Dead Dell Precision M70

We have a project going at work where we need several higher-end laptops to act as mobile servers. So we purchased a Dell Precision M70 (2.26ghz, 2gb ram, 80gb HDD, extra 80gb HDD for backup purposes), PowerNotebooks NP5720 (same specs as the Dell), and a IBM Thinkpad T43 (similiar specs except only 1.5gb ram). Up until Saturday I have been highly impressed with the Dell laptop. It has a solidly built, good design. Remember that I am a super picky user any wierd creaking or excessive fan noise or heat etc. I will notice and complain! The performance from the Dell has been super. Running Photoshop with full sized raw images went smoothly. Heat tends to be an issue that I’m particularly sensative to and the Dell certainly got warm as you’d expect but the heat is situated in the lower back section so if you use a laptop tray like I tend to use then I don’t even notice the heat. Many times to combat the heat there will be loud annoying fans and that isn’t the case with the Dell either. There are fans of course but they aren’t noticeable. So all this good news and then Saturday comes along and the Dell quits working.

I used it for a couple of hours Saturday morning with no problems. Then I went to turn it on Saturday afternoon and nothing. How often do we tell people to always backup their data? I have a program I’ve been working on for days and I hadn’t done any backups. I thought I was going to cry. I found the hard drive, removed it from the laptop and connected it to an external USB enclosure. These USB hard drive enclosures are great. If you haven’t tried one you should. I had an 80gb laptop hard drive laying around so I got one of these enclosures for $15. It’s awesome for fast portable storage.

Anyways I took the hard drive from the dead Dell and it fired right up in the USB enclosure. I got my files off and was safe.
So I called Dell support on Saturday and sat on hold for 45 minutes before I hung up irritated. This morning I called and was talking to a person within 5 minutes another 15 minutes of trouble shooting and the support guy came to the same conclusion that I had…it must be a circuit board of some sort within the laptop that was fried. He gave me a dispatch number and a case number and said someone should be out tommorrow to get it fixed. Check back later tommorrow for the results. Considering the quickness of the support I’m still hopefull on the Dell’s being a good solution.

Brandon is going to write up his review of the PowerNotebooks laptop and we just ordered the IBM Thinkpad the other day so we’ll write up something when we get it.

OQO Handheld PC

I’m not sure how they pronounce their name but I guess it’s just how it looks OQO. I’ve had many handhelds, both Palm and Pocket PC based. I like both of those operating systems equally.
There are things the Palm does better than the Pocket PC and vise-versa. Both of them irritate me in different ways as well. What I really want is Windows XP on a hand held. The OQO Model 01 is just that. Far from perfect, I’ve been pretty impressed with this little machine.
The fact that this device runs Windows XP means you have all of the same applications you normally use on your laptop or desktop available to be used. Not that you are likely to use Photoshop on the 5″ screen, but you could! One deterent for using this as a replacement to your Palm or Pocket PC is the price. You can pickup a fully packed handheld for $500 and you can get a good one for under $200. The OQO Model 01 is $1600 and the Model 01+ is $1900.


The OQO is bigger than all other handhelds, but it also sports a much larger screen at 5″ diagonally. It’s not really something that you will slip into your pants pockets unless you are sporting the old parachute pants and unless you are MC Hammer that’s probably not a good idea.
Performance is suprisingly snappy. I wasn’t so sure about the processor since it’s a Transmeta Crusoe, not a processor I’ve had any experience with using Windows. I had no problems running Firefox, Outlook and several other applications and unlike Palm and Pocket PC you can truly multi-task and have several applications open at once. I did some tweaking of Windows to slightly improve the performance, like turning off XP’s themes and turning off a bunch of services that aren’t really used or needed. The 20gig hard drive leaves plenty of room for the OS, applications, documents and mp3’s. There is no speaker, which I think it should have at least a little chincy one for the occasional Windows beep or notification. I connected it to my car stereo through the headphone jack and was impressed with the sound.


One small irritation is heat. It does get warm after extended use. The fan in it tends to ramp up to deal with this heat and in quiet situations it can get rather loud. The battery life is pretty good. Their website says upto 3 hours, depending on usage and this seems pretty acurate. The device has built in WIFI and Bluetooth. I had no problems connecting to wireless access points at home and at work. I don’t own anything Bluetooth so I can’t report on that. One little issue seems to be with losing the WIFI when you turn off the WIFI radio and Windows comes out of Stand By and or Hibernation. An update available on their website seemed to help this, but not totally cure it.

