Matt\’s Cuppa

My take on tea, technology, and our environment

Archive for the ‘Hardware’ Category

Toshiba M200 = Great Performance, Compact Form, No Crappy Vista!

Posted by telecommatt on November 25, 2007

Due in no small part to the fact that my wife wanted her laptop back, I’ve spent the weekend getting used to my brand new refurbished Toshiba Portege M200. The M200 is a tablet PC. It shipped with Microsoft Tablet XP. (None of this Vista crap! That was one of my criteria when. began my search.) Initially, I didn’t want to purchase a tradition laptop, and I didn’t think I’d find a tablet in my price range. I had just about settled on an Asus Eee PC.  Two things attracted me to the Asus. The first was its small form factor. My wife has 15″ screen and her laptop seems HUGE to me! After all, I’m used to carrying a Nokia Internet Tablet that fits comfortably in my pocket. At 7″ give or take, the Eee PC seemed like a decent compromise between the laptop and the Nokia. The other reason I was looking at the Eee was the minimalist approach to onboard software. The Eee PC runs a version of Linux OS, and although you can add additional software, everything you need to do your day to day stuff is pre-loaded. What’s not pre-loaded is all the bloatware you get when you bring home a machine running Windows. Something that I would really miss with the Eee is the fact that there is no touch- or pen-sensitive screen. That has been a priority for me since the days when I used an NEC VersaLite tablet PC. (I loved the form factor of that machine, a true slate with an attachable keyboard and mouse. Almost the exact size of a legal pad.)

I ended up finding the M200 refurbed for a fantastic price, and it was still a close call between the M200 and the Eee PC. I’m glad I went the way of the tablet in the end. With a 12″ screen, it’s large enough to fell comfortable, but small enough that I don’t feel overwhelmed. I definitely wouldn’t have wanted one any bigger! I still have to deal with a certain amount of Windows bloatware, but much less than if I’d purchased a machine with Vista. And, since it’s a tablet, I’ve got my pen-enabled screen that I thought I’d have to go without. I’m very happy with the machine and my wife’s happy to have her own machine back.


Almost every major gadget blog has a review posted about this machine, and I have no reason to add to the pile. Instead, I’ll limit myself to sharing just the reasons I, personally, am happy with this machine. The M200 is, I’m finding out, a very thoughtfully designed machine. This is especially true when it comes to features that make it easier to use with the screen flipped in tablet mode. With the screen flipped
 you have access to four customizable pen buttons, a four-way control for scrolling, a Crtl-Alt-Del-type key, and another button I haven’t figured out yet. The pen buttons are customizable per application and I’ve already begun to rely heavily on them for performing keyboard shortcut actions when I’m in pen mode.

The power, wifi power, and volume control are all on the outside of the machine, again, this is handy for pen mode. Being able to control the volume manually is a nice touch as well. The screen resolution is INSANE! I’m not looking at the specs right now, but it puts every other laptop I’ve worked on to shame. While this makes it a bit harder to read the smaller text, it does amazing things with picture quality and pen precision. And there’s a quick keyboard shortcut to change to a more standard resolution.

 I also really like the placement of, well, just about everything. The power cord remains out of the way in keyboard and pen modes. I love having the four-way control on the right side of the tablet screen. Since I’m a lefty, this means that I can pen with one hand and scroll with the other.

 There have been a few concerns about the quality of the body, especially the underside, but, forsakes, just take care of the thing! It’s not titanium, but it’s not glass either! Similar misgivings have come from the fact that the M200 does not ship with an optical drive. This is strictly a BYOCDROM affair. Since there are open USB ports and an open PCMCIA slot, this didn’t concern me too much.Although, since there is no built in drive, it would have been nice if Toshiba had put a repair partition onboard.

 I have zero complaints about the hardware so far. My version of benchmarking consists of seeing how it handles certain RPG’S I have on hand. As long as I can play Morrowind, I’m generally happy. I did add an additional GB of RAM to the 512 MB that was installed. It now loads so fast I can’t see the boot sequence, which also makes me happy.

