Newer laptops or Tablets w/ keyboards reviewed

               Delightfully, I have had the opportunity to work with a few new models of laptop this month and thought I would pass on some of my delights and gripes. I’ll break this up into 2 groups; the tablets with keyboard, and the more classic full-size laptops. In all cases I am looking at inexpensive models; $150-$300 for the tablets, $275 – $450 for the laptops.

acer aspire switch 10
Acer Aspire Switch 10

               I played with a couple of the, now, 6 month old models of convertible laptops or tablets. In this field the Microsoft Surface machines are defining the standard; but I tried some of their competition. At the top of the list for me are the Acer switch series tablets (10, 11, and 12 inch); imagine a tablet that has a detachable keyboard for the times when you are actually doing some typing. The keyboard with the Acer has a surprisingly good feel though it is a tad small compared to a “standard” sized keyboard and is not backlit (I am not aware of their being a backlit option for this); it is also rigid so it works well in the lap, in the air or wherever you find comfy. I ordered my sample Acer with 4gb RAM, 64gb storage (solid state drive) and in the 10” size (weight vs size vs price favored this one for me).         I noted that the resellers have the 10” model with the newer Intel Atom z8 series processor which seems a bit faster than the Z3’s common this winter and still in all the 11” and 12” models (the 12” can also be found with an i3 or i5 but at significant increases in price).   The machine performed flawlessly allowing me to install a wide variety of windows software (office, WordPerfect suite, Lotus 1-2-3, Delorme mapping, various recipe apps, and various system testing and maintenance apps). As is my habit, I removed much of the free stuff along with McAfee antivirus, allowing Microsoft’s Defender to take over A/V chores and adding Malwarebytes to assist in the fight. Machine 2 was a Nextbook 11”; similarly, it has a nice keyboard that detaches, but its keyboard is also backlit (I found this quite helpful).  There was a tad of flex to the keyboard which I found distracting but still very usable. The larger screen came with a bit of added weight (an issue to my thinking as it is harder to hold as a tablet for long periods).  Similarly priced to the 10” Acer, it came with the Intel Atom Z3 processor and only 2gb RAM, 32gb solid state storage. Software compatibility was identical to that of the Acer (Windows 10 Home, also available in Android) but performance was slightly less impressive; quite adequate for a home or school machine.   All machines (MS surface, Acer switch, Nextbook) function as true tablets with multi-touch, tilt sense (landscape and portrait display), built-in speakers, etc. Whereas the Surface and Surface pro 3 both would NOT support a USB DVD burner without auxiliary power (had to add USB power to the cable – very complicated), The Acer and Nextbook both support the DVD I use with no fuss and at half the price or less.

tablet with hands for size perspective
Acer Aspire switch 10

                I also had the opportunity to setup and work with 2 of Lenovo’s low priced ultra thin laptops; The Lenovo B50 15” series (approx. $300 as ordered) is available with a wide range of processors, RAM, and hard drives; the one I ordered had no DVD, 4gb RAM, and 500gb 5400 rpm hard drive. The screen was quite bright and very crisp and easy to read, the keyboard has a decent touch and nice spacing; performance with the AMD A6 6300 quad core cpu was quite adequate (and would have been much better had I sprung for the SSD instead of the hard drive).  The weight and feel of this machine are excellent; at 4.5 pounds it is light in your lap and is proving to be an excellent office computer (it runs MS office reliably and with no pauses or hesitation; but, this is not a gaming machine).   I have also been working with the 17” G70 (similar machine 17” screen version) which I ordered with a slightly bigger cpu (quad core A8) and replaced the hard drive with an SSD (solid state drive). With the hard drive it performed much like its 15” brother; but, with the SSD replacing the hard drive it became a fantastically quick and responsive computer. The key spacing is a tad more to my liking and the larger screen is also a bonus but this all added 2 pounds to the weight. Still not a machine for gaming, it resumes instantly, cold boots in 8 seconds or less.  For the Intel only customers you can also choose these machines with i3’s, i5’s and a few i7’s at a premium price. Having compared the A8 version with a machine sporting a quad core i7 I recommend choosing an SSD instead of spending gobs of cash on an i7. The AMD A8 system was twice as fast loading programs, booting up, switching apps, and even shutting down as a similar machine with an i7 and a 1Tb 7200 rpm hard drive (the latter cost $1200 compared to the AMD equipped model at $450).

