Posts filed under ‘Technology’

Surprisingly Good Service From Lidl

A little more than two years ago I bought a USB-drive from Lidl. It was a really good price at the time, for 300GB’s, and I really could not resist the offer. They only got like five at the store, but I was first in line so I actually got two (one for my brother in law too). When it comes to products from Lidl, I really did not think all that much about warranty… They are, you know, cheap. The manufacturer where the mystic “Targus”, and no real information was available on the net. The disk worked fine, however, but was quite loud. After getting my new iMac, and a new 1TB external drive (Western Digital Home, silent and a really good buy!) the old Targus drive was “retired” as a drive to which I could do complete system backups using ?carbon copy cloner?. And it worked nicely, for a couple if weeks. Then the Targus died. It simply stopped working, could not be formatted and, well, did not work.
I thought, hey, what the hell, Lidl ARE offering a three-year warranty! Might as well check it out. I couldn’t find the reciet, though, but I called Lidl and asked for advice. I was told to call Targus directly. At Targus I got to talk to a person from Denmark, making the conversation kind of difficult, but manageable. I was told to send the drive, and power adapter, to a company in Sweden (CLC Infocare), they would then send the drive to Germany, where it would be repaired and sent to me. I paid for the cheapest possible postage (74 sek) and sent it away, not expecting to get it back for a couple of months… But, much to my surprise, it was delivered to me this Wednesday (even if I wasn’t at home to pick it up). They had exchanged the old, broken, 300GB drive with a new 320GB one. And it seems to work nicely now, even if it is as loud as before…
However, I am really impressed by Lidl’s customer care, actually. THAT is something I did not expect to say at all…

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November 9, 2007 at 12:02 Leave a comment

Backup För Hemanvändare

Av lite olika anledningar har jag fått frågor om bra backupsystem för hemdatorn på sistone. Det finns massor med käcka lösningar för det, men låt oss fundera på vad som är centralt med ett backupsystem för hemmet:

  1. Det ska fungera. Det innebär alltså att det dels ska backa upp de filer man behöver, dels ska det också ske automatiskt/regelbundet så att filerna verkligen backas upp.
  2. Det ska helst spara flera versioner av filerna om de ändras. Smidigt OM man får  in ett virus som förstör filen så är det dumt om de äldre (virusfria) filerna raderas i backup’en med de nya förstörda.
  3. Det ska helst finnas backuper utanför den plats där datorn finns. Offsite (på annan plats/ort) är bäst. Att ha alla sina backuper på en extern hårddisk som ligger bredvid datorn är av tveksamt värde om båda blir stulna eller brinner upp.
  4. Det är charmigt om det finns något skydd i det, så att inte backuperna är i klartext. Det kanske de flesta hemanvändare inte bryr sig om, men om man använder någon av de tjänster som sköter om backuper och lagrar centralt är det tryggt att veta att de kanske inte kan läsa allt man gör i klartext?

Hur får man det att funka då? Tja, det enklaste sättet att lösa det är att slänga pengar på problemet. Finns massor med eleganta lösningar, men eftersom hemanvändare tenderar att vara snåla och gnidiga kommer här ett von Anka-gnidet förslag på metod. Jag använder den faktiskt själv till min laptop, så jag ÄR också lite gniden.

Som grund för det hela använder jag Mozy. Jag har skrivit lite om det förut, men i grund och botten är det en tjänst som ger dig 2GB gratis utrymme för backuper. Dessa sker via ett Mozy-program, som sköter om det hela automatiskt. 2GB är inte mycket, men det torde räcka till de flesta kritiska filer/dokument man jobbar med löpande. Om man är klurig så väljer man noga ut vilka dokument som ska säkerhetskopieras i menyn i programmet. Är man mindre snål betalar man för tjänsten och får då MASSOR med utrymme, så man kan göra backuper på bilder och allt annat man har. Mozy krypterar dessutom filerna.
Mozy adresserar dock inte versionshanteringsproblemet, i alla fall inte i grundversionen som jag provat. Den kan man dock ganska enkelt hantera själv, med hjälp av gmail (www.gmail.com). Jag har gjort det till en vana att jag efter en dags intensivt arbete med några filer alltid epostar dem till mig själv, via två olika mailkonton. Då har jag alltid kopior av den senaste versionen av filerna på en annan dator än min.

