New Laptop

This morning the delivery company had the good mind to give the landline a try and we were going to town anyway and picked them up on the way. So after the jobs in town I came home and did the whole unboxing thing.

New Laptop Unboxing

I had a bit of an advantage in that there were two computers to unbox and set up. Cool, I can make mistakes on the wife’s and mine will be perfect (don’t tell her that). So I unboxed the “ruby red” version that Kate got, set hers up and got onto mine. No major dramas with hers at all.

Pictures are good and I took some, check out the whole unboxing there. The model that I purchased was a Dell Inspiron 1720, 2.4Ghz processor, 3 Gig of RAM, Audigy soundcard, NVIDIA 256mb 8600M GT video card and TV tuner. That’s the basics of it.

New Laptop Unboxing

I was expecting to have a laptop full of crapware, but to my surprise there was not much at all. The major one being IE and that was gone as quick as I could download Firefox. IE did have Google Toolbar, which is not a big deal. There is a trial of McAffee Security Center installed. Again not a big thing, I am actually giving it a try because it is there, seems to be doing the job and it is not as if it is Norton. Plus there was the usual stuff from Dell that you might expect and in fact you don’t have that much choice about. Again OK by me and not irreversible.

One thing I had to get used to was Vista. Now I feel kinda dirty saying this, but Vista has it’s good ponts. For example connecting wirelessly to the Internet was as easy as pie. The interface is pretty much XP but prettier. But there are some nice gems among the nice graphics. Such as uploading pictures from my camera. Again very easy and straight forward. I really do like the way that Vista handles images, having them sorted into dates and tags turns what used to be a complete mess into something actually useful. I have not found the UAC to be as annoying as I thought it would be either.

I have to admit that my bashing of Vista was unwarranted in the generalized fashion that was prone to doing. I said I would never get or use Vista. This time I was not given a choice. I am kinda glad that I had no choice. Sure Vista has issues but so does every operating system, the ones regarding Vista are not as bad as people would have you believe. Sorry but I am yet to find a “puke” factor to Vista. I still might and I’ll be the first to let you know.

One peripheral purchase that was a real winner was a Logitech V450 mouse. I still work faster with a mouse and I am using the trackpad as well. But this came in handy when I wanted to feel more at home on the laptop. Setting up was quick and easy, batteries, wireless USB and done in about 1 minute. Only one criticism is the hardness of the scroll wheel button, otherwise a real winner.

Well I am going to enjoy the blogging from bed that I will now be able to enjoy. I am pretty satisfied with Dell and the new laptops. More configuring tomorrow, no doubt that will go on for a week or so. Feel free to ask me anything about the laptop or Dell in the comments!

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Not a Good Week

Well I am back from the rebuild and you might be thinking, “damn that was a long time”. Well yes it was, if a re-install of Windows was all that I did. To cut a long story short; when I tried to reinstall XP the motherboard died. So that was a bit of an issue. What I have been doing is building my new PC from scratch, but I have a great new system and I love it. But that was not all that happened, here are the dramas that occurred this week in short:

  1. Motherboard died
  2. USB Hub died when I connected it to power
  3. Headphones disintegrated
  4. Microphone fell on the floor and died (had some help from one of the kids)

The motherboard dying was a no-brainer, new PC. Stupid trying to replace it as the technology has moved on and it was good to get current. The new PC is dual core Intel and is very zippy. Motherboard is a Gigabyte and has all the usual options. Although I lost the AGP slot, which means I had to give up my nVidia 256 graphics card. I am on internal graphics at the moment but I’ll get a card at some point. The RAM is 2 GB of DDR2 and is excellent. Everything loads fast and smooth. Standard DVD, CD drive and covers all the formats you would want. The hard drive is a 320 GB SATA Western Digital. The extra size is very handy and I don’t think that I’ll run out of room any time soon. Tack on an Audigy sound card and a Firewire card and that’s about it. No it is not a high end tricked out gaming machine, but that is not what I do. Plus I like my money in my pocket.

One thing that really ticked me off is the fact that the SATA drives do not come with a power cable. It seems that this issue falls into the same category as printers. They can’t decide which manufacturer’s responsibility it is to supply it; the motherboard company, the case company or the hard drive company. Me; I think that if you are forking out a couple of hundred bucks for a drive then they should be dishing out the gear you need to connect it.

The USB hub died for no apparent reason. After the build we were plugging in all the hardware and we could smell something electrical burning and pulled everything out. After some sniffing we found that it was the USB hub. Browned off because it was only about six months old! Can’t find the receipt… Got another one.