                Any of these machines should be available at your favorite retailer or on the web through Amazon, Tiger, Best Buy, Walmart, etc.  Often you can find them with free shipping . I found that the best priced suppliers made me wait a week or more for shipping; while others could ship same day but at a higher price. One significant advantage to the laptops over the tablets is that they can be upgraded; when buying a tablet be sure and buy it configured as you are going to use it.  All of these run the same programs and all of them do so quite adequately with the SSD equipped units being a fair bit quicker responding; if the small screen sizes are an issue, consider connecting one of these or one of the ultra-micro machines to a television of whatever size works for you.

Wifi Signal issues

For those of you who have wifi that works perfectly all the time; Lucky you!  For the rest of us, I have done some research and wish to share some of what I have learned.

Simply enough wifi is wireless internet via radio signal; as such, it works great if you are in direct sight of the signal source and less well otherwise.  Wireless a,b,g,n (standard wifi) all operate at 2.4ghz radio frequency; so do cordless phones, microwave ovens, some remote controls, bluetooth devices, and IOT (internet of things) devices.  Wireless Dual Band and wireless ac wifi (the newer standards for wifi) operate at 5ghz and 2.4ghz or (under user control) at just 5ghz; some cordless phones (expensive, new) and broken microwave ovens can emit 5ghz signal (if your microwave significantly interferes with your wifi, it would be a good idea to consider replacing that microwave – it can mean its radiation shielding is breaking down).  In the future I expect to see a lot more devices using 5ghz transmission; but, not in the narrow band used for wifi.  As a rule of thumb. A given quality of signal (speed and reliability of wifi) requires half as much power at 5ghz as it does at 2.4ghz; radio signals at these frequencies do not bend, do not go around corners (thus my earlier comment about being in direct sight); but, they do bounce off some materials and will penetrate with some loss others.

What will wifi signals bounce off? Most metal surfaces, some types of rock (generally with metallic content), foil backed insulation, aluminum foil, tin cans and similar objects.  What will wifi signals go through? Most wood surfaces and structures, craft-backed insulation, plastic encapsulated insulation, bare fiberglass, rockwool, paper based insulation, and, to a lesser extent, gypsum board (sheetrock).  What will simply block wifi signal? Brick, tile, adobe, rock, cinder block and similar materials are excellent at blocking most radio signals including wifi.  Of interest is that 5ghz will penetrate materials somewhat more readily than 2.4ghz and can work even after going through a 6″ adobe wall but with greatly reduced speed and reliability.

What do I do if I can’t get my wifi to cover the entire area where I want it?  First, look at relocating the source (usually your wifi router); often you can get better coverage by moving it to a more central location.  Second, try getting it up higher; on the floor all wifi behaves poorly. (I know I hate the trial and error method too; it takes time and effort).  Next, you can try reorienting the antenna(s) on the router and, possibly, increasing the transmit power of the router (many routers have variable output settings -high,medium, low), or adding better antennas to your router.  If you still don’t have what you want for coverage, you can use network over AC wiring devices (plug one device in next to your router and run a cable to it, then plug another one in near the device you want to have internet access and connect it by a cable from the plug-in device), or you can use one of the newer wifi range extender devices; these come in a wide variety in order to deal with most any situation.  Sometimes it will take a combination of devices to cover a large building or area.

If you have a lovely southwestern adobe house, rejoice!  You are pretty well protected from stray radio emissions, but your internal wifi area may be restricted to one or two rooms unless you are quite creative and go to some effort to expand your wifi area.  In large homes it is often necessary to run network cable and use multiple routers to get good signal throughout; this is where a network or cabling professional can come in handy.

