Technology Tales

Adventures & experiences in contemporary technology

Cheaper retail Vista?

2nd February 2007

Brain Livingston has described an intriguing way to go using the retail Upgrade editions of Vista to do a fresh installation without having either windows 2000 or XP installed in the latest edition (free – there is a paid version but I veer away from information overload) of the Windows Secrets email newsletter: install it twice! After the first time around, it cannot be activated because there is no previous version of Windows installed but it is possible to do a Vista to Vista "upgrade", the second installation, and that can be activated. It is strange behaviour but I suppose that it placates those who think that the full retail packages are far too expensive. They even think that in the U.S.; but "rip off" Britain is getting a lot worse deal because we are not seeing the benefits of the low dollar at all. If right was right, we should be getting Vista at half of the price that we are paying for it. It’s enough to drive you to going the OEM option or not upgrading at all, especially since XP is going to be supported until 2011 (I have seen 2014 mentioned in some places). Livingston is going to cover the whole OEM discussion in the next edition of Windows Secrets and I for one will be very interested to see what he has to say.

Refurbished Computers

12th July 2014

Refurbished Computers

While I never have been a home user of refurbished or second hand kit, there are those who do and there do appear to be some bargains to be had. For some reason, I get the sense that computing and photographic hardware seems to heading more upmarket as time goes on so it may be that this becomes the only way of getting cheaper computers unless you stick with Chromebooks and their like. Interestingly, the now defunct Micro Mart magazine did a feature on the subject and even Apple has legitimised the idea with its presence.

Manufacturers

Apple

With the premium reputation that Apple has, the chance of bagging any sort of a bargain from them is too good to overlook and they have had a refurbished goods store for longer than many. There are no iPhones here but Macs, iPads and iPods are made available in this way so it is worth a look. The chance of a cheaper Mac of some sort is a tempting idea.

Dell

A colleague of mine at work swears by this so much that it is where he looked when buying a laptop for his father. There are home and business sections too so even servers are available along with laptop and desktop PC’s as well as tablets.

Resellers

eBuyer

This is a computer kit reseller who I have never used so far but there have been qualms expressed about their customer service. Like many, they too have a clearance section so it may be worth a look if fancy taking a little risk.

Morgan

The mainstay of this lot are pre-used computers and they have been around a while too, even if they disappeared from the web for a while at one stage. They also had a shop near Manchester’s Piccadilly train station though I am left wondering if any of the apparent bargains tempted anyone.

Specialists

Giga Refurb
MicroDream
Pure IT Refurbished
Tier1online.com
Itzoo

These have the quality of their work approved by Microsoft themselves so there should be some confidence here. With Microsoft having put Windows XP out to grass, Windows 7 is being promoted on machines with at least Intel Core 2 Duo CPU’s and prices can be very reasonable too.

On keyboards

17th April 2009

There cannot be too many Linux users who go out and partner a Microsoft keyboard with their system but my recent cable-induced mishap has resulted in exactly that outcome. Keyboards are such standard items that it is not so possible to generate any excitement about them, apart from RSI-related concerns. While I wasn’t about to go for something cheap and nasty that would do me an injury, going for something too elaborate wasn’t part of the plan either, even if examples of that ilk from Microsoft and Logitech were sorely tempting.

Shopping in a bricks and mortar store like I was has its pluses and its minuses. The main plus points are that you see and feel what you are buying with the main drawback being that the selection on offer isn’t likely to be as extensive as you’d find on the web, even if I was in a superstore. Despite the latter, there was still a good deal available. There were PS/2 keyboards for anyone needing them but USB ones seemed to be the main offer with wireless examples showcased too. Strangely, the latter were only available as kits with mice included, further adding to the cost of an already none too cheap item. The result was that I wasn’t lured away from the wired option.