The headphones were on their way out anyway. Decided that since I was spending the college fund I would get a really decent set. I settled on a pair of Sennheiser HD 215’s. Absolutely love them! The sound is awesome and they are light. The cord is a spring type, but the kicker is that it is fully replaceable. I hate the spring type, it gets in the road all the time. Plus I like to be able to walk to the fridge. They cover the ear fully and block out about 80% of normal external sounds. The added comfort of the full ear type will be welcome for those long edits. The phones are not top of the line but I think they are a great middle of the road. Great quality but short of the high end $250+ variety.

The microphone thing… well. There was nothing wrong with my Shure PG48, until the youngest child decided to test the limits of the $200 dollar boom arm it is mounted on. He found the limit of the boom arm and the whole shebang went base over apex onto the floor. Don’t worry the fall of the boom was broken by the mic (the mic is actually the cheaper of the two items). The result was that the mic was buggered, it still “worked” but there were issues such as dead spots, muffling and a loss of dynamics. Que the purchase of one brand new mic to replace the one that was not quite 12 months old.

To top it all off the printer died tonight, the podcast was not fully uploaded to the FTP server and I am not sure what else can go wrong in actual fact. I know there are things much worse. I would rather not find out what they are.

Guts of the new PC

This is a photo of the internals of the new PC. We forgot to take progressive build shots. I spent ages on the cabling as the case has a perspex side and top. But I think the results are worth it.

Want to Know How to Podcast?

GGP Album Art SmallThe latest Global Geek went up today. Knightwise and myself put a lot of hard work into this one. It is the first special edition for the show. We were asked to do a show about how we put the show together. So we did.

This episode is a real behind the scenes look at the podcast. We cover all the on-line and off line applications that we use. The technology behind podcasting. Audio editing and hardware also get a look in. For a budding podcaster it is a valuable insight into podcasting and what it takes. Although I will bracket that with the fact that our show has been going a while now and we have upgraded most software and hardware from the “basics” to more advanced and powerful. So this is not a basic show in terms of what would be the minimum requirements.

Technically the show is a valuable resource for anyone including us. But it was created for many other reasons. We want to connect with our listeners. We genuinely appreciate them and the effort they make to listen to the show. We love hearing from them. Hopefully they will connect with us and feel that they are as much a part of the show and the community as we are.

Added to the complexities of the podcast is the fact that my co-host is literally a world away in Belgium. So we cover just what we do and how to overcome difficulties that arise due to the distance. Not to mention the time space continuum. But as you will hear it feels like Knightwise is next door.

There are some great sound clips included in the podcast. There is a snippet from the very first Global Geek. Wow what a difference in sound quality! It felt great to know that the show had developed and matured as much as it has. You also get a ear in on our pre-production meeting for the show and our sound check. Plus we have pictures on Flickr that we are going to add to through the week and we also made available our unedited show notes for the episode.

One of the coolest things we did for the show was to include a special surprise for the end. I am not going to give it away, just to say that it is a real laugh. I did not even tell Knightwise the secret, he found out just like you can. He had this to say about the show:

“I have tears streaming down my  face as a drive to work!!!!!! Tears with laughter!
You F*%kwitt must have spent all day editing that last bit together!!! It is bloody brilliant!!!!
The rest of the show is awesome! Fantastic job Dave, I absolutely love this podcast!!!
I can see our listeners bubbling with laughter at the end!”

We are our harshest critics. Seriously.

Most of all I think that Knightwise and I have realized that through this journey of podcasting together that we are more friends than co-hosts. I value his friendship over the podcast. I am truly grateful of his friendship and that he joined the show.

Knightwise is a true friend, you don’t get many of them in life. Life is fickle, fleeting and crap at playing fair. Friends tip the balance.

So waste no time have a listen. Head over to the Global Geek Podcast Blog for the Show Notes and subscription details. The music that was used on the show is also available for free download from the Show Notes on the blog. DRM free and legal.

But you can also listen here, please vist the blog and be a part of the show with us!

Zune and Podcasting

Zune LogoIt appears that the new portable player Zune™, will support podcasting. However, podcasting functionality will not be ready at launch. In other words it will not ship supporting podcasting. I am not sure what not ready means but iTunes and iPods have been doing it for a while and Microsoft seem to be a bit slow on the uptake.

I see the Zune and it’s failure to support podcasting as a real drawback to the purchase of one on release. Sure I host and produce a podcast so I might be a tad peeved that the medium has been neglected and not made a priority. But that said the Zune has been on the drawing board for quite some time. In addition the fact that iTunes supports subscribing to podcasts, I thought would be a motivator for the Zune developers to ship with podcasting support. That addition would certainly make the Zune more attractive to the early adopter who already subscribes to podcasts.

