Archive for Peripherals

Flirting With Disaster

Genesis Repertory Ensemble
Flirting with Disaster


Click this text to play

[amazon asin=B00005NBZD&text=Flirting With Disaster] may have been the title of a great song by Molly Hatchet, and a [amazon asin=B0001XALTQ&text=Ben Stiller movie], but its not something you should do with your computer files.

Yet its exactly what tens of thousands of people do every day by not having a file backup system.

So many people I know answer this by saying, “Well, I don’t have anything really important on my computer anyway.”

“So all those digital photos you’ve been taking on your family trips, vacations, and barbecues aren’t important to you? You won’t miss them if your hard drive crashes and you can never look at pictures of those memories again?”, I counter.

Genesis Repertory Ensemble

Me, top left, in black and gold, with the Genesis Repertory Ensemble

I continue, “I wish I felt that way since that time about 4 years ago when I lost 5 years of digital photos from my stage acting days with the Genesis Repertory Ensemble. I still wish I had backed them up to this day. Then there was that other time my hard drive failed and I “almost” lost about $1,500 in music files from iTunes. Fortunately, I had learned my lesson the first time, so I only lost about $100 worth of songs.”

That’s usually all it takes.

Have you been flirting with disaster? Are you willing to lose all those digital videos and photos you’ve taken? All those songs and movies you’ve downloaded? True, songs and movies can be purchased again, but your kids only graduate high school once, and you might never get to shoot photos on that once-in-a-lifetime vacation again.WD My Passport Elite, 320 GB HD

Western Digital External Hard DriveDodge disaster with a backup drive. Most people can get by with this little silver 320 GB external hard drive from Western Digitalicon which sells for about $70. Or if you want something a little flashier, you can pay an extra $10 more to get one in red, charcoal, or blue. They work with Windows (XP, Vista, or 7) and Macs, too. Just plug one into a USB port on your computer and you’ll be backing up your files in minutes. These 320 GB models are great for backing up laptops, too.

If 320 GB isn’t enough then consider one of these 500 GB external hard drivesicon. They’re available in a range of colors, too.

Need more storage space than that? You monster! How digital are you? Have you scanned every document you have? Well, you’re going to need a 1 TB or 1,000 GB external hard driveicon. Yes, 1 TB (terabyte) is 1,000 GB (gigabytes) or 1,000,000 MB (megabytes). They start around $100.

More?! Then you’ll have to be satisfied with one of these 1.5 and 2 TB external hard drivesicon. You might as well backup all your computers with one of those. Enjoy yourself.

Bonus: Read about my theater days here and here, and see what my friends are up to these days here on Facebook.

Yahoo Email and Upgrading from Vista to Windows 7

I read this question online recently:

I am upgrading from Windows Vista to Windows 7. How do I back up my Yahoo! emails and do I need to do it?

If you have a free Yahoo! email account then there is no need to back up your emails because the emails are stored on Yahoo!’s servers and not your computer.

If you have a paid Yahoo! email account, called Yahoo! Mail Plus, which costs $19.99 per year, then it is possible that you could be downloading email messages to your computer with a program such as Outlook, Outlook Express, Windows Mail, Eudora, or some other program or email client.

Generally, when you are upgrading from Windows Vista to Windows 7 there is no need to erase your hard drive. When the hard drive is erased it is usually referred to as a “clean install”. While it’s always good idea to do a backup before an upgrade, it isn’t necessary. When upgrading from XP to Windows 7 the hard drive must be erased, so this is a case where it would be a good idea to have a backup of some sort.

Still, if you want to take the precaution of doing a backup, go to a computer store and get yourself an external USB drive such as a MyPassport from Western Digital and use the Windows Easy Transfer wizard to copy important files to the external drive. For more info on Windows Easy Transfer go here: http://www.microsoft.com/windows/windows-vista/features/easy-transfer.aspx

For more info on upgrading from Vista to Windows 7 go here: http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows7/help/upgrading-from-windows-vista-to-windows-7

What’s with External Blu-Ray Drives?

Grammatically speaking, I am not too certain about that headline, but subjectwise I’d like to thank “Reel Advice” from the “Reel Advice Movie review” blog for commenting on my Sept. 4 post about the Portable DVD and CD Drive for $40. They said:

Pretty nice deal for a portable drive but I will wait for portable Bluray drives before buying one of my own!

