Category: Technology

Building DVR and HTPC

  • Case
    Your case is important because it is going to be sitting in your living room alongside your television, DVD player, stereo and so on. You don’t want some beige office PC cluttering up your home theater. Here you can either splurge on a custom, HTPC case or you can paint and customize your own. I went with contact paper and acrylic paint as a cheap solution to decorating a beige case.
  • Video Card
    Incredibly, your video card is a place you can save some money on your homemade Tivo. Unless you plan on playing some serious high-end computer games, all you need is an appropriate video out (s-video, DVI, or HDMI depending on your needs).
  • Tuner Card
    Make sure you don’t go cheap here. Go with a Hauppauge brand tuner card. At least the PVR-150. These are quality cards that take a load off your main processor.
  • Sound Card
    You can get a card with 5.1 surround sound for about $50 (maybe cheaper on eBay). If you want to hook up with your existing stereo system, you’ll want to spend a little more on a card with an S/PDIF out.
  • Memory
    To be safe, you should probably get 1GB of memory for your HTPC. Unless you want to play high end games, 1GB will be great and provide plenty of room for your programs.
  • Hard Drives
    Hard drive space is getting cheaper by the second, so you can choose to save or spend here. I have 300gb and it’s plenty for music and some TV shows. If you want to store all your DVDs, then start looking for some more space.

Basics of VoIP

VoIP stands for Voice over Internet Protocol but is more commonly know as Digital Phone, Broadband Phone, or even internet Phone service. Simply put, it refers to using your internet connection to talk to people. The people you talk to can be across the world or even just down the block.

Although there are free programs to let your computer act like a telephone, it is more common for people to purchase specially made devices that are separate from their computers but still use their internet connections. These devises then also plug into your homes telephone wiring system. This has the advantage of allowing people to use the phone equipment they already own.

To make a call, just pick it up, dial a number and talk just like you would with a traditional phone service. It does not matter if the person receiving the call has VoIP or not, because that is taken care of by your VoIP service provider.

Compared to traditional phone services, VoIP is often more cost effective. And because it is not yet regulated like the traditional phone industry there are no unexplained taxes or mysterious service charges. Because all calls on a VoIP phone are the same, there are no long distance charges. This can make international calling especially cheep.

VoIP really is the technology the world is moving to. And with its ease of use, feature rich service, and simple set up it is easy to see why. So if you would like to save a significant amount of money each year you need VoIP.

Protyping Made Easy

Prototypes are an important step in the manufacturing process. It is in this process that we will encounter computer numerical control or CNC prototyping. In CNC prototyping, a computer controller basically translates the design data and produces a 3D output of that data through a mechanical device.

This whole process has revolutionized the manufacturing process because previously, prototypes were difficult to produce because it consumed a lot of time, effort and cost to make. Now with CNC prototyping, complex 3D virtual designs by design engineers are easily translated actual 3D models with straight and curved lines easily replicated automatically. With CNC prototyping machines, producing prototypes are fast, easy and cost effective.

Now that CNC prototyping processes are available for most prototyping problems, the manufacturing process is greatly sped up. The savings in time and effort allow greater productivity by allowing design engineers to work on more with less time needed. This means a greater and faster turn over within a shorter amount of time. This of course then directly translates into the bottom line and profits for the business.

Sometimes, there is need for more than one CNC prototyping machine to produce the various components of a prototype. In this case, a series of CNC prototyping machines are grouped together and in most cases, these CNC prototyping machines are controlled by computer aided manufacturing or CAM software packages.

It is this CAM software package that aids the design engineer in deciding what types of tools, processes and paths in manufacturing are to be used. After this, the process becomes almost completely automated.

With continuous technological advancements in this area of CNC prototyping, it won’t be long before the whole process is made even easier and more convenient. Thanks to the aid of machines run by computers, there won’t be much need for too much human interference in the prototyping process. This in turn, speeds up the actual manufacturing process. Which in turn, makes things easier for everyone.

USB Flash Pen Drives

Being about the same size as the standard pen, USB pen drives, most popular added feature to date is its MP3 playback function. A lot also have an LCD display for track browsing, and audio input jack and a rechargeable battery. The newer models also offer up to 10 hours voice recording and may even come with tiny speakers for added functionality.

