Friday, June 26, 2009

Michael Jackson @ Web 2.0

Michael Jackson

By now most of you would have heard about the demise of Michael Jackson, the King of Pop, and an iconic idol of the 80's. Whether or not you like or loathe MJ is out of the question - some might sigh relief - others will cry in agony. Though it's uncanny he died before his final concert.

What's interesting in how today's world shares news compared to the past. Today we embrace the Web 2.0 in a multitude of forms - from IMs (Instant Messengers) to Social Networking sites, like FaceBook (FB). People don't really call or SMS each other - we post up messages on our IMs and FB. In today's always-connected world via the Internet, the Web 2.0 is the medium of communication. Want to know more about IMs?

Chances are you already use a form of IM, and chances are it's a deritive of MSN (Microsoft Network) Messenger, which today is known as Windows Live Messenger. MSN ended with version 7.5, but a 7.0 version was made for those who did not want to switch to MSN 8.0, which is also known as WLM 8.0.

WLM 8.0 isn't available anymore, as it's been replaced with WLM 8.1, which offers offline messages, a very handy feature. As you can't use MSN 7.5 anymore, you have to switch to WLM 8.1 or MSN 7.0 - you don't have to use WLM 8.5.

WLM 8.5 doesn't really introduce anything substantial, so you can give it a pass, unless you want all the other features that comes with Windows Live Services, such as Windows Live Mail 12 (2008) which replaces Outlook Express. There's also WLM 14 (2009), which is version such to tie in with Windows Live Mail 14 (2009).

Again, you don't need the latest version of an IM unless you're required to do so in order to go online. Newer IMs are more demanding on hardware due to the features included, so unless you have a new computer, it's best to stick to something that works on an older computer.

So how will the future generation of a future King of ..... spread and share news? Via Singularity?

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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Do you need RAID?

Image from Fujitsu

Some of you may have heard of RAID and some of you may already be using RAID. But what is RAID and do you need it since it's so popular these days?

In essence, RAID tech is using more than 1 storage drive for either speeding up the performance, or security as a backup device to mirror the contents of the drive. Hence there's RAID 0 for stripe, where 2 drives are used to form a single storage volume, and RAID 1, or mirror, where 2 drives are used to form copies of each other. These are the 2 most common form of RAID, which other advanced versions like RAID 1+0 (or RAID 10) where it's a combination of speed and security. But is RAID always a good idea?

As much as it may sound like a superb solution, you need to remember because RAID works with more than 1 drive, if anything were to happen to the computer which the RAID is running on, you can't just take out the drive and connect it to another computer and save the data.

Remember, it's now a volume which needs 2 drives to work. You can't just plug both drives into another computer and expect it to work flawlessly as well. RAID is designed when the computer that it runs on is almost flawless. Like servers. Hence why RAID started off in servers and workstations. Now however, it has entered desktop and even notebook computers!

However, this is more of a feature to sell than actually being of any real benefit. It's better for you to invest in a faster drive, like if you can afford Western Digital's Raptor series of 10,000RPM drives, and a second backup drive - either internal or external - for security.

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Monday, June 22, 2009

Best Free Antivirus?

Avast Antivirus Bootscan

If you're looking for the best free antivirus out there, there's nothing better than Avast, made by Alwil. Not only does it support x64 (64-bit) operating systems (Windows XP or Vista), it also supports Linux, and comes with boot scan capability, which is very important if you have a virus or worm on your computer, as this ability eliminates the malicious program before it even loads when the OS starts up.

Avast works for a year - all you need to do is register on their site. Avast can also remove infections from USB flash drives (but please right-click and scan the drives in your My Computer first before opening it - you might have to do this a few times to fully get rid of it), and trojans. Did you know you can also customise the look of it?

Avast Antivirus Trojan

If you like to skin your AV software, Avast has a selection of skins here. Choose from Bionic for a BioHazard look, LCARS for Star Trekkies/Trekkers, Corporate if you're tech support installing for offices, Matrix for Neo fans, aVist if you're using Vista and want the AERO feel, and even KDE for Linux fanboys.

And yes, Avast is recognised by XP and Vista's Security Center so it will notify you when it's outdated so you can manually update it should the automatic update not execute (perhaps your connection was down at the scheduled time). Anyway it's always a good idea to manually update your security software off and on for any updates it may have missed during automatic updates.

A word of advice, an AV - or any AV for that matter - is a prevention tool more than a solutions tool. Meaning you need to take measures to scan the unknown before opening, not use your computer as usual and expect the AV to solve a virus once you're infected. Virii are designed to disable AV - trying to remove one once you're infected can be a hassle.

