Blog Archives

Talking Shop with Mike Otgaar

Talking Shop – My New Blog

Talking ShopToday I posted my first articles on Talking Shop. Talking Shop or Shop Talk is the blog for my new newly opened PC Technology Store. It is not about reviews, at least this is not the intention. Product reviews are published using web site pages instead of posts…

Talking Shop is more about general computer industry related topics, possibly occasional announcements of special offers and new product releases worthy of mention. The first posts discuss the current time being a good time to upgrade a PC, and why I think it is better to ‘buy up’ when purchasing a PC system.

Talking Less can be More:

Right now, I intend to keep most of the posts on Talking Shop short and sharp, limiting content to between 300 and 400 hundred words. I consider fewer than 300 bad for search engine ranking. More than 400 hundred words detracts from the purpose of  ‘Talking shop’ – brief quick articles that may be remembered by shoppers for PC equipment. Read the rest of this entry

Computer E-Store by Graphicline

Computer Technology E-Store

New Computer E-Store Launches

I am happy to announce I am launching a new e-commerce website in January 2012. Otgaar Computer Technology will trade in a range of PC hardware components and software, and will build custom PC systems for gamers, graphic design and power users.

Otgaar Technology joins Graphicline among my group of business interests. Graphicline will be the branded site builder and site-manager.

The online shop will complement  our re-launch of our expanded Information Technology division also in  2012. After considering the work required to produce an on-line catalogue of products, there was no reason not to take the further step and produce a combined catalogue and e-shop.

Focus on Southern Africa

The e-store will focus mainly on servicing Southern Africa;  South Africa, Mozambique, Namibia, Lesotho, Swaziland, and Angola, while the local trading division will focus mainly on the Johannesburg Metro, and a subsidiary outlet in Cape Town later in the year.

Delivery of goods will be via a reputable courier and small-freight company, rather than the Postal Service.

Product Lines:

Otgaar Technology and e-store will initially be offering a selected range of product from the following stables; Gigabyte, Intel, AMD, Powercom, Pinnacle, Sony, Epson, Seagate, Zyxel, Leadtek, Samsung, Transcend, Microsoft, and Adobe.

The brands were selected for their reputation for quality, performance and reliability. We also decided to rationalise our supply line, and are able to source the bulk of these products from a single distributor.

The IT Division will offer custom built PCs for mid to high end users, Laptops, and Servers, along with support and backup for our products.

Our Product Guaranty

Otgaar Technology provides the full warranty we receive from the manufacturer/distributor of the equipment; 3 years on motherboards and other items covered, and 2 years or 1 year where components carry a lesser warranty. (Terms and Conditions)

Our own workmanship is guaranteed for up to 12 months, depending on the work category.

A Good Time to Build E-store

The Christmas Holiday season will be a good time to create the website. The several slow weeks when most of our customers are on holiday will allow us the time to test several e-store options before committing to a live build. First decision will be the system; sadly from my point of view I don’t think it will be Drupal – too many version 7 plugins are still in Alpha, Beta or RC versions… The most concerning are the powerful ‘Views’ modules, that are required for so many Drupal functions. When are the contributors going to get stable releases – after version 8 is released in a stable production version? So I think WordPress or Joomla will be the CMS used.

I am very pleased to have this project at this time of the year – It has always been a good time for me to embark on major new projects. Time can be found to resolve basic teething problems, and make changes should these be required

Hardware Vendor Blues

Sourcing PC Hardware

In a previous post I mentioned I would be installing a new PC system (Computer Upgrade). Seven years ago I was going through the same process, and found it impossible to purchase the components I wanted from a retailer:

Quotes were requested from seven local retailers, providing them with a fully detailed list of the components required; Motherboard, CPU, Graphics card, Hard Drive, RAM etc. Each item was specified by Make and Model, and Manufacturers Part Number.

Quotes were provided by six of these, in a time frame from 2 days to 10 days!