 One of the most exciting things about this machine is the impact it is likely to make on my blogging. I can now blog by hand. If I can write it, draw it, or highlight it, I can put it into a blog post. And, of course, this post is mostly hand written.  But with  some screen capture software, a good paint program, and some imagination, it becomes just mind-bogglingly amazing how many cool things I can put together for an internet audience! I’ve already got a few ideas I want to try out, but I’d like to hear your ideas, too. How can a tablet PC change the way I blog? What can I do now that I couldn’t do on my wife’s laptop?

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Matt’s Cuppa Interviews Andy McCaskey of Slashdot Review Podcast

Posted by telecommatt on July 5, 2007

People I know clear their schedules so they can follow American Idol or The Amazing Race. For me, it’s Andy McCaskey’s Slashdot Review podcast. I knew I was hooked the very first episode I heard. McCaskey’s podcast highlights top stories on Digg, Slashdot, and Reddit, and points out one interesting YouTube video each day. And somehow he does all this in about ten minutes! In a recent episode, McCaskey mentioned that he was traveling, and podcasting from his hotel room. He does such a excellent job that, had he not mentioned that anything was different, I never would have known.

McCaskey made the time to answer a few of my questions about how he takes his show on the road. He included some great information regarding the equipment and software that he uses now and what he plans on moving to in the future. He also talked a bit about how he decides what stories to talk about. Like most great bloggers and podcasters, McCaskey always keeps his audience in mind.

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# Tell me a little about how you manage to stay on top of your news when you’re on the road.

I use the RSS feeds from each of the primary sources – Slashdot, Digg and Reddit as well as some searches that I have converted to RSS feeds. On the selection of YouTube materials, I really appreciate the efforts of listeners to recommend material, and help from SDR News “Video Scout” – David Gilson in the UK. David has been a tremendous help locating and filtering YouTube for interesting material.

# Do you work between multiple PC’s, and if so, what do you do to make sure you have everything you need from one when you’re working from another?

I am in the process of moving the entire operation to the MacBook – but right now have the production split between a Toshiba laptop and the Mac. Add in a third laptop from the company and it makes for a slow security check at the airport. I have only had to do that once. I use so that I can work on copy on both machines.

# How long does it usually take you to produce an episode?

About three hours – depending upon how much background reading I do. When I go out for a week, I try to prepare the postings (YouTube selection and Daily Comments) in advance and leave them in draft form on WordPress. When traveling on business, you need to get out of the evening’s social event quickly. I can usually get back to the room by 10:00pm (although that is rugged on the west coast since you will be up until about 4:00AM Eastern) . Sure cuts down on the temptation to have a few more drinks at business dinners!

# Do you have any favorite applications or tools that you use in regards to your podcast?

I use Propaganda as my primary editor and mp3 encoder. For several years I used Audacity, but find I can edit faster in Propaganda. I used id3Tagit to add mp3 info and then Filezilla for FTP. I will be shifting over to the Mac, but will probably use Parallels and the Windows apps for a while. I have been looking at Ubercaster and it is really impressive – I will probably shift to that in the next few months. I use the Gigavox Levelator for pre-processing of .wav files on the PC.

# How do you decide what stories to cover, and does being on the road make this more difficult?

I try to select a variety of stories and remove some of the anti-Microsoft slant from Slashdot and the overtly political from Reddit, unless the political has a technology impact or angle. Since most of my audience is mid-career professionals, I will generally select with that demographic in mind. On the road, the limitation is the amount of reading you can do from the feed and the original source pages each feed item leads you to.

# Is there anything that you wish you knew before you started your podcast that would have made things easier, especially relating to taking things with you on the road?

It took me about two years to settle on the BeyerDynamic DT290 headset with pop filter screen for my mobile rig– it helps tremendously keeping constant mic distance and helping with echo in various hotel rooms. You need the Edirol UA25 interface with the Mac to run it in directly. I generally record into a Marantz 671 digital recorder and then use the USB cable to bring the .wav files into either the Mac or the PC.

