Tag Archives: technology

The Frugal Computer Upgrade

After recently buying a replacement for my old netbook computer this post might come across a bit hypocritical, but I don’t actually throw money at all my computer problems.  For example, our other laptop computer while being ok for most tasks for my wife and the boys was getting a little slow.  But rather than just blindly replacing that computer I decided to do a bit more work and see if I couldn’t fix the issue with a bit less spending than a new machine. (I should point out while I’m the tech guy in my house I’m no where close to an expert, this is merely stuff that isn’t to hard for the average person to try out.)

I used a two stage process to make sure what I was doing would be worthwhile.  First up I did all the free stuff you know you should do on your computer but never seem to get around to doing.  You know, like:

  • Uninstall all the programs you don’t actually use.  If you haven’t used it in a year it is really good candidate to remove.
  • Turn off all the extra features you don’t use on your desktop (for example, a clock on a sidebar when all you do is look at the corner of the screen anyway) and remove all but the essential shortcuts.  Put any files on your desktop into folders.
  • Turn off all the programs that load every time you start the machine, but rarely use.
  • De-fragment the hard drive.
  • Install all those updates you’ve been ignoring, but your computer keeps reminding you to install.  In some cases, those help fix a slow program.

I did all of the above in perhaps an hour or so.  After that there was a noticeable improvement in the computer starting up.  So ya!  At least that was a minor battle won.

Then I started looking at the computer’s stats and realized it was a bit underpowered for RAM with only 2GB (but when you consider I bought the computer for a $1, beggars can’t be picky about the specs).  So I did a bit of research on which RAM I could use and came across this handy little tool on this website which can tell you EXACTLY what kind of RAM you need to buy if you want to upgrade your computer (you can either enter the specs yourself or have it run a little bit of software to tell you want you need).  Yes of course the website recommends their particular brand of RAM, but frankly I don’t care as it saved me hours of pissing around to sort it out myself.

Then I went to Amazon and did a search for 4GB of RAM (two 2GB chips) and found it for just over $60 (which had free shipping).  Then four business days later the RAM arrived at my house.  I had previously upgraded my old desktop computer RAM before, so this wasn’t entirely new territory for me, but I hadn’t do a laptop yet.  But when I pulled off the section where I thought the RAM was located I could find the one chip, but not the other.  Oh crap, now what?

Like any modern person, I just asked Google, which immediately brought up a Utube video showing me how to find the other chip of RAM hidden under the laptop keyboard.  Three screws and four clips later I had the keyboard up and the other RAM chip in sight.  I installed it and put everything back together and tried to turn on the computer…key word tried.

It didn’t boot up at all.  Oh crap! I had a blank screen and my cap and number lock LEDs were blinking at me.  Damn it!  Back to Google and HP’s website which pointed out the lovely three blinks I was getting was because of a memory issue and if you tried to upgrade your RAM you likely didn’t seat it right.  So I took everything back off and pulled out the new chips and put them back in again.  Then crossing my fingers I pushed the power button again.  This time I see the Window’s icon on the screen and I said “It LIVES!” (To which my wife, just laughed).

Then I tried out a few tasks on the machine and noticed it was working much better now.  So for a total of $60 and perhaps 1 hour to uninstall a bunch of software and another hour to piss around and finally get the new RAM working I have a much better computer for the rest of my family to use.  Two hours of my time and $60 is dirt cheap compared to a new laptop (which ran me about $770 if you must know).  So rather than just assuming you need a new computer when your old one starts to slow down, you might want to consider a simple clean up and RAM upgrade instead.

Ok, to all the much more savvy computer people out there…what else would you recommend people do?  Or if you have fixed this issue yourself, what did you do?

The Future

This is a guest post by Dave, who is also looking to retire no later than 45, but unlike Tim has no kids and doesn’t want any. Dave is from Ontario and is working towards his CGA certification.

Much to the chagrin of my wife, I get overly excited about new technology and the way it would impact both us and the world as a whole in the future.  There have been a couple of instances I’ve read about which I can see (maybe) having an impact on the future, and may impact my retirement years.

Self-Driving Cars

If this technology takes hold,  it is going to significantly to change the landscape of both people’s lifestyle as well as the North American economy as a whole.  Already, there are states in the US writing laws to allow for these kind of cars.