Further, a lot of pen drives come with card reader support for portable memory formats. Some of the newer pen drives can double as a Web cam and a still camera because they have tiny camera lenses for snapping low resolution pictures. These units also come with mountable stands and for greater functionality as Web cams.

USB pen drive applications may also be used to allow the user to save desktop configurations, documents and even bookmarks and makes for easy accessibility and transfer from one computer to the next. It only takes a minute to display the personal settings and data from the previous changes including the updates and changes that you have saved in the USB pen drive.

LCD Monitor vs CRT Measurements

Now take a ruler or tape measure, and measure the actual image you are viewing, measure diagonally, and you will see that the actual measurement is smaller than the monitors claimed size. For example, my 19 inch CRT monitor, measuring the actual image from the bottom left hand corner of the picture to the upper right hand corner is actually 17.25 inches, or in other words, only .25 inches larger than 17 inches, if the monitor measurement were the actual viewing screen this 19 inch monitor would only qualify as a 17 inch LCD monitor. This is where the LCD measurement comes in.

LCD monitors are measured by actual viewable area of the screen. They do not have a large rounded out tube beyond the screen, it is a flat panel of Liquid Crystals behind which are a series of tube lights that shine through the color crystals to illuminate your display. A 17 inch LCD monitor is 17 inches diagonally, a 19 inch monitor is 19 inches diagonal or about 1.75 inches larger than my example of the CRT tube.

Another little known glich in monitor measurements is how the diagonal measurement of a widescreen monitor reduces the overall height of the monitor which in turn reduces the actual size of a standard 4:3 to a smaller size. Example: If you purchase a 32 inch widescreen TV and watch a standard broadcast movie in it’s original format, you in essence are watching a 26 inch television. A more in depth look at how this measurement effects the full screen format, please read my Widescreen article. [http://www.thegourdreserve.com/dailysaleswidescreen.shtml]

My name is Dan Dunkin, I have been working on computers, building and upgrading as well as programming computers since the first tandy Color computer came out in 1980. Originally I programmed in QBasic, later I explored OS9 which was basically a Pascal based language, then with the technology increases into the pentium chips I finally merged this into the Visual Basic fields. My latest hobbies in electronics are dream shopping and finding answers to some of the seldom asked questions like monitor measurements, solid state hard drives, how to tweak and streamline computers to make them run more efficiently and more. Basically I am one who likes to ask the questions no one else thought to ask and finding the solutions to those questions.

Google’s Pixel 4

The Pixel 4 adds some more AI-powered smarts, relying increasingly on its software to determine the overall look of the final image. And while the camera has some moments where it’s truly excellent, I ran into a few growing pains as Google tries to calculate its way to perfect photos.

What’s new?

On paper, the Pixel 4’s camera doesn’t seem all that different from the hardware that came before it. The primary exception is the notable addition of a telephoto lens, which Google intends to improve performance specifically when it comes to zooming and portrait mode. The shooter’s competition, however, is stiffer this year: Apple seems to have corrected some the over-zealous HDR tech that made iPhone XS images look unrealistic and unnatural at times, and the Cupertino company promises to further improve the iPhone 11 Pro’s already-very-good camera when its detail-enhancing Deep Fusion tech arrives in the next iOS update.

Image quality

Google doesn’t pull punches when it comes to computational photography, which relies more on processing power and algorithms than pure hardware performance. The company makes it abundantly clear that the software magic that happens during and after you press the shutter has become extremely important in determining the look of the final image

Like almost every smartphone camera at this point, pressing the shutter doesn’t simply take one photo. Instead, it captures a burst and combines information from those images into one finished file. This “smart HDR” tech does a lot of good: It can prevent highlights from getting blown out, or flatten out a super-contrasty scene that could lose crucial details. But, as with iPhone 11 Pro, it can be unpredictable.