I didn’t emerge with what would have been my first choice because that was out of stock but that’s not to say that what I have doesn’t do the job for me. Key action is soft and cushioned rather than clicky like that to which I am accustomed; some keyboards feel like they belong on a laptop but not this one. There are other bells and whistles too with a surprising number of them working. The calculator and email buttons number among these along with the play/pause, back and forward ones for a media player; I am not so convinced about the volume controls though an on-screen indicator does pop up. You’d expect a Microsoft item to be more Windows specific than others but mine works as well as anything else in the Ubuntu world and I have no reason to suspect that other Linux distros would spurn it either. Keyboards are one of those “buy-it-and-forget-it” items and the new arrival should be no different.

A very silly mishap

15th April 2009

Last night, something very stupid happened to me: I tripped up in my main PC’s cables and brought the behemoth crashing about the place. There was some resulting damage with the keyboard PS/2 socket being put out of action and a busted USB port and mouse. When this happens, thoughts take on the form of a runaway train and the prospect of acquiring a new motherboard and assorted expensive paraphernalia trot into your mind; there are other things that more need my cash. Of course, the last time to be making such big decisions on computer components is when a mental maelstrom has descended upon you.

Eventually, I got myself away from the brink and lateral thinking began to take over. What helped was that most of the system seems unaffected and I am using it right now to write this post. While a spare will work for now, a new ergonomic mouse is on order but cheaper alternatives to the keyboard conundrum have come into play. If PS/2 wasn’t an option, then USB remained one and that was the line of attack that was taken. It involved a visit to the nearest branch of PC World after work but I came away with a new USB hub and a USB-compatible keyboard for less than the price of a new AM2+ Gigabyte motherboard that would have served my needs. An otherwise functional Trust keyboard may have been retired but that was a less expensive option than a full PC rebuild, something that I may still need to do but it can be left for a whole lot longer than the immediacy that flashed before my eyes within the last 24 hours. In fact, acquiring some cable ties should be higher on the acquisition wish list so as to avoid cable-induced tumbles in the future. It really does pay to able to step back and see things from a wider perspective.

Why all the commas?

4th December 2022

In recent times, I have been making use of Grammarly for proofreading what I write for online consumption. That has applied as much to what I write in Markdown form as it has for what is authored using content management systems like WordPress and Textpattern.

The free version does nag you to upgrade to a paid subscription, but is not my main irritation. That would be its inflexibility because you cannot turn off rules that you think intrusive, at least in the free version. This comment is particularly applicable to the unofficial plugin that you can install in Visual Studio Code. To me, the add-on for Firefox feels less scrupulous.

There are other options though, and one that I have encountered is LanguageTool. This also offers a Firefox add-on, but there are others not only for other browsers but also Microsoft Word. Recent versions of LibreOffice Writer can connect to a LanguageTool server using in-built functionality, too. There are also dedicated editors for iOS, macOS or Windows.

The one operating that does not get specific add-on support is Linux, but there is another option there. That uses an embedded HTTP server that I installed using Homebrew and set to start automatically using cron. This really helps when using the LanguageTool Linter extension in Visual Studio Code because it can connect to that instead of the public API, which bans your IP address if you overuse it. The extension is also configurable with the ability to add exceptions (both grammatical and spelling), though I appear to have enabled smart formatting only to have it mess up quotes in a Markdown file that then caused Hugo rendering to fail.

Like Grammarly, there is an online editor that offers more if you choose an annual subscription. That is cheaper than the one from Grammarly, so that caused me to go for that instead to get rephrasing suggestions both in the online editor and through a browser add-on. It is better not to get nagged all the time…

The title may surprise you, but I have been using co-ordinating conjunctions without commas for as long as I can remember. Both Grammarly and LanguageTool pick up on these, so I had to do some investigation to find a gap in my education, especially since LanguageTool is so good at finding them. What I also found is how repetitive my writing style can be, which also means that rephrasing has been needed. That, after all, is the point of a proofreading tool, and it can rankle if you have fixed opinions about grammar or enjoy creative writing.