You can get Avast 4.8 from here (XP/Vista 34MB) and then register here. For more download languages, visit here. Linux users can download it here. Check out its features compared to others here.

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Sunday, June 21, 2009

Idiot's Guide to Bidding

This is supposed to be up earlier this week but instead the camera incident resulted in the strip "We Didn't Plan This". Also, this strip was supposed to be a mirror strip for Brick Gamer's Trade wind with Lag post. Want to know more why we did this post?

For all those who want to muster the art of online bidding, be it eBay or or, here's BrickTech's "Dummies' Guide to Bidding!" We hope we didn't leak any secrets out by this post :) Well, at this time, being hardcore in what you do seems the only way to stand out from the rest - so let's give everyone out there an equal fighting chance ya? ;)

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Friday, June 19, 2009

Server Quest

Server Quest

We're not sure if this should be in BrickGamers or BrickTech. It's a Web browser-based game using Microsoft .NET Silverlight plugin, but it's a spin off the classic game King's Quest, where it's called Server Quest - so you can imagine what the game is about! Read on to find out what you need and where you can get it from.

Server Quest room

If you're geekly enough, you might like this game - so give it a spin. All you'll need is your browser to have the Silverlight plugin. You can get version 2.0 here (5MB).

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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

.NET Silverlight Browser Plugin

Silverlight logo

You might have heard of Silverlight before - it's a Web browser plugin like Adobe (formerly Macromedia) Flash, except unlike Flash, Microsoft Silverlight was designed for the modern Web.

While Flash has been used for a long time, it's slow when it comes to things like touchscreens, which require fast response. If you've tried the touchscreens in 1Utama mall, you'll feel the lag delay. Did you also know Silverlight allows desktop applications to run on the Web?

Nexus Digital Signs @ Samsung Low Yat Plaza Multi-Panel Display

Nexus Digital Signs, which powers the technology of some Digital Advertising Signs - like Low Yat Plaza's Multi-Panel Screen, also uses Silverlight - even if it's not a touchscreen (but they do use Silverlight for their other touchscreen projects) . That's just one example. Silverlight has another benefits besides touchscreens.

Unlike Flash, which requires Adobe's own Flash program to create it, Silverlight is based off the .NET Framework as well (especially in version 3.0 found in Microsoft Windows Vista), using a code called XAML (Extensible Application Markup Language - based on XML - Extensible Markup Language). XML can be easily found on many sites - a good example is the Blizzard Entertainment online store (notice the URL).

XAML is used a lot between 2 applications that work together to create Silverlight - Microsoft Visual Studio and Microsoft Expression Blend (an application in the Expression Studio suite of programs). In this way, the Web designer can focus on art while the Web programmer can focus on coding and XAML will work behind the scenes to publish the result via Silverlight to the Web.

In another way, Silverlight brings .NET applications to the Web browser as well. So this means if you have .NET applications, which can run automatically on Microsoft Windows Vista and Windows 7, or optionally on Windows XP with an installed .NET Framework version, you can easily convert it to be used via the Web through a browser, via XAML.

The latest Silverlight is version 2 GDR (2.0.40115.0) and you can get it from here (5MB).

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We Didn't Plan This

Tech Problem

Seriously. This strip wasn't meant to be about camera failure. Our camera actually failed after 3 years of BrickGamers (where we started from). That's the ACTUAL captured image by the camera due to the failing image sensor. So, we made the best of the situation :) Are we going to do anything about it? You bet! Read on to find out more!

Hang in there while the Brick Studio gets a new camera to continue our adventures. In the mean time, we'll be posting updates about Computex Taipei 2009 - that's right. Jack went!

Jack @ Taipei, Taiwan

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Monday, June 15, 2009

Sims 3 and Microsoft .NET Framework

Sims 3 logo

If you've read our latest BrickGamers LEGO® Gaming Comic, you'll notice we poke fun at Sims 3, or rather, the users (or players) of Sims 3 - which could be you! Are you one?

Microsoft .NET Framework logo

Anyway, since this is BrickTech, this is more about what goes on BEHIND Sims 3, in particular, Sims 3 requires Microsoft's .NET Framework (specifically version 2.0), a software framework that needs to be installed on Microsoft Windows XP operating systems but comes as a part of Microsoft Windows Vista (version 3.0) and of course, the RC (Release Candidate) of Microsoft Windows 7. But did you know you don't have to install the latest version of .NET to play Sims 3?

