is reporting that USB 3.0specs have been sent out ot manufacturers so that they can begin working on incorporating it into new products.

USB, short for Universal Serial Bus, is how the majority of items such as scanners, printers, iPods and more connect to computers.  The current plugins are 2.0 and transfer data at a rate 480 mega bits a second, but the new 3.0 will transfer data at 4.8 giga bits a second, ten times the current transfer rate.  So, when it took me 5 and a 1/2 hours to load a 119 GB of music on to my iPod, it would now take somwere under and hour.

We are also supposed to see the new standard charge devices more efficiently and in a quicker time , with less energy waste.  Luckily it is also going to be backwards compatible, so your 2.0 devices will still plug into the 3.0 slots and work, but you won’t see the speeds and such.

You can go to the original article to read more of the details, but this is a great thing for computing, and something we’ve needing more and more with each passing day, and even more demands for data transfers.

Categories: General Computing Tips   

Last month I had to fly for the first time in four years, and I had forgotten how annoying the “take out your laptop for x-raying” could be.  Luckily those rules have been relaxed some as of today.

The new Transportation Security Administration rules only apply to certain styles of bags, you can see them pictured here to the right.  You can also read all of the new guidelines on the TSA site.  I am currently using an accordion style bag, but I am seriously going to look into a butterfly or trifold style.

My worries about this come from in 2004 my laptop got dropped a short distance when I took it out of its bag and it killed my battery just as I was boarding a plan to fly to Japan for 2 weeks of business.  That put a definite crimp in what I could do while there.  Yes, it could have happened anytime, anywhere, but taking your laptop out in a hectic environment like the security line, with people breathing down your neck to hurry up, and security people giving you suspicious looks, it is bound to be a place more prone to equipment damage.

So, frequent travelers should be sure to looking into these new bags, as they should speed up your time passing through security considerably.  The TSA agents still have the right to ask you to remove the laptop, but the number of instances should be reduced.

Categories: General Computing Tips, Opinion   

What exactly is an external hard drive, and why should you even ponder buying one?

Almost all computers come with a hard drive, this is where your program files get installed, Windows or Mac OS X run from here and so on. If you’ve ever opened Windows Explorer to go to your “C Drive”, then you have played with your hard drive. As this resides inside your computer, it is of course known as an “internal hard drive”. So, what is an external hard drive, and what can it do for you?

In simplest terms, and external hard drive is a hard drive contained in some sort of case and usually connecting to your computer via Universal Serial Bus (USB) or by Firewire.  It can act as a backup to your existing hard drive, additional storage, or can even sometimes be plugged into your network and used as a central storage device.

Now, as for why you would ever need one, well back up is a big one.  With an external drive, you can plug it in, back up your files, and then take it to a different location for safe keeping.  Or, yes, you can leave it attached to the computer, that choice is yours.  It will also allow you to transport a large qunatity of files from one computer to another quickly as you can just take the drive with you and plug it in to the other computer.

One of the main things I use one for is to store my large music collection, and I point my iTunes to that library of files.  This reduces wear and tear on my internal hard drive, and also keeps it from being sluggish for having too many files on it.

Prices on these have dropped so much on these over the years that they are easy to pick up a 500 gb model for $140 or less, and this will be a fast and economical way of adding more file storage to your life.

Categories: General Computing Tips   

For a long time the idea of a networked printer was something people only thought was possible in their corporate offices, but advances in technology have made them available to anyone now.

In the old days, if you wanted to make a printer available to your entire home network, you had to buy a separate piece of hardware called a “print server”.  You would plug your printer into this device, and then the device into your router or switch to make it available to everyone.

As time has gone on, and networking equipment has come down, the print server has been built into the printers themselves.  The former separate hardware would run you between $79 and $99, but now there are printers with it included for as low as $79, making it accessible to everyone.

The only things you need to do now are plug an ethernet cable into the printer, the other part into your switch or router, and then install the printers driver software on each computer will use it.  Depending on the number of computers you have in the home, you can easily hace one printer working for every computer in your home in well under an hour.  Gone are the days where everyone had to have their own printer, and I for one couldn’t be happier about that.

Categories: General Computing Tips   

cloudsGMail, an online application we all care about deeply here at StarterTech, suffered an outage yesterday that kept some people from accessing their email for approximately 15 hours.  While cloud computing may be all the rage, this does raise the spectre of what one does when they can’t access said cloud.

I have personally thought the cloud is a great idea, the ability to access my data from anywhere is always a plus, but sadly it isn’t always going to be the most stable.  No Internet access and you have no cloud.  If a service goes down, as GMail did, no cloud.  The thing is that I expect these hiccups.  It’s just part of the nature of being a computer user.

