Cheap Computing

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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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August 19, 2013  2:27 AM

Confessions of an eBook Junkie

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

AndthumbI can’t hide it any longer. I have become an eBook junkie. The last 10 books I’ve read weren’t on paper, but on the screen of my $69 Android tablet. But they were all books I got for free. That’s a Cheap Computing kind of thing, right? So maybe I shouldn’t be ashamed. And I’ll tell you, it’s a lot more convenient to borrow library books online than in person (despite my local library’s terrible eBook software), and my 7″ tablet is a lot lighter and more comfortable to read in bed than a hardcover library book.
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August 13, 2013  7:54 PM

Video Editing in Linux, Part One

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

logo
Linux is less likely to crash than Windows. It runs on less robust hardware. In many ways it’s easier to use, especially for people skilled with computers. (That would be you, right?) But not all software written to run on Linux is perfect — or even necessarily 100% usable. I’ve battled with the idea of editing video in Linux for over a decade, now, and it is finally becoming possible. Sort of. And there’s hope that it may get better. The most “complete” video editing programs for Linux right now are supposed to be flowblade, KDEnlive, LiVES, Shotcut, and OpenShot. These programs are all free both in the sense that they cost $0.00 to use, and in the sense that you are free to do with them as you wish in ways you cannot with proprietary software.
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July 31, 2013  11:08 PM

I Use Linux Because I Like It, Not Just Because it’s Free

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

LinuxSome people use Linux because it’s free in the GNU sense of software freedom. Some like it because it’s free in the financial sense. I use Linux because it’s my favorite operating system. Specifically, right now I’m using Kubuntu, which is so much to my taste that it could have been designed just for me.

Let me start by mentioning something that sounds silly, but is a basic Linux/Unix characteristic: Programs and files that take two mouse-clicks to open in Windows open with a single click. This is not silly when you open and close dozens or hundreds of files and programs in the course of a workday. It’s something you don’t think about when you use Linux unless you move to Windows suddenly, as I am often forced to do for video editing. Then the double-click thing become an irritation, and makes it feel all the better to escape back to Linux.
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July 22, 2013  3:18 PM

Beware the Frumious Shipping Charge

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

99centHow can a $26 item cost less than the same thing for $19? Is it the Jabberwock, my son? Very possibly. In his poem, Jabberwocky, Lewis Carroll wrote, “Beware the Jabberwock, my son! The jaws that bite, the claws that catch! Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun The frumious Bandersnatch!” Could this poem have been a metaphor? Could it really have been about shipping charges?

The thumbnail at the beginning of this story is from an Amazon page for a bicycle tail light. If you buy much from Amazon you’ve seen this sort of thing more than once: an item priced impossibly low, with a ridiculously high shipping charge to make up for the low price (and then some).
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July 14, 2013  10:09 PM

How Brick and Mortar Stores are Commiting Suicide by Internet

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

A blog called Cheap Computing is obviously about getting things at the lowest possible price. As the Cheap Computing blogger, I obviously love finding the best deals not only on computers and software but also on car repairs, BBQs, and even coffee makers. But even though I buy a large percentage of the items I need in my life over the Internet, I regret watching the traditional retail industry die. Even worse, I hate the way retailers are killing themselves off, and using the Internet to do it.
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July 9, 2013  5:04 PM

Loads of Free Data for Business and Personal Use

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

dataLogo2I’m talking about government data, and there’s a lot of it out there. It’s not really “free” since your tax dollars paid for it, but it’s free to use, and it’s now getting concentrated in one handy place where you can use it however you like. This bonanza is at the data.gov website, which carries the tagline, “empowering people.”
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July 1, 2013  12:36 AM

G2 Crowd Helps You Find the Best Deals on Enterprise Software

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

G2logoFinding a good price on a single-user desktop program is one thing. Getting a good deal on software that will be shared by 10, 20 or 300 users — or more — is something else. For one thing, you can’t rely on software reviews at that level because most software news publications don’t have the resources to test software meant to be used by many people, and if it’s software that is typically customized heavily for each corporate user, a review of how it works in one situation may be meaningless to you if your use scenario is not the same as the reviewer’s. Indeed, the only way to get an unbiased review of enterprise software is from other users. This is what G2 Crowd is all about, and why you need to know about it.
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