Detta är mycket enkla åtgärder för att högst noterbart öka säkerheten för vanliga hemanvändare.
Om ni klickar på Mozy-länkarna i det här inlägget och sedan går med i tjänsten får jag en bonus i ökat utrymme på mitt gratiskonto (tjo!). Ni får det också. Alltså, både ni och jag får mer utrymme. Alla vinner. Om ni ändå inte vill delta i det, skriv bara in mozy.com i webläsaren så kommer ni dit utan att ge mig bonus.

October 29, 2007 at 17:30 Leave a comment

Some More Words On Switching to Mac

I’ve had a couple of weeks now trying to adjust to use the Mac. To this point I am overwhelmingly positive to the experience.
I?ve started out using both my old windows XP machine and OS X machine in parallel, waiting for the external hard drive and extra memory to be delivered. Turned out that it was really quick getting used to OS X in general, and not I?ve been using the iMac exclusively for a week. My old PC is donated to my mother. Ah, the life of hardware.
But, there are a couple of things I dislike. The most notable is Finder. There are a couple of really strange design choices there. One is that you cannot move files to other disks by drag and drop. You?ll end up copying them. In fact, you cannot cut and paste files either. Now, I understand the logic for this choice, but it still means that I?ll end up doing extra work when moving files. Frustrating. Oh, and speaking of moving folders, that is something you should be careful with in OS X if you are used the workings of windows. If a moved or copied folder exists in Windows, Windows neatly merges the content of the two. In OS X it replaces. Sure, you get a warning, but still, I don?t see why that would ever be more useful than the merge feature in Windows. It just wastes time (and files, perhaps).
I have not used office 2004 for Mac all that much, but it is useful enough. Things are not always where I want them to be, but that is mostly up to learning stuff. Shouldn?t be a real problem.
There are some free applications that I am missing from Windows, however.
Irfanview is a spectacular piece of software for managing image files, and doing batch conversations of them. Highly useful.
Picasa is very, very good when it comes to handling your digital photos, and uploading them to the web.
Myphoneexplorer is good for handling your (Sony Ericsson) cell phone, backing up contacts, SMS etc. Sure, iSync works well, but I miss being able to backup my SMS.
Luckily, I can run Irfanview and Picasa without any problems on a Windows XP installed using VMware, so that is no big deal. Still frustrating, though.
Myphoneexplorer doesn?t really work well under WMware, however, so that is one piece of software that I am missing.
Other than that? Well, things just work. It took a lot of work to get album covers on most of my albums on itunes. But it looks neat now, both on my Itunes and on the ipod. I like it. Itunes is far better in OS X than in windows, for some reason. Still not sure if I like it or not, but there really aren?t any good alternatives in OS X so I?ll better just bite the bullet and get used to it.
Oh, yeah, I am rather frustrated that Apple hasn?t yet released an update for the problem that the Imac hangs occasionally. Mine hasn?t hanged more than once or twice but still, it bugs me. Had another couple of instances where I?ve had to reboot too, and while reboots are far quicker on OS X than on my old XP machine, I still dislike it.
One of the great things about the Imac is that is rather quiet. Not super-quiet, but quiet. I hear it, but I am hypersensitive when it comes to noise, so that is to be expected. The built in speakers are surprisingly good, works well for music when working.
The single best thing about the machine for me, however, is just how neat my desk and office has become. Almost no cables, almost no clutter. Just two screens (yeah, I use my old 20? Dell as a second monitor, works without any hassle) and a wireless mouse (a Microsoft Intellimouse Explorer II, the mighty mouse is HORRIBLE) and the amazing Apple wireless keyboard. It looks beautiful, at least to me, now that I am free from clutter?

October 26, 2007 at 12:04 Leave a comment

Ok, Sometimes Microsoft Gets Stuff Right (Or so it Seems)

One of the things I tend to spend a tremendious time doing is managing references. Yes, I know there are tools for it, but at times I am horribly lazy, something that hurt me in the long run.
It seems that Microsoft has finally realized that there are a lot of students actually writing academic papers using their software and added features for it.
Have a look here:
http://blogs.msdn.com/microsoft_office_word/archive/2007/10/22/final-paper-time.aspx

Smart stuff. I hope it will be included in Office 2008 for the Mac too!

October 26, 2007 at 11:35 Leave a comment

A Quick Review Of The Bestskinsever-Skin For The Ipod Classic.

