The Inkwell

Portege R700 sampled briefly
— 10:50 AM on June 30, 2010

Though he might not publicly admit it, I think I could detect some jealousy in Scott's voice when I called to say I was hanging out with his latest crush. The Liberty, Missouri Best Buy had three in stock, and after a little chit-chat with the blue shirts, I got my hands on one.

Their first reaction when I asked if they had the "Toshiba Portégé R705" was, "is that an external hard drive?" After clarifying I was asking about a laptop, one of them quickly corrected himself. "Yeah, actually, I did see those come in a few days ago." There were none on display, but he offered to retrieve one and meet at the register. I said I needed to inspect and feel it carefully first, even admitting I was unlikely to buy today. He said that was fine, promptly rolled a ladder around the corner and pulled a box down from the high shelves above us. As he opened it he commented repeatedly how light it seemed.

He turned it on as soon as he could access the power button and initiated a set-up feature. The battery was over 50% charged, and Windows 7 was ready to roll remarkably quickly—no longer than it took to remove some packing material, re-pack the box to return to the shelf, and tether the girl to their electronic anti-theft system. Before he wired her to their matrix, though, I asked if I could walk around with it for a bit, wanting to handle it the way I would if it were mine.  You know what I mean—standing up, one hand underneath and one up top, studying her responses carefully.

First impressions from the only full-time TR staffer not on the editorial team:

  • Thin and light? Yes, extremely.

  • Sturdy and solid?  Somewhat.  I could make the surface give in some areas, but it did great in my subjective hold-it-by-the-corner-and-look-for-flex test.

  • Fit and finish? Good, not great. Magnesium and plastic surfaces were quite nice, but lines weren't perfect and some of the buttons and shock-absorbing nubs weren't centered in their assigned divets.

  • Keyboard? Good: slight (and I mean extremely slight) contour to each key surface, a little pop in the feedback, very little flex in the overall keyboard when typing, decent spacing between keys. Not as good: slick surface on the keys, not as much travel in the motion as I'd prefer, a little flex in the overall keyboard when typing vigorously, and kinda short on the Y axis, resulting in my thumb occasionally hitting just below the spacebar.

  • Touchpad? Great. Largest I've seen on any sub-$1000 laptop that doesn't moonlight as a safety cone base and just the right amount of texture (barely any). It was a Synaptics that was fully capable of all the latest finger magic.

  • Screen? Hard to tell. Lines were crisp and images were pleasantly clear in a browser. Colors had a slight greenish tint, but I hadn't touched settings and I was in a huge new Best Buy. It wasn't quite as bright as I'd like, but I was in a massive Best Buy store. There was detectable reflection in the glossy surface, but I was right under a massive, high-efficiency, furthest-from-natural-light fixture in a behemoth Best Buy. Did I mention that it was hard to assess the screen because of the light qualities in Best Buy?

Overall, I liked it quite a bit.  And although I need a new laptop (more on that later), I couldn't take this one home since she lacked an ExpressCard slot for my Sprint broadband card. No, I can't pick up a USB EVDO adapter, because I'd likely lose my no-longer-offered unlimited-data plan at a sweet rate. But I'm seriously considering the R700-S1310 which is now available at Newegg (w00t!) with a few features that were lacking on the Best Buy iteration: Bluetooth, fingerprint reader, an ExpressCard slot and a three-year warranty.

19 comments — Last by eitje at 8:45 AM on 07/02/10

Introducing the TR job board
— 8:04 PM on January 14, 2010

We may not be big enough (yet) to have an HR department and multiple positions available. However, The Tech Report does have a sizable enough audience to attract the attention of numerous employers. I've fielded more than a few inquiries from companies that would like to tap the talent pool that is our reader base.

And, last time I checked, there were quite a few people looking for employment in this still-shaky economy.

So, without further ado, let me present TR's new job board. You can access it from any TR page, via either the "Jobs" link in our navigation bar or the "Tech jobs" widgets on our front page. The listings that appear should be generally tech-related and geo-targeted to your region, though if you click through to the full job board, you can easily search and sort through multiple categories

To the business owners or managers among our readers, you can post your openings to target both other TR readers and JobThread's broader network of publishers and audiences.

56 comments — Last by eitje at 9:25 AM on 01/18/10

Tech Share moves forward thanks to large donation
— 5:57 PM on October 21, 2009

Earlier this year we shared how the students at Ebenezer Educational Center have been able to spend some time with the Eee PCs you helped us procure and ship half way around the globe.  Although they've been using them on an occasional basis, daily access was not possible because the school lacked reliable electricity and a room secure enough for them to feel comfortable leaving the computers unattended.

After my last update one of The Tech Report's regular readers contacted me about what could be done to help these kids get more hands-on time with the netbooks.  The school administrators confirmed that upgrading their electrical service and installing secure windows and a door on one room would allow them to establish a dedicated lab in which the students could have regular time with the computers.  These upgrades would cost around $1000.  The guy who had contacted me indicated without hesitation that he would donate the money to make the upgrades possible.

So with the funds wired to the school in Uganda, the improvements are under way, and I hope to hear soon that the computers are getting used daily.  The donor insisted that his identity be kept anonymous, but I can promise you that anyone who hangs around in our forums would instantly recognize his nick.  

Thanks again to all who have helped, especially to this latest philanthropist.  We'll let you know when we get another update from the school.

