The Dell UltraSharpTM 3007WFP-HC 30 inch monitor offers an incredible amount of desktop real estate and very good quality for most applications. Right now Dell is closing this monitor out while a new version with improved contrast ratio starts to ship.

At one time having two Samsung 19 inchers side by side was considered extravagant. The3007WFP-HC will quickly spoil anyone used to working with two smaller monitors side by side. The 2560X1600 resolution is simply awesome for those applications that require every bit of the 30 inch display. One of our clients purchased several of these monitors to use with a new application built on Microsoft’s Silverlight. Having the larger monitors reduces mouse clicks and has made the team much more efficient. Although, we were left wondering why Silverlight is so inflexible but that’s for another discussion.

The 30 incher is a must have for CAD, graphic design and video production. However, for the latter we’d opt for a monitor with a higher contrast ratio and blacker blacks. Of course, you’ll pay a premium for these features.

To drive the 007WFP-HC monitor at the highest resolution, you’ll need a dual-link DVI-D graphics card that supports 2560x1600. Dual-link doesn’t look any different than regular DVI connector. However, dual link contain twice as many wires and the cable is thicker. So both the card and cable are required to make this work.  Quadro cards from nVidia are a good place to start but make sure you check the specs.

There are a variety of video cards that will drive this monitor, some better than others. The high performance cards often require a better power supply to drive them and a large PC case to accommodate them. If you have a mini tower or smaller PC of any kind this may be a problem for you. For the record, we really like the design of the current lineup of HP workstations. Ironically, the Dell Optiplex system we used to test this monitor could only fit two of myriad dual link cards on the market. To top it off, the folks at Dell sent us the wrong card installed in the system and then sent us a replacement that also didn’t work. Nice to know they’re so knowledgeable about their own products.

In spite of some extra steps necessary to get this monitor up and running it’s worth considering, especially at the close out price.

Visit Dell for more information.
The Averatec D1200 25.5” all-in-one PC is an average desktop replacement for under $1000. The screen is large, the system is quiet and all the peripherals are built in. The system includes a web cam, TV tuner, slot loading DVD burner, basic sound and built in Wi-Fi.

Our system, the D1205XH1E-1 version,  came loaded with Windows Vista Home Premium, 2.5GHz Intel Pentium dual-core CPU, 4GB of memory and a 320GB 7200 RPM hard drive. It also included a pre-load of Norton Antivirus which actually slows down the initial out-of-box experience, more on that later. The power button and other buttons on the front for adjusting the brightness of the screen are hard to read in low lighting and the reflective screen wouldn't be our first choice. It’s a PC first and TV second after all.  That said, it's a good looking unit that would look fine in a den or bedroom.

All-in-one systems are good for anyone that wants a turnkey system and cares more about convenience than specs. These types of units keep getting more compelling as the PC market evolves and the trade-off is not so great for everyday computing. The D1200 series retails for $999. A decent 25.5 inch monitor from a leading OEM such as Samsung sells for $300-$400. So you figure $500-$600 left for the system and peripherals. Sure you might be able to get a bigger hard drive and better specs overall if you piece everything together yourself. But this system is no slouch and it handles regular everyday tasks with aplomb. Web, Office, Picassa... repeat.  Web, Office, Picassa...repeat. Toss in a little Skype.  Make a greeting card.  Burn a CD.  Rip some MP3s. You get the picture. Again, the D1205XH1E-1 is not a speed demon but a reasonable multitasker with minimal fuss.

Moving the Averatec D1200 around is bit cumbersome. It’s not overwhelming but a 25.5 screen and all the components, power supply…etc., gets a bit heavy. So mom might need some help moving it around. The kids in the dorm room will be just fine.

Getting started couldn’t be easier. Plug in the power and put batteries in the wireless keyboard and mouse. That’s it. Things were really going good until we we’re greeted by the Norton Antivirus signup screen. That’s pretty much the last thing we want to see when starting up a brand new computer. Talk about a buzz kill and it just really ruins the OOBE, out of box experience. Why not wait until the user has at least done something with their new toy before badgering them about signing up for antivirus ware? It’s dangerous out there, we get it, but it already takes 10 minutes for Windows to do its thing during the first boot and here comes Norton.

The D1200 includes both wired and wireless network capability, plenty of USB ports, e-SATA, SPDIF and analog audio ins/outs for plenty of connectivity options. We pushed it in the lab in a very unfriendly environment and it performed similarly to other desktop and laptop systems with built in components.

