Cheap Computing

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January 17, 2013  6:43 PM

Apple iPad 4, $474.99; Gateway 15.6″ Notebook $319

Robin Robin "Roblimo" Miller Profile: Robin "Roblimo" Miller

Now and then I like to slip in a short post about deals that look expecially good — that you’ll only find if you subscribe to the Cheap Computing RSS feed or follow this blog another way.
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January 17, 2013  4:54 PM

No Question About It: You Need a Mobile Website, Not a Mobile App

Robin Robin "Roblimo" Miller Profile: Robin "Roblimo" Miller

A few days ago I posted some thoughts about why it’s better to make a mobile Web page than to make custom apps for iPhones, iPads, Android phones, Android tablets, and so on. Now the MIT Technology Review gives us another reason why making OS-specific portable device apps is a waste of time and money in the form of an article headlined, The Underdog Operating Systems Set to Shake Up the Smartphone Scene.

It’s easy to forget that iOS and Android aren’t the only operating systems for portable devices. RIM looked like it was going down for a while, but now it looks like it’s coming back. And a small company in Washington — I don’t recall its name — is selling a smartphone operating system called Doors. Or maybe Windows. And there’s Ubuntu Linux, which is being ported to run on Android-compliant phones. And who knows what else is being developed in the world’s basements and garages?

If you want a custom mobile app with versions that will run on all smartphones current and future, you have one heck of an expensive proposition on your hands. But as long as all the many smartphone OSes have standards-compliant browsers, you can make a single mobile website that will display on all of them, no problem, for no more than the cost of a single custom app that will run on only one smartphone operating system.


January 15, 2013  6:13 PM

Best Buy Specials: HP Laptops Under $400

Robin Robin "Roblimo" Miller Profile: Robin "Roblimo" Miller

A little deal alert for Cheap Computing readers: Best Buy has some HP laptops at great prices. Consider them “doorbuster” loss leader deals if you like, but as long as you don’t load up with a stack of overpriced merch while you’re looking at one of these laptops, you’ll save some money. One caveat: Reading the user reviews, it seems that these laptops may have quality control problems, so it might be worth buying an extended warranty if you get one. And one add-on deal that is worth having is an 8GB thumb drive for $5.99 with laptop purchase. Also: Please note that I’ve linked specifically to a page for a $399 laptopl; scroll down the page to see more HP laptops ranging from $349 to $449 — and please remember that prices shown in Cheap Computing are valid when the post is written, but may change at any time.


January 12, 2013  10:03 PM

Does Your Company Really Need a Custom Mobile App?

Robin Robin "Roblimo" Miller Profile: Robin "Roblimo" Miller

The short answer to this question is, “No.” My favorite local TV news station, WTSP, has an iPad app they push during nearly every news broadcast. That’s wonderful if you have an iPad. But if you have a smart phone or tablet with no lower-case “i” in front of it, like my Android phone, you don’t get a special app. That’s sad for WTSP, since a December 2012 IDC study showed Android holding 68.3% of the smartphone operating system market with iOS a distant second at 18.8%. And — surely to WTSP’s chagrin — there are many more mobile phones than tablets. Even worse, I can see WTSP’s website on my Android phone — by tapping M.WTSP.COM into the little virtual keyboard. Since WTSP already has a mobile site, why do they also have a custom iPad app that surely cost a whole bunch of money to develop? Chances are, sooner or later they’ll drop support for the specialized app in favor of their mobile website.
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January 4, 2013  8:01 PM

How To Get Customer Service or Tech Support Help Without Going Nuts

Robin Robin "Roblimo" Miller Profile: Robin "Roblimo" Miller

You survived Christmas and got the shiny new iThingie you’d been lusting after. Or you got yourself a new Adenoid smarty phone to replace the venerable dime-a-minute voice-only cell phone you’ve had for the last six years that needed a new battery. Or maybe you got a laptop or TV. Whatever it was, it is now time to call tech support. Don’t cry! It doesn’t have to be a horrible experience. Irritating? That goes without saying. But if you follow my advice, it won’t be a totally terrible experience.
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December 28, 2012  9:27 PM

