Trails End Computer Club

Bulletin for the month of JUNE 2016

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Continuous Ink Supply System (CISS or CIS)

By David Kazmer, Member, SCV Computer Club, California,      www.scvcomputerclub.org,      scvcomputerclub (at) gmail.com

 There is an old marketing strategy of “Give them the printer and sell them the ink” that is starting to be challenged by alternate methods of using inks. The transition between ink cartridges and imbedded ink printers (described later) is the Continuous Ink Supply system. There are many of these on the market and each is designed for a particular make, model, and technology of printer. Not all printers have a CIS made for them. Most are by third-party manufacturers but a few are starting to be made by the printer OEM’s as they are finally recognizing the demands of the public.

Basically, the systems consist of larger ink storage containers external to the printer which should be easy to access for adding bulk ink; a delivery system sometimes including small hose sets; and hardware to fool the printer into thinking that you are using the correct (smaller) OEM ink cartridges.

I have had a CIS for my Brother printer for nearly two years and after the initial slightly awkward installation the system has been running just fine. This system uses extra large cartridges that extend out of the ink cartridge compartment, beyond the front of the printer and have refill openings (plugged) on the top, which are reasonably easy to access. The cartridges are designed to plug directly into the printer ink slots and the mechanism to fool the printer into thinking that I am using OEM ink is a small curved piece of plastic to trip the ink door sensor. If the door is detected as being open, the printer will not work. The installation comes with detailed and illustrated instructions.

A2 dding bulk ink is very easy and lasts so long that I almost forget to check the level, maybe monthly. The CIS manufacturer suggests to keep the ink level over one third full just to avoid any sensor problems. I now buy Brother-compatible ink in bulk and save money. I purchased a box set of four colors of bulk ink and have only needed to add ink rarely. After about two years I still have most of the ink. The bulk ink can also be bought one color at a time, to suit your needs. In any case you should be very careful when handling bulk ink supplies. Mistakes can have disastrous potential, so thin rubber gloves, lots of newspaper, and a roll of paper towels are suggested for first-time users.


T he market for printers is headed away from cartridges and toward imbedded ink supplies, which is simply an OEM built-in method of using bulk ink in the printer. Epson was the first manufacturer to produce a model, with HP also getting into the market. Brother has just released their own model in India, but not yet available in the U.S. The technology is still leading-edge. The prices for embedded-ink printers are presently slightly higher than standard models, but we should have been expecting that.


Looking Back to See Forward

By Greg Skalka, President, Under the Computer Hood User Group, CA,      www.uchug.org,      president (at) uchug.org

With 2015 in the rear view mirror, one starts to wonder what kind of year 2016 will be for computers and technology. We had better figure that out quickly, as almost 1/4 of the year is gone already, and before we know it Christmas decorations will be appearing in the aisles of Home Depot once again. I now prefer to avoid making New Year’s predictions. A lot of interesting things happened with technology in 2015, and I’m now so good at guessing. Perhaps by considering the events, milestones and trends of last year, some useful conclusions can be made about what is likely to happen to our tech items in 2016 and further into the future. A lot of tech topics were in the news in 2015; looking back at them now may provide insight into what we will face going forward.

Automobiles. Quickly name the most powerful computing device you own. For most of us, it is probably our car. Most new cars have more than 40 embedded processors, running everything from the emissions to the entertainment system. Luxury cars may have 100 processors each. Car makers are now packing 200 lbs. of electronics in a new vehicle; though they try to shave weight from the vehicles to increase fuel mileage, the added electronics typically saves fuel by replacing heavier mechanisms. Today’s cars are safer (air bags, electronic traction control and braking, tire pressure sensors, backup cameras, collision avoidance), more efficient (electronic engine control) and more capable (GPS navigation, cruise control, self-parking, Wi-Fi hub), due in a large part to electronics.

Along with all those processors come 100 million or more lines of code. That software can do great things for an automaker, or it can be their undoing. The VW diesel emissions scandal that was revealed last year, in which they admitted configuring software to cheat on emissions testing, hurt VW sales and its stock value and resulted in fines, lawsuits and recalls. There were, in fact, a record 51 million vehicles recalled in 2015, many resulting from the other major auto scandal and the problem of airbag inflators made by Takata firing shards of metal at car occupants when they inflate. In general, however, more complex vehicles and short design schedules will lead to more design problems and more recalls.

Autonomous or self-driving cars are being developed by most major automakers, including Tesla, as well as Google, Uber, Lyft and Apple. Unfortunately, the state and federal regulations to deal with this new vehicle paradigm are also still under development. Meanwhile, many automakers are introducing semiautonomous driving features incrementally. Vehicles with automatic braking and steering for collision avoidance, as well as self-parking capabilities are already available. Will the automakers get a self-driving car in the public’s hands (or under their behinds) first by adding autonomous features piecemeal, or will Google and the government regulators get their vehicles and laws completed first?

