Friday, October 1, 2010

My StealthMachines Review - Part 1

When shopping for electronics of any kind, considerable time is often spent researching the various products and the companies that make them.

The critical points that inevitably make the decision to buy one product over another are:

  • the reputation of the company
  • reputation of the product line
  • the quality of the parts
  • the overall specs
  • price of the product
  • the warranty

I was recently going through the process of buying a new computer and had narrowed down my decision to one of five companies:

  1. StealthMachines
  2. Falcon Northwest
  3. Puget Systems
  4. Alienware (now owned by Dell)
  5. Apple

After spending close to 6 months researching build ideas and various companies, I decided to go with StealthMachines because of the company's stellar reputation with the Better Business Bureau and past and current customers, competitive pricing, high quality parts, inexpensive 3 year warranty and free trade in program.

“StealthMachines rewards return customers and is a participate in renewable business practices. For this reason, trade-in your old StealthMachines or other electronic equipment and we'll give you credit towards a new StealthMachine.”

BBB Accreditation

StealthMachines LLC has been a BBB Accredited business since January 2009. This means it supports BBB's services to the public and meets our BBB Accreditation standards.

Based on BBB files, StealthMachines LLC has a BBB Rating of A

Customer Complaint History for StealthMachines LLC

BBB processed a total of 0 complaints about StealthMachines LLC in the last 36 months, our standard reporting period.

BBB Program Participation

This company has agreed to use special procedures including arbitration, if necessary, to resolve disputes through their participation in the following programs: BBB Identification, BBBOnLine.” ( )”

I read reviews about StealthMachines on the company website, competing websites and various forums and the consensus was that the owner, Josef Kulovany, consistently goes above and beyond the call of duty in regards to customer service.

When I went to the StealthMachines website to use their system to configure a build, I played around with a few ideas and then saved a build I liked and emailed it to myself. The next day, Josef emailed me asking if I had any questions or would I like any advice on parts.

When I replied with a few questions, he emailed me back within 20 minutes and had several money saving suggestions, as well as suggesting a different case that would be easy to clean and maintain and included more options for future upgrades.

Every question I asked Josef was answered quickly and concisely, his prices are competitive with shopping at NewEgg and building it yourself. (I'm taking into account the individual shipping and handling charges for the parts that had shipping charges, as well as the cost of smaller items such as thermal paste and custom cabling.)

I'm expecting to receive my new computer Oct 2 and will post a review of the packaging, the condition it was received, the set up and my first impressions, as well as some basic benchmarks.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Netbook Security Tips

Recently, a friend asked me for advice on internet and laptop security and that got me thinking about all the security habits I've picked up over the years.

The following are some of the best products and services I've used that I can't live without because they work so well and are free or very affordable.

The first thing I did when I recently re-installed the OS on my netbook, was to set the BIOS to only boot from the hardrive and then password protect the BIOS.

Next, in the BIOS, I locked the hardrive and password protected it.

The benefit of these first two steps is that if my netbook is stolen, someone can't just turn it on and easily brows my files and other information or re-install the operating system.

Next, I used Truecrypt to encrypt the entire drive with triple layer 256 bit encryption. This ensures that if someone pulls the drive out of the machine they still won't be able to access my information.

Then, I set a user password.

To protect myself online I use ESET's Nod 32 anti-virus, which I love because it works amazingly well, is small and takes up very few resources while requiring very little hands on maintenance or tweaking.

When surfing online I will often use Sandboxie, a sandbox program, that allows me to surf in a virtual environment. This way, even if I do pick up a virus, everything stays in the sandbox and I can simply delete the sandbox when I have finished surfing. Thus, deleting any and all viruses and malware that I may have come across.

I use Firefox for browsing and have a master password enabled to protect the passwords I use online. However, I don't save important passwords in Firefox. Instead, I use a technique where I create easy to remember passwords by using ordinary English words translated into L337 or Leet, which is an underground computer language. I then have a different password for each category of online use, such as Email, forums and hardware.

When logging in using a wireless hotspot I often use a VPN. I like HotspotVPN as a paid service but as a broke student I use Logmein to remotely access my home computer or I use Logmein Hamachi free VPN.

I hope that you find these tips to be helpful and if you know a product or service that you love, please let me know so I can test it out and possibly add it to the list.



Leet Translator:



Friday, April 9, 2010

Well I'm back. Finally.

If your wondering why this blog has been sitting here inactive for so long let me explain. I had my senior thesis to write, an internship to complete and to top it off halfway through the term I wiped out on my Yamaha xvs 1100 going over wet railroad tracks in Lake Oswego.

Thankfully I'm smart enough to throw myself under the bike so the bike is fine except for a broken brake lever. I on the other hand have been limping around for the last month or so but as I said. I'm back.

In the next few weeks I plan on playing around with several new Linux distros as well as virtual machines, Backtrack 4 and who knows what else.

Stay tuned :)