Sunday, December 14, 2008

How To Choose a Netbook : Tips

Netbook is booming!

Within a year after Asus release their first UMPC (Ultra Mobile PC) EEE PC 2G, now we have soo many UMPC (now also called Netbook) to choose. Not only the big brands like Asus, HP, Acer and Lenovo, smaller brands are also come up with their latest netbook such as Zyrex (local), MSI, Benq, and Axioo.

With too many netbooks to pick, how can we select the one for us? below are few items to consider:

a. CPU: most netbooks now are using intel Atom N270 (1.60 GHz, 533 MHz FSB, 512 KB L2 cache), the older ones use intel Celeron ULV (mostly Asus EEE earlier generation). HP Mini Note uses VIA instead of Intel

b. RAM: most netbooks now equipped with 1GB RAM DDR2, some can be upgraded to 2GB

c. Screen Size, dimension, weight : most netbooks now have 8.9" LCD, some have 10" LCD (eg. zyrex, Ideapad S10, Axioo Pico), while older netbooks have 7" LCD (EEE 8G and older). Dont worry about VGA memory, you will not playing hi-res game with this gadget. Most netbooks are within the same size range (25x19x3) and weigh 1.2kg, except Asus EEE older generation (22x18x3) and weigh 0.9kg

d. Storage : older netbooks use SSD (solid state drive) with max storage of 20GB, nowadays many netbooks already use HD with storage up to 160GB

e. Bluetooth, Wifi, Modem, LAN, 3G, Card reader, USB slot, Webcam : Not many netbooks have bluetooth, but most if not all of them will have Wifi and LAN connection. Also most netbooks don't have internal dial up modem. Acer aspire one at the moment is the only one with internal 3G slot, so you directly insert your 3G chip into the machine. Card reader is standard for most netbook, and good netbooks will have 3 USB slot. I think we need many USB slot since we may have to connect to many external devices, such as optical drive and external HD. Webcam is also a standard feature in current netbooks, either VGA (0.3MP) or 1.3MP.

g. Warranty and After Sales Service : most netbooks come with 1 yr warranty. I think most of them are made in Asia (China, Malaysia, Indonesia) anyway so after sales service and parts availability are so-so. Unless you are in the State where 24hr technical support hotline is available and running.

f. Price and design. Basically all netbooks now have more or less the same specs, the only differences are price and design. Therefore, the KEY CRITERIA is the design of the netbook itself. Dont look at the brochure, the will fool you. Most brochure are not accurate, the will simply put a picture of a similar type, not the real unit, especially if they are the latest release. So you have to go to the stores and look for your self. Not all white colors are the same, some of them looks cheap.

Happy hunting!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

GPS Routing in Jakarta

One of the cool stuffs you can do with your GPS is routing. It's not only that the GPS shows your destination point on the map, but it can also show and lead you the way to get there. Fancy ay?

Well, unfortunately based on my personal experience, in Jakarta (I mean greater Jakarta, ie Jabotabek) you can't rely 100% on the GPS routing for two main reasons :

First, Jakarta's traffic condition is unpredictable, hence each of you already has your own favorite route to go to some places.

Second, Jakarta's traffic rules may change from time to time.

Let's discuss one by one. The first reason; GPS route works using two linear approaches, first is by using the shortest distance and second is by the fastest (travel) time. Please note that the shortest distance is not necessary the fastest route, therefore you need to choose which approach you prefer. My suggestion is to use the fastest time approach.

The thing is, while shortest route is fixed, the actual fastest route is actually changed depends on time of the day. For example, I already have several different routes just from Lebak Bulus to Citos before 7am, between 7am to 10am, after 10am, on weekdays, on Saturday, or on Sunday.

I don't think even Garmin have the ability to analyse the traffic pattern! I believe Garmin will only consider the road size (small, major) and type (toll and non toll) to calculate fastest travel time.

Please also check your route preference/avoidance setup, for example do you prefer to take shortcut via small roads? do you mind taking a u-turn? do you mind taking the tollway? These setups will determine how the GPS will calculate the route for you. However in Jakarta this is very complex, I like to take small road, but not in all parts of Jakarta. Therefore, my recommendation is to avoid small roads, because you cannot be sure about the situation of that small road. However, do not avoid u-turn and toll road, because based on my experience, if you do not allow u-turn then your route will be extra long, while the toll road will help saves time (but not always).