While the latest version of .NET is 3.5 Service Pack 1 (250MB), with .NET 4 Beta 1 in the works, Sims 3 was designed with .NET 2.0. This means if you're running Sims 3 on Vista or Win7 RC (yes it works!), the installer (or you) won't have to install any .NET versions, but if you're using XP, the installer will put in .NET 2.0, unless you've already installed .NET 3.0 or 3.5.

However, .NET will slow down your XP since it's adding a whole new software framework to an OS. Even version 1.0 and 1.1 of .NET needs to be installed on XP - it doesn't come with it. So the wise thing to do is to upgrade or run Vista (or even Win7 RC) instead, as it comes with .NET already. Of course you don't have to do this if you're not playing Sims 3 (or any other game or software which requires .NET). However, if you are, you're better off running the speedier Win7 RC or the slow Vista, rather than the slower XP with .NET.

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Friday, June 12, 2009

Windows 7 Anti-Virus

Windows 7 Anti-Virus

If you're using (or testing) Windows 7 RC, you should also have an Anti-Virus present, and just like with Win7 Beta earlier, where you had a choice of 3 AV, Win7 RC also comes with a choice of AV to use - even more now actually - 7. Coincidence? Not actually! Lately 2 more were added to be 9. You can see them here. So perhaps more might be added in the future. Read on to see the free duration of each offering.

The List:
Just like before with Win7 Beta, only ONE AV offers the longest free duration of usage on Win7 RC - Kaspersky. They continue to offer half a year (6 months) of free usage for their Win7 AV 8 Beta.

Windows 7 Kaspersky

No this post wasn't paid for by Kaspersky. You do the research yourself and see who offers the best deal for testing or using Win7 RC. As gamers will say, do we hear a "Mother Russia"?

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Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Vista Service Pack 2

If you're using Windows Vista, Service Pack 2 is out recently. If you've never installed Service Pack 1 on your Vista before, you can skip SP1 and go to SP2 directly. SP2 corrects any bugs and problems that have come out since SP1. To download Vista SP2 (350MB), you can get it directly from Microsoft's site via this link. Alternatively, you can get it from Microsoft's page here. But did you know there's 2 versions of SP2?

That's for the x86 (32-bit) version. If you're using the x64 (64-bit) version, you can get it here (570MB). The direct link is here. To know if you're using the 32 or 64 version, just right-click your Computer icon on your Vista Desktop and select Properties. Chances are if you have less than 4GB of memory, you'll be using the 32 version. 64 only works well once you got more than 4GB of memory as 32 can only use up to 4GB of memory.

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Monday, June 8, 2009

Windows 6.1 Version

Don't believe Windows 7 is Windows 6.1? Here's the proof you can find out yourself:

Windows 7 version

You can get this Windows version box via 2 ways - by clicking Help on the menu of any Windows Explorer window (like an opened Folder) and selecting About Windows, or clicking the Run command on the Start Menu - or its shortcut of Windows Key and R together on your keyboard, to open the Run box. But why did Microsoft have 2 versions for this Windows?

First, let's continue. Type "winver" (without the quotation marks) and hit the Enter key or click the OK button in the Run box you've opened. This method works in all Windows.

You can also use the Command Prompt. You can find it on the Start Menu under Accessories, or use the Run box and type "cmd".

Windows 7 Command Prompt

So why would Windows 6.1 be called Windows 7? Well, would you prefer Windows XP to be called Windows 5.1? Because that's what it is! Let's face it, Windows Vista sounds so much more better than Windows 6.0 (because it is), so unless you can think of a better name for Windows 7, you have to admit, Windows 7 does sound like a nice name doesn't it? Besides, with all its touch support and new Superbar Taskbar, not to mention Libraries content Shortcut, it doesn't really warrant just a .1 upgrade, don't you think so?

We'll highlight more Win7 features later that you might not know about, for those of you who might think Win7 is just an enhanced Vista. In many ways, Win7 is to Vista what Win98 was to Win95 - back then Win98 really did prove itself better. This isn't a Win98 to WinME yet again.

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Sunday, June 7, 2009

A Man Can Dream...

BrickTech 002

Apparently some people have no idea what RC (Release Candidate) means. RC is not RTM (Release To Manufacturing). To many people who are not in the technology line, RC is a good as any to be used as an operational computer - which isn't the case. Read on to not be duped.

Don't be surprised if you go to your local Pasar Malam and find people hawking Windows 7 (or even Windows 7 RC) as the real thing. You shouldn't have to pay for Win7 RC - it's free to download from Microsoft's site.

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