Apple computer sells for record $905K

October 24th, 2014 by Manmohan No comments »

The Apple-1 computer, built by hand in 1976 by Steve Wozniak in Apple co-founder Steve Jobs’ garage or his sister’s bedroom, fetched nearly twice its pre-sale high estimate, Bonhams said.

It was bought by the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan, the auction house said.

Cassandra Hatton, senior specialist in charge of Wednesday’s history of science sale, said that the computer was in outstanding condition.

“We are thrilled to have broken the world record for its sale, and are even more thrilled that it is going to a wonderful new home at the Henry Ford Museum,” she said.

The computer came with an intact motherboard, vintage keyboard, Sanyo monitor, a custom power supply in wooden box and two vintage tape-decks.

The Apple-1 is considered a vanguard of the personal computer revolution, being the first pre-assembled personal computer ever sold.

Bonhams said the lot was one of 50 hand-built for the ByteShop by Wozniak in the summer of 1976. – Sapa-AFP


Epson WF-4630 printer review: A good laser printer alternative for small offices

October 24th, 2014 by Manmohan No comments »

Inkjet printers have been pushing their way into the business world as the technology has improved to the point that they’re actually affordable, and Epson, which through the years has steadfastly clung to ink and, of all things, dot matrix printers (yes, there is still a healthy market for them in some industries), has remained in the forefront of this ink-propelled world.

The $299.99 (Canadian MSRP) WorkForce Pro WF-4630 is in the middle of the eleven models Epson introduced this summer. Billed as a device to serve business workgroups and small offices, it claims up to 50% lower printing costs than a comparably-priced colour laser.

The WF-4630 is actually a multi-function device. Besides printing, it scans, faxes, and acts as a convenience copier. Its ISO rated print speed is 20 pages per minute, single-sided, in both colour and monochrome, and 11 pages per minute double-sided. Copy speed is about 19 pages per minute.

The letter-sized colour flatbed scanner’s optical resolution is 2400 dots per inch (dpi), although you can dial it back considerably to cut image size for faxing. For feeding multiple sheets, there’s a 35 sheet automatic document feeder (ADF). The ADF will scan or fax letter or legal-sized documents, but can only scan both sides of letter paper. Ditto for printing – duplexing only works for letter paper; you have to print legal-sized documents on one side of the page only. It’s annoying, but Epson is not the only vendor to make this choice.

You can not only scan to a computer, you can point the output at cloud services such as Dropbox, Box, Evernote and Google Drive (but not Microsoft OneDrive), or scan to a USB device. There are two scanning modes (Office, and Professional); Professional offers a lot more ways to tweak the scan. I found that the scan’s preview was much poorer than expected in both modes (receipts were totally unreadable, for example), though when I looked at the file, the actual scan quality was good.

The WF-4630 has a single 250 sheet paper tray, plus a rear input bin that holds 80 sheets of up to 8.5 x 47.2 inches. No, that is not a typo – the printer can handle sheets almost four feet long.

The output tray doesn’t strike me as quite long enough for legal paper; it hangs over the end by a couple of inches when it emerges, even with the tray extended to its full length, although the effect is mitigated because the extender slants upward fairly steeply. Those four foot long banners, of course, will just end up on the floor.

Print quality is fine for general office use, although I did see slight banding on large colour areas. The printer also randomly spat out the odd blank sheet in the middle of several print jobs; that is likely a driver hiccup. The hardware’s paper handling seemed good. There were no jams during testing, and first page out was usually very quick. It’s not the quietest device I’ve used – I could hear it clearly from two rooms away, in a quiet house – but it’s tolerable.

Setup is simple enough for a non-technical person in a remote office to handle: it’s a matter of removing a terrifying amount of shipping tape, plugging the device in, turning it on, then following the instructions on the control panel. The four ink reservoirs click into keyed slots, so there’s little chance of accidents. Unfortunately, the printer only comes with starter cartridges, not full ones, so it might be a good idea to have an extra set handy. Tip: buy the “XL” high capacity cartridges – the cost per page is much lower. On Epson Canada’s site, a standard black cartridge, rated at 900 pages, costs $25.69 (2.9 cents per page), while the XL, good for about 2600 pages, is $46.99 (1.8 cents per page). Standard colour cartridges (you need three: cyan, magenta, and yellow) each cost $25.69, generating 800 pages, while XL cartridges cost $42.99 for 2000 pages.