Though 2015 set a record for auto sales, low fuel prices sent sales of electric cars down 17% from 2014. While new plug-in electric and hybrid models continue to be introduced, consumers are reluctant to pay the $8K to $10K premium for these vehicles with gas prices so low. Only 400,000 out of the 1 million electric vehicle sales goal set by the Obama administration by 2015 had been achieved.

Going forward, consumers can expect more electronics in their cars and trucks and more electric cars in general, especially if oil prices increase sharply. If fuel prices stay low, auto makers will be conflicted, having to choose between selling bigger vehicles that consumers want and smaller, high mileage gas and electric cars that allow them to meet the much tougher 2025 average fuel economy standards. Though adding electronics tends to increase reliability, look for more recalls as the complexity of the products increases. Autonomous vehicle development has become “too big to fail”; with so many players in the market, the cars could be available in just a few years, and then the regulations will have to be resolved. This will be great for the disabled and inebriated, but devastating for bus, taxi and truck drivers.

Drones. The FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) finally released some regulations for small unmanned aircraft or drones in 2015, requiring registration for some and specifying flight rules. As with their wheeled autonomous cousins, regulations have not kept up with the technology and popularity of personal drones. Aerial firefighting efforts for wildfires last summer were interfered with by drones in a number of cases. A number of new laws relating to drones were proposed in California but none were enacted. Meanwhile, small quadcopters continue to drop in price and become more available. Fry’s has several aisles devoted to drones and their accessories.

Personal drones usually have a lot of autonomous flight capabilities, but most still require some human control, as with a radio-controlled plane. A new product to be released this summer called Lily promises to make drone photography easy for everyone (www.lily.camera). This quadcopter with built-in camera is very easy to use; it is launched by simply throwing it in the air. It tracks and follows you via a small tracking device and takes video and stills. It is in pre-sales online for $800. This kind of device could be the next Go-Pro Hero of action cameras. If the price could come down further, it could be a big hit.

Computers. Sales of laptop and desktop computers fell slightly in 2015, continuing a trend started in 2012 when tablets began to compete with them. Tablet sales rose for several years, but were flat last year, probably because by then almost everyone that wanted a tablet had finally gotten one. Microsoft’s release of the Windows 10 operating system was supposed to spur sales of new computers, but by the end of 2015, it had only a 10% market share (less than Windows 8.1 at 10.3%, XP at 11% and Windows 7 at 56%). This was in spite of Microsoft offering it for free to existing Windows 7 and 8 users. For tablets, 57% used the Android OS at the end of 2015, while iOS had 35% of the market.

The main competition for computers and tablets at this point is the smart phone. While computers (desktops and notebooks combined) had around 300,000 shipped in 2015, and tablets an additional 300,000 units, nearly 2 million mobile phones were shipped worldwide. While smart phones and tablets may be great for web surfing and emails, most file creation work is still best done on a conventional PC, with a larger screen and full keyboard. Tax return filing season is here, and while a few may file using a tablet, I would guess the majority of filers will do so on a desktop or laptop PC (with practically none on a smart phone). I can’t see editing spreadsheets or writing large documents on a smart phone. Even online shopping is more difficult on a smart phone’s small screen. Thus I feel computers will continue to hold their percentage of market share for quite a few years into the future. It will also take a few years for Windows 10 to become the most used computer OS, but it will get there.

Smart Phones. Smart phone sales may have peaked simply because it is getting harder to find anyone that does not already have one. There are some that own no computing devices other than a smart phone, but those people are primarily content consumers, not creators. In the smart phone arena, Android is the king of the OS with 83% of the market; Apple’s iOS only had 14% in 2015.

What started out as mobile device that could only make voice calls has turned into a mobile computer, web browser and instant (text) messager. An interesting phone prediction says that one quarter of phone users won’t make a single voice call in any given week this year. I would guess that trend will continue. Almost everyone will have a smart phone, but fewer people will use it as a phone.

Wearables. Activity trackers like Fitbit have been growing in popularity, with Fitbit alone selling 4.5 million units in the 3rd quarter of 2015. The Apple Watch was not far behind in sales. Still, I see the activity tracker as a useful device, while the Watch seems little more than an extension for the iPhone’s ability to call. The Watch display seems far too small to be useful for reading texts.

I thought Google Glass was a clever device, though expensive. I read recently that Google may be reintroducing it or a similar product. A wearable computer like that would be useful; it just needs the right user interface. We will probably see more medical-related wearables introduced in the future.