While poeple are quick to pile on the hatred and anger when something like this happens, I would also remind them that their computer goes down from time to time.  An application gets corrupted, your hard drive fails, your internet goes down so you can’t even retrieve you mail, all of these things can, and do, happen.  I would also remind them that GMail, for most users, is free.  Yes, there are bigger accounts you can pay for, but the vast majority of users is using the free iteration of the application, and it’s hard to complain when you aren’t even paying for it.

Luckily this outage seemed to have been very limited in scope, but it does teach a valuable lesson that this can, and will, happen sometimes.

Categories: General Computing Tips   

What should you do about your electronics when a storm is coming? Well, that’s easy and it isn’t.

We’ve talked before about how you should have power back-ups, but those aren’t always going to protect you from electrical surges that can accompany a storm.  A good example was in 2002 when my house was hit by a lightning strike, or near-by, and even with a surge protector on my computer, my computer phycially went up in flames from the force of the charge.

So what is the solution?  The best choice is of course to unplug your electronics, but that isn’t always an option when you are out of the house.  If you know a storm is coming, you can always unplug beforehand, but it’ll never be a bad idea to have surge protectors in place to at least keep you safe from the minor surges.  Some of the power back-ups out there will split half of their outlets between ones that can run off the battery, and the other half are surge protectors to protect your other electronics.

Ultimately it will always be best to unplug them, but if you must roll the dice, at least have some sort of protection in place, but always unplug them if you can.

Categories: General Computing Tips   

We’ve talked briefly before about the importance of keeping your software up to date, but this is so important, it deserved it’s own post.

Software updates can be minor fixes, but sometimes they can be extremely important secuirty updates, and those are the ones you have to be most mindful of.  Once a security hole has been identified, and a patch released, it becomes even more dangerous for you to have the older version becauase that means even more people know about the potential problem than ever before.

While some software packages, such as Windows, will tell you when you need to update, there are others that it is far quicker to check for yourself, such as Firefox.

The problem is that sometimes these updates will also change the physical appearance of the program, or some functionalities.  While these may be annoying, they are just a price we have to pay to make sure our systems remain safe.  While it may not always be the most desirable response, it’s either accept that, or possibly have your entire system corrupted.

Categories: General Computing Tips   

Ever gotten a phone call that you have no clue it is from?  Your caller ID shows a number you don’t know, but you have “Unknown” as the name.  Well, oddly this is something Google can solve for you easily.

All one needs to do is head over to the popular search engine, type in the phone number and if no one has the number published on their site, there are many sites dedicated to nothing but indentifying who phone numbers , and what sort of experiences each person has had with those numbers.  It is amazing how many scam numbers are out there that will call you but these sorts of websites are all exposing them so you will no longer have to deal with them.

Basically if there is anything you don’t know, more than likely Google can help you find the answer

Categories: General Computing Tips   

They have many names such as thumb drives, jump drives, memory stick, USB drives and more, but they all serve the same puprose, and that is being very useful.

These drives have been around for quite awhile, and while they started off as a niche item, they have  grown more and more into the mainstream for their extreme usefulness.  The concept is simple in that you are carrying aroud a large amount of computer memory in the palm of your hand, and due to it being USB, it means you can stick it in any computer and have instant access to what ever information you have stored on there.

When they first came out a few years ago, their cost was prohibitive, but now you can pick up an 8 GB one like the one pictured here for $29.99 on Amazon. Considering the handiness of this, the ability to take it anywhere, and the hassle it can save you in emailing yourself files, it’s a great price for such a handy device.  I own several in the 1 GB and 2 GB range, and I couldn’t live without them any more.

Categories: General Computing Tips, What Is   

usb hubUSB, short for Universal Serial Bus, is an easy, and universal way of plugging devices into your computer.  However, if you’re like me, you never have enough ports on your computer, so what do you do?

USB 1.0 was introduced in 1995, but was badly flawed, never quite being as “plug and play” as they claimed it would be.  In 1998, version 1.1 came out, correcting some of the problems, and then in 2000, version 2.0 came out, fixing all of the problems, and skyrocketing USB to the forefront of connectivity.

Once USB finally worked as promised, just about everything started connecting to your computer through those little slots, quickly filling up what space you has.  Luckily, every USB controller can handle up to 127 items plugged into it, so even if your computer has 4 to 8 ports, that is not the extent of what it can handle.  By plugging a hub into one port, you can turn that one slot into 7 or 8 more slots (the most I have ever seen is 8), greatly extending how many devices you can have plugged into your computer.

As the technology has become more and more common place, everything from thumd drives, to printers and even external hard drives, are using the USB interface.  On my main computer, I have 8 ports, but even that isn’t enough for someone like me, and I have two 4-port hubs plugged into the system.  I even travel with a mini-hub when I am out of town on businss.  You van never have enough USB ports.  Instaliation couldn’t be easier, either.  Plug it in to a 2.0 slot and… it works.

So what are you waiting for?  Get yourself some more USB gadgets, you have the space to use them now!

Categories: General Computing Tips, What Is   
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