Article 78: Black Friday 2013

Black Friday 2013 (dun dun dun)

Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, back to the Modern Nerd blog. The week is upon us, Black Friday looms on the horizon. I will be letting you guys in on some really cool places to find new toys, either for yourself, or for Christmas gifts. Let’s dive right into it, because there’s a lot to cover.

Pros Don’t Wait in Line

I am a very big believer in the holiday of Thanksgiving. I thoroughly enjoy the time I get to spend with my family and loved ones, and for that reason I don’t go out on Thursday night. That said, there are deals that cannot be ignored, but the easiest way to get the best stuff with the least fighting through crowds is to go online.

There are quite a few retailers that are offering great deals with their online marketplaces, and don’t require you to stand in line anywhere, so that part of the seasonal deal-hunting is totally optional for you. Best Buy, Amazon, Walmart, Target, and many others have their deals posted online.

Compendium Sites are the Best Place to Start

Consumerism has pushed Black Friday to a level that nobody had imagined it would be 10 years ago. Now, there are sites that pop up to compile all of the best deals in one place. I recommend Black Friday ads, with can be found at www.bfads.net .

Amazon, Best Buy, Dell, Kohl’s, Sears, Target, and Walmart all have coupon codes posted to give deep discounts. There are limits to the amounts that you can use, which are all posted on the individual sites. For example, Best Buy allows 5 coupon codes per order.

Online Retailers Compete with Physical Stores

Electronics are sold most efficiently by online retailers that don’t have secondary shipping to retail stores, so you are going to find really good deals online first. Stores that on exist online for electronics like newegg.com, tigerdirect.com, and amazon.com are likely to save you more than the physical stores on average.

Further Resources

Preparation is key here. In between your planning to spend time with friends and family, take some time to educate yourself on the best places to go and the limited hours you have to take advantage. Deals are gone when they are gone, and you are not likely to be able to get rain check vouchers.

Check out www.blackfriday.com/faq for even more resources. They are another compendium site to add to your deal-finding. Good luck and good hunting.

Thanks for reading. Check out the Modern Nerd blog alongside all of the content for the Computer Fixer, and Like our page on Facebook to get all of the updates to our content. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!  

Article 77: Mechanical Keyboard Review Part 2

Cooler Master CMStorm QuickFire Ultimate Mechanical Keyboard Review

Hey ladies and gentlemen, welcome back to the Modern Nerd blog. Last week I unboxed and started to use my brand-new keyboard, which I have been excited about getting for the last few weeks. My initial reactions have turned into initial impressions, and I would like to describe the differences in the use of a regular keyboard and the mechanical version, so you can get an idea if this style is something that you would consider for yourself.

Backlighting or Room Lighting?

I mentioned that the lights are bright. It’s really apparent when you crank it up to max, in a dark room it could wreck your night vision. However, the keyboard has 5 different brightness settings, so you can see the keys very clearly no matter what your light levels are. The keys themselves are printed in very large letters, which is fantastic for visibility. My last keyboard was a Logitech gaming setup, and while I enjoyed it while I had it, the letters would be harder to read at a glance if my eyes weren’t up to the task. The two modes that the QuickFire comes with, steady and pulsing, are pleasing and easy to read. The last mode, which illuminatesd only the WASD and Arrow keys, is slightly goofy, but you don’t have to use it. If I were playing a game that used them exclusively I could see the logic, but when you use WASD for directional controls, it’s the surrounding keys you need to see to access secondary functions. It’s not a feature I see myself using much.
Verdict: The LED’s are awesome and don’t feel skimped on one bit. Very positive.

Typing Experience, Computer Nirvana

Wow. Yes, this blog is going to be another gushing review of a mechanical system, but it is in no way undeserved. I feel like the keyboard is trying to make me a faster typist. I never played attention to the typing classes in school, and just through the everyday use of computers have taught myself to type. I rarely look at a conventional keyboard, but laptops are different, because they don’t feel as natural.

The flat-style keyboard is to a conventional as the conventional is to a mechanical. You don’t buy the clicky keyboard because you want to hear it all the time, that’s just a nice perk. You buy it because it will teach your muscle memory how to get faster. Pressing the keys half-way registers in your brain and you move on quickly. I wanted the keyboard primarily for games, but the typing is fantastic, and I’m wholeheartedly sold.

Mistakes have increased in my typing because I feel myself typing faster. I think that given the time to fully adjust to the new feel, they will return to the normal level, with the words per minute up significantly.
Verdict: I expected good, and I got fantastic. Completely satisfied.

