We Fix Your Gadgets

FixGadgets is a computer service and support company located in Central New York. We offer support for computer problems and service for computer upgrades. We can be reached any time of the day at 631.680.7844 or fixgadgets@gmail.com

Thursday, June 01, 2006

"The Internet isn't free"

There has been a lot of talk lately about whether the Internet should be free. It seems that the telecommunications companies want you to pay to access content and other people. The great thing about the internet is that it has always been free in the sense that when I pay for access to the Internet, I can communicate with my friend who uses a different service. There is no need for my friend to have a special arrangement with my service provider.

Wikipedia, the Internet's Free Encyclopedia, defines Internet as "the worldwide, publicly accessible system of interconnected computer networks that transmit data by packet switching using the standard Internet Protocol (IP). It consists of millions of smaller business, academic, domestic, and government networks, which together carry various information and services, such as electronic mail, online chat, and the interlinked Web pages and other documents of the World Wide Web."

But can a system be implemented to charge users for access to specific content be implemented without killing what the internet is about? I don't think so. The Internet has survived and thrived because of its universal freedom from any restrictions, even legal ones. There has been a lot of questions about legal issues pertaining to the Internet such as taxes, privacy rights, and more.

The International Herald Tribune conducted a digital dialogue on these issues with Tim Berners-Lee, the man who helped establish the programming language of the Web in 1989 with colleagues at CERN, the European science institute. An abbreviated dialogue can be found here and the full transcript of the dialogue can be found here.

As internet users, what do you think about this? How would instituting a fee-based system affect how you use the Internet? Do you think that a free Internet could co-exist with a fee-based one?

I for one am fearful of the changes some companies and politicians are proposing to the internet but only time will tell what happens.

50 Million Americans Create Web Content

On my daily patrol of the internet I came across an interesting study performed by the Pew Internet & American Life Project. They claim that forty-eight million American adults have contributed some form of user-generated content on the Internet. This group of web surfers accounts for 35 percent of Internet users in America.

Even more interesting is the finding that those people with broadband access in their homes are significantly more likely to create and post content on the Web. Approximately 73 percent (31 million) of the 50 million Americans who create Web content have broadband access. This is part of a trend occurring on the Web where content is shifting to predominantly user-generated content. The popularity of blogs and personal websites has accelerated the growth of user-generated content. The old internet was a place where big services provided content to internet users, the key is that content was more often than not repackaged for the internet from another media (print, etc.). Today, people are engaging the Internet in a number of different ways in their lives. One such was is through personal blogs and user-driven services where new content is being developed solely for the internet.

Earlier studies on broadband conducted by Pew described the individual content creators on the Net as the "broadband elite" but this new research shows that the broadband user group has expanded and diversified. One would assume that the majority of content would be coming from younger more tech savvy individuals, but the study reports that the split is fairly even across age groups. While younger people may generate content, older people are sharing photos and videos, all important to the growth of the internet.

Demographic information on content creators shows that forty-six percent of respondents who live in households with incomes of less than $50,000 put content on the Internet. This is in comparison to forty-one percent of respondents who live in households with incomes over $50,000. In comparing age, 51 percent under the age of 30 have posted content on the web as compared with 36 percent over 30.

It is important to notice that Pew group conducted this survey using a subset of the population that they believe represents the population. Just like political polls, there is some fudge work and false conclusions that people draw.

What is your role in this study, where do you fit in? Do you agree with what they have found? Personally, I am under 30, have a broadband connection, and am a prolific content creator on Internet.

You can access the Home Broadband Adoption 2006 report here, directly on the internet. I first found out about this study from ClickZNews in an article written by Enid Burns.

What goes on inside your PC?

As a computer technician I am constantly being asked about computers (I'd be out of a job it I wasn't). The most popular question I get asked is, "How do I build my own computer" ? Home built computers have become very popular because of the advantages that come with putting a computer together yourself. Just like cars, we all have specific features that we want and those that we could do without. Building your own computer allows you to create a computer that is the perfect match for you, that is if you take some careful steps when planning the build.

For those of you out there who are interested in building your own computer, there are a lot of great resources on the internet to help you do this. I feel like a broken record but the best research tool out there is your friendly search engine: Google. I am big proponent of Google because of its simplicity and great results. Check this link out for a search on building your own computer and this link to Wikipedia on computers and how to build one.
NOTE: With good articles come bad ones and if you're not careful you can end up with a mediocre machine that will cost you more than a prebuilt machine from Dell.

Quiz (Don't run away, its painless)
Before you decide to build a computer, you should ask yourself several questions:

  • What are your needs?
  • How much do you want to spend?
  • How long do you want the machine to last?
  • Who will be using the computer?
  • Where will the computer be used?

These may seem like overkill but it may mean the difference between saving or wasting your valuable money and time; I hate wasting my time and money.

Two Classes of Computer Users
I firmly believe there are two types of computer users out there: Those that use the computer sporadically and those whose lives are on the computer. Despite what you might argue, you fall into one of these two categories. I am someone whose life is on the computer between school and work.

For many people a prebuilt computer is sufficient and will be cheaper than a custom built one. People who occasionally use a computer, use it to surf the internet, or use it as a word processor will be much better off buying a prebuilt computer. My personal recommendation for those people is to buy a PC from Dell. Their prices are competitive and machines durable enough to outlast how much they cost.

For the remaining people, you might benefit from building your own computer but there are some caveats. These people include those of you that play video games, require the computer for work (other than word processing), or want to use the computer as a media hub (what the heck is a media hub?). Now that you've decided to build a computer, we can get into the guts of what's in a computer.

NOTE: Beware of people who offer services to build a computer for you. While you get a customized computer, you are in a tough situation when you have a problem and don't know how to fix it. If you do use a service such as this, make sure to get a warranty or guarantee on what your buying.

The Guts of a Modern Personal Computer
Depending on your experience with computers you may or may not be familiar with some of these parts. The links I have provided should give you more information on each of these parts.

There are more components to a computer than I have covered here and I can't go in depth on everything, so if you're serious about building a computer and want to know more use your favorite search engine.

Do Your Research!
The next part in building a computer is to research parts that you want in your computer. When I write an article, like when I build a computer, I have to do research otherwise what reason do you have to believe what I'm saying? Thankfully the best source for this kind of information is the internet. Between manufacturer websites, professional magazines, and techie blogs like this one there is a plethora of information, take it slow and read, read, and read some more. When I build a computer, especially for a customer, I spend a long time balancing cost, features, and ease of use. I almost never go with the first design because I usually find great deals on great parts while I research. Here are some good resources for researching computer parts:

If you can't find what your looking for on one of these sites, go to Google and search for what your looking for. Another great place to find computer parts is directly on computer part manufacturer websites. You might wonder who popular manufacturers are and this is where you can turn to Google once again (Test this: motherboard manufacturer). Once you've got ideas on the parts you want in the computer you'll need to find out how much these parts cost.

Buy Your Parts Online
Now that you know what goes into a computer, you need to know where to find these parts. Having gone through computers faster than sneakers or clothing, I limit my shopping to three places on the internet:

While I will buy parts at a local store in an emergency, I have found that the best deals are on the internet and if you're savvy enough you can find them. A great resource for deals on computer parts etc. is TechBargains. TechBargains is a service that posts deals on tech related goodies from across the web. The key is to act fast because some items don't last for long and these websites are heavily traveled.

Its' an Iterative Process
You have to remember that building a computer is an iterative process and that your design may change based on the deals of the week. Whatever you do, don't get frustrated. If you're having trouble and need some help refer to one of the tech magazines or personal blogs like this one for help from the community. The great thing about people who build computers is that they love to brag about what they've got and you can use this information to help you build your computer. Remember that you're doing this to make a better computer and the more effort you put in the better the outcome will be.

This is just one man's opinion. Let me know what you think and what resources you use when building your computer. As always, comments/suggestions/criticism are always welcome.

Happy computer building!

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Blue Screen of Death (BSOD)

This past weekend I had some issues with my laptop's hard drive and I thought that this would be the perfect time for the first Tech Tips/Advice article. Hard drives today have gotten so large that we often forget that the smallest error in that drive can wreak havoc on your computer. Now I was lucky this time that the hard drive didn't die but next time I might not be so fortunate and its good to know what to do if you're ever in this situation. I can tell you from experience that if you own a computer you will have to deal with a hard drive problem at some point in life.

I'm sure most people here have experienced a blue screen of death at some point in their past. Even if you didn't know what a blue screen of death was you'd be able to figure it. Lets just say that it isn't a good thing as anything with the word death in it is usually isn't. Techies often refer to a blue-screen-of-death by the acronym BSOD, which is how I'll refer to it from now on. BSODs have existed since the dawn of Windows and the name was coined by Erik Noyes while he worked for Charles Schwab and Co., Inc.'s technical support for the Electronic Service Delivery division in early 1991. Ever since then, blue screens of death have popped up everywhere, even at your local ATM.

A little background ...
Google is a great research tool and a quick keyword search for "Blue Screen of Death" returns over 22 million pages containing the words. Here is an examples of a BSOD from a Windows XP machine:

In new operating systems (OSes), such as Windows 2K / NT / XP, a blue screen of death occurs when the kernel or a driver running in kernel mode, encounters an error from which it cannot recover. Therefore, the only safe action the computer can take it to force the user to restart. Unfortunately, the user is not given any opportunity to save any new work and the data is lost. Microsoft more affectionately refers to these errors as 'Stop Errors' or 'Bug Checks' in their documentation.

When a BSOD occurs, the operating system creates a memory dump file which is effectively a copy of the entire contents of physical RAM. The memory dump file can be debugged later, using a kernel debugger, to ascertain the true cause of the problem. The other instance when a BSOD of death is encountered is when a criticl boot loader error occurs. This occurs when the opertaing system is unable to access the drive or a part of the operating system. When this happens, there is no memory dump but the problem can be fixed by using the Windows Installer CD.

If you get a blue-screen you can use the information on it to determine what went wrong and how to fix it. In my experience, most of the blue-screens are a result of a hard drive access problem and can be fixed with the Windows CD.

Red Screen of Doom (RSOD)
Until I did some research for this article I was not familiar with the Red-Screen-of-Doom (RSOD). The RSOD is the nickname for error messages that exist in some beta versions of the upcoming Windows Vista as well as in rare versions of Windows 98. The screen appears when a boot loader error occurs. Essentially, RSOD is the ugly red-headed step-brother of the now infamous BSOD. While the RSOD was removed from Vista in the latest versions, we can be happy that the more popular Blue-Screen-of-Death still remains.

Popular Blue Screens of Death
The most famous BSOD occured at COMDEX '98 when Microsoft's Bill Gates was debuting the new Windows 98. The demonstration PC spit up a BSOD when an assistant connected a scanner to it. The event has been memorialized on tape and can be seen here. Gates' only response was, "That must be why we're not shipping Windows 98 yet." BSODs have become so popular infamous that it has been included in TV shows, movies, games, and even on T-shirts. A comic named after the BSOD can be found here. If you really want to experience a BSOD for yourself try this web simulation out.

Macs Don't have BSODs?
This isn't completely true. Back in the day, Macs just like PCs had their share of problems and they came in the form of Sad Macs and Bombs. Today Macs run on Unix which is much more stable but still prone to problems.

Still hungry?
This article hasn't satisfied your thurst for knowledge then try these links out:

Comments? Suggestions? Post your remarks to this article below.

Top 20 Strangest Gadgets and Accessories

The internet allows us to research just about anything and there is nothing more interesting to the random websurfer than strange gadgets. The great people at TechEBlog, who provide us with the latest tech and gadget news have come through with the Top 20 Strangest Gadgets and Accessories.

My personal favorite is #11, The Rat Race Clock, which reminds us all of the personal rat race that we run in every day of our lives. Thankfully for everyones sake the rat in this clock is mechanical so there's no need to worry about having to catch a rat to power your clock. The mechanical rat runs on a treadmill that is powered by four D and two AA batteries that also advance the hour and minute hands. At $24.99, the rat race clock is a steal and is the perfect gift for your fellow rat racer in the cubicle next to you. To purchase this amazing clock, go here.

