Category Archives: Hardware

Tips for Buying a Webcam

When it comes to electronics shopping, one cannot depend on instincts, price or trends. Today’s trend can end up being tomorrow’ bust. Plus callbacks and product returns can happen to any gadget. Pricing is often misleading. You can end up paying a lot more than necessary for something which could be replaced tomorrow. With electrical devices, one needs to be well-versed in specs. Specs or specifications can help you understand whether that device is right for you in the first place.

A camera with a low resolution is of no use to a nature photographer, who needs detailed images. Similarly a high-end camera with enhanced zoom, is not the device for your average soccer mom. One such ambiguous device is the webcam. Capturing video and transmitting it online for someone somewhere else to view is the webcameras basic function. But when buying a webcam, there are certain specs and points to keep in mind. Read on to learn how to pick the best webcam for your PC.

5 Tips for Buying a Webcam

1. Buy Based on Hardware
Based on what they are going to be connected to, webcams can be differently designed. Most laptops nowadays have a built-in webcam but older laptops and some budget models do not. So for laptops, the webcam has a clip to clip on a thin frame, which is the laptop screen. But for desktops, a webcam stand is used to showcase the webcam and is designed, such that a wide and better image is captured. The stand should be designed to sit properly on flat surfaces. This is needed in case of CRT monitors, where the webcam cannot be clipped on and is too heavy to place on the monitor itself. Laptop webcams are designed with portability in mind, so their frame is lighter and more compact. However, many do not allow tilting and panning but this feature is present in most desktop models.

2. Check for connectivity
USB, Firewire and parallel ports are the 3 possible ports that a webcam will connect to. Any recent computer has a USB port, so your computer should ideally connect to a webcam through a USB port. This is a very compatible and popular standard, check for Plug n’ Play compatibility, where you just need to plug in the camera to use it. This avoids setting it up when you need to connect it elsewhere and dealing with driver software is also avoided. Firewire is a rarer type of port, make sure your machine has such a port before buying a webcam with this sort of connecting port. Parallel ports are meant to allow older computers to connect to webcameras, as USB ports are scarce on older machines. But parallel connections are a lot slower than USB connections and can interfere or slow down other computer operations.

3. Ensure Picture Perfect Imaging
Resolution is the amount of detail or quality present in an image. The higher the resolution, the more rich and life-like the image is. So a low resolution in your webcam can mean a grainy, not-at-all clear imaging system. Most webcams have a resolution figure of 320×240 or 640×480 pixels, which allows for decent quality video and images. Some models allow for a higher resolution still imaging capture, with a factor up to 1.3 MP. High-end models allow for High-Definition capture with a resolution of 1600×1200 pixels.

Frame rate is another image factor. Video is made up of different image frames and how fast these frames can be transmitted over the Internet is the frame rate. A low frame rate means a choppy video with freezing images in the middle. Look for a frame rate per second (fps) around 30. There should be a good balance between resolution and frame rate, as it is no use if the image has a high quality but will be transmitted slowly.

The type of lens used in the webcam can make a difference in image quality. Plastic lenses are used in low-end models as they are cheaper but they can produce blurry or slightly warped images. Glass lenses capture crisp and better quality images. Plus they are not as prone to scratches as plastic lenses. The lens focus can be fixed or allow manual and automatic adjustment through software. You will be able for focus on a face or zoom out to include a group. Color or black/white image capture should also be considered.

4. Look for Perks
It’s nice to have an extra helpful feature or ability in your webcam. Automatic light adjustment ability is useful for video capture in dark or low light surroundings or for chatting outdoors. Some cameras allow auto focusing and panning and zooming abilities. If you plan to use your webcam as an amateur security camera, then motion sensing is a perk to look for. Even the webcam stand can be adjustable, so it can be aimed and pointed at from one location. An oft-overlooked perk is of audio capture. If you have a microphone on your computer, then buying a webcam with a built-in microphone is not necessary. Some models have a clip-on microphone, some need a headset to capture audio. Another perk is the bundled software provided with the webcam. Software can be diverse, ranging from sophisticated video editing and capture programs and video conferencing to simple applications like video email or messaging.

5. Consider Pricing & System Requirements
Your computer, be it a laptop or desktop, should be capable of supporting such a device. Installation of a webcam will require a minimal amount of disk space from your computer, as well as support for the bundled software and additional software you may download. The machine’s operating system and the drivers needed for the webcam need to be compatible, so check for OS compatibility at the time of purchasing a camera. Then there is your Internet connection. It is no use, having the world’s most expensive and high-end web camera, if your Internet speed is slow. A slow net connection will not be able to transmit such heavy data at a decent speed.

