TheONbutton Durham Computer Services

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

Fix hp Laserjet 1012 Windows 7 driver issues

hp Laserjet 1012 Windows 7 driverI recently had an all-time lucky find when someone left an hp Laserjet 1012 laser printer in the recycling area of my apartment building, which looked to be in good condition.  The Laserjet 1012 is a pretty handy home and small office printer with pin sharp resolution, so I thought I’d give it a try.  There was no toner in the printer, but a quick shopping spree on eBay would fix that.  So $19 and a few days later, I had the Laserjet 1012 happily churning out pages from a Windows XP netbook.  Time to hook it up to Windows 7…or not as hp would seemingly prefer.

You see, it turns out that hp decided to not support the Laserjet 1012 on Windows 7.  It’s not as if the printer is even all that old, and hp does offer Windows XP & Vista drivers, so this has probably left a lot of owners high and dry…or more likely bitter.  Nevertheless I fearlessly went ahead and plugged the Laserjet 1012 into a Windows 7 computer to see what would happen.  Windows 7 did try valiantly to install the printer but ultimately failed and placed it in the Unspecified bucket within the Devices and Printers window.

I recalled a piece of advice that a Windows 7 dev had given me way back in the January 2009 Windows 7 Beta days, which was that Vista drivers would sometimes work if a manufacturer hadn’t yet written a native Windows 7 driver.  That was back when Windows 7 drivers were thin on the ground and we were still 9 months away from a retail release of Windows 7.  That approach shouldn’t apply now, but it didn’t look like hp was going to come up with a Laserjet 1012 Windows 7 driver anytime soon.

So I downloaded the Vista 64-bit driver from hp’s website, opened up the Properties window for the Laserjet 1012 in Devices and Printers, found the driver section and chose Update Driver.  I selected the Vista 64-bit driver that I’d just downloaded and hey presto, it installed in a flash!

Your mileage may vary of course, but this simple process got the Laserjet 1012 working on my Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit system.  It’s a shame that hp chose to not support the printer natively in the new OS, but I guess they want us to buy new hardware.  In a manner if speaking, their success is one of their challenges; the Laaserjet 1012 is so good that it’s hard to imagine why a home user would need a better quality laser printer.  So persuading people to upgrade willingly is probably a difficult task, but the approach should be to raise the bar even higher with compelling new products rather than simply withdrawing support.

Neil Berman

Advertisements

Sep 26, 2010 Posted by | Computing, Guides, Hardware, Software | , , , , , | 13 Comments

Windows Phone 7 heading for bigger launch in Europe than US?

Today’s announcement that Windows Phone 7 will launch on all five major UK carriers indicates that the platform is likely to enjoy success sooner in Europe than on home territory.  So far it looks like AT&T may be the only major US carrier to have a big Windows Phone 7 laumch, and with Verizon heavily invested in the Droid brand I wouldn’t expect them to rush in when CDMA handsets become available.  That leaves Sprint, who also have to hang on for a CDMA version and T-Mobile, who have traditionally offered one or two Windows based hamdsets at any given time.

So on home territory it could be a difficult holiday season for Microsoft’s new hope in the smartphone market.  They’ll be up against the iPhone 4 for upgrading customers on AT&T, and the whole gamut of established brands across the market for new subscribers.  To my mind, this holiday season will be about two dynamics in the top end smartphone space: 4G (Sprint WiMAX and possibly Verizon LTE) vs 3.5G (AT&T and T-Mobile both with HSPA+rollouts) and iPhone 4 vs Android.  Unfortunately I don’t see Windows Phone 7 factoring significantly in that mix in the US, which is a shame because it looks frickin’ awesome.

Neil Berman

Sep 22, 2010 Posted by | Analysis, Mobile | , , , , , | Leave a comment

This gadget life

Just a year ago we thought no interesting tech stuff would come out a recession, but it’s been a great year for both hardware and software. Here are my three favorite purchases of 2010 so far:

1. Apple iPad 3G

cat ipadNothing less than a revelation, and the only computer I use at home unless I’m working or watching/listening to media content. The iPad set the bar so high for the sector that it’s only now that other multinationals seem almost ready to launch true competitors, and even those look likely to disappoint on the software front. Rumors of a new iPad for the holiday season are surfacing; if it does happen then my money’s on an additional 7-inch version with Facetime camera, rather than a straight replacement for the current model.