The D1200 comes with Window Media Center. It works for a variety of media tasks from burning a CD to recording TV shows. The tuner was having trouble with our Comcast lineup and we didn’t spend much time troubleshooting. We’d primarily watch video form a DVD or USB drive anyway and these both work fine. We like the slot loading CD/DVD. It’s perfectly placed in the top right corner and easy to operate without actually seeing any buttons. The 24X CD burning capability is half the speed of what you would normally see in a full size drive but for casual use is fine.

The keyboard, mouse, and remote control that Averatec includes with the D1200 feel cheap. The keyboard feels mushy, the mouse click seems a bit louder than usual and the remote control for the built-in TV functions is kind of flimsy. Surely, Averatec kept costs to an absolute minimum with these components. The mouse and remote work fine but we’d immediately replace the keyboard.

Overall, the Averatec D1200 is a solid all-in-one offering. It’s attractive, quiet and hassle free. If you’ve got room for a 25.5 inch unit and simply like the idea of a cleaner installation with less cords and components it’s certainly worth a look. It’s not going to break any speed records but it also won’t break the bank.

Visit Averatec for more information.
Dell has come a long way with its design. The Latitude series is a corporate workhorse that has always provided pretty good bang for the buck in a very bland and boring package. The new Latitude 6400 changes all that with an updated design that looks and feels like a completely different system.

The new Latitude has cleaner lines, a better keyboard and gives off less heat. The power supply is smaller with a light built into the connector so you know the laptop is getting juice from a live outlet. The screen is brighter in both battery and AC mode. Everything about this laptop says refined workhorse.

We tested a unit with XP, 2GB of memory and the 160GB hard drive. Office 2007 was plenty fast in addition to our suite of audio editing programs. We found the layout of the keyboard and the location of the connections ergonomic and friendly. Not much to complain about. This is a very solid performer at a reasonable price and the new design just looks and feels more expensive than it is.

Previously we would have scoffed at a Dell laptop and reached for a ThinkPad. That’s not the case anymore. The new Latitude 6400 series will continue to be standard issue at Fortune 500 companies and deserves a look as a solid desktop replacement in the home.

Visit Dell for more information.
Mozy is one of the premiere online backup solutions. It’s easy to install and is powered by the folks at EMC the same company that does backup work for big corporations. The technology is solid with 448-bit Blowfish encryption and unlimited storage for 1 computer starting at $4.95 a month.

We setup Mozy on 2 computers on the same network. One an IBM ThinkPad and the other a box we built. Both systems are running XP Pro with the latest service packs. Installation was fast and easy. The ThinkPad backup was up and running very quickly. The desktop required the opening of a secure port so Mozy could do its work.

Mozy has improved its software so you can browse for specific files and also allows you to recover files on a new computer should the old one die completely. The initial backup of our two systems took several days. However, the bandwidth that Mozy uses can be throttled to minimize the impact on everyday computer use. We really like that we can adjust the amount of bandwidth the application is using on the fly. This makes the service unobtrusive and pleasant to have on board.

Once the initial backup is completed Mozy only touches files that have been added or changed. This makes subsequent backups much faster and if you don’t add huge amounts of data at once you won’t even notice. Of course, if you’re a video editor or something along those lines Mozy will constantly be working in the background. We recommend dedicating a few folders to Mozy with your important stuff. That way you won’t waste resources on stuff you really don’t need to protect. Mozy does a pretty good job of picking common default folders for backup up files on a typical PC.

Okay, now you have no excuse. There are plenty of options for backing up your data. Mozy is robust and reasonably priced and combined with local hard media solution is a rock solid partner for keeping your stuff safe and secure.

Visit Mozy for more information and to sign up for a free 2GB trial.
This review is easy to sum up. A flash drive with 64GB of space, 128 bit AES encryption and a dedicated backup button. Any questions? To put it in perspective, 64GB is enough capacity for about 45k photos or 30k MP3 files. It’s enough space to backup your really important stuff and would compliment an online backup solution nicely, which we highly recommend by they way.

It’s hard to get too excited about a USB flash drive but we must give props to the design team on this one. The design says tech without being sterile. The retractable USB plug lends itself to better durability and the overall color scheme is cool and modern. Plus the one button backup makes it dead simple to use. Simply choose what directories you want backed up and whenever this button is pressed you’re done. It could not be any easier.