For me, Blu-ray wasn’t a consideration because I don’t have any Blu-ray discs — data or video — except for one or two accidental purchases, Superman II and Iron Man, which I have long since sold on eBay. Additionally, I bought the Lite-On ETDU10896 External Slim DVD ROMicon from TigerDirect.com purely for installing software and transferring files to computers other than my own. The other consideration was price. I didn’t want to spend more than $60 including tax.

But Reel Advice’s comment made me go back and search for portable blu-ray drives all the same. The results were interesting… for a while.

External Blu-Ray Drives

External Blu-Ray Drives

It turns out there are only two External / Portable Blu-Ray drives out there under $100 from “major” manufacturers: The LG BE06LU10 Super Multi Blue and the Panasonic UJ-120, but, for the most part, they are not available for “retail” sale; they’re pretty much “OEM”. OEM is “Original Equipment Manufacturer” which means they are for purchase by computer manufacturers. So if you are not an equipment manufacturer, and you buy one of these drives, and something goes wrong with it, you won’t be able to get any support from the manufacturer. (I had that happen once with an OEM motherboard I bought. There was a retail version available, but the OEM version was cheaper. Sadly, when I had trouble with the motherboard, I couldn’t get any assistance. I lived with it. Buyer beware, etc. I should have known better.)

So you can’t go to Best Buy and get any of these drives now, but they are available through other sites online.

One such site, TriangleLaptops.com, had a nice list of requirements for the Panasonic UJ-120 to work properly on your PC. Here’s the run down from their site:

  • Required software is not included.
  • This will function fine with your existing DVD and CD viewing and recording software.
  • To watch Blu-Ray movies, you will need HD capable software such as PowerDVD 8 Ultra, PowerDVD Suite 6 or ArcSoftTotalMedia Theater.
  • To use the drive as Blu-Ray player, your system needs to meet the following requirements:
  • Operating system: Windows XP with Service Pack 2 or better or Windows Vista
  • CPU: Core Duo or Core 2 Duo systems are generally compatible with Blu-ray disc drives. If your PC has a single processor (e.g. Intel Pentium 4), it should be at least 3.2 Ghz or have an AMD Athlon 64 FX games model, or an Intel Pentium EE Edition.
  • Memory: At least 1 GB RAM
  • Graphics card: This is the important part! You will need an nVidia GeForce 7600 GT or higher or an AMD/ATI X1600 or higher. You will need at least 256MB graphics memory and your card should support HDCP. Contact the manufacturer directly or visit their site for video adapter specifications if you aren’t sure whether your graphics card is HDCP enabled. You may also want to confirm that you have a graphics adapter driver version which supports Blu-ray discs (AMD/ATI Catalyst 6.7 and higher or nVidia ForceWare 93.71), and download the latest driver if necessary.
  • We know this list of requirements is intimidating. You’ll often be covered if your computer is a fairly recent model. We attached the USB 2.0 Blu-Ray drive to our Dell XPS M2010, installed the PowerDVD 8 Ultra and had no problem at all viewing a Blu-Ray movie.

Good points.

Vista System Properties

Vista System Properties

If you’re interested in seeing if your Windows (XP or Vista) computer meets these requirements, do the following:

  1. On the desktop, right-click on “My Computer”. A list a ppears. (Alternately, you can go to the “Control Panel” on your Start menu, then double-click “System”.)
  2. Click “Properties”. A system properties dialog box appears.
  3. On the screen you will find information for your computer’s “Operating System”, the “Processor” (CPU), and “Memory (RAM)”.
  4. Click the “Hardware” tab (XP) and/or “Device Manager”.
  5. Double-click “Display adapters” to see what graphics card you have. (You may have to do some research here to see if your card meets the requirements on the list above.)

And if you have any further questions, don’t hesitate to contact me here at Skylarking.

Exclusive Deals for Skylarking Readers

TigerDirect has sent me a list of exclusive deals for the readers of Skylarking. These are TigerDirect Exclusive Deals, Limited Time Offers, Act Now And Save! Click the link at left to see a complete list of special deals. And remember, this are only available at these prices for a limited time. The link will let them know that Skylarking sent you.