It takes a little getting used to waiting for it to boot up since we are used to instant on of Palm and Pocket PC. Boot time is a little over a minute, though if you hibernate instead of turning off this waiting time this is greatly reduced.
Here is my wish list of improvements:
1. USB 2.0, transferring files through USB 1.0 is slow. The device has Firewire but I don’t have anything Firewire.
2. Heat, not sure how to handle this and still keep up with good performance
3. Boot time. It’s XP so I’m not sure how they can improve this.
4. Lower price. I understand the limitations of this but it’s pretty steep at $1600. If I hadn’t of got my hands on this because of work there’s no way on earth I’d buy it on my own.
5. Speaker. Even a cheapo little one. I don’t want to listen to music through it, but I’m used to hearing Windows notifying me, plus calendar/alarm sounds would be useful.
6. Video Ram. 8mb of video ram just doesn’t cut it these days. It needs to be at least 32 and 64 would be great!

The packaging for the device was very sharp and reminded me of the quality packaging that Apple tends to use. I like how solid the desktop stand is that comes with it.


It also came with a docking cable that is a bit odd.
I plugged a monitor, network cable, keyboard and mouse into the docking cable and it became a full fledged desktop PC.
Since it’s not a Palm or Pocket PC it doesn’t have any sort of syncing software for contacts, calendar and such that you would normally want on a handheld. At my work we use Microsoft Exchange server, so running Outlook 2003 with an Exchange account running in cached mode takes care of this quite nicely. Simply open Outlook while connected to the network with your Exchange server and it gets all of your email, contacts, tasks and calendar up to date. When you run Outlook while disconnected from the network it uses a local copy of your Exchange mailbox and you have access to all those important tasks and appointments!


The transreflective screen means it looks absolutely great even in direct sunlight! Windows runs at 800×480 and with an external monitor attached it can run 1280×1024.
As far as input is concerned there are several ways to interact with Windows. The keyboard has an eraser head pointer with left and right mouse buttons on the far left. Their placement makes using them quite comfortable. There is also a pen like what tablet PC’s use. It’s performance is a bit sluggish and when you get to the edges of the screen it can be a bit troublesome. Along the bottom edge of the device is also a wheel that can be used to scroll through documents and can be clicked to change volume, switch applications (alt-tab function) and launch applications that you select.
Overall it’s a really impressive device and I’ve been using it alot. I’m excited to see Model 02 that I’ve read is supposed to come out sometime next year. Now, let’s combine all this functionality with a camera and phone (with decent monthly rates) and I will truly be in heaven.
Check out this video from their main site it does a good job of introducing this sharp little device.

  • Camera: Canon PowerShot SD300
  • Taken: 10 November, 2005
  • Aperture: ƒ/2.8
  • Focal length: 5.8mm
  • Shutter speed: 1/8s

Microsoft Media Center 2005

For the past couple of years, Microsoft has been pushing its Windows Media Center Edition PCs into stores and households around the world. I was more than a little skeptical when inquiring about Microsoft new product. The name alone Media Center sounds like a good way for Microsoft to sell you a bunch of extra hardware and software youdon’tt need. Actuallythat’ss not the case at all, well for the most part.

Windows Media Center 2005 is the newest version of Windows XPand is one of Microsoft’s slickest products in recent memory. Basically it’s Windows XP with Media Center added in. All the drivers have been optimized to let Windows be displayed on a TV and look good.


For those who haven’t heard about Media Center or had a chance to see a Media Center PC in action, it’s basically an all-in-one home entertainment device. Media Center PCs act as a DVR (Digital Video Recorder) to let you record, pause and rewind live TV (like TiVo), allow you to play video files, music, pictures and more. All this is great, but who has $1,000.00 to spend for another PC to act like TiVo? Well the answer to that question is complicated, but I’ll try to help you with it.

A 40-hour TiVo box is $199.99, plus a monthly service of $12.95, or $155.40 a year. If you already have a PC, and want TiVo functionality, Media Center is the way to go. The TiVo part is great, but you also get so much more. You do not need to go out and buy a “Media Center PC”. Your existing PC can be converted into a Media Center PC fairly easily, and at a reasonable price.

To covert your existing PC into a Media Center PC, you will need two items.
1. Microsoft Windows Media Center 2005 with a remote control, and IR box. (Approximately $150.00)
2. TV Card certified to work with MCE-2005 by Microsoft. See list here. (Average Price $75.00)

For a little more than the price of TiVo Hardware, not including the service, you can have a Media Center PC. Not bad eh? Now you can connect your PC running Microsoft Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 to your TV, and you can enjoy your favorite computer and TV entertainment all from the same spot in your living room. You can enjoy live and recorded TV, DVDs, music, photos, and more on the big screen from the comfort of your couch and you can control it all with a single remote.