The downside to having a 64GB drive with all your stuff on it is that drive becomes extremely valuable. If you lose it you could have a serious case of identity theft on your hands. SanDisk includes 128 bit AES encryption and password protection so be sure to use those features if you purchase this drive or anything else like it.

We like the SanDisk Ultra Backup USB Flash drive. With street prices hovering around $200 it’s an excellent option for anyone that wants one device to backup all their really important stuff. This combined with an online backup strategy is an excellent two pronged approached to keeping your favorite pictures and other files safe.

Visit SanDisk for more information about USB flash drives and this 64GB monster.
We love these little drives. They're nice and small, quiet and don't require an external power supply. In fact, that's probably our favorite thing about the Passport Essential line. Also, we found this drive popped up nice and fast compared to other drives we tested in this price range.  We tested it on a variety of desktops and laptops running XP and Vista and never encountered any problems, just rock solid and fast performance.  We even dropped it a few times to no effect.

Performance wise, these drives are a little poky. For moving large amounts of data between systems or backing up files they work great. However, If you have an application that requires fast access and high throughput you'll need to copy the files from Passport drive to your main system for the best performance.

We used the Passport primarily to move audio and video files between remote systems when FTP would simply take too long. We simply kept the PC with a laptop and took it everywhere the laptop went. Every PC we plugged it into recognized the drive quickly. We never experienced any strange behavior such as the drive going offline or requiring a reboot like we have with some other external drives.

It's hard to get excited about the design as something as mundane as a hard drive but we have to say we really like the way the Passport Essential looks and feels. The color palette is very nice and the finish on the case makes it feel more expensive than it is.

If you're thinking about getting an external drive to backup files and what something small and portable we highly recommend the Passport Essential seires. It's competitively prices and backed by an industry leader. What more do you want?

Visit Western Digital for more information about portable drives.
Verbatim’s PhotoSave DVDs make it easy to backup photos and other files on a PC for even the most novice users. The PhotoSave DVDs include a small DVD burning utility that runs automatically. The user doesn’t have to install anything. Just pop the DVD in and it walks you through the steps. It couldn’t be easier. However, this convenience does come at a significant premium compared to simply buying blank DVDs and manually copying files over.

The PhotoSave utility includes two options, manual and automatic, for backing up photos on the PC. Automatic will scan the PC and directories such as “My_Pictures” while manual allows you to select individual photos and directories to back up. We decided to backup up a directory containing 12.5GB worth of pictures. The PhotoSave software has the ability to span the backup across multiple discs. A PhotoSave DVD holds about 4.5GB of data so we figured 3 discs would do it. That’s what came in the sample pack. However, the software alerted us that 4 discs would be required before we started the burning process.

There is nothing special about burning to a PhotoSave DVD. It’s just like any other blank piece of media it just happens to have the burning application bundled with it. Everything was going fine with our test until we came to the final disc. Since we didn’t have any more PhotoSave DVDs we substituted a high quality Taiyo Yuden blank instead. The application rejected this disc. It turns out that only PhotoSave DVDs can be used when burning a session that spans multiple discs.
The Orbit-MP3 is an ultra-portable speaker system that resembles a small car speaker you might pop in the dash. We were pleasantly surprised by the sound from this unit. We were able to generate pretty good volume levels without distortion. This would make a good travel companion. We used it for a couple of business meetings and it certainly was much more effective than the sound built into our PC.

Altec Lansing bills the sound as “full bodied, 360 degree sound”. This is marketing gibberish at best. The sound isn’t full bodied. In fact, you can expect very little low end from such a small transducer. As for the 360 degree sound, we have no idea what that even means. It’s basically 1 speaker pumping out some music. It sounds good but not much better than a clock radio.
Music... free music. Internet Radio, Pandora, Last.FM, iMeem, Jogli...the list goes on and on. There are endless ways to get lots of great music for free while connected to the net. There isn't any lack of some really great stuff. However, it can take some work to find all of the terrestrial stations from around the globe and grab the live streams.

Aluratek has done the work for you and packaged it in a little USB drive that loads a simple app and presents myriad stations from around the globe for your listening pleasure. PC only for now. The company bills it's little $29 gizmo as an "instant on" device. In fact, it does go through a quirky installation process that is more like and autorun CD than a truly hardwired experience. Still it does pretty much install itself and present a wide range of stations to listen to.