Price is always the “ick” factor when it comes to gadgets and the webcam is no exception. You need to make sure you get what you paid for. If you want a high-end camera, with maximum perks and features, be prepared to spend more than 100 dollars. Try to get the maximum features for the optimal price. For basic needs and usage, do not overspend, keep a budget between $50-$100. Low-end models, keep your expectations at a minimum and you may be pleasantly surprised.

Do your research well to ensure you have the ideal webcam for you. Remember to ask for warranties and store return policies prior to purchase. Don’t be dazzled by brands or fancy sales talk, keep your needs and budget firmly in mind and shop.


Instructions to Install a Liquid Cooling System

Liquid cooling systems have been used to cool cars since eons and seemingly, it also happens to be the way to cool your computer. Yes, it is true that computers today are designed to emit less heat, but integrated circuits are integrated circuits; they are bound to radiate heat in generous proportions. The joys of overclocking are way too many to be caged under the restriction of heat generation. Having yawned over air coolers, it is time to move on to a slicker option – that is liquid cooling.

Components of a Liquid Cooling System

The liquid coolant comes first, and a popular option is distilled water. Chemical additives (antifreeze solutions) give it that snazzy color and help lower the temperature of the water, increasing its effectiveness. An interesting variant is liquid nitrogen. With a boiling temperature of -196°C, it beats water in every aspect. But the recommended use of liquid nitrogen is strictly for smaller overclocking sessions. A reservoir is the tank that stores the coolant. You need a pump that helps the liquid to flow smoothly. This pump is available in variations that help you fix it outside the reservoir, or submerge it. The radiator is used to absorb the heat from the coolant and dispel it outside the unit. The tubes connect the reservoir to the water blocks. Water blocks are attached to the CPU, or if you wish, to the chipset and the GPU. These blocks hold the cool liquid, and their base is made of metal. Position them on top of the part that needs cooling, and apply a layer of thermal paste in between to accelerate heat transfer.

Here’s how it works. The reservoir contains the coolant, which is pumped to the cooling block attached to the CPU and/or GPU. Having cooled the part, the heated liquid will flow through the outlet, back into the reservoir to be re-cooled for the second cycle. Before you begin, note that there are two methods of cooling.

The internal method, as the name suggests, has the cooling system installed inside the PC case. Your PC case must obviously be big enough to accommodate all the components and avoid any cramping.
The external method is the exact opposite, so you’ll have to deal with a system that will be eating up a lot of space on your desk, and will seem tedious for those of you who keep shifting their computers. It is, however, perfect for extremists who are looking to push all boundaries.

How to Install a Liquid Cooling System

Having understood the components and the working principles, let’s look at the step-by-step instructions to install a liquid cooling system for your PC.

Draw a Design
As mentioned before, an ideal way to create a cooling system is to customize it. What works for a computer can’t necessarily suit another. So, the very first step would be to gauge your requirements and draw a basic design that covers all your needs.

Attach the Radiator and Reservoir
The radiator is installed on a large fan grate, just like a regular fan case. All you need to ensure is that the fans blow the hot air outside the PC case. The reservoir is next. You are free to install it inside the case on top of the drive bay, or outside. You must keep your refilling convenience in mind.

Install the Cooling Block
The cooling block sits on a support bracket behind the CPU. You must now remove the motherboard and detach the heat sink from it. Install the mounting units that will hold the cooling blocks for the CPU and the chipset. Clean the area of any residual thermal paste. Before you mount the cooling blocks, you need to decide if you want to attach the pipes right away or after. Be very cautious when you mount the water blocks, make sure they sit nice and easy, as applying extra pressure can cause damage. Similarly with the GPU, you must remove the heat sink before installing the water block. You have to start connecting the pipes as per your design, keeping the direction of the flowing coolant in mind.

Bring in More Pipes
Cooling the CPU remains a priority for most, but here we’re looking at a scenario where you would be cooling the chipset and the GPU too. If you have one pipe that takes the coolant to every part, the one that is last in line will perpetually receive heated liquid, and this is unfortunate. Ideally, separate pipes should lead to every component, negating the risk of the last part being heated instead of cooled.

Final Touches
As you’re done with the installation, it is time to fill the reservoir with the coolant of your choice. Follow the instructions meticulously, avoid spilling or over filling at all costs. In any case, keeping a stack of tissues is a good idea for emergency mopping. Now start the system and monitor the flow of liquid. Air bubbles can cause problems at this stage, so you need to sway your PC slightly to get rid of them. If it all appears to be dry, it is time to boot your computer.

What Makes Liquid Cooling Special

Liquid cooling scores on the grounds of excellent thermal conductivity and high heat capacity. With a heating capacity that is four times that of air, water as a coolant, wins hands down. Unlike air, when you have a substance that sops in the heat without heating itself too much, you don’t have to think too much before installing it. But before you get down to installing a system like this, it would be prudent to keep certain factors in mind.

