Thursday, August 26, 2010

Dell Drivers Drive Traffic?

Y'know what's really weird? I've been using Google Analytics to track the traffic to all of my sites for a few years now. What I really find weird is that the vast majority of traffic that hits my tech-centric ramblings are searches for Windows XP drivers. Still. I mean really, I made one post in January 2008 about how I struggled to find drivers for an Inspiron 531 and that is why people come visit my site?

Okay, for all of you individuals who are desperately seeking drivers, since I have no interest in posting (or hosting) the 150 meg file that I'm sure I still have somewhere on one of my network servers, I'm going to walk you through my process of how I found them. Trust me, there isn't always an easy way, sometimes, you just have to get down-n-dirty with the rest of us and muddle your way through.

Here are my steps to help you find whatever driver you might need to for whatever system you own. I don't care if it's Dell, HP or Apple; they all work roughly the same way.

  1. Go to Google, and type in "drivers" and then your computer's model number. You'll wind up with 156 gagillion hits, the majority of which are worthless sites that will probably do you more harm than good. Don't visit any of them. Let me repeat that part, DON'T VISIT ANY OF THEM. Just don't do it, you'll waste countless hours and become more frustrated than you were at the start. Plus, just for an added bonus, if you do visit some strange site, download something you think will be your salvation, it's probably going to be infested with malware, viruses or a slew of other things you don't want anywhere near your computer. Trust me.
  2. Instead, visit your computer manufacturer's website. Since all of my computers come from Dell, I'd start at I trust Dell. I know who they are, and unless they've been hacked (rare, very rare), I'm probably not going to infest my computer by downloading something from their website.

    Now I know they're support site isn't the best organized site in the world. I know it isn't always easy to find what you want. But this is the single best source for information, drivers and downloads for your Dell computer. They made it, they know what's in it and the resources they have are specific to it. C'mon, give 'em a chance. 
  3. Look for a link that says "Support" and click it. Find the support page for your model number and then look for links that say something like "Drivers" if you're looking for drivers. Or "Manual" if you're looking for the manual that you probably threw out with the box that it came in.

    If you really can't find what you're looking for, then feel free to use Google to search their site instead of whatever search tool they provided for you. The trick is that if you decide to use Google, limit your search to just results that are on Dell's website. How do you do this? Simply add the phrase "" to you Google search. It works. It really works. You'll still want to add your model number and the name of the part that you think needs a driver or what-not, but you're going to save yourself a butt-load of time.
  4. Many of the parts Dell (or whoever) used to make your computer are specially made to meet the manufacturers specifications. Much like the radio in your car may have been made by any one of a number of different manufacturers, but was made to the specifications of Ford, GM or whoever. It may look the same and fit in the same slot, but the innards may be slightly different, but I digress.

    In some cases, it is possible to go the manufacture's web site and down drivers for the individual parts that make up your computer. And no, Dell doesn't manufacture least the don't the last time I checked. The motherboard may be from Intel, Foxconn or a slew of other manufactures. Really the only way you can be sure is to take your computer apart and note part identification numbers on each different component and then do a Google (or Bing, if you must) search to figure out who made it. Then by visiting the individual part manufacturers site, you may be able to find and download the drivers you so desperately need. 
Listen, I'm pretty sure I said this wasn't going to be easy. But it is the way and will ensure that you find the most current versions of your drivers for your particular part in your computer. Once you know who manufactures each and every part in your computer, then you're going to have a much better chance at locating the drivers that will make that specific part work with whatever operating system you happen to be using.

And let me just say, as an aside, if you haven't moved up to Windows 7 yet, what are your waiting for? If you're still looking for XP drivers to keep your old computer running, it really is time to upgrade. My upgrade cycle for desktops is typically 4-6 years - and that usually involves add new components around the 2-3 year mark to keep the system running at what I consider to be an acceptable level. Laptops, I typically replace within 2-3 years. It isn't as easy to upgrade components other than hard drives and memory...and of course a battery which seem to need replacing every 18 months or so.

I'm not saying you should run out to Best Buy and splurge on whatever $1k+ computer they happen to have on sale...but at the very least, go out and look at Dell's Outlet where they sell refurbished and scratch-and-dent PCs. Almost every computer I have is refurbished and I have nothing but praise for them. Sure some have had problems, but Dell's warranty service is always fast and reliable (especially if you add on in-home support when you buy). Plus, if you watch for coupon codes on Dell Outlet's Twitter account you could wind up buying a $1k+ laptop for about half that amount. Even the cheapest laptop or desktop on the site will be a step up...and with prices starting around a few hundred, it's hard to find a better deal. (That's enough of the sales talk, and, for the record, Dell didn't pay me anything for this endorsement!)

If you're wondering if Windows 7 will run on your old Pentium 4, I can't say for sure, but it probably will. And if you do a clean installation when you install it, it will probably run better than your computer ever did. I tested this theory on my father-in-laws seven year old laptop...knowing that if it failed, I'd really look like moron and loose all my geek points with the in-laws. But it worked...and that poor think only had 256 Mb of RAM. How Toshiba even sold it what that little memory, I'll never know, but that's another topic for another post on another day.

