TheONbutton Durham Computer Services

Remote IT Support and Computer & Technology Help in Durham, Chapel Hill and Raleigh NC

SSD: Would you like to supersize that?

Several recent ultraportables have sported a Solid State Drive, most notably the Asus EEE which has sold bucketloads to eager buyers (including myself).

Until now most SSDs have been conservatively sized, with the larger commercial offerings topping out at 64GB in the Samsung Q1 and MacBook Air. BitMicro clearly has bigger plans for the format though.

The company, which already has a one terabyte SSD in production, has recently announced plans to produce a 1.6 terabyte model. Applications include field use where extremely rugged hardware is required. By ‘extremely’ I mean your requirement would probably need to be ‘mission critical rugged’ for an organization to justify the likely huge price tag.

So although regular consumers might not be the first to purchase, it could be coming to your local infantry brigade sometime soon.

Feb 29, 2008 Posted by | Computing, Hardware | | Leave a comment

Logitech FreePulse Review

Wireless headphones. A great idea often unstuck by uncomfortable cans, poor sound quality and bulky base stations. Now lightweight bluetooth stereo headphones are streaming into stores, but there are still questions about whether they can change this perception. Let’s get Logitech’s FreePulse 2 into the interrogation room.

The FreePulse is a ultra-lightweight bluetooth headphone set with a cool neckband look and graphite coloring. The right ear unit houses the controls with volume, power, muting and track selection, although only some devices will be compatible with all of these functions. Flexible rubber over ear hooks keep them from falling off your ears. These hooks can be repositioned for custom fitting. Also in the box are adaptors for various iPods and a small bluetooth transmitter for standard 3.5mm headphone sockets. This allows the FreePulse to get audio from anything with a headphone output. Nice. Putting them on for the first time is slightly confusing, as the neckband sits at the bottom of the ear units rather than the top. Once figured out though, fitting is easy and the FreePulse feels secure, comfortable and, most importantly, lightweight when sitting correctly. The key is to play with the ear hooks to get the right fit.

The FreePulse paired to my HTC TyTN straight away and the phone recognized them as wireless stereo phones. Within seconds stereo music was streaming to the cans…and the sound quality was surprisingly decent.

Both bass and treble came through well enough, with an emphasis on the lows. There were pronounced peaks around the 1-3 KHz midrange, which is where snare drums and vocals live. This combination makes the FreePulse real rocker’s cans, and when I cranked up the volume I found myself dancing around the room in no time. The slightly overdone bass can smother some clarity at times, which can be remediated if you have an equalizer on your music player. There is a bass boost on the headset, but I didn’t find it particularly sweet sounding. At the other end of the spectrum I plugged the headphone dongle into my Teac Reference system, which receives a SPDIF audio feed from my Media Center. After some quick cutting of the offending bass and midrange frequencies on the computer’s output EQ, the sound quality of the FreePulse was extremely impressive.

Transmission quality was strong throughout my (admittedly small) apartment. The FreePulse had no problem holding a connection at around ten meters through a wall, although as the distance increased from the source, momentary dropouts started to occur every thirty seconds or so. The dropouts also occurred outside with the phone in my pocket and as the battery weakened after around five hours. However the dropouts only became annoying when watching movies as lip sync issues emerged. I can only imagine that this is a buffering issue when some data packets don’t make the full journey and need to be resent, which is a problem in any data streaming situation. I found that momentarily pausing the film sorted this out.

I found the FreePulse worked well both in and outdoors. I could jog without them falling off, and when fitted well they only became tiring after a couple of hours. They always had plenty of volume range as long as they were receiving good level from the source. Best of all, they just have a subtle power light, as opposed to a huge geeky flashing indicator which afflicts so many bluetooth headsets. So I could happily wear them without feeling self conscious. At a MSRP of $99.99, the Logitech FreePulse is good value given the packaged headphone adaptor, solid sound quality and comfortable wearability at home, in the gym or in the street. I recently saw them advertised at one large electronics store for $49.99. I bought them straight away.

