The Chip Merchant

CES Tradeshow: Review and Highlights

The beginning of the year brings CES (Consumer Electronics Show) which is a show that gives companies an opportunity to show off their new technology that we should all expect to see launching in the new year. There were some really exciting announcements, like Intel’s new Core i-series CPUs, 3D TVs aplenty, new camera technology and all sorts of toys and gadgets that we’ll see coming out this year. Most interesting to me was some of the tablets on display, and the blending of the tablet and the cell phone.

We’ve all gotten pretty used to carrying a cell phone, and that that phone can do wondrous things to allow us to keep in touch with friends and family. Whether it’s through phone calls, text messages, Facebook, email, twitter or whatever your communication method of choice is we’ve all become used to being available at all times and more recently having access to the internet at all times. As we start using our phones for more and more, they become like a small computer with our information and data stored on a (usually) small (~ 3 inch) screen which makes some of the things we want to do (like send a long email) daunting. Some of the newer phones are coming with 4 inch screens, but much larger than that isn’t exactly practical. What if you could have a dock for your phone, that works like a laptop dock and gives you a larger screen? That’s what Motorola just announced with their new “Atrix” phone. This really begins to blur the lines between a phone and a computer, giving you full keyboard and mouse support for your phone, a larger screen to work with, making it much easier to handle those emails you need to respond to, or browse the web when you have some space to setup.

Learn more »


Tech Industry News

So what is the cloud? I asked my VP of technology to validate my understanding of the cloud, specifically the public cloud, which seems to be the most confusing of them all.

As I cited examples like salesforce.com, Gmail, Yahoo mail, and Netflix, he quickly and strongly replied “No!” Paused for a second and said yes to salesforce.com, but definitely no to Gmail and web mail in general, and forget about Netflix, iTunes, and other similar providers.

Reading through countless articles I discovered that the cloud is still creating confusion among users and IT professionals alike, which made me feel good that we were not the only ones. Surprisingly however, in spite of the current cloud hype and all the Microsoft commercials that coined the phrase “to the cloud”, in a recent industry survey 48% of IT workers didn’t even know the meaning of the term, while 54% of respondents that use apps like Gmail or salesforce.com didn’t recognize them as cloud-based solution.

Furthermore, 49% of the participants didn’t know if the cloud had potential for their business, and 48% stated that they did not know if their company used any cloud-based applications or services.

Learn more »


Tech Tips

Signs of Motherboard Failure

When boards have issues they’re usually a headache both in the consequences of the failure(s)(certain board functions that don’t work, instability, etc.) and the process to diagnose/isolate the board out of the equation; especially since a failing board can replicate symptoms similar to bad memory, hard disk or CPU… or cause failures to other devices.

For example, you may replace a bad memory module to only have it go bad again shortly after because the board is cooking or otherwise damaging the modules you install. However, one of the telltale ways to see a bad motherboard is to look at the capacitors.

Capacitors are the cylindrical electrical components of the board (standing up off the motherboard, they look like AA batteries with a flat top). They typically have perforations on their silver tops in the shape of X, K, Y, T, etc. Signs of bad capacitors range from bulging capacitor tops to outright eruption of electrolytic fluid which will usually start at the meeting point of the perforation lines.

When these capacitors go, they can no longer perform their role in the board correctly which can lead to devices that depend on them to malfunction or become damaged. However, it’s not always cut and dry that bulging/erupted capacitors are responsible for a specific problem, though bad capacitors are usually a sign that the board is on borrowed time at the very least.

Newer boards have “Solid” capacitors that do not fail visually (at least, none that we’ve seen). This style of capacitor usually last longer and are less sensitive to heat. However, they don’t give you any visual aides when they do fail.

While there are many ways a board can give you problems, diagnosing systems that were previously working but no longer usually starts with a glance at the board. If a machine is new, you might need to investigate other possibilities such as bad memory, hard disk, cpu, power supply, need for updated BIOS, etc.