iPad Review

I bought a $700 64GB WiFi iPad, and it arrived a bit more than a week ago. Yet, I still feel like I’m waiting for my iPad to arrive.

I was promised an iPad that would revolutionize how I read magazines and books. It would bring the amazing Apple App Store experience to a bigger screen. It would serve my Web browsing needs at home and be my portable media player/game system on the road.

The iPad doesn’t do any of these things well, at least right now. Some examples:

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Review of Online Backup Services

I go on and on about how important backup up your data is. All hard disks fail eventually, and when they do, you’ll lose all your stuff–including your personal pictures and home videos.

So, you need to backup. I tell most people to buy a USB drive a bit bigger than their computer’s C:\ drive and use that for backups. That works well and protects you from a failed hard disk or accidentally deleted files–but it doesn’t protect you from fire or theft, because you’d lose your backup drive, too.

Businesses do off-site backups for disaster recovery. Basically they take their backup drives or tapes to a different location that they can get to if something goes really bad. That doesn’t work well for people, though, because even if you buy a second external drive and take it to a friend’s house, you’ll forget to do it regularly. For the home user (myself included), backups must be automated or they’ll be forgotten.

Enter online backup services, which copy files from your computer to a server on the Internet. When you lose your data, you download it back from them. I checked out the major online backup services and found one that’s working for me.

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How to Buy a Hard Disk–Hard Drive Buyer’s Guide

If your computer seems slow and you’ve already upgraded your memory (say, to 2GB or higher), your next step might be to upgrade the hard disk. First, check out your current hard disk’s performance using HD Tune. Write down the average transfer rate and access times so you’ll know how much better your new disk is. If you’re running Windows Vista or Windows 7, you can use the Windows Experience Index to get a rough estimate of your disk speed.

Now, figure out what type of disk you want to buy. Write down your choices as you go:

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Windows 7 Product Key–You Don’t Need It

During installation, you can skip entering the Windows 7 Product Key–just leave the field blank (as shown above).

Windows will run normally for 30 days, but it’ll be nagging you to enter the product key in the whole time. After 30 days, it’ll lock itself down and prevent you from doing most tasks on the computer. No worries, just follow these steps:

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How to Test (and Understand) Hard Disk Drive Performance

That’s a screenshot from my favorite free tool for testing hard disk performance–HD Tune (there’s a pro version you can buy, too). That’s from my Seagate Barracuda 7200 RPM 1.5 TB SATA drive backup drive.

The Blue Line–Transfer Rate

First, the blue line is the transfer rate. That’s the speed which the hard disk sends data to the computer when a big file is lined up nicely–defragmented, in other words. Notice that the line starts high (at 126 MB/sec) and drops (to about 57 MB/sec). That’s because the test moves from the outside of the drive to the inside. Disk drives are round, like a record, and so the outside spins faster (in inches/sec) from the inside.

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Studying for the 70-536 Microsoft Certification

Hello Tony,

I’ve been studying for the Microsoft Certification exam 70-536 with the first edition of the MCTS Self-Paced Training Kit (Exam 70-536) book.  I’ve noticed that there are many mistakes in this book and some chapters are a lot harder to process than others as they appear to be written by a different author to other chapters (e.g. Chapter 9 and 10).

I’m considering purchasing the second edition of this book but I wondered whether you could please let me know how much revision has gone into the book and if all of the errors have been corrected in the second edition.

I have also found that there are topics covered in the exam that aren’t in the text book – does the second edition cover all of the required exam topics?

Many thanks!

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Hissing/Static from a computer

Recently, I bought some nice in-ear headphones: the Klipsch Custom-2 In-Ear Noise Isolating Earphone. They do a great job of eliminating outside noise because they fit in my ears like earplugs. Here’s the downside to that: I discovered that my main computer, a Dell Latitude D820 (yeah, I’m using a 4-year-old computer, what of it?!), has a low, constant hiss whenever the sound isn’t muted.

When I plug the headphones into my iPhone, there’s no background noise–just perfect silence.

So, I went searching for a solution to the problem. Turns out, it’s not a software update or a configuration problem. I just have a cheap sound card. All sound cards introduce some level of noise (though my iPhone doesn’t seem to) and cheaper sound cards introduce more noise than better-quality sound cards.  Being a laptop, my computer has the sound card built into the motherboard, which makes it prone to this type of background noise.

If this were a desktop, I could simply add a better-quality sound card and plug my headphones or speakers into it. With a laptop/notebook/mobile computer, I need to add an external sound card or USB headphones (as described later). Check the reviews–some are better quality than others.

This problem also extended to recording. I regularly record voice-overs for instructional videos, and I had a seemingly incurable problem with background noise. When I bought a digital microphone (which uses a USB connection rather than the mic-in port), the background noise disappeared. Because I wasn’t using the analog microphone port on my laptop anymore, it wasn’t subject to the motherboard-induced background noise. The headset I bought also had headphones, and those headphones were immune to the background noise, too.

Moral of the story: if you hear noise when you plug a mic, headphones, or speakers into your computer, use a USB connection instead of the built-in analog connection.