29 August, 2009

MSI Slim X340

A nice computer
My first comment: the MSI Slim X340 is a nice computer, apart from the fact that it runs on Vista. At 1.3 kg, it weighs in like a netbook, but it is a real computer. It's got a real screen - a 13 inch LCD with 1366 x 768 resolution - so there is no need for sideways scrolling when viewing certain websites. Plus a 500 gigabyte hard drive, although there is a model with 320 GB.
The keyboard is a real one with a good feel to it, unlike my Tosh Satellite 100 whose keys feel "plasticy" and work loose. Very good for anyone who touch types.

This is one "laptop" that can really be used on one's lap rather than really being a portable desktop. It is light in weight and runs cool. It is ideal for my favourite position for working - on a couch with the computer wedged between my tummy and my knees. It is also good in bed. The webcam, inbuilt mike and speakers work just fine with Skype.
Being an ultralight, there is no optical disc drive. I find that the only time I need one is for installing software. That is not something you need to do on the move, so a separate stand-alone USB optical drive fills the bill. I also used a 16 GB SDHC card obtained on ebay for 10 euros as removable storage.

Electricity consumption
Energy consumption is reasonable and the machine runs cool. I got a reading that varied between 14 and 24.5 watts, depending on what the machine was actually doing (wifi, bluetooth, using the hard disc, brightness, percentage of processor power used etc), using an in-line power meter and the computer battery removed. The reading dropped down to 9.5W when the screen switched off to save power.

The battery is a 14.8v Li-ion unit, with a capacity of 2150 mAh (which works out to 32 WH), which gives about 3 hours of normal usage with the wifi switched on. I understand a higher capacity model is also available. MSI has not gone down the path taken by the Mac Airbook, whose battery is built-in. It's useful to carry a spare recharged battery when travelling. Also the life of Li-ion batteries in general tends to be around two years - hopefully the computer will last much longer than that.
Unfortunately there is no restore CD - a recently imposed Microsoft requirement I believe.
But, it will not stay on its own for long. I've just seen the super-slim notebook Sony are bringing out soon,  weighing in at just 700 grams because it uses aluminium and carbon fibre.  I dread to think what the price will be. Pity Sony didn't put in a full size keyboard, even though there is room.

Techo stuff
Screen: 13.4 inch WXGA
Processor: Intel SU3500 1.4 GHz
Ram: 2 GB
Built-in webcam: 1.3 M
Connectors: 2 x USB, HDMI, mic inb, headphones out, VGA, ethernet, memory card
Pity there is no analog TV connector

Price: can be found for under 700€ if you look around on the Internet.

28 August, 2009

E28, one month later

One thing that amazed me about this dual mode phone was the senisitivity of its wifi receiver. I was able to make SIP calls from my a hotel room three floors up, where my other wifi phones could pick up no signal at all. On the downside, the phone occasionally refuses to place a call, neither SIP nor GSM. A reboot cures this, but rather inconvenient, especially if you want to make a call in a hurry. The battery life is not very good if the wifi mode is switched on, but it is easy to switch on or off. Another downside is that even with the keyboard locked, the phone can switch on in your pocket and so run the battery down even more quickly. However, this phone's main drawback is that in spite of its sensitivity it has trouble locking into certain wifi networks. This is not a matter of signal level, as it occurs even with the access point in the same room. It is particularly unhappy with the wifi signal from Freeboxes. Pity.
As for web browsing, there is no way of changing the size of the tiny characters, far too small for my ageing eyesight, so I have not made much use of this feature.

20 August, 2009

Carton Rouge pour France Telecom

The first of this year's red cards goes to France Telecom for its tactics during the summer period. The incumbant has had to face pressure from the alternative operators in its historical area of land line telephone services. This summer, it sent out its bi-monthly bills to customers in early August as usual. But what has changed this year is the length of time it gave its customers to cough up. It was shortened to just ten days, running from the date at the top of the invoice. Taking postal delays into account, this is barely more than a week. Significantly, the final date falls just before the 15 August holiday week-end. So, as well as hitting the French who take the month of August for their annual vacation, it also hits the significant number that takes the month from the 14 July national holiday to 15 August. This year August 15 fell on a Saturday, so many people came back at the end of the week-end.
For many years France Telecom has been issuing its bills in early August, reasoning officially that the way the dates fall is a matter of luck and people should take that into account when going away. But the way the company has shortened the deadline for paying the bill this year is really suspicious. Anyone would think they are deliberately trying to catch people out. Surely not!