For starters, a liquid cooling system is expensive. These days, they thankfully come in kits, a far cry from the times when one needed to source individual spares that matched the computer’s specifications.
Maintaining a system like this requires a great degree of dedication as liquids and electrical devices are not the best of friends. With so many components in place, you need to watch out for trouble.
If you happen to be one of those ill-fated ones who have any liquid spill on the motherboard, the entire nerd community’s sympathies would rest with you.
A cooling system is unique to every PC, and the user is in the best position to configure the one that suits it best. While the CPU is the undisputed heat generator, it would be a good idea to include the GPU and the motherboard chipset as well.

All said and done, liquid cooling rules and it is instrumental in keeping your PC happy even when it’s overworked, sans the whirring fans.

Installing a liquid cooling system would, once upon a time, win you a place in the upper echelons of geekdom. The availability of ready kits has dimmed the significance of it of late, but a true geek always reaches out to the customized versions. Also, new age processors are not furnaces like they used to be. But for those who overclock, a liquid cooling system is a blessing, and a ‘quiet’ one at that.


TV Tuner Card for PC

Imagine if you could catch your favorite show while chatting with your friends about it. Wouldn’t it be great? Well, a TV tuner card can make this happen for you. Now, you don’t have to fight with your family member for the TV remote anymore. Just plug in an external TV tuner card or install an internal one and enjoy watching the idiot box right in the comforts of your bedroom. And that too, without letting anyone know. If someone happens to catch you watching something on your computer screen, then just say, it’s downloaded stuff or something that you are watching online. Now you must wondering what this TV tuner card thing is all about and how soon can you get your hands on it. So here’s some important information that you should know before purchasing a TV tuner card.

Till the 20th century, a computer was thought of an analytical machine. Gradually, a few entertainment features were added to it, therefore enhancing its capability and use. A TV tuner card is one such invention that has changed the definition of a computer. It is a processing machine, but also extends further to provide more entertainment than a television set. For choosing the right TV tuner for computer, one has to know the exact configuration of the computer system.

What is a TV Tuner Card?

A TV tuner card enables the computer to capture the television signals. An external source of TV signal has to be essentially plugged in the TV tuner card so that it can receive the TV signals. This external source can be an antenna, a cable or satellite receiver box. The tuner card is an assembly of tuner, receiver, demodulator and an analogue-to-digital converter.

How Does a TV Tuner Card Work?

The tuner tunes the receiver to the correct frequency for receiving TV signals. The receiver receives the signal from the external source and transfers it to the demodulator. The demodulator separates and extracts the relevant signals from the carrier signal. The analog-to-digital converter, as the name suggests, converts the analog signal to the digital signal. In order to watch TV on PC, a suitable TV tuner software has to be installed on the PC. The TV tuner software renders an interface for the PC that provides all the features of a normal television and also allows you to change the channels using a remote. If you have a satellite TV service, install a satellite TV software to avail this facility on your personal computer. Some TV tuner cards also function as video capture tuner cards and save the TV programs on the hard drive.

Difference Between an External and Internal TV Tuner Card

There are internal as well as external TV tuner cards. The internal TV tuner card is fitted inside the CPU, onto the motherboard. The external TV tuner card is a removable device such as the USB (Universal Serial Bus) device. An external TV tuner card is easy to handle as it can be attached to a peripheral port using wires. An internal tuner card has to be fitted by opening the CPU and inserting the tuner card in the PCI slot. However, an internal TV tuner card is preferred, as it is faster and gives better performance as compared to the external tuner card.

Types of TV Tuner Cards

Analog TV Tuner: They are the most cost-effective tuner cards available in the market. They output raw video stream, hence some tuners require a compression technique to be implemented to improve the quality of the picture. Some analog tuners can also capture FM radio waves.
Digital TV Tuner: It outputs MPEG-2 video stream, which displays high quality video and the quality of audio is also good. There is no need of any encoding, hence there are no encoder chips on the tuner card.
Hybrid TV Tuner: It can be transfigured to act as an analog tuner or a digital tuner. However, after transfiguration, the changes do not take effect immediately.
Combo TV Tuner: They are similar to hybrid tuners in functionality. However, the analog tuner is physically separate from the digital tuner, though they are embedded on the same card. Both tuners can function simultaneously without obstructing each other. While the digital tuner is broadcasting, the analog tuner can record; the vice versa is also possible.

By the use of a simple TV tuner card, it is possible to get all the facilities of a cable television as well as the added features of a computer in your desktop. All you need to do is to select the right TV tuner card and have fun watching TV day and night in your own room, without anyone getting wise up to it. Get a pair of headphones too which will take care of the TV sound. But remember watching TV from too close can lead to eye problems. So, be safe and enjoy!