Besides making for an easier lifestyle and allowing for more mobility for me later in life, there is the added safety in traveling.  With improved battery technology coming (again, maybe), this  transportation change could cause a significant shift in how people will travel.  If it works out to be a reasonably cheap and risk-free way to get around, it would revolutionize road trips and getting around North America.

On the flip-side of being able to get to Florida in a 24-hour period and getting plenty of sleep on the way, is the downside.  One user on Reddit outlined some of these possibilities, including a total shift in the North American economy.  There is the possibility, especially in urban areas that demand for cars will be further reduced from current levels (which are already declining in younger age groups).

The user on Reddit points out that in the not-so-near future, there will be a much more efficient use of vehicles.  The possibility of being able to use your smartphone to “order” a car to you from a rental agency or having transport trucks which can drive 24-hours straight compared to the 8 to 10 hours they’re going now is going to change how many of these vehicles are going to be churned out of factories.

From a retirement perspective, I’m excited for this technology, I’m hoping it will come sooner rather than later and will be a useful tool to both travel plans as well as “vehicular efficiency” of my household.

3D Printing

If you haven’t seen anything about 3D or “additive” printing, this is some serious Sci-Fi stuff.  From making skin and other medical uses to printing out entire bicycles, this is just a really cool technology, think Star Trek, using either a scan from a camera or pre-made plans, you can make something from nothing.

This is really a technology in it’s infancy when it comes to consumer goods, but I think may also have a significant impact on both the manufacturing, shipping, and sales of any number of goods.

Besides the coolness factor of these technologies (which I probably think too much about) it also leads to some questions about future investment opportunities (for a very small portion of my portfolio anyways as a speculative investment).   I mostly like the possibilities that the technology will bring and the neat stuff that may be available at some point in the future.

Are you “into” technology?  Do you think it will help you in the future?  What impact do you think future technology will have in your retirement?

Hell Froze Over…Just for a Minute

Last week if you noticed a subtle shift in the rotation of the earth for about a minute you can blame me.  I’m fairly certain hell frozen over just for a minute as I finished my transaction.  I finally broke down and bought a cell phone after not having one for the last six years.

So you might be wondering why I didn’t have a cell phone?  Well that is easy, as I finished my job in sales back in 2006 I HATED my cell phone as I got calls in the middle of the night with it regarding things I couldn’t fix.  It was a pain in my ass and I decided after that job I didn’t want a personal one (in fact I haven’t even got a work phone in all these years).  So I didn’t buy one and went about my life very easily without one.  Shockingly enough you don’t actually need a cell phone to live and beside my wife had won a cell phone so it wasn’t like I didn’t have access to one if I wanted.  I consider the last six years my detox from a work cellphone.

What changed then?  Well not much but a few things aligned to make me take the jump.  The first was the fact I had some gift cards from the holidays for a technology store so I could get a prepaid phone for almost no money out of my pocket.  Also I knew from my wife it is possible to get a pay as you go plan for as little as $10/month depending on your usage.  So the cost barriers were fairly low to get one.  Then the straw that broke this camel’s back was the following: I realized how much energy I was expending not getting a phone.

Pardon?!? You see I really like technology it has always been a weakness of mine to look at the shiny stuff in the store and buy the gadgets for fun.  Also I’m fairly good at aligning technology in my life to make things easier.  So while I didn’t have an iPhone, I did have a iPod Touch for years which I used apps for things like tracking my spending cash or using Evernote.  I realized I would like the option to take pictures from a device on the go, the ideal solution would be a smartphone, but I was looking at just upgrading my iPod Touch.  Yet as I was doing the research I realized that I was looking at a really expensive piece of hardware just to avoid getting a phone.  It stuck me as a wee bit ridiculous and I figured it was time get past my detox stage.  Also I should explain that I’m a heavy user of Google services so an Android phone had some serious appeal to me since I could sync both my phone and tablet.

In the end, yes, I got a smart phone and I’m happy with what I bought.  No it wasn’t top of the line, just a LG with Android 2.3, but why would I care? I haven’t have one in six years.  Now I just have to get use the idea of having a cell phone…I’ve already forgot it at home a few times.