For my girlfriend, I think the perfect gift is #3, A Human Head Knife Block, because she's a great cook and knives are meant to be displayed. I think it might also work well as a outlet for her frustration when I screw up one of her recipes. I personally would love to see this knife block made out of self-healing material, the same used in the cutting mats, so that you can stab new holes in it every time you put a knife away. Unfortunately, this knife-block was hand carved by Irene van Gestel and I don't think you'll be able to get your hands on one just yet.

The original 'Top 20 Strangest Gadgets and Accessories' article can be found here.

What other weird gadgets and gizmos have you found surfing on the web?

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Moola.com - A Web2.0 Gambling Site

Moola.com is a new web2.0 company out on the market aiming to take over your life. The premise of Moola is that you can start with one penny and walk away with 10 million. At this point you're probably thinking that I'm yanking your chain, but check it out for yourself right here (I'm not totally off my rocker). I first read about Moola at TechCrunch, a great blog that highlights new web2.0 companies. The specific blog post that talks about Moola can be found here.

Each user starts with $0.01 and can play against another player on the network for a predetermined amount. The premise is that if you can win 30 times in a row, doubling your money each time, you will have made a little over $10,000,000. I remember this math problem from elementary school where my teacher offered us the opportunity of taking $300 to mow a neighbor's lawn or get paid one penny which doubles every day we mow the lawn. Of course every one of us was tricked and said we would take the $300. The one thing to remember though is that as you bet more, you play against more experience players, some players have been members since November 2005. All of the money you come across in Moola is supported completely by advertising and don't worry if you lose all of your pennies, Moola is nice enough to give you a free penny for watching an ad.

Now you might be asking how they could afford to pay people to play video games and the answer is ... advertising. This has been the model for many new internet businesses. In addition to traditional text adds, Moola also makes money from video advertisements. When you want to play a game, Moola serves up an ad and you are required to correctly answer a question about what you saw. All of the times I've played, the commercials have been from YellowPages, Orbitz, or Dell. Requiring the user to answer a question about the advert really forces you to watch the commercial and since then I haven't been able to get these companies out of my mind. Once you finish the ad-quiz, Moola searches its network for others who have bet the same amount that you have and match you to a competitor.

Right now the website has two games, Gold Rush and Ro-Sham-Bo-Fu, both developed for Moola exclusively. Gold Rush is a 2-player game in which both players bet on gold pieces to amount a larger pile of gold than your competitor. Ro-Sham-Bo-Fu is a twist on the Rock-Paper-Scissors game we all played as kids. The winner gets your money so place your bets carefully. Moola says that they plan to roll out more games as the service grows and it seems logical that they want to get other game developers to showcase their games on Moola.

Since Moola is currently in public Beta, the service is available by invite only. There are two ways to get an invite to Moola. The first way is to submit your information on Moola.com and when they expand the service they will send you an invite, this is how I got my invitation. The other way is to get a member of Moola to send you an invite. My username is nanoguy and if you're interested in an invitation leave a comment in this post, I still have a few left.

Part of the benefit of inviting members is the multi-tiered referral network that is built into Moola. When you refer a user, you get 4% of any money they cash out for a year. If that person refers someone else, you get 3% of what they cash out for the next year, and so on. This can work to your benefit if you invite the right people because four percent of 10 million is $400,000. That much green would surely help pay off some student bills.

Moola is a good idea that could become very popular if done the right way. We'll just have to wait and see if the people behind this are able to pull it off. For now the real test is if they can keep our interest for more than 5 seconds, they've got mine.

Moola like every other company in the digital world maintains a blog where you can read news related to Moola's development and progress. In addition to the TechCrunch article on Moola, I have come across a bunch of other articles on Moola:

As always, let me know what you think of Moola and if you've got anything new and interesting that should be covered here. Now go play for pennies and don't come back until you've got 10 million dollars!