Sunday, July 1, 2012

How To Shop For A Laptop

Laptop icon
Laptop icon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I recently just sent a long email to a friend asking her if I could help her shop for a new laptop. I felt that going out and finding some laptops that she should consider wouldn't be nearly as helpful as just walking her through the thought process I have when I purchase a new laptop.

Questions To Ask

  1. Do I plan on taking it places a lot? Class, coffee shops, biking with it in a backpack or messenger bag, etc. 
  2. Do I plan to watch movies often on it? 
  3. How many digital movies and how much music do I need to put on it? 
  4. What is my price range? 
  5. Any aesthetic looks and extra features that I want? (e.g. number of USB ports, keyboard back lighting)
These are questions you should consider when purchasing a computer. If you think of any more, ask yourself those too!

Brands and Your Needs

As far as brands go, all brands have their bad models if that makes sense. There are always a few "cheap end" ones. Here's the deal with these, they really aren't much cheaper than a decent one.

Most laptops you can't go wrong with, but personally, I'd stay away from Acer and Compaq. Asus and Toshiba seem like good brands (but remember not all laptops made by companies are equal) Personally, I have an HP dv6 that's 3 years old. I got it with Vista and installed Windows 7 (which is amazing) on it just last year. It still runs well. In FACT... it just got rained on. Yes. Full out rained on. I'm not saying get an HP because it's waterproof, I firmly believe that I just got really freaking lucky, but even my 3-year old, rained on laptop, is still holding up.

My point? Invest. Don't just think about what you're doing NOW. Think about what you will be doing three, four, even five, years from now. Try to find something that will accommodate your needs then, not now.


For the processor, I'm an Intel guy. Kinda like I'm a Windows guy. AMD also makes processors and I'm sure they're good. For Intel I'd recommend at least an i5, but if an i7 is available at a price you're willing to pay, go for it --- invest in the future.

Hard Drive Space

I'd shoot for 1TB on your laptop. We always think "I won't use all that space!" That's what I thought about 320gb when I bought my PC 3 years ago. Well ya know what? It's getting pretty packed. Go big.

I'd also recommend you get an additional portable hard drive to back up on. Backup, backup, backup. That's not a computer shopping tip I know, but it's essential. Please do it. Everyone always regrets it. Then they come to me and say "Aaron. You told me so. I wish I would have listened to you." Sounds like I'm full of myself probably, but I'm really just trying to help.

Screen Size and Portability

For screen size, this gets back to what you want to do with your computer. I love watching movies. But I also enjoy going to coffee shops. When traveling with it, it's kind of bulky, but it's not TOO bad. And I'm willing to stick with it, although a smaller laptop with a screen size of around 13" would be nice at times. Mine is 16" to put it into perspective. That's all up to you.


Other extras such as the number of USB ports, backlit keyboard media buttons to control music or movies, my laptop even has a remote which is pretty snazzy; those are all different options. I would love to have a backlit keyboard, but unfortunately I couldn't find something that I wanted with all the other features and price.

Review Before You Purchase

Also, review the laptops. You're probably going to be spending $500, $600, maybe even more. Why not make sure others are saying good things about it. Places like actually review all sorts of gadgets, but a simple google search with the laptop model number and the word "review" next to it, should also bring some results. If you don't get any, maybe it's not even very popular and you should reconsider. That doesn't mean all laptops that aren't popular are bad, but I just like to be safe. Amazon is another great place to buy and review products. That is where I got my laptop. Other websites like Newegg and TigerDirect as well as many others also are great places to buy and review things.

If you find some different laptop models to compare, narrow them down by literally writing out a pros and cons list with each one.

Shopping At Stores

Why haven't I mentioned going to places like BestBuy yet? Because they have a very limited selection compared to the internet. Also, the sales people often don't know a lot and you can't actually get reviews while shopping. Then you feel pressured, not even buy the sales guys, but by yourself because you've taken the effort, time and gas to find one and you feel like you should get one then!