So I got a new ipod classic 80 GB. Beautiful machine. In fact, beautiful enough to warrant me thinking about getting some kind of cover. I normally tend to frown upon using covers, as I see electronics as something that should be able to handle some abuse, and I don’t really frown upon small scratches. Therefore I’ve never used a cover or protection for my cell phones, and just a simple screen protector for my old Archos gmini 200. That screen protector is pretty horrible, but works. Got it for a dollar at a Radio Shack in SF, but it’s really nothing I’d like to recommend.

As the ipod is notoriously prone to scratches, I wanted to protect the whole thing. Covers where right out, as they make the ipod look ugly, and are bulky. Therefore a full ipod plastic cover sounded precisely what I wanted.

I did buy a “complete cover kit” from a Swedish store, called screenguard.se. As it turned out, this was far from a complete cover kit, as it only covered areas of the ipod, so I returned it and got my money back (nice company, by the way). Then I decided to order a highly rated cover, from abroad. There are basically two companies selling high class covers, www.bestskinsever.com and Shildzone. According to what I’ve read online, they both use exactly the same material, made by 3M, so the actual quality is the same. Shieldzone offers a warranty, and is three times more expensive, while bestskinsever is… cheap. Me, being… cheap, opted for the bestskinsever product. I ordered one complete protection set for the ipod, one skin for my PSP and a “DIY-skin” for future use. All in all it cost about $19 including delivery to Sweden. Delivery was surprisingly swift, less than a week. The covers arrived in an ordinary letter.

Application of the cover on the ipod was tricky. It requires some care in order to not mess it up. I did manage a decent result, but there are some slight bubbles that has not gone away, and sadly some dirt/bubbles on the screen itself. Nothing that really bothers me, but do note that application requires a bit of time, set an hour aside for it and you’ll probably have time to spare. Follow the instructions carefully, though, and use more water than you’d think in order to keep the parts “floaty” on the surface.

The end result is good, however. It gives the ipod a different look, somewhat more shiny, but it still looks quite nice. The level of protection should be more than adequate, according to other tests. I do think the scrolling is somewhat affected by the skin, as it doesn’t really feel the same as before, but it should be OK when I get used to it. The backside of my ipod managed to get scratched from lying in its original plastic cover, unused. Amazing. I should have gotten a skin as soon as I ordered the ipod.

All in all I am very happy, and would not hesitate to recommend bestskinsever.

October 5, 2007 at 09:38 1 comment

The Process of Switching to a iMac

So, I’ve become fed up with the windows operating system. Or, well, perhaps not, but the lust for something different has been there for a long time now… A very long time. In fact, I decided to switch to OSX a long time ago, but decided to wait for the new model iMac. Which was massively delayed, sadly. But early this summer the new models were released, while I was in SF, actually, so I had a chance to check them out there. Beautiful machines!
I did order one late August, a 24″ with the 2.4 GHz processor (I did not really see the need for the 2.8) and the new, small, wireless keyboard. The keyboard was massively delayed, however, and according to apple I would have to wait for almost two months before I got the machine. Then, out of the blue, they informed me that the machine was shipped, and all I had to do was to wait a week for delivery.
The machine, however, was well worth the wait. It is simply stunning. Almost surreally beautiful, far more than my old PC. Which, honestly, is about as beautiful as a pile of plastic with lots of cables on it. As far as I can tell, the iMac is really quiet, but that probably is due to the fact that the PC is so loud…
Adapting to the OSX way of working was a surprisingly swift procedure, even if I had not used OSX at all before. Not that I know everything, but as it turns out I can do pretty much anything I need to do rather easily. Installing programs is quite easy and instinctive, and other than that, well, most software is either similar between the platforms, or usable enough.

There are certain things I like a lot about the iMac:
– Widgets. They are really useful, and implemented well with the Dashboard. In fact, I am writing this in a Widget that allows me to update my blog.
– The hardware. It is so nice. Simply a beautiful machine.
– Ease of use. Now, I am a pretty experienced user, mind you, but I do appreciate the simplicity. I am lazy, and really do not want to spend time to learn how to do mundane things.
– System wide spellchecking. That is – there is a possibility for spellchecking in almost all software. Nice.

