Category: Reviews

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Chromebook Pixel isn’t for Everyone, but It could be Right for You

Fourteen days using Google’s first computer, my decision is made: I would buy one and will someday (income taxes are brutal, so my options are limited short-term). I firmly believe that most buyers willing to spend $1,299 (32GB WiFi) or $1,449 (64GB 4G LTE) will be satisfied with Chromebook Pixel. That’s because I presume they wouldn’t dole out that much without really examining how the computer would fit their lifestyle; also, Google seeks the same people coming from Windows who might buy MacBook Pro 13-inch.

Seven days ago, in my hands-on review, I looked at the overall experience and price benefits from the perspective of hardware. Here, I start to answer larger question: Can Pixel be your main and only machine? For most people, the answer is an unequivocal “No”. But “most people” isn’t Google’s target market. 

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Chromebook Pixel Review

Chromebook Pixel is an enigma. A misfit. Some critics call it a miscalculation—that Google created a pretty kit that offers too little value for the high price. For sure, $1,299, or $1,449 for the model with LTE, is more than most people pay. According to NPD, the average selling price of laptops at U.S. retail was $640 in January.

But some people do pay more. Apple laptops start at $999 and, according to NPD, the ASP was $1,419 last month. Unquestionably, I see Chromebook Pixel as priced against Macs, and after using Google’s laptop see it targeted at the same professionals who value Apple notebooks. The question any potential buyer should ask: Is Pixel worth spending as much as Google asks? I will answer that question in several parts—this initial review is first. 

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MacBook Air is Netbook Enough for Me

Last week, at the suggestion of Betanews founder Nate Mook, I asked question: “Is MacBook Air a netbook killer?” I first posed it to Betanews readers who responded by email to an earlier post and then to some analysts. The majority of folks emphatically said, “No”. I was surprised because my answer would be  something like: As a pair iPad and 11.6-inch MacBook Air are netbook killers. I put aside my own opinions and let the reporting lead the story. As I explained later, in “MacBook Air will redefine personal computing“, Apple’s little laptop—and its itty-bitty tablet, too—are category redefining products because they share so much in common with consumer electronics devices.

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Internet Attention Deficit Disorder

Nicholas Carr’s book, The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains, may be the defining manuscript of the World Wide Web era; so far. I haven’t read the book yet, but I have followed Nicholas’ writings leading up to The Shallows. I get his point, because I’ve experienced it. He merely wraps research around the experience. The point: Interaction with the Web changes how we think, in part by rewiring how we consume information. Attention spans are shorter and tasks like reading a long magazine article or book are harder.

In June 2008, I read a short post by Nicholas linking to his Atlantic story “Is Google Making Us Stupid?

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Steve Huff reviews the Leica X1

Over the weekend, I did some research on the Leica X1 compact digital camera, which is just now shipping. Digital Photogtaphy Review’s highly technical review gave the X1 mixed marks. I found Steve Huff’s X1 review to be much more interesting and useful—as it’s more real world. The amazing image above is the first taken by Steve using the X1; digital compacts simply don’t produce such detail. 

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Ovi Store Squeaks at App Store Giant

My initial reaction to Nokia’s Ovi Store is “Huh, this is it?” Today, the mobile application marketplace opened for business in nine countries—Australia, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Russia, Singapore, Spain, United Kingdom and United States. I really expected more, as in content. Where are those supposedly tens of thousands of applications already available for Symbian OS variants S40 and S60?

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The Great Mac-PC Debate

It’s funny how far the protagonists championing either PCs or Macs will go to push their cause. I moseyed into my local CompUSA on Jan. 19, 2003, where I found two ViewSonic representatives showing off Microsoft Windows Powered Smart Displays in the store’s Mac section. As I approached, one of the salesmen lithely snatched two shoppers eyeing an Apple iBook and pitched them on a Smart Display.

I returned later when the salesmen was alone and piped, “Say, you’re going to scare all the Mac customers away.” “That’s the idea,” he shot back. I must have made some kind of brilliant observation, because he gave my daughter a set of promo street style headphones for my troubles. So, now she can wear a Windows logo while plugged into an Apple iPod. 

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Jaguar: One Cool Cat

Mac enthusiasts say Apple is the mother of all invention. Maybe they’re right. Microsoft took six years to deliver the kind of operating system the company promised in 1995. Windows 95 didn’t live up to the hype until Windows XP. Apple managed the same feat in less than two years. Mac OS X 10.0, released in March 2001, lacked fundamental features such as CD burning and DVD playback. Successor 10.1, which debuted in September 2001, delivered better performance but couldn’t match some of XP’s best features. But Mac OS X 10.2, also known as Jaguar, beats Apple’s original promise of a robust, modern operating system and outclasses Windows XP’s handling of multiple programs running simultaneously. Still, many important changes are mere catch up to XP or even Apple’s older Mac OS 9.

Apple delivered my official Jaguar copy on Aug. 16, 2002, about a week before OS X 10.2’s official Aug. 24, 2002 release. Talk about efforts to woo the reviewer: Apple preloaded Jaguar on a PowerBook G4 800. But I already had been working with betas and final code obtained though “special sources”. Before Apple’s woo-the-reviewer package arrived, I had the “unofficial” official release running on three Macs: Dual 1GHz Power Mac G4, 700MHz flat-panel iMac and another PowerBook 800. 

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Tougher Titanium

Many computer manufacturers are hawking thin-and-light notebooks as the next big thing. Dell Computer, Gateway, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Sony, and Toshiba are some of the big name companies delivering small portables, some weighing under 3 pounds. But none of these companies has achieved notebook nirvana, a slim-and-light model with a beefy display and enough power to replace a desktop computer. Consumers that want desktop power must buy heavy-set portables, many weighing as much as 8 pounds or more. Those people looking for true portability have had to accept less computing power and smaller displays.

Until now.

Apple’s 800MHz PowerBook G4 meets the demands of the consumer looking for a svelte design that’s light on weight but not light on features. You think one size can’t fit all? That’s because you haven’t seen the Titanium PowerBook in action. 

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iMac, I Like

Anyone who has used PCs for a long time knows the joy has gone out of computing. The “wow” experience from setting up that first computer or exploring the vast informational riches of the Internet are memories. It is like the first time having sex, only sex is still great other times. Getting another new computer just doesn’t reach the same level of excitement or joy.

Until now.

I cracked open the box on a new iMac in mid-March 2002, the midrange model with 700MHz PowerPC processor, 256MB of RAM, 40GB hard drive, and CD-RW/DVD combo drive. (Ironically, later the same day Apple raised prices on all iMacs by 100 bucks; by October the price had dipped another $200. ) For the first time in as long as I can remember, working on a computer is fun. And that’s doing work. Other activities just get better from there. 

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To Make Java, Count Beans

There are a lot of farmers out here in the Maine Outback. The potato is the largest crop—and one of the main sources of revenue for the region. So it is no wonder, in this day of shrinking farms and revenues, these agricultural entrepreneurs must be savvy small business owners. Here, the savvy means maximizing profit and minimizing time doing so: using good business accounting software.

Four bean counters stand out from the pack: DacEasy Accounting & Payroll 95; M.Y.O.B. Accounting with Payroll 7.0 by Best!Ware; Peachtree Complete Accounting 1.0; QuickBooks Pro 4.0 by Intuit. All are full-featured accounting programs designed for small- to medium-sized business. None are specific to any one profession, but each comes with get-you-going templates. As someone who freelances from home, I found the templates made setting up the books a snap.