Putting some off-copyright texts from other authors triggers all kinds of messages, but you just have to ignore these. Turning off checks needs care, even if turning them on again is easy to do. There, however, is the danger that artificial intelligence tools could make writing too uniform, since there is only so much that these technologies can do. They should make you look at your text more intently, though, which is never a bad thing because computers still struggle with meaning.

Removing advertisements from uTorrent

12th July 2014

BitTorrent may have got some bad press due to its use for downloading copyrighted material such as music and movies but it does have its legitimate uses too. In my case, many a Linux distro has been downloaded in this way and it does take the weight off servers by distributing the load across users instead.

Speaking of Linux, my general choice of client has been Transmission and there are others. In the Windows world, there is a selection that includes BitTorrent, Inc. themselves. However, many favour uTorrent (or μTorrent) so that’s the one that I tried and there free and subscription-based options. To me, the latter feels like overkill when an eternal licence could be made available as an easy way to dispatch the advertisements on display in the free version.

As much as I appreciate the need for ads to provide revenue to a provider of otherwise free software, they do need to be tasteful and those in uTorrent often were for dating websites that had no scruples about exposing folk to images that were unsuitable for a work setting. Those for gaming websites were more tolerable in comparison. With the non-availability of an eternal licence option, I was left pondering alternatives like qBittorrent instead. That is Free Software too so it does have that added advantage.

However, I uncovered an article on LifeHacker that sorted my problem with uTorrent. The trick is to go into Options > Preferences via the menus and then go to the Advanced section in the dialogue box that appears. In there, go looking for each of the following options and set each one to false in turn:

  • offers.left_rail_offer_enabled/left_rail_offer
  • gui.show_plus_upsell
  • offers.sponsored_torrent_offer_enabled/sponsored_torrent_offer_enabled
  • bt.enable_pulse
  • gui.show_notorrents_node
  • offers.content_offer_autoexec

In practice, I found some of the above already set to false and another missing but set those that remained from true to false cleaned up the interface so I hope never to glimpse those unsuitable ads again. The maker of uTorrent need to look at the issue or revenue could get lost and prospective users could see the operation as being cheapened by what is displayed. As for me, I am happy to have gained something in the way of control.

A Look at a Compact System Camera

4th September 2013

During August, I acquired an Olympus Pen E-PL5 and it is an item to which I still am becoming accustomed and it looks as if that is set to continue. The main reason that it appealed to me was the idea of having a camera with much of the functionality of an SLR but with many of the dimensions of a compact camera. In that way, it was a step up from my Canon PowerShot G11 without carrying around something that was too bulky.

Olympus Pen E-PL5

Before I settled on the E-PL5, I had been looking at Canon’s EOS M and got to hear about its sluggish autofocus. That it had no mode dial on its top plate was another consideration though it does pack in an APS-C sized sensor (with Canon’s tendency to overexpose finding a little favour with me too on inspection of images from an well aged Canon EOS 10D) at a not so unappealing price of around £399. A sighting of a group of it and similar cameras in Practical Photography was enough to land that particular issue into my possession and they liked the similarly priced Olympus Pen E-PM2 more than the Canon. Though it was a Panasonic that won top honours in that test, I was intrigued enough by the Olympus option that I had a further look. Unlike the E-PM2 and the EOS M, the E-PL5 does have a mode dial on its top plate and an extra grip so that got my vote even it meant paying a little extra for it. There was a time when Olympus Pen models attracted my attention before now due to sale prices but this investment goes beyond that opportunism.

The E-PL5 comes in three colours: black, silver and white. Though I have a tendency to go for black when buying cameras, it was the silver option that took my fancy this time around for the sake of a spot of variety. The body itself is a very compact affair so it is the lens that takes up the most of the bulk. The standard 14-42 mm zoom ensures that this is not a camera for a shirt pocket and I got a black Lowepro Apex 100 AW case for it; the case fits snugly around the camera, so much so that I was left wondering if I should have gone for a bigger one but it’s been working out fine anyway. The other accessory that I added was a 37 mm Hoya HMC UV filter so that the lens doesn’t get too knocked about while I have the camera with me on an outing of one sort or another, especially when its plastic construction protrudes a lot further than I was expecting and doesn’t retract fully into its housing like some Sigma lenses that I use.