The second reason; Jakarta's traffic rule is often changed. I'm not talking about the traffic rules in the major road, but more on the local traffic rules outskirts of Jakarta. This is not limited to the traffic signs, but also physical road barriers, traffic cones etc. Jakarta's traffic is so heavy sometimes the authority closed a u turn spot or put a barrier to prevent the traffic to make a left or right turn. For example, Tendean road from Santa towards Warung Buncit, you cannot make a u turn back to Santa under the flyover at Buncit intersection in the morning (before 10am?) because all incoming traffic is directed to turn left to Kuningan. I'm not sure whether Jakarta map data includes this time based traffic rule.

Therefore, this is my final recommendation for GPS user in Jakarta :

a. Use your own proven route whenever possible, most of the time that is the best route for you

b. Only use the GPS route on the section that you are not familiar with

c. Browse the GPS map before you follow a route, so you understand how the GPS will take you and analyse if the route is make sense

d. Always observe traffic rules and sign, don't follow the route if it's against the traffic rule (eg enter a one way street, make a turn where it's prohibited to do so). There's a possibility that the traffic rule has changed and you GPS map is not updated

e. Check you route preference and setup. Reset the setup according your needs and situation

Palm TX and Garmin Mobile 10

When I moved back to Jakarta last July, one thing I planned to do was to update my GPS map. It's not that I have forgotten the streets in Jakarta but hey, it's a mega city, there are still areas that you are not familiar with, no matter how long you have stayed in this city.

My GPS is a Garmin Mobile 10, paired via bluetooth with my Palm TX PDA. The GM10 acts as the satellite receiver and the pda acts as the data processor and screen display. The large 4" color touch screen display is really helpful for browsing the map.

GPS consists of two main elements, hardware and software. The hardware consist of the satellite receiver, the data processor, and the display. Most GPS will have all these 3 hardware in one unit, except mine. The only reason why I bought only the satellite receiver was because of the price. Routeable GPS was still expensive back then. Nowadays, the price is much cheaper and I suggest you bought the complete unit.

The software consist of two main components namely the GPS software and the GPS map. Since I only have Garmin, then I can only write about this brand. The GPS software is just like the software in your mobile phone. It's the program that operates the function of your GPS and just like mobile phones, Garmin software are also available in several OS beside Garmin itself, such as Symbian, Pocket PC or Windows Mobile, and Palm OS. At the moment, I'm using Garmin Mobile XT ver 4 for Palm Garnet, because that is the OS of my Palm TX. Therefore, you will need a different GPS software depending on your GPS device. If you are connecting Garmin receiver with Nokia phones, for example N72, you will need to install the Symbian version.

However, unlike Garmin GPS software, the Garmin GPS map (or compatible) is universal for several types of Garmin devices which are able to read the same map type, regardless the device OS. However, please note that not all Garmin GPS device read the same maps. There are different types of GPS; aviation, marine, off track, on road, sports, etc and they all required different type of map data. My GPS is for on road navigation, hence it will not be suitable for hiking or off track camping.

Garmin maps consists of two separate maps, the base map and the detailed map. The base map will cover a very large area, for example a continent, and the detailed map will cover the detailed streets in a smaller area, such as big cities. The GPS will use these two maps simultaneously depending on your zoom factor (ie the scale of your map). So if you zoom out to let say 50km scale, you will use the base map, but if you zoom in to 20m scale you will use the detail map. At the moment, I'm using the Asia Pacific base map with Jakarta City Navigator v3.1 as the detail map. If I travel to another city in Asia, I just need to change the detail map while maintaining the same base map. However, if I travel to US or Europe, I have to change both the base and the detail map. What happen if you don't use the right map combination? if that happens, the GPS display will show you on uncharted or blank area.

Where can you get a correct map? My advice is to as much as possible buy the correct map at the GPS dealer at your destination point. For example, if you travelling to Melbourne, you better buy the GPS map in Melbourne. The main reason is to make sure that you buy the latest map version of that city. This is the same logic of buying a printed map.

Please note that similar to computer software, Garmin maps software are also locked. In fact, you will need two unlock codes for garmin city map. The first code is to unlocked the map, and the second code is to unlock the device. One Garmin map is designed to be used only in one device, but one device can have many maps. Therefore, you have to use different maps if you have more than one gps device. However, most of the time, whenever you buy a gps device, the map data is already included. If every mobile phones have a unique IMEI number, every Garmin GPS device also have a unique serial number. This serial number will be match with the unlock code of the map, if it does not match, the map cannot be opened.

