8 Timely Tips for the Netbook Buyer

Netbooks, low-cost portable computers optimized for web usage, are continuing to sell at a torrid pace. If you’re in the market for one, here are eight tips to help you make a good buying decision.

Using a Netbook? Add a Muscular USB Flash Drive to the Mix

Do you carry a USB Flash drive with you? If you don’t, you absolutely should — especially if you’re a netbook user, because the small systems tend to feature hardware compromises, and a go-anywhere USB drive can compensate. The pocketable drives have fallen radically in price, even as capacity on them has risen smartly.  Here are some useful, free resources for quickly stocking your USB Flash drive with essential applications without a lot of annoying downloading and installation. Read More about Using a Netbook? Add a Muscular USB Flash Drive to the Mix

Web Work 101: Great Software Starter Bundles

google_packMaking the jump from longtime corporate employee to self-employed or freelance web worker carries a lot of challenges. One of those is finding the right tools for the job, since in a corporate environment, standard equipment and software deployment is most often determined for you. Being left to sort things out for yourself can be fun, but it can also be overwhelming.
Luckily, there are a few shortcuts available that provide all-in-one solutions to give you a running start. These packages include a lot of essential software, without the  RAM-stealing shovelware you tend to bundled with new PCs from most major hardware manufacturers. Whenever I set up a new PC, I like to strip it down to the bare essentials and build it back up piece-by-piece; these packages help expedite the process considerably. Read More about Web Work 101: Great Software Starter Bundles

PortableApps Suite Out in New Beta

PortableApps has issued a new beta version of its Platform 2.0 release, downloadable here. If you’re unfamiliar with PortableApps, I covered it previously here. It’s a suite of pre-selected free, primarily open-source applications that you can stick on a USB flash drive. It’s especially popular as a way to store many useful applications on a pocketable drive, so that you can work anywhere, from any computer. It’s only available for Windows (s msft) at this point, but if you tote any type of portable drive, it’s worth having. Here are some of the details on the new beta.
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Firefox 3.5 and New VLC Media Player Are Out As Portable Apps

If you happen to carry a USB thumb drive or a netbook for mobile work, you’re probably already familiar with PortableApps. It’s a collections of great open-source applications in one free download. Many of the applications are lightweight, portable versions of larger applications that come complete with launchers that make it easy to run the applications anywhere — even if you’re not on your own computer.

The team at PortableApps regularly updates the already good-collection of titles in the suite, and this week added two new applications: Firefox 3.5, Portable Edition, and VLC Media Player 1.0, Portable Edition.

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Tiny USB Office: A Free App Suite for Tight Squeezes

I’ve written before about the PortableApps suite of mobile applications, which is a convenient way to put many free, open-source applications on a USB thumb drive, or any portable drive, in one download. Once the applications are on your portable drive, you can use them from any Windows-based computer, anytime. USB thumb drives offering lots of capacity have become very inexpensive, but what if you have an older one with less capacity, or a drive that’s nearly full? If that’s your situation, Tiny USB Office is a solid suite of tiny applications that, at only 2.5 megabytes, can give you a lot of functionality on virtually any drive.

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OldApps: For When Quick-In, Quick-Out Matters Most

Most web workers are constantly adding new applications to their arsenals, and it’s common for our computers and mobile devices to become loaded with them over time. At the same time, many mobile devices these days can’t tolerate arrays of bloated applications. I’ve written before about PortableApps.com and MacLibre,  both of which deliver bushels of free, open source applications for Windows and Mac users. They’re especially good for putting applications on a USB thumb drive, where the applications are stripped down into light, portable versions. These downloads are also popular among netbook users, who often have limited local storage. Another site to keep in mind if anti-bloatware is an attraction is OldApps.com.

OldApps delivers exactly what its name implies: older versions of popular applications, where users may favor the older versions because of their smaller sizes, or their lack of complexity, or both. Here’s more on what the site offers, and what to be careful about.
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Vid-Biz: Sling.com, Extreme Reach, Google Talk

Sling.com Getting Viacom Content; video from MTVN, BET and Paramount pictures coming to the video portal, deal was struck separately from distribution agreement with Sling’s parent company EchoStar. (paidContent)

Extreme Reach Gets $1.5 Million; video ad firm’s first round led by Village Ventures and Long River Ventures. (paidContent)

Google Talk Now Does Video Embeds; paste the URL for a YouTube video into your chat window and it will get converted into a thumbnail that plays from the IM window. (TechCrunch)

GodTube Branching Out; video message on the site says it will become a hybrid of Facebook, Myspace and YouTube. (Mashable)

Panasonic to Market First Portable Blu-ray Player; despite the fact that you need a large screen to really discern the HD difference. (Gadgetwise Blog)

Better Opportunities Than Ever in USB Thumb Drives

Of all the new portable technologies I’ve adopted over the past couple of years, USB thumb drives are near the top of my list of useful, convenient accessories. I carry one in my pocket at all times, and am constantly looking for new applications to put on them.  At this point in the continuing evolution of these devices, you can get so much capacity for so little money that you don’t have to feel restricted to collecting only tiny applications on them. In case you haven’t yet adopted a USB thumb drive and put good applications on it, here are some ideas.

Only a few years ago, many people carried USB thumb drives that topped out at 256MB of capacity, and those were pretty expensive. Now, you can get this 8GB SanDisk drive for under $25, and I’ve seen other 8GB drives for under $20.

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AT&T’s Cloud Offering Is Foggy

Telecom giant AT&T announced its version of a cloud computing service today, called Synaptic Hosting, but to make things horribly unclear (and perhaps keep enterprise customers happy) it decided it should call the effort everything from utility computing to a hosting solution. I’m not sure if the entire service counts as a cloud, but AT&T does say that it will “support large-scale computing and applications on demand via virtualized servers and deliver services across AT&T’s Internet Data Center hosting infrastructure.”

So it does seem that despite the continued use of the words hosting and utility computing peppered throughout the announcement, that somewhere there is a cloud. My guess is there are a whole range of services being offered here, all with an AT&T service-level agreement. That could interest cloud-leery enterprise customers.

The key advantage to AT&T’s service is that it controls not just the servers and the cloud, but it also owns the network that those bits of data must traverse to get from the cloud to your computer. That’s a powerful proposition because it gives AT&T one more potential point of failure that it can guarantee and control. It also could lead the way for some interesting pricing options given that AT&T will know exactly how much it costs for each byte of storage and each compute cycle, but it also has the wholesale costs of bandwidth.

Want to define the cloud? Check out these posts for some help: