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Archive for the ‘thumbs up’ Category

Dell UltraSharp 2709WFP deal, at $699

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I was checking out today’s hottest deals in our deals section and noticed that my current monitor, the Dell UltraSharp 2709WFP is selling direct from Dell at a hefty discount. I paid about $1,000 at the beginning of the year and IMHO it’s worth every penny with its large size but not too extreme resolution, so things are not as tiny as in other 24 or 30-inch models.

Here’s the info straight from our deals section:

Dell LCD Display Price Check: UltraSharp 27" falls to $699, more (updated)

In the market for a Dell LCD? Dell Home dropped the Dell UltraSharp 2709WFP 27" Widescreen LCD Monitor by $200. It’s down to $699 with free shipping, the lowest total price we’ve ever seen for this display by far. Sales tax is added where applicable.

As for other models, Dell decreased and increased a few prices compared to our roundup a week ago. The other latest prices on Dell’s top LCDs, all with free shipping:

Written by Julio Franco

September 26th, 2008 at 9:00 pm

Something new is cooking…

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We are always working on new and improved features at TechSpot, whether it is fresh new content or new services to help you get the best information out of the web.

Call this the silent launch of TechSpot’s new deals section which is far and away improved over the aging deals we managed just until now. So check it out, here’s your reward for checking out this not-so-often updated staff blog :)

Written by Julio Franco

September 10th, 2008 at 5:23 am

BMW Builds a Shape-Shifting Car Out of Cloth

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Instead of steel, aluminum or even carbon fiber, the GINA Light Visionary Model has a body of seamless fabric stretched over a movable metal frame that allows the driver to change its shape at will. The car — which actually runs and drives — is a styling design headed straight for the BMW Museum in Munich and so it will never see production, but building a practical car wasn’t the point.

Source: Wired
Original Source: BMW

Written by Julio Franco

June 12th, 2008 at 5:13 am

Tab Mix Plux extension for Firefox 3 Beta

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If you have moved on to use Firefox 3 Beta 5 (as I recommended) then you know how much speed was left untapped with previous versions of the browser. There are still a quite a few popular extensions that are not compatible however, Tab Mix Plus, being perhaps one of the most general purpose and useful out there.

But worry no more. If you don’t mind the beta-over-beta code you will be running, there is an experimental version of the add-on available for Firefox 3 Beta 5 that seems to be working just fine. This still has not been posted to the official Mozilla add-ons site, so it’s a little gem I had to share. Enjoy.

Written by Julio Franco

May 10th, 2008 at 8:54 pm

Video: Lenovo’s parody on the MacBook Air, promotes X300

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Having had my friendly and not so friendly encounters with my MacBook Pro and the bundled OS X operating system, at the end of the day I believe that for a powerful laptop I couldn’t have done much better other than buying another ThinkPad. The last one I got was a T42 and still runs like a charm even after a very embarrassing “wrong-screw-in-the-wrong-hole” moment :).

In the world of expensive ultra-portables though, the MacBook Air and the new ThinkPad X300 are two jewels to be had… check this out before buying though…

Written by Julio Franco

April 30th, 2008 at 12:17 am

Speed up Vista using Firefox 3 Beta

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If like me, you spend a sizable amount of your computer time on a web browser, you can forget about RAM or processor upgrades, it’s software where the hole was all this time.

First let me tell you that I’m an avid fan of trying new web browsers, or at least new versions of today’s traditional browsers like Firefox, Opera, IE and Safari, that includes betas and release candidates. But because I had grown so comfortable with my Firefox extensions and overall set up, I was ultimately drawn away from using experimental builds on a daily basis. It’s not until lately that I have seen a large number of Firefox add-ons ported to the Beta version (currently Beta 4) and so I thought it was time for another spin.

Seriously, the browser is speedy. I had previously experienced the improvements in Beta 1, I got a few random crashes then, but no more. I can tell you that on my desktop machine that is currently running Windows Vista on an Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600, I’m feeling a difference in speed that is way more palpable than when I upgraded from a dual core Athlon CPU, I had less RAM and was running on an older platform. I also have most of my extensions installed, so the comparison is more or less apples to apples. With a load of tabs divided in two windows, and many other programs running at the same time, the mere change in browser suddenly is making for a much smoother working experience.
In fact, I’m currently writing this on Firefox 3 Beta 4 Portable which let’s me run a standalone copy of the browser without sacrificing my older Firefox 2 install, so in case I want to roll back, it’s a non-issue.

I have also tried Internet Explorer 8 in Vista and it does offer similar speed improvements. Likewise, Safari 3.1 on OS X also welcomed me with better performance, but neither of those can replace Firefox for me. Opera lovers must also forgive me but I have not downloaded the latest Opera version yet, although just this past weekend I saw fellow editor Erik Orejuela running a gazillion tabs on it, probably more than Firefox 2 can handle without crashing (he switched after the 2.0.11 fiasco).

My recommendation, give Firefox 3 beta a try now and see how it works for you. Many of the most popular extensions are now usable on the beta (BTW, there is a newly revamped add-ons site). Somehow it seems all browser developers felt the need for speed on this iteration, so you can choose your browser flavor if FF is not your thing.

Written by Julio Franco

March 31st, 2008 at 4:55 am

TechSpot at the Apple Store in NYC’s Fifth Ave.

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Earlier this month I visited New York City and my hotel happened to be a mere block away from the Apple Store on Fifth Avenue. Despite of my love-hate relationship with the brand (I own a Mac Mini, iPod, iPhone and MacBook Pro, but I can’t say I love them all), I had to pay the store a visit… it’s exterior looks are a thing of beauty.

I had been to a few Apple’s stores in the past in Chicago, California, and in Florida, and most of them look about the same on the interior, but this one along with the other one in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District, just make for a serious statement of the company and what they want to achieve with their products. Seriously, for once I felt Apple was making computer enthusiasts a favor by portraying a cool image of technology in general, one that contrasts with the bland beige box.

Here are a few shots I took, some of them showing TechSpot’s homepage on a MacBook Air.

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Written by Julio Franco

March 30th, 2008 at 3:21 am

Turn a small home UPS into a giant UPS (video)

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Having a UPS is fairly common these days. However, one gripe I’ve always had and that you might too is the limited capacity you get on them. Even nicer $200+ ones might only give you a few minutes on a powerful PC, and for large capacity you could easily spend $1000 or more. Neither option was good for me. So I decided to make a better one myself.

To start with, I purchased 3 “Ultra” brand UPSs about a year ago. They are completely silent, small, and functional. Cheap, yes, but functional. However, with my machine on one of them, it only lasts around 3 minutes before powering off. This might be enough to shut it down, but if the power is out for only 15 minutes I’d rather just ride it through. Inside the UPS were 2 small sealed lead acid batteries, like you find in most UPS units, 12V each, in series. They are the same type of battery you find in cars, trucks and boats – just smaller. Using that logic, I took some common hardware and rebuilt this UPS. I did a small bit of research to determine the proper wire size given the load. The UPS used is an Ultra 1000VA. (warning, a small bit of profanity is in the video)

The tools involved were simple. I had 20 feet of 10 Gauge wire, two ring terminals and several Male/Female disconnects. I needed wire strippers and wire crimpers for that. The UPS itself only required a screwdriver to take apart. I used a nice Dremel to bore a hole in the plastic, though realistically you could do that with a knife. For the batteries, I purchased battery boxes. It was a simple matter to remove the stock batteries, run and terminate the wire, then put the new batteries in place.

There are downsides to doing it with these batteries. Space, of course, and safety. These are standard lead-acid deep cycle batteries, meaning that they can and do release gas when discharging. For that reason, I have these batteries situated outside. To do this safely indoors, you need a well-ventilated room OR you need to use sealed batteries.

I am going to do this with the other two UPS units, too. Next time, however, several things will change. I am going to use sealed batteries, slightly more expensive but completely safe to use indoors. I will also use shorter cable lengths. I will remove the buzzer inside that makes that awful beep, and I will install a slow 80MM or perhaps 120MM fan inside, quiet but enough to bring some air over the unit in case sustained operation heats it up too much.

All in all, I spent about $300, including the tools, to make a UPS with an ~80AH capacity.

Written by Julio Franco

March 2nd, 2008 at 2:06 am

Do you Twitter?

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I know I’m months behind the trendy web, but just recently I thought I would try one of these micro-blogging platforms, and Twitter is by far the most popular out there, so I opened an account and I have been micro-blogging since yesterday.

So far so good, although nobody is reading my stuff but me for now :). I’ve heard numerous stories of how people are connecting using Twitter just because it’s an open and flexible platform, so you can update from your cell phone, and it integrates very well with other web services like Facebook.

We will see how it goes a week or a month from now… if you Twitter, feel free to add me to your friends list.

Written by Julio Franco

February 26th, 2008 at 9:24 am

POPFile, the best free spam filter bar none

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While I find Gmail’s spam filter pretty adequate, for people with POP email accounts, or even worse, POP accounts that have to be visible on the web (like my address), fighting spam can become quite the nightmare. Even with some server-side software setup, spammers can learn the software’s filtering behavior and bypass it easily. Just the same thing happens with blacklists.

Say hello to POPFile, an open-source automatic mail classification tool that just works (after some training).

I can’t remember why exactly, but I stopped using POPFile sometime in the last two years, perhaps spammers stopped liking my address and I saw no use for it anymore. Digging out through TechSpot’s archives I found that I first recommended POPFile back in 2003. Now, I have been using it again for the past few months and after 3-5 days of training, the software is smart enough to tell between actual email from spam around 96% of the time.

In fact, POPFile works in such a way that you can configure various “buckets” or categories so it can classify your email in Outlook or any other desktop application you use upon delivery. Did I mention it’s cross-platform, too?

Out of the dozens of spam filters out there, only a handful are free and look trustworthy enough to me. POPFile has not changed much in the last few years, but that’s not a bad thing necessarily. Even with its rudimentary looks and slightly documentation, it’s a huge time saver once set up. Give it a try, put it to work, and let me know if you like it.

Written by Julio Franco

February 11th, 2008 at 2:58 am