Not one of these retailers provided a quotation based on the specified equipment

I can clearly remember in three instances the equipment offered was not even close to the specifications of my requirement. In the other instances there had at least been some effort had been made to match the specs, but not adequately. The tendency in all cases was to suggest items with lower performance specs.

This occurrence prompted me to enter the industry as a dealer in hardware and software.

Testing PC Retailers Today

I decided to repeat this process now. As the new system is for my own business use, there is no customer to be inconvenienced by delays in delivery. So after deciding exactly what I needed to get, I requested estimates from six outlets trading within an area radius of 15km of my business. Two of these were mall type retailers, the other four were more service oriented suppliers (who could be considered competitors).

Well guess what! A repeat of the previously describe situation. Four of the six responded with quotes. None of the quotes matched exactly the specified items. One of those who never bothered to quote is known to deal with my principal supplier, hence is able to provide the required parts…

When did the phrase in a specification “If the specified item is not currently available, please quote on the next higher spec model from the same manufacturer” come to mean “offer a lower grade product from a less reliable brand”, or offer a cheaper alternative simply because it is cheaper?

Read the rest of this entry

Dual Displays Rule

I’ve been spoilt. For the past 6 years I’ve had the benefit of dual displays. Recently I was reduced to a single monitor, and it has been a nightmare. The reason; I simply needed to use my 2nd screen on another PC.

Broken computer - image from 123rf.com

Broken!

There’s been a mini flood of PC’s with problems through the office… and space here is really limited. There is just enough for the 2 LCD usual screens, and a 3rd old smaller CRT type if it’s raised up above the others, and the scanner gets put somewhere else. I also have a small workbench to the side – just big enough to take one PC box at a time. Space also had to be found for an extra 2 keyboards, and 2 more mice… Read the rest of this entry

From the PC Workbench

A day at the PC Workbench

Today was spent mostly at the workbench. Well, right now the bench and the desk are  much the same thing

PC insidesThis PC ended up on the bench on Saturday after a service call found too many problems to deal with on site. Virus infections, start-up problems, faulty CD writer. And who knows what the last ‘tech’ to have their grubby fingers inside it did; it was painfully slow…

OK, this is an old Celeron machine, but it’s only really used for internet and the occasional Word doc… The total size of all files to save being less than 620MB (It only has a 40GB Hard Drive…

The PC on the Workbench had an AV installed

Here we go again, useless anti-virus programs… Funny thing is, one of the discovered viruses (Kolab.dr) has a recommendation from an internet site to use the installed AV program, Spyware Doctor, to remove it. Strange then that Spyware Doc didn’t even find the bug… It took House Call (once again) to do that (and 3 other trojans Spyware Dr  didn’t discover!

So this morning I had big plans to get that PC ready, however my plans were scuppered:

  • Decided it was too much effort to unpack the test monitor (and where to put it anyway?) so shut down my machine, unplug the 2nd display, and connect that to the one on the bench. Restart my box!
  • Second step; I found the keyboard I was going to use had decided it wanted to be retired (the one used for PC’s on the workbench) …. So turn off my PC, unplug keyboard (Yep, it’s one of those non-USB ones – I only have 8 USB ports and they are all in use – plug into the faulty one, start up.. fine…
  • Save the docs and so on no problem… and all went on  a 1GB flash drive…. The owner definitely doesn’t do that much with the PC… Sometimes I clutter my drives with more than that in a day.
  • Opened CD drive manually – it won’t open otherwise.. stuck in windows CD… restart – Win does the first bits – checks things,  shuts down… try that 3 times…. Shuts down each time…
  • OK, keyboard back on my machine before I go into withdrawal from being offline for so long.
  • Go hunting for another keyboard… thats fine theres 3 in one box and 5 or 6 more in another as well as several Mac keyboards and a few Portuguese layout ones as well (wherever that carton has got itself underneath all the other cartons).
  • Shut down my box, pull out one of the cd/dvd drives from my PC, stick into other box, start-up with win disk… Ah… now it works. The buggered CD drive is drawing too much juice from the marginally underpowered 180W PSU…  So that’s one problem solved for now… although that PSU will need replacing sometime in not too distant future (The owner is on a very tight budget right now, and I don’t have any spares ‘in-stock’,  used or new).
  • OK… Windows is now re-installed on a clean fully formatted 40GB HDD. Wow, that format was fast compared to the ones I’ve done more recently.
  • Win XP installed, Service Pack 2 Installed, Mainboard drivers etc installed. And SP 3 just finished installing.
  • Next thing, MS Office then try to find where I filed the service packs for Office 2003. They are on one of the hard drives on my PC, no doubt NOT in a folder called ‘Office 2003 Service Packs’.
  • But Coffee first