Okay, this is great, right? Well what if you want to leave your Media Center PC in the office, and still have all the Media Center features to work on the TV in the living room. This is why you upgraded in the first place, right? Well you don’t need to buy another PC, now you only need to buy a Media Center Extender. For the price it would cost to add another TiVo box (199.99) you can buy a Media Center Extender box. The extender would plug into your entertainment center in the living room, or whatever room you want to use Media Center in. Now you virtually have 2 Media Centers with all the features of TiVo, plus access to all your movies, pictures, and music that’s on your office computer!

The media center interface is extremely easy to use, and will be fun for the entire family. Check back in a few days, and I’ll show you how to add-on to a common house hold component to get the same features as a Media Center Extender for only 30 bucks! If you have any questions, leave me a comment, or email me at brandoncrain @ hotmail dot com.

Microsoft Ergonomic Keyboard 4000

Ergonomic 4000I’m picky. I like my chicken just so. I like my steak just so. I like my keyboards just so as well. I’ve used the ergonomic keyboards for several years, but the last few models I haven’t liked much. They tended to creak and just not feel right. The early ergonomic keyboards were great and solid. The problem is that I can’t seem to use the same equipment more than 6 months before getting something new and improved. It’s a disease and I should probably seek some counseling.

So, I had been using a Logitech keyboard for sometime, but I’ve been wanting to get back to an ergonomic keyboard. I went first to Microsoft’s hardware site. As soon as I saw the Ergonomic 4000 I knew I wanted it. It looked slick and I loved the black color so I ordered one. It took several weeks to get it because they had just came out.

I’ve been using it now for about a week and it’s easily my favorite keyboard yet. The keys feel great. They are super quiet, which some people may not like. It has none of that noisey click click that some of the more sturdy keyboards have. There’s no creaking noise like some of the past ergonomic keyboards have either. The hand rest is super nice. It is soft with a leather like feel to it. It has the multimedia keys along the top and 5 programmable buttons as well. While I programmed each one I rarely use them though. It just takes discipline to use them instead of launching apps the way I normally do. The software for the keyboard installed without problems. It has a zoom slider between the middle keys that basically enlarges the font on web pages and I don’t really use that either. There is a back and forward button below the zoom slider for webpages, but I’m too used to using the buttons on the side of my mouse to go back and forward with. Overall it’s a great keyboard so far. We’ll see how long it lasts!

Ergonomic 4000

Tablet PC’s

HPtc1100I love my job. At work we have a project coming up that is likely to work best with tablet PC’s. Once we get into this project we are going to need about 30 or more of them. So, to find out which brand and model will work best for our application we have got a couple of them in and have been experimenting.

The models we have played with so far are the IBM X41, Toshiba Tecra M4 and the HP tc1100. We previously had a Viewsonic V1100 and we had a rep from Motion Computing come out and show their line of tablets as well.

The Motion Computing tablets feel solid and are really sharp though we haven’t really got to test drive it. It’s hard to tell how they will perform without taking it and really putting it to use for a few weeks.

My favorite so far has been the HP. This actually came as a surprise to me because I’m not much of a HP guy. We have a HP 9000 Unix server that does a good job and we use almost nothing but HP printers. I’ve never really cared for their laptops or desktops.


The Toshiba is really more of a laptop and is way to big to be a useful tablet pc. The M4 is a convertible type where the screen rotates around and can lay flat to be used as a tablet or upright like a laptop. It’s performance was good although it was bogged down with a bunch of Toshiba junk which we promptly turned off most of it. The battery life seemed shorter than the other two probably because it had a larger sized screen.


The IBM is sharp from a hardware standpoint, but it’s performance was poor compared to the HP and Toshiba. It has built in fingerprint reader which is interesting but not really needed for our uses, plus the software running behind it seemed to be one of the biggest drains on performance. After turning off alot of the extra software and stuff running in the background it worked a lot better. The X41’s size is nice and it feels real sturdy. One gripe I had with it was the fan that keeps the cpu cool was unusually noisy. This could have just been a problem with the particular unit we had but it was annoying in quiet situations. Like the Toshiba it is a convertible type tablet PC.

Like I said before the HP has come out as my favorite so far. It’s size is great. The design is sharp and it’s performance was particularly surprising. I loaded Photoshop CS2 and had no problems editing large photos. Running Microsoft Office (Word and PowerPoint), Firefox and a couple of other applications simultaneously wasn’t a problem for this little machine either. Battery life seems good thus far as well.