Within the current technological and web climate I think that podcasting should have been a consideration. I do not buy the;

“it’s that podcasting wasn’t done in time.”

line that was given by David Caulton on his blog Zunester.

They have indeed had time to make ready podcasting support, had they made it something to ensure was ready. So that leaves a couple of conclusions that can be made. Did they purposely neglect podcasting support in order to promote the “Zune Marketplace“? Most podcasts are free. Sure that is speculation as well. But what better way to promote your new player than having the feature of being able to play free, quality content.

Perhaps Microsoft thought that there was not the interest in podcasts for it to be included. However, I am somewhat of a geek and I have next to no music on my mp3 player. What do I have? 99% podcasts. Who is it then that might consider purchasing a Zune? I would argure that the demographic will be early adopters, traditionally geeks (most of my work-mates have never heard of a Zune). What does the average geek listen to as well as music? Podcasts. I want a bloody mp3 player that supports podcasting, otherwise as far as I am concerned what is going to be the point? It seems very straightforward to me that they needed to support podcasting on release. Otherwise the Zune offers nothing to me that I don’t already have.

Or is it just the fact that Microsoft just don’t get podcasting as Scoble states in his summary of the Zune Vs the iPod:

“Podcasting. Apple gets this trend, Microsoft doesn’t.”

Microsoft are demonstrating by their actions that they don’t get it in my opinion. You only have to go as far as the newly released Windows Media Player 11 to see that; no it does not support podcasting. If Microsoft “gets” podcasting it would have been an included feature in their new player. A very short look at iTunes and Winamp tells you what the trends are, both support podcasting. I do not understand why Microsoft are saying they get it when by their exclusion they are doing something totally different to the most of the major offerings out there and therefore essentially creating an “un-feature”. I am no businessman but I know what I would have been doing.

It has been voiced that aversion to podcasting is the fact that podcasting has “pod” in the name. While I too had the brief thought that podcasts required an iPod in order to listen to them, it did not last long. In addition I think that this type of thinking has somewhat turned around recently. I did get into podcasting early, when it was new to most people. This line of thinking has been debunked by a comment made on Zunester by the author David Caulton who states:

“We’ll ship podcasting, and we’ll call it “Podcasting” when we do.”

Authors Comment on the Post: “Scoble’s Post

What I find the most remarkable is the response to the response that the developers of the Zune have made in response to not having podcasting support:

“… it’s important to separate things we don’t have at launch from comments about Zune’s long term prospects.”

So, what, we don’t have podcast support at the moment but don’t worry it will be in the future? That is like selling a house and saying, “Oh, yeah… no walls… don’t worry they will be there after you buy the house.”. In my opinion that then means that they are shipping an unfinished product. Why do I want an unfinished product? I don’t, that means that I will wait to purchase. If ever. With rock solid and massive support for iTunes and the iPod would you not want a finished product that was able to compete on equal footing with the competition? At present how is that possible when the two products do not compare?

This does damage the long term prospects of the Zune. When launching a new product you want a mass uptake of that product that creates a loyal user base for the long term. You want people to choose your product over the competition. I am standing in the shop confronted with a Zune and an iPod, one supports podcasts and one does not. No brainer, I am going to choose the one that has the best features, regardless of cost. I am also going to think that the salesman saying, “don’t worry it will have “X” feature later” is full of shit. That may not be true for all users but it most certainly is for me.

This is not about playing .mp3 files. An mp3 player should be .mp3 compatible and the Zune is. Sure you can download and transfer your podcasts to a Zune or an iPod.

This is about making technology and media more accessible to the user. As I have said many times before podcasting is not an easy concept for new users to grasp. They do not understand RSS feeds or what an enclosure is. How then are they to make sense of podcasting unless software and hardware developers make it easier for them to access and enjoy? I will continue to struggle to market our podcast. Right after that I will attempt to explain to people how to get it.

Not everybody has or wants iTunes. Sure it is a “one click” process given you have iTunes and the right link. But that is not choice. I do not have iTunes or an iPod, It should be a one click process with Windows Media Player (or other software) and a Zune to synchronise with. Mind you I don’t use Windows Media Player either. Microsoft really need to take a look at what they doing and how they are doing it in order to be a competitive market leader in portable media solutions, that is not to say their new offering won’t be successful, it probably will be but the uptake would be quicker had they looked at the big picture.