That was most of my day so far…. Also managed to squeeze in the usual routine checks on my sites and blogs, usual Monday admin sort of things, wrote a small article for one of the blogs I contribute to occasionally, had a look at a site pirating content from another site, checked my e-mail accounts, had a look at Facebook updates, and oh yes, wrote this article.

Now I can leave the offending PC on the bench, get more coffee, send SMS to PC owner advising of progress, take an hour out, watch CSI, then come back here for another by hour or so, by which time it will be Tuesday…

 

Laptop Windows Recovery

No Windows Disk With Laptops

I recently came across a post regarding a problem experienced in trying to recover a broken Windows Vista Operating System on a Laptop.

windows 7 logo

Windows 7

The laptop was supplied without a windows installation disk; which is an increasingly common scenario. Laptop manufacturers (OEM – Original Equipment Manufacturers) seem to feel that the built-in recovery function is sufficient, and saves them a few cents of the cost of supplying a disk.

Sadly, the recovery system does not always work… damaged hard drives, viruses, and numerous other lesser factors can prevent this from working as expected.

The unhappy laptop owner put the blame on Microsoft; “since Microsoft stopped supplying installation disks with laptops” I contend this is not Microsoft’s fault, it is the OEM laptop manufacturers fault.  Microsoft does not manufacture laptops. In fact Microsoft made Vista readily available, and 7 can be installed from any disk using the matching version and the PC owners ‘key’.

Microsoft does not sell Windows CD’s, they sell the licence, i.e. the right to use the operating system. Anyone can download the operating system from their website for free, and even run it on trial for a limited period of time. When you decide to keep the version you are happy with, purchase the licence, enter the activation code, and you have a full and legal Windows installation.

I agree that not having the disk on hand is annoying. Perhaps it is time Microsoft demanded OEM’s provided an installation disk included with the package. Consumer demand is of course the real answer. Refuse to buy any equipment that does not come with a legal version of the operating system, whetehr it is new or used.

It is not exactly a new phenomenon, Going as far back as Windows XP and perhaps even earlier, OEM’s were providing their own disks, which often had a customised Windows installation, rather than the standard version which Microsoft provides on their own disks. Very often these OEM’s (and I mention Dell, and Hewlett Packard) had hard coded the BIOS, which was then locked, making it extremely difficult for owners, even technicians, to install any other version of operating system. They of course will contend this is to “improve the user experience of their products” and other such nonsense! This practice was not only limited to laptops, but the desktops from some manufacturers also had this limitation built-in.

I believe they do this in order to lock their customers into their own support network! While it is reasonable to expect the owner of ANY equipment to be required to make use of a manufacturers support service during the WARRANTY period, making it extremely difficult for the owner to choose another service agent outside of warranty is a violation of consumer rights, definitely in my own country, and I am certain this applies in the USA and much of the EU as well. Consumers have a right to choose!

All is not lost however

As mentioned, the operating system can be obtained from Microsft or other sources. Just download it (using another PC if the one with the problem has totally ceased to work, burn it to a disk a writeable DVD will be required) and run this on the PC (or laptop) required. You may need to choose which version to use.

On your laptop or desktop, there will be a ‘certificate of authenticity’ which describes the version the licence is for, and the ‘key’ to enter when requested. That’s it, the installer will continue and the system will soon be back up and running.

Real life examples: Read the rest of this entry