The HP can be called a convertible or a standard tablet because the keyboard can be removed or acts as a stand. The keyboard is a undersized version and can take a little getting used to.
We’ll be testing some other models later and will keep you posted on those as well. Right now the winner is the HP.

Laptop choice

Ok, I’ve had my new laptop for 2 weeks now and i really like it, I haven’t had any problems so far! My previous laptop was not bad at all it was just a year and a half old. It was a Pentium M 1.3 ghz. This new laptop is a Pentium M 2.0 and I can tell the difference in speed.

asus laptop

I’m still trying to get used to the resolution though. My old laptop’s resolution was 1280 x 720, my new laptop is 1680 x 1050! Read my previous post for the specs. The physical size is a little bigger than my last laptop with the same size screen, but the weight is actually a little less. I can definetly recomend the Power Pro laptops. They are built on a Asus motherboard which is what I prefer on desktop machines as well. You can check them out at The sales rep was extremely helpful and very knowledgeable. You can generally tell the sales people who sound like they just came from a meeting, spouting lingo and words they really don’t understand. But the guy I talked to knew his stuff.

War of the Palm Worlds

I found this definition from Insisting capriciously on getting just what one wants; difficult to please; It’s the definition of finicky.Lifedrive

Some might say that I am the definition of finicky when it comes to handheld devices. I held out a while before getting my first handheld, they seemed only for those who actually had enough contacts and appointments to keep track of. Then I started seeing the number and breadth of applications available, so I decided it was time.

Consider this taken from the palmOne website, The PalmPilot was invented in 1994 by Jeff Hawkins who founded Palm Computing and is now palmOne’s Chief Technology Office. So, my first handheld was a Handspring Visor in 2001. I tried to go thrifty by getting an open box, bottom-of-the-line model. That lasted about a day as I quickly realized I wanted more storage for all of the applications out there that I would never actually use. So I got the next model up with more memory. One of my co-workers had a color model and I had to have that. So I got a Handspring Prism and used it for about 6 months. Then I discovered the Sony Clie. I got the 615c, but the 655c came out the following week and it played MP3s! So I returned to Best Buy, they exchanged it and I paid the difference. I used it for about 6 months and had wander lust again. I had never really liked the design of the Palm brand until I saw the Tungsten T3. It had the bottom section that slid up and down. I liked it and used it for a good 6 months. I had never cared for the size of most Pocket PC handhelds, but now they had come out with several models that were the same size as the Palm OS based models.

So, I went with a HP 4155 and I have to say that out of the Pocket PC’s it was the best for features and size. I used it for about 6 months (see a trend here?) and again was overcome by the desire for something new. Pathetic, I know. So, I went with the HP RX3715. I never really cared for it. Buying on the internet has it’s downside sometimes. It was big and bulky and it didn’t last too long. I decided I missed the Palm OS and went with a Tungsten T5. For features it was ok, but I really missed the Wi-Fi that the HP 4155 had. I didn’t like how the T5 felt in my hand either. (Remember the definition of finicky?) Then came the Lifedrive. I had read about it and the rumors as to it’s specs and thought “I gotta have that!” It came out around the middle of May and I had mine in my hot little hands the following week. I really like it. It fits perfectly in the hand. lifedrive2The 4gig of space provided by the microdrive inside is awesome. Plus I have a 1gig SD card, so I’m not hurting for space. The Wi-Fi works flawlessly and MP3s sound great on it. I even sold my 30gig iPod Photo because I didn’t want another device to carry around. Not that it compares to the iPod for it’s user interface or storage, but for my needs it’s perfect. Complaints, yeah I have a couple. There are delays when launching applications, especially for the first time after a soft reset. If I’m listening to music and I hop to another application it causes serious hiccups in the playback. The headphone jack is at the bottom of the device, so I have to put it in it’s leather carrying case upside down to avoid removing the headphone cord each time I want to remove it from the case.

The life drive is not a revolution in handhelds, all of it’s features have been around for sometime. It needs some improvement on handling of the hard drive, maybe this will be addressed by Palm OS 6. The thickness could be reduced some. I am surprised that there is not more heat associated with the hard drive than there is. I only gets warm if you do a lot of transferring of files to the hard drive. Overall I am well pleased with the Lifedrive. Check back with me in 6 months and see if there’s anything that’s peaked my interest enough to switch. If you are wondering where the title for the article came from I just saw War of the Worlds. I really liked it and thought Tom Cruise and Dakota Fanning did awesome jobs. Go see it.- jason