Slight Paranoia,  AKA Drawbacks

There are not many things that I don’t like, but I wouldn’t be doing you guys any justice by leaving them out. There is no wrist-rest with this system, and I have become used to it, so I may get a replacement that fits with the new keyboard. The other thing that is slightly annoying is the care I have to have when having food at my desk.

A normal keyboard can take a fair amount of punishment in the liquid spills department. You can even put it in the dishwasher and get it clean; provided you don’t LCD screens or indicators on your keyboard (Can you tell I’m a gamer?). It’s true. However, mechanicals will die if you spill your coffee or water or anything on them. The switches do not do well with spills. So I am being very careful, bordering on paranoia around my new toy. Just food for thought if you have had to clean coffee off of your desk once or twice.

Thanks for reading everyone. My experience with this keyboard has been great. I am really happy with it and it has earned my stamp of approval. The Modern Nerd blog returns every week at the Computer Fixer’s page on Facebook or you can subscribe to our mailing list. 

Article 76: Mechanical Keyboard Review Part 1

CMStorm QuickFire Ultimate Mechanical Gaming Keyboard

Hey there ladies and gentlemen, welcome back to another edition of the Modern Nerd blog. This week I have the pleasure of introducing to you my newest toy. I decided to make the move to a Mechanical keyboard after hearing all of the positive things about them, namely the improved typing experience, and the tactile feedback of being able to press the key halfway to actuate it. I just unboxed and installed this piece of hardware, and I must say that I am thoroughly impressed so far. This will be the first of a two-parter blog testing out the CM Storm keyboard, today going over features and first impressions, and next week I will be back with a much more detailed review on my full thoughts.

Click Click Click

There is a noticeable audible difference in the keys. I personally love it, I think that it pays wonderful homage to arcade games of old and the first keyboard that I ever used, back before keyboards got cheaper and were mass produced to be functionally the same as remote controls. Every single key has a mechanical switch that is rated for over 50 million presses. I don’t think that my brain has a good enough concept of what 50 million presses of a key is, no matter how many vowels I type over the course of a normal college career. With a two year warranty, this thing should be a keyboard that lasts me for the forseeable future of my desktop computer.

Backlit and Beautiful

The CMStorm Ultimate is a black keyboard, and the LED lighting underneath comes in several colors depending on the mechanical switches that you get with it. The first thing that I noticed however, is that it’s BRIGHT. I have included the below picture to give you an idea of what I am talking about, but it is clear that no matter the time of day or lighting around my desk, I will always be able to see the keys. They have improved on the concept of a backlit keyboard very well, and with 5 different brightness settings there is very little chance that you wouldn’t be able to find one to suit your needs.

 

 

Function Key and Windows Lock Keys

The top row of keys doesn’t get much use during the normal session on the computer, unless you’re a StarCraft player. But this keyboard packs some functionality into that row, without adding to the space that it takes up on your desktop. The F1-F12 keys have LED controls, Media Controls for music and videos, and even a control setting for the speed that keys will repeat themselves when you leave the button pressed. The Windows Key can be turned off or on, with a special LED that indicates what mode the keyboard is currently in. These features are designed for the gamer that knows what they are doing,  but are practical to someone who just loves their computers, and if it’s something that you spend a large amount of time with each day, you should enjoy the experience as much as you can.

 

Thanks for reading. I will be finishing my testing of all of the features of this cool piece of tech, and give you my more informed opinion next week. Until then, stay tuned and happy computing! Follow the Computer Fixer’s Blog on Facebook or through our mailing list.

 

Article 75: iPad Air

iPad Air: Your Newest Reason to Camp Outside

 

 

Welcome back ladies and gentlemen, to the Modern Nerd blog. I was adventuring around the streets of Philadelphia this morning, and came across a throng of people outside the Apple store. Usually the store is always packed, but its not often that there is a line around the block. It turns out that this Friday, November 1,  is the launch date of the Apple iPad Air, the newest version of the popular tablet. I have not had the opportunity to beta-test one of these, but my curiosity led me to more research on it (without standing in line), and I have a list of reasons why you should be interested if you are in the market for a tablet. Read on!

 

Thinner, Lighter, Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger?

 

As Moore’s Law would indicate, our computing technology is getting smaller and more powerful at a very predictable rate. The latest iPad is one pound, 7.5 millimeters thin, and features the new A7 chip, which is built to take advantage of the new operating system. More on that in a minute. The latest version of Apple’s HD Retina display sits under the thinnest bezels ever, so your touchscreen never gets in the way of what you are trying to see. It is 9.7 inches, which is right in line with its older brothers. It is a seriously thin and light package, and is available with storage space from 16 GB to 128 GB, and all storage is on a super-fast solid state drive.

