The last couple of weeks, my family and I have been vacationing in Hungary. We’d booked accomodations with wifi, and we hadn’t brought any travel info with us, confident that we’d be able to use Tripadvisor, Foursquare, etc to find nice places to visit. Unfortunately, the wifi at our first vacation home turned out to be broken. This meant we had to improvise, and after a bit of shopping, I got a killer deal on a mobile 4G hotspot. So I thought I’s post it here.
Meet the Alcatel W800
I’de never seen a mobile 4G router disguised as a USB stick before, but the Alcatel W800 isn’t simply a 4G modem dongle. It’s a complete router, and the USB connector is there mostly to supply power. There’s no need to plug it into a computer. Once powered up, it’ll connect to the 4G network, and broadcast a wifi network for up to ten devices. You can log into the W800 to modify the network name, password, etc, just like any other router.
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In our household, I do all the ironing. And the one thing that makes it bearable is putting on some good music. But my radio alarm clock wasn’t cutting it. It sounds tinny, and there’s no bass at all. That’s why I needed something decent for upstairs. Sonos would have been overkill, so I started looking at bluetooth speakers.
Basically, there’s two types of bluetooth speakers, small, portable ones that come equiped with batteries, and stationary ones that don’t. Speakers in the former category are usually small, and small boxes tend to produce small sound. Plus I did not need a battery. Stationary bluetooth speakers are often large and expensive. Ideally, I’d need something that fell inbetween these two categories.
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Yesterday, one of my NAS devices emailed me, informing me that one of its drives had failed. I have two “entry level” 2-bay QNAP NASes, both with two disks in a redundant RAID1 setup. They’re set up to synchronise over the internet daily, so my files are stored safely in two physical locations. This way, all of my important data is stored on a total of four hard drives. Or rather – at the moment – three.
Both the drives in my TS-210 were getting old, so it wasn’t really a surprise that one of them acted up. After I got the email, I logged into the NAS’s admin interface and rebooted it. Sure enough, the second drive re-appeared, and seemed fine. But I wanted to replace it anyway. With the help of QNAP’s excellent support forum, I found the correct way to replace a “suspect” drive that appears to work properly. It involves just a couple of steps,and they’re all very easy to do.
More Replacing a healthy hard drive in a QNAP NAS
Being the computing enthusiast that I am, I’ve always loved trying different operating systems. I think it’s essential to not “bury” yourself in a single ecosystem. I’ve owned and/or used computers running Apple II OS, AmigaOS, DOS, BeOS, MacOS, OSX, Windows (3.11 through 8) and various flavors of Linux. And while it’s easy to hate Windows, I find it to be quite stable nowadays, and certainly not the worst OS out there. What is incredibly bad about Microsoft’s offering though is its out-of-the-box experience.
More Windows’ biggest problem may be its out-of-the-box experience
Two weeks ago, I finally bought myself a new laptop. The Lenovo Yoga 2 was the first ultrabook to offer all the specs I wanted at a (very) reasonable price. It’s taken me a while to properly set it up, but the Yoga is now ready to replace my trusty old Asus UL30A. The Lenovo has some pros and cons, so I thought I’d write about them.
More Lenovo Yoga 2 13 first impressions
A while ago, I backed the Rocki Kickstarter project. I think the idea of a “Chromecast for music” is great, and I love how it adds Sonos-like capabilities to – for example – your old 70’s receiver. But while the hardware is really nice (colorful, small, stable), support for many online music services is currently still in the works.
While browsing the Rocki forums, I found that playing internet radio streams – while not currently an option in the official Rocki app – is actually quite straightforward. That’s why I created a little web page that makes it easy to send the correct API call to the player. My office mate and I have been using it for a couple of weeks now, and it works.
More Stream internet radio to your Rocki wireless music player
Yesterday evening, when I got back from vacation, I found that our home internet connection and phones weren’t working. Our ISP is Ziggo, and when I called them they agreed with my initial assessment that the modem wasn’t working. They found a local retailer that could provide further service, so I went there.
I put the modem – a Ubee EVM 3200 – and its power adapter on the counter, and told them that one of the two items was probably faulty. Immediately, they said it was the power “brick”, and offered a free replacement. From what they told me, the original 12V 1A adapter was too weak for the modem, and they were failing for many customers. I got a 2A replacement, and was soon back online.
With the old adapter, my modem would seem to power on, but all the lights would come on at once, and they’d flicker slightly. Normally, the modem requires some time to power up, and the lights are steady. If your modem is acting up, you might want to call Ziggo to get the power plug replaced.
Kudos to Ziggo for handling all this very smoothly btw, and shame on Ubee for supplying the underspecced original ac adapter.
My new media PC has a 120GB Kingstong V300 solid state drive (SSD). I bought it because reviews suggested that it offered excellent performance given its low price. But it seems that since those reviews were written, Kingston has started using cheaper, and much slower components in these drives.
More Watch out when buying a Kingston V300 SSD
Actually, “building” may be overstating it a bit. The Shuttle DS437T is a “barebone” system, which means you’ll only need to add a couple of components to create a complete PC. It’s essentially a case with a motherboard. The CPU is soldered onto the motherboard, and has built-in graphics. The barebone also comes with audio, network and wifi. All you need to add is memory, storage and an operating system. But the thing that makes this barebone different from others it that it contains no moving parts. There are no cooling fans, which means you can use it to build a completely silent PC.
More Shuttle DS437T barebone: Building a silent media PC
If you buy a laptop computer under €750, chances are the wifi module used isn’t going to be very good. To get to that low price point, manufacturers need to choose cheap components over good ones. So they usually put a decent processor in, and a big hard drive, because customers ask for those kind of things. But from there on in they complete the system with bargain bin components. Most of those are integrated onto the computer’s motherboard, and impossible to replace. Fortunately however, most laptops do let you replace the wifi module. And it’s really not hard to do.
More Upgrading your laptop’s wifi might be easier than you think