Don't Impulse Shop

You'll never get a good deal that way. Be patient. Watch prices. Sometimes a store does have a better deal than online and if it's one you want, then go for it!

If you do find on online you can check the different stores in your area to go in and check it out. If the price is cheaper then you can buy it, but don't feel pressured to. It definitely is nice to feel things in your hand.


Insure your laptop! I'm not even kidding. No not through bestbuy or another retailer. No not through HP, Toshiba, etc. I recommend Safeware or SquareTrade. Both are very reputable companies and very affordable. All of these websites and companies that I'm mentioning can simply be found in a quick Google Search.

Buying Used

For the most part I don't recommend this unless you really know about the laptop you're buying and it's practically new. I've known people who've purchased used laptops and they've been satisfied. However, I think overall it's not a good deal. You can get a newer, faster, and overall just a better laptop brand new, the majority of the time. And because of that, I don't really see a point in buying used.


Do you have any more advice for laptop shoppers? Are you a laptop shopper yourself? What other questions do you have that I can help answer? For more information you can check out this complete laptop buying guide on MakeUseOf.

(NOTE: The links in this article are not affiliate links)

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Facebook Recently Displayed A Security Message — Did You See It?

Facebook Security Message

When I logged into Facebook today I saw this message at the “top” of the page above the status update text box. The message isn’t anything “urgent”, but that doesn’t mean you should disregard it. It is simply stating how to stay in control of your account and links to the Facebook Security Page (which I’ve also linked to in case you may have preemptively closed the notice.

On the page there is a security video, three security tips and links to the latest security updates and “advanced” tips. Personally, I don’t like the word, “advanced.” I feel like it sends subliminal messages to users who are less tech-savvy that they either don’t need to know it or won’t understand it… or both. Security, even in Facebook, is definitely not something you can feel that way about.Facebook Security Tips

The video on the page provides some good advice. As well as the three tips on the side:

Know how to spot a scam
Facebook scams are always around. Whether its about some app that can tell you who views your profile or a message saying that Facebook will soon not be free anymore (sigh), you must be skeptical of those things. Also, do your part to let Facebook know about them! Just take a few seconds to mark the message, post, etc. as spam and Facebook will take care of it from there.

Choose a one-of-a-kind password
This is very important, and not just with Facebook, for everything! Password security is a huge issue and will continue to be one. Let me put it for you this way, even if you have a “secure password” (and there’s no such thing), it still will most likely be compromised. All you’re doing is prolonging that from happening. That’s a very cynical way to look at it, but it’s the truth. Recently I read some excellent articles about password security, called "The Only Secure Password Is The One You Can’t Remember” and “The Intermediate Guide To Mastering Passwords With LastPass.” I highly suggest you check both of those articles out as they can transform your online security habits.

Confirm Your Mobile Number
This is a good practice too. But did you know that Facebook can notify you each time a device accesses your account?To enable Login Notifications you must go to Account Settings, then Security. Login Notifications is the second option and you can enable it by clicking “edit.”

Facebook Login Notifications

So how does it work? Whenever you enter your Facebook account credentials, you’ll be prompted to type in the device that you’re accessing your account from.Facebook then sends you a text message to your registered phone number informing you of the device that accessed your account. If you didn’t just log onto Facebook, but you got a text, someone may have just accessed your account. Also, it’s required that they type something before going any further onto your account, so that also can be a clue as to whether your account was accessed as well.

There are many more security settings and features in Facebook and I’ll continue to share them. A recent MakeUseOf article points out some things you can do right now on Facebook to improve your security. Remember to check out the Advanced Tips section too, and also remember that “advanced” doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t understand it. Security is 1 part knowledge and know-how, and 3 parts desire. If you have the desire to be safe and secure, and you should, the knowledge and know-how will come.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Google Docs Just Got Better: New Researching Tool!