Some noteworthy items are:

m122-7828-main01-jlMaxtor Black Armor 160GB External Hard Drive: $59.99 (After $10 savings).  I like external drives for storing my music files, particularly my iTunes library. By storing my iTunes library on an external drive I won’t have any problems when I get a new computer. I’ll just disconnect the drive and connect it to my new computer. Voila!

D-Link DSS-16+ Recertified 16-Port Network Switch: $39.99 (After $20 savings). This is great for a small office network (or a big home network).

hpprinterHP Photosmart C4580 All-In-One Color Inkjet Printer with Wi-Fi: Refurbished $79.99. Imagine wireless color photo printing and standard printing of 23 to 30 pages per minute on your home wireless network. It also has built-in copier and scanner functions (but no fax). This is a refurbished unit. This printer costs over $120 new from your major retailers.

Acer X203H bd 20″ Widescreen LCD Monitor: $129.99 (After $40 savings). This monitor has a 10,000:1 contrast ratio and 1600×900 pixel resolution.  You can use either a VGA or DVI connector.

There are many, many more items to choose from. So check out the rest of these TigerDirect Exclusive Deals, Limited Time Offers, Act Now And Save! And remember Tigerdirect offers $1.99 for shipping for orders over $100 but less than 20 lbs.

Note:
There’s been a lot of chat on the Internet and in the press concerning bloggers getting paid to review products and web sites. (Most notably in the Wall Street Journal last month). I get approached a few times a week to write about particular products and web sites, but I always offer my honest opinion in my posts. I have turned down many, many more offers than I’ve accepted.

The same applies to the products in this post. I have only highlighted products that I think are worthwhile and provide a significant savings compared to their regular price.

Connect a MacBook Air to an Optoma PK 101 pico projector

Optoma PK101

Optoma PK101

Back in mid-December of 2008, I reviewed two new micro, or pico, projectors: The Dell M109S and the Optoma PK 101. The Dell model was designed to connect to a wide range of devices with its multi-cable adapter, but the Optoma PK 101 (the sexier of the two devices) was designed, primarily, to connect to devices with composite video connections, though it came bundled with an adapter for iPods and iPhones.

My Optoma PK 101 review mentioned that “The Optoma PK101 isn’t configured for connecting to a laptop or computer. unless the computer itself as a special video output.”

A few days ago, Mark Canavan, a Skylarking reader, wrote in asking, “How can I connect the Optoma PK101 to a MacBook Air laptop?”

Here’s your answer, Mark. I’ve also added this information to the end of my original review of the Optoma PK 101 projector.

Apple Micro-DVI to Video Adapter

The Optoma PK 101 is designed to connect to devices that have composite video connections. The MacBook Air has a mini display port that can be used as follows. If you’re averse to tech-talk, just ignore the stuff in the parentheses:

This is according to the MacBook Air’s Technical Specifications web page.

According to a MacBook Air Developer Note from Jan. 18, 2008:

The MacBook Air ships with a micro-DVI to DVI adapter and a micro-DVI to VGA adapter. A micro-DVI to video adapter, which provides composite and S-video support, is sold separately.

The Apple Micro-DVI to Video Adapter (shown above right) is available from the Apple Store in the US and Canada for $19. Apple says, “The Micro-DVI to Video Adapter was designed specifically to fit the slim profile of MacBook Air. The adapter connects to the Micro-DVI port on your MacBook Air and provides both S-video and Composite video connectors so that you can view content from your computer on such devices as TVs, VCRs, or overhead projectors with S-Video or RCA (Composite) connectors.”

Thanks for your question, Mark!




Got something to say? Have a question? Post Comments or Questions with the link below. Keep up-to-date with Skylarking: By Email or RSS Newsfeed or on Twitter. You can also send questions with Skylarking’s email form.

LCD Flat panel monitors from TigerDirect

TigerDirect tells me this is the last two days to take advantage of their $1.99 shipping offer on all purchases over $100, not including shipping and taxes where applicable. Here are some flat panel monitor offers of note:

i-inc-h94-2801I-Inc iF-281DPB 28-inch Widescreen LCD Monitor
This is a widescreen monitor that will expand your view. Literally. It has lifelike and detailed graphics and video imagery.  It features a widescreen display with high brightness and contrast ratios with 16.7 million displayable colors. The fats response time provides streak and ghost-free images. This monitor also features HDMI and VGA connections and is equipped with integrated speakers. Surf the Web, conduct online research and do much more. Originally: $540; Now: $330.