Oh, and by the way, that Inspiron 531 that I wanted the drivers for? Well, it's now running Ubuntu Linux full-time and serves as my home theater PC running Boxee. With a new video card, hard drives and memory...after all, it's been more than two years since it appeared on my doorstep!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Browser Share

Anyone actually interested in browser market share reports? I can only assume that I'm weird, 'cause I am, well, sorta. I've long since adopted Google Chrome as my primary browser - and push everyone I know to do the same. Firefox is a great second, but 90% of the people I know don't know enough about technology to benefit from the extensions that really make Firefox useful. For the vast majority of my browsing experience, Chrome is by far my preferred choice.


Primarily speed. Chrome is fast on every computer I own. Plus, I love the fact that my bookmarks are synced across all of my computers without me having to do a darn thing. I'm sure I could figure out an extension in Firefox to do the same, but why bother when its built into Chrome? Don't read me wrong, I love Firefox, and for browsing questionable sites, there's no other browser I'd recommend - provided you're using NoScript. But for my daily browsing of the interweb haunts I frequent, Chrome works great, keeps me organized and doesn't require any effort on my part.

Oh, did I forget one?

Well, maybe two. Safari and Internet Explorer are both capable browsers, but just not for me. IE always feels like I'm slogging through a bayou - especially when I'm just coming down off a Chrome tear. In all honesty, I don't use Safari much - Apple's ridiculous update download sizes have peeved me off - and I don't see any payoff for spending that much time messing with it.
Oh, browser market share - that's how I got started on this whole mini-tirade. (I'm easily distracted by shiny objects....) Here's some interesting stats if you want to see who's gaining, who's losing and why you bet on the underdog:

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Lost Art of Real Estate Listings

I suppose there are many good reasons that would prevent real estate agents from actually developing a comprehensive photographic presentation of their clients' properties, but from some of the sloppy, poor and downright lazy work I've seen recently, I'm not willing to accept them.

Lets start by assuming that the goal is of every online listing is to drive random visitors, like myself, to want to come visit a listed property in person. I haven't research the statistics, but I'm pretty sure that very few houses are sold without someone actually seeing the property in person. The more in-person visits a property has, the more likely you are to actually sell the house, right?

With that as a goal, it seems to make sense to me that agents take a little extra time developing the listing for the property, including both pictures and descriptive text that are going to want to make visit in person. I understand it may be challenging to develop a few paragraphs that draw my attention to the unique characteristics a single house offers when you have forty or fifty listings on your plate. However, I'm also sure that if you don't, I'm not going to pay any attention to your repetitively bland and uninspired drivel. Maybe I'm too harsh, but hey, I'm the buyer. Maybe I'm in the minority, but in this market, are you willing to take that risk?

So how do you do it?
Well, that all depends. It depends on the identity of the target market you're trying to reach, the characteristics of the house and the resources you can tap to help bring it all together. At the very least, you should be able to talk to the seller and interpret their likes about the property into your spiel. At the very least, you should have a high-quality digital camera that will allow you to take a comprehensive set of pictures of the property. What's comprehensive? Well, it depends on the property, but I'd offer that at least two photos per interior room with five or six of the exterior is the bare minimum. Please don't post a listing with only one photo. That's just insulting.

If you don't know what you're doing and can't read a book to learn some basics, hire someone. Obviously, I'm not expecting professional quality photos, but I am expecting that you offer me quantity in return. Don't post a blurry photo or shrink photos to microscopic sizes. Remember, there's no film in digital cameras, take a few hundred pictures of the property while you're there, then sort through them and post the best 20 or 30 you can find. The more pictures you take, the higher the odds are that you'll get some decent photos that accurately represent the character of the property you're listing.  Any argument that includes the fact that you can't show that many pictures for a single listing is simply pathetic. Throw a link to Flickr (or any other online photo sharing website) into your description of the property and let me look at everything you'd like me to see.

Also, move closer. If you're trying to highlight woodworking detail in a charming Victorian home, don't take a shot from across the room and expect me to believe you that the woodwork is simply incredible. Move closer and prove it to me. Yeah, that fireplace looks nice, but quite honestly, I can't tell anything about it when the only shot showing it is taken from the kitchen looking through the dining room into the living room where the fireplace is. Really? You mention that as a selling point in your text, but you can't show it to me as well? Great view? Would've been nice if I could have seen it too before driving my ass out to your listing only to find that you're definition of a great view is a view of a cornfield and power lines.

Maybe I have it all wrong. Maybe the goal has nothing to do with trying to bring a potential buyer to see the house in person. Even if that's the case, when I'm going to sell my house, I'm going to ask to see a portfolio of your prior listings...and I'm going to be looking for how well you were able draw potential buyers in, both in writing and images, by describing the uniqueness of the properties you're selling. I don't want my home described as a "must see" or "unbelievable bargain" - 'cause I don't think that's going to help me sell my it.

Now, as I've alluded to, I'm not a real estate agent, nor do I play one on TV. I do however like looking at houses and my increasing frustration is not encouraging me to buy a house. Its encouraging me to keep the one I have. At least then, I don't have to drive somewhere to see what it looks like.