 

iOS7 and Air

 

If you are a computer guy, you will know the difference between a 32-bit architecture and a 64-bit one. If not, here’s what you need to know. On 32-bit systems there is a limit to the active memory that is smaller than the memory that we can use up with our latest apps, with videos and music, downloading and networking. iOS7 was made to be a 64-bit system, which all of the iPhones and iPads are now upgraded to. The difference is that with the A7 chipset, the 64-bit system is run to its fullest potential. Here is the biggest thing that you need to know: It’s faster. And faster is better.

 

App Store

 

The iPad is a great system to run all of your every-day internet needs, like email and videos, but it also has a bunch of apps that are included too. iPhoto, iMovie, GarageBand, Pages, and Numbers are all included to help you be more productive. There is also a reason why the Apple App Store is regarded as the best one, they are up to 470,000 apps to download through the Store.

 

The Air will run you somewhere between $475 and $800 depending on your storage space. There are some great deals that you can find online to get free shipping and coupons, with many different retailers trying to take advantage of the launch, so shop around.

 

Thanks for reading. Check out all of the Computer Fixer’s content on our blog, and Like our page on Facebook to get weekly updates and connect with us. 

 

Article 74: Leechblock

Leechblock (AKA How to Get Stuff Done)

Welcome back ladies and gentlemen, to another edition of the Modern Nerd. This week I have a cool productivity tool for you, designed to get stuff done. We’ve all been there. You are crunched for time, you have to finish something, but that pesky internet browser just keeps popping itself back up. The email, the social media, YouTube, there is always something more to do, right? Why would you want to go back to work when the Internet is happening right now?

All levity aside, there are a myriad of sites and apps that conspire to rob your work day of productivity. Now, the internet also has some tools to help you take some of it back. Whether you are hanging out at the library or working from your home desk, you can look over your own shoulder with Leechblock, a free extension for your Firefox browser.

Like a time-travelling you, who thanks you

Leechblock is an internet nanny. It takes a list of your favorite time-wasting sites and asks you how long you would like to block them for.  The app makes sure that a friendly reminder will pop up and tell you to get back to work. Now research, homework, projects, and reports get done.

You can set timeframes where the internet is off limits, allow yourself some break times, and set a password that is required to open and change settings to the blocker. There are some great features like setting specific days, setting custom lists of sites to block at different times, and customizing  how your browser treats the blocked pages in the history.

Not a Firefox Guy?

Well not to worry, my Chrome aficionados. Chrome’s Web Store has spawned a spinoff that was endorsed by the developers of LeechBlock after there was no other viable option for the Chrome platform. It is called Nanny for Google Chrome, and like Leechblock, is available for free.

Below is the website where Leechblock can be found. And the Modern Nerd would like to give a shoutout to the Art of Manliness blog, which introduced me to this tool last month. While I am out of college, I have passed this tip along to friends who still are, and I am considering making it part of my work regimen.

Thanks for reading everyone. Catch all of the latest from the Computer Fixer on Facebook and through our mailing list.

 

Article 73: Laptop Features at Home

Getting Laptop Features on your Desktop

Welcome back, ladies and gentlemen, to the Modern Nerd. After a brief hiatus to fight off a fever, I am back, and I want to give you some cool things to do to your desktop machine to give you laptop features. (Say what?) There are so many cool things that are integrated into the structures of your laptop that might not be standard on a desktop machine. The beauty of the desktop is the modular nature however, so you can add on pieces to give you all of the functionality that you need, and for less than you might think. Let’s take a closer look.

SD and Multimedia Card Readers

Laptops make it really easy on video cameras and digital cameras because of their built-in SD card readers. Desktop computers that are built from the ground up don’t usually have this feature, but here are a few tricks for getting around this. First, you can use your printer. Printers sometimes have SD card readers because of their ability to print directly, so you can access the data over a USB connection. This is a little bit slower than our other option though. You can purchase and install in your case, a multimedia reader to connect directly to the motherboard. This gives you a speedier option, gives the neatness of a click-in card reader, and if you are a typical desktop owner, all of your optical drive bays are not filled. Check out this example over on newegg.com.

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820223108

For only 20 bucks, this is a great deal and even gives you extra USB utility. For the tech-enlightened, this bay connects to the motherboard by a SATA or USB connection, and is powered with a MOLEX plug.