When I first gave the camera a test run, I had to work out how best to hold it. After all, the powered zoom and autofocus on my Canon PowerShot G11 made that camera more intuitive to hold and it has been similar for any SLR that I have used. Having to work a zoom lens while holding a dinky body was fiddly at first until I worked out how to use my right thumb to keep the body steady (the thumb grip on the back of the camera is curved to hold a thumb in a vertical position) while the left hand adjusted the lens freely. Having an electronic viewfinder instead of using the screen would have made life a little easier but they are not cheap and I already had spent enough money.

The next task after working out how to hold the camera was to acclimatise myself to the exposure characteristics of the camera. In my experience so far, it appears to err on the side of overexposure. Because I had set it to store images as raw (ORF) files, this could be sorted later but I prefer to have a greater sense of control while at the photo capture stage. Until now, I have not found a spot or partial metering button like what I would have on an SLR or my G11. That has meant either using exposure compensation to go along with my preferred choice of aperture priority mode or go with fully manual exposure. Other modes are available and they should be familiar to any SLR user (shutter priority, program, automatic, etc.). Currently, I am using bracketing while finding my feet after setting the ISO setting to 400, increasing the brightness of the screen and adding histograms to the playback views. With my hold on the camera growing more secure, using the dial to change exposure settings such as aperture (f/16 remains a favourite of mine in spite what others may think given the size of a micro four thirds sensor) and compensation while keeping the scene exactly the same to test out what the response to any changes might be.

While I still am finding my feet, I am seeing some pleasing results so far that encourage me to keep going; some remind me of my Pentax K10D. The E-PL5 certainly is slower to use than the G11 but that often can be a good thing when it comes to photography. That it forces a little relaxation in this often hectic world is another advantage. The G11 is having a quieter time at the moment and any episodes of sunshine offer useful opportunities for further experimentation and acclimatisation too. So far, my entry in the world of compact system cameras has revealed them to be of a very different form to those of compact fixed lens cameras or SLR’s. Neither truly get replaced and another type of camera has emerged.

Upgrading from Windows 7 to Windows 8 in a VMWare Virtual Machine

1st November 2012

Though my main home PC runs Linux Mint, I do like to have the facility to use Windows software from time to time and virtualisation has allowed me to continue doing that. For a good while, it was a Windows 7 guest within a VirtualBox virtual machine and, before that, one running Windows XP fulfilled the same role. However, it did feel as if things were running slower in VirtualBox than once might have been the case and I jumped ship to VMware Player. It may be proprietary and closed source but it is free of charge and has been doing what was needed. A subsequent recent upgrade of video driver on the host operating system allowed the enabling of a better graphical environment in the Windows 7 guest.

Instability

However, there were issues with stability and I lost the ability to flit from the VM window to the Linux desktop at will with the system freezing on me and needing a reboot. Working in Windows 7 using full screen mode avoided this but it did feel as I was constrained to working in a Windows machine whenever I did so. The graphics performance was imperfect too with screening refreshing being very blocky with some momentary scrambling whenever I opened the Start menu. Others would not have been as patient with that as I was though there was the matter of an expensive Photoshop licence to be guarded too.

In hindsight, a bit of pruning could have helped. An example would have been driver housekeeping in the form of removing VirtualBox Guest Additions because they could have been conflicting with their VMware counterparts. For some reason, those thoughts entered my mind and I was pondering another more expensive option instead.