 

 

h94-2102-mainxHanns-G HG-216DPB 21.6″ Widescreen LCD Monitor
This 21.6-inch widescreen monitor has crystal clear definition which will make computing time more productive. It has a very fast 5ms response rate for ghost-free videos that makes fast moving video action sharp and vivid. Its 1680 x 1050 resolution and 1000:1 contrast level deliver fine image quality. The frame and stand is simple yet elegant, and features comfortable 170/160-degree viewing angles, D-Sub 15 pin inputs, plus tilt stand and VESA-compliant wall mounting points. Regularly: $189. Now only $149.

 

 

dclcd_dcl20a_mainDCLCD DCL20A+ 20″ Widescreen LCD Monitor
The DCL20A+ offers home theater HD quality. You won’t have to deal with poor quality viewing, since this monitor features flicker and static free imaging. It also comes with a detachable panel and neck, and a VESA compatible ergotron arm so you can set it up according to your preference. Another great component of this display is the (CCFTS) Cold Cathode Fluorescent Tube, which provides clear and bright backlight. Movies, games and digital photo albums never looked better in this ultra widescreen that will allow you to use dual page display. It has a maximum resolution of  1680 x 1050 and can display up to 16.7 million colors. It’s fast response time of 2ms prevents any blurring of the image on the screen. Regularly: $189. Now $129.




Post Comments or Questions with the link below. Keep up-to-date with Skylarking: By Email or RSS Newsfeed or on Twitter. You can also send questions with my email form.

Pico Projector No. 2: Optoma PK 101

Optoma PK101 Projector

Optoma PK101 Projector

Yesterday, I discussed the first of two pico-projectors to hit the market: The Dell M109S. Today I’ll discuss the second, the Optoma PK-101 PICO Pocket Projector which, coincidentally, became officially available yesterday. I’ve only been able to find it online at Amazon.com (pre-order) and eBay at this time. It sells for $399, $50 less than the Dell M109S, but don’t stop reading yet.

First off, these units aren’t meant to replace your large home video projectors. Home units, which are designed for lit room viewing, are much much brighter than these mini-projectors, but the home units aren’t exactly portable or easy to transport and setup. And you certaily won’t fit a home unit in your pocket or handbag. These mini pico-projectors are portable, and are very very easy to setup. The Optoma PK101 will fit in your pocket, and the Dell M109S will fit in a slightly larger pocket. (FYI, you may very well see a pico-projector in future cellphones and portable computers for projecting images on a wall or other light colored surface.)

Back to the PK 101 from Optoma

The PK 101 is much smaller and lighter than the Dell M109S. It’s just over half an inch thick, 2 inches wide, and 4 inches long. It weighs only 4 ounces — a third the weight of the M109S (13 ounces), but the PK101 is only a fifth as bright as the Dell unit.  The Optoma is rated at 11 lumens versus the M109S’s 50 lumens. (Current home theater units are rated at 1,000 to 2,500 lumens).

The PK101 runs on a battery, which lasts for 2 hours of usage. There is a second battery included which can be swapped when the first one dies. The Dell M109S runs on an AC adapter, and there is no battery option. The PK101 has a AC adapter, too. The lower lumens rating is probably intended to conserve the PK101’s battery life. Both units work best in a dimly lit or dark room.

The plus side for the PK101 is that it is supposed to include a cable for connecting it to your iPod, so you can project video and slideshows. The Dell M109S can also be connected to an iPod, but you’ll have to buy the connecting cable from Apple: Apple Composite AV Cable – Apple Store (U.S.). The cable costs $50.

About Connectivity

The PK101 connects to iPods and iPhones with its included bundled connection kit. It can also be connected to camcorders, DV-Cams, and Digital Cameras with their standard composite AV Outs with the PK101’s included composite cable. You can also connect it to DVD Players and other video players. The same holds true for the Dell M109S (Note: I mentioned earlier a special cable is needed from Apple to connect the M109S to a iPod or iPhone).

Dell M109S

Dell M109S

The Optoma PK101 isn’t configured for connecting to a laptop or computer. unless the computer itself as a special video output.