Now in Google Docs you can do searches directly from the page you are writing in! No extra search tab needed. Recently I wrote a series of articles about researching for my college's newspaper, Aggie Up!, and I'm really wishing this feature would have come out a little bit sooner to make it into those articles. (Note: I will post those articles on here as well.)

The research bar can completely transform how much time it takes to get the right content. There are even a few options to customize the type of content you want to find. I don't know about you, but I see Google Docs as probably the biggest competitor to Evernote. I love Evernote, but I often find myself using Google Docs for almost everything. As far as Microsoft Web Apps goes, I have tried to use it, but, again, I find myself going back to Google Docs. It just works! And it keeps getting better!

If you are a keyboard shortcut fanatic like I am (because my hands are usually always on the keyboard and not the mouse... especially when typing something in, say, Google Docs), add "Ctrl+Alt+R" to your mental shortcut bank to quickly find the stuff you need. Or if your mouse is your technological sidekick, you can access the research toolbar by going to Tools > Research.

Sidenote: Did you know there's a "Dictionary" function in Google Docs too? It's right underneath "Research"  and can also be accessed by the shortcut (again, the best way to access things) "Ctrl+Shift+Y".

Hope these tips help! What is your favorite researching tool? Is it Google Docs or another service? And if you use Google Docs, what is your favorite feature?

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Facebook Launches Groups for Schools

UNL Facebook Group

Recently Facebook as released a new feature… a feature that should have been implemented right away when Facebook opened up to the public from colleges, “back in the day.” If you’re unaware, Facebook used to only be available to college students. To join, you needed an .edu email address from your college. Well that is now back in place! To join these groups you need an to register your school email with Facebook, then you will get invited to join.
UNL Facebook Group - info

So how can you use this to your advantage? I see it as an excellent way to communicate with fellow students in your classes, clubs and organizations, majors and graduating class. You are prompted to add these when you initially accept the invitation to join the group. Some may have already been created by other students, if you’re in one of those categories then you can join.
This can be quite an asset to the college and students alike. Unfortunately I will be graduating soon and won’t be able to really use it. Also, I’m a student of a sister school of the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, so colleges such as ours don’t get their own page. Hopefully Facebook will make a way for that to be so in the future.

What do you think about this new feature? Will you be able to use it for your advantage? How do you think it will change your experience at your college?

Another great article about this was written by Jennifer Van Grove on — “Facebook goes back to college, releases Groups for Schools

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Kindle Touch Software Update Features Landscape Mode and Text-to-Speech, Among Others

Amazon recently released Kindle Touch Software Update Version 5.1.0, which you can manually download early.

The update features the ability to customize your Kindle Touch with the

language you prefer including German, French, Spanish, Italian Brazilian Portuguese, and obviously English. That isn’t what got my attention though. Just the other day I was wishing I could turn my Kindle sideways to look at a graphic Kindle Firmware Updatebetter. It’s like Amazon heard me. In this update they added Landscape Mode. By going to “Menu,” you can select “Landscape Mode” in books and PDFs to read maps, graphs and tables easier.

Another great feature is Instant Translations, which allows you to tap or highlight a section and instantly translate it to other languages via Bing Translator. Looks like Amazon partnered with Microsoft on this one! Other features include formatting and layout improvements, Wi-Fi enhancements allowing you to connect with WPS and WPA2 networks, Onscreen Keyboard Suggestions as you type making typing faster and sharing options that allow you to share directly to Facebook and Twitter from anywhere within a book.

The final addition to the new firmware is “Read-to-Me with Text-to-Speech.” This feature was another one I was just thinking about the other day as well. This works on books, as well as summaries of newspaper and magazine articles when available from the publisher. I’m going to be honest, I hope they improve the voice of this a little so it doesn’t sound like I’m watching an Anonymous YouTube video. Maybe find someone like the lady behind the Google Voice text-to-speech and voicemail. That’d be a huge improvement! I don’t doubt it’ll come, but in the meantime I think it’s still a solid feature to have.

