Tech Tip: Choosing the right computer solution for you

#TechTip Find the tech solution that works for you. A Chromebook isn’t for everyone but for those always online it’s a great option.

There are now many more options out there for you instead of the traditional computers from the past.  Desktops and Laptops used to be the only real choice in your computer, but now you can choose between desktop, Laptop, Tablet, or Chromebook.  In addition there is also Smartphones and media centres and gaming platforms which do much of the work of computers for you as well.

How do you choose what is right for you?

Lets take a quick look at where each computer could be useful to help you make an informed decision:

Desktop: Yes, you have heard many times about the end of the desktop, but they are not dead yet.  Why would you want a desktop?  There are a few reasons.  First is how customizable desktops are.  You can purchase a decent desktop and add whatever additions you want, or you can build from scratch everything from the processor to hard drive to graphics processors.  If you wanted multiple media drives, DVD Burners, Blu-Ray players, additional hard drives, you can install them all in a desktop.  If you had software that you needed to run all the time, a desktop or server can be left on all the time and provide significant cooling to keep it running properly.  Yes they are fixed in a location,  but if you work in one spot all the time then there isn’t much of a difference.

Laptops:  Still popular are laptops.  Between Laptops, Ultrabooks and Netbooks, a portable computer with all the power of a desktop still is the go to computer for getting work done.  While not as customizable as desktops, the ability to do all your work everywhere and anywhere you want is still appealing.  Businesses have not had time to adjust to the shift to tablet computers, so for business, laptops are still pretty much required in order to get a lot of work done.

Tablets:  Becoming more popular over the last few years, Tablets have the ability to be more portable than a laptop and provide many of the features that a laptop would require.  Originally its acceptance was for entertainment and personal use as the iPad made it popular for watching shows and playing games on a bigger screen than could be seen on a smaller iPhone.   Businesses have started the shift to tablets, but as mentioned, many businesses are not there yet, and some software still works better on a laptop.  The trend from both personal and business is to shift to screens of all sizes either through responsive web design or apps for specific platforms.  The future is most definitely in the Tablet world.

Chromebook: The Chromebook, which is based on Google’s Chrome Operating system is a shift from the traditional laptop.  While it maintains the look and feel of a laptop, there is very little in the way of storage on the device.  Instead, the system boots up quickly and uses Google’s interface to access everything.  Essentially it needs to be connected to the Internet at all times to really work.  While not for everyone, it definitely serves a market of those needing to stay connected online with a device that has a fast boot up and automatic virus protection.  Its cost is also a huge draw as it is usually cheaper than most laptops.  Using Google’s array of services, you can do everything including email, web browsing, file management and document management all through Google’s core group of web apps.  It’s definitely worth a look if you want an inexpensive system and use Google’s products.

There is a growing list of Smartphones and media centres that can also manage some of the tasks normally associated with a computer.  For example, Smart TV’s have become common instead of the exception in new TV purchases.  For those that have  a Netflix subscription, or enjoy browsing YouTube for content, a Smart TV could be a great add in.  similar, Google’s Chromecast can add computing power to a TV, as well as most new gaming systems, including the XBOX One and PS4.

There is also the growing field of wearable technology, but that is in itself a whole other blog posting.  When you make a choice in the new year about a new computer, look at your lifestyle, your needs and wants, as well as budget requirements.  May your 2014 be wonderful as well as connected!

 

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Tech Tip: Using technology in the Kitchen

CookingwithTech

Tech Tip: Your Tablet and laptop can be great companions in the kitchen. Google recipes and clip the good ones in your notes application.

It seems rather fitting that we look at the use of technology in the kitchen today, being the American Thanksgiving and only a few short weeks away from family dinners around the holidays.  Laptops, tablets and smartphones all can provide a great deal of assistance during the dinner hours.