If you want to find out more about Garmin GPS, you can visit their website here. If you already have a garmin device and want to get the latest sofwares and drivers you can click here. I

If you want to know more about Palm TX, you can click here.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Hard Reset : Nokia E90

Few days back, my wife's Nokia E90 had a problem. The web browser didn't work, we could not seem to run the browser even though we got the WLAN connection. We tried the short cut button from the keypad inside, we tried from the main menu, from the WLAN menu, all didn't work.

I tried to soft reset the phone from the main menu : Menu > Tools > Settings > General > Factory Setting, also did not solve the problem, we still could not run the browser. After this, I knew that the only solution is to hard reset the phone, even though it will erase all data and program except those pre-installed from the factory.

Nokia E90 does not come with manual book, so I called my friend, who is the product marketing manager of Nokia Indonesia. He told me that the easy way to do hard reset is by doing the following step, from the main menu press *#7370# and key in the phone lock code, default is 12345. The phone will reset within few seconds, and start again as if we just turn it on for the first time.

This solved the problem, my web browser now works properly again, however all data, downloaded applications, pictures etc which were stored on the phone memory were lost (but not those stored in the memory card). So don't forget to back up your data before resetting your phone.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Compaq Presario V3837 and Windows XP

I have said in my previous posting that HP/Compaq is no longer provide support for Windows XP for their new laptops. Basically this means that your hardware may not work properly with Windows XP because HP/Compaq did not provide you with the correct driver.

Nevertheless, Imho there are 3 main reasons people are not moving to Win Vista. First, many people complain that Vista is slow due to heavy graphic interface (well, I have to admit that Vista looks is cool). Second, several hardware are not yet compatible with Vista (so it's the opposite case as well) and Third, Vista USD 130 is still more expensive than XP USD 90 (Home vs Home). So why do I have to pay more for somebody else experiment?

Therefore, until Vista is good and ready, let Microsoft fixes all the bugs and sort out all of the issues before coming back to us with a cheaper, faster and more compatible OS. In the mean time, lets keep Win XP in our laptops (or desktops).

However, there are 4 most common issues when installing Windows XP in Presario V3000 series, but all of them have solutions, as follows :

1. Windows XP will not be able to detect the SATA hard drive in the laptop when we try to install it for the first time. The solution is to integrate the SATA drivers in the installation CD, but this requires several steps. The easiest solution is to asked the store to install the Win XP for you

2. The internal mics do not work properly, internal speakers keep emitting sound even when a headset is plugged in. The solution is to install a correct driver. See my previous posting.

3. The scroll function in the touchpad do not work. The solution is to download the correct driver here :

4. The webcam does not work. The solution is to install the correct webcam driver from Youcam

Please ask the store to watch the above four issues when installing Win XP for your Presario V3000 series, so that you dont have to deal with them later.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Compaq Presario V3837 : My New Toys

I just bought this few weeks ago from a HP dealer in Poins, Jakarta for Rp 6.7mil (non OS) plus Rp 830K for Win XP Home + RAM upgrade to 1GB, total is Rp 7.53mil. The specs are moderate but enough for me.

Actually this laptop was designed to be used with Win Vista, however due to its notorious speed and troublesome, I opted to install it with Win XP. Everything was fine until I tried to make an internet call (using YM) to my wife in Bangkok.

Somehow the internal microphone didn't work. What supposed to be an easy talk was turned into a disappointment and hurdles. I couldn't seem to turn the mic on. I rushed to find an external mic and plugged it to laptop but that also didn't work. I'm afraid that my brand new gadget has some hardware error. I checked all driver setup, system info, etc but everything seems to work properly.

Until I read a discussion forum of compaq presario v3000 series users. It seems that mic problem for V3000 series is a common issue for Win XP user. Since Win XP is no longer supported, HP/Compaq is no longer providing the correct driver, hence the key is finding the right driver.

Some genius in the forum the pointed out the correct driver to be downloaded (click link below) :

In a nutshell, I downloaded and installed the file. Now the mic works properly! Thanks to all genius in Oprek PC!