In good conditions shooting with the main wide-angle camera, I prefer the images that come out of the Pixel 4 to those from the iPhone 11 Pro. It’s close, but the Pixel’s camera still feels more neutral and natural to me. I don’t notice the HDR effect that can make subjects look unrealistic—and sometimes even cartoonish—as much as I do with the iPhone. This is especially useful for users who edit their photos after taking them (something very few typical users do).

Google made a few welcome improvements to its overall HDR experience as well. When you tap the screen to focus on an object in the image, two sliders now pop up for adjusting the brightness of the scene. One slider affects the overall exposure (how bright or dark everything looks) in the scene, while the other simply affects the shadows. That second slider is extremely useful. It allows you to do things like taking silhouette photos in which the subject is virtually blacked out while the background (usually the bright sky) stays properly exposed.

You can also achieve the opposite effect in which you can brighten up a dark foreground subject without blowing out a bright sky in the background. In a situation like the one pictured below, you’d typically lose some of those nice yellow leaf details to shadow unless you brightened the whole image and blew out the sky. Adjusting the shadow slider allows you to bring up the exposure on the leaves while leaving the sky alone.

That slider is one of my favorite additions to the Pixel 4 camera, and it’s a trend I’d love to see continue as we go forward into the future of HDR all the time on everything.

When the shooting conditions get tricky, however, the Pixel 4 has some real quirks.

The flickr effect

Most artificial lighting flickers, but your brain does a good job of making the glow seem continuous. The pulsing effect, however, is more difficult for digital cameras to negate, and the Pixel 4 seems to have more trouble in this arena than its competition.

In the video above, you’ll notice some dark bands going across the image. This kind of thing isn’t out-of-the-ordinary with artificial light sources, which have a generally imperceptible flicker to coincide with the 60 Hz electrical current flowing through them. Dedicated digital cameras, however, typically have “flicker detection” to help combat it, and even the iPhone 11 Pro does a better job of mitigating the effect.

With the Pixel 4, I noticed it in a variety of locations and artificial light sources. It’s subtle, most of the time, but if you have a bright light source in the frame of the picture or video, it can push the shutter speed faster than 1/60th of a second, which is when the bands start to creep in.

When I switched to a manual camera mode in the Lightroom app and used a slower shutter speed, it disappeared. In scenes like this, the iPhone seems to use its HDR+ tech to keep at least one frame in the mix with a shutter speed slow enough to stop this from happening. Once I figured out the circumstances that brought it on, I shot the example below, which shows it very clearly.

The flaw isn’t a deal breaker since it only appears in specific circumstances, but it’s very annoying when it does.

White balancing act

Another area where our brains and eyes routinely outperform cameras: color balance. If you’re in a room with both artificial light and a window, the illumination may look fairly consistent to your eye, but render as orange and blue, respectively, to a camera.

Smartphones often try to split the difference when it comes to white balance unless you mess with it on your own. The Pixel 4, however, analyzes the scene in front of it and uses AI to try and recognize important objects in the frame. So, if it notices a face, it will try and get the white balance right on the person. That’s a good tactic.

Generally, I think the Pixel 4 does an excellent job when it comes to white balance, except when it gets it very wrong. Move around the iPhone 11 Pro camera, and the scene’s overall color cast tends to stay mostly consistent. Do the same with the Pixel 4, and its overall white balance can shift drastically, even when you only slightly move the camera. Above, the grid-style screenshot show a series of photos I took in succession under unchanging conditions. I moved the phone subtly as I shot, and you can see the really profound color shift. Again, this primarily happens when shooting under artificial light.

As long as you pay attention and notice the change before snapping the shot, it’s totally fine and the Pixel does a great job. It’s also easy to correct later on if you’re willing to open an editing app. But, on a few occasions, I ended up with a weirdly yellow photo I didn’t expect.

Telephoto lens

The new telephoto lens is roughly twice the focal length of the Pixel’s standard camera, which effectively gives you a 2x optical zoom. It has an f/2.4 aperture, compared to the improved f/2.0 (lower numbers let in more light) portrait lens on the iPhone 11 Plus. It’s only a fraction of a stop, however, so it’s unlikely to make a huge impact, but it’s a reminder that Apple has been doing telephoto lenses for some time now and is already refining while Google is just getting started.