2. Battlefield: Bad Company 2

The Call of Duty competitor hit a high with this year’s FPS release. Set in wildly varying scenery with plenty of variety of both weapons and gameplay, Bad Company 2 is a worth adversary to Modern Warfare 2 and a must have for any FPS lover.

3. Kindle 3G, 3rd gen

I’ve never been a huge reader, but the $189 combination of an E Ink screen, Webkit browser and free 3G data make the Kindle 3G a winner for sun worshipers. It’s no YouTube player, but if your outdoor surfing needs involve sitting at a beach/park/Times Sq catching up on the New York Times then the Kindle 3G is just the thing.

Neil Berman

Sep 19, 2010 Posted by | Gaming, Hardware | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Virgin Mobile MiFi 2200 Review

Virgin Mobile MiFi 2200 mainIt used to be that the internet connections for our computers were fed into homes, colleges and more recently coffee shops.  In today’s mobile era we want data everywhere, like parks, beaches and for funky stuff such as live-streaming outdoor weddings to family members around the world.  But there’s never a WiFi hotspot when you really need one.  Enter the Virgin Mobile MiFi 2200, a 3G mobile broadband WiFi hotspot able to serve data to five devices simultaneaously.

Now you may well say, “Hold on, MiFis have been around for ages!” and you’d be right…but not at this price. The Virgin Mobile MiFi 2200 asks for only $40 a month, with no contract, to feed unlimited data to your hungry devices. That, my friends, sounds like a slam dunk of a deal to me. We have one right here for review thanks to those wonderful folks at Virgin Mobile, so let’s see what it can do.

First impressions of the Virgin Mobile MiFi 2200

Virgin Mobile MiFi 2200 charging portThe Virgin Mobile MiFi 2200 ships in similar packaging to the carrier’s cellphones, encased in a sealed clear plastic box.  It’s attractive but would benefit from some kind of tear off strip to make it easier to open.  The MiFi 2200 is viewable from the outside of the box, so its small size and shiny silver exterior are immediately visible.

Cutting open the box reveals a charger, USB cable, cloth pouch, activation guide and the MiFi 2200 itself.  While the MiFi 2200 looked tiny in the box, its silver topside gave the impression that it might be a little weighty.  The reality is quite the opposite; the MiFi 2200 is amazingly light at just 58 grams (2.05 ounces).  The silver fascia is actually colored plastic with an attractive brushed metal look, while the underside is matte black.  The power button sits on the top, while the micro-USB charging

slot and status indicator are on the side.  There is a removable battery cover on the underside, so if you’re planning a long journey away from power sources then carrying spare batteries is an option.

Setting up the Virgin Mobile MiFi 2200

The MiFi 2200 needs to be charged before first use, which takes around 2.5 hours.  The power light illuminates yellow during charging and then turns green when the device is fully charged.  After that, setting up the MiFi 2200 was a simple process as the activation guide in the box is easy to follow.  After switching on the MiFi 2200, it showed up in the list of available WiFi connections in the devices I was using and from there it’s just a case of following the activation steps.

Virgin Mobile MiFi 2200 batteryThis is the point where you need to buy a no-contract plan to get data flowing to the MiFi 2200.  Virgin Mobile has made the choices pretty simple; it’s either $10 for 100MB or $40 for a month of unlimited data.  In my mind that translates to $10 if you have a short trip to make or occasionally need to go online when away from home for light data usage, or $40 if you’re a frequent user.  That pricing compares extremely favorably with the main carriers who typically ask for around $60 per month on a two year contract for mobile broadband.

Once the MiFi 2200 is fully activated, it’s worth setting up some security before you start using the device.  Options include WEP, WPA and WPA2 encryption as well as a MAC address filter to ensure only trusted devices can connect to the MiFi 2200.

