Nov 15

Ubuntu and Windows

Image credit: cellanr

I run a Windows 7 PC, an Ubuntu desktop PC and an Acer netbook with Ubuntu Netbook Edition 10.10. It’s important to keep my data and services synchronised between them so each machine is up to date with the latest files and cloud services, and so I thought I’d run through the software and services which I currently use:

Google Chrome

This is my browser of choice. You can use Chrome to keep your tabs, bookmarks and extensions synchronised. I’m using Chromium (the open source version of Chrome) on my Ubuntu netbook and Chrome on my Windows desktop and everything syncs just fine. To start syncing between Chrome/Chromium on your different devices, just go to the spanner/wrench icon at the top right of the browser on each of your machines and choose Options then the tab marked Personal Stuff. Click Set up sync and when it’s done you’ll see

google sync

At the moment you can choose to keep everything synced or choose to sync any or all of Apps, Autofill, Bookmarks, Extensions, Preferences and Themes.  Doesn’t have password sync yet but I believe this is coming in the next Chrome version. Of course, the Chrome Xmarks extension will also allow automatic synchronization of bookmarks, passwords and open tabs between Windows and Ubuntu machines.
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Sep 19
A laptop for a student – Part 1
icon1 techandlife | icon2 Hardware | icon4 September 19, 2009| icon3No Comments »

My son is going back to college just now and needed to buy his first laptop so I tried to help out along the way. The first decision was straightforward – he’d used the Windows OS for years and was familiar with that, so it had to be a laptop with Windows. Not a MacBook because, even with student discount, this was beyond his budget and not a Linux OS because, well, because if you’re familiar with Windows it’s easier to stick with what you know, especially if you’re not tech minded. I’m just learning Ubuntu and would still struggle to help him out, especially away from home. Besides, buying a laptop with Vista Home Premium at the moment entitles you to a free upgrade to Windows 7 Premium, which by all accounts promises to be a great OS.

So off down to our major PC retailers to see what was on offer. First surprise, no Toshiba laptops in either retailer we tried. My daughter had bought a Toshiba laptop 2 years ago and we were all quite pleased with it. Ah well, so we had a choice of Acer, HP, Compaq, Packard Bell, Sony, Dell, Advent, etc. It was now that my son really surprised me. The first things I would look at when buying a laptop are hard drive size, amount of RAM installed, processor type, monitor size, but his first priority was build quality and design – the feel of the keys, the feel of the touchpad, rigidity of the case, etc. Some of the laptops had what I can only describe as bendy keyboard platforms which visibly sagged as you touched the keys – he didn’t like that, nor keys which seemed to be mounted poorly. He checked the feel of the keys as he typed. He also preferred a grainy-feel touchpad rather than the smooth ones. He pointed out that when his thumb or fingers were sweaty, they would stick on the smooth surface touchpad but were fine on the rougher surface. He also didn’t want the largest screen size laptops as this wouldn’t fit in his backpack and would be less portable.


So, at the end of the day, with all these points in mind and with a budget to stick to, he went for the Dell Inspiron 1545 laptop. Nice build quality, 15.6 inch screen, and 4GB RAM. The only slight downside was that the hard drive was only 160 GB. However, my daughter’s Toshiba has the same size and she manages fine – it forces you to be more organized and not hoard a lot of stuff. In any case, we spotted Iomega 1TB external hard drives for around £70 so that’s an alternative for storage when the time comes.

We then steadfastly refused all offers of Microsoft Office Home & Student, Norton Security, after sales help and insurance from the dogged salesman, paid up and left quite happy.

So what software should we put on it? Well, that’s coming up in Part 2 which I’ll publish in the next day or two.

What do you look for when you’re purchasing a laptop? Is build quality important or do you go for specs… or even looks? Let me know in the comments.

Feb 14
Trailblazers in life… and tech
icon1 techandlife | icon2 Linux, Tech, windows | icon4 February 14, 2009| icon3No Comments »


I usually try and go for a walk in nearby woods at the weekend for some exercise. We had some snow here a few days back and the main track through the wood (at the bottom of the picture above) was quite slushy today with footprints everywhere. But what I noticed was that, in quite a few places, people had obviously ventured off on unmarked narrow tracks here and there. It was only because of the tracks in the snow that I realized people had been trailblazing and discovering new routes through the woods. I took a mental note and decided to try some of these tracks on future walks.

Windows weekly But this got me thinking. Some people are trailblazers in tech too. Boldly going were no man has gone before, so to speak. By a coincidence, the podcast I was listening to as I walked through the woods was Windows Weekly with Paul Thurrott. It struck me that he is one of the trailblazers in tech, constantly working with and writing about new developments in Windows, and currently focusing on Windows 7. I find he always talks with great authority on Windows and imparts great advice and tips in this podcast. Well worth subscribing to. I always take careful note of his advice and try to follow as best I can. Incidentally, he has been talking about ‘doing more with less’  lately. His tip in WW94 is simplify, simplify, simplify and I really must follow his advice. I confess, I am a bit of a packrat, and have finally made a decision to ‘let go’ a lot of the ‘baggage’ I’ve carried from years gone by. And clear a lot of software from my PC that I never use. It’s time for a big clear out.

So who are my other tech trailblazers?  People I sit up and listen to when they speak and whose advice I try and follow. Well I can think of two others. The first would be Carey Holzman from Computer America. I’ve talked about Carey before in an earlier post. The second would be Knightwise; again I’ve mentioned him before – been listening to his podcasts for a couple of years now and his trailblazing in Linux has got me started with this OS. Knightwise tells you ‘how to tune technology into your everyday life and let tech work for you’. Hopefully with his advice, over this year I’ll be able to take my Linux Ubuntu install up to and beyond what I currently have with Windows XP. I’ve been on the Windows trail for about 20 years now and I’m looking forward to exploring further along the Linux trail.

So who are your tech trailblazers, or indeed life trailblazers? Whose at the cutting edge of tech? Whose words do you eagerly listen to and whose advice do you gladly follow because you know it’s sound advice. I’d love to know. Drop me a comment below.

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