Social Networks. Facebook is still the top social network spot on the web, with 45% of users in 2015. You Tube is the next most popular destination at 22%. All the others are in low single digits each, including Twitter, Reddit, Pinterest, Tumblr, LinkedIn and Instagram. These sites will remain popular, and though it will continue to have new competitors, Facebook will probably remain on top for some time. Tastes can change quickly in this category, however. Who remembers Myspace?


Building or Buying a Computer in 2016

By Bart Koslow, Review Chair, Channel Islands PCUG, CA,       www.cipcug.org,      Bartkoslow (at) verizon.net

Whether you buy or build a new computer, there are a number of important things to know to obtain the best computer for the money you wish to spend. Is it better to build or buy a new computer? Most people will opt for buying a new desktop or laptop for the convenience of not having to build, particularly if they are not technologically or mechanically oriented. There are others who could easily build one if they had the courage. There are many websites where you can find detailed instructions on building a computer. If you are a computer club member, help and advice are always available if you have difficulty. So why not try?

I have always felt it is better to build one. Why? When I build, I get exactly what I want and do not pay for what I do not desire. I often use some drives, keyboards, monitors, cases, DVD burners, etc. from an earlier computer, saving money, but still obtaining the best computer for the money.

Name brand computers have drawbacks. You have to take what you get, even though the computer may not have all the things you would like, and you may get items you do not need. They do not come with the usual (at this time) Windows 10 operating system disk. If you have a major problem, instead of reloading Windows and retaining all of your program connections you may have to start all over again, adding all the programs, etc. that you installed after buying the computer — not a pleasant prospect.

At present, you may download a bootable copy of Windows 10 from Microsoft, which will solve this problem. Name brand computers often have little room for expansion in the event you wish to add drives, internal cards or memory. The motherboards and other hardware may be proprietary, which means you must go back to the manufacturer if you have a problem or need a replacement, and the replacement may cost you more than similar non-proprietary hardware.

Build or buy

There are many things you should know before you proceed. I usually do not buy state of the art because of the expense and because today’s state of the art is passé in six to 12 months. Instead, I look for the best price/performance ratio that will fit my pocket book without making too many compromises.

CPU

Whether you build or buy, the CPU is the most important part of any computer and is the part you should decide upon first. In the past, I have used AMD CPUs as they were cheaper for similar performance. This is no longer the case except for budget PCs, so I am now switching to Intel CPUs. I believe the added cost is justified by their better performance, making them a better value. I look for the fastest CPU at a reasonable price. There are hundreds of CPUs with similar names available in a bewildering variety. Compare CPUs. How? Just do a search for CPU speed comparison and you will find https://www.cpubenchmark.net, where you may compare the comparative speeds and costs of any CPU.

Memory

Next, you want to decide on what memory capacity, type and speed you wish. If you are buying, compare whether you are getting 4GB, 8GB, or more. When building you should be looking at the newer DDR4 memory at speeds of 2133 MHz or more. In either case, I suggest not less than 8GB. I will be adding 16GB at a minimum speed of 2133 MHz or more depending on pricing. In most cases, the amount of memory is more important than the speed. What is dual channel memory? For example, instead of buying a recommended minimum one 8GB module you buy two 4GB modules which work in tandem and supposedly run 20 percent faster. The price is the same. When you buy the memory modules, make sure you buy heat spreaders (for a few dollars) for each module if they do not come with the modules. They should be installed before you place the memory on the motherboard. Before you purchase memory, read the manual to find out which memory is supported by the motherboard. Then go to the motherboard manufacturer’s website and find out which manufacturer’s memory has been tested and recommended by the motherboard manufacturer. If you buy other memory, make sure you can return it or exchange it in the event it does not work properly in your motherboard.

Drives: go for solid state Most store computers come with the older spinning drives. At present, if you desire one with a Solid State Drive (SSD) you will find them only in more expensive store computers at a cost that may not suit you. I highly recommend that you include an SSD for the boot drive (the one that contains the operating system) in your next computer. SSDs are much faster, more durable, quieter, and smaller. Though they’re more expensive, prices are dropping rapidly. If you buy a computer that does not come with an SSD, you can have the spinning drive replaced with an SSD or added afterward, depending on space available. In the very near future, SSDs will be the primary drive in all computers. Most SSDs still use a SATA 3 interface. SATA 3 is limited in speed and is rapidly being replaced by M.2 SSD drives, which can run SSDs at much faster speeds. There are two kinds of M.2 drives — PCI-E and SATA.

The PCI-E interface is faster, as the SATA 3.0 spec is limited to 600MB/s maximum speed, while PCI-E Generation 1 is capable of up to 1000MB/s. Generation 2 is capable of up to 2000MB/s. There is also a newer PCI-E Gen 3 technology that is becoming more common with speeds of up to 4000MB/s.

