Cheap Computing

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October 28, 2013  2:22 PM

The eBooks are Too Damn High

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

ebook tabletYes, I’m ripping off New York activist/candidate Jimmy McMillan’s famous line, “The Rent is Too Damn High.” Mind you, I agree with Jimmy and love him. But I am also an eBook junkie, and I am telling you, the price for eBooks is too damn high. Music vendors learned that the best way to keep people from stealing their products online was to make it cheap and easy to buy them. The movie business has also learned this lesson. Why can’t book publishers learn it, too?
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October 23, 2013  9:51 PM

Making a Smartphone Into a Useful Camcorder

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

phone-holder cheapie

I have just gotten a new cell phone, courtesy of Virgin Mobile. It’s a SAMSUNG GALAXY VICTORY™ 4G LTE. My old “good enough” phone, an HTC EVO 3D, committed suicide by throwing itself onto the floor, so Virgin sent me the Samsung as a warranty replacement. I intend to use my new smartphone as a “rough and ready” camcorder, too. I have a serious Panasonic video camera, and a serious Canon, both with good shotgun mics mounted on them, but there are times when I want to take a video shot but don’t have them with me. That means I need low-cost, easily-carried accessories that can turn my pocket-sized smartphone into a passable camcorder. And they need to be cheap. (After all, the title of this blog is Cheap Computing.)
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October 17, 2013  9:28 PM

The Magical Mystery Switch All Your Electronic Devices Should Have

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

TzeenieWheenie_Power_On_Off_Switch_red_2The other day a young friend was telling me how her cell phone had become annoying. “Someone is always calling me or sending we a text or something,” she said. How awful! Getting bothered 24 hours a day, every day of the week. “How about turning your phone off when you don’t want to be disturbed?” I asked. “But won’t I miss calls?” she asked. “No,” I said. “People who have something important to say will leave a message. And texts will be in the system and will appear when you turn your phone back on.” The girl looked puzzled. “Yes,” I said. “The off switch is possibly the most valuable control you have on any electronic device. Use it wisely and often, and you and your devices will be happier and will probably live longer.” I couldn’t help adding, “Yes, if you turn your electronics off when you are not using them, both they and you will live long and prosper.”
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October 9, 2013  3:50 PM

Video Editing in Linux: Not Quite Ready for Professional Use

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

imagesI spend a lot of my time making and editing videos, and video work currently generates a majority of my earned income. I also prefer Linux to Windows or Mac, and generally back FOSS as both a philosophical concept and as an efficient way to develop software. So I find it a constant source of frustration that, at least for my purposes, there is still no good professional-level video editing software for Linux.
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September 27, 2013  11:13 PM

Two Cheap Phone Deals — From Best Buy, of All Places

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

logoMy last post was titled Goodbye, Contract Cell Phone Plans. It was about the joys of prepaid cellular service, and how it saved me all kinds of money. About four hours after I uploaded that post, my HTC phone died. A snickery person might say it died because someone dropped it onto a hard floor while standing on a ladder, but I was the only person in the room so that’s not possible. Or is it? (Blush.) In any case, Virgin Mobile is replacing it under warranty. Sadly, since my particular phone model is backlogged right now, that’s going to take a week or two. Despair? No way! I found a “good enough” Kyocera Event phone on Virgin’s website for $49.95, and almost ordered it. But my Cheap Computing instincts kicked in before I did, so I shopped around for that model phone. And I found it for $39.95. All right!
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September 24, 2013  10:51 PM

Goodbye, Contract Cell Phone Plans

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

motorola_bagMy first cell phone cost nearly $1000 and air time was $1/minute, with a minimum of $200 per month on a two-year contract. But I owned a limousine service, and that was better than having an answering service handle my calls. Then, like everyone else, I got a phone that was included with my carrier’s airtime plan — which cost $150 for unlimited use. Before long — Glory Be! — I found a carrier that didn’t charge for the first minute of incoming calls, which dropped my cellular bill below $99/month for the first time. Now I pay $35 per month for unlimited data and texts and five hours of talk, which is more than I ever use. And my phone plays music and movies, and I use it to read books more than for any other purpose. Talk about Cheap Computing! My $150 smarty-pants phone both computes and is cheap. And it does everything I need and then some.
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September 16, 2013  12:01 AM

More Video Teleconferencing Advice

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

logitech-b910-hd-webcamBack in January I wrote a post titled Nine Free and Easy Ways to Look Your Best in a Video Interview or Chat. In that piece I talked about simple things you could do (like smile, which most people don’t) to look your best on camera. Today I’m going to talk about why you may need a webcam better than the minimum-quality one I talked up in the “Nine Ways” post. And I’ll tall you why I no longer use Skype for remote interviews.
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September 9, 2013  3:25 AM

Training Your Spam Filter – a Free and Easy Task That Will Improve Your Online Life

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

spamstackThis is something so basic, I thought everybody knew how to do it. I was wrong. An awful lot of people, including many who have substantial IT skills, seem to have trouble training a Bayesian spam filter. The funny thing is, this is one of the easiest things you can possibly do with your computer and the network to which it is attached. You don’t need to know how a Bayesian filter works or what Bayes’ theorem says. You just need to be able to click on the word “spam” or a symbol that means “spam” in your email program, and also to click an “x” or similar symbol to declare mail not-spam that has been classified incorrectly as spam.
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August 31, 2013  7:37 PM

Happy Labor Day, IT People

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

labor-day_delaware-dot-gov

No matter how low on the IT totem pole you may be, you are almost certainly better off than the fast food workers who have recently been on strike. You work in better conditions, get to sit down when you want, and generally earn a lot more money than the $7.50 – $9 most food workers get paid. You may even get health insurance and paid vacations, which most fast food workers don’t. And if your bosses irritate you, better jobs await. Or at least jobs that are no worse than the one you have now but with less-irritating bosses.
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August 26, 2013  9:22 PM

Buying Used Computers vs. Buying New

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

USED-COMPUTERSI am still suffering from a hardware problem that prevents me from installing Linux and OpenShot on a fresh computer, and I won’t have money to buy much of anything until Wednesday. So let’s talk about buying a used computer vs. buying a new one, a choice that is facing me this week. Over the years I’ve bought both used and new computers, and mostly used cars. But buying a used computer is often not as good a deal as buying a used car, especially if we shop carefully for our new computer and know exactly what we’re looking for, and why.

The big problem with buying a used computer is Moore’s Law, which states — roughly — that computer power doubles every 18 months. That may be an overstatement in the 2010s. Even so, today’s $500 computer is more powerful and has more useful features than a $500 computer sold in 2010.
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