Wednesday, February 27, 2013

PC or PoC: In Depth

PC or PoC has evolved a bit. Originally, is was a bit of a fun poke at older computers and the great lengths I would take to make that PC serve some useful purpose again. Hence: Personal Computer or Piece of Crap.

Since starting this blog, however, it has transformed into something a bit more. No longer just computers and a bit more serious than it used to be, PC or PoC has evolved to show that older technology still is useful with the right upgrades and software.

Now, many of the computers that we have talked about can be easily upgraded. A quick core  change would completely change the system itself, however, that would not in keeping with the spirit of PC or PoC. The point of PC or PoC is to get by with older technology for as long as possible through extending performance, usability  and usefulness by working within the limitations of the hardware.

Why would anyone want to do this? There are several reasons.
  • If you are short of cash, extending the usefulness of older tech may be necessary. I find myself in this situation from time to time.
  • If your new tech fails and you have to go back to older technology to get by. My Samsung Stratosphere leaped off my belt and hit the floor just right and shattered its screen. I am now going back to my Blackberry 8330 (which never seems to die) until my screen is replaced.
  • Its green. If a piece of tech can be re-purposed rather than thrown away it is better for the planet. Gigastrand practices this with fanaticism.
  • Just to see how useful it can be. With a software change and some minor hardware updates, how much can this old tech do? It is the geek version of climbing a mountain.
There are several myths I want to try and dispel by publishing these blogs.
  1. Old tech is not useful. I have been upgrading PCs professionally for more than 15 years. Depending on the capabilities required, it is sometimes a little more memory or what I have called a total system upgrade. In either case, it is much less than a whole new computer system.
  2. There is no point in trying to fix old junk. A system is only outdated when it no longer does what you need or want it to do. This has been my mantra for a very long time. In most cases the difference between "old junk" and "useful system" is a software change and a little memory.
  3. My computer slowed down or I can't upgrade to the latest OS. It must be the hardware. This is the biggest myth for Windows users - but Mac users are forced to believe this myth as well. Many times an OS upgrade is unnecessary because the support the user needs is not from the OS developer but from the hardware and software vendors - who will often support an OS far longer than the OS developer itself. 
  4. New Tech is SO much FASTER and MORE CAPABLE than my old computer. That 3-year old PC is probably not that much slower than a brand new model - and for a number of reasons.
  5. Technology reaches End of Life (EOL) once the next new thing comes out. Complete nonsense. Many businesses believe their desktop PC's EOL is 3-5 years (which was true over a decade ago). With a few updates, we are seeing EOL on Gigastrand machines between 8-10 years and virtually no EOL on desktop systems with regular hardware updates.
Hopefully, readers will get some good ideas from PC or PoC and I would love to hear about your own PC or PoC moments - successful or not. I may even publish a few. 

Pretty Cool or Piece of Crap will be the new name for these posts and, because of their growing popularity, I plan to make it a regular post every Wednesday.


Monday, February 25, 2013

Gigastrand OS: Working Installer being Tackled

Gigastrand has been busy working on refining the Gigastrand OS and many of the issues have been resolved. The focus for the next week? A working Installer.

If successful, the first public BETA is planned for March 1st.

There will also be updates made to the Gigastrand and Gigastrand OS websites over the next week. Several updates to the Gigastrand OS website have been done already.

More to come...

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Gigastrand OS: Updates and overhauls

Over the last month and a half, Gigastrand has slowly been working away at the task list for the Gigastrand OS. This has resulted in some baby steps toward a final product. Here is an overview of what we have been working on.

The OS website has been updated. The Resources section has been updated along with new Screenshots, Wallpaper added, and a software page has been created.

The Gigastrand OS Support framework is now in place and will begin to grow over the next month or so. We are working on content and refining the interface.

The search for a working installer continues and will be focused on over then next few weeks. Hopefully we can get to public BETA by March 1st.

A script is being developed to quickly create testing images. So why is this important and why should you know about it? We currently have to build the OS image onto a machine manually. This script will help us create more consistent test images faster and fix broken images faster.

Limited market testing has begun. I talked about this in a previous blog post but it is worth repeating. So far, we have had a great deal of success with this program.

A prototype for a Game Box is planned. With the generosity of Surge Sarem, we have acquired some of the initial parts for a Game Box system based on Gigastrand OS. In the next month we plan to have one built for testing.

Both Firefox and Chrome will be included on first install. Issues with both systems will need to be worked out but for now we will not be choosing one over the other. Both Firefox and Chrome bring positive user experiences to the OS in their own way and we feel both are worthy of inclusion.

Flash Player install has been met with some success. We have been able to work out the install issues with Flash Player on some systems. We are continuing to work on others.

A new 3D logo has been created for the OS. Credit to Surge Sarem for the assist. He is also responsible for the new Gigastrand Logos you see on the site.

