Cheap Computing

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March 6, 2013  6:42 PM

Dragon Naturally Speaking Reduced to $37.99 on Amazon – Then Bumped to $49.76

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

I’ve often thought about trying a top-flight dictation program. My experiments over the years with programs such as IBM’s ViaVoice were disappointing in both Windows and Linux, and because of that I’ve never really wanted to spring $99 to try Dragon Naturally Speaking. But $37.99 including free shipping from Amazon? Okay, I’ll bite. This is Home version 12.0, which I figure will do everything I need — if it works. We’ll see. And if you want to try Naturally Speaking, this is probably about as low a price as you’ll find for it. (NOTE: I have not been paid or offered any compensation for this notice; I learned about this deal from one of the many bargain-hunting newsletters to which I subscribe and thought it looked interesting.)
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UPDATE: Between the time I started to order this product at the $37.99 price shown on Amazon’s site and the time I got the confirmation email for my one-click order, the price jumped to $49.76, and I didn’t get the indicated free shipping, either. I canceled the order and have emailed Amaazon. It will be interesting to see what happens, won’t it?

February 28, 2013  11:38 PM

A Lovely Free Office Suite for Windows 8

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

It’s LibreOffice 4! It’s newly released! Cleans stubborn Microsoft stains from your shirt collars and your PC! Also pretty good for writing documents, setting up spreadsheets, making slide shows, and rudimentary database tasks. And it’s free, a price that cannot be beat. So what are you waiting for? Download LibreOffice 4 today. Except you say you don’t have Windows 8? Don’t worry. LibreOffice runs on other operating systems, too.
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February 21, 2013  7:29 PM

Seriously Cheap Computing with Linux

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

I’m getting ready to update my Linux computer to Ubuntu 12.1. And as I write this, Windows 8 crashes on me! This is not a joke. For real. It happens maybe once a week, which is better than most older versions of Windows. Linux has almost never crashed on me. I mean, maybe once a year over the past 10 years. Anyway, where were we before the crash and reboot? Yes. Updating to Ubuntu 12.1, which is a lot less work than my wife went through “upgrading” from Windows 7 to Windows 8 (and back again).
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February 13, 2013  10:20 PM

The Ultimate Windows 8 Upgrade May Be Windows 7

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

I’m perfectly happy with Windows 8. I find it fast, stable, and easy to use with the help of free Classic Shell. But some people don’t like Windows 8, no matter how it’s improved or modified. For these people, the best way to cure what ails Windows 8 may be a return to Windows 7, which still works just fine and probably isn’t going to go away anytime soon.
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February 4, 2013  9:13 PM

Cut Big Data Down to Small Data and Save Big Bucks

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

A visualization created by IBM of Wikipedia edits.
At multiple terabytes in size, the text and images
of Wikipedia are a classic example of big data.

Big Data was one of the buzziest buzzwords of 2012, and is buzzing only a little less in 2013. An awful lot of money is being flung at Big Data. That’s nice for companies that have an unlimited supply of cash, which yours probably does not. Let’s face it: Big Data is useful if you’re trying to determine what happened to the universe 17 milliseconds after the Big Bang. Big Data is useful in a business sense for Wal~Mart, which handles over one million customer transactions per hour. Big Data is also fine for the U.S. government, which owns six of the world’s 10 biggest supercomputers. Now let’s look at your business. How many supercomputers do you own? Probably none. So instead of seeing how Big your Data can be, you are probably better off cutting your data down to size. Let’s look at some ways of doing that — and how you’ll save a Big Bunch of Bucks in the process.
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January 25, 2013  12:26 AM

Nine Free and Easy Ways to Look Your Best in a Video Interview or Chat

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

I do a fair number of remote video interviews (like this one) these days. They’re getting to be rather common. One day you’ll be called on for a video interview. Or you’ll just decide you want to look your best in a video chat session or simple “talking head” video production. Assuming you already have a webcam and microphone, whether they’re built into a laptop or clipped to the top of a monitor, you already have the equipment you need. Now what you need are these simple tricks that will make you look your best, even over a not-so-good Internet chat connection.
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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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