Wireless Internet and Bluetooth

Connecting a Bluetooth headset or phone to your laptop is a cinch right? Well the leap isn’t huge for the desktop machine either. Connecting a USB dongle that is not much larger than a flash drive, you can connect any Bluetooth-enabled peripherals.

Wireless internet is considered sacrilege by the hardcore gamer types, but if you have no other option to connect your desktop to the internet, then a wireless card might be the way to go. Wireless USB dongles are affordable and while they work, connecting an internal card will be more reliable. There are even dual-band options that are marketed especially for high-speed applications like video streaming and gaming.  Here are two reliable and affordable options on newegg.

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16833139027

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16833166076

 

Thanks for reading as always, ladies and gentlemen. Follow all of the updates to the Computer Fixer’s blog on Facebook or check out our mailing list. 

Article 72: Dumping Cable?

Is it time to dump the Cable Box?

Welcome back to the Modern Nerd ladies and gentlemen. To those who live their lives on the internet, this is not such a foreign concept, but to the masses you might call me crazy. I am crazy, but that isn’t the point. The point is a question, how much do you pay for cable? Whatever package you have, by whatever provider, it might be costing you too much.

I am not going to try to persuade anyone of anything this week, but this concept was introduced to me this week and I decided to give it some thought, and it is my pleasure to share my thoughts with you.

What do you actually watch?

If you keep up to date on the latest and greatest episodes of premium cable television because it makes for great conversations, then this might not persuade you of anything. But hear me out, as getting those shows for free online might not be as hard as you think. Networks like ShowTime, HBO, AMC, and more offer streaming of their shows from their site, some for free, some for a small fee. But if you halve your cable bill into internet only, you will be able to pick and choose the premium content you get, for less than the cost of a full cable subscription. So don’t fear, you can watch the end of Breaking Bad like the rest of the world without cable.

SmartTV’s can Stream as well as Watch

If you are a regular reader, then you know about all of the pieces of technology that can stream Netflix, Hulu, or other services to your television just as easily as you watch TV. DVD players, stream boxes, and SmartTV’s all offer services like this right now, for free. All you need is an internet connection and a subscription to your favorite media service.

But I watch Sports….

No longer is sports the defining factor about cable, as the NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL all offer premium subscriptions available to stream live or on demand, so you have more flexibility and more freedom to watch games on your own time. Football season is just not heating up, so I know that I would not be able to get through no cable without NFL Sunday Ticket. Even though as an example this subscription is around 50 dollars a month, that is not nearly as much  as a cable package that includes NFL RedZone or a package that allows me to watch ALL of the games.

Just another Point of View

I’m not advocating giving up your cable service. It really depends on your own watching habits and what you want to have available to you online or on TV. However, streaming content and internet services are finally giving us as consumers more options, which makes us all win. Thanks for reading. Check out our page on Facebook, and subscribe to the mailing list to get all of the Computer Fixer’s blog posts, including the Modern Nerd, which is updated every week.

Article 71: iOS7

Meet the New iPhone…

Hey everyone, welcome back to the Modern Nerd.  This week’s article got pushed to Friday so I would have a chance to download and test the new operating system from Apple on my iPhone. There are reasons why I like my phone, there are reasons why Apple frustrates the heck out of me, but they took a big step forward this week with their new updates to the iOS. Let’s take a look at some of their features and why you should take notice.

…Same as the Old iPhone.

iPhone did not add anything groundbreaking. Their cameras in front and back are still the same. They didn’t give any new apps that change the game, update their policies on open source apps, or create a fingerprint scanner that incriminates you to the NSA. (That meme needs to go away…)

What they did do was give the entire phone’s system a face-lift. It is pretty. I will not deny that the new look is fun and smooth. But JailBreak users have had all of these options for a really long time. Let me explain what I mean.

iPhone now has a control panel that allows one-button control of Wi-Fi, Airplane mode, Bluetooth, Do Not Disturb, Portrait Lock, Music, Brightness, Flashlight, Alarms, Calculator, and the Camera. It’s really a nice feature, but a third-party app from the JailBreak app store has had this for a year already. Their notification panel has greatly improved, but not in a way that changes everything.

Metro Styling

The apps have been simplified through the Home Screen, and switching between apps gives you a preview now, which is great for people who can see very well. In my personal opinion, the font will be very difficult for people who have less than 20-20 vision to see clearly. Thin text is good looking, but if you have a screen cover that blurs it a little, then the designing is lost to most users.

It’s about time… I guess.