Considering NAS & Windows/Linux Networking

That would have taken the form of setting aside a PC for running Windows 7 and having a NAS for sharing files between it and my Linux system. In fact, I did get to exploring what a four bay QNAP TS-412 would offer me and realised that you cannot put normal desktop hard drives into devices like that. For a while, it looked as if it would be a matter of getting drives bundled with the device or acquiring enterprise grade disks so as to main the required continuity of operation. The final edition of PC Plus highlighted another one though: the Western Digital Red range. These are part way been desktop and enterprise classifications and have been developed in association with NAS makers too.

Looking at the NAS option certainly became an education but it has exited any sort of wish list that I have. After all, there is the cost of such a setup and it’s enough to get me asking if I really need such a thing. The purchase of a Netgear FS 605 ethernet switch would have helped incorporate it but there has been no trouble sorting alternative uses for it since it bumps up the number of networked devices that I can have, never a bad capability to have. As I was to find, there was a less expensive alternative that became sufficient for my needs.

In-situ Windows 8 Upgrade

Microsoft have been making available evaluation copies of Windows 8 Enterprise that last for 90 days before expiring. One is in my hands has been running faultlessly in a VMware virtual machine for the past few weeks. That made me wonder if upgrading from Windows 7 to Windows 8 help with my main Windows VM problems. Being a curious risk-taking type I decided to answer the question for myself using the £24.99 Windows Pro upgrade offer that Microsoft have been running for those not needing a disk up front; they need to pay £49.99 but you can get one afterwards for an extra £12.99 and £3.49 postage if you wish, a slightly cheaper option. There also was a time cost in that it occupied a lot of a weekend on me but it seems to have done what was needed so it was worth the outlay.

Given the element of risk, Photoshop was deactivated to be on the safe side. That wasn’t the only pre-upgrade action that was needed because the Windows 8 Pro 32-bit upgrade needs at least 16 GB before it will proceed. Of course, there was the matter of downloading the installer from the Microsoft website too. This took care of system evaluation and paying for the software as well as the actual upgrade itself.

The installation took a few hours with virtual machine reboots along the way. Naturally, the licence key was needed too as well as the selection of a few options though there weren’t many of these. Being able to carry over settings from the pre-exisiting Windows 7 instance certainly helped with this and with making the process smoother too. No software needed reinstatement and it doesn’t feel as if the system has forgotten very much at all, a successful outcome.

Post-upgrade Actions

Just because I had a working Windows 8 instance didn’t mean that there wasn’t more to be done. In fact, it was the post-upgrade sorting that took up more time than the actual installation. For one thing, my digital mapping software wouldn’t work without .Net Framework 3.5 and turning on the operating system feature form the Control Panel fell over at the point where it was being downloaded from the Microsoft Update website. Even removing Avira Internet Security after updating it to the latest version had no effect and it was a finding during the Windows 8 system evaluation process. The solution was to mount the Windows 8 Enterprise ISO installation image that I had and issue the following command from a command prompt running with administrative privileges (it’s all one line though that’s wrapped here):

dism.exe /online /enable-feature /featurename:NetFX3 /Source:d:\sources\sxs /LimitAccess

For sake of assurance regarding compatibility, Avira has been replaced with Trend Micro Titanium Internet Security. The Avira licence won’t go to waste since I have another another home in mind for it. Removing Avira without crashing Windows 8 proved impossible though and necessitating booting Windows 8 into Safe Mode. Because of much faster startup times, that cannot be achieved with a key press at the appropriate moment because the time window is too short now. One solution is to set the Safe Boot tickbox in the Boot tab of Msconfig (or System Configuration as it otherwise calls itself) before the machine is restarted. There may be others but this was the one that I used. With Avira removed, clearing the same setting and rebooting restored normal service.

Dealing with a Dual Personality

One observer has stated that Windows 8 gives you two operating systems for the price of one: the one in the Start screen and the one on the desktop. Having got to wanting to work with one at a time, I decided to make some adjustments. Adding Classic Shell got me back a Start menu and I left out the Windows Explorer (or File Explorer as it is known in Windows 8) and Internet Explorer components. Though Classic Shell will present a desktop like what we have been getting from Windows 7 by sweeping the Start screen out of the way for you, I found that this wasn’t quick enough for my liking so I added Skip Metro Suite to do this and it seemed to do that a little faster. The tool does more than sweeping the Start screen out of the way but I have switched off these functions. Classic Shell also has been configured so the Start screen can be accessed with a press of Windows key but you can have it as you wish. It has updated too so that boot into the desktop should be faster now. As for me, I’ll leave things as they are for now. Even the possibility of using Windows’ own functionality to go directly to the traditional desktop will be left untested while things are left to settle. Tinkering can need a break.

Outcome

After all that effort, I now have a seemingly more stable Windows virtual machine running Windows 8. Flitting between it and other Linux desktop applications has not caused a system freeze so far and that was the result that I wanted. There now is no need to consider having separate Windows and Linux PC’s with a NAS for sharing files between them so that option is well off my wish-list. There are better uses for my money.

Not everyone has had my experience though because I saw a report that one user failed to update a physical machine to Windows 8 and installed Ubuntu instead; they were a Linux user anyway even if they used Fedora more than Ubuntu. It is possible to roll back from Windows 8 to the previous version of Windows because there is a windows.old directory left primarily for that purpose. However, that may not help you if you have a partially operating system that doesn’t allow you to do just that. In time, I’ll remove it using the Disk Clean-up utility by asking it to remove previous Windows installations or running File Explorer with administrator privileges. Somehow, the former approach sounds the safer.

What About Installing Afresh?

While there was a time when I went solely for upgrades when moving from one version of Windows to the next, the annoyance of the process got to me. If I had known that installing the upgrade twice onto a computer with a clean disk would suffice, it would have saved me a lot. Staring from Windows 95 (from the days when you got a full installation disk with a PC and not the rescue media that we get now) and moving through a sequence of successors not only was time consuming but it also revealed the limitations of the first in the series when it came to supporting more recent hardware. It was enough to have me buying the full retailed editions of Windows XP and Windows 7 when they were released; the latter got downloaded directly from Microsoft. These were retail versions that you could move from one computer to another but Windows 8 will not be like that. In fact, you will need to get its System Builder edition from a reseller and that can only be used on one machine. It is the merging of the former retail and OEM product offerings.

What I have been reading is that the market for full retail versions of Windows was not a big one anyway. However, it was how I used to work as you have read above and it does give you a fresh system. Most probably get Windows with a new PC and don’t go building them from scratch like I have done for more than a decade. Maybe the System Builder version would apply to me anyway and it appears to be intended for virtual machine use as well as on physical ones. More care will be needed with those licences by the looks of things and I wonder what needs not to be changed so as not to invalidate a licence. After all, making a mistake might cost between £75 and £120 depending on the edition.

Final Thoughts

So far Windows 8 is treating me well and I have managed to bend to my will too, always a good thing to be able to say. In time, it might be that a System Builder copy could need buying yet but I’ll leave well alone for now. Though I needed new security software, the upgrade still saved me money over a hardware solution to my home computing needs and I have a backup disk on order from Microsoft too. That I have had to spend some time settling things was a means of learning new things for me but others may not be so patient and, with Windows 7 working well enough for most, you have to ask if it’s only curious folk like me who are taking the plunge. Still, the dramatic change has re-energised the PC world in an era when smartphones and tablets have made so much of the running recently. That too is no bad thing because an unchanging technology is one that dies and there are times when big changes are needed, as much as they upset some folk. For Microsoft, this looks like one of them and it’ll be interesting to see where things go from here for PC technology.