Amazon also said that there is free access at AT&T hotspots… nice! I’m not sure if this was the case prior to the firmware update, but I wasn’t aware of that and I find that feature very useful! There’s really no reason to get a Kindle 3G with that!

If you are nervous about installing something on your Kindle, don’t worry. This download is direct from Amazon and they provide simple instructions along with a troubleshooting table should you need one, but the installation was straightforward when I did it and I would expect it to be the same for you.

May I also just add that Amazon has superb customer service. This is actually my second Kindle, technically. I received my first Kindle Touch as a gift for Christmas. However, not long after I started noticing some strange things. I called them and they couldn’t explain it so instead they just sent me a new one! Of course I had to send my first one back, but they paid shipping and everything for it. Not a bad deal! Personally, a company’s customer service is at least half the value of the product, if not more. Amazon succeeded in this case.

If you successfully installed the new firmware and are exploring the new features, I would definitely like to hear your thoughts on it. Are these updates what you expected? Surprised by any? Is there anything you think they should have improved on or added that they didn’t?

If you didn’t catch the link I posted at the beginning of this post, here is the link again to get the update.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

UPDATE: The Couch Lounge Is Staying!

UPDATE: Upon thinking more rationally about this decision, I have decided to NOT discontinue The Couch Lounge, but give it another chance. First, starting with posting more regularly and consistently. It might be just once a week, but my goal is to start out slow and work my way to more consistent posting.

Thank you for your patience as I just back and forth deciding what to do! Stay tuned for more posts in the very near future!

And thanks for CONTINUING to give The Couch Lounge a great run!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

The Couch Lounge Is [NOT] Being Discontinued

I've changed my mind... again. Please see my post explaining what the new plan is.

This will be the final post on this blog. All future posts on the topic of technology will be posted to my professional blog on my website.

I have decided to move my efforts to new things. The Couch Lounge was a great run and my first real blog, but I've decided that I want to be more dedicated to other areas and blogs. I plan to continue to post about technology on my on personal blog, However, that won't be the primary places for posting about technology, which I've always been very passionate about. I plan to really start guest posting to many more blogs in the near future. I have already started working with some bloggers on this.

So, I'm sorry for the bad news, but you can continue to follow me personally on my Tumblr blog, Twitter (@aaronrcouch) and Google+.

Thanks for giving The Couch Lounge a great run!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Facebook Introduces New Photo Viewer

I really like Facebook's new photo viewer. I think it's a great step in the right direction. It definitely reminds me of Google+, but that's a good thing.

However, I am worried a bit that Facebook is starting to "copy" some of Google+'s mannerisms, but hopefully that doesn't become the case because they both need to continue to compete otherwise there won't be any growth.

There are still a ton of other things Facebook needs to change and improve on. Hopefully these come soon.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Computer Technicians Don’t Always Know the Best Solution

If you're thinking of taking your "broken" computer to a repair shop, take a few minutes to watch these videos first. It could (and probably will) save you hundreds.

Videos found via Read the full article here: How to Save Money on Computer Repair.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Things You Need to Know About ACTA [via Anonymous]

ACTA is the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement. A new intellectual property enforcement treaty being negotiated by the United States, the European Community, Switzerland, and Japan, with Australia, the Republic of Korea, New Zealand, Mexico, Jordan, Morocco, Singapore, the United Arab Emirates, and Canada recently announcing that they will join in as well. Why should you care about ACTA? Initial reports indicate that the treaty will have a very broad scope and will involve new tools targeting “Internet distribution and information technology.”

What is the goal of ACTA? Reportedly the goal is to create new legal standards of intellectual property enforcement, as well as increased international cooperation, an example of which would be an increase in information sharing between signatory countries’ law enforcement agencies.

Say NO to ACTA. It is essential to spread awareness and get the word out on ACTA.