Flavors of MalWare

The focus of malware has changed over time.  Originally, there were “free” screen savers and “free” background photography that carried minor reporting functions for advertisers.  Then came the background information gatherers that would collect and report to the cloud on anything the computer had done or seen.  Later yet came Keyloggers that would capture every keystroke and report that to hidden servers out on the internet.  Then came the scams; programs that stated they would remove any of the prior but actually brought in more malware and then held you hostage for anywhere from $20-$800 dollars to get all the crap removed from your system.  Recently there have been viruses and malware that encrypt data on your computer and hold you hostage; offering to give you your data back if you pay a ransom.  When combined with hacking efforts that add porn to your computer and then open it up as a server any of these become more than just annoying.  Oh yeah, I left out the harvesters; malware that harvests all of your mailing lists and then sets your machine up to spam disgusting material out to the mailing lists it has harvested.

Somewhere in the middle of this were corporate supported advertising campaigns where large sales interests pushed seemingly safe and free software out to get research software onto millions of computers to collect information for advertisers without the knowledge of the computer owners (yes, the fine print in the disclosure document did, in most cases, refer to the additional activities of the software being offered; but, the average user had no chance of understanding what that meant).  Companies like American Express, and Aurora Group were two that I encountered involving themselves in this behavior; but, I am sure others were involved also.

Today, skilled programmers write “kits” that hackers or unscrupulous entrepreneurs can include in some lovely tidbit of an app or useful add on for your electronic device that turn it into malware or into a trojan horse that will invite oodles of malware onto your device.  These kits give the rank and file (average skilled) author the kind of apparent skills that only a rare few have developed and make the whole malware industry flow; much to our expense.

MalWare – not our friend

Malware is rampant on the internet; should you be concerned? How well are you protected?
First, why should you be concerned? Malware is a general term for non-virus applications that are unintended parasites of various types on a computer. Some collect sales research, some collect passwords and other access information, some collect contact information or financial information, yet others are helpful to the user, and some are both. All of them consume resources (disk space, memory, clock cycles, etc.). It is this last item that usually tips off the user; the system gets slower. Are you still at risk if you run Linux, Unix, IOS, Mac OS, Android, or ChromeOS? Yes, while more “kits” for building malware seem to exist for Windows, there are plenty out there aimed at each kind of OS and the associated machines. The damage that can be done ranges from a simple slow down of your equipment to the deletion of important data, exposure of important data to criminals, to completely disabling your equipment and creating financial ruin.
How well are you protected? Malware may be invited on to your computer when you add some new feature, or accidentally click on an advertisement, or when a hacked webpage is viewed, or when a virus or trojan horse (virus or non-virus in nature) gets loose on your computer. Good anti-virus software should and will stop most of this if it is up to date and fully operational ; good anti-malware software will stop some of what the anti-virus isn’t capable of recognizing. Standard installations of windows 8 and 10 include Windows Defender which has both of these elements. If you install a 3rd party protection package, these elements are disabled in favor of the third party package’s protection. Further protection is available in the form of appliances physically installed between you and the internet at large; some are called firewalls but many are far more than just a firewall; providing protection against a wide range of threats.
What steps can you take to protect yourself and your equipment? Keep your anti-virus and anti-malware up to date and a firewall in place, regularly run a scan of your equipment, keep good and regular backups, and verify that your anti products are working (I am amazed by how many computers I am asked to fix that have the firewall turned off and / or the anti-virus turned off). When you browse, browse intelligently; if it looks suspicious, avoid it; if it looks too good to be true, avoid it (Really? do you have a long lost Uncle who was a billionaire?). When reading email, do not open emails you have no reason to expect (do you seriously expect to win a lottery you never entered? of course not), do not open attachments you aren’t expecting and , AND if you get a popup asking you to approve installing something when you weren’t intending installing, do not approve changing your computer or installing some new “thing”. Often exiting the offending popup is possible and adequate (scan your machine immediately in any case); if not, try canceling it with the task manager (from windows, ctrl-alt-delete will make windows task manager available), if that fails, a reboot may be appropriate. One more thing; if some purchased program insists that you disable anti-virus in order to install it, never disable the anti-virus. I am aware of no commercial programs that won’t install with good anti-virus and anti-malware products active: none!
The short of it, browse and read safely, make backups of anything important, and weekly or more often scan for both viruses and malware. Scan with appropriate software; I can recommend products from Microsoft, Trend Micro, Sophos, Malwarebytes, LavaSoft, SpybotSD, Auslogics, and Piriform. Choose appropriate products to protect against viruses and malware along with performing regular maintenance to keep your equipment performing as intended. Have questions? Ask your IT professional before you have trouble.