Battery life

2nd October 2011

In recent times, I have lugged my Toshiba Equium with me while working away from home; I needed a full screen laptop of my own for attending to various things after work hours so it needs to come with me. It’s not the most portable of things with its weight and the lack of battery life. Now that I think of it, I reckon that it’s more of a desktop PC replacement machine than a mobile workhorse. After all, it only lasts an hour on its own battery away from a power socket. Virgin Trains’ tightness with such things on their Pendolinos is another matter…

Unless my BlackBerry is discounted, battery life seems to be something with which I haven’t had much luck because my Asus Eee PC isn’t too brilliant either. Without decent power management, two hours seems to be as good as I get from its battery. However, three to four hours become possible with better power management software on board. That makes the netbook even more usable though there are others out there offering longer battery life. Still, I am not tempted by these because the gadget works well enough for me that I don’t need to wonder about how money I am spending on building a mobile computing collection.

While I am not keen on spending too much cash or having a collection of computers, the battery life situation with my Toshiba is more than giving me pause for thought. The figures quoted for MacBooks had me looking at them though they aren’t at all cheap. Curiosity about the world of the Mac may make them attractive to me but the prices forestalled that and the concept was left on the shelf.

Recently, PC Pro ran a remarkably well-timed review of laptops offering long battery life (in issue 205). The minimum lifetime in this collection was over five hours so the list of reviewed devices is an interesting one for me. In fact, it even may become a shortlist should I decide to spend money on buying a more portable laptop than the Toshiba that I already have. The seventeen hour battery life for a Sony VAIO SB series sounds intriguing even if you need to buy an accessory to gain this. That it does over seven hours without the extra battery slice makes it more than attractive anyway. The review was food for thought and should come in handy if I decide that money needs spending.

Pondering storage options

1st June 2011

The combination of curiosity and a little spare time had me browsing online computing technology stores recently. A spot of CD and DVD burning brought on by a flurry of Linux distribution testing reminded me of the possibility. Because I have built up a sizeable library of digital photos, ensuring that I have backups of them is something that needs doing. A 2 GB Samsung external hard drive is brought to life every now and again for that purpose but the prospect of using Blu-Ray discs has appealed to me. After all capacities of 25 GB for single layer discs and 50 GB for dual layer ones sound not inappropriate for my purposes. However, they aren’t a cheap option at the time of writing with each disc costing in the region of £3-4 at one place where I was looking. The cost of BD writers themselves seems not to be so bad though with a few in the £60-100 bracket; any lower than this and you could end up with a combo drive that reads Blu-Ray discs and writes to DVD’s and CD’s so a modicum of concentration is needed. As attractive as the idea might be, the cost of BD media means that I’ll wait a little while before deciding to take the plunge. The price premium at the moment is a reminder of the way that things used to be when CD and DVD writers first came on the market. It is very telling when discs come packaged in jewel cases, something that you won’t see too often with CD’s or DVD’s.

Another piece of storage excitement that hasn’t escaped me is the advent of SSD hard drives. With no moving parts like in conventional hard drives, they bring a speed boost. Concerns about their lifetimes and the numbers of read/write events per drive would stall me when it comes to storing personal data on them but using them for the likes of operating system files sounds attractive, especially with my partiality to Linux perhaps not hammering drives so much. As with any new technology, there is a price premium though a drive big enough for hosting an operating system can be acquired for less than £100. As with many of my hardware purchase brainwaves, there’s no rush but this is an option that I’ll keep at the back of my mind.

Another appealing notion is the idea of getting a NAS so that files can be shared between a few computers. While I have seen prices starting at just above £70 for single disk enclosures, these generally are a more expensive option than external drives and that’s before you consider the cost of any hard drives. Nevertheless, the advantages of a unit containing more than a single hard drive while operating as a print server for any compatible printer too. When you get to 4 or 5 hard drive trays, then the cost has mounted but that could be when they pay their way too. What reminded me of these was a bookazine on home networking that I recently found at a branch of WHSmith’s and their attractions are subject to the networking side of things being made to work without a drama. Once that’s out of the way, then their usefulness really does appeal.

Mulling over all these brainwaves is one thing but it doesn’t mean that the purse strings will become too loose in this age of economic constraint. In fact, pondering them may serve to staunch any impulse purchases. Sometimes, a spot of virtual shopping serves to control things rather than losing the run of oneself.

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