Peace on Earth and Discounts For All.

Tick-Tock!  Black Friday is just a few short days away, and someone out there is contemplating the purchase of a laptop, desktop or tablet.  Which do you pick?  How do you decide?

First off, erase your perceptions.  Business class Lenovo and Dell systems are, overall, very well built systems.  They’re also pricey, and well outside the price range you’re going to find at Black Friday.  Why so pricey?  They cost more but are made of, as Snapple would say, “better stuff”.  Motherboard vendors are locked throughout the duration of the product run, and parts and pieces are picked for quality *and* low cost.  While businesses are purchasing Dell Latitude/Optiplex or Lenovo ThinkPad/ThinkCentre, consumers purchase (and save) via the Inspiron or IdeaPad/IdeaCentre line of systems.  (Dell uses a single name for the consumer laptop and desktop line.)

So, how does one decide what laptop or desktop to purchase?  (If you’re the instant gratification type that just wants to grab something from the Black Friday fliers, skip the next two paragraphs.)

First you need to put together a no-BS assessment of how you plan on using your device.  Desktops are easy: Productivity, Production, or Play?  Will you be running standard office style apps, editing/producing movies, music or videos, or racking up body count via Battlefield 4?  Each step costs more than the previous but, for the most part, the “Battlefield” PC will do an excellent job of handling productivity or production work.

Laptops are a little more finicky, and solid set.  What that means is, a desktop can be upgraded or tweaked should some of your needs change; with a laptop what you buy is what you’re stuck with for the duration.  Productivity and production are the two areas of focus, but you’ll also need to consider things like screen size, storage space and whether or not an optical drive is still a necessity to you.  Once you’ve decided on your needs, it’s time to research.

Researching a broad spectrum of computer options can be a little daunting.  Your favorite search engine can help a little, but the signal to noise ratio can be a little overwhelming.  Amazon ends up being my first stop, but any multi-vendor retailer will do (Staples, Rakuten, etc).  Plug in the exact model number of the device you’re looking at, and check the user reviews.  Two immediate metrics are how many stars it has (0-5) and how many reviews it has.  Then dig into the reviews, starting with the bad ones first.  Keep in mind that some people don’t understand how reviews work so go ahead and throw out the reviews that are angry with a process or experience with the supplier (“My package arrived a day late!  Therefore this laptop gets ONE STAR!) and focus on the reviews where people are discussing issues or concerns that might be important to you.  (The screen is too small, the fonts look too fuzzy, it didn’t work on arrival, etc.)  Scan *ALL* the reviews looking for hints on service from the vendor.  You may have a problem someday (this goes double for laptops or tablets), how does the manufacturer handle it?  For example, ASUS is reported to make the most reliable systems on the market, but guess who also has the worst customer support when one of them fails?

Before moving on to Tablets, I should clarify that Windows based tablet devices fall under the laptop category for this discussion.  They’re nearly interchangeable with exception to two key features.  If you’re using a Windows Tablet (or convertible laptop design), look for stylus support and palm rejection.  Stylus support means it supports a high quality pen input, and palm rejection means it ignores your hand while you’re writing on the device.

For ARM (Advanced RISC Machine) tablets (Apple and Android) read on…

How do you purchase a tablet?  That’s actually a little trickier than it sounds.  Did you know that Android is the most popular tablet operating system?  Did you also know that the most popular tablet manufacturer doesn’t run Android?  (Those answers also apply to smartphones.)  This is where hands-on is key.  Visit a brick and mortar store and spend some time test driving the different interfaces.  I highly, HIGHLY recommend that you don’t purchase anything online that you haven’t physically held and operated.  Once you see something you like, jump back up a couple of paragraphs and start the review/research process.

For fun I bought a $35 Android tablet.
I would use it as a paperweight, if it weren’t insulting to the paper.

In the tablet market, budget is not your friend, but research is.  Also keep in mind your audience.  Ease of use is key when dragging Grandma into the digital age.

