My New Laptop is a Vintage Chromebook Pixel

Back in June Stella and I took a vacation. Not just time off work, but a real vacation, the first in years. We spent a week in Hawaii. It was great, but this is not about that, exactly. It’s about the computer that I bought to facilitate our trip.

Stella has never owned a laptop. Nor has she been issued one by her employer. As a public relation professional, she lives and dies by staying in touch, but it’s always by desktop or mobile phone.

In contrast, I’ve traveled on business extensively, which means a laptop is a standard part of my equipment compliment. My former employer issued Dell or HP laptops, but for the past several years I’ve owned a Lenovo X1 Carbon.

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Deal Alert: Amazon On Logitech’s MX Master Mouse & C920 Webcam

As a rule, I only recommend devices or services that I have actually used. Today I see that Amazon is offering nice deals on two Logitech products that I’ve been using for a long time.

Logitech C920 Webcam

As you may know, I’ve had a long-running exploration of the world of webcams. In fact, I’ve tried an irrational number of models myself. The dregs of those experiments litter my office. That said, for everyday use atop my monitor, the venerable Logitech C920 remains my choice.

Logitech C920 Webcam 600px

Since it was superseded by the C922x model last fall, the price for the C920 has fallen from the $80 range to around $60. Today Amazon offers it for just $47, which is an excellent price.

The C922x model is, in actuality, the C920 hardware with a minor firmware update that allows it to stream 720p60. This new capability, while novel, is of very little real value in most use-cases.

Logitech MX Master Mouse

Early in 2016 I fell prey to a bout of tendonitis. Given my change in working circumstance, my physician was not at all surprised. He quickly recommended that I use a more ergonomically correct mouse. He was very specific about the Logitech MX Master, which he uses himself.

Logitech MX Master Mouse

The doc was right, the new mouse has helped a lot. Further, it’s a joy to use. Highly recommended, especially at today’s offer of just $49.

Wanted: A Superior Anti-Virus

For the past few years the computers hereabouts have used Avast Pro anti-virus. Our subscription to that software is about to end and I’d like to consider alternatives.

The Good

There are some things that I like about Avast. In particular, I like the fact that it has a “Gaming” mode that eliminates all the prompts. I leave it that way all the time. It’s an anti-virus. I just want it quietly go about it’s business. I don’t want to be bothered by it.

Lenovo X-1-Carbon-AvastPro

The Bad

There are some things I don’t like About Avast Pro. Like so many companies, they’ve expanded beyond the traditional role of anti-virus to offer a plethora of additional services.

  • I don’t want their VPN service.
  • I don’t want their advice on how to “tune up” my PC.
  • I don’t want them to ensure that all of my applications are updated.
  • I don’t want it to try to connect me to known good Wi-Fi providers.
  • I most definitely don’t want them to be a login & password manager.

Some months ago there was a major version update to Avast Pro. In that update the app became a LOT heavier. On my old desktop it rendered my video production toolset unworkable.

The system had been a finely tuned balance, running vMix, a Hangout and VoiceMeeter. vMix and a Hangout are both heavyweight applications. The updated Avast Pro 7 pushed it over the edge, at least as far as that older machine was concerned.

And for what? I neither wanted, nor needed any of the super, new features offered in the new release. It was mostly about  selling new services.

Over the course of the past year we’ve also migrated to Windows 10, which has the built-in Windows Defender. Windows Defender runs as long as no third-party anti-virus is installed. It provides a baseline of protection, although most advise that something better is required.

I wonder what anti-virus they use inside Microsoft?

The Options

All the usual suspects remain in this space. I checked out reviews at PC Magazine, CNET and Tom’s. After all that reading I’m left uninspired. The easy thing to do would be to just renew our subscription to Avast Pro.

Maybe there’s a better approach. I’m open to options. What’s your opinion?

Replacing My Desktop Computer

Wanted: New Desktop PC. Must be the strong, silent type. Windows only. Laptops need not apply.

Warning: The following may well be a rationalization.

The arrival of the Logitech Brio webcam reminded me that my computers are now aged. Neither my desktop, nor laptop, are capable of reliably producing 1080p or 4K video streams.

In the case of the laptop, a second generation Lenovo X1 Carbon circa 2013, I’m not particularly bothered by this reality. I don’t expect a laptop, especially an ultrabook, to do such things.

Given that I optioned it well originally (8 GB memory, 256 GB SSD) the Lenovo is still a lovely device for the various tasks where I truly need portability. I can get another year from it without issue.

The desktop is another matter entirely. Its time has past. It has started to let me down in some significant ways. I’ve tinkered with its internals over these past five years. Its lone, traditional hard drive was augmented by an SSD boot volume early in its tenure, a third physical drive a little later on.

Its AMD FX6100 CPU, with 6 cores, first appeared in 2011. Clocked at 3.6 GHz it draws 95 watts. Upgrading the CPU would require a new motherboard, which in turn dictates a new power supply. While memory and storage can easily be upgraded, swapping out the host CPU is rarely worth the trouble on a system this old.

Never fear, we’re big believers in technology recycling. Our older computers often get demoted to lesser service hereabouts. For example, my previous desktop is our current music server. Alternatively, they may get wiped and gifted to someone who might have use of them despite their age.

Now, looking ahead…

Not long ago I revisited the state of small-form-factor desktops. I remain certain that I want a desktop. I just don’t want a hulking big box. After all, those big sheet metal boxes are mostly empty.

After much consideration (some would say waffling) I ordered an Airtop-PC direct from Compulab. Those of you paying attention will note that this is just over a year since I first mentioned the little wunderputer.

Weighing it against the competition I found it to be the best option for my purposes. What follows is an explanation of that thought process.

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Undecided: Replacing a Nexus 7 Tablet

Nexus-7-2013 360pxUntil very recently I was seriously committed to Google’s Nexus line of devices. From the Galaxy Nexus onward, with just one exception, I carried a Nexus Series mobile phone.

I was so happy with the Galaxy Nexus, and Nexus 4 after it, that I jumped on the first generation of the Nexus 7 tablet in 2012. Similarly, my experience with that tablet was good enough that I bought the Nexus 7 2013 edition immediately upon it’s launch.

Later, when Google stopped offering them, I even bought a spare! I regret not purchasing the HSPA+ capable version when I saw it offered by Expansys at a discount.

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Unexpected: OSX on a Polycom VVX-600

vvx-600-with-OSX-320pxA Polycom VVX-600 is my primary desk phone. It has been since its launch demoted the VVX-500 to a lesser role. Both are great phones, but I find the larger touch screen of the 600 model better for both my eyes and fingers. One of the things that keeps the Polycom phone on my desk is its ability to conveniently record calls to a USB memory stick. It’s a capability that I’d find difficult to give up.

On the other hand, in my daily routine I find that I don’t use USB memory stick very often anymore. I have a couple hanging around, but not the little stash that once graced my computer bag. So, occasionally, when I’m in a hurry, I pull the SanDisk Cruzer that lives plugged into the back of the VVX and use it to sneakernet a few files from here to there.

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