Gigastrand Security is getting a major overhaul. Since the site was put up, we have been detecting errors on the site. We have been fixing those errors as we have encountered them, but the site was due for several major updates anyway.

Gigastrand Security is now moving away from Standalone and Embedded systems favoring PC based systems instead. The nature of Standalone and Embedded systems limits our support options and customization. Currently, the systems are Windows-based but we are working on a Linux-based solution. Gigastrand OS will be an important part of that solution.


Monday, February 11, 2013

A visit from the ghost of Douglas Adams

I have been a bit under the weather lately and have passed the time by watching old episodes of Doctor Who. Since the new series began, I have been a steadfast fan of the show. Up until then I have only vague memories of my dad watching this creepy show on PBS with this scruffy looking doctor (Tom Baker) running into this blue box.

Netflix has the classic Doctor Who on demand so I started with episode 1 and was soon up to the Tom Baker years. I noticed that one story, "The Pirate Planet", was written by Douglas Adams.

While watching the second episode of the story written by Douglas Adams, my wife came out of the bedroom irritated that her Hairspray DVD wouldn't play on the DVD player. She grabbed another and went back to the room.

During a break in the episodes, I went back to the room and discovered she was watching Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy - the book of which was written by - well if you read this blog you probably already figured it out by now.

This is certainly an incredible coincidence but, if we ignore all thought and reason the only thing left is that we were haunted by the ghost of Douglas Adams.

I do hope he comes back.


Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Taxes plus Linux = TaxAct

This is shout-out to a service that has done a superb job with cross-platform compatibility year after year. It is where I have filed my taxes since I began using Linux on a regular basis. That site is

TaxAct is the only one I have found that works flawlessly in Linux. They support Chrome, Firefox and Opera browsers (my top 3) and I have been exceedingly happy with the service.

As of this post I have just completed my taxes...on the original Gigastrand Chrome.



Monday, February 4, 2013

Gigastrand Turns 7

Gigastrand turns 7 years old this month and I thought I would celebrate by telling some little known stories about the founding of the company.

On February 1st 2006, Gigastrand International was was founded by Gigabytes Computer Store owner Josh Tordsen and Silver Strand solutions president Patrick Green. While Patrick is no longer with Gigastrand, he has left his mark on the company and his contributions are still honored today.

Gigastrand International started as then and continued the commitment to Linux and its users those two sites began.

When trying to decide on the name, it was decided that we would simply try to put the two company names together and see what people thought (Gigabytes - Silver Strand). One person pointed out that in Dutch (and a few other languages) giga strand approximately meant big beach. The name stuck.

In fact in the Epic of Mr. Gigabytes (will be posted later) referred to this in one of the stanzas.

Friday, February 1, 2013

The Epic of Mr. Gigabytes

This was shared on Facebook and others and was the result of a bout of of insomnia and a sudden burst of creativity

I was once a Windows user
I lived in a world of woe
My computer never worked quite right
My expectations were very low.

So I bought a pearl white apple
A lot of money I did spend.
My pricey friend worked well enough
Provided I did not bend.

My happiness soon abated.
For when I took it all apart
On the inside I found a lowly PC
Beating at its heart.

Frustrated and fleeced,
I was highly disillusioned,
I thought there surely must be more than
These imperfect solutions.

That is when I saw him
Dressed in a dapper black and white
Though this cuddly penguin I did not know 
I knew things would be alright.

“Come with me,” he said
As he reached out with his wing
“I can show you a place where affordable
computing can give you everything.”

So he took me to a place that seemed
A beach full of palm trees and sand
Though it was but a simple computer
That he placed into my hand.

I was confused and bit afraid
As I began to try it out
To my amazement I found something new
What was this all about?

“This is Linux,” my friend began
“A system for everyone
And this is the land of Gigastrand
Their computers are second to none.”

The penguin's point rang true and wise
So I took Linux home with me.
Now when I go to my happy place,
I turn on my PC.

-Mr. Gigabytes  ©2012

Download the Wallpaper!

Gigastrand OS: Cloud Backup for Everyone

Gigastrand just announced that the Spideroak backup client will be included as one of the pre-loaded software packages in the Gigastrand OS.

Spideroak is a cloud-based backup system that offers its users 2GB of backup free for life and features Zero-knowledge backup for safe and secure online backups.

Gigastrand has been promoting the Spideroak platform for several years as a viable cross-platform cloud-based backup. They have clients for Windows, Mac, Linux, Android and - yes - even Apple iOS. The account can be shared with unlimited devices making it more open than comparable services.

To use the Spideroak service on the Gigastrand OS, you will need a Spideroak account. You can sign up for a free account by clicking on the banner below.


SpiderOak Online Backup, Storage, Access, Sync, and Sharing