If you must press me for recommendations, start your search with Apple or the Google Nexus line of tablets.

And under no circumstances should you buy a Microsoft Surface RT device.  You’ve been warned.

Happy Hunting!

When Candy Canes and Computers Collide…

Did you receive a new PC/Laptop for home?  Here’s a couple of tips…

1.        Does your new system have an excessive amount of “extras” loaded on it?  There’s a good possibility that it might be slowing down your new rig and there’s a 100% chance it’s at least taking up disk space.  Let these folks help you out:

2.       Do you want to move iTunes from your old machine to the new one?

a.      On your old PC, go to File –> Library –> Organize Library –> Consolidate Files

b.      Exit iTunes and copy your iTunes folder (should be in ‘My Music’ or possibly ‘My Documents’) to an external drive (or public share on your new computer).

c.       If you won’t be using iTunes on the old PC, launch iTunes again, go into the iTunes Store and select “Deauthorize This PC”.

d.      On your new PC, install iTunes.  Close it.

e.      Copy your old iTunes folder from your external drive/netshare to the location created by your new iTunes install.

f.        Hold down the SHIFT key and double click the iTunes Icon.  You’ll be prompted to select an iTunes library, chose the one you just copied over. (The file name ends in .itl)

3.       *INSTALL ANTI-VIRUS SOFTWARE*  Years of use and abuse for being the biggest target on the planet has finally paid off.  Microsoft makes an excellent (and free) product called Security Essentials.  You can download it from

4.       If your PC has an option for creating “Factory Restore” discs, do so.  If nothing else, you’ll thank yourself for it when it comes time to sell this machine a few years down the road. (You’ll thank yourself even sooner if your hard drive dies.)

5.       This is also a good time to inspect your backup options.  If you have a large external HDD (check your stocking, maybe Santa put one there), configure Task Scheduler to automatically run the System Image Backup every “x” number of days. (I do it the last day of every month.)  System Image will allow you to restore your system to 100% (from the last backup) should you experience a catastrophic failure.

Did Santa stuff your stocking with upgrades for a PC you have already?

1.       Did you get an SSD?  If so, make sure Disk Defragmenter has been turned off. (Click the Schedule button, and uncheck the “Automatic” box).  SSD’s don’t need to be defragged, and it can shorten its life.

2.       New video card?  Don’t bother installing the drivers that shipped with it, they were old before your video card made it out of Santa’s Workshop.  Visit the manufacturer’s website to download the latest and greatest drivers. (Luckily, AMD and nVidia’s site allow you to navigate to the drivers pretty easily with an 800×600 display.

3.       External Hard Drive?  If you’re using Windows, I recommend formatting it to NTFS.  Fat32 would work for most applications, but if you end up with a file that is larger 4gb in size, Fat32 can’t save it (Video and backup files are liable to be where you’d hit this limitations.  In the corporate world, we run into this with Virtual Machine .vmdk files.)  Also, NTFS formatting will allow you to enable BitLocker-To-Go, a pretty sweet way to secure your external drive’s data.  **HOWEVER** if you plan on using your external drive to transfer files back and forth between a PC and a Mac, you’ll need to format it Fat32.  While the Mac can read NTFS partitions, it cannot write to them.

4.        If you found a new monitor under the tree, and you’re using Vista or Windows 7, type “calibrate color display” into the search window.  This interactive wizard helps you fine tune your display settings to match your personal taste.  Along those same lines is “adjust ClearType text”, which assists you in tweaking font properties.  If your new monitor has such wicked cool resolution your old eyes are straining to see the screen, a trip to “display” (in the search box) will allow you to adjust your overall graphic interface to 125% or 150% of its current setting.  Also, a quick trip to Windows Update (type “check for updates” in the search box) might be in order, as some monitors have drivers that automatically tweak some of the more obscure monitor settings (like DPI or refresh rate).

Merry Christmas, Y’all!

Hey, man! Somebody stole your battery!

