Cheap Computing

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June 9, 2014  2:49 AM

I Miss the Days When Stores had Helpful Sales Clerks

Robin Robin "Roblimo" Miller Profile: Robin "Roblimo" Miller
computer, Linux

300px-Circuit_City_logo.svg

I miss Circuit City. Until their last days, when they decided to lay off their most experienced, most knowledgeable, and therefore highest-paid salespeople, it was a fine electronics store. You could ask, “Does it run Linux?” and if the person you asked didn’t know, he’d say, “Just a second. Let me get Jim. He’s kind of our Linux guy on this shift.” Plasma TVs (which were a new idea back then), cordless phones with answering machines, RAM, hard drives… they always seemed to have someone around who *knew something* about the product you needed. But Circuit City is no more, and retail clerks who know about the merchandise seem to have gone away, too.
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May 28, 2014  10:20 PM

Buying for the Wrong Reasons

Robin Robin "Roblimo" Miller Profile: Robin "Roblimo" Miller
Acer, Apple, MONITOR, Notebook, Tablet

acerAre you buying a tablet or a fashion accessory? A server or office decor? A phone or a piece of bling shaped like a phone? A productive laptop or something to impress your friends and amaze your enemies? These are all questions you need to ask yourself before you buy any piece of IT gear for your home or office.
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May 23, 2014  5:39 PM

Cutting the Cable TV ‘Cord’ Involves Multiple Decisions

Robin Robin "Roblimo" Miller Profile: Robin "Roblimo" Miller
cable, tv, Verizon

cableI can’t handle paying Brighthouse nearly $160 every month for Internet, cable TV, and VOIP phone. Back when it was $80/month and I had a high-flying job, I was okay with cable. Now that I’m on Social Security (supplemented by a little freelancing), cable TV has become too rich for my blood. And $160/month doesn’t include any premium channels. So something has to go — and I think what is going to go is me from cable TV. It keeps going up, up, up every year as if it is something so vital that we’ll pay insane amounts to have it. Maybe some people will, but a lot of us won’t.
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May 13, 2014  10:21 PM

Tablet and Laptop Prices Continue to Drop in Fits and Starts

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

one-day-saleLast week I wrote about an Acer tablet for $89, including shipping — if you bought by May 5. This week that same tablet is $99, still including shipping. If you look closely at the specs, you’ll see that the cameras aren’t very good, and that claimed battery life is only “up to 3.5 hours.” But if you’re not much of a photographer, and you don’t expect to be watching movies, reading eBooks or doing other tablet-type things for more than three hours away from an electric outlet, this is all the tablet you need — and it’s plenty good as a teenager’s homework machine if you add a low-cost Bluetooth keyboard to it. But, as they say, “That’s not all!” I am suddenly getting hit with all kinds of “one day” and “this week only” specials from major computer vendors.
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May 3, 2014  8:47 PM

Heads Up: Acer 7″ Tablet $89 Through May 5

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

B1-710_mainSpecifically, it’s Acer’s Iconia B1-710-L401 Android Tablet, which makes this just about the best deal I’ve seen for a name-brand tablet with a duo-core processor. It only has 8 GB of memory, but that doesn’t matter much because it has a memory card slot that can hold up to 32 GB of add-on memory. I turned to Amazon to check user reviews, and to see their price. The reviews were almost all favorable. My favorite negative one was from the person who was disappointed that this Android tablet didn’t come with Windows 8. — The Amazon price was $99, so the factory short-fuse sale is a better deal by $10 — at least through Monday, May 5. Both offer free shipping.
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April 30, 2014  9:21 PM

Sometimes a Little Spending (but Not Too Much) Makes Life Better

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

cap-pensHave you seen those little capacitive styluses you can use to tap your smartphone or tablet screen? They’re a lot easier than fumbling with your fingers, and they cost next to nothing. You should get some. I did. And my wife likes them at least as much as I do. The ones pictured here are the ones I first bought from Amazon, but after that I bought some others from Amazon, Tiger, and NewEgg. They all seemed about the same to me, and they were all so cheap that they weren’t worth comparison shopping.
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April 25, 2014  10:21 PM

If A Deal Looks Too Good to be True…

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

…it usually is. This applies to any purchase, and in the age of the Internet, you can get swindled by people as far away as India or China. And don’t think this doesn’t happen. It does. And it happened to me.
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April 13, 2014  7:41 PM

For Security Reasons, Perhaps We Should All Work Together in Offices

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

youhavebeenhackedA basic problem with working in “the cloud” is that we are sharing our work over the Internet, where the very act of sending and receiving data makes us vulnerable to security breaches such as HeartBleed. Since the cost of a data breach can be huge (ask anyone who works at Target), it is obviously a wise Cheap Computing maneuver to protect your data as much as possible. And once you decide to do that, you may decide Marissa Mayer was right, and we should work together in offices rather than in our homes or at other remote locations.
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April 7, 2014  5:56 PM

‘Cutting the cable TV Cord’ as Much as We Can

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

cut-the-cordOur current cable, Internet and phone bill combo package from Brighthouse costs $150 a month. This is way too much for an older couple (us) living on Social Security and part-time freelance writing and video production. We need to, as they say, ‘cut the cord,’ and get along without cable TV. No problem. We can do that. But what about Internet? We *need* Internet service to make money — and besides, most of our non-cable TV entertainment (think Netflix) comes to us via the Internet. That means complete cord severance isn’t in the cards for us. :(
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March 31, 2014  7:10 PM

The Chromecast is Worth $35, but Won’t Change Your Life

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

Chromecast-large I bought a Chromecast when they first came out in 2013, and ever since then I’ve been wondering what I should write about it. Finally I decided that yes, it’s worth $35, and it’s nice, but it’s not life-changing. It has changed the way we watch TV in one semi-important way, but that’s about it. So that’s what I’m writing about my Chromecast, along with one kind of cool business application I’ve found for it.
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