The Optoma PK101 is the more atractive of the two units with its sleek finish, though some have complained it is prone to showing fingerprints and smudges. The Dell M109S has a brighter and sharper image, but no battery option. For computer and video connectivity, I’d be prone to go with the M109S. If I were more interested in iPod video connectivity, I might be inclined to go with the Optoma PK101, though I could always get the Apple cable to connect to the M109S.

I think the three questions you need to ask yourself when decing on these two units are: Do I need an option to run on a battery, or will I usually have access to a power outlet? What will I connect to more: an iPod or a computer? Do I want to drop it in my pocket or carry it in a briefcase or bag?

Update (Mar. 31, 2009): Connect Optoma PK-101 to a MacBook Air

Apple Micro-DVI to Video Adapter

The Optoma PK 101 is designed to connect to devices that have composite video connections. The MacBook Air has a mini display port that can be used as follows:

  • DVI output using Mini DisplayPort to DVI Adapter
  • VGA output using Mini DisplayPort to VGA Adapter
  • Dual-link DVI output using Mini DisplayPort to Dual-Link DVI Adapter

This is according to the MacBook Air’s Technical Specifications web page.

According to a MacBook Air Developer Note from Jan. 18, 2008:

The MacBook Air ships with a micro-DVI to DVI adapter and a micro-DVI to VGA adapter. A micro-DVI to video adapter, which provides composite and S-video support, is sold separately.

The Apple Micro-DVI to Video Adapter (shown above right) is available from the Apple Store in the US and Canada for $19. Apple says, “The Micro-DVI to Video Adapter was designed specifically to fit the slim profile of MacBook Air. The adapter connects to the Micro-DVI port on your MacBook Air and provides both S-video and Composite video connectors so that you can view content from your computer on such devices as TVs, VCRs, or overhead projectors with S-Video or RCA (Composite) connectors.”




Post Comments or Questions with the link below. Keep up-to-date with Skylarking: By Email or RSS Newsfeed or on Twitter. You can also send questions with my email form.

Ultra-portable Presentations: The Dell M109S Projector

Dell and Optoma have each released an ultra-portable projector recently. Dell has the Dell M109S On-the-Go Projector and Optoma has the Pico PK-101. Today I’ll discuss the Dell M109S On-the-Go Projector.

Dell M109S

Dell M109S

The Dell M109S is an amazingly small projector. As you can see it truly fits in the palm of one’s hand with every dimension between 1-1/2 inch and 4-1/4 inches, and it’s weight is less than one pound (0.80 pounds to be exact).

This just-about-pocket-sized projector could be used to deliver business or ther presentations in small gorup or conference settings. College students could find it useful for course presentations. It could also be useful for travel for connections to portable DVD players, console game stations, or laptops for projecting videos, movies, or games. Update (12/16/08): If you purchase a $50 Apple Composite AV Cable – Apple Store (U.S.) you can attach it to your iPod and project video or slideshows onto a wall.

The M109S uses Texas Instruments DLP (Digital Light Projection) technology. DLP uses millions of tiny mirrors and reflectors that work in concert to create stunning colors and highly-accurate images. This same technology is being used in digital movie theatres and in home entertainment and theater systems.

Connecting the Dell M109S On-the-Go Projector is a breeze since its included multi-input cable lets you connect to notebooks, desktops, DVD players, gaming consoles and other video devices. So there’s no need to search for or carry a multitude of adapters.

For you techies who need to know the specs, here they are:

  • Ultra Portable – At 3.64″ x 4.12″ x 1.46″ and a mere 0.80 pounds, you’ll hardly notice it’s in your laptop case.
  • 858 x 600 SVGA Native Resolution – Displays up to 480,000 pixels with a 4:3 aspect ratio.
  • Contrast ratio: 800:1 typical (Full On/Full Off) – Projects clear images and easy-to-read text.
  • Long Projection Life – The M109S utilizes mercury-free LED light source of usage life up to 10,000 hours, helping to save money and reduce maintenance to a minimum as no replace of LED module light source is required.
  • Password Protection – Keep critical presentations safe and secure.
  • Green Machine – With the efficient, mercury-free LED technology, you can help protect the planet and your bottom line.

If you combine this with one of the ultra mobile, ultra portable netbooks like the Dell Inspiron mini 9 or the Asus Eee PC and you’ll have one of the most compact travelling presentations ever. You’ll dazzle your clients more than ever with your great presentation and your amazing projection system.