Motherboard

If building, next and very important is the motherboard. Today you should look for a motherboard that supports your CPU, and dual channel 2133 MHz or more, DDR4 memory. I prefer a full ATX motherboard rather than a mini or micro as it has more slots, both bus and memory, and often more built-in capabilities. Some motherboards also have built-in graphics. The downside is that these may use some of the CPU power. The upside is that it is cheaper than buying a separate graphics card. I prefer the separate card since you usually get better performance, and prices are very low today. The motherboard should support two to four SATA 3 drives that run at a maximum of 600 MB/s, at least two PCI-E devices (hard drives, DVD, CD drives) and at least eight USB ports half of which should be USB 3.0 or 3.1. Buy a quality motherboard. Before you buy your motherboard, go to the manufacturer’s site and make sure the CPU and memory you intend to buy is compatible with that motherboard.

Computer case

Your computer case is significant. Almost all cases support both AMD and Intel motherboards. You want an ATX case that has room for expansion. I suggest at least two 5¼-inch external bays, one or more external 3½-inch bays and three or more internal 3½-inch bays for hard drives. My Antec case has eight bays with front panel USB 2.0 connections and holds a standard size ATX motherboard. It has a large (and quiet) 120 mm fan and places for two more 80 mm fans, which I installed to keep the motherboard and CPU cool. Incidentally, air flow of the fans should be in from the bottom front of your case to out at the top rear. A nice feature of the case is the two hand removable screws that enable removing all the case covers without using a screwdriver or nut driver.

I never stand my case on the carpet if there is some air circulation from under the case or from the bottom front, which may be blocked. I place a 1-inch-by-8-inch board (or two 1-inch–by - 4-inch boards) on the carpet and stand the case upon it.

You should make sure you have a power supply with ample wattage. Otherwise, you may have problems that are due to insufficient power. I use a heavy duty 600 watt ATX power supply with a quiet 140 mm or larger fan, which complies with the newer power saving requirements.

Graphics cards

Graphics cards are becoming much cheaper. PCI-Express motherboards support dual (two) linked graphics cards, either NVidia SLI or ATI Crossfire. Make sure if you buy dual cards that they match SLI or Crossfire, and are supported by your motherboard. The dual cards are powerful and extremely fast. Good if you are a gamer, but much too rich for me. If you buy one card, it does not matter if it is an ATI or an NVidia card.

You do want a card that has both a digital DVI (or DVD) output and HDMI output. Most still have a VGA output as well. Look for at least 1 GB of DDR4 memory on the graphics card. Since I am not a gamer, I buy a low cost video card.

Items to save from the old computer

I transfer from my old computer DVD burners, a fax/modem, a mouse, a keyboard, a printer, a scanner, and a monitor. I still use the fax/modem to send and receive faxes. I install an internal card reader with a USB 3.0 connection in a 3½-inch external bay. Do not forget your Windows 10 operating system license.

Monitor

What about the monitor? I have a 23-inch Acer LCD monitor, and am very happy with it. In my book, bigger is better. There are a number of things you should be aware of when buying an LCD monitor. Do not buy an LCD monitor unless it has a digital connection either DVI or HDMI, or both, as the apparent resolution is much better using the digital connection. It will probably still have an analog VGA connection as well. All LCD monitors have a native resolution, which is usually the one advertised. Important!

Your video card must support the native resolution of the monitor for best results.

An older computer may not support a new LCD monitor in digital mode at its native resolution. In that case, you may have to add or change the graphics card.

Many manufacturers consider it OK if the LCD has eight or fewer bad pixels. If you get one or more, especially in the middle of your screen, you may not like it, or you may not like the monitor in general once you try it out. That is why I would only buy an LCD monitor locally, where I have a return privilege for any reason.

Some monitors can swivel vertically, which gives you a longer page view. Some LCD monitors come with a digital cable, but many do not. You must have the correct digital cable for the monitor, and LCD monitors do vary. Go to www.datapro.net/techinfo/dvi_info.html for a lucid guide to the Digital Video

Interface and which cable to use in each situation. You will find buying cables is much cheaper online. The $6 cable is just as good as the MONSTER $141 one, so don’t get ripped off.

Printers, scanners and more

You still need a printer, and I need a scanner for copying and faxing. The choices are innumerable. I like and use a black and white laser printer for the bulk of my printing. It looks better, is cheaper to run, and like the Energizer bunny just runs and runs and runs. If you buy a laser printer watch out for the ones that need drum replacements in addition to toner cartridge replacements after a certain volume of use. You will end up paying more than the original printer cost. If you require color printing there are many inkjet and color laser printers available, or you may buy an all-in-one inkjet that combines printing, copying, scanning, and faxing. I leave the choices to you.

If you have a little adventure in your soul, you can build a new computer and obtain help from fellow computer club members. If not, you know what to look for. In any event, happy computing.


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