NWA-PCUG Newsletter Article, August 2010
Sights and Sounds of Multimedia
By George Harding, Treasurer, Tucson Computer Society, Arizona
eJournal of the Tucson Computer Society, May 2010 Issue

georgehardingsbd(at)earthlink net (click to email author)

Desktop Emergency Weather Station
Here’s a compact device that gives you temperature inside and out, humidity, forecast, barometric pressure and more. One of the benefits of this is that all US Hazards and Emergency Alert Systems are monitored for bulletins, warnings and watches. You get indications when one or more is being broadcast and can listen to it. The device has an LCD screen that is about 4 X 4 inches with a display that shows: barometric pressure (Inches of mercury or millibars), outdoor temperature (C or F) and humidity, weather forecast, indoor temperature (or F) and humidity, clock or alert messages There are four buttons in a vertical like next to the LCD: Menu, Exit, Increase, and Decrease. The Menu button allows setting the various variables for each of the display items The Exit button takes you out of setting mode. The Increase and Decrease buttons cycle through the various settings.

The back of the device has six buttons along its top edge. The first is the NOAA button, which cycles through NOAA on, standby, mute and off The third button cycles through current, maximum and minimum temperature and humidity records. The sixth allows you to adjust for altitude, so that barometric pressure is read correctly.

In addition to the base unit, the device comes with an outdoor remote sensor for measuring outdoor temperature and humidity. You may read from up to three remotes sensors, but only one is included with the unit. Both the base and remote are battery operated, although the base unit is normally operated from a wall outlet. The batteries in the base unit are for back-up power.

The alert service provided by this device is very interesting. The information is obtained from NOAA, which operates NWS, the National Weather Service. NWS is the official source of warnings about life-threatening weather phenomena and hazardous events. Most TV stations get their information from NWS sources.

You can configure the Weather Station to sound an alert and play the warnings as they occur. A problem, though, is that you probably aren’t concerned with warnings that apply to areas from away from yours. Enter SAME, Specific Area Message Encoding, a facility included in the Weather Station. Using this facility you can restrict the warnings to your county or those nearby. These are the ones you’re really interested in. SAME can keep you from being awakened by an alert that doesn’t concern you, a very nice feature.

About: Desktop Emergency Weather Station
Vendor: Oregon Scientific
Price: about $71.95

Rebit SaveMe
There are many ways to back up your computer these days. One group of methods backs up your files and folders, which is certainly important. The other group backs up everything, creating an image of your hard drive partition at a point in time.

Rebit SaveMe is one of the second groups. You always have at your fingertips a method for restoring your hard drive if Windows won’t boot. Either group involves installing software on your computer that will do the back-up job whenever you specify, or on a scheduled basis. You then must go through the required process to define what is to be backed up and when. This takes a certain amount of knowledge and time. Rebit SaveMe also installs on your computer, but that’s about it. You do have to specify what the backup drive is, whether an external drive or a separate partition. Once that’s done, Rebit SaveMe goes about its business without further intervention from you.

As the files on your computer change, Rebit SaveMe backs them up – automatically. Not only that, previous file versions are saved, so that you can go back to a prior one. So what about recovery? There are two ways to do that. If all you want is to recover one file or folder, you can go to the backup location to restore the file you want. If, instead, you want to restore the entire hard disk, you use the Restore application, which you can download or start from the backup drive. The product I was given to review will back up multiple computers. The limit to the number of computers is 6, assuming the hard drive is big enough. It’s almost as easy to back up the second and later computers as it is the first. The external hard drive you used for the first contains a file that will install the application on the next computer. Once installed, the backup process continues as before.

The contents of the product consist of a CD-ROM, which is used to install Rebit SaveMe on your computer, and a Quick Start booklet. The latter is extremely brief, showing in 3 steps how to back up the first computer and in another 3 steps how to back up the next one.

I recommend this product because it is simple to use and requires no user interaction after the installation step What could be simpler?

About: Rebit SaveMe
Author: Rebit SaveMe
Vendor: Rebit
Price: $30 for one computer, $40 for multiple computer backup

LG Netbook X120
The popularity of laptop computers has led to a proliferation of sizes, styles, colors and shapes. The frequency of travel and the need to keep carry-ons small has produced a new category of laptop called the netbook. They are not only physically small, but have limited capacity in terms of storage, included devices, screen size and speed. The physical size is less than a sheet of paper and the thickness can be described as “slim.” The screen and keyboard necessarily ft within this narrow package, but are sufficient for occasional use. The hard drive is smaller than most laptops, but is adequate. You would not want to use a laptop for video recording or to store lots of pictures.

A significant limitation is the absence of an external disk drive, either foppy or CD/DVD. This makes installing new applications difficult, although devices attachable through USB are available.

Screen size is the most visible limitation, making the display of web pages rather truncated. Web designers tend to put a lot of extraneous stuff at the top of a page, leaving important things farther down the page, which forces one to move the page up in order to see what one wants to see.

In spite of these limitations, netbooks are one of the most popular computers on the market today, and the LG X120 is an excellent example of them. The processor, hard drive size and memory limitations are not evident in everyday use. It has the usual Intel Atom processor, 1 GB memory, 160 GB hard drive and 3 USB ports. The keyboard is as large as most laptops and has a nice touch.

The operating system is XP Home, the screen is 10 1” diagonally and the battery provides up to 7 hours of life, according to LG (I was not able to get more than 4 hours). The unit also has a 1.3 megapixel web cam The LG X120 has two features unique among netbooks. One is the ability to connect to either a Wi-Fi network or the GSM cell phone network. This means that wherever you are (almost), you can access the Internet LG describes this facility as “3G+, Anytime, Anywhere.”

The GSM connection seems somewhat slower than the WiFi connection, but that may be subjective. I had no way to accurately measure speed of either. The other unique feature is an alternate interface called Smart On by Splashtop. It starts with a very simple screen showing Web, Music, Online Games, Photo and Chat buttons. The Web button opens a Splashtop browser set to initially access LG’s web site. The bottom of the resulting browser screen has a rectangular “toolbar” with the same four buttons, plus several more, one of which transfers you to the XP OS.

The Smart On interface is not only simple, but loads very quickly. Loading took 6 seconds, shutdown 1 second XP load took 55 seconds, shutdown 15 seconds.

I had difficulty connecting to the Internet on a recent trip to Indianapolis. In my room, the network appliance showed multiple available wireless networks, but the motel’s was not one of them. When I went to the motel’s office, their network showed up, but connecting to it did not allow me to connect to the Internet. The motel’s computer connected OK, but why the LG would not was unexplained. I had no trouble connecting at home.

About: LG Netbook X120
Vendor: LG
Price: about $180 with 2 year contract

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