HP Digital Photo Printers (Updated Dec. 2010)

Despite the economic downturn the holiday shopping season is approaching, and while some of us are wondering how its going to be this year, many of us acknowledge that we’re still going to need gifts for our families and closest friends.  I was able to find them online for about $80 each.

Photosmart A516

Photosmart A516

Last year I gave several my sister and my parents Hewlett Packard digital photo printers as gifts, specifically the HP Photosmart A516 (at right). The Photosmart printers are very small, compact, and lightweight. It measures roughtly 10 inches wide, 5 inches tall, and less than 6 inches deep.  That’s about the size of a small loaf of bread. It weighs less than 6 pounds. (A slightly heavy loaf of bread).

The Photosmart printers print on 4×6 inch and 5×7 inch photo paper, and can hold about 20 sheets at a time. Me, my family and friends agree that the picture and color quality is fantastic.

The other great thing about the Photosmart printers is that you don’t have to connect them to a computer to print your photos. They will accept most of the popular media memory cards (Memory Stick, Memory STick Duo, SD, xD, and MMC). Some printer models have an optional Bluetooth adapter so you can print wirelessly from your Bluetooth enabled cellphone.  If your camera uses PictBridge technology you can plug your camera directly into the printer via a USB cable. Some models even allow printing from your iPod.

If I were to buy HP Photosmart printers this year, budget-minded as I am, these are the models and offers I would give serious consideration to:

icon

HP Photosmart A536

(New, TigerDirect.com, $70)The Photosmart A530 series prints on sheets up to 5×7 inches in size, and accepts MemoryStick, MS Duo, SD, xD, and MMC media cards. So it will work with most Sony and Olympus cameras quite well. It doesn’t accept CompactFlash cards.  The unit is light and small enough that you can consider it portable. I often take it with me when I go to parties at the homes of friends and relations. It accepts an HP 110 Tri Color printer cartridge. The print cartirdge sells for about $22. HP also packages the cartridge with 140 sheets of 4×6 paper for $42. Supported operating systems: Windows 2000; Windows XP Home; Windows XP Professional; Windows XP Professional x64; Certified for Windows Vista(TM), Windows 7; Mac OS X v 10.3.9 or higher.

HP Photosmart A616 Photo Printer (Remanufactured)

HP Photosmart A616 Photo Printer
$195 from Buy.com

Buy.com has the A616 selling for $195 with a one year warranty. In prints in as little as 39 seconds, accepts paper up to 5 x 7 inches. For media cards it accepts CompactFlash, Memory Stick, Memory Stick Duo, Secure Digital/MultiMediaCard and xD-Picture Card. It also supports Mini SD with an adapter. It has a 20-sheet input tray and wireless capability with an optional HP bt450 Bluetooth Wireless Printer adapter. Weight: 3.46 lbs. Supported operating systems: Windows 2000; Windows XP Home; Windows XP Professional; Windows XP Professional x64; Certified for Windows Vista(TM), Windows 7; Mac OS X v 10.3.9 or higher. Compatible cartridges: HP 110 Tri-color Ink Cartridge.

Dymo Label Printers

Continuing my series on label printing which started yesterday.

If you print a lot of labels, but have trouble keeping track of your label sheets, then you should consider getting a label printer from Dymo. These are specially designed printers just for printing labels. It’s very compact, too, just 5 inches by 7 inches in size. Checkout the picture at right for the Dymo Labelwriter 400. You can get the Dymo LabelWriter 400 Label Printer (69100) from Amazon right now for under $90 with free shipping and one roll of address labels included. An additional roll of 350 labels costs $20.

I’ve had one of these labels printers for about a year now, and it’s a real time saver. The only trick is for me to remember its’ not the only printer attached to my computer. I dealt with this subject in an earlier post about printing to secondary printers.

Whenever I want to print a label in Microsoft Word, I click File, then Print, and then I select the Dymo Labelwriter 400 from the dropdown menu before clicking OK. Or, if you prefer to use the keyboard to print, just start the process with CTRL+P.

This method works great with the contact management tip I provided in yesterday’s post.


Post Comments or Questions with the link below. Keep up-to-date with Skylarking: By Email or RSS Newsfeed or on Twitter. You can also send questions with my email form.