40 years of “standard architecture” personal computers

I hadn’t remembered the anniversary, but Extreme Tech reminds us that 40 years ago, the Intel 8086 chip came on to the market – and things have never been the same since then.  (Image below is courtesy of Wikipedia.) Forty years ago today, Intel launched the original 8086 microprocessor — the grandfather of every x86 CPU ever built, including the ones we use now. This, it must be noted, is more or less the opposite outcome of what everyone expected at the time, including Intel. . . . Initially, the 8086 was intended to be a stopgap product while Intel

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An alternative to Intuit’s Quickbooks for accounting software?

For those who’ve been following the saga of Intuit’s deliberate slighting of its firearms industry customers, and wish to boycott that company’s products (as I’m doing), there are a couple of excellent alternatives to its Quickbooks small business accounting software. My accountant had recommended that I use Quickbooks for the company Miss D. and I have just set up, as a corporate structure for our books and publishing activities.  However, in the light of recent events, that’s obviously a non-starter.  I looked online, and found that PC Magazine had recently reviewed “The Best Small Business Accounting Software of 2018“.  There were

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Preparing for publication

Over at Mad Genius Club, I wrote this morning about two programs that prepare your word-processed manuscript for e-book and/or print publication.  I review them both in not too much detail, and provide screen-shots of what their output looks like. If you’ve ever wondered how many writers (including yours truly) prepare their books for publication, the article will give you a pretty good idea of how it’s done. Peter

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The biggest security risk to computers so far this century?

The so-called Spectre vulnerability, making it easier to hack into computer systems thanks to the way modern microprocessors handle branch conditions, has been of concern for several months.  However, it now appears that the problem is much, much worse than originally feared.  German computer magazine C’T reports: A total of eight new security flaws in Intel CPUs have already been reported to the manufacturer by several teams of researchers. For now, details on the flaws are being kept secret. All eight are essentially caused by the same design problem – you could say that they are Spectre Next Generation. .

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Doofus Of The Day #1,007

Today’s award goes to the operator(s) of a data center in Sweden.  A tip o’ the hat to reader Snoggeramus for sending me the link. Having worked in the information technology industry for a decade or so, rising from computer (mainframe) operator, through programming and systems analysis, to manage a department and then be a director of a small IT company, I’m pretty familiar with commercial computer operations.  This was entirely preventable, and should have been foreseen. A loud sound emitted by a fire suppression system has destroyed the hard drives of a Swedish data center, downing Nasdaq operations across

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This is why “connected” appliances are a bad idea

I’ve spoken out before against the so-called “Internet of things” in our homes.  They hold hidden dangers. Frankly, I don’t see any need for a “smart thermostat” that can be adjusted from my smartphone, when that means someone else can hack into it and potentially invade my privacy. I think “smart security cameras” that I can operate from my smartphone, anywhere in the country, are an ideal tool for would-be burglars or home invaders, who can monitor them to select the best time to commit their crimes. “Smart door locks” are an invitation to hackers to open my doors for

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Apple progress – and a nifty computer gadget

As I mentioned some weeks ago, I’ve been considering buying an Apple computer system for use with Vellum, a desktop publishing program.  After a lot of to-ing and fro-ing (including the use of an old Apple computer donated for testing purposes by friend and fellow author Cedar Sanderson, for which I’m very grateful to her), I decided to go with a Mac Mini, the cheapest entry level system.  Following reader advice in that first post, I bought a lower-cost Apple-refurbished and -guaranteed computer.  I’ve been setting it up this week, and I’m enjoying the learning curve.  After so many years

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Can anyone comment on Logitech keyboards and mice, or alternatives?

I’m having difficult with some Logitech keyboards and mice, and I’m wondering whether it’s just my bad luck, or whether others are finding the same issues.  In summary: I bought a K800 wireless keyboard in May 2016.  It’s just stopped working, and won’t re-link (or re-sync) to the computer.  It’s fully charged, so I’ve no idea why that should be. I’ve had three MS510 wireless mice for a couple of years.  One has died, another has given trouble that was resolved when I threw it across the room in frustration (!), and the third has been OK so far. I’m

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Apple Mac: lessons learned (so far) and questions

We run Windows 10 on most of Miss D.‘s and my computers, except for one creaky 11-year-old laptop on which I’ve just loaded Linux Mint, to see whether it can be kept going for a year or two longer (doubtful – it’s very slow).  I’m about to buy Vellum, a program that offers very easy and attractive pre-publication formatting of books.  Unfortunately, it only runs on Apple’s Mac computer series, so I’ve got to get my hands on one.  The software is good enough that I’m willing to make that outlay – but I can’t afford a new, top-of-the line

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