PlatformNotebook PC with Intel Centrino Technology
Processor TypeIntel Pentium Dual Core Prosessor
Processor OnboardIntel® Pentium® Dual-Core T2370 (1.73 GHz, FSB 533, Cache 1 MB)
ChipsetIntel 965GM
Standard Memory512 MB DDR2 SDRAM PC-5300 (I upgraded to 1GB)
Max. Memory4 GB (2 DIMMs)
Video TypeIntel® Graphics Media Accelerator X3100 128 MB (shared)
Display Size14.1" WXGA TFT
Display Max. Resolution1280 x 800
Display TechnologyBrightView TFT
Audio TypeIntegrated
Speakers TypeIntegrated (Altec Lansing)
Floppy DriveOptional
Hard Drive Type120 GB Serial ATA 5400 RPM
Optical Drive TypeDVD±RW
Network Speed10 / 100 Mbps
Wireless Network TypeIntel PRO/Wireless 2200BG
Wireless Network ProtocolIEEE 802.11b, IEEE 802.11g
Wireless BluetoothOptional
Keyboard TypeQWERTY 82 keys
Input Device TypeTouch Pad
Slot ProvidedExpressCard/ 34/ 54
Card Reader ProvidedSD, MMC, Memory Stick / Stick PRO, xD-Picture Card
Interface Provided2x USB 2.0, Firewire, VGA, LAN, Audio
O/S ProvidedPre-sales Request Available
Battery Type Rechargeable Lithium-ion Battery
Power SupplyExternal AC Adapter
Dimension (WHD)237 x 39 x 334 mm
Weight2.4 kg
Standard Warranty1-year Limited Warranty by Authorized Distributor
Bundled PeripheralsCarrying Case
OthersIntegrated Compaq WEBCAM

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Intel Celeron vs Dual Core vs Core 2 Duo

If you are just an average computer user like me, then I think you will agree that Intel processors name are becoming too confusing. These days, when you shop for a notebook, most of them will have either Celeron, Dual Core or Core 2 Duo processor.

While most people are aware that Celeron is somewhat different with Dual Core and Core 2 Duo, but many like me will not know whether Dual Core and Core 2 Duo are actually different.

Without going to describe in detail the technical spec differences, I just want to share that basically now Intel has 3 processor families, namely :

  1. Intel Celeron: Celeron, Celeron M, Celeron D, Celeron Dual Core
  2. Intel Pentium : Pentium M, Pentium Dual Core
  3. Intel Core : Core Solo, Core 2 Solo, Core Duo, Core 2 Duo, Core 2 Duo Extreme

Celeron Family

logo_celeron This processor is basically designed to serve basic computing needs such as, writing documents using a word processor, making spreadsheet or presentation, browsing Internet, chatting, blogging, light games etc. The letter "M" and "D" denotes that it was specifically designed for Mobile (laptop) and Desktop computer. Due to its limited performance, the price of Celeron processor is much cheaper than the other families, however it doesn't mean that it's outdated. Intel keeps developing Celeron for its entry level - low cost segment, as a proof, Intel will soon release Celeron Dual Core processor.


Pentium Family

Logo_Pentium_DualCore3 If Celeron processors are for basic user, Pentium processors are for intermediate users with more advanced computing needs such as video editing, video rendering, mathematical modeling (CAD, graphics design, rapid prototyping), 3D animation design, heavy graphics games etc. The word "Dual Core" simply means that there are 2 unit processors in one chipset, resulting in higher multitasking ability with less power consumption.




Core Family

core2duo_logo_large Intel Core are the top end processors specifically designed for mobile (laptop) computing. It was the further development of Pentium M processor. There are 2 types of Core processor, Solo and Duo. Core Solo means it has only one processor in its chipset, while Core Duo means it has  2 processors in one chipset similar to Pentium Dual Core and Centrino Dual core. The most sophisticated processor at the moment is the Core 2 Duo Extreme with up to 3.2GHz clock speed which uses the 64bit architecture (the rest are still using 32bit architecture).


Which one to choose?

Well, if money is not an issue  then off course you should opt for the top end processor like Core 2 Duo. However, since the price gap is quite significant, then my suggestions is to think about what you need. If you ask a computer salesmen, surely he or she will persuade you to buy the most expensive items as possible to give him or her the highest commission, but this is not wise, right?

So if you are a light user, with browsing, chatting, blogging kind of activities, then Celeron is suitable for you. If you need to do serious work, big spread sheets with lots of pivot table, databases, then you should at least consider Pentium processor. However, if you are a graphic 3D animation designer, or a maniac PC gamer, or an engineer with CAD, prototyping, mathematical modeling, then Core 2 Duo is for you.

My wife owns a UMPC with Celeron processor, my personal laptop has a Centrino (Pentium M) processor (which soon will be upgraded to Pentium Dual Core... wink-wink), and my office laptop has a Core 2 Duo processor. Honestly, I don't see any differences in the performance because actually I'm a light to medium user. I don't play PC games, I don't create any graphic animation. My biggest spreadsheet files are only 2MB max, my average presentation file is only 10 pages. My word documents are less than 50 pages and less than 5MB each. So I don't have to buy a Core 2 Duo processor, even I think a Celeron processor will suits me fine.