Using the Virgin Mobile MiFi 2200

The Virgin Mobile MiFi 2200 uses the Sprint cell network for data connectivity, so performance largely depends upon coverage in your area.  I tested the MiFi 2200 is downtown New York City, using an Apple iPad and a Dell Latitude laptop.  The MiFi 2200 can act as a WiFi hotspot for up to five devices simultaneously.

Virgin Mobile MiFi 2200 iPadI saw download speeds of around 400-500kbps and upload speeds of 500-600kbps, which I found to be perfectly usable for web surfing, making Skype voice calls and even watching Netflix on the iPad’s Netflix app.  Since I have the 3G iPad, I clocked some comparisons between using AT&T’s 3G radio on the iPad and using the Virgin Mobile MiFi 2200 to provide data.  The results were pretty interesting.

The iPad consistently loaded web pages faster using the MiFi 2200 compared to using the built-in AT&T 3G radio, and by a good margin.  For example CNET’s Crave page consistently loaded fully in 16-18 seconds on the iPad through the MiFi 2200, compared to 31-33 seconds through the built-in AT&T 3G radio.  Netflix started streaming quicker using the MiFi and playback was faultless, whereas there were occasional freezes using the AT&T 3G radio.  However the benchmark speed tests showed that the AT&T connection was capable of faster data bursts than the MiFi 2200, sometimes bursting as high as 1,300kbps.

Virgin Mobile MiFi 2200 Speedtest

Speedtest results from the Virgin Mobile MiFi 2200 in downtown New York City

This seems to indicate that the Virgin Mobile MiFi 2200 gets more consistent signal quality in my specific area of New York City, given that video streaming was smooth throughout my usage and pages loaded consistently quickly.  Whereas AT&T can provide faster one-time bursts in my area, although these are of lesser value to the quality of the overall web experience.

Looking to the MiFi 2200’s weaknesses, there’s very little to not like about using the Virgin Mobile MiFi 2200.  Sure, we would love it to offer 4G rather than 3G and in our dreams that product might be born one day as a descendant of the Sprint Overdrive.  But given that Virgin Mobile is a newcomer to the mobile broadband sector, I wouldn’t expect to see a 4G Virgin Mobile MiFi until that market has sufficient saturation to warrant aggressive price competition.

It would also be great if the MiFi 2200 had a day-long battery rather than the 3-4 hours I experienced.  On the plus side as I mentioned earlier, the battery is swappable and you could of course plug the MiFi 2200 into a power outlet while using it if necessary.  The MiFi 2200 will also go into standby if not used for a while to save battery power.

Is the Virgin Mobile MiFi 2200 really a bargain?

In a word: Yes. Offering similar performance and mobility as its competitors but at a significantly lower monthly cost, the Virgin Mobile MiFi 2200 is an excellent deal.  It makes a great partner to any WiFi enabled mobile device and even makes me wish I’d bought the regular iPad instead of the 3G version!

Neil Berman

Sep 16, 2010 Posted by | Hardware, Mobile | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Chrome 6 downsizes

Chrome 6 default zoomWhen I opened up Chrome on my living room PC recently, I noticed everything seemed rather small.  It wasn’t my bleary-eyed morning at fault, Chrome 6 downsizes tabs and text making viewing pages at distance on my 1080p screen unbearable without constant zooming.  It’s near impossible to hit the New Tab button without super-precision.  The issue affects 3rd part apps as well.  The good news is, this a known issue with Chrome 6 and their devs are working on it.  Bookmark this Chromium page if you want to stay in touch with hoe they’re getting on with the fix.  Hopefully the fix will come with a default zoom like some other browsers.

Neil Berman

Sep 11, 2010 Posted by | Software | , , , , | 1 Comment

Demo of stereo Bluetooth remote control working on iOS 4.1

It’s taken Apple three years to implement stereo Bluetooth AVRCP correctly on the iPhone OS, but here it is on the new iPod Touch 4th gen!!