Like we said earlier, the telephoto lens counts zooming as one of its primary functions. The phone gives you the option to zoom up to 8x by combining digital and optical technology. Google claims pinching to get closer now actually gives you better image quality than simply taking a wider photo and cropping in, which has historically provided better results. I found this statement accurate. “Zooming” has come a long way on smartphone cameras, but you shouldn’t expect magic. You’ll still end up with ugly choppy “artifacts” in the images that look like you’ve saved and re-saved the photo too many times as a JPEG.

When you peep at the images on a smaller screen, like Instagram, however, they look impressive, and that’s ultimately probably the most important display condition for a smartphone camera in 2019.

If you zoom a lot, the Pixel beats the iPhone on the regular. It’s even slightly easier to hold steady due to the improved images stabilization system when you’re zoomed all the way to 8x.

Portrait mode

The other big draw of the telephoto lens comes in the form of improved portrait mode. Even with the single lens on the Pixel 3, Google already did a very impressive job faking the background blur that comes from shallow depth of field photography. Predictably, adding a second lens to let it better calculate depth in a scene improves its performance.

If you really want to notice the jump, try shooting a larger object or a person from farther back than the simple head-and-torso shot for which portrait mode was originally developed. Using portrait mode for larger objects is a new skill for the Pixel 4 and it does a good job of mitigating the inherent limitations of the tech. Any weirdness or artifacts like oddly-sharp areas or rogue blobs of blur typically tend to show up around the edges of objects or in fine details like hair or fur. The closer you get to your subject, the harder you’re making the camera work and the more likely you are to notice something weird or out of place.

Overall, the Pixel 4’s portrait mode looks more natural than the iPhone 11 Pro, but it struggles more with edges and stray hairs. In headshots, the areas around the hair typically give away the Pixel 4’s tricks right away. (The iPhone 11 Pro gets around those edge issues by adding a “dreamy” blur across most of the image.) The Pixel’s overall colors and contrast are generally better because they don’t try to emulate different types of lighting like the iPhone does. But, when you get a truly ugly edge around a subject’s face or hair with the Pixel 4, it can quickly ruin the effect.

If you’re only posting your portrait mode shot on Instagram, those rough edges may not really play for your followers. Viewing them on a laptop screen or larger, however, makes them obvious.

The Pixel 4 does give you almost immediate access to both the fake blur images and the regular photo in your library. Portrait mode takes a few seconds to process, so you can’t see those immediately. Considering the amount of processing it’s doing, that’s understandable—and also the case with the iPhone—but if you’re trying to nail exactly the right expression, you can’t really check your results in real time.

Night Sight

When Google debuted its impressive low-light shooting mode, Night Sight, in the Pixel 3, it was incredibly impressive. Google has clearly continued to refine its performance and, even with the iPhone 11 Pro adding its own version of the tech, the Pixel 4 still maintains a considerable advantage.

You’ll still have to swipe over to the Night Sight mode in order to enable it, as opposed to the iPhone, which springs it on you automatically when it thinks the conditions are right. I like having more control over what I’m doing, so I prefer the Pixel’s approach, especially since these night modes require long exposures that can result in blurry photos if you—or the objects in the scene—can’t hold still.

Compared to the iPhone’s Night Mode, the Night Sight’s colors are more accurate and the scenes just look more natural. Ultimately, this one will come down to personal preference, but I prefer the Pixel 4’s results over the iPhone 11 Pro’s.

During the camera presentation, Google flat-out said that it hopes you’ll only use the camera “flash” as a flashlight. I abided by this rule. The flash is not good, just like every smartphone camera flash photo that came before it. It’s useful if you really need it—especially if you don’t mind converting images to black and white after the fact—but you can ultimately just leave it turned off forever.

As an addition to Night Sight, Google also added functionality that makes it easier to shoot night sky photos that show off stars and the Milky Way—if you know what you’re doing. I didn’t test this feature because I didn’t have access to truly dark sky, and the weather hasn’t really cooperated. If you’re planning to use this feature, you should plan to use a tripod—or at least balance the phone on a stable object—since it still requires long exposures. Ultimately, I love that the company added this feature and I look forward to seeing what people create with it, but it’s a specialized thing that I imagine most users won’t try more than a few times.

The case of the missing super-wide-angle lens

When the Pixel 3 shipped without a telephoto lens, I didn’t really miss it. I do, however, have to wonder why Google would ship the Pixel 4 without the super-wide lens found on the iPhone 11 Pro and other high-end smartphones.

The super-wide is easy to abuse if the unique perspective blinds you to the inherent distortion and overall just kinda wacky perspective it offers. But, there are times when it comes in really handy. If you’re trying to shoot a massive landscape without creating a panorama, or you’re just taking a photo in really tight quarters, the extra width makes a tangible difference.

Ultimately, I advocate that people do the vast majority of their shooting with the standard wide-angle camera no matter which phone they choose, because the overall performance and image quality are typically far better than the other lenses. But, I like options, and a super-wide lens lets you achieve a perspective you physically can’t get by simply backing up.

So, what’s the best smartphone camera?

The Pixel 4 has left us in a tough situation. The image quality, color reproduction, and detail are really excellent—most of the time. The quirks that pop up, however, really do have a tangible effect on the overall usability of the camera as a whole. If you’re the type of shooter who is careful to pay attention to your scene and edits your photos after you shoot, then the Pixel is the best option for the most part. The more neutral colors and contrast take edits better than those on iPhone files, which come straight out of the camera looking more processed.

Ultimately, though, we’re in a time when smartphone camera quality has largely leveled off. I haven’t mentioned the Samsung cameras in this review for the most part, because I find their files overly processed with too much sharpening and aggressive contrast and saturation levels. But, a large contingent of people like that. At this point, there isn’t enough difference between overall performance and image quality on the Pixel 4 to jump ship from your preferred platform—only to eek out a slight edge on images that come straight out of the camera.

Continuous Ink Systems

Continuous Ink Systems were introduced in 1999, however have had a significant growth in the consumer market over the last few years. The problem associated with regular ink jet printer cartridges is the cost. The price of cartridges varies depending on the printer model and brand. However because cartridges contain very little ink – there is very little value.

Continuous ink systems use ink tanks which are designed to sit beside a printer. These ink tanks can contain up to 100x the amount of ink compared to regular ink jet printer cartridges. Unlike most cartridges, CIS ink tanks can be refilled one-by-one. The fact that CIS contain much more ink, means that you don’t need to replace ink every few weeks.

Continuous ink systems result in a saving of approximately 90% due to the bulk feed. This means that the consumer can print photos and other media without having to worry about ink usage and the high costs of cartridges. In today’s age, people own expensive digital cameras and have the convenience of printing excellent quality image from their homes. CIS finally give consumers the freedom to print their media in an affordable and efficient way.

The price of CIS has dropped dramatically over the past 2 years as Chinese engineers realized its market potential. As a result CIS is the most attractive ink solution on the market.

Megabites Of Memory

Memory

Memory is the ability to retain data for a period of time. Memory can be built right into a system board, but it is usually attached to the system board in the form of a chip or module. Memory chips are tiny electronic circuits specially designed for storing data. Memory chips reside on the motherboard, or on a added memory boards inside your PC. Memory is very easy to install in computers, but be sure you buy the correct type of memory. Memory upgrades should be compatible with the memory already in your computer, and they must be compatible with the motherboard in your computer.

Ram

Computers generally come with no less than 256MB of memory for a basic computer. You can upgrade that to 512MB or more with the addition of one or two modules. Although older computers may not support that much. To installing CD-ROM drive you need about 740MB of hard drive space to copy CDs. Video cards have a built-in memory but they also consume your main system RAM. If you add a printer or scanner to your system, you should also consider buying more memory. Computer memory is always organized in a fixed manner. It is an electronic storage with no moving parts. Adding computer memory or upgrading computer memory is also one of the easiest computer upgrades. NOTE: No memory module is built to be universally compatible, so you need to find modules that are specifically made for your system.

HON Computer Desks

Hon 10700 Series Laminate Desks: The 10700 Series of Hon computer desks is known for its durable, high-pressure laminate and waterfall edge. The Waterfall edge office desk collection offers a full-extension file with ¾ extension box drawers, “one key” core removable locks and file drawers with rails for easy file-folder hanging.