This is a Great Time to Score Computer and Electronics Bargains

Robin Robin "Roblimo" Miller Profile: Robin "Roblimo" Miller

Black Friday is more hype than anything else — from a buyer’s perspective. There may be some good deals, but going to physical stores can be anywhere from annoying to dangerous, and shopping websites may be overloaded, so it’s wise not to shop for computer or electronics items the day after Thanksgiving unless you are a severe masochist. But now? The days leading up to, and after, New Year’s Day? *This* is the time to buy. Almost everything from game consoles to cars is on sale, often for less than at any other time of the year. I’ve shared a few bargains here, in my last post of 2012. I have a wowser of a piece about how to get customer service to pay attention to you coming next week as our 2013 kickoff, but right now let’s look at stuff we can get on the cheap to celebrate surviving yet another turn of the calendar.
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December 24, 2012  3:54 PM

A Last-Minute Techie Christmas Gift That Takes *NO* Time to Deliver

Robin Robin "Roblimo" Miller Profile: Robin "Roblimo" Miller

OMG! It’s Christmas Eve! You don’t have a gift for your teenage hacker-wannabe son or daughter. What to do? What to do?

Answer: A gift card from Tiger Direct, the Florida-based company that absorbed the CompUSA and Circuit City brands. I know this seems like kind of an ad, but I like Tiger a lot. In fact, I bought the HP computer I’m using to write these words from them. Ditto my Vizio home theater sound bar and a number of other items. So this is not only not an ad, but an unpaid and unsolicited recommendation.

If you haven’t gotten a gift for someone on your list, you can send them a CompUSA gift certificate from Tiger on Christmas Eve or even on Christmas Day via email and they’ll get your gift on time. If that doesn’t make for a Merry Christmas, I don’t know what does!


December 20, 2012  2:00 AM

Online vs. Bricks & Mortar Price Bait & Switch

Robin Robin "Roblimo" Miller Profile: Robin "Roblimo" Miller

It’s really close to Christmas. This time of year, being aware of price differences between a retailer’s website and their physical stores is especially important because this is when you’re most likely to shop online and then, for speed reasons, pick up your purchase at a nearby store instead of waiting for it to be delivered. But what if the price in the store isn’t the same as the price you saw online? What should you do?
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December 13, 2012  10:13 PM

Cheap Computer Christmas Shopping, Fa la la la la

Robin Robin "Roblimo" Miller Profile: Robin "Roblimo" Miller

Wow! If we’re going to shop online for tech-type Christmas gifts, we’d better get cracking if we want our ordered goodies to show up in time for The Day. The short list of gift recommendations that follows is cribbed from the many “deal of the day” email newsletters I receive. In theory, each item I mention here is priced lower than it has ever been, which means the vendor is being nice, not naughty, at least in a Cheap Computing context. So ho ho ho, and let’s take it away….
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December 6, 2012  6:14 AM

What’s the fastest/easiest way this company can cut its IT budget?

Robin Robin "Roblimo" Miller Profile: Robin "Roblimo" Miller

Our scenario: A small financial services business with 20 Windows XP desktop computers, 5 employees with their own Android tablets, 2 servers for printing and Outlook, including the CMS built into Outlook 2010. Besides that, their two most-used programs are MS Office (they have a copy on each desktop), plus Adobe Dreamweaver and Adobe Photoshop, which are used almost entirely by their two in-house Web developer people, who also serve as their IT department.

Their Web site is hosted by a small but reliable local company they chose because its owner is good friends with one of their Web people. They do offsite backup the old-fashioned way: they have a remote (USB) hard drive that holds a duplicate of all their data, and every evening either the President or one of the two VPs takes it home with them. In other words, this is a basic “it just grew” small company IT structure. Not fancy, but it works fairly well, with only a few outages every week that are generally caused by Microsoft Exchange Server crashes.
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