The device connects to almost anything: high-speed USB, WiFi (802.11b/g/n), wired Ethernet (10/100/1000 Mbps), and WiFi Direct. It supports Windows XP and up (Windows 10 Technical Preview even saw and installed it), Windows Server 2003 and up, and Mac OS X 10.5.8 and up. If you choose to install Epson Connect, you’ll be able to also print from Epson Email Print, the Epson iPrint mobile app for iOS or Android, and Epson Remote Print, as well as Apple AirPrint, Google Cloud Print, and the Kindle Fire.

When you install the drivers, the program detects active firewalls on your computer that may prevent it from connecting to the WF-4630, and offers to automatically adjust firewall settings. You install the drivers before connecting the unit; they will find it on the network for you. The device has a built-in Web interface for administrators that let you choose who can use the device, and for what functions, and to set up encrypted connections on a secure network.

The monthly duty cycle is listed as 30,000 pages, but Epson recommends you keep it down to about 2000.The 3.5 inch control panel screen is bright and easy to read and navigate. If I had any complaint, it would be that the online user manual doesn’t quite match reality, probably because the printer’s interface has been tweaked since it was written. They’re small things, though.

Overall, the WorkForce Pro WF-4630 lived up to its billing as a good alternative to a laser printer in a small office. If I were doing a lot of work on legal paper, I might choose something else, but otherwise it’s a serviceable, easy to use device with all of the functionality a small office will need, at an affordable price.


Widespread 2011 MacBook Pro ‘failures’ continue: Petition for fix surpasses 20,000 signatures

October 24th, 2014 by Manmohan No comments »

Reports of failing MacBook Pros have been flooding in since 2013, with many owners of 2011 models with AMD graphics suffering from system crashes and hardware problems that have been described as “critical”.

Since first publishing this story, we’ve had almost 400 readers get in touch to let us know that they’re experiencing the same issue. The huge thread on Apple’s Support Communities has now been viewed more than 1.6 million times and has more than 9,000 replies.

In August 2014, a petition started last year that urges Apple to recall the affected MacBook Pro laptops to fix the problem passed the 10,000-signature mark, and in October 2014 it soared past the 20,000 supporters mark, yet Apple still hasn’t addressed the issue.

The problem, which first emerged in February last year, has escalated throughout 2014 as more and more owners of the affected models begin to experience issues. While playing games, watching HD video or performing another graphics-intensive task, users have witnessed their displays distorting, or sometimes going completely blank. Rebooting the machine temporarily resolves the issue, but it almost always returns.

Eventually, many users found that their MacBook boots to a blue or grey screen. Currently, the only permanent resolution is to get a replacement logic board, but that can prove quite costly without Apple Care. It’s believed that overheating is to blame for the issue.

Some of the readers who’ve been in touch have said that Apple has replaced their 2011 MacBook Pro’s logic board thanks to Apple Care, with some customers even claiming to have had their logic board replaced multiple times. However, most of those with the three year’s of warranty provided by AppleCare will be approaching the end of the protection plan, so are understandably concerned about what will happen once they are no longer covered.

We’ve reached out to Apple for a comment about the situation, but the company has yet to respond. Customers are keeping their fingers crossed for a replacement programme. We’ll update this article as soon as we find out more.

In the past, Apple has offered replacement hard drives for iMacs containing 1TB Seagate hard drives that have been known to fail, replacement MagSafe adapters, iBook logic board replacements back in 2004, and, most recently, a MacBook Air flash storage drive replacement programme for June 2012 to June 2013 models.

Concerned owners of afflicted MacBooks have even set up a website on which they’ve been sharing their photographs, plus a Facebook page and a petition.

Are you a MacBook Pro owner experiencing the issue? Let us know in the comments section below.


