The world of data storage, capture and retrieval has gone through many generations and variations. Some storage media had much longer lifespans than others, while many have gone the way of the eight-track tape cartridge. The infographic below groups the different type of data storage media by how the media was consumed (computer, audio, video, photographic) and provides a great overview and timeline of the rise and fall of storage media.
Tablet PC Primer
One of the fastest growing trends in computing is the use of the tablet PC. Tablet computers have been around for some time having been first introduced to the mainstream over a decade ago. The main turning point in terms of growth and popularity was the introduction of the Apple iPad. Tablet PCs have rode along as acceptance and interest in tablets has grown.
Tablets are also getting smaller, faster and more efficient. With location-sharing and geolocation based services starting to come into their own, more and more people are turning to tablet PCs for their flexibility, convenience and innovative uses.
What is a Tablet PC?
A tablet PC is a small, lightweight, portable computer which operates using a touch screen interface. In many ways tablets are similar to smartphones, only larger and with a primary purpose of computing, not telephony. Otherwise they are quite similar and include many of the same features. Some tablet PCs are more similar to a computer which runs a familiar desktop operating system, only in aversion adapted for the smaller screen and “touch” environment.
The term “tablet PC” is often used interchangeably with “tablet.” Traditional tablet PC operating systems include adaptations of Windows, Linux, BlackBerry Tablet OS, Android, and Apple’s iOS. Examples of tablet computers which you may be familiar with include the Apple iPad, Samsung Galaxy Tab (an android tablet), BlackBerry PlayBook, and a range of tablets from many other popular tablet manufacturers including Acer, Fujitsu, Asus, and Toshiba.
Over the past couple of years, tablets have been evolving beyond traditional operating systems. Tablets which run on mobile operating systems that fall outside of the old paradigm are sometimes called “post-PC tablets.”
Tablet PC Features
Tablets are quickly becoming a real option for people who want something larger than a smartphone but smaller and lighter than a laptop. Tablet PCs are fully functional computers within the constraints of their physical size; they allow consumers to carry significant amounts of their data with them and can connect to even more of their information stored in the Cloud. Tablets can be very functional for both personal or business use. As part of our Tablet PC Primer here are some key tablet features and specifications:
- Size and weight: Tablet PCs are among the largest mobile computing platforms. Most tablet screens measure 7 to 11 inches. The heaviest tablets weigh about two and a half pounds, while most tablets fall within the range of 1-2 pounds. Many newer tablets weigh under a pound however, and are generally equipped with smaller screens (7 inches on average).
- CPUs featured in tablet PCs include Nvidia Tegra 250, Intel Atom, and Intel Core.
- Storage: The vast majority of tablets feature solid-state disk (SSD) drives. These drives don’t use mechanical parts for reading and writing data. As such they are very fast.
- Operating systems include Windows, Linux, BlackBerry Tablet OS, Android, iOS and more.
- Touch screen input. Tablets include touch-screen interfaces which enable a user to input data using a virtual keyboard. Touch screens are either resistive or capacitive. Resistive touch screens can enable a great deal of precision and usually require a stylus. Capacitive screens are more responsive, include multi-touch capabilities, and generally do not include a stylus for input.
- Handwriting recognition. This is a common tablet feature, but by no means a universal one. If a tablet includes a stylus, it also will include handwriting recognition. Non-stylus based tablets instead rely on the virtual keyboard for typing.
- Tablets can sense direction. Using technology called an “accelerometer,” many tablets can detect what direction they are facing and can shift the screen accordingly.
- Docking stations may be included with newer models. These docking stations give you the option to add peripherals such as a full size keyboard.
- Tablet PCs tend to utilize either on-board flash memory or storage drives. Additional flexibility and capacity is provided by card ports.
Potential Drawbacks to Tablet PCs
- No keyboard is included. Not having a standard keyboard isn’t a big deal for some people, but for others there’s just nothing like a physical QWERTY keyboard (whether full-sized or otherwise) to input words. If you need to do a lot of typing fast, the touch-screen may not be what you’re looking for. Consider getting a tablet PC with a docking station for a keyboard if you really want a tablet PC and you type a lot.
- The screen may be prone to damage. With laptops and traditional PCs, you don’t actually interact with your screen at all except visually. With a tablet however, you touch the screen frequently, increasing the odds you’ll eventually damage it. While you can typically buy a replacement screen for a tablet, it will be expensive.