Things I dislike
– The mighty mouse. Who designed that crap? Honestly, it is simply horrible to use. I lasted for all of 20 minutes using it, and don’t believe that I ever will try it again. I was under the impression that they had adapted to the critique they got in the beginning, but no. It simply sucks.
– There really aren’t as much software to OSX as there is for windows. Now, this is a good and a bad thing. There almost always, in my experience, is a piece of software that will do whatever it is you want to do, but in the Windows world, there probably is at least 10. So it all ends up with you having to do a bit more googling to find the software, but it will be there. And, limited choices aren’t always that bad. You don’t have to try a bunch of software to know what solution fits you. Sometimes this is frustrating, however. I tried to find software to convert videos to ipodplayable formats. And almost all hits where software for windows, EVEN among the recommended software on mac/ipod forums. Frustrating, but, there are software for the Mac too, so no biggie.
– I’ve had one case where the machine “hanged”, and stopped responding, forcing a reboot. There are some rumors about trouble with an upgrade, but I don’t really know. It happened once, will look into it if it happens again.

Things I will be doing
– Upgrading the machine to more memory. Will the 1GB that was included is quite enough for most small tasks (surfing, word-processing, etc.) it is obviously to little once one starts to play with virtual machines etc. Memory is quite cheap now, so I’ll be adding 2GB more ram.
– More hard disk space (for storage). Yeah, I like ample storage, so I’ll be adding a couple of external HDs. In fact, I choose not to upgrade the internal HD, not because of price (even though that was a factor) but because by keeping a small internal HD and storing other, less relevant stuff on external storage, I’ll be able to do system wide backups on an external hard drive. Will try that this weekend. Should be fun to see if it works.

I’ll update more in the future as I try stuff and learn about them. Up till this point it has been an overwhelmingly positive experience to switch.

September 27, 2007 at 18:26 2 comments

En Uppdatering om Digisip i “Det Vilda”.

Jag har rest runt i USA i tre och en halv vecka och i stort sett enbart kommunicerat via Digisips lösning på min pocketPC.

Min PocketPC är en ganska billig, enkel modell (Dell Axim x3i) som dock stödjer wlan. Jag fick den för en spottstyver begagnad, inklusive tangentbord och extra batteri. Den är generellt sett horribel att surfa med, instabil, långsam och, uscha, men det funkar fint att läsa mail och skriva med tangentbordet. Och det går att köra digisipsprogramvara. Lämpligaste lösningen är att använda hörlurar och den suspekt bra inbyggda mikrofonen, men det går att använda som en vanlig telefon också, om man är böjd åt det hållet. Inget jag experimenterat mer med. Generellt sett verkar programvaran vara hyffsat stabil. Ibland segar handdatorn ner, men det är ett generellt problem, tyvärr, och jag vet inte om jag vill peka med fingret åt Digisip för det.  Jag kan reta mig en aning på att interfacet i programvaran är klumpigt, och att den inte hämtar alla kontakternas telefonnummer från adressboken, utan bara ett från varje kontakt, vilket gör en smidig lösning lite klumpig. Kanske är det jag som gjort fel? Nå, jag ringer inte direkt så många olika nummer, så det funkar fint med kortnumren.

Ljudkvaliteten beror såklart på bandbredden, men generellt upplevde jag den som duglig. Ibland när det var en väldigt välanvänd lina blev det rätt hackigt, men oftast var det ok. Jämförbar med Skype, tycker jag, men kanske lite mindre tolerant vad gäller dåliga linor.  Det som är den stora svagheten med IP-telefoni (jaja, SIP då) jämfört med Skype är att det är trixigare med brandväggarna. På de flesta ställen gick det utmärkt att ringa med Digisip, och även att bli uppringd. På en del andra gick det bara att ringa ut, och på ytterligare något gick det enbart att ringa ut och tala ut, men jag hörde inget. Allt beror såklart på brandvägg och routrar, men det är en aning frustrerande eftersom man inte kan göra så mycket åt det när man… lånar ett hittat wlan.

Förra USA-resan använde jag mycket telefonkort, som ju var billigt när man jämförde med att ringa med mobil eller liknande, men det kostade ändåså en tia för ett halvtimmes samtal. Med denna lösning blev det mycket billigare (någon krona bara, eller inget om man blev uppringd). Jämfört med telefonkorten tycker jag att kvaliteten var helt duglig, och på det hela taget är jag väldigt nöjd med lösningen. Det var överraskande smidigt, och det var oftast lätt att hitta accesspunkter. Enda jag verkligen saknar är att en lösning som är lite mer aggressiv på att hitta sig igenom brandväggar skulle uppskattas, men det är ju ett generellt problem för just SIP.

Eftersom Digisip är klart billigare än Skype för mig, så kommer jag nog fortsätta att använda det, både hemma och på resor.

September 1, 2007 at 14:33 1 comment

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