Monday, July 6, 2009

Death of the Desktop: Has it Been Greatly Exaggerated?

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Vol. 9, #78 - Jul 7, 2009 - Issue #386

 Death of the Desktop: Has it Been Greatly Exaggerated?

  1. Editor's Corner
    • Death of the Desktop: Has it Been Greatly Exaggerated?
    • Follow-up: Managing all that Power
    • Quotes of the Week
  2. Cool Tools
    • Tools We Think You Shouldn't Be Without
  3. News, Hints, Tips and Tricks
    • XP SP3 can corrupt TIFF images
    • Will Microsoft offer a "family package deal" for Windows 7?
    • Grand Central becomes Google Voice - but still not available to the public
    • Vote for "President of the Internet"
  4. How To: Using XP Features
    • How to set power options so you won't have to enter a password when XP resumes from Standby
  5. XP Security News
    • Critical Adobe Shockwave Flaw
  6. XP Question Corner
    • My links don't work in Outlook Express and Word
  7. XP Configuration and Troubleshooting
    • XP computer can't detect USB flash drive, external hard drive or iPod
    • Network connection icons are missing in XP
  8. Fav Links
    • This Week's Links We Like. Tips, Hints And Fun Stuff
  9. Product of the Week
    • ImTOO HD Video Converter - Convert to High Definition and Experience the Realism

Kiss Your Antivirus Bloatware Goodbye

We asked users of antivirus products what they didn't like about their AV software. They told us they are resource hogs and slowed their computer down. They told us that scan times took way too long, and that the AV software nagged them. In short, old-style AV software takes too much Memory and CPU. Time to switch to VIPRE! It gives you malware protection that combines antivirus, antispyware, anti-rootkit and other technologies into a seamless, tightly-integrated product. Even if you run "free" antivirus software, it hijacks 20% of your PC, so it's really not free at all! Get VIPRE now and see how fast your PC can really be:
http://www.wxpnews.com/3UDXV2/090707-VIPRE


 Editor's Corner

Death of the Desktop: Has it Been Greatly Exaggerated?

In last week's editorial regarding power management for computers, we noted that more than 60 percent of computers sold this year are predicted to be laptops. And an article in Information Week last month goes further, saying that "Plummeting desktop shipments in the first quarter dragged down the PC industry to its lowest level in at least seven years."
http://www.wxpnews.com/3UDXV2/090707-Desktop-Sales

In fact, more and more people I know are using portables as their primary or only computers. Some of them are buying the big "desktop replacements," behemoth laptops with 17 or 18 inch screens, a boatload of RAM, big (for a laptop) hard drives and expensive amenities such as Blu-ray players. Several 18 inchers were released last year just before Christmas:
http://www.wxpnews.com/3UDXV2/090707-Laptops-Compared

However, it seems that maybe there's a natural limit when it comes to the size people will buy when it comes to a computer that they're going to carry around with them. None of the major vendors has gone up to 19 inches yet. HP and Sony each offer one laptop model in the 18 inch size, whereas the largest on Dell's web site is 17 inches. Note that Dell did, however, release a massive 20 inch laptop a few years back, which came with its own built-in handle:
http://www.wxpnews.com/3UDXV2/090707-20-Inch-Laptop

Although the Dell M2010 was impressive looking, at over 18 lbs. it was just too hefty for most people to lug around. You won't find it for sale on the Dell site today, and although I did get a chance to see it "in person" at a Consumer Electronics Show (CES), I never knew anyone who actually bought one. Maybe it was the weight - or maybe it was the $3500 base price. Or maybe it was a combination of the two. We also heard that the battery life was understandably shabby - around two hours at best. There comes a point, after all, when bigger is no longer better; it's simply bigger.

A desktop replacement makes sense if a laptop is going to be your only computer, but it seems quite a few folks are getting by these days with a lot less. The hottest selling segment of the PC market is still in netbooks - tiny machines with skimpy specs that sell at low prices. And for someone whose only need for a computer is to check email, surf the web and create a word processing document now and then, a netbook may very well suffice.

On the other hand, for about the same price ($350-400) you pay for a netbook that has 1 GB of RAM, a 120-160 GB hard drive and a 1.6 GHz Atom processor, you can get a desktop computer with 4 GB of RAM, a 320 GB hard drive and a 2.3 GHz AMD processor (specifically, I compared an Acer Aspire One 751h and an HP p6100z; both were advertised for $349.99).