I learn a lot when I’m listening to Slashdot Review, and not just about the current buzz on the blogoshere. As I talk to more and more people about how producing a podcast can help drive their business, I often find myself thinking back on McCaskey’s show. I can say, “Did you hear how he did this?” or “Do you see how he always does this first?” And the people I’m talking to, people who have never produced a podcast, will say, “Yeah, I get it.” I think that is a sign of a successful podcast!

It’s always good to have a role model, even if you feel like you’re proficient enough on your own. One of the things that draws me to McCaskey’s podcast is just that. In my mind there are a few things that define an effective podcast, especially if you’re using it to drive business:

  • Consistency: Whether you produce your podcast once a day, once a week, or once a month, it needs to be done regularly so that your listeners know when to expect the next episode. If you produce a show whenever you remember, you’ll be speaking to empty space. No one will know when to tune in, so they won’t. Be consistent, be regular.
  • Length: In my opinion, a shorter show is a better show. Ten to fifteen minutes is perfect. Why? Because people have short attention spans and short memories. If you want your listeners to remember something, say it and stop talking. Give them the opportunity to digest, then tell them more in the next show. Also, you’ll find that many (most?) people just don’t have time to sit and listen to 45 or 60 minutes of you talking. Fifteen minutes is a manageable block of time. You may find that your show lengthens naturally. If this happens, let it happen, but don’t force it.
  • Organization: Do your audience a favor and present things in the same order from show to show. See if it’s possible to organize yourself in such a way that you can break your show into smaller chunks of related content. Then string together these chunks in the same order for each show. For example, you might start every show with a quote and a brief discussion about it, and follow that by answering questions listeners have emailed you. With recognizable patterns like this, your listeners’ brains can focus on what you are saying instead of how you are saying it.
  • Audience: This seems like it would be a no-brainer, but it’s not. McCaskey pointed out that his audience was mid-career professionals. He tailors his show to that demographic. It’s tough to remember that your show is for them and not you. You may have something important to say, but saying it to the wrong crowd is worse than not saying it at all. Always know who you are addressing. One exercise that I like is to imagine someone who is in your target audience. Give them as much detail as possible, hair color, eye color, gender, clothing, shoes, even how they are sitting or standing. Then, put together a show that your imaginary person would want to listen to. When you record your show, speak to that imaginary person like they’re right there in the studio with you. Don’t ever do a show without that person next to you.

As you can see, an effective podcast takes preparation, practice, patience, and persistence. I love the fact that you can listen to McCaskey’s Slashdot Review and see all these things in action. He makes a great role-model for any would-be podcaster. If you don’t already, I encourage you to invest the time to listen to Slashdot Review. McCaskey offers up a valuable learning experience and, as an added bonus, you get to hear the best of Slashdot, Digg, and Reddit, all in about ten minutes.

Posted in Hardware, Interviews, Podcasts/Podcasting | 1 Comment »

ZINK: Printing Without Ink (TreeHugger)

Posted by telecommatt on March 8, 2007

ZINK: Printing Without Ink (TreeHugger)

A company called ZINK recently demonstrated a new way of printing that does not require ink (see video). Unlike the existing technologies that use thermal printheads to transfer color to paper, the new media has the color embedded in it,

This is a great product with a lot of potential! It’s really aimed a photo printing. You’d probably never print your sales report on this stuff. Still, those photo ink cartridges use a ton of ink. If you’re an amateur photographer, you’re going through dozens of ink cartridges a year. Wouldn’t it be better for everyone involved (meaning the whole global ecosystem thing, not just the buyers and sellers) if you could just purchase the photo paper with the ink already there? Sounds like the watercolor books I got as a kid where you just dipped your brush in water and the paint was already on the page. That’s pretty much what happens here, except with Zink it’s heat that’s applied to color crystals. Cool, I never got to play with color crystals as a kid!

