Cool Tech Reviews

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January 18, 2008

The $185 PC has arrived

Tim Conneally at BetaNews alerts us to the latest entry in the lowest priced PC competition – offers the cheapest desktop PC at $185:

Another low-end PC hit the market today, this time it is a machine by Mirus equipped with Freespire 2.0, available at Sears’ online shop for $185.

The Mirus desktop system is equipped with an Intel Celeron D 420-1.6Ghz, 1GB of RAM, 80GB HDD, CDRW optical drive, and Freespire 2.0.

This system retails for $284.99, but comes with a promotional Mail-in $100 rebate, making it less expensive than the cheapest Wal-Mart PC, the $199, gOS-equipped Everex TC2502.

No monitor included, but the Mirus system comes with speakers, keyboard, mouse, 56K modem, ethernet, and a 15-in-1 memory card reader. It also comes with a beta of the Client, a free Linux software delivery service for one click software updates.

The Mirus system has 512MB more RAM than the Everex so it is likely a better deal until the rebate program ends.  For the technically inclined they are both bargains, but I doubt that either will be big hits with the average consumer because of the Linux fear factor.

Posted at 12:42 am. Filed under Bargains, Companies, Desktop PC, Everex, Linux, Mirus, Operating Systems, Sears, Wal-Mart

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January 13, 2008

Sign up now for Digital TV Converter Box coupons

You may not know it, but the US federal government has decreed that “On February 17, 2009, federal law requires that all full-power television broadcast stations stop broadcasting in analog format and broadcast only in digital format.” (Actually, TV stations can be foolish enough to switch over earlier if they so desire which leads to a variety of less than amusing scenarios.)

Anyhow, if you are using an an analog TV to receive TV broadcasts over the airwaves (i.e. not via satellite or cable) you aren’t going to have any TV reception unless you get a digital TV converter box which hooks between your TV and your antenna and is expected to cost from $40 to $70.

Currently there are no converter boxes in the stores, but they are expected to appear in February or March. Moreover, starting January 1, 2008 the government is subsidizing purchases of digital converter boxes on the approved list with a limited supply of coupons worth $40 to help defray the cost. (Yes there apparently will be some converter boxes that retail for as low as $40.)

To get your coupons (up to 2 per family), head over to and sign up to have them mailed to you. You can also apply via phone at the Coupon Program 24-hour hotline 1-888-DTV-2009 (1-888-388-2009), TTY 1-877-530-2634. Note that the coupons are nontransferable, cannot be sold, are available only from the government, and expire 90 days after they are mailed starting in late February or early March.

So how has the coupon program which started January 1, been working? Here’s a BetaNews report from January 9:

More than 1 million have applied for almost 1.9 million coupons, worth $40 each, during the first week they were available.

But that still leaves 14 million households that haven’t yet. And people won’t have a lot of time after February 17, 2009, to deal with the problem: The coupons won’t be available after March 1, [2009] and may run out before then.

This sounds like a farce just waiting to happen particularly if there are distribution problems getting the converter boxes out to the stores for consumers with expiring coupons.

Posted at 11:41 am. Filed under Digital TV Converter

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January 7, 2008

Foxit Reader: a great replacement for Adobe Acrobat Reader

Download Squad has a post on the The 5 most annoying programs on your PC and I cannot disagree with their selections:

  1. Acrobat Reader
  2. iTunes
  3. Real Player
  4. Internet Explorer
  5. Microsoft Outlook

There’s no help for some of them, but they suggest Foxit Reader as a substitute for Adobe Acrobat Reader:

Acrobat reader does one thing poorly — read PDFs. To do this it needs to download updates at least twice a month. Acrobat’s other big feature is the ability to bring your system to a roaring halt while it boots up its massive amount of plugins and libraries. All this to display (wait for it) — a page.

FoxIt Reader is a much better solution. Download it, and you’ll no longer cringe each time your accidentally click on a PDF link while browsing the internet.

I gave it a try and it is fantastic as well as free unless you want some advanced features. Highly recommended.

Posted at 11:41 pm. Filed under Adobe, Companies, Foxit, Software, Utilities

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