Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Now I find "gender debates" to be quite an interesting topic, and just now I was reading about a new Windows kernel flaw that allows the attacker to bypass UAC. Needless to say I was caught surprised by this sentence.

The flaw is a privilege escalation vulnerability. Anyone who can run code on a Windows system can elevate her privileges to the highest level, and accordingly install back doors, compromise sensitive data, and so on.

I do not know why but reading that sentence just distracted me a moment, it made me wonder who was the hacker, since she is apparently female. On a hilarious note, many comments were used to discuss that very sentence in the comments section. Happy readings.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Acer Aspire TimelineX AS1830T-7618 Short Review

So someone I know got this specific laptop and I had the opportunity to take it for a "test drive" today, though in the process I was installing office, chrome, etc. I'm just going to include the specs from Acer's website

-Genuine Windows® 7 Home Premium (64 bit)
-Intel® Core™ i5-470UM processor (3MB L3 cache, 1.33GHz GHz with Turbo Boost up to 1.86GHz, DDR3 800MHz, 18 W)
-4GB (2/2) DDR3 SDRAM
-640GB hard drive
-11.6" (1366 x 768 WXGA Acer CineCrystal™ LED-backlit TFT LCD
-Intel® HD Graphics with 128 MB of dedicated system memory
-802.11b/g/n WLAN, 10/100/1000 LAN
-3 USB 2.0 ports
-HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface) with HDCP
-Headphone jack
-Microphone-in jack
-Ethernet port

What astounded me was that for roughly $700 (CAD) you could get all of that. In a way you could compare it to the macbook air (which I assume will still be faster because of the SSD), but when you look at the price, at least to me it seems quite competitive. It also sports a 8 hour battery life. How many of these ports does the macbook air have? Just note that I'm not trying to downplay the macbook air.

Now it's time to list some of things I had minor issues with. One was the keyboard, for some reason, the french keyboard is the "in" thing, and the thing I don't like about the french keyboard (other than the fact that it has random other symbols next to the letters) is that the left shift key is far shorter than the US/American keyboard. I have to move my pinky all the way to the left to press down on the shift key, which I think is cumbersome. Though the keyboard itself was pretty much full size, and it was alright to type on. As for the trackpad since the laptop is so small it was somewhat tiny. It was hard, at least for me, to move the cursor around the screen and click. The right and left click buttons were pretty much flush to the end of the laptop, which made them slightly harder to press, however. For long term usage I would prefer using some sort of external pointing device.

It also does not have bluetooth. This might be a deal-break for some but for me I don't find it to be as important. When I first got my macbook pro I was curious as to why manufacturers actually offer RF mice. After all, if a laptop has bluetooth built in, why would you want to plug in a receiver? After I got my first bluetooth mouse I found out why. For me it was just not as accurate or precise as a regular USB mouse, which I found to be quite disappointing. Though just to note part of the reason was due to horrible logitech software. Another much touted feature of bluetooth is the file transfer abilities. I tried it once just for fun, and during that time when I was figuring out how to get through the security protocols (such as passphrases etc.) I could have transferred it through a small USB drive. Plus, for some reason on windows it seems especially hard to do any file sharing through bluetooth. Especially since this laptop has three USB ports I wouldn't mind using one for either a USB or a receiver for a wireless mouse.

On the performance of the laptop, it runs very smoothly. The display is fairly good, for one of that size. For the battery life I haven't fully tried it out but as usual depends on usage. From what I see if it's light (no flash) browsing, or just editing a word document I would imagine that it can live up to the 8 hour standard, but when I had many tabs running on chrome, while installing different programs, when I was done it said I had 1:33 hours left (I did not check the percentage of the battery left). Note that this computer, like just about all ultraportables, doesn't come with a DVD drive.

I did try out the webcam, and it's of decent quality. Personally I think that the isight camera on macbooks/macbook pros is still better, but this webcam is still fairly good. One thing I liked about this laptop when I tried it was that even though it came with useless applications such as "acer games" only essential applications ran at startup, such as the trackpad application. I am not the kind of person who reinstalls windows 7 for a new computer just to get rid of that kind of software, so it comes as a pleasant surprise.