- Security issues are prevalent. Since you won’t always be on a secure wireless network when you use your tablet PC, you are exposed to greater risk. You can take steps to protect your tablet PC however by installing antivirus and scanning regularly.
What’s Next for Tablet Computing?
Geolocation services are still in the early adopter stages for the tablet PC but are growing fast. What is geolocation? It refers to the practice of collecting information about the physical location of a device. Services which use geolocation include social networking sites like foursquare as well as geo-marketing campaigns which target users based on their location. Location-sharing is something which you can opt into or not, but it’s only useful if you have a tablet PC or another mobile device.
What are some examples of geolocation services and how they can serve you? Picture going shopping, and opting in to receiving targeted advertisements as you walk down the street. The advertisements which reach you will be relevant to you based off of the information you’ve shared, and will direct you to places to shop which are nearby. This can save you time and result in great discounts. Also imagine being able to share your location with a trusted circle of friends and see where your friends are at the same time. If you’re in the same area and not busy, you can meet up.
As location-sharing grows, we can expect to see tablet PCs surge in popularity. The Tablet PC has its disadvantages, but it also offers flexibility and ease of use, and can be adapted with additional peripherals if necessary. With growing trends in geolocation services, they should soon be able to offer more innovative applications to the consumer than ever before.
The areas of Tablet PCs is evolving rapidly. New and improved components, new operating systems, batteries that are lighter and have longer life, and new tablet manufacturers, all add up to ongoing change. And plenty of benefits for consumers.
Solid state drives (SSD) are still in the early adopter stages, but with changes in the computing market they may well be about to take off. What exactly is a solid-state disk drive? A solid-state drive is a drive with no moving parts. Unlike a traditional hard disk drive (HDD), an SSD drive has no spinning platters, actuator arm or read/write heads. Instead, solid-state drives rely on non-volatile flash memory. Since they don’t require the extra time to manipulate physical parts in order to read and write data, SSD drives are faster at both.
If you aren’t familiar with SSD drives, you may be wondering why they haven’t taken off faster. The main reason for slow adoption is most likely pricing. Right now SSD drives are still expensive to manufacture, which is why companies need to charge more for them. As more research is put into their development and they become easier to manufacture, prices will decrease.
Intel, one major manufacturer of Solis State Drives, has recently announced that its sales revenues will fall this quarter because flooding in Thailand has curbed HDD production. You’d think this would be seen as bad news, but the company’s executives choose to see it in a positive light. The shortage in HDD production overseas will not only affect Intel but also Intel’s competitors. With less competition across the board from HDD manufacturers, Intel and other SSD manufacturers may finally be able to bring SSD drives into the mainstream.
Applications of SSD Technology
What form will SSD technology take as we see it enter the mainstream of computing? Perhaps the most recognizable application already on the market is that of the ultrabook. An ultrabook, or ultrathin, is a super-thin laptop computer with a long battery life, a keyboard, and no internal HDD. An ultrabook is in a sense a compromise between a tablet and a laptop—it is lightweight and small, like a tablet, but has the approachability of a laptop. Ultrabooks may also incorporate tablet touch screen capabilities, making them more user friendly. The most well known example of ultrabook technology currently on the market is probably the MacBook Air by Apple, which is only 0.8 inch thick. Many other manufacturers are starting to flood the market with ultrabooks as well now including Asus, Dell, Toshiba, Acer and Lenovo.
Ultrabooks contain SSD drives with flash memory chips. This enables manufacturers to make them incredibly thin and lightweight. Intel has stated that it intends to take advantage of the HDD shortage to increase the sales of Intel SSD drives. While the company hasn’t discussed details relating to ultrabooks, we will most likely be seeing more and more of them on the market.
Changing Needs of High Tech Customers
The floods in Thailand are not the only global shift that is likely to propel SSDs into the mainstream at last. The changing needs of high tech consumers also may have a positive impact on SSD sales. In the past, consumers were concerned largely with storage space on their machines, but with the advent of cloud computing and mobile technology, many consumers are now becoming quite used to storing their data in the cloud. This being the case, the swift retrieval of cloud data and high-speed playback of multimedia are increasingly more important to consumers than storage space on their computers.
SSDs don’t offer more storage capacity than HDDs, but this is less likely to be a deterrent now that consumer needs are changing. If you use your computer primarily for audio and video playback, gaming and other performance intensive applications, you would almost certainly notice a difference with a solid state disk drive.
Price has been an issue with solid-state drives for years now, but the good news is that while ultrabooks (and SSD drives in general) cost more than standard laptops equipped with HDDs, they still cost less than standard laptops did only a few years ago. As consumers start to discover that tablets don’t allow them to do everything that they really would like to do, and that an ultrabook with an SSD can provide a high tech answer to their needs, it is likely that the sales of SSDs and ultrabooks will flourish in the coming years.
Back in November 2009 when the first consumer products to feature USB 3.0 were shipped, I wrote a post detailing the capabilities of USB 3.0. At the time of that post, USB 3.0 was still a brand new technology, and availability was limited. It wasn’t until the following year that USB 3.0 products started to really make their way into the consumer market. As of this year though, most major PC manufacturers have equipped their newest computers with USB 3.0 technology. In spite of this, many computer users are only now just starting to get acquainted with USB 3.0.
What is USB 3.0 and How Can It Help You?
USB stands for Universal Serial Bus. USB connectors have become the most common type of device connectors in computing and can be used to attach a wide range of peripherals to your computer including mice, keyboards, monitors, mobile devices, external hard drives, digital cameras, external sound cards, flash drives, and more. USB technology makes it easy to upgrade the capabilities of your PC or laptop or transfer files. The previous incarnation of USB which most people are familiar with is USB 2.0. USB 2.0 came out in 2000 and allowed a maximum data transfer rate of 480 mbps.
USB 3 is a major revision and has been dubbed the “SuperSpeed USB” by its manufacturers, Hewlett-Packard, NEC, Microsoft, Intel and Agere Systems. There’s a good reason for this moniker: USB3 is capable of transferring data at a maximum rate of 4.8 Gbps. That’s a tenfold increase over the capabilities of USB 2.0! Not only is the speed of USB 3.0 incredible, but it boasts some other great features as well. Here’s an overview of USB 3’s capabilities and what you need to run this new technology:
- Dual-bus architecture enables backward compatibility and forward compatibility. You can run USB 3 devices even if your computer is only equipped with USB 2.0 ports. You can also still use your USB 2.0 devices if you have USB 3.0 ports. If there is a 2.0 port or device in use though, you’ll only get the 2.0 transfer rates.
- You do need a USB 3.0 compatible cable to get the maximum transfer rate of 4.8 Gbps
- You do need the right drivers to run USB 3.0 technology as well; Windows 7 didn’t include these drivers in the initial release, but they have since been released and can be downloaded through Windows Update. Windows 8 will include inbuilt support.
- USB 3.0 can be used to power peripheral devices at a much higher level than USB 2.0. Your battery powered devices will charge faster.
- USB 3.0 is also more energy efficient; the technology uses less power when that power isn’t needed.
Benefits of USB 3
Why is all this supremely useful to you? Just think of tedious tasks like transferring files between your mobile device and your PC, or backing up files from your PC onto your external hard drive. Using USB 3.0 means you can transfer most music files instantly, and even full length films can be transferred in under two minutes. Time to reformat your computer?
With USB 3 and an external hard drive, backing up your computer’s files will only take about a tenth as long as it used to. Ten-hour backup tasks can be completed in just one hour!
With all this power and speed, SuperSpeed USB 3.0 technology is really taking off right now, even though many consumers are still just learning about it. Most new PCs are already equipped with the ports, and all that’s needed to use them is a Windows Update upgrade.
Adding USB 3.0 Ports
If you don’t have a USB 3.0 port (and assuming you didn’t purchase your computer fairly recently, you probably don’t) but want to enjoy USB SuperSpeed, there’s no need to buy a brand new computer—there are card USB adapters which you can purchase right now to add USB 3.0 ports to your old computer. This is necessary if you want to enjoy the high transfer rates of USB 3.0, but remember that you can still use USB 3.0 devices even if you don’t have USB 3.0 ports. Most of these adapters are modestly priced between $15.00-$30.00.
So now’s the time to upgrade—regardless of how old your PC is, you too can enjoy USB 3.0 technology!
The Windows 7 upgrade from Windows XP has been a hot topic for PC owners since Windows 7 burst onto the scene in August, 2009. It surpassed the seventh Harry Potter book as the highest-grossing pre-order in Amazon.com’s history and has steadily increased its number of users over the following two years.
By July, 2011, Windows 7 held over 37% market share. Conversely the numbers of Windows XP users have been steadily declining during the same time period, going from over 70% to under 43% market share.
If you are still running Windows XP (or the dreaded Windows Vista OS) here are nine reasons you should consider making the upgrade to Windows 7:
1. Performance – Windows 7 is optimized for superior performance. The latest version of Windows 7 was pitted against XP in 25 speed benchmark tests. Some of these tests included moving files, extracting files, running various software, booting up, and shutting down. Windows 7 came out ahead in 24 of those tests.
File search times have been vastly accelerated. Windows 7 regularly indexes hard drive files during idle time, resulting in lightning-fast searches. Files display instantly as you type the search terms. All results are grouped by file type.
Display improvements include color calibration, improved support for external monitors, and high DPI support.
2. Ease of Use – Microsoft redesigned the interface to be more streamlined and use highly efficient shortcuts. Taskbar buttons are larger and can be reordered. Right-click a taskbar icon to display past file history for quick access. Hover over an icon to preview an open file.
3. Stability – Windows 7 is more stable than XP. Using Windows XP, you’ve probably experienced the infamous “Blue Screen of Death” (BSOD) more often than you’d care to remember. With Windows 7, the BSOD has become quite rare.
Windows 7 substantially improves the system restore feature. It’s much more reliable and effective than that of XP. If your system experiences problems with newly installed software or device drivers, it’s a simple matter to return your PC’s configuration to a previous point in time.
4. Security – Windows 7 is more secure than Windows XP. The new security Action Center gives you a central location to manage all security and system backup features. It gives you critical security messages when problems arise.
The User Account Control Slider lets you set your level of security instantly. A new feature called Bitlocker can encrypt your hard drive or USB device to prevent hackers from gaining access to your personal information.
5. Maintenance – Windows 7 makes it easier to perform maintenance tasks. File defragmentation occurs automatically in the background, without the need to run DEFRAG. Backup and restore functions are easily accessible from the security Action Center.
Troubleshooting functions, including diagnostic tools and wizards, are collected in one place. These automate the troubleshooting process and give you feedback on possible solutions.
6. Connecting – Windows 7 makes it easier to connect to new devices and networks. New devices are automatically detected and installed. Windows 7 searches the Internet and finds necessary drivers for you. XP kinda, sorta has this ability, but Windows 7 does it much more effectively.
The networking HomeGroup functionality lets you easily connect computers on your home network for easy file sharing and printing.
7. Useful Utilities – The Windows 7 upgrade has a large number of new, useful utilities that weren’t included with Windows XP. Effective speech recognition software is built in. With it you can perform voice dictation, navigate web pages, and easily create and send emails without use of the keyboard.
Windows Media Player has been overhauled and includes new library functions and now playing views. You can now paste sticky notes on your desktop in a variety of colors and fonts. The calculator also went through a considerable redesign and now performs unit conversion, retains your calculation history, and has a variety of other new features.
Parental controls allow parents to help keep their children safe when online by setting what content the children can view. Kids’ time spent on the computer can also be controlled and limited.
8. Age of Windows XP – Windows XP was released in 2001 and has become outdated. Microsoft has announced that it will discontinue XP support in 2014. Windows 7 upgrade can run the newest software, including Internet Explorer 9 (XP cannot run IE9). Technology evolves rapidly. Don’t be left behind! Most older programs will run on Windows 7. XP compatibility mode is provided for those that won’t.
9. Ease of Updates – Windows 7 is much easier to update than XP. A “Windows Update” dialogue box provides you with thorough, step-by-step information as you perform updates.
These are some of the highlights where you can see that the Windows 7 upgrade offers numerous advantages over Windows XP. With today’s commercial software becoming more and more powerful, most of them require the more sophisticated Windows 7 operating system.
There are actual day-to-day benefits in the many convenient, time-saving features in Windows 7. Perhaps the two most impressive are the enhanced security and the stability. It just works, and it works much better than the 10 year old Windows XP. Upgrade to Windows 7 and start enjoying a smoother, less stressful computing experience. Check out the video below to see some additional information about the features of Windows 7.