Monday, December 1, 2014

Further Computer Notes

A recent addition to my computer arsenal here is a new iRulu 7" tablet. 

I must preface by telling you that I had grown quite addicted to our 2nd generation Kindle reader that was increasingly showing its age and finally, with the help of one of our kitties, bit the dust. 
It was charging on the dresser and someone of our menagerie decided to see if it would bounce. The screen did not survive. For so many of these devices, a broken screen means the thing is toast. To replace the screen on one of these older Kindles is about tantamount to buying a new one, so I was looking for alternatives. I do use the Kindle app on my iPhone quite often, and I do like it a lot. However, the small screen can be tiring at times. I wanted another option.

Being on a budget, and admittedly a cheapskate, I went looking. A new paper- white Kindle, comparable to the dead one, runs about $70. Used ones were only a little cheaper on Craigslist and elsewhere. That would have been adequate, but I was really pining for a Kindle Fire, with its color display and ability to watch movies, et. Those run for roughly twice as much. I looked around for a similarly sized tablet computer and found on Ebay an iRulu 7" Android tablet for about $35. I saw a reasonably good review on iTunes about it and decided to order two so my lady could have one as well. You can see what I got in the above picture. The tablet came with a handy keyboard/cover as well which I thought made it well worth the price. Especially since I was getting two tablets for the price of one basic Kindle.

The tablet accepts a micro SD card to add storage, so I immediately ordered a 32 gb card for it. It only has 8 gb out of the box. I also ordered a different adapter cable. As you can see in the first pic above, it came with a white adapter cable to attach the keyboard that sticks out at an awkward right angle from the tablet. I found a different black one online for a couple of bucks that attaches along the top and looks much better. 
I like the looks much better now. 

I like the iRulu tablet. It's a fun little device. There are drawbacks. This is my first Android device, so I immediately loaded it up with free apps from the Google store. Some of the apps have the capability of being moved to the micro SD card which saves onboard storage, however, the more apps you have the slower everything operates. The tablet can be pretty slow at times. I pared back the apps until things started running better. 

I decided to not use the tablet for social media like Facebook, etc. It was pretty slow on those things and my iPhone is much faster and usually more handy. After some frustration I decided to reserve the tablet for mainly what I got it for, reading ebooks and the occasional movie. With some strategies it works quite well for that. 

One of the apps I got quite soon was Clean Master. It clears out junk files and other clutter that compromises storage and memory on the device. It has a one-touch optimizing function that does a quick job of clearing the memory cache and other things. Each time I use the tablet I run the Clean Master, make sure other apps aren't engaged, and I'm good to go. Otherwise, the Kindle app takes a very long time to load and videos will not play. 

I'm not adverse to devices taking a bit to get going, but one thing that needs improvement is a better indicator that the tablet is updating itself. I've learned to turn it on well in advance of when I want to use it so that it has time to do whatever updates it needs before I need it. Obviously those things need to be done, but it really gives you  little notice of what it is doing. A statement of "updating device" and perhaps a status bar would be helpful. Basically it just starts off slow and eventually gets faster. I use the wifi to sync and read online, but put it in airplane mode to read offline. The battery lasts a bit longer that way, and takes a bit of load off my wifi setup at home.

Battery life isn't great. I can't watch a full movie without recharging, but sometimes running a movie with the charger plugged in gives rise to heating problems. It's a balancing act. I can get about two evenings of reading done before a recharge, but I basically tend to recharge each morning.

The screen becomes fairly illegible in direct light, such as outside in the sun. This is common for backlit screens and a point in the favor of the standard Kindles with their e-ink screens. However, the majority of my reading is done indoors, and in fact late at night in bed, so the ability to see the screen without a separate reading light is a big plus for me, and less likely to disturb my partner. The same can be said, of course for reading on the iPhone, but the increased tablet screen size is much better.

The onboard speaker is fairly bad. Much like the old transistor radios of the '60's. I have earphones, or a separate bullet speaker that works quite well with it.  The keyboard/cover works well. I sometimes have to unplug and replug the adapter for the tablet to recognize that it is attached. I suspect a delicate adapter plug on the tablet.

The second tablet? My lady Cat Dancing finds it much too slow in starting and has decided she prefers reading on her iPhone. It is much more convenient for the reading she does anyway.

What's the summary? If you don't mind a few minor annoyances it's a good buy. Don't plan on doing any major computing on it, but it really isn't intended for that anyway. For email, ebooks and online reading, and minimal surfing it's not bad at all. I do miss the 3G capability the old Kindle had. I'm glad I got it, though the second unit was perhaps a waste. I might dedicate it to videos and the first strictly to reading, if that streamlines things.