Miniature Computers

Last week I ordered in a couple of the newest miniature computers. This last weekend I took a few hours to put them through their paces. The minix NEO Z64 I knew what to expect from and the newest release of that didn’t disappoint. If you really push it hard, it can overheat (particularly if you put it in an insulated box so it can’t radiate heat while playing video intensive games and simultaneously streaming a movie in 1080p) but under the loads it was built for and out where it can radiate heat, it worked flawlessly. This class of machine represents a great way to turn a TV into an advertising kiosk, a nice internet station and a myriad of applications in between. Its small size, square shape and variety of ports (hdmi, ethernet jack, headphone jack, 2 full size usb ports, sd/mmc reader slot) plus built in wireless n, bluetooth with windows 10 pre-installed on a 28gb ssd and 2gb ram connected to a quad core intel atom cpu (1.33-1.8 ghz) allow it to run most windows programs flawlessly and surprisingly quickly. minix neo 64 Perhaps pushing my luck, I also ordered my second “stick” computer; these self-contained computers, fit easily into a pocket or purse and can be powered off the usb port on a television. The AWOW Intel Atom Z3735f is one of many attempts at evolutionary steps forward from the first 2 generations of pc sticks. This one has an internal fan (very quiet) to deal with complaints of early models overheating, 2 usb ports + 1 usb power port to deal with complaints that all ports are taken after you connect a wireless keyboard and mouse combo and dual band ac networking to remedy a number of issues with the early units and their g or n wireless networking. Also in the packaging came a short HDMI cable (in case you don’t want it physically attached to your TV) and an adapter from micro usb to full size usb. Still included on this model from earlier designs is an MMC card slot for up to 64gb memory modules and bluetooth 4.0.

The AWOW pc stick
small, with fan, ac networking

Just think about going to a presentation with a gyro mouse/keyboard combo and this stick in your pocket; any modern tv becomes an instant presentation device with a computer you are familiar with and confident using. Performance is in keeping with its Atom quad core cpu’s capabilities; but when coupled with the 32gb MMC hard drive (solid state), it is surprisingly responsive handling the Microsoft Office 2010 and 2016 apps with ease and all of the web apps I have tried run flawlessly on it. Movies streamed from Netflix and Amazon as well as a variety of shows streamed from Hulu all run in smooth video up to full HD (dependent on your internet speed). Both of these miniature computers are simple representatives of a whole family of new products from a wide range of suppliers. I selected these 2 from the 100 plus choices I found when I started shopping based on my ideas about what I wanted them to do. You may have very different applications for computing power that goes anywhere with you or can be put into a very small niche or used to turn any tv into whatever. There are also many specialty items in the same form factor to provide a wide variety of services; one unit that caught my eye has two digital cable / satellite / over the air tuners in it so that it adds record while viewing a different show ability to a tv, another had multiple ethernet ports and ac wireless built in so it could be a network bridge or switch and access point. As a final thought, imagine that you routinely move between 2 or more “stations” where you use a computer and you have frustrations with using the cloud to keep all of your “stuff” handy. On top of that, who wants to have to configure multiple computers to work the way you find comfortable and have all the tools you want? Instead, you could pop the computer into your pocket and always use the same computer wherever you are working. I know this was the dream of laptop computers, but you can’t just pop a laptop into your pocket and you are constrained to the laptop screen, keyboard and so forth. Keyboards and mice are inexpensive and it would be easy to have your favorite model waiting for you at each station. Walk up, plug in your miniature computer to the tv and turn on the power; in under a minute you are working at your workstation. Enjoy!

Data Centers are not perfect

I recently had the experience of having to run down the cause of a few clients not being able to access their email systems.  I quickly learned that the servers which hosted those email systems had been taken down by the hosting company.  Further checking revealed that the issue was a failure of a large multiply redundant array.  This was not the failure of a single drive nor even that of a single array; but, rather, it was a simultaneous failure of two synchronized arrays.  The likelihood of such a failure would seem to be astronomically rare; but, it was the second such failure in this particular data center in just over 2 years.  Because of the size and complexity of the arrays, it took over 8 hours to get a full backup and then another 16 hours to build a replacement array and restore the data before the servers could start to be brought back online (and the hosted email systems to become accessible once again).

This event highlights an important point about trusting the cloud to securely protect your personal or business data.  The cloud does represent a far more reliable storage technique than your hard drive in your computer but it is not perfect; failures can and do happen.  As a result, I continue to recommend that all users of electronic devices personally backup their data and store the media in a cool, dry, safe location.  Backup often (any time you have worked an amount that you do not want to have to repeat) using appropriate media (CD’s, DVD’s, USB sticks, button drives, etc.).

Apple stole my music? What?

Over the years there have been a number of complaints regarding how Apple protects the services it sells through iTunes and now through Apple Music. I too have run afoul of their surprising requirements to move purchased music or even stored music (that is stored in and by iTunes) from one computer to another. Now I see posts from folks claiming that Apple Music deleted or stole their music.

So, I read a couple of the complaints, then dialed up and read their take on the complaints, and then I looked at the website and their description of what Apple Music does and how it does it.

Let us start at the end of this story and Apple Music. This is a service aimed at providing a convenient solution to the problems people like myself have had with iTunes; it will gather up all of your music into your icloud account using their “match” system to identify which songs you have pruchased and / or added (perhaps from CD’s or other music downloads) and convert them to a single format. Any of your devices, once logged in to your account, then have full access to play back or download for off-line playback any of that content. Sounds wonderful, right?

What could possibly go wrong? Well, for most folks, nothing; however, if you happen to favor a particular version of a given song, there is no way (yet) to guarantee that Apple Music will store that version. Thus far there have been some issues with Apple Music picking what it deems to be a superior version (newer, recorded at higher sampling rate, etc.) and storing that version for you instead of your favorite version. I suspect that versions already stored in Apple Music’s master store are favored in this situation over other versions. A second issue appears to be the result of a combination of settings in your local copy of iTunes combined with the efforts that iTunes in conjunction with Apple Music to remove duplicates, unlicensed media, replace damaged copies, etc. The result is that some “song files” may be moved to your recycle bin. The combination of these attempts to improve your iTunes stored music seems to have really upset some folks.

It seems to me (and, I believe, Snopes’ report on this issue agrees) that much of the problem is the result of misunderstandings on the part of many users. Apple’s website has a pretty clear description of what Apple Music will do when you choose to use the service (assuming the user chooses to read that description before agreeing to the terms of the service); combine that with a little common sense, and I think most folks will see that Apple Music behaves as described. If you don’t want “that” done to your devices, and stored music, don’t agree to use the service and don’t use the service. It should not affect your choice that the service is free for 3 months; if it, in its normal operations, is likely to mess up your music, don’t start it. This appears to be where most people get caught; they want to try it even though it looks like it does some stuff they don’t need or don’t want and, sure enough, a mess results.

In a far more general sense, I caution users considering any service that automatically helps organize, store, or backup, anything you do with electronic equipment to make certain you understand what that service will do. If you don’t understand, find out or get help understanding BEFORE you turn “it” loose on your devices.

Similarly, if someone calls you and tells you there is something wrong with your computer and they will fix it for you, think twice and maybe ask yourself a couple questions: How did they know my computer has issues and how did they get my phone number? Who are these people and why should I trust them? Odds are extremely high that someone calling you “out of the blue” and offering to fix your computer are scamming you and will make a mess of your computer while taking your money. As always, the private data on your computer is valuable to you; protect it by backing it up and storing the backup safely and don’t invite scammers to “help” you.

Trends in Malware make backups more important

Ransomware is a new trend in malware. It comes in various forms; but, surviving it or recovering from it usually requires a backup. The best defense is prevention and a bit of basic knowledge on the part of the user. No, Microsoft will not call you under any circumstances; The FBI will not hack into your computer to tell you your machine is doing questionable things, and any time some weird popup tells you that you have viruses or malware on your computer, you do and it includes that popup.  Prevention amounts to keeping your anti-virus up to date and running regular scans combined with keeping your anti-malware similarly up to date and running regular (weekly preferred) scans. If you are using Windows Defender (windows 10) or Security Essentials with Defender (windows 7 and 8) you have the basic tools installed, just keep them up to date. Other vendors (McAfee, Norton, TrendMicro, etc.) have appropriate suites that will similarly protect you (Sophos and Vipre have suites for large businesses that are quite impressive in scope and protection level but usually cost prohibitive for home users).

Even so, any of us can make the fateful mis-click or have the bad luck of going to a hacked website that starts up the infection. If it slips past your anti-virus you could be in a situation where a reboot will correct the issue (lucky you) or where restoring all of your data from backups is necessary, or even restoring the machine to factory fresh state and then restoring all data from backups. My best advice is to call someone experienced before you mess with it; but, if you feel up to the challenge, update all anti-virus & malware products, scan completely, verify that the bug(s) are gone and restore lost data (or all data) from backups.

If I seem like a broken record about backups, that is fine with me; backups are that important. You should have many, starting with previous versions (windows 10), synched with a cloud service, AND detachable hard drive / thumb drive, etc. The detachable part is important because some of the current malware or ransomware will mess up your cloud files also or you’re synched files if the synch is to some place that is available when you get infected. Therefore, if it is important, have a copy on removed media!

As a last note, remember you can’t inherit from a non existent dead relative or win an African lottery that you didn’t enter; delete emails suggesting you have with extreme prejudice and do not open any attachments or visit their websites. I guarantee that bad things will happen if you follow the links or open the attachments.

Hard Drive Reliability

Hard Drives: What we are learning from data centers.
In a recently published study of Microsoft data centers, it was revealed that 89% of component failures are hard drive failures; in an environment where the hard drives represent less than 30% of the components, I take this to be very significant. The study went on to identify the type of failure and concludes that high relative humidity, not heat is the biggest killer. The humidity being in excess of 60% seems to more than double the rate of failure versus less than 60%. Combine this with a few other reports regarding home computers where smokey environments and environments with airborne small particles (kitchens, manufacturing, etc.) double the failure rate over relatively clean dry environments and a picture begins to emerge. The modern hard drive with a sealed chamber for the spinning disk and read / write heads is fairly safe from environmental impact on the disk surfaces; but, the exposed electronics still suffer from a range of issues depending on the environment. Whether it be corrosion or debris build up, doesn’t seem to matter; failures occur in a wide range of exposures to the circuit boards commonly built on the bottom of the drive.

Now hard drive failure is the one thing we, as users, cannot afford; it means data loss, picture loss, document loss, boot failure, all the bad things. CPU failure, video adapter failure, even motherboard failure are all minor inconveniences by comparison to hard drive failure. So, how long should I expect my hard drive to last? Standard hard drives are very reliable for 3 years; enterprise hard drives for 5 years; Solid State Drives (SSD’s) 6 years. These are not equivalent numbers; The 3 and 5 years for spinning hard drives is just that, they age whether they are being used or not. The 6 years for SSD’s is power on years; they appear to not age when not in use.