Neil  Berman

Sep 10, 2010 Posted by | Apple, Audio, Hardware, Mobile | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

There is no Android, for we are many

Everyone’s excited about Android. We the varied, the open, the free! But if there’s one thing that came out of IFA, it’s that Android as a pure end user experience is dying. There are a huge and growing number of devices running Android for sure, but consumers are increasingly seeing a heavily customized user experience which aims to only be Android by name.

Manufacturers and carriers need to differentiate their devices and part of Android’s success is rooted (pun) in the flexibility it offers developers and the wide berth afforded by Google to OEMs. Unfortunately the result is a Wild West of software skins and fragmentation which threaten to damage the reputation of the platform on Main Street.

Consider this: A few months ago I walked into Random Computerz and bought a Windoze Lappy. I soon discovered it wouldn’t run Offiss because Random Computerz had customized the installation of Windoze to make it ‘better’. Better in this case meant incompatible with some useful apps. I then found out I couldn’t do half the stuff I wanted to do because Random Computerz had shipped the Lappy with Windoze 2009 instead of 2010. When I asked them, they said it could not be upgraded to 2010 and I should just buy Lappy 2 instead.

That never happened of course, but this story is Android all over. Almost all Android phones are heavily skinned and offer variable compatibility with apps in the Android Marketplace. Many cannot be upgraded to a more recent version of the OS without being rooted, which often voids warranties or support agreements. The upcoming Android tablet explosion is likely to compound this problem since not only will they be heavily skinned, but their screen sizes and hardware capabilities will be more varied compared with Android smartphones leading to more compatibility issues.

So as the fragmentation of this excellent OS continues unchecked, we are approaching a situation where there is no true Android because there are so many variants. As time passes those variants will become increasingly disparate as the likes of Sense and Touch Wiz start to completely abstract away Android from the consumer. While Main Street consumers believe they are buying an Android device, this will soon be in name only.

I guess in a way that’s ok. Not everyone wants the full control and customization of native Android. This is one of the problems that manufacturers and carriers are trying to address with their skins. It’s all heading in the direction of Windows Starter, while those wanting the Ultimate experience are being left in the cold.

Meanwhile by trying to solve the other problem, that of differentiation, OEMs are creating skins that aren’t necessarily adding significantly useful form or function. In many cases the skins just slow everything down, just like when a computer comes loaded with bloatware.

There’s certainly a market for Ultimate, i.e. the pure Google phone with stock Android, but this should not be hardware dependent. Consumers should be able to install the latest version of Android on any device with compatible hardware, just like with Windows or OSX.

Hey, did I just say that the Android world is becoming less open than Windows? Yes I think I did.

Neil Berman

Sep 9, 2010 Posted by | Hardware | Leave a comment

iPod Touch and Nano (September 2010 release models)

iPod Nano coverflowSo now I’ve come down from my iOS 4.1 stereo Bluetooth high, here are some calmer thoughts about Apple’s new iPod Touch and Nano.

First the Nano. It’s cute, very cute. Surprisingly usable too for something with such a tiny touchscreen. Somehow that tiny screen manages to display coverflow artwork and it looks good too, since the screen has excellent pixel density. The wristwatch use case is clear, but the Nano also reminds me of the Pop Swatch. That was the one that clipped ‘into’ your clothing using a clasp behind and clock on top. The physical feel of the Nano is first iPod Nano buttonsrate, it exudes class and seems to be fashioned from a slab of machined metal. I can see this having greater appeal than the previous Nano because this one just has so much ‘I must buy this now’ factor.

Now onto the new iPod Touch. I must buy this now. I must. The retina display is stunning, the HD video looks great and Apple has finally implemented stereo Bluetooth properly (but I don’t care about that).

The new iPod Touch is thin; as seriously thin as the Nano is cute. It almost feels insubstantial just because it’s like holding a long wafer; it really can’t be much thicker than a few credit cards so it can disappear comfortably in a shirt pocket.

