Tuesday, February 23, 2010


After crushing my Sony VAIO SZ750N, and making it worse by trying to install the wrong replacement LCD screen, I broke down and bought a new laptop.

I got the VPCS111FM. I think it's a scaled down version of the new Z Series, which is apparently the replacement for the SZ Series.

I checked out the new Z Series laptops They're tempting. Thin and light with clear, bright screens and lots of features. They also range from $1,900 to more than $4,000.

The VPCS111FM is a Best Buy-only model that is a lot like the Z Series, but without the dual graphics cards and some other features. It's also just over $1,000. There are some similar thin and light laptops made by ASUS, Toshiba and HP, but they're all missing some features I wanted, like a built-in DVD drive, Bluetooth or a big hard drive. The cost of upgrading them, when it was possible, put them in about the same range, so I went with the Sony.

I hesitated a bit, mostly because Sony always uses some proprietary hardware and doesn't seem to cooperate much with Linux developers. It took we a while to get everything on the SZ750N working with Ubuntu, and then some fiddling to keep it working as I upgraded Ubuntu versions.

People were already making progress on the VPCS111FM, so I figured everything would work out.

I haven't installed Ubuntu yet, so I've only used it with the pre-installed Windows 7. It seems odd that Microsoft has moved past Vista and onto Windows 7 and computer companies are still offering a free downgrade to Windows XP. That's got to be driving somebody in Redmond crazy.

Windows 7, by the way, seems OK. Nothing to tempt we away from Linux, but seems to work fine. My only real complaint is that using the trackpad is awkward. I get used to Linux and whenever I use a computer with Windows I find it irritating that I can't easily switch from moving the cursor to moving the window just my moving my finger to the right side of the pad.

On to the hardware.

The keyboard is nice. Not great when compared to some of the others I tried, like the ones on HP and ASUS laptops, but a lot better than the one on the SZ. That one just felt flimsy and cheap.

It was also loud, which was a problem when I took notes in meetings. Got some dirty looks, and even a comment once, when I forgot to type softly.

This keyboard is the new "chiclet" type. The keys poke through holes in a metal frame. The frame separates them so there's a space between each key, rather than just a slope. I think it's easier to type. I'm less likely to hit two keys at once.

The case is metal. It's a silvery color and shiny. Personally I preferred the flat black on the SZ because it was less conspicuous, but this one is fine really.

The trackpad is metal as are the two button just below it. It feels fine and works well.

The case has substantial rubber bumpers on both the base and the screen bezel. They stick out a good amount and seem to be stuck on well.

That's not something I would ordinarily notice, but on the SZ they were so small that the keys made an impression on the LCD when you closed the lid. The impression became more pronounced over time, especially after the bumpers started falling off.

The heat exhaust is on the left side of the laptop, rather than on the bottom. That's a nice feature. It keeps the heat off your lap, if you use the computer the way the name suggests you would. It also lets the heat escape even if you set the laptop on a soft surface.

(Specs after the jump)

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Buzz Faking

If you're trying to sell a product or a service, one way to do it is to create a buzz -- get people talking about it and, with some luck, trying it. Real buzz is great, but some sellers settle for creating their own, fake, buzz.

For example, they search help sites looking for problems their product can solve. Let's someone's selling SpamAnnihilatorGoldPlus 2.0. He could search for questions about stopping spam, then reply:
WebNewbie: I keeping getting spam in my inbox, does anybody know what I can do to stop it?
BuzzFaker: I had that same problem. My inbox was filling up with messages I didn't want. It was driving me crazy. This guy I know who's kind of a techie suggested a program called something like Spam Annihilate. He said it was the best and the price was pretty low considering how effective it is. I've been running it for a couple of months and I never get any spam in my inbox anymore. I found it by Googling the name.
That's pretty basic. More advanced Buzz Faking is entirely fake. The Faker posts his own fake questions, then follows it up with this own fake answer.

So how can you separate real help from Buzz Faking?

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Replacing the LCD on a Sony VGN-T150

I have a Sony VAIO VGN-T150 that I inherited from my wife when she broke the screen. I replaced the screen and used the computer for a couple of years. Then I broke the screen or, more specifically, United Airlines did.

Now that I'm replacing it again, I thought I'd post some helpful information. Even if you don't find it helpful, I will the next time I need it.