Neil Berman

Feb 10, 2008 Posted by | Audio, Hardware, Mobile, Reviews | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Taking the hassle out of living room computing: Logitech diNovo Mini

Microsoft ‘n the gang have been asking us to hook our computers into our living room TVs for a while. Products like Windows Media Center and Apple’s Front Row are designed to work with a remote control and both have slick interfaces.

That’s all good, but what happens when you want to do some web surfing too? The scene descends into a balancing act of keyboard in one hand, mouse in the other and coffee mug somewhere in the middle…often missing the coffee table!

Logitech is hoping its new diNovo Mini bluetooth wireless controller is going to change all that when it hits the stores in late February. The clamshell Mini conceals a Qwerty thumboard, Media Center remote and ‘ClickPad’ in a rechargeable wireless package. The playback controls are also Playstation 3 compatible.

The thumboard is very usable and has a good feel. The ClickPad is equally responsive and in can turns into a four way directional controller. Backlights help you see what you’re doing when the lights are down.

Practically, the folding cover protects the device from crumbs, spills and other coffee table menaces. Best of all, when not in use the Mini can be hidden away with ease. Even sitting on a table, it just looks like a make-up compact or sunglasses case.

The Mini is an essential accessory to help with reducing living room computer clutter. However it also comes with a $149 price tag, so some may choose to persevere with their clutter for a little longer.

Neil Berman

Feb 4, 2008 Posted by | Computing, Hardware, Home Theater, Photo & Video, News | , , | Leave a comment

MacBook Air hands-on review

Two weeks of watching someone pulling a laptop out of an envelope on TV can leave an impression on the mind. So I was glad to see a complete absence of said stationery in the Apple store MacBook Air display.

I start giving the Air a good look over. 0.7 inches thin and 3 lbs light, with such an unblemished look that my camera has difficulty focusing on it. I instantly want one.
It will slip into an office envelope” says a store assistant to a customer standing next to me. Thanks for forcing me to recall the advert which has almost driven me into therapy.

I carry on tinkering. The multi-touch trackpad is great and makes surfing a breeze. It’s really large, with a smaller button than usual. No problem with that, I never use the button on my MacBook anyway. Surfing and general Leopard navigation seems quick with 2GB RAM and unhindered by the slower Intel 1.6 GHz Core 2 Duo processor. Videos play smoothly from Apple’s website. The Air seems very quiet, although in the noise of the store it is difficult to really tell.
The little door which opens on the right hand side reveals limited connectivity options. One USB port, a mini-DVI port and a headphone output. Pretty weak, but the USB port can be converted to an ethernet connection using an optional accessory and further USB ports could be gained through a hub. There’s a mini-DVI to VGA adaptor included in the box. The optical drive is an extra $99, but remote disc (which allows access to the optical drive of a Mac or PC), is included.Placing the Air directly on top of my MacBook proves that apart from the thickness, the two laptops share similar width and length dimensions. This unfortunately is one of the weaknesses of the Air. Whilst it is thin and light, you basically need a regular MacBook-size bag to carry it around…unless you have an office envelope sitting around of course.
The MagSafe power connection is very solid, better than the current MacBook. What happens if we pull it out…? The fully charged battery calculates remaining runtime as 3h 43m. Not bad, but not the quoted 5h, and I’m not even doing anything with the laptop. Start the envelope advert running and battery life drops instantly to 2h 27m. I stop the advert and do some general surfing, after five minutes the battery life indicator settles down at 3h 05m. Once that runs down, there’s no second battery option.
After a bit more playing around I’m feeling completely comfortable with the Air. The screen size and weight make it a great Cloud computing laptop. Several people come and go, some on the phone to friends and family: “Yeah, you’re really going to like this. Should I bring you back one? It is a bit like spending a lot of money just to lose a couple of pounds on your MacBook though. I’m not sure what you’re gonna gain.”

I agree. Money no object I’d definitely get one of these, but apart from the weight advantage it’s basically the same size as my MacBook, slower than my MacBook and doesn’t do anything my MacBook doesn’t already do. But if you’re considering dropping a load of cash on a MB or you own a larger MB Pro, then the Air is worth thinking about. As a first Apple laptop it’s a very desirable option.
Neil Berman

Feb 2, 2008 Posted by | Apple, Hardware, Reviews | | Leave a comment


%d bloggers like this: