Saturday, 31 January 2009
Web 2.0, where to next?

I have read some interesting articles about where we are going after web 2.0. Some people have said that higher CPU and greater broadband speed will see us moving to more rich applications based on the likes of Silverlight and Flash.

I for one am a bit sceptical on this predication. Not that I don't think this will happen but just how this all works for us. For example I know Flash and Silverlight look very nice when applied to a site (correctly). But and this is a big but, I believe machines are not quite there yet. You are probably thinking "what on Earth does he mean?". Well let me put it this way, we have all encountered Vista and some of us Linux at some stage we know the machines to run Vista need to be pretty powerful. These pretty powerful machines generate a lot of heat so we need to put some nice big fans in them to cool them down. If you don't have the higher spec fans on your new Vista capable machine, it usually ends up sounding like a small aircraft taking off. Now take that same technology and apply it to a Vista capable laptop, can you remember the last time you could sit with a laptop on your lap for any reasonable amount of time? It gets pretty hot doesn't it? Now think about the last time your fired up a Flash or Silverlight rich website on your laptop, after a while the fan on your laptop started getting rather noisy and if you were working off the battery on your machine it probably started losing power a lot faster.

My point is the faster machines have become - the noisier, hotter and more energy they have started to use. Basically there is a cost for that power provided by the higher end CPU. If you cast your mind back to Windows 95 or even Windows 3 the machines running these OS's were a lot quieter you could also place the laptops on your lap and not suffer a heat injury!  When I visit websites I love websites that just use just HTML, why do I love HTML? Because it is simple it doesn't take large amounts of CPU power to process, my machine stays relatively quiet and I don't have to wait for annoying Flash and Silverlight applications to load. Don't get me wrong I think Flash and Silverlight have their place and that is for small nuggets of information not for the whole page, as so many people wrongly use it for in my opinion. I like sites I can also use from my mobile device or from my laptop on 3G. 3G may be fast but at times it can be very slow especially when you are in London at rush hour with hundred of other commuters doing the same thing. Believe me you don't thank the makers of Flash intensive websites when you are on a slow connection and need to get to the information on a site in a hurry.

What I am trying to say is why can't we use technology that doesn't require the masses of processing speed and stick to simple applications that are well programmed so as not to require the large amounts of CPU usage and can transport the information needed over lower bandwidth for them to perform? At the end of the day I am after the information and if I get a richer experience based on the clever usage of keys bit of technology while keeping the need for processing speed and bandwidth low surely that is best for all? Just because we have more bandwidth doesn't mean we have to use all of it, shouldn't we use it only if we need to when providing information to Internet applications and not because we can? The same goes with processing power, if Internet applications were done more in this way we would end up with happier machines that didn't have to dedicate all of their processing speed just to one hungry application.

posted on Saturday, 31 January 2009 13:18:32 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

 Sunday, 25 January 2009
My new laptop

Advent If you have read my previous article you would gather I've been looking around for some computer related bargains. A few weekends ago I picked up a Netbook, what is a "Netbook"? I hear you ask. A netbook is a new name given to a certain size of laptop. They are basically ultra portable laptops and because of their size they are usually only 10inchs wide. What is even better is that they are designed to use as little power as possible and as efficiently as possible using processors such as Intel's new Atom processor basically the smallest processor Intel have ever developed. You would have thought with such a processor that you would be limited to the likes of Windows Mobile PC or a cut down copy of Linux, but the Atom can support Windows XP! Now I know Windows XP is supposed to be on its way out (Microsoft said so!), but one thing the Atom processor does is run Windows XP incredibly well. It is the ideal operating system for such a machine which probably would have ground to a holt if Vista was installed. My larger more powerful work laptop usually does if I'm not careful! Although its worth noting that Microsoft are releasing a new version of Windows for netbooks, lets wait and see how good it is..

Anyway back to my Netbook. Its an Advent 4213 with built in 3G, web cam, 160gig hard disk (yes you heard right), built in SD card reader, bluetooth, wifi and1 gig of RAM. That's what neat little package, I thought the 1gig of RAM would have been an issue but the machine hardly uses any of the memory especially when using the likes of Internet Explorer, Remote Desktop and  Windows Live Mail. Granted the machine comes installed with IE6 which I am reluctant to upgrade based on the dire performance issues I have had with it on previous XP installs. The machine hibernates and restarts like a dream in under a minute which is pretty impressive. The built in webcam has excellent quality for Skype calls something this machine does very well. The most impressive feature and the main reason I bought the laptop was for its size (so I could use it on a crowded rush hour train) and the built in 3G modem. Using the 3G modem was simplicity itself, you plug your SIM card into the slot found under the battery compartment boot up and connect to the Internet with the preinstalled connection software. The only issues I have had has really been with the "3" 3G network when it goes down to 2G in low coverage areas. This lower coverage area is actually the Orange network which 3 have a contract with. The Orange 2G network is painfully slow I would imagine that they give 3 customers lower priority over their own customers. just a thought.

My Advent fulfils all of my needs so well that I have now left my work laptop at work because it is so heavy and just use my Advent to connect over VPN or to do work on the train.  

posted on Sunday, 25 January 2009 15:28:01 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

Dell Inspiron 1525 running slow with Vista

I purchased a Dell Inspiron 1525 some time ago with Windows Vista preinstalled for my wife. However after a year the machine was constantly maxing out its CPU. I tried everything, from installing all the Microsoft performance patches running virus scans and spy ware scans with every program I knew. I even searched Dell forums and installed the latest hardware drivers to make sure. I eventually installed Unbuntu Linux on the machine in dual boot mode to make sure it was not the machine causing the problem, and it wasn't the machines fault at all. Unbuntu barely used 5% cpu occasionally it would jump to 100% when using Firefox but other than that the machine was very usable.