HP gives Moonshot server its first Xeon chip

October 24th, 2014 by Manmohan No comments »

If Hewlett-Packard’s Moonshot server doesn’t pan out, it won’t be for lack of trying.

Its engineers have been hard at work this year adding various different CPU options for Moonshot, which uses a novel design to reduce energy and space requirements and is a big part of CEO Meg Whitman’s effort to get HP back on track.

Just last month, HP released a Moonshot system with a 64-bit ARM processor, becoming the first vendor to offer such a chip in a server. And on Thursday HP released its first Moonshot server with an Intel Xeon chip.

The company already offered a version with Intel’s low-power Atom processor, and Xeon now provides an option for customers who want a bit more compute muscle.

Called the Moonshot ProLiant m710, the server uses a quad-core Xeon with the catchy name of E3-1284L v3. The chip also has an integrated GPU to make light work of graphics.

Like other Moonshot servers, the m710 is tuned to run one or two workloads particularly well, in this case application delivery and video transcoding — both tasks that benefit from the integrated GPU, said Gerald Kleyn, director of Moonshot R&D.

For applications delivery, HP worked with Citrix to use its XenApp software, which can stream Office applications and other programs to users. The m710 ships as bare metal and customers will need to buy licenses for XenApp and for Windows Server 2012, the supported OS. HP provides the documentation to tell them how to set it up.

For the video encoding, HP is offering media software from Vantrix and Harmonic. Broadcasters will be able to serve up to 20 times as many video streams as they can with a standard rack server occupying the same space, according to HP.

It achieves this from Moonshot’s dense design. Each server is a small cartridge that slots into the Moonshot chassis. With shared power and cooling supplies, and tightly integrated network interface cards and switches, HP crams 45 cartridges into a chassis 4.3 rack units, or 7.5 inches, high. That’s a lot of servers in a small space.

A second Moonshot system announced Thursday, the m350, is aimed at managed hosting providers and is HP’s densest system yet. Each cartridge contains four Atom C2730 eight-core processors, for a total of 1,440 cores in a chassis.

One final product uses existing hardware but with new software. HP released the Atom-based m300 earlier this year and expected customers to use it for one part of their Web application tier, the Web server. But some customers put their entire Web stack in the box, including Web server, load balancing and database.

So HP is now bundling in the software for that task, including Canonical’s Ubuntu OS, Juju and Charms software. Another option runs Red Hat Enterprise Linux, with a special license price HP negotiated for use on Atom processors, Kleyn said.

After a slow start getting Moonshot off the ground, HP has moved quickly to offer systems for numerous types of workload. It claims Moonshot consumes up to 90 percent less energy and 80 percent less space compared to old-fashioned “pizza box” rack servers.

But it’s still not clear if customers will bite in the volumes HP will need to make continued development of Moonshot worthwhile. Whitman has said it will be next year before Moonshot starts delivering meaningful sales for HP, and it must now sell them at a time when it’s splitting the company in two.


HP Stream 11 laptop now available for $200

October 24th, 2014 by Manmohan No comments »

The HP Stream 11 is a Windows notebook with an 11.6 inch display, an Intel Celeron N2840 Bay Trail processor, and a fanless design.

It also happens to be ridiculously cheap for a Windows notebook. After unveiling the laptop in September, HP is now selling the Stream 11 for just $200.

That’s the list price. Don’t be surprised if you see this little notebook sold at even lower prices as the holidays approach.

The HP Stream 11 isn’t a spectacular laptop. But it’s easy to overlook some of the notebook’s limitations given its low price tag.

HP outfits the computer with 2GB of RAM, 32GB of flash storage, a 37Wh batter, 1 USB 3.0 port, 1 USB 2.0 port, HDMI output, a headset jack, and an SD card reader. It has a 1366 x 768 pixel matte display, but the viewing angles are limited.

The notebook measures 11.8″ x 8.1″ x 0.8″ and weighs 2.8 pounds, and HP says it should offer up to 8 hours and 15 minutes of battery life.

While the display is less than stellar, the amount of built-in storage limited, and the processor relatively slow, for $200 not only do you get a laptop that runs the full Windows 8.1 operating system, but you also get a 1-year subscription to Microsoft Office 365 Personal with access to Word, Excel, OneNote, PowerPoint, and Access as well as 1TB of cloud storage with Microsoft OneDrive for a year.

HP’s Stream family of low-cost Windows notebooks also includes a 14 inch Stream laptop with an AMD processor that sells for $299, and the company has a 13 inch Intel Bay Trail model and an 11.6 inch convertible notebook on the way.


Acer Boosts Chromebook Shipments Up 67%

October 24th, 2014 by Manmohan No comments »

Chromebook shipments have risen 67% in the last quarter, with sales expected to double in size next year.

The figures, from ABI Research, show that Acer has dominated the Chromebook market, maintaining its lead ahead of competitors such as Dell, HP, and Samsung.

ABI Research said that Samsung, HP, and Acer all accounted for 74% of Chromebook shipments during the first half of 2014.

ABI Research analyst Stephanie Van Vactor said: “Consumers are hungry for a product that is cost effective but also provides the versatility and functionality of a laptop.”

Chromebooks are portable laptops that run on Google’s Chrome operating system. Generally low-end devices, the laptops have found strong footing in the education sector. Chromebooks were first introduced to the market in 2011 by manufacturers Samsung and Acer.

The laptops are cloud-orientated devices, and mainly use the cloud for storage. Applications are accessed or downloaded from the Google Play store, for which a wireless Internet connection through a Wi-Fi or cellular network is required. However, local storage capacity is usually small on Chromebooks, currently reaching around 16GB.

Van Vactor said: “The growth of the Chromebook market demonstrates a niche that is gaining traction among consumers.”

In emerging markets such as Eastern Europe and Asia Pacific, ABI Research said that bulk enterprise purchasing makes up 75% of Chromebook sales. However, it is predicted that by the end of the year, North America will have accounted for 78% of the Chromebook market in 2014.

Chrombook market traction comes amidst a slight recovery in the global PC market in the third quarter of 2014. Decline in shipments came to 0.5% compared to the same quarter in 2013.


Build Yourself a Raspberry Pi Laptop

October 21st, 2014 by Manmohan No comments »

The creators say one evening of tinkering will be enough to get the low-cost laptop ready-to-go.

People who enjoy building their stuff from the ground up will really enjoy the Pi-Top. The kit contains an injection molded casing, trackpad and keyboard components, a 13.3″ HD screen, the circuit boards, battery and a few chords for a complete set-up. The kit sells for $285 (future retail price will be $300). If you already have a Pi board, you can get one for $209. The design is very straightforward. The USB ports, audio interface and power source all have their dedicated holes in the case. Except for the odd positioning of the trackpad and a sliding transparent panel to quickly access the inner workings, it looks just like any other laptop. With a purchase, you will also gain access to STL files to print your own case and add any customizations you might come up with.

The Pi-Top runs Raspberry Pi, an OS that makes developer-friendly boards affordable, especially to educators. The Raspberry Pi’s home is a credit card-sized circuit, a motherboard with impressive capabilities such as word processing, spreadsheets and games.

The creators of Pi-Top have created three modular attachments for greater functionality. Using the Raspberry Pi’s HAT (Hardware Attached on Top) capabilities, the add-on boards will give interesting capabilities to your laptop.

These HATs are the LCD HAT which allow you to use external displays with an HDMI connector. The Robot HAT does what the name says. It falls on top of the Pi board and gives the board control over servo motors, proximity sensors and more. The Home Automation HAT adds a lot of input sources to the laptop. This add-on board comes with sensors for pressure, humidity, temperature, touch, IR proximity and sound.

The Pi-Top, at press time, is already fully funded clocking in about 120% of its original goal of $80,000, 25 full days before the campaign ends on IndieGoGo.

The Raspberry Pi OS and small board really shine in terms of accommodating creative pursuits. The conveniently small but powerful board is a hit with kids and serves as a teaching tool for computer programming . Kid-oriented projects with downloadable worksheets and guides include a fart detector (teaches about air quality sensors and “fart potency”) and a stuffed bear that takes photos and tweets them (formerly Abuse Bear that does the same when punched–not really classroom material).


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