There are some really nice things that they have done to improve the iPhone. Siri has a less irritating voice, the styling is fresh and clean, the built-in apps have been improved, but I am left with the feeling that all of these features are overdue and it takes away from the hype. JailBreaking my iPhone gave me most of this stuff, but it is nice to have it officially supported. iPhone is not going to get drastically better until open-source apps and third party restrictions are relaxed, but that is a different article, Apple is Apple. Thanks for reading. Check out the RSS Feed and Facebook page to get all of the Computer Fixer updates. 

Article 70: ShareMouse

Hey there tech users, welcome back the Computer Fixer’s Blog. Multi-Screen systems are often a staple of desktops, they allow for more surfaces to work on, and you can work more efficiently. But what about a multi-computer setup? Stay with me here, guys. If you have a laptop that you use on the road and a desktop you use at home, then you can combine them into one big powerhouse home office rig, with a nifty piece of software. Let’s have a look at your options to share your mouse and keyboard on this week’s Modern Nerd.

Laptop Mice and Keyboards

Your laptop is great on the road, right? But at home? Not so much. The keyboard is smaller, the touchpad is a pain, and sitting at a desk typing on a tiny screen can affect your posture the wrong way. Your desktop has the opposite problems. It’s set up just the way you like, but does it have all of the files and programs from your laptop? Sure cloud computing helps, but what if you only needed one keyboard and mouse to operate both systems?

ShareMouse

With the ShareMouse software, all you need to do is move your mouse from one screen to the next to share it seamlessly. You can drag and drop files, share the copy-and-paste clipboard, on up to 26 computers. All you have to do is download the client to every machine in y our setup, and the wizard will set everything up for you. Unlike other programs, the setup is all handed automatically, the only requirement being all computers are on the same network.

Try it for Free

http://www.keyboard-and-mouse-sharing.com/

Their site has all of the information that you need. The program also allows Macs to work together with PC’s, encrypts connections, and has been reviewed very highly by MacWorld and others. If you end up deciding to buy it, your license will never expire. Check out all of the features and FAQ’s on their site.

The Modern Nerd’s Review

After testing out this program for myself, I am rather pleased with it. The setup is very easy, and the program starts itself up when you start the computer up. The drag and drop feature is useful, but I find that I use the clipboard feature the most to share web links and work on documents between the two screens. The only other feature that I wish I had was the ability to pause it, because snapping windows to either side of the screen in Windows 7 and 8 is a feature that I use all of the time as well. When your mouse jumps to the other computer then there is a mental disconnect, as it is a feature that has been integrated into my muscle memory. All in all, I would definitely recommend this if you want to place your laptop on your desk and use them both with one keyboard and mouse. Try it for free and if you like it, then you can buy it. Thanks for reading, everyone. I’ll see you back here next week with the Modern Nerd’s content, updated every week at the Computer Fixer.

 

Article 69: Google Desktop Apps

Google Desktop Apps

Welcome back to the Modern Nerd ladies and gentlemen. I want to share something interesting that I found this week, a rare backtrack by the internet giant Google as they have just introduced apps that do not require an internet connection. Let’s have a closer look at what this might mean for you, and how you can take advantage of these free features.

Not Always Online

All laptops and smartphones that are released today have wireless internet, that much is very obvious. However, access from anywhere remains costly on data plans. Not everyone has or can afford it. Trains, car trips, and other travelling doesn’t give you access to the internet all the time or even reliably. If you have writing to do, or work that you are using the Google alternative to Office for, you don’t necessarily need the internet.

Don’t Need the Internet – Or Microsoft Office

Google is taking a shot at replacing the need to purchase Office, with apps like Docs, Slides, Sheets, and Scratchpad, a generic version of Word, PowerPoint and Excel respectively, and a Google version of the Notepad. If you don’t have a license for Microsoft Office and your need for their utilities is limited, then this might be right up your alley. Currently these apps are available for free online, and if you decide to install the Google Desktop program, you can use them offline and since the apps are written in internet languages, they will sync across your devices when you do reconnect to the internet.

Not Just for Chromebook

Google’s affordable version of a laptop in the Chromebook does not have installed programs or anything but a web browser, so their release of the desktop apps are targeted at Microsoft Windows and Apple OSX operating systems, as long as the Chrome browser is installed. If you use the Docs or other Google document functions for sharing, collaborating, or anything else, then the desktop will help you extend this functionality, and have I mentioned that it’s free yet?

 

Thanks for reading guys. If you need these programs for your computer, then give these apps a look. They are available now, just type desktop apps into your Google search. Check out the blog over at the Computer Fixer to get all of our content, updated every week. Like our page on Facebook or subscribe to the mailing list to get updates as they go live.