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Dell Inspiron Mini 910 Review

I picked up the Dell Inspiron 910 Mini for a client and thought I would document my impressions.

The unit was pretty well maxed out on the options with 1gb memory, 16gb flash disk, webcam, and bluetooth. The 16gb disk shows as having 14.3 available of which 10 is free.

The Dell Inspiron Mini (from now on I'll just call it the mini) comes in what can best be described as "mini-malist Dell" packaging. It is well packed in a very tiny box without the usual Dell "onion layers" you have to deal with. (It seems there is a rule at Dell that whenever they ship a Dell laptop, the box it comes in must always be 100 times larger in volume than the actual laptop.) In the case of the Mini, the box is only about 1 or 2 inches bigger in every dimension than the laptop. A little foam sleeve and some foam wrap and that's it! I like it...

Nifty Breakthrough for USB Flash Drives

I accidentally discovered a new breakthrough in USB thumbdrive technology from Crucial memory. I was ordering some memory from them and they had an offer for a free 1GB Gizmo Jr drive. I wasn't really interested because most 1GB drives have dropped so far in price that they are practically "disposable". What did I need another thumbdrive for? We have a box full of them that we hand out when someone needs one.

Well, once the package arrived, I was stunned to find...

VirtualBox

I've been a big fan of virtualization for a few years, especially after VMWARE released their Server product for free. I've used it on several projects for things like software development, software testing, OS testing, and "trial runs" for new product testing. I haven't really liked Microsoft's Virutal PC product, mostly because of the restrictions they had on it early on.

These days, virtualization is really taking off. I think this is largely because the virtualization products and commodity hardware are catching up with the hype. With disk, processor, and memory as cheap as it is, you can build several screaming fast, isolated, virtual servers running foreign OSes on one physical server for less than you'd think.

Always looking for something newer and "free-er", I decided to give innotek's (http://www.virtualbox.org) VirtualBox a try. An open source version is available, but you have to go with binaries if you want some of the special new features such as the RDP server.

I went with the binaries because the project I'm working on was to find a way to allow remote access to Quickbooks without installing a Windows Server Terminal Server or another PC by better utilizing an existing Ubuntu server running SAMBA. The binaries provided for RDP access without having to allow it from XP.

I figured if I could use the Ubuntu server to run a virtual XP box, I could provide a single remote user with access to the local network, QB running natively, and allow it to connect to the current QB database server running on an XP workstation. If that worked, I could try to switch the database to run on the virtual box itself and get the data back on the server where it belongs and like it was before the client upgraded to QB 2007 (which required the data be on the local disk of a QB-database-server-capable XP box).

If this works, the cost to the client will be for one license for XP or about $140. This will save them about $500 for a dedicated XP box with remote control (plus the power to run it 24x7 for the occassional use it might get from the remote user) or even $2000 for a system and software to run Windows Server with Terminal Server for 5 users, given that architectually they really want to move the database off an XP box and onto a real server.

So, here's my process...

Polycom VSX 5000 Video Conference Device

I'm working on a video conferencing project for a client that does work in India. We wanted to set up a video link between the USA and India that would allow weekly status meetings and to help build relationships between staff in both countries. After looking at various solutions from PCs with Webcams to very high end systems, we ended up picking up some used Polycom VSX 5000 Video Conference devices (1 for each end) and hooking them up to a 40" Samsung 720p LCD TV in the USA and a 22" Samsung LCD monitor in India.

EEE PC from ASUS

I really like this little laptop from ASUS. I tested the 4gb model running the installed linux and was very pleased with the features, functions, and capabilities of the system.

I bought the unit for $320, including shipping, and was pleased when I opened the box and found a lightweight power supply, a cute little laptop, and an XP driver CD.

N800; Cool AND Useful

I picked up a Nokia N800 internet tablet for a project I'm doing for a client. We wanted an inexpensive wireless access device for a warehouse control project. Since the custom application is web-based (using SugarCRM as the base), we needed something that would handle full web browser functionality in a hand held package. The N800 fits the bill with a few caveats.

Yourserving.com and FreeVPS Virtual Private Server

UPDATE: I no longer use yourserving.com because their customer support staff forwarded my email to a hacker's account, without any security verification, based on just an email support ticket request from a gmail account that was unrelated to me. This allowed the hacker to hack my domain hosting account access my domain name inventory and attempt to transfer away one of my valuable (3 letter!) .com domains. The attempt failed because of the security monitoring by my domain name host, but I figured that since it was easier for a hacker to get a support ticket processed than it is for me when I ask for support, maybe I'd better switch providers.

I switched to yourserving.com in August 2007. I didn't have all the details at the time I switched other than I would be getting a 256mb VPS with 40gb of disk and 200gb of data transfer per month.

I moved from a shared hosting server with 220 other domains and a first-page-to-display start time of 15 seconds to a Virtual Private Server (VPS) with dedicated resources (memory, processor, processes, namespace...) and a less than 1 second first-page-to-display start time. The cost went from about $10 per month to $30 per month, but so far, I think the increased speed and extensive access (ssh command line) makes it more than worth it.

I'm going to document what I learned since switching, but first, a word or two about the configuration of my new server...

Nodevice.com is No Deal

Avoid nodevice.com. The site offers downloads of commonly available files, including service manuals (which is what I wanted) for a 1 day, 1 month, or 1 year subscription.

Acronis--A Nifty Company Does Software and Licensing Right

I have to say I'm really impressed with Acronis. I've used their products for a couple of years, ever since I started using their backup/disk upgrade software product called "EZ Gig II" version 6 to upgrade and backup a laptop. This was after suffering a painful recovery process using traditional backup methods.

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