In conclusion, I think that the acer aspire laptop is surprisingly good given its form factor and price. It's very light (especially since it doesn't have a DVD drive), though it just a few quirks such as the french keyboard and unfortunately the trackpad as well. But with the addition of (if needed) an external DVD drive and an external mouse this laptop can be quite superb for a road warrior or for just anyone who likes to carry light but still have adequate computing power.

Edit: what's a review without a picture?

Friday, November 5, 2010


I was helping someone fix their (yes I'm using "their" here) computer running windows xp (I installed MSE on it, it had AVG installed). Today I found a relevant post regarding MSE (Microsoft Security Essentials) that I thought was pretty funny. Note that when the person ran MSE it immediately found a virus on the computer, where AVG was installed the whole time and did nothing about it.

Here's the included screenshot regarding the post that I saw. Some background information, it was from an article in Ars Technica about Trend Micro calling "foul play" on Microsoft for MSE, citing antitrust issues. If you're interested you can find the article here.

Edit: Sorry for the relatively small picture size, haven't found a way to enlarge the picture from the initial upload.


Apple recently said that they wouldn't implement USB 3 for the time being, and right after I see lots of comments talking about light peak and how it's going to be the de-facto standard. For me, I don't really see that as a likely scenario. Even with the implementation of USB 3, the process has been very slow. In fact, it was very slow for USB 2 as well, and took a while before it gained traction in the market place to the point where it is ubiquitous today. One example I give is the displayport/minidisplayport. Apple took an open standard and made their own version. How many monitors out there actually have a minidisplayport? Dell probably has a couple of displayport monitors, but the number is relatively low compared to VGA/DVI adapters. Say light peak comes early next year and apple implements it right away. Will other devices have it? What will happen to firewire? USB 2 will ultimately be necessary. How does it fit in? Will anything in the market even have a light peak adapater? It is highly experimental technology, and how about cost? USB enclosures are fairly cheap compared to firewire. With a light peak enclosure will they be far more expensive compared to firewire enclosures? An advantage of USB 3 is also backwards compatibility with USB 2. This can not be said for light peak.

I am not saying that light peak will not gain traction, I just don't see how it fits in the apple model. Will we have a firewire, USB, lightpeak ports? It also takes a while to develop further functionality, for example target disk mode and firewire. But in the meantime I will wait and see.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Skype 5 Beta for Mac

I read this morning that a new beta of skype was out for mac, that would include features already included in the windows version (which is out of beta at the moment) like video conferencing with multiple people. So I was curious and installed the skype beta (you have to sign in to download the .dmg file for some reason, odd). I was surprised to see a window layout not unlike that of windows skype, and I immediately detested it. Granted, it's easier to access some functions (I won't double click accidentally and call someone), since there are buttons for chatting, calling, etc. but everything was just expanded and took a horrific amount of space (ok ok I'm exaggerating here) but compared to the stable version of skype it really is a huge change.

I remember in the windows version, even with these new changes they gave you the option of changing the panels back to the old layout, which is not present in the skype beta. I immediately gave some feedback, and I hope that such options will be given to us just like on windows. The loading time is quite fast, though I haven't tested out the video and calling functionality of the new skype beta. The chats also followed the expanded theme, and every line just had a lot of space in between, which in my opinion is a waste of space. I don't own a 27" or a 30" monitor, and can't afford to enlarge my windows that extent. There's also a set minimum window size, so I couldn't change the window size to how it was like in the previous version (somewhat hard to describe it here).

These are just a number of initial impressions, I will give more input after I have tried it out for an extended amount of time.

Edit: I would include a screen shot, but I couldn't hide my contacts effectively and I didn't want to bother photoshopping all the names out. There is no way (from what I see) of hiding offline contacts, a step back from the previous version. Again, I hope that as the skype beta matures we will gain more options.