Video: Bling your PC

Make a stand against boring PCs! On Breakfast this morning we talked about ways to make your PC faster and more interesting. Click below for video:

TVNZ Gadgets Computers

Item: Intel Core i7 Processor
Price: From $460
Rating: 5 / 5
Info: Intel’s range of processors are the current market leader in power and efficiency. Having recently applied a sensible naming scheme, Intel now sell processors in the i3, i5 and i7 range. Just think of it like the BMW vehicle range: the 7 series is bigger and more powerful than the 3 series. You can buy and upgrade your own processor, but you might find it easier to get a pre-built system from specialists like Playtech.
Item: Viewsonic VX2268 3D Monitor
Price: $568
Rating: 3 / 5
Info: Viewsonic’s 22″ monitor is a great display, but comes with the added bonus of being 3D capable. The only downside is that to get the full 3D effect, you’ll need a particular video card, a pair of dorky looking glasses, and the right game or video. If you can get past those limitations, then the 3D effect is quite stunning.
Item: Microsoft Sidewinder X6 Keyboard
Price: $131
Rating: 4 / 5
Info: If you thought just any old keyboard will do, then the Microsoft Sidewinder X6 might change your mind. With media controls, an adjustable backlight, and recordable macro keys, this keyboard will suit the toughest gamers or most prolific bloggers. The macro facility is great: just hit record and your keystrokes will be logged. Play them back by hitting another button. If you find yourself regularly repeating keyboard tasks, you’ll find this very useful.

Build your own PC: Why?

Intel LogoIt’s a rather silly question, drawing a number of equally inane responses. Anyone from Dell through to Dodgy Jimmy at the corner PC store will sell you a tool appropriate to your needs – whether that be a workaday carpenter’s hammer or a finely built CNC lathe. Fact is: buying an assembled PC from one of the common purveyors of such devices will stand you in comfortable stead.

Let’s assume then that you don’t want their ordinary stead. Perhaps you are looking for something unique. Something in stead. Or maybe it’s the thrill of the chase? Will this RAM work with that motherboard? Will these video cards suck the very life out of that power supply? Or perhaps that unknowable frisson that comes from the first POST: will it or won’t it?

My point, if unclear, is this: we build our own computers because we can. Sure, I’ll happily use a locked down, glued together device like an iPhone for a specific purpose, but the day that I can’t assemble a general-purpose PC from purchased parts is the day I go to the barricades.

Over the next couple of weeks I’ll be highlighting some of the modern options available to those of you planning on assembling your own computing contraption. On the processor front, I’ve been sampling some of the CPU wares from Intel. There was a time when the choice between AMD and Intel was tricky, but the word I would use for the current AMD situation is embarassing.

I must disclose that I’m borrowing this Intel gear for my own long-term use, but be assured: their shit is tight. I wouldn’t say this if it weren’t true. And my regular readers know I’ll call a spade a spade, especially if that spade can’t dig. Furthermore: I know you guys will call me on any attempt at bullshit. Don’t let me down.

By way of a teaser, I’ll leave you with this rather amusing image:

6 Cores, 12 Threads

Logitech Cordless Desktop MX5000 – now with Review

Update: A conversation jogged my memory about the Logitech Pile’o’Crap MX5000. I actually purchased one of these puppies after getting excited about the integrated LCD. I have since sold it, and have to say it rates a poorly 2/10 on my gadget-o-meter.

Here’s a brief review:
It’s a keyboard right? Keyboards are meant to submit text to a computer. So when a keyboard occasionally fails to send text, I call that a Bad Thing. Also the driver for the LCD display is buggy and slow. It would often consume 5-10% of my CPU, and would regularly crash when trying to display new IM messages on the LCD. I could never, ever get the Email alert integration working with Outlook 2003.
The slidey volume controls on the left hand side: looking at them you’d think they were 100% scale, e.g. the bottom of the slider is mute, and the top is full volume right? No. If you slide your finger through the full range of the volume slider, it would change the on-screen volume widget maybe 15%. So to increase the volume from mute to 50%, you would have to slide your finger up the volume control 4 or 5 times. Craptacular!
Selecting a playlist and starting music playback took maybe 5-6 presses of the fiddly little LCD menu keys. No thanks. I can pop Windows Media and start a playlist in 2 mouse clicks.

Original Post:
The new Logitech Cordless Desktop MX500 Laser is one hell of a mouthful of a product name, but the specs match up with the hype. With an integrated LCD, media controls, and a laser mouse, this thing looks like my next keyboard.
Logitech Cordless Desktop MX5000
Logitech says:


The LCD screen can display e-mail and instant message (IM) notifications, favorite playlists and Internet radio stations. And by displaying certain information on the LCD ? such as the status of the caps lock and F lock keys, volume levels and mute ? the keyboard also alleviates visual clutter that would ordinarily be displayed on the computer monitor.


And of course it has a fricken laser in it.

Graphics and Hot Chips

XFX 7900GTI’ve just thrown down for a new graphics card: the XFX NVidia 7900GT, and it rocks. I was tossing around the idea of a cheaper upgrade – expanding my current 6600GT to a dual 6600GT SLI setup – but was swayed by the excellent benchmarks and overclockability of the 7900GT. It saddens me that I’ve never made use of the SLI option on my motherboard, but it seems that the brief reign of SLI is quickly being overtaken by advances in individual cards, in exactly the same way that 3DFX’s original SLI was relegated way back in the day.

In other graphics news, CPU maker AMD is buying graphics powerhouse ATI. No idea what this means for gamers, but the results could range from small changes like ATI using AMD fabs, justifying more investment in new processes from AMD, through to tighter graphics-CPU integration, right the way up to crazy ideas like integrating graphics onto the CPU die. Hell if AMD can do quad-core, then there’s plenty of room for a dual-core CPU and dual-SLI graphics all on the one die. Great for notebooks, but would the marketing team let the techs kill video card sales?

Vista Beta2 Impressions

I had a wee play last night, and first impressions are that it’s hugely more stable than the Feb CTP, and there also seem to be fewer ‘security warning‘ boxes popping up all over the place. The ones that do pop up are more authoritative, with the background greying out and the dialog popping to the front. I think this creates a good balance.

I’m still getting some 3D-game style mouse lag on my system (Athlon XP3200, 1Gig Ram, Geforce 6600GT), which is a bit nasty. Definitely not as responsive as XP on the same machine. Apps start fast and smoothly, but it’s just basic moving the mouse around the screen and dragging windows that seems to be slow.

I was also annoyed by a basic little thing: at the very beginning of the install (just after the DVD loads), you’re prompted for a region and keyboard layout. Then after the install is finished, the first time Vista starts up, you’re prompted for a region AGAIN. It’s set to USA by default. I’m guessing most beta testers are in USA, so just click OK. For those of us outside of the USA it’s like “ffs are you trying to make me select USA or something!?”.

I also agree with Chris Pirillo that all traces of the ‘classic’ look dialogs and windows should be eradicated. Some of the setup screens use the ‘classic’ look. Sure you don’t have to have the full translucent glass interface, but at least update the control boxes etc.

Apart from that the whole thing is looking quite nice and polished.