Now please take note, the tests that lead me to these conclusions took place in data centers, numbers for home computers might be slightly different. I have a machine with a 10 year old drive that still works but I have seen plenty of dead 2 year old drives too; a lot depends on what kind of life the computer has; good care leads to longer life, cleanliness leads to longer life.

SSD Reliability

SSDs are a new phenomenon in the datacenter. We have theories about how they should perform, but until now, little data. That’s just changed.

The FAST 2016 paper Flash Reliability in Production: The Expected and the Unexpected, (the paper is not available online until Friday) by Professor Bianca Schroeder of the University of Toronto, and Raghav Lagisetty and Arif Merchant of Google, covers:

  • Millions of drive days over 6 years
  • 10 different drive models
  • 3 different flash types: MLC, eMLC and SLC
  • Enterprise and consumer drives

Key conclusions

  • Ignore Uncorrectable Bit Error Rate (UBER) specs. A meaningless number.
  • Good news: Raw Bit Error Rate (RBER) increases slower than expected from wearout and is not correlated with UBER or other failures.
  • High-end SLC drives are no more reliable that MLC drives.
  • Bad news: SSDs fail at a lower rate than disks, but UBER rate is higher (see below for what this means).
  • SSD age, not usage, affects reliability.
  • Bad blocks in new SSDs are common, and drives with a large number of bad blocks are much more likely to lose hundreds of other blocks, most likely due to die or chip failure.
  • 30-80 percent of SSDs develop at least one bad block and 2-7 percent develop at least one bad chip in the first four years of deployment.

The Storage Bits take

Two standout conclusions from the study. First, that MLC drives are as reliable as the more costly SLC “enteprise” drives. This mirrors hard drive experience, where consumer SATA drives have been found to be as reliable as expensive SAS and Fibre Channel drives.

One of the major reasons that “enterprise” SSDs are more expensive is due to greater over-provisioning. SSDs are over-provisioned for two main reasons: to allow for ample bad block replacement caused by flash wearout; and, to ensure that garbage collection does not cause write slowdowns.

The paper’s second major conclusion, that age, not use, correlates with increasing error rates, means that over-provisioning for fear of flash wearout is not needed. None of the drives in the study came anywhere near their write limits, even the 3,000 writes specified for the MLC drives.

But it isn’t all good news. SSD UBER rates are higher than disk rates, which means that backing up SSDs is even more important than it is with disks. The SSD is less likely to fail during its normal life, but more likely to lose data

Now that I have a web page, what is next?

•    Create a catchy front page that loads quickly, holds people’s attention and delivers important information to my target audience
•    Build additional pages, linked to that front page, that present any and all detailed information I want my target audience to have available.
•    Find out how people looking for my services or products look for those services and get a link to my web page included (Chamber of commerce website, Google entry, yahoo entry, facebook page, etc.).
•    Look for associations dealing with or recommending the services I provide and share links with them (you may have to join) and ask them to promote my business and my website.
•    Update my website.  Make sure the website has new content weekly or monthly.  Keep all information on the site current.  This keeps you high on the search engines’ lists.
•    Consider some advertising campaigns and register with the search engines.
•    Take control of your page listings with the various search engines or get them to create a listing if they don’t already have one for you.  Create a facebook page for your business; use their advertising mechanisms and link to your web page.

How do I get a web page?

I will try to describe this in as common of language as possible (my wife tells me I get way too technical). Let me start with what makes up a web page. A web page is preferably comprised of a “name”, the “page(s)”, and a “place” to put it where others can visit it.

The name (or URL) is a shortcut that replaces the numeric address because names are easier than network addresses  (compare with ). The name is something you (as the owner of a website) register your ownership of with an international licensed registrar. For example, my initials are JBB3, so I went to and registered for a little less than $20/ year. Now I have a name; its url might be but the modern browsers only need to find my web page. The other stuff has a purpose but very few users understand it , use it, or need it.