12 comments — Last by FireGryphon at 5:01 AM on 10/30/09

Chance to win a Core i7 gaming PC
— 3:38 PM on September 8, 2009

Intel and a couple of its system-building partners are going out of their way to make this week's launch extra special.  CyberPower and iBuypower are giving away a handful of well-outfitted PCs based on the new Core i7-870 CPUs.

The best news is that one of these systems is reserved for a TR reader.

As soon as we have the exact specs and timeline, we'll be posting on our front page how you can enter for a chance to win.  Check back regularly, because we won't have much time between announcing the contest and awarding the goods.

47 comments — Last by khands at 11:10 AM on 11/06/09

It's a mad, mad Internet
— 11:04 AM on September 4, 2009

A relative recently created OddNod.com, which showcases unique social media profiles.  My favorite is a Facebook group called "The Bertrand Russell group for people who aren't a member of any group."  Once you join, you're automatically expelled.

So is this web 3.0, or beyond?  Have we gone a bit too far if even our social media profile pages have an aggregator now?  It's nothing more than bizarre infosnacking-style entertainment — a celebration of the odd, sensational and often perverse personalities of web addicts.  Of course, it has its own social element by allowing the "Odds" to be viewed, shared, voted up or down and ranked accordingly.  Narcissism rewarded.  

While we're wasting time, I was embarrassed to find myself scrolling through the pictures submitted to PeopleofWalMart.com.  Good for a few chuckles, that site certainly doesn't feed our better natures.  I had to stop after a couple pages for fear that I'd come across a close relative or neighbor.  Somewhat funny? Sure.  But that's partially because it allows me to feel superior to others.  And just ask my wife, it's nothing short of phenomenal that there are this many people who have worse fashion sense than me.

13 comments — Last by pikaporeon at 4:04 PM on 09/09/09

MSI and OCZ overclock
— 12:00 PM on June 12, 2009

Since we're an enthusiast site, little explanation of overclocking is needed here.  We tend to focus on the intricacies of hardware and how it performs, so overclocking competitions and regional LAN parties don't always get top billing.

We have covered overclocking events by Gigabyte and Asus in the past, and we made annual pilgrimages to Quakecon when it was more relevant to the broader enthusiast community.  The crazy liquid-nitrogen and Monster Energy-fueled hocus-pocus tactics common at these events amuse me.  I'll never be a competitor, but I do enjoy watching.

The latest overclocking event in the works is MSI's Master Overclocking Arena (MOA).  I'm helping get the word out about the competition since MSI and OCZ are involved, and both of them have been sponsors of The Tech Report—OCZ for many years and MSI more recently.  There aren't a lot of details yet, but they should already be liquefying the nitrogen, lawyering the liability releases, and stockpiling motherboards and CPUs, because the first round is supposed to begin in a couple weeks.  There's over $6000 in prizes, plus an expenses-paid trip for the top teams to Beijing for the final round.

Hey, you can win $300 just for coming up with a decent slogan for the event; we should have at least a dozen entries for that from TR gerbils, don't you think?

MSI's global MOA website has a little info, and we're cooking up a feature here at TR to keep folks posted as well.  More on that later, so stay tuned.

5 comments — Last by moshpit at 2:04 PM on 06/18/09

Tech Share finally boots up
— 11:07 AM on May 12, 2009

We received some refreshingly positive news last week from our Tech Share project on the other side of the globe. Anyone who has followed our efforts knows this has been slow going.  Some difficulties that we anticipated have persistently dogged our efforts, and a couple unexpected roadblocks popped up, as well.  It felt like we were taking a step back for almost every pace forward.

We did a lot of prep for obstacles like shipping snags, damages incurred during transit or setup, security of the computers in the school, teachers with no computer experience, costs running higher than quoted, and the like.  For the most part, our advance preparations helped us bypass these issues.

However, the popularity (and scarcity) of the Eee PC when we were sourcing them a year ago set us back a couple months, which was the longest unexpected delay.  Then over-zealous customs officials applying Ugandan tariff schedules in, well, "creative" and "dynamic" ways sat on the computers a few months while we disputed negotiated wasted time, before paying the ransom. The latest snag involved difficulties with ensuring that the lab was truly secure and supplied with power.

Additionally, there is the to-be-expected disparity between how we would attack these problems were they to confront us in our environs and how the over-worked administrators of a grossly under-resourced school in a poverty-stricken urban setting within a developing country address them.  We're learning to exhibit patience but not passivity, to communicate urgency and provide measured assistance with appropriate expectations.

Feeling like we've hacked through a thicket of obstacles and just emerged into a bright clearing, I'm thrilled to say that the students of Ebenezer Educational Center in Kampala, Uganda have finally been able to spend some time with their brand new Asus Eee PCs.  There are still loose ends to be resolved before the lab is established as a fixture at the school, with Internet access, but we'll keep on this in pursuit of those goals.  For now, just check out the looks on these kids' faces.

 

 

 

 

Over a year ago, we asked for donations to help us make this concept a reality.  We received over $7,700 from you, our readers, and several hundred dollars of donations and discounts on hardware from sponsors.  With the largest hurdles behind us, we still have about $1,700, which we hope to direct toward getting the school Internet access for at least six months.  There are other needs we're considering as well, such as a printer/copier and some basics like consistent access to reliable power and better furniture and fixtures for the school.  As soon as we've fully attained our original goals, we'll see what funds are left and evaluate what their greatest needs are to see whether we can extend this project or possibly help in other ways.  We'll keep you posted. 

28 comments — Last by Inkling at 4:00 PM on 05/16/09