Issue: August 2009
Looking for what’s hot this summer? Our entreprenerd picks some of his favorite tools and toys for at home or hitting the road.
Windows Home Server is hot.
Not in a Megan Fox Hollywood-is-your-CGI-oyster sort of way, but in a geeky, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen summer-blockbuster way.
Besides, if you’re looking for a place to store your entire Megan Fox catalogue (so your friends don’t see yourHope & Faith box set sitting on a shelf), Windows Home Server is for you.
Don’t let the “server” part scare you away —it’s not like you’re dealing with Decepticons here.
If you have more than one PC, you can benefit from Windows Home Server. It gives you the ability to store all the family (or small business) media files — pictures, music and videos — in one location and access them from any of your PCs. You can even configure it to provide access to documents and files from remote locations via the Internet.
Running out of hard disk space? No problem. Just add another inexpensive, huge (maybe 1 TB?) hard drive to the Windows Home Server.
It also makes data recovery a breeze forwhen,not if, you accidentally delete or overwrite an important file.
The automatic backup feature lets you restore an entire PC in case of a system crash. Even with good backups, you can spend hours or days trying to recreate the crashed system: installing Windows, finding your software CDs, configuring printers and other settings, creating favorites and so on. With the server’s “bare metal restore,” you can have a duplicate system up and running in a couple of hours.
The “home” part shouldn’t intimidate you, either. Microsoft uses “home” to indicate the ease of installation. You don’t need an engineer to install and configure Windows Home Server. In fact, most people buy it preloaded on a PC.
Also, it allows for up to 10 connected PCs (evenI don’t have that many on my home network), making it a good solution for small businesses that don’t need the added functionality of a product like Small Business Server.
It’s probably obvious to you by now that Windows Home Server is my version of the computer world’s summer blockbuster — a must-see — but there are a few other items you should know about as we head into the hottest days of the year.
Bare thighs and light summer clothing are no match for the heat produced by your laptop as you check e-mail while lounging on your deck.
Laptop pads have saved me on more than one occasion. (If I’m going to get burned inthatarea, I want it to be from the sun on the beach, not from overheated electronics.) LapWorks offers a nice selection of portable laptop desks and desktop stands that provide both heat protection and a more ergonomic way to use your machine.
The sweltering temperatures can also take their toll on the tiny headphones we tote around with us everywhere to listen to music, movies or television.
Over time, speaker diaphragms deteriorate, though we aren’t even aware of it. Put new speakers in your car, for example, and you will be amazed at how great they sound before time, moisture and crud gets to them. Now consider the amount of wear and tear inflicted on the tiny speakers that go inside your ears.
The good news is JayBird’s new Endorphin Rush Athletic Earphones have a titanium coating over the speaker diaphragms to prevent sound degradation. The not-so-good news is they cost $100 — many times the price of a standard set of replacement headphones. But get this: They are guaranteed for life against sweat.
And if you’re searching for a sizzling fall release to look forward to after these months of hot days and scantily clad movie heroines, I point you to Windows 7.
Though it won’t go on sale until October, you can download the free Windows 7 Release Candidate and use it until March 2010. The operating system has several nice features of Vista but should appeal to XP holdouts.
I like the Windows Touch feature that lets you move through documents and even paint with your fingers.New taskbar previews let you see the contents of open documents more easily. And they removed the annoying User Access Control messages that frustrated Vista users.
Windows 7 will run on an inexpensive 1GHz system with 1GB RAM (though it takes advantage of powerful 64-bit machines), so you may want to dedicate a test machine to be prepared for the fall launch. It will take a couple hours to download Windows 7, or you can probably find a DVD at a local user group meeting (or enter the contest at greatlakesgeek.com).
Besides the Touch feature, another hot new aspect of Windows 7 was borrowed from the latest smartphones. You can minimize every open window except one, just by shaking the mouse.
Just click and hold the title bar of any open window and shake your mouse back and forth a few times to minimize all the other open windows. Shake again and they resize.
If you can’t wait for Windows 7, download the free Aero Shake from Lifehacker to add this feature to existing versions of Windows Vista and XP.
Sound like geek paradise to you? If you aren’t immersed in the e-world like I am, you (and your kids) would probably still choose Megatron over megabytes. But take the time to check this stuff out and you’ll find — like the world’s favorite battling robots — there’s much more here than meets the eye.
Great Lakes Geek Dan Hanson (hanson@ inside-business.com) calls to mind 3 inches of lake-effect snow when tempted to complain about the heat.
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