Deciding what to make can be daunting as it is. I have spent many evenings looking at the freezer and seeing what meats we have, only to get stuck on finding what would be the best way to prepare them.  This is where Google has been a great help to me.  A simple request asking for recipes for *Insert main food ingredient here* and I have a plethora of ideas from the simple to the gourmet available to me.  I find Chicken and Pork are the two meats that are staples in our house, but need to be changed up so as not to create the same boring meal every time.  Chicken recipes are plentiful on the Internet.  I’ve found many of my favourite recipes at allrecipes.combut it is by far not the only place to look.  That’s where Google comes in.  By entering what you want to cook, you will get a list of different sites and recipes.

What to do when you found your perfect recipe?

Recipe books and boxes to stash clipped recipes were great in the past, but instead of printing out that recipe, I back it up online.  As most regular readers know, I am a big fan of Evernote.  I have a notebook set aside just for recipes so I can merge the family traditional recipes passed on from my family as well as mix it with new recipes I find online.  You can tag each recipe with the main ingredient (such as Pork or Chicken) to make it easy to find later.  As a guy who really didn’t have many cooking skills until recently, I find it great to be able to easily access these on any device.  I can look up my meal choice, download it to Evernote from my computer at home, and then access it again easily from my Smartphone when shopping for ingredients. (Usually when I’m part way through cooking and realize I don’t have a main ingredient in the house!)

Timing the Turkey

Once you have your dinner prepped, depending what your cooking, you may need to time how long it takes to cook something.  Most clocks on smartphones now will have both a countdown and a count up timer.  Set your alarm for however long you need and walk away. (Don’t forget to check in now and then on your food though!)  Enjoy your company and not worry about missing the alarm on the oven, since you will probably have your phone with you.

Setting the ambiance

Now that dinner is cooked, use your smartphone to run some nice music through a pair of speakers.  You can find a pair of cheap, wired speakers almost anywhere for a few dollars, or splurge and go for a set of Bluetooth speakers.  iPhones are obvious choices for listening to music, but I actually use a music server called Subsonic.  It allows me to store all my music in one place and access it from any phone, computer or tablet I want through either an App or a web interface. So relax to some smooth jazz music, or blast out some Holiday cheer, whatever strikes your fancy when the family all shows up.

Hopefully these tips will help make your meal preparations go smoothly, and help change up the variety of foods and meals.  I can help you with the technology, but cooking skills…..you’re on your own!

Tech Tip: Remote Desktop access on the Go

Tech Tip: control your desktop computer from anywhere using remote desktop software. Even from your Smartphone or Tablet

Desktop computers may be seeing a decrease in sales and adoption, but they’re not completely dead yet.  In fact, Desktop computers still can do things that Tablets or even Laptops can’t really do.  The beauty of desktop computers is their ability to be upgraded, run power applications (Such as heavy graphics processing programs) or as servers that require a constant connection to the network and always powered on.

Despite how important these tools can be, the lack of mobility of a desktop computer is a major obstacle in an era of constant mobility.  The solution to this is a Remote Desktop application.

What is a Remote Desktop?

Quite simply, a Remote desktop application allows you to control your desktop computer using another computer or mobile device.  Your view would be the same as if you were sitting in front of your desktop computer, but accessible on your laptop, tablet or smartphone.  The trick is the video connection, as well as all the inputs for keyboard and pointing device are transferred over a network connection instead of through the cables that plug into your computer directly.  By giving you full control of your computer you are able to work on it as if you were sitting in front of it.

How do you connect?

There are a number of applications that you can use to connect.  One of the most popular is a program called TeamViewer.  While running in the background on your desktop, it awaits a remote connection to activate.  By entering the unique ID and password provided, you can use another computer to log on and take control.  TeamViewer works on PCs, Macs, Linux, and many mobile devices through apps.

LogMeIn is another solution I have used in the past and have been quite happy with.  LogMeIn clients log on to their website and have access to all the computers they have registered to their account.  Through LogMeIn, you can see if a computer is online before attempting to connect, which is helpful if you are doing remote support for someone.

While these are not the only remote desktop solutions available, these are the two I have used the most and I find work well for individuals and small business owners.

Both programs offer many other features than just remote desktop, such as VPN service and online meetings, so I encourage you to check them out to see what other solutions there are.  I will write about other features in future Tech Tip posts.