I know which one I'd buy if it were going to be my only computer - but then, I want a full-fledged computer. A recent study showed that many people who buy netbooks are dissatisfied with their purchases afterward - and that the biggest reason is that they were expecting the performance and functionality of a normal computer.
http://www.wxpnews.com/3UDXV2/090707-Netbooks

Whereas a desktop system will probably always give you more bang for the buck, it's not easy to pack up a tower (or even a mini tower) and monitor and take it on the road when you travel, although it's not impossible, either. My son recently took his Core i7 desktop with him to a chess tournament in St. Louis, but he was driving. It gets more complicated if you have to fly. This week he's in Spain for another tournament, and he has his laptop with him instead.

Just how important is portability, anyway? One could make the argument that it's actually less important to take a portable computer with you everywhere today than it was a few years ago, because so many of us have smart phones with data plans, which can perform many of the functions of a computer and fit in a pocket. If all you need to do is read email and surf the web, you can do that with a Windows Mobile phone like my Samsung Omnia, an iPhone, a Palm Pre, or one of several other high end phones running sophisticated smart phone operating systems.

In fact, my dream device is a handheld computer/cell phone the size of the Omnia/iPhone, with complete USB functionality (i.e. the ability to plug in a USB hub and attach a keyboard and mouse, even a USB hard drive) and a video out port to output to a regular monitor. And if someone would market small (12 inch or so) flat panel monitors with stands that fold down so you could easily slip them into carrying cases and take them with you, you wouldn't need a laptop/netbook for traveling at all.

Of course, most of us wouldn't want to have a phone as our only computer. But since we wouldn't need to buy a laptop or netbook, we could spend that money on a real (desktop) computer with much more powerful specs instead. If this scenario came to pass, I think desktop sales would start going up again, and the market share of portable computers (other than smart phones) would decline.

What do you think? Is the death of the desktop inevitable, or have the reports been greatly exaggerated? If you could only have one, would you buy a desktop with the power to do more and do it more quickly, or a laptop for its portability? If you had a smart phone that could be extended with an external monitor, keyboard, mouse and hard drive, would you give up the laptop/netbook altogether? Let us know your opinions! We encourage you to discuss this topic with other readers in our forums at
http://www.wxpnews.com/3UDXV2/090707-Forum-Discussion


Follow-up: Managing all that Power

In last week's editorial, we took up the topic of power usage and power management for PCs. Quite a few of you had something to say about it, both in email and in the forums. A common theme seemed to echo this post to the forum: "I haven't worked too much with the power management functions in XP. Most of them always caused me some sort of issue, so I automatically disabled them as part of my XP install process. On my old desktop, the system fan would power down, but the processor fan would remain at max RPM's when I put my computer into sleep, but Hibernation worked better (albeit only marginally). Sometimes however, it seemed to take longer to get the computer to wake from Hibernation than to start up as if it were fully shut down."

The post goes on to say: "My Vista laptop is about 6 months old. It came with a pre-downgrade install of XP, which I then dual booted with Vista Business. Vista works so well that I've customized my power settings to work as a "general use" laptop. It goes into sleep when I close the lid. When I press a button, it's ready and connected to my wi-fi within 5 seconds. With XP, my network adapter failed about 50% of the time, and I had to "repair" the network connection. I have never had a connection issue with Vista yet ... I think I would be more willing to shut down or hibernate my computers if my remote control software could wake a computer from Sleep. I know there are some programs that have "wake on lan" support, but I haven't found a good remote software that works in this manner. Until then, my home PC (Ubuntu 9.04 usually), home server (XP Pro), and office computer (Win7) stay on 24/7."

On the other hand, John G. had no problems with XP power management: "Since I've got XP, the power management has looked quite good. I've been a little surprised that the screensaver continues to sing away (audio out) however long the machine is left! (Default settings - not changed yet. I think I'll try cutting the screen dim delay to minimum, to see how irritating that is; I suspect not very.) I had problems with the various power down modes under Windows 9x, but - touch wood - haven't had any yet under 'XP." And Arnold S. agrees: "I am totally satisfied with the power usage on my Windows XP Pro. I am retired. If I expect to leave my home for the day or days, no question that I will turn off totally. As far as overnight when I am at home is concerned, I like Stand By much better than Hibernate."

Many of you said you turn off all the power management options, as you value performance over energy efficiency. Some of you expressed a desire to "go green" with power management but frustration with the inconvenience it can cause. Others noted that unless you have a large number of computers running, the savings on your electric bill don't add up to enough to offset those inconveniences. But several agreed with Tim G., who said, "Realistically we are not going to notice much of a savings on our electric bill. Unless your garage is a server farm. Collectively though if we all make some sort of effort it can only have a positive effect on the environment. No one ever said going green wasn't going to cost some green."

And some of you noted that certain components do use enough power to make a difference. Will B. wrote: "As to desktop power savings... I've seen a huge improvement to my monthly bill by getting rid of all the CRT screens in the house. Running LCDs has cut over $120 a month."

And Scott H. sums it up this way: "On all computers I sell and service, I turn the hibernation feature off as it has been a recurring problem on many computers coming out of 'hibernation' when the user comes back. Otherwise as long as power management can be customized to each users tastes, it is a welcome feature. Customization is the key because without it, people won't use energy saving features and will actively seek ways to disable it."

'Til next week,
Deb Shinder, Editor
feedback@wxpnews.com

PS: Did you know this newsletter has a sister publication called VistaNews? You can subscribe here, and tell your friends:
http://www.wxpnews.com/3UDXV2/090707-VistaNews

And for IT pros, there's our "big sister," WServer News, at
http://www.wxpnews.com/3UDXV2/090707-WServerNews

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Quotes of the Week

All things are difficult before they are easy. - Dr. Thomas Fuller (1654 - 1734)

Take calculated risks. That is quite different from being rash. - General George S. Patton (1885 - 1945)

Charm is a way of getting the answer yes without asking a clear question. - Albert Camus (1913 - 1960)


Keep The Bad Guys Out With The Sunbelt Personal Firewall

Why do I need a firewall? Together with antivirus and antispyware, a firewall is a "must" to protect your computer. PC Magazine gave the Sunbelt Personal Firewall a "Very Good" rating with 4 Stars and a conclusion of "good protection". Check out the Reviews on the site and it will be clear why you need the Sunbelt Personal Firewall to protect your PC. One good example: Unlike the Windows XP and Vista Firewall, you can tell the Sunbelt Personal Firewall to look carefully at the data leaving your browser, so that sensitive information like your credit card numbers, email address, bank account, social security number and PIN code do not get stolen by hackers!
http://www.wxpnews.com/3UDXV2/090707-SPF


 Cool Tools

Tools We Think You Shouldn't Be Without

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PC Tune-Up: 4 Easy Steps That Eliminate Frustrating Slow Computer Problems:
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Registry First Aid 7.0 - New Release Is Faster, Safer and Even More Effective
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Improve your English writing skills with WhiteSmoke a smarter solution for high quality writing. Download the free trial version here.
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Vista gets bogged down very quickly! Advanced Vista Optimizer will tweak Vista for Max performance. Easy to use:
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Backups? Why back up when you can sync? Simply replicate every piece of data to another drive in real-time. Set it and forget it.
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Spotmau PowerSuite Professional 2008: Fantastic! All the tools necessary to fix most common computer problems. Clone and backup too!
http://www.wxpnews.com/3UDXV2/090707-PowerSuite


 News, Hints, Tips and Tricks

XP SP3 can corrupt TIFF images

If you're running Windows XP with Service Pack 3 and you use the built-in Windows Fax and Picture Viewer for handling images, be careful about rotating pictures that are saved in the TIFF/TIF format. Microsoft is warning that the recompression used by the program can cause the file to become corrupted. You can read more about the problem here:
http://www.wxpnews.com/3UDXV2/090707-Corrupt-TIFF-Images

We recommend downloading and installing the free Windows Live Photo Gallery for image viewing and manipulation, as it is far more robust than Fax and Picture Viewer. You can get it here:
http://www.wxpnews.com/3UDXV2/090707-Live-Photo-Gallery


Will Microsoft offer a "family package deal" for Windows 7?

There has been much speculation about a "family pack" multi-licensing deal for Windows 7, and now the rumors have been given more credence by the discovery of a reference to such an arrangement in the Windows 7 End User License Agreement (EULA) for a leaked post-RC build of the OS. Based on this, you may be able to install Windows 7 Home Premium on three computers in the same household by buying a single license. Pricing is not known at this time of this writing, and indeed, Microsoft hasn't yet officially confirmed that the "family pack" will be offered, but we'll keep you apprised and you can find out more about what is currently known here:
http://www.wxpnews.com/3UDXV2/090707-Family-Pack


Grand Central becomes Google Voice - but still not available to the public

Since 2007, we've been waiting for Google's Grand Central to go live. It's a "grand" idea, all right: have your phone calls from all your phone numbers (home, work, cell) routed through a single number. It had some great features, like the ability to listen to voicemail messages while they were being recorded (like with old fashioned answering machines), creating personalized greetings for individual callers, and the ability to switch from one line to another (for example, from your cell phone to your home phone) during a call without interrupting the call. All that, and free to boot. The problem? It's been in beta testing for two years, and only a select number of testers could use it. Now Google has renamed the service Google Voice. It's still not available to the public, but they say it will be "soon." Meanwhile, to find out more about it from one of the Chosen Few, see
http://www.wxpnews.com/3UDXV2/090707-Google-Voice


Vote for "President of the Internet"

TechRepublic celebrated U.S. Independence Day by putting up a poll that asks readers to vote for their picks to be "President of the Internet." I was intrigued - and a little dismayed - by the slate of candidates to choose from, but I guess that just makes it more like a real presidential election . Write-in votes are accepted, though. If you want to make your voice heard on this issue, cast your vote at
http://www.wxpnews.com/3UDXV2/090707-President-of-the-Net


 How To: Using XP Features

How to set power options so you won't have to enter a password when XP resumes from Standby

A reader wrote that he had a question in regard to last week's article on power management. He uses Standby in XP to save energy, but whenever the computer wakes up from Standby, he's prompted to enter his password. He lives alone and doesn't feel this is necessary for security, and wants to know if there's a way to turn it off. Indeed there is and it's easy; you just need to configure the power options settings. Here's how:
  1. Click Start | Run, then type powercfg.cpl and type OK (or click the Power Options applet in Control Panel)
  2. In the Power Options dialog box, click the Advanced tab.
  3. Clear the checkbox that says "Prompt for password when computer resumes from standby."
  4. Click OK.


 XP Security News

Critical Adobe Shockwave Flaw

If you use Adobe Shockwave Player, as millions do, be sure to update the software to the latest version (11.5.0.600) to correct a security vulnerability that could allow an attacker to seize control of your computer. According to blogger Ryan Naraine, you should uninstall the earlier version of the Player, restart your computer, and then install the new version. Find out more here:
http://www.wxpnews.com/3UDXV2/090707-Shockwave-Flaw


 XP Question Corner

My links don't work in Outlook Express and Word

QUESTION:
Okay, here is an odd problem. All of a sudden, links don't work in Outlook Express email. The link looks like a "live" link but when I click it, nothing happens. Same thing in Word. I know it must be some security thing but it's really annoying. Can you help? - Sara J.

ANSWER:
This often occurs because a set of DLLs are not registered properly. You may be able to fix the problem by performing these steps:
  1. Click Start | Run.
  2. In the Run box, type: regsvr32 urlmon.dll
  3. Click OK.
  4. Repeat the same command for each of the following DLLs: mshtml.dll; shdocvw.dll; browseui.dll; msjava.dll


 XP Configuration and Troubleshooting

XP computer can't detect USB flash drive, external hard drive or iPod

If you attach a USB device such as a flash drive, hard drive or iPod music player to your XP computer and scan for hardware, but your computer doesn't detect the device and it doesn't appear in the My Computer folder, it may be because some registry keys are corrupted. If that's the problem, you can fix it easily by clicking the Fix It button or following the instructions for manually resolving the problem in KB 925196 at
http://www.wxpnews.com/3UDXV2/090707-USB-Flash-Drive-Error


Network connection icons are missing in XP

If your Windows XP computer is missing some or all of the icons in Network Connections, but networking still works, there are several possible culprits. You can find several methods for troubleshooting and resolving the problem in KB article 825826 at
http://www.wxpnews.com/3UDXV2/090707-Missing-Network-Connections


 Fav Links

This Week's Links We Like. Tips, Hints And Fun Stuff

Disclaimer: WXPNews does not assume and cannot be responsible for any liability related to you clicking any of these linked Web sites.


 Product of the Week

ImTOO HD Video Converter - Convert to High Definition and Experience the Realism

ImTOO HD Video Converter is a professional HD converter and HD encoder designed to convert among high definition videos like HD AVI, MKV, HD H.264/AVC, AVCHD (.mts, .m2ts), HD Quick Time, HD MPEG-4 (TS), HD ASF video. On top of this, it can also convert among audios and convert video to MP3, WMA, WAV, M4A, AAC, AC3 audio and picture, as well as make videos from pictures in JPG, GIF, PNG, and BMP. Now supports Multi-Core CPU's. The HD converter can also act as iPod/iPhone/Apple TV video converter, PSP/PS3/Xbox video converter to convert HD and SD videos to your PC, PS3, Xbox, PSP, iPod, iPhone and other portable devices. Download the free evaluation here.
http://www.wxpnews.com/3UDXV2/090707-ImTOO


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