It’s the Christmas/Holiday season… things with batteries abound. Whether you’re buying something that came with pre-installed batteries, or breaking out last year’s battery powered holiday decorations, there are some things you should look out for.

If your item arrived with batteries, replace them ASAP. They’re cheap, and not as strong as “real” batteries. (Plus, if the item has a “try me” button, they’ve already been put through their paces.) If you don’t want to replace them (or it’s Christmas Eve and you TOTALLY forgot to buy some), at least take them out and inspect them for signs of leakage and/or corrosion.

Leakage/corrosion (usually with, but not limited to, older batteries) will appears as a clear liquid or a caked on crystalline looking powder*.

If they’ve leaked inside the item, use vinegar and q-tips to clean up the affected areas. When it makes contact, expect it to foam. Keep working the affected area until the “fizzing” stops.

If it looks like the metal areas that touch the battery have corroded or rusted, use something to scrub them down to restore a shiny metal surface. Try an Emery board, steel wool, pencil eraser… or a Dremel grinder if you’re *REALLY* motivated. (True story)

If you’re unable to fix the item, the larger battery manufactures offer warranties to replace or repair anything damaged by a defect in their batteries. (See below for a couple links)

Remember: this is bad stuff you’re dealing with. Flush immediately if it comes in contact with your skin… and don’t accidentally get it on your finger and rub your eye afterward… I have it on really good authority that it might hurt… a LOT.

Play safe out there, kids! (DURACELL BATTERY GUARANTEE – Bottom of the page) (#13)

* White on the negative side is zinc hydroxide
Pink on the positive side is manganese III oxide
Green is likely copper oxide, and white stuff elsewhere may be oxides of other metals used.

NAQ and Such

There are a couple of changes to the site.  LW Blue is gone from the main menu.  Most of its traffic comes in straight from the search engines, and my kids are getting old enough to wander in there on their own… so I hide it a little deeper.  If you need the link, email me.

Secondly, I’ve updated the NAQ, and added a couple of new entries.  The most popular being XP’s claim that it sees 4gb, while reality begs to differ.

Lester In The News ][

I tracked down another “Lester in the News” piece.  It’s actually a couple of quotes from a Durham Herald article (remember them?) on the very cool Mark Grady… a traffic guy that got the axe at G-105 during the great bloodletting of 1998. (Which resulted in Cosmo, Michelle the Slave Girl, Mark, and myself all being canned within a month of each other…. while the station was having its best book ever…. but I’m not bitter…. :-)

Check out Office With A View

Farewell Paw-Paw Bill

March 30, 1932-May 31, 2005
“He had white hair and a white beard separated by
smiling blue eyes that looked as though he had  seen
it all and decided that it was O.K. anyway.”
–Michael Caine

Former South Point Mayor dies at 73

SOUTH POINT – William Lee Fitzpatrick served the Village of South Point as mayor for more than 13 years – but those who knew him emphasize that the man served the community for his entire life.

Fitzpatrick, 73, died Tuesday after an extended battle with lung cancer. The local contractor who owned and operated Fitzpatrick Custom Homes for more than 30 years before retiring in 2000, lived his entire life in South Point, an area he loved immensely.

“He loved the people of South Point and truly enjoyed being mayor,” said his son, Charles David Fitzpatrick. “He was just a helper to anyone in need in the community.”

The elder Fitzpatrick, a retiree from Allied Chemical, served as the village’s mayor from 1962 to 1975, overseeing a variety of projects including adding the swimming pool and the sewer system expansion project. Fitzpatrick was honored in the 1974 edition of Who’s Who in Ohio.

But to Joy Lester, his girlfriend for the past 15 years, the man was more than just a dedicated public servant – he was a friend, a partner and a family man.

“He was the love of my life. He was so good to my children,” Lester said. “He was just always there. Apparently, he was just always there for a lot of people.”  –Michael Caldwell, The Ironton Tribune, Thursday, June 2nd, 2005