The page(s) are the content that we want others to see so they will buy our services, find our business, call us, or whatever our purpose for this website serves. It may contain photographs, videos, pretty graphics, or just plain typed text (other stuff too, but lets stay simple); think of it as an electronic brochure. There are many ways to create this (these) pages but I want to focus on using WordPress because it simplifies this description. At the beginning I just gather together a bunch of stuff that would make up my brochure.

A place to put the web page. This, I am calling web hosting; it is rented space on the internet. You can rent this from a company that has physical computers (servers) in a server farm somewhere in the world; or you can rent it from a friendly consultant who is there to simplify your experience for a fee. If you are technically up to it, go direct and you have full control of all aspects; if you are not up on all the technical stuff, find a consultant. This rental of space can have a variety of fees but it can all boil down to $5 to $50 / month. What most web page owners need will run about $8 / month from a number of suppliers.

Final steps can include a lot of things but lets focus on necessities. Your web host will supply you with a pair of addresses; these are given to the registrar (the people you paid to register your name); next your web host will setup any services you require (remember WordPress). There may be as much as a 48 hour delay (usually less then 2 hours) before the next step. Your web host will supply you with either a “panel” access address, name and password or perhaps an FTP access address, name and password; but, in this case we will get the address, name, and password for a WordPress control panel. Now we are ready to create and move our web page in; that is, put it where others can come visit, where search engines can scan it and recommend our page to the public and so forth.  Using the menus on the wordpress panel, I create a new page and now I place the photos and stuff I gathered up earlier onto the page; once it looks nice, I hit publish and a very basic web page is born.


Contact Benediktson Computer

We can be reached by phone at 575-956-9723;

if we are busy, please leave a message and someone will get back to you shortly.

You can also reach us at


Our New Mexico address is

Benediktson Computer, Inc.

2311 Ranch Club Rd PMB# 402

Silver City, NM  88061


Our Montana address is

Benediktson Computer, Inc.

110 Sunset blvd

Bozeman, MT  59715

Benediktson Computer, Inc.

Custom Computers

Networking:  wired or wireless

Friendly Onsite Service and Support

Computer Hardware and Software Demystified

Microsoft Registered Refurbisher

Web Hosting and Email Solutions

Home Entertainment systems

Computer maintenance including malware removal and data recovery.

Member Silver City Grant County Chamber of Commerce.


About Benediktson Computer, Inc.

Benediktson Computer, Inc (BCI). is a small family run business.  We were incorporated in January of 1996 and have been serving Bozeman, Montana and the surrounding area continuously since then.  We specialize in helping small businesses and individuals use modern electronics to assist them and their business.  Primarily, the business has been built up through on-site service and personal support.  We also assemble and setup custom computers for clients; complete with personal tutorials, software configuration, printer and camera setup, or whatever it takes to get the equipment working smoothly for the client.  As internet service providers have not advanced email and hosting services with the market, 4 years ago we started providing websites and email services to our clients.  Originally, the majority of our efforts included equipment maintenance and repair and we still provide those services; primarily for Windows based systems.

A little about Benediktson Computer, Inc. (BCI); BCI is composed of my wife (Karen), my daughter (Anna), and I (John).  My wife Karen and I are in the process of becoming snowbirds with Silver City, New Mexico being our primary winter residence and Bozeman, Montana being our primary summer residence.  Naturally, we will be traveling back and forth a bit in the summers and hope to do much of our customer support using remote access, phone support, and other distance coping abilities.
Our fees are based on time and materials with initial consultations and site surveys generally at no charge and actual service, upgrades, repairs billed at $85 / hr in 6 minute increments.  Within Grant county we don’t charge for travel to your site; only for the productive time spent in your service.  Over the years we have developed access to a number of suppliers for materials and when local suppliers can’t provide materials at a competitive price, will provide those materials as needed to our clients at nationally competitive rates.