting the development of the new blu-ray format. The implication is that if you are intending to buy any equipment you might want to pay a premium for a blu-ray compatible product, or defer such an expenditure. For more details to help you answer such questions, I will refer you to the following website that discusses the blu-ray technology.
Andrew Sheldon

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Dell Inspiron Mini 9 - now available in NZ

Dell has recently started selling a new mini-laptop in NZ which is not a bad offering. The basic unit is just $NZ699 - though with Dell's pricing plan the costs quickly add up with extras, so if its your first computer, and you need those extras, then the price quickly increases. This is of course Dell's bait advertising. Its like buying a beat up Holden and needing to fix it up. But these plans do offer flexibility.
The basic version suits people travelling around the world or touring around NZ. The reason its a great travel computer because it is lightweight - it weights just over one kilogram, it has a solid state memory, so there is no spinning drive which has moving parts, which means its more robust for outdoor use. i.e. Its the type of drive they use in your PDA.
I do have some problems with this unit. The battery life is just 3-4 hours, which means in practice its probably just 2 hours. Its a 4-cell battery. Of course you could always buy another. It has a 1.6GHz processor, but given the slow 1Gb RAM, its not going to optimise on processing speed. The solid state drive has a memory of just 16Gb - which is not very much for anything. If memory sticks were offering better capacity, this would not be an obstacle, but you might just be carrying around a portable HDD as well, which are heavy and not very robust. Wifi is optional, but it should be a standard feature. It does have a web-cam which might come in handy.
This is a pretty decent computer for a reasonable price if you don't need a lot of memory or battery life. I would however like a 2nd battery option, or longer battery life before I buy. They do offer finance, which might be important to some people.
Andrew Sheldon

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Free anti-virus software

There is no reason why you need to pay for anti-virus software. This is a choice you make if you are not discerning about the money you spend. You might think that software vendors deserve the fee you pay, but rest assured they are doing very well given that a great many people are paying $50 to $90 a year for software.
There are a number of vendors. Most offer a free intro period after which they invite you to pay for an upgrade. My advice is - uninstall the free version and then download it again. Failing that you can find another vendor. The intent of course is for them to find a new revenue model that charges others rather than you. My intent is not to rip you off, but for the cost to reflect value and competitive pressures. Free product is a way of avoiding advertising expenses. Having got you, their intent is to entrap you, by making you think you need to download a 'paid' version with a few extra features. You really only need the basic software.
Some of the 'paid' anti-virus software around is actually more trouble than its worth. I started out paying for Norton, but it was so resource hungry. Then I used MicroTrend's product, then Avast, and more recently AVG. Sometimes it can be hard to find a free version, so we have provided some links for you. Try searching Google for 'free anti-virus software':
1. AVG - free version
2. Avast - 60 day free version
3. Micro Trend - 30 day free trial
4. Norton - 15 day free trial

I dare say these companies sell your registration details to advertising companies, though I am not sure about their policy. The best strategy is to download AVG since it offers the best terms, and thereafter if you seem to have any problem you can download the others to remove a virus that AVG has a trouble removing, or pay for a premium version. This strategy worked for me.
Andrew Sheldon
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