Posted in Green, Hardware, Technology | Leave a Comment »

Samsung Q2 UMPC revealed! – Engadget

Posted by telecommatt on March 7, 2007

Samsung Q2 UMPC revealed! – Engadget

OMGOMGOMGOMG!!!! This is my dream gadget! I’m totally into the mobile computing thing, hence my little Nokia 770, but this is where mobile computing has been going for years! I’d dearly love to try this gem side by side with Sony’s new Viao. These two machines prove to the world that you can fit the power of a full size PC in your hand without sacrificing usability. Check out this post off Engadget – they’ve even got a sweet little gallery of sneak preview pics. Excuse me while I wipe the dro0l from my keyboard…

Posted in Hardware, Mobile, Nokia770, OMG! | Leave a Comment »

EPA looks to increase computer efficiency – Top Stories

Posted by telecommatt on February 22, 2007

EPA looks to increase computer efficiency – Top Stories

Two percent of total energy consumption in the nation goes to keeping its 180 million computers humming, according to EPA estimates. The energy necessary to power that many computers running will generate more than 84 billion tons of carbon dioxide annually, according to a study by Massachusetts-based Tufts University’s Climate Initiative, a global warming studies program.

According to the study, a single computer running around the clock pumps 1,500 pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Ouch! I never realized that being a geek had so much an affect on my carbon footprint! Not to mention, I work in a call center environment, so lets take that 1500 pounds of CO2 and multiply that a few hundred times, shall we? In the next few years, larger companies will probably purchase new, energy-efficient machines that will help some, but what happens to their older not-energy-efficient ones? These often find their way into schools, small companies, even homes as refurbs or tax write-offs. Better than ending up on a landfill, to be sure, but it makes one realize that just because we stop using an inefficient product doesn’t mean that the product has stopped being inefficient. We will be seeing these machines chug out 1500 pounds of CO2 for years to come!

Posted in Environment, Hardware | Leave a Comment »

Most Annoying Update Ever

Posted by telecommatt on October 24, 2006

Alright, this is definitely going to be filed under WTF! I so tired of this that I’m resorting to bloggerbashing a company that I until recently thought was pretty cool people. Story: I recently reformatted my machine. I got all the major stuff squared away (, Photofiltre, Firefox, etc) and began installing the peripherals. Backup drive, photo printer, and the rest went nice and smooth. Then comes the HP 1410 All-in-One. Insert drivers disk, connect printer, detect drivers, yada-yada. Then it asks if I want to check for software updates. And I made the mistake of hitting “yes.” It printed fine at this point, and I still (doh!) hit “yes.” That was 5 days ago. Evidently, in the year I’ve had this printer, there have been over 8 million updates put out by HP. Why? Not sure. It still prints the same. It has yet to do anything like cook dinner for me or greet me at the door when I come home. The first software update somehow whacked the registry entry for iTunes. Reinstall iTunes, restart the computer, problem solved, 7,999,999,999 updates to go. Here is where I get annoyed. Each update makes you confirm that it has been installed by clicking “OK” when the “Install Completed” window pops up. Unfortunately, I do not live at my PC and I get up to do other things sometimes. And for the past 4 days, whenever I’ve wanted to work, I’ve had to hit “OK” to close the annoying window that tells me that yet another update has completed and remind my machine every few minutes that, no, now is not a good time to restart. Not to mention that the whole update process zaps most of my available memory. Seriously, is this really necesary?? Does my printer really do anything that much cooler than it did when I bought it?? Thank you, HP, for trumping Microsoft on the most annoying update I’ve ever had to do!!

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Closer to the Digital Divide

Posted by telecommatt on September 29, 2006

Mini Linux PC breaks $100 barrier

Taiwanese integrator E-Way Technology Systems is shipping a tiny, 200MHz x86-compatible mini PC for $99, in single quantities. The TU-40 is passively cooled, comes with 128MB oI think that’s pretty sweet. I know a lot of people who have done things like Peace Corps who could have done so many great things for the people they came to help if they had something like this available. It’s truly amazing what one PC and internet access can do for an entire village.

Posted in Hardware, Technology | Leave a Comment »