I mentioned the HD video earlier, and while we now know that the camera on the new iPod Touch is lame, the quality of its video recording is good. I also confirmed that just as with the iPhone 4, the new iPod Touch can download iMovie as a paid app from the App Store. So this thinnie might really give the Flip/Bloggie posse something to worry about. I might give it a shot as my CES backup videocam to see if it can handle the pressure.

The one thing I’d have loved to see on the new iPod Touch is a slightly larger screen. Even though the retina display renders so much information in a small space, stretching the screen to 4 inches would have hit a real sweet spot in my view.

I can definitely see myself picking up one of these. Amazingly it would be my first iPod, but now that HD video and proper Bluetooth implementation are there, I finally feel the feature set is comprehensive enough to merit the price.

Neil Berman

Sep 8, 2010 Posted by | Apple, Audio, Mobile | , , , , | Leave a comment

iOS 4.1 finally brings full stereo Bluetooth AVRCP to Apple devices

ipod 4th generation

The new iPod Touch supports full stereo Bluetooth. I'm happy today.

iOS 4.1 does stereo Bluetooth AVRCP track skip! This means if you have a stereo Bluetooth headset with AVRCP then you can now have full remote control over track next/previous as well as play/pause. Apple has finally caught up and implemented it! OMG this IS magical!!!!! I’m not joking, I can’t believe this day has come and I can now buy an iPod without having to be tethered with a headphone cable. I have video proof from my playtime with the new 4th generation iPod Touch and will post it up shortly. Rejoice all ye wireless folk! Must go now…can’t see screen…too many tears of joy…

Here’s the video demo!

Neil Berman

Sep 8, 2010 Posted by | Apple, Mobile | , , , | Leave a comment

Apple TV channel apps

For the last couple of weeks on TWiT, Leo Laporte has been proposing an interesting idea about the Apple TV. Prior to Apple’s press conference last week many people were expecting the new Apple TV to launch with apps, similar to those on the iPhone and iPad. Leo went further, suggesting that those apps would include individual channel apps, so for example we would watch ABC programs through the Apple TV ‘ABC app’ just like on the iPad.

Apple TVFirstly everyone should watch/listen to or download TWiT; it’s great. While Leo certainly gets it right a lot of the time, and the idea of individual network apps is a logical extension of the model that exists for ABC on the iPad, I’m not sure it holds for Apple TV. The fundamental app model does hold, and I definitely agree that we will see Apple TV running the App Store one day. But I don’t believe we will get to the stage where individual networks have their own apps on Apple TV. It just doesn’t work for the channel-hopping armchair consumer and if there’s one thing we know about Apple, it’s that the company cares deeply about the user experience.

It just about works on the iPad because we are still figuring out how best to devour content on that device; while aggregators like Hulu Plus and Netflix work best on the iPad, the ABC app is free unlike the others. However armchair viewers want a simple remote control with a simple program guide. Having to navigate multiple apps with different interfaces won’t convert them away from a cable set-top box.

In time I think even the ABC app will fade away as cable company aggregators push that content to the device, and I mean currently non-existent aggregator apps from the likes of Time Warner Cable for use by their subscribers. The cable companies will not give up their revenue streams without a fight and I think they’re more likely to develop their own streaming aggregators for subscribers than allow the TV networks to go it alone.

I would dearly love to see the ad-supported online content continue to flourish, but I fear we are enjoying a heyday that will disappear when the cable companies enter the online streaming market more forcefully.

Now go and subscribe to TWiT, TWiG, MacBreak Weekly and all the other ones!!

Neil Berman

Sep 7, 2010 Posted by | Analysis, Apple, Home Theater, Photo & Video | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

This gadget life

Reflecting on the past year, I’ve done some wacky things to accommodate my gadget obsessed lifestyle.

Take my old BlackBerry Bold 9000 for example. A great smartphone in almost all respects except that it has a weak Bluetooth transmitter. I mean weak to the extent that I would get music streaming dropouts when walking in open areas where the Bluetooth signal had nothing to bounce against. I always carry my phone in my trouser pocket and it seemed that the only way to fix this was to reduce the distance between the phone and my heaadphones. I couldn’t relocate my headphones so proceeded to buy an army of T-shirts with top pockets. Problem solved. Incidentally the Bold 9700 has a superb Bluetooth transmitter so I’m back to wearing whatevs again.