Have a Happy!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Uphill. In the snow. Both ways.

And so. The final tally in the ongoing Linux project here at Casa RainCrow. To expand on my previous post, on the newish Dell Inspiron laptop from my brother, I installed Linux Mint 16 Cinnamon after installing a new 750 Gig hard drive. It's working very well.  I have both Wine, with a front end of Play On Linux, plus a Virtual Machine with Windows XP, to handle the various things that I'm too stubborn to give up but that refuse to run on Linux, like my CAD programs, yWriter5, Personal Ancestral File (which is now an orphan program anyway), and a few other things. I did have to change up a few ways in which I did things, but nothing serious.I still tweak here and there, though I haven't started twerking yet. Overall I'm happy with it.

On the legendary desktop computer, the fairly old HP Compaq tower system. I finally settled on another Linux Mint 16, the Mate version. It's in a dual boot setup with the Windows XP that was already on the unit. As I did in the Virtual Machine setup in the laptop, I disabled the internet capabilities of the XP system and rely on the Linux for internet linkup. The XP is stand alone. As I said before, I don't really use this one much, but it's there when I need it. It may still have a role to play.

On my old Dell Latitude D600, I finally put in Zorin OS, which is another variation of Linux. It was the more friendly flavor of the few releases that was able to run on the hardware. As it was, I still had to jump through a few hoops to get it to "see" the wireless adapter, but I did it finally. It also works well. I configured it to be useful out in the woodworking shop with copies of most of our patterns, PDF files of many of the different manuals and how-to books we have, and it also has CAD on it. There is a good possibility that we may also use it for music in the shop, but I haven't set that part up yet. For the time being it lives in its own drawer in a workbench until needed, to keep it out of the dust, etc. It also has it's own little desk, a cute and perfect for the site item I found at Goodwill the other day for $10. Just like this one!

For my use it will sit on a designated area of my workbench. I'm already wishing I had another one for the house! Just to be clear, I'm referring to the desk here!

Cat Dancing is still using my more recent Dell, the Vista laptop for her activities. Nothing changed there, except I left myself on as a user and added her so we could both use the iTunes/iPhone linkup capabilities. That's one thing that's missing in Linux, the capability to update iPhones with iTunes, etc.

The older Dell 620 that Michael has, Cat's previous machine that I converted to Linux Mint 16 Cinnamon, blew the video card not long after he started using it. We tossed around getting a new card for it, at a minimum of $60 or so, or just getting another used laptop for him. In the end he found another D620 at the Goodwill Computer Store for $10, on the off chance the mother board and video card was still good. They call it a "scraptop" since Goodwill salvages whatever is easily removable, like the battery and hard drive, etc. and sells the remainder as a parts machine. We lucked out! We swapped over the missing parts from the old D620, our hard drive, battery, and nothing at first. Then I figured that the power switch was bad, it is part of the keyboard. We swapped that out and voila! it worked! Michael is online again!

So, that's where it all stands! Come see us again!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Computer Update - Rather Switch, etc.

A short time back I posted about my travails in converting my XP computers to Linux to avoid having to buy new ones or pay a lot to upgrade the equipment to a newer Windows version. I have to report it is going very well. I got some good advice from a mentor, plus did some more research and I'm well on my way.

As can be seen in the picture above, I chose Linux Mint 16 to go with. We did have some changes. My brother gave me a much newer laptop, a Dell Inspiron of his that the hard drive died on. I was able to salvage his data and I put a new, larger drive in it. It was originally a Windows 7 machine, but I just installed Mint 16 from the beginning, everything went great. I am using a program called Wine to run some of my Windows programs, as well as what is called a Virtual Machine which lets you install XP or another OS "inside" the Linux, so that the programs think they are running in a Windows XP machine. I'm trying out a couple of different things there with good success. There are a few wrinkles, but I'm working them out.

My step-son's computer totally died before I could update it, so I passed along my Vista laptop to my partner, and put Linux on her previous laptop for him to use. A small learning curve, but he's doing okay with it I think.

I went with a slightly less technically demanding version of Mint, version 9, for my oldest Dell laptop, the Latitude 600. Still having issues getting the wireless adapter to work, but making strides on that. That will soon be my shop computer. My desktop also got a Linux 9, LXDE version, dual boot. It is still booting in XP or I can choose Linux. The newer laptop, though, is doing everything I need right now, so I haven't really put much further effort into the desktop. I will make it work, though, even if I'm not using it!