Hon 10600 Series Laminate Desks: This desk collection is known as radius edge office furniture, thanks to a single radius edge styling, and drawer fronts which are flush. The wood grain laminate surfaces resist scratches. All file drawers extend completely, but box drawers extend only 3/4 of the way, and both drawers are on steel ball-bearing suspensions.

Hon 10500 Series Laminate Desks: The desks in this collection are quite durable, with laminate surfaces which are scratch resistant. All file drawers extend completely, but box drawers extend only 3/4 of the way, and both drawers are on steel ball-bearing suspensions. The drawers in this collection have high sides in order to accommodate hanging files.

Hon 38000 Series Steel Desks: These desks are created from high-pressure laminate, but with tops that are reinforced with steel in order to create superior strength and rigidity. Tops are radius-edged, drawer pulls are recessed, and drawers and panel sides have edges which are beveled. The drawers in this desk collection easily accommodate hanging file folders and all drawers have full suspension.

Hon Valido Series Laminate Desks: These desks come equipped with 1-1/2″ thick laminate which is resistant to both abrasions and stains. Five-sided drawers operate on ball-bearing suspension. These drawers extend fully and have high sides and hanging rails for filing either front to back or side to side. These desk sets are available in either bourbon cherry or mahogany laminate themes.

Hon Station Master Series Modular Desks: The Station Master Series offered by Hon makes it easy to mix and match different furniture components in order to create an office that suits your needs. This desk set is known for its radius edges and beautiful gray or mahogany laminate top with a metal base that is charcoal finished. If you are looking to have more customization options when it comes to setting up your workspace, the Station Master Series offered by Hon is definitely the way to go.

Laptop Security

Whenever there is a laptop theft, only a few of the culprits are concerned about the data it contains but more are concerned with its digital treasures like the hard drives. By selling them they seek quick profits. This article is devoted on how you can secure your laptop and will give you a brief overview on how users can prevent laptop thefts.

With the increasing number of laptop thefts, people have become more concerned about their possession. To support this there is available a wide range of security products depending on your requirements. Of which the most important is the users self security. You should be very careful with your machine while traveling. The others security means are:

  • Laptop Security Cables: It is the most cheapest and effective security measure available in the market. Laptop Security Cables are light weight cables that wrap around a stationary device and lock the security slot of your laptop. If your laptop is not equipped with a built-in security slot, an optional glue-on adapter is available at no extra charges.
  • Laptop Safes: They are the most convenient security gadget available to you while you are traveling. A must have in especially for the travelers! Your machine is transported safely in a sturdy trunk in your very own vehicle.
  • Technological Solutions: In this category you have a wide array of products, ranging from motor sensors to theft alarms, depending on your requirements.
  • Track IT: This product helps create a “maximum separate zone” around both the user and the laptop. As soon as you move out of the range of your machine, the alarm rings and once back within the range, it stops. It is an ideal solution for preventing thefts in crowded areas. But the interference from the environment such as the metal beams and other radio sources is a drawback to this solution which reduces the usefulness of the product. Another method is to opt for an alarm that relies on the movement of the object that is attached to it. If the object that is attached to the sensor is moved an alarm will be raised.
  • Caveo’s Anti-Theft PCMCIA Card: This device monitors the position of your laptop. There are sensors that detect the movement of laptop outside the designated workforce, several events can occur like the alarm will ring, where upon Caveo will shut down and effectively lock the machine by preventing it from booting without a proper action.
  • Password Protection: If you are running an operating system that supports proper login settings, a password is a must.
  • Smart Cards: They are being used sparingly as they are an efficient way to block access to people other than the user.
  • Encryption: Data encryption system protects information stored in your laptops.
  • Biometrics: It provides another means of blocking access by allowing only the users who authenticate their identity with various physical characteristics such as the finger prints, voice patterns or their retina scan.

These security products provide effective theft deterrents and access controls but ultimately it all depends on the individual user to prevent their laptop theft. Users need to be specifically careful in the public locations.