Kindle 3 web browser screen sunlight

The Kindle's E Ink screen is great for use in sunlight

Speaking of headphones, regular readers will know that I’m a serious fan of stereo Bluetooth. While there are plenty of headsets that are great for the summer, only a few offer genuine wind protection which is a must-have for New York winters. I sought out the Sony DR-BT50 specifically because they have snug-fitting earpads that do double duty as fair-weather ear muffs. So long wind chill.

Now that we’re onto the weather it’s no secret that I like using my gadgets outdoors. This has led me to convert Apple’s iPad case into a sunshade, choose the BlackBerry Bold 9700 over other smartphones due to its sunlight readable screen,and more recently buy the Kindle 3 just for outdoor web browsing. Am I the only person out there to buy the Kindle just so I can read online content for hours outdoors in places like Battery Park’s WiFi hotspot? Weird eh, but I’m lovin’ this gadget life.

Neil Berman

theonbutton.com

facebook.com/theonbutton

Sep 4, 2010 Posted by | Hardware, Mobile, Rants | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Is the Samsung Galaxy Tab heading for a soft fail?

Samsung Galaxy TabAs we await final pricing for the Samsung Galaxy Tab, one constraint is known: The iPad costs $499.  Regardless of the fantastic energy around the Android platform at present, any tablet launched at or above this price point must present a winning combination of software  and hardware in that order.  The Samsung Galaxy Tab, while endowed with promising hardware looks set to disappoint on the software front and but most importantly may simply self-destruct if current pricing rumors are true.

Samsung does have a history of expensively priced tablets, with the Q1 and Q1 Ultra (which I lusted after for months) being examples of good hardware that failed to achieve significant adoption due to high retail prices.  I have a feeling

Samsung Q1 Ultra

Samsung's Q1 Ultra failed to achieve significant adoption due to its high price and lack of tablet-optimized software

that the rumored prices we are seeing for the Galaxy Tab might be total costs of ownership based upon a cell carrier monthly contract plus a low initial purchase price.  This model does mean however that a standalone device would be very expensive and I suspect that few people want a tablet tied to a two year carrier contract.  So on a like-for-like basis the Galaxy Tab might end up being cheaper than an iPad 3G, but this is a probably a far smaller market than the regular WiFi model.

The bigger issue aside from pricing is the software.  While Android is clearly now an excellent smartphone OS, there’s no current indication that it ready to be a good tablet platform competitor to the iPad and here’s why:  The iPad has 25,000 apps that take advantage of its large screen to optimize content delivery and presentation compared to their iPhone versions.  At present pretty much all Android apps are optimized for 3-5 inch screens, and while they will probably scale up to fit the Galaxy Tab’s screen most of them will not be able to take advantage of the extra screen real estate.

While there were initial concerns that the iPad would not sell enough units to generate enough revenue for developers to built dedicated apps, the opposite has happened. iPad apps typically sell at a significant premium to iPhone versions.  Plants vs Zombies is a perfect example; it’s $2.99 on the iPhone and $9.99 on the iPad.  Herein lies the real issue for the Android tablet software developer.  The Android Marketplace has a larger percentage of free apps than any other mobile platform.  So before developers can even think about drawing higher margins from an Android tablet there’s work to be done on the smartphone platform first.  Plus, we don’t yet know if the majority of Android tablets will be 7 inch 1024×600 devices, 10 inch 1280×720 or some other resolution and these variables will create developer challenges to optimizing apps.

For the last decade it’s been clear that tablets are only as useful as their software.  While Android is clearly a good starting point for tablets we’re going to need to see a solid growth of dedicated apps to make the platform successful on the bigger screen.

Neil Berman

theonbutton.com

facebook.com/theonbutton

Sep 3, 2010 Posted by | Analysis, Hardware, Mobile, Software | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

   

%d bloggers like this: