Monthly Archives: September 2008

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As we utilize more and more electronic devices in the digital home, controlling them becomes an important issue.  No one wants to keep up with or sort through a dozen different remotes for various devices in a home entertainment system and surrounding electronic equipment.  The Logitech Harmony Universal Remote Control is the perfect solution.  After reviewing numerous different remote control options and actually using Logitech Harmony remote controls for years, I can whole-heartedly recommend the Logitech Harmony remote control to anyone seeking a solution.  I prefer the 880 model’s buttons and additional display items, while others prefer the touch-screen and interface upgrades of the Harmony One.  However, both remotes use the same intelligent system, making either an excellent choice.

Both models support 15 or more devices.  The device database is extensive, and is perfect if you have lost a remote control or have a damaged remote.  Otherwise, you can also program a device from an existing remote control.  The setup wizards are intuitive and enable easy setup of devices.

One-touch operation is provided for operation, including turning on a device and any other component(s) that may be required to use it (such as turning on a TV also when playing a DVD).  Buttons can be customized for specific tasks.  Backlighting is provided for the buttons as well as the LCD display.  The remotes are also rechargeable via the charging station, with low battery notification available when in use.

The device compatibility for the Harmony remotes is incredible.  You can control a televisions, satellite or cable box, DVD player, video recorder, digital media player, TiVo or other PVR, game console, amplifier, stereo, or even a PC or home automation setup.  More than 5,000 brands and 225,000 devices are supported.

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After an extensive review of online backup services, we have concluded that Mozy Pro is the all-around winner for those serious about online backup protection.  Criteria for this evaluation included data transfer speed, software features, service capabilities, etc.

While Mozy also offers an unlimited home service plan, we do not suggest it for most due to the capped transfer speed and one problem that was experienced with the home-level service.

Intronis eSureIT is the runner-up in our testing.  While their software is capable, and the service offers some very interesting features, such as Intelliblox and multiple PC backup support, higher pricing, slower transfer speeds, and the fact that revisions count against the disk space quota cause Mozy Pro to come out on top.  We have also reported a few suggestions to Intronis regarding usability enhancements that should be made to the software.

IDrive deserves mention.  The IDrive software is excellent, and the service works flawlessly for small backups.  However, we encountered serious problems when backing up a large collection of files, such as icons or fonts.  IDrive provides very attractive pricing.  If the issue mentioned above were resolved, we could easily see IDrive moving into the top position.

The only downside we have noticed with Mozy Pro is a delay which often occurs when transitioning between files for upload and download operations.  The delay can sometimes be frustrating, but in tests, the overall speed of Mozy Pro still beats the competition.

Update:  Please see the comments for an evaluation of the ElephantDrive backup service.

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Shuttle’s small form factor desktop PCs have maintained a similar, rectangular design for years.  The Shuttle D10 is no exception, other than the addition of a built-in 7-inch touch screen display! The D10 is Shuttle’s first computer that boasts an integrated 7-inch (800×480) LCD touchscreen display. The display can be used to view photos, movies, music, video, etc.  It was designed with surveillance and simple entertainment center functions in mind.

The Shuttle D10 offers the following Specifications:

  • Intel Core 2 Duo E4000, Dual-Core E2000, and Celeron 400 series processor support
  • Intel G31 + ICH7 chipset
  • Up to 4GB RAM
  • Intel GMA 3100 video card
  • 5.1 channel audio support
  • Two 3.0Gb/s bandwidth SATA II controllers
  • Four USB 2.0 ports
  • Power efficiency and quiet operation

The Shuttle D10 will be available for approximately $475.

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The PC Remote Controller II is a computer remote control that also functions as a mouse for the PC.  It features four programmable buttons that can be used to open software applications, and operates such multimedia software as Windows Media Player, RealPlayer, KMPlayer, TTPlay, WinDVD, and PowerDVD.  The unit seems particularly well suited for handling media and presentations.  The PC Remote Controller II is now available for $21.

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At the time of this writing, the Buffalo MiniStation Shinobi is the world’s smallest hard disk drive (not flash drive).  The drive has a thickness of only 5mm, and weighs a mere two ounces.  It features a stylish glossy black housing as well as TurboUSB technology, which delivers up to 20 percent faster transfer speeds than standard external drives.  The Buffalo MiniStation Shinobi is compatible with Windows and Mac PCs and is available in 30GB ($120) and 60GB ($170) capacity models.

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The Thermaltake Xpressar RCS100 Micro Refrigeration Cooling System is similar in concept to the VapoChill Vapor Phase-Change Cooling systems.  Thermaltake’s approach differs by utilizing a DC Inverter micro compressor for cooling the PC.  Vapor-compression refrigeration has been the predominant method for air-conditioning large public buildings, residences, hotels, hospitals, theaters, restaurants, and vehicles.  Thermaltake claims to be the first company to use this design for the PC.  The system circulates a liquid refrigerant to absorb and remove heat from the area to be cooled and neutralizes the heat elsewhere. 

The Xpressar RCS100 cools a CPU 20 degrees lower than liquid cooling. Thermaltake’s Xpressar RCS100 is also equipped with a custom controller to prevent condensation.  The system has been tested to work with various Gigabyte, MSI, and Asus motherboards.  It is likely the system works with many other motherboards as well, but they are not officially tested by Thermaltake.

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With a starting price of $25,000, the Cray CX1 is an affordable (as far as supercomputers go), high-performance supercomputer that has been designed for the office, end-user environment.  The CX1 runs the new Microsoft HPC 2008 Server operating system, and is engineered to facilitate faster testing, reduce time to market, and power through virtually any highly entensive operation.  The system is easy to use, from configuration to setup and installation.  Cray’s CX1 also does not require any special power or cooling, making it perfect for the offices, laboratories, and other non-traditional HPC environments.  The CX1 runs from the power of a standard wall socket (20amp/110/220v), which enables even end-users to utilize the supercomputing power in a standard work area. The system maintains comfortable noise levels by employing an active noise cancellation system. The CX1 can simply be plugged in, set up and connected to the network, operating just like a typical office computer.

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Although most people are looking forward to the Intel Nehalem CPUs, an upgrade that maintains the mPGA604 socket platform is very attractive for many in the server space.  Additional cores and performance tweaks can have a significant impact with server operations. 

Intel’s Xeon 74xx series processors, formerly known as Dunnington, pack a mighty benefit in just moving up from a quad-core processor to hex-core solution, having six cores on a single die.  However, the enormous 12MB to 16MB L3 cache also helps to ensure all six cores can access high performance main memory a lot more effectively.  The massive L3 also limits the "cache syncing" traffic required between CPUs, which has been an important bottleneck for prior Intel server platforms.

Boasting a 10% to 20+% performance increase per core, two additional cores per CPU package, and an easy upgrade path that only requires a BIOS update, the newest Xeon 7460 is certainly worth consideration for those that would prefer a simple upgrade for now.

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