The solution
So the problem must have been Vista, so I continued to monitor processes especially the svchost process and check what services this "catch all" windows service was running. Eventually I detected one that kept on coming up all the time was Windows Defender (MsMpEng.exe). I decided to disable Windows Defender by going into the control panel opening up Windows Defender selecting options and disabling it. Like magic the machine was down to 5% CPU usage! Opening FireFox, IE and Outlook only used short bursts of high CPU before bringing the CPU down to 10% to 34% usage. Which was far better than the 100% constant CPU usage.

The clash
One thing I did note though was that AVG anti virus and Windows Defender seem to be in a constant struggle with each other. Its as if Windows Defender checks a file then AVG goes who that file was touched let me just go and check it quickly and then Defender does the same which may have been causing a vicious circle of CPU usage. All I know now is that its better to be have some common sense when surfing the Internet and installing applications on your machine. Anti Virus software if you keep it up to date should be all you need to keep your machine safe. I know some people may require more protection for their machines but there is probably a better product than Windows Defender out there that doesn't stop you using your machine.

Process Tamer
Another program I have found to have been of great use to me is Process Tamer. This little app sits in the system tray and stops any one process on your machine from using more than 100% cpu usage.

I hope this little article is of use to people!

posted on Sunday, 25 January 2009 15:10:21 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

 Monday, 19 January 2009
RBS Meltdown

If you read my last article where I predicted the banks must be in a lot more trouble, more trouble than we could ever imagine. If you have seen the headlines this evening you would probably have noticed I was spot on! It looks like RBS's 45 billion pound debt (the GDP of Croatia!) has basically rendered the bank "technically insolvent" according to several news sources. What I find disturbing is RBS has warned that there could be worse to come,l just how deep does the rabbit hole go?

If the government is bailing out banks like its no tomorrow they are obviously going to need more cash, how much longer will it be until the government starts printing more money to cover these debts?

posted on Monday, 19 January 2009 20:17:19 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

 Friday, 16 January 2009
Just how badly are the banks affected?

Many companies are going bust because they are unable to secure the lines of lending they used to because of the so called credit crunch. Many of these businesses aren't new some of them have been around for more than a decade.

It got me thinking, banks make a lot of money off the interest rates they charge people when they lend them money. At the end of the day if a bank isn't lending money it probably isn't much of a bank it needs some way of making money to pay its savers interest. If the banks are being so cautious even now at lending to each other even after the government has sunk substantial sums of cash into the system it makes you think we don't really have the bigger picture right now.

It makes you wonder if there is a secret amongst the banks that heaven forbid they are well and truly scr*wed or the debt is a magnitude worse than we ever expected. So much so that if it was revealed to the public the mass panic alone would cause a national disaster and the break down of the economy.  Another part of me wonders if they are spending all this time looking at all of their past investments so they can discover just how badly they have been exposed because they don't even no themselves. It stands to reason if you're a bank with this type of exposure you know your fellow banks probably aren't any better off and you sure as hell aren't going to lend them money to cover their exposure if there is a chance you may not get it back yourselves. To the politicians it has become a case of necessity it probably doesn't matter to them anymore if what the banks did was wrong all they are probably focusing on now is to stop it pulling the whole economy down with it at any cost. This may lead to the printing of extra money and the devaluation of our precious pound to levels we may never have seen before. 

posted on Friday, 16 January 2009 21:15:26 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

 Sunday, 04 January 2009
My PCWorld bargains

Its true if you shop and haggle on the high street you're bound to pickup a bargain especially concerning the current economic client the consumer has more power over price than they have ever had before.

Wandering around PCWorld my wife and I saw a real bargain of a PC in their clearance section.  This section isn't looked at much by the normal customer who is more attracted to the all dancing all dazzling display models. The clearance sections consists of ex display models or machines with missing bits all wrapped in bubble wrap. Usually these machines are identical to the display area but are missing box's, cables and software and discounted by as much as 50% in some cases. We found one such example with one of PCWorlds own brand PC's which usually retail for £220 but had been discounted to £185 because it didn't have a box or cables.

We got my father who was wandering around some other shops and had been keen to get another PC after his old one had given up the ghost. I had to rush my father through as someone else had seen the same bargain in store and was waiting for me to put the PC down so they could get the bargain. However I was unable to get it to the till without the sheet of paper containing its price which seemed to be missing so it proved to be a real conundrum getting a price as all of the staff were suddenly busy. Eventually we got the price sheet for the computer and it had been brought down to £129! Nice! It was rather easy to get the machine setup for dad, after I had discovered PCWorld still had the demo OS installed which I didn't have the password for. Not a problem there is a setup menu just before the OS boots which will reinstall it from scratch for you with Windows Vista. Its a pretty fast PC which my father is rather happy with after I set him up with 3 Mobile Broadband. We told my parents in-law and they also wanted one! Now I have ordered them a £185 version online. The thing I love about ordering a PC online is you don't get put through the PCWorld staff sales pitch trying to sell you after sales support. I don't need it but maybe some people do, in my mind its just a waste of money because I know how to recover or tune a PC. The staff treat you as though you are nuts not taking it because it appears essential in their minds. I am guessing it might be to some people, but for now I am saving money.

posted on Sunday, 04 January 2009 16:32:53 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]