Black Friday regrets

November 26th, 2012 | Posted by Cornerstone Technologies in Junk | Microsoft - (Comments Off on Black Friday regrets)

Like most sane people that are not interested in the perpetual quest to gain more stuff, I avoided any kind of store on Black Friday.  Not only that, I will likely continue to hold onto my sanity until after New Years by avoiding as many malls and big box stores as possible.  On the other hand, I wont judge anyone who might seek a bargain at the local Wal-mart in these tough economic times.  That being said, as a professional who recommends that clients spend their hard earned money on quality, durable equipment, it is perplexing to the mind that some insist on buying the cheapest deal because it seems like a good idea.  I have gotten quite a few calls from people complaining that their new sub $299 laptop is not as fast as their old computer that they paid $500 for 6 years ago.  Six years ago, a new computer was being sold with Windows XP or the dreaded Windows Vista.  I will be the first to defend Windows Vista as substantially better than Windows 8 for usability.  There is actually a pretty good explanation as to why a $250 laptop is not a good buy.

Retailers, particularly Wal-mart, Staples, and Best Buy tend to make demands on manufacturers as to what they want to sell a computer for.  Manufacturers, in order to score the sale, will often use low quality components in what the end result ends up being.  Instead of a multi-core processor, the computer gets single core rejects.  RAM is cheap, but don’t expect to run Excel or Flash games very well with whatever they cram in there.  Hard drives will typically come in the 320-500GB range, but they again will be slower and of a brand of ill-repute.  The display will likely be a traditional LCD panel, not a newer battery friendly LED.  And the plastic used will be brittle and flimsy to the touch, and likely be held together by a minimal amount of screws.  The lack of screws really surprised me when I recently got in a 2011 Black Friday Wal-Mart special.  Literally, there were 5 screws holding the entire unit together.  It was a snap-together unit that left little to the imagination.  Inside the unit I experienced, the few wires that were used were extremely thin and prone to breaking.  Needless to say, I dread when these computers come into my shop for the simple fact that replacement parts are just not available.  Also, the typical 1 year warranty on consumer grade computers hardly spells out quality.

I am not saying that there is no use for $250 computers.  What I am saying is to not expect a $250 computer to be very capable in comparison to anything else at even twice the cost.  Cornerstone Technologies recommends commerical grade units that typically come with 3 year warranties.  We are an authorized reseller of Dell, Lenovo, and HP commercial units.  The products we believe in often last quite a bit longer than the bitter taste of any bargain one can scrounge up.  As a bonus, the overall cost of ownership is typically less in many cases.  In any case, stay warm, and beware of bargains!

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Windows 8 or Windows Hate?

November 20th, 2012 | Posted by Cornerstone Technologies in Microsoft - (Comments Off on Windows 8 or Windows Hate?)

Once again, Microsoft has released a new and ‘improved’ version of its flagship Windows operating system.  For anyone that has been following it with the morbid curiosity that one would watch a train wreck, it has been interesting.  Much hype and marketing has been done, and it is still early to tell where Windows 8 will come in comparison to sales of previous releases.  That being said, here at Cornerstone Technologies, we have been looking at Windows 8 as a bit of a joke.  It is a joke, because we pride ourselves at being pretty literate when it comes to figuring out how a computer and an interface actually works.  The reality for us is that Windows 8 is neither intuitive or easy to use when compared to almost anything else.

To make sure I gave the OS a fair shake, I made sure I installed it on hardware that the new Modern UI is designed for.  The chosen platform is a Dell Inspiron Duo.  The computer itself is rather mundane as far as specifications go, but does sport a capacitive touchscreen that does not require a stylus.  It is also a convertible.  Unfortunately, it is not the type of convertible that I pine for like a 12 year old, but the kind that turns into a tablet.  First off, installation was a fairly easy process, though I will admit that it took longer than I expected, so no improvement there.  By the time it got to the the point where I could actually use the interface that is pictured to the right, I would estimate that it was around an hour.  Again, the hardware of the Dell Duo leaves something to be desired, but is contrary to the sycophants on Microsoft’s website praising the install time on devices with single processing cores.  In any case, resizing the tiles was something I was able to do with ease, and the apps installed seemed to work just fine.  However, the sheer amount of tiles and things on the Modern UI is quite staggering.  There are at least 20, though I was quick to get rid of the ones I had no interest in.  It isn’t a surprise, considering it would look sparse without much of anything.

In tablet mode, I hit a wall.  I couldn’t switch back to and from Modern UI to the desktop.  With a mouse hooked up, I still was unable to make headway.  Finally, I used Google, and found that I was not the only person asking this question.  It boggles the mind to wonder what Microsoft was thinking.   I have to wonder why the head of Microsoft’s Windows division recently sacked.  The internet rumors suggest he was a bit difficult to deal with, but one can’t ignore that maybe Windows 8 is too different, and too radical all at once.  As far as I can tell, the only thing it has in common with its predecessors is the name.

In the future, we hope to continue exploring how Windows 8 is shaping up throughout the industry and affecting regular users, if anyone actually is buying it.

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Don’t be fooled

June 7th, 2012 | Posted by Cornerstone Technologies in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on Don’t be fooled)

Earlier this week, I had a gentleman deliver some bags filled with the YellowPages phone book to my shop.  While Cornerstone Technologies is not in this particular phone book, something ominous caught my attention while I was flipping through it.  In particular, I mean to call-out the large color ads for ‘Live Support’.  While I can appreciate any individual trying to get ahead in this miserable economy, my experienced with these companies are less than the value of fly dung.

A few years back when I was getting experience as a mobile technician in California, I answered an email inquiry from an operator of one of these kinds of companies.  They needed my services to travel to three locations to perform services that they were unable to do via remote support.  Upon my arrival to my first appointment the next day, I went to a house in a quiet neighborhood.  After knocking a few times and getting no response, I turned around to leave.  To my surprise, half a dozen police cars had blocked me in and I was approached by several police officers with weapons drawn.  After my pants went brown, I was interviewed by a detective and informed him how I came to find myself at this house.  It turned out, that the operator was using these kinds of ads to have affluent people needing computer services to call them.  Once their remote support was unable to rectify the situation, they would dispatch a technician to ‘check things out.’  In many of the cases, houses were cased and notes were taking of easy to steal valuables and security systems that were in place.  Later, the homes would be robbed.  In order to throw off investigators, they would hire unsuspecting local technicians like myself to perform legitimate services for quite a steep fee.

Steep fees bring me to my latest experience.  A national service company, iYogi, recently contacted Cornerstone Technologies to perform services at a client location.  While sub-contracting is something I avoid, it is especially helpful in our marketing and visibility campaign.  In any case, the client was charge an astounding $300 for remote services that ended up requiring a service call to the clients home.  Cornerstone Technologies made a fraction of that fee, but gained a client when we explained what we would charge for future services.

While I would prefer that clients call Cornerstone Technologies for their needs, I must implore the value in using local firms.  Pricing and actual experience level might vary, but chances are a better level of service would be rendered.  That being said, Cornerstone Technologies offers a full array of services in-shop, at client locations, and via remote support.  Call us at 724-349-3999 for more information.

Call Us Today! 724-349-3999
info@cornerstone-tech.net