Aluratek claims the USB Internet Radio Jukebox allows you to easily access more than 13,000 radio stations in over 150 countries around the world with no monthly fees. We fired it up and browsed around a bit. If it does truly offer access to this many stations that's cool and all but we only found a handful that were all that interesting in our initial test. Not to say we wouldn't find more. We just think quantity isn't really what this is all about. The stations we did find that streamed with higher bit rates were certainly worth the price of admission and the USB Internet Radio saved us some time in searching for them online. So in terms of being an aggregation tool of sorts it's useful.

The device allows you to search for music geographically by continent / country / state or by the more than 50 different available genres including a wealth of news and sports radio stations broadcast throughout the world. This is fun and you can spend hours discovering what's happening around the globe.

The USB Internet Radio is more funky than fresh but is a fun toy and easy way for the uninitiated to play with Internet radio.

Visit Aluratek for more information about the USB Internet Radio Jukebox and other consumer electronics.
The PCTV HD Pro Stick from Pinnacle Systems is a USB 2.0 powered TV tuner that allows you to watch and record SD and HD TV as well as Internet radio and FM broadcasts on a PC. We fired it up on both a dual core AMD system and a dual core Intel system. Both systems were running Windows XP with the latest service packs, had 3 gigs of memory and separate 7200 RPM high speed drives for recording.

Installing and running the software for the HD Pro Stick (kinda sounds a like a deodorant eh?) was slow on the 4400 + Athlon system. In fact it was pretty much a deal breaker. However, on our more current 5000x based Intel system performance was better. The installation process was faster, all the default settings worked and we were able to quickly start scanning channels, snap images and record shows. Pinnacle does list reasonable specs for using this product on a PC. For best results, make sure your system exceeds them. Otherwise be prepared for a less than real time experience.

The HD Pro Stick resembles a USB flash drive with a coaxial connector on one end. It comes with a handy extender so that the included antenna can be placed higher and transitioned to the PC. Also, the slightly bulky stick does not have to hang off your computer's USB port. Pinnacle includes a cheap, small, plastic remote. It's pretty pathetic. In fact, it probably will rarely get used leaving us wondering, why bother?

The easiest way to use the PCTV HD Pro Stick is to fire up the software, tune to a channel and press the red record button if you want to record something. It's about as easy as it gets. The included electronic programming guide is pretty weak. It's not on par with Sage TV, Beyond TV or some of the others we've used. However, once you know the date, time and channel it works just fine. We actually enjoyed using the HD Pro Stick on our dual monitor system to have broadcasts running while we worked. If something of interest pops on just hit record.



The the PCTV HD Pro Stick was tested in the heart of Silicon Valley and we didn't have any problems with signal quality or strength. Included here is a recording we made of NBC's HD olympic coverage. This is a fairly high quality Flash video but it's easy to tell it was made from a very clean HD source. Pinnacle includes support for MPEG-1/2 or DivX4 formats and also includes a AV adapter cable to grab video from other sources.

So, to wrap it up, the PCTV HD Pro Stick from Pinnacle Systems does what it's supposed to do but we just wish it wasn't such a resource hog. If you have the PC horsepower it's certainly worth adding to your arsenal of toys.

Plug ins, plug ins and more plug ins.  If you mess around with CMS systems such as Drupal and Joomla you quickly learn the power of add-on modules or plug ins that quickly add useful features without a lot of programming.

Plug-in madness is really going haywire.  Just check out the $1M a day Apple does in business for apps just for the iPhone.  Some of the most useful plug-ins are for mundane applications.  One example, is Xobni.

If you spend anytime in Microsoft Outlook, especially in a corporate setting, you know it quickly becomes a bit sluggish and not a whole lot of fun to use.  Not that email should be fun but since when do corporate apps have to be so...boring.  Xobni brings a little life back to the email world and it's actually quite useful.  Finding contacts, phone numbers, emails and followring threads is simply easier with Xobni.

We can write about it all day but the best thing to do is just check it out for yourself.  Xob it.

 

When it comes to security breaches, human error rather than technology failure is more often to blame. Human error can be as innocent as helping a 'deliver person' carrying a stack of boxes inside a secured building by holding the door open or simply choosing a weak password on your personal workstation.

Verbatim's line of Store 'n' Go secure USB drives, available in 1 to 4 gig capacities, may not protect you or your company from a clever ruse but at least forces users to select a decent password to protect their data. It's much better than using a typical unsecured USB storage device. If the device falls into the wrong hands it will lock down after 10 failed logon attempts and erase all data contents, very Mission Impossible like. So it's not for anyone that has a hard time remembering passwords.
During a recent remodel I installed lots of CAT-6 cable throughout the home. Of course, when all was said and done only about half of the jacks ended up being used because the layout of the home changed significantly.

Enter wireless networking. Over the past year I've installed both PCI and USB based adapters from Netgear, D-link, Belkin and Airlink. I've extensively tested these products with a variety of wireless routers from G to N standards using FTP sites, streaming video with myriad files at all times of the day and night.
Norton Antivirus 2007 Review A lean mean antivirus machine NULL Norton Antivirus 2007 is leaner and meaner than previous versions of the software. We installed it on multiple systems built in the last 5 years. Even on our aging P4 system performance was fast and unobtrusive. This is a welcome change from Symantec's bloatware of the past that often dramatically reduced system performance.
The Logitech QuickCam Pro 9000 features Carl Zeiss optics, 960 x 720 resolution, a two megapixel sensor, and an integrated microphone. The drivers played nice on our system and the camera mounts easily on a variety of monitors although it's more at home on a desktop than a laptop.

Logitech calls the automatic level control for the audio 'RightSound' and the automatic image control 'RightLight'. Whatever you want to call it Logitech's 'right' technology adjusts the settings automatically to compensate for varying degrees of light and sound levels. You can choose to turn the 'right' technologies on our off. We left them on and operation was seamless and effective.
The DriveStation Duo from Buffalo Technology provides RAID 1 redundancy for nearly 500GB of storage. In span mode or discrete disc mode you'll get nearly 1TB of storage without redundancy. It's a reasonably priced solution and includes backup software from Memeo to get you started.

The DriveStation Duo ships with two 7200RPM drives and includes a built in power supply and both USB 2.0 and FireWire connections. It's quiet in operation and has an auto setting that will turn the unit on or off depending on the status of the host PC. The drives are housed in a fairly sturdy housing with rubber feat. We placed it on top of an HP 8400 workstation during testing. The top of the 8400 is slightly convexed and lighter more flimsy units will simply slide off. The cables used to connect the DriveStation Duo are less than 1 meter long so its smallish, sturdy footprint worked well.
Carbonite is the perfect solution for PC users who want to back up their important files but don't want to be bothered with the details. It's simple to install, simple to use and has very little impact on system resources. Don't worry Mac heads, Carbonite promises a version for Apple systems in October.

Carbonite makes it real easy to sign up for a 15-day trial and it only takes a couple of minutes. You download a small executable and simply tell the software what directories you want backed up. The Carbonite default includes mail and document folders. A typical PC loaded with pictures and MP3s may take 24-48 hours to back up completely. All your files are encrypted before sent to the Carbonite servers
With your desktop or laptop computer overflowing with MP3, videos, tons of pictures from your new digital camera and countless free downloads off the Internet, your hard drive may be looking a little cramped these days. The obvious answer is to get a bigger hard drive. The next question is should I go internal or external' Usually for backup purposes an external hard drive is a better choice.
The Sony BWU-100A is a Blu-ray drive that also burns DVDs and CDs. The drive looks good and performed well in our tests.

The only disappointment was the software bundle that seemed more like an afterthought. We're really amazed that Sony's hardware folks don't get together with the software side and put together a killer bundle featuring special editions of Vegas and DVD Architect. We don't care for the Cyberlink Suite.

In fact, for several of the discs we created we used Ulead's DVD Movie Factory 6- Plus. A mouthful I know. DVD MF6-Plus is great little package for creating all kinds of projects: CDs, DVD, HD-DVD, Blu-ray...whatever. It worked well with the BWU-100A. The company has really improved the UI in its software suite and we'll have a full review shortly.
The D-Link DWL-G132 Wireless USB Adapter is a convenient way to connect any PC with a USB port (2.0 preferably) to a wireless network. This comes in really handy in those situations where running ethernet cable is a pain, all available expansion slots in the PC are filled, or you simply don't feel like messing around inside the case. In fact, in some scenarios you might prefer a product like the DWL-G132 because a USB extender allows you to position the unit for optimal performance.