Information about Computer I/O Devices

Fast Fact:
Devices, like USB drives, CD-ROMs, modems, and network cards are the ones that possess the properties of accepting input as well as transferring output.
The computer is no more a luxury, but a necessity in the 21st century. In fact, science has expanded its horizons to such an extent that the desktop computer could be added amongst the list of outdated technology!! Today, operating systems and software configurations are available on smartphones and tablets, while LED monitor screens, laptops, and better microprocessor technology has replaced the desktop computer. Despite the improvement, one still requires input and output devices to communicate with this machine. The article below explains the use and functionality of these devices in detail.

An Introduction

I/O is a collection of interfaces that different units of an operational processing system used to communicate to each other.
Inputs are the signals received by those units, while outputs are the sent signals.
I/O devices are used by people or by other systems to communicate with the computer.
Usually, these outputs are called ‘results’ and they can be addressed to people or can be used for guiding some other machines and robots.
For instance, in the industrial robot’s case, the most important output device is the one that sends all the detailed signals about the mechanical signals to the robot – signals which the robot understands and moves according to them.
The first generation of computers were equipped with a limited range of i/o devices; reading data and instructions was possible with a perforated card reader or something similar, and for showing the results a printer was used, usually a teleprinter (teletypewriter, teletype or TTY for TeleTYpe/TeleTYpewriter).
The modern teletypewriters are used by deaf for typed communication over a telephone.
Technically, i/o devices are the ones that are bi-directional, i.e., they can function as input as well as output devices.
They are mostly referred to as storage or communications devices.
In general though, the term ‘i/o’ refers to input as well as output devices and those that can perform the functionality of both input and output.

Input Devices

The Keyboard

The keyboard is a vital input device with the help of which we can enter text, symbols, codes, alphanumeric characters, etc., on the screen.
The system has a built-in virtual keyboard, but it is highly irritating to use the mouse buttons to input data through this keyboard.
There are innumerable shortcuts to various functions that can be achieved via the keyboard.
Prior to its invention, typewriters, and punch cards were in vogue; following their decline, the keyboard became the most vital input device.
Laptops and notebooks have an attached keyboard – it is a part of the piece.
Smartphones and tablets come with virtual keyboards of course – with the same pattern as that of the actual keyboard, and are operated exactly the same way how we operate regular keyboards. They are called thumb-sized keyboards.
This device consists of the alphabets arranged in the center, with the spacebar key.
The numerical bar along with special characters is arranged above this section, and above this, you will find the function keys ranging from F1 to F12.
With rapidly advanced technology, keyboards are likely to undergo further change and be made more user-friendly and quick.

The Mouse

Mouse device

The mouse is a small, haphazardly oval-shaped device with two or three buttons, which are clicked to input data on to the screen.
Nowadays, the device has two buttons only, one on the left and one on the right, and a scroll roller in between, to scroll up and down the screen.
The underside of this device consists of a small roller ball with the help of which the user is able to roll the mouse on the mouse pad (if you turnover the mouse, you will see the ball rotating beneath a small hole).
This device is used for clicking the options you require from a list of selected options.
It is used in 3D graphics as well, to orient the figure as per the user’s dimensions and requirements.

Other Composite Devices

Other input devices include options, like the joystick, scanner, etc.
The joystick is a device that is generally used to play games.
You may have also hear of the game controller or the wii remote – both are used for gaming purposes.
Initially, the joystick was more like a mike-shaped knob over a rectangular box attached to a movable level. The design has considerably changed since then.
The scanner is a device that is used to scan hard copies and convert the same to an image format on the computer.
There are several other input devices used for imaging purposes – the digital camera, media player, fingerprint scanner, webcam, etc.

Output Devices

The Monitor

The monitor is one of the most important output devices – it is where one views the output.
The initial monitors were called CRTs (Cathode Ray Tubes) that had quite a few limitations as compared to the modern ones we have today.
The LCDs (Liquid Crystal Displays) arrived next. They were lightweight, clear, easy-to-use, and consumed lesser power.
As of today, one prefers using the LED (Light Emitting Diode) monitors that are based on very advanced technology, though they use considerably higher power and are expensive.
Laptops, palmtops, tablets, smartphones, etc., obviously do not need the monitor, the screen serves as the output device, and has a high resolution.

The Printer

The printer, as the name suggests, is used to print hard copies of various documents, images, etc.
There are various types of printers – one of the earliest ones used was the dot matrix and the daisy wheel printer, which is obsolete as of today.
The dot matrix used a small pin matrix to get ink printed on the paper.
Next, we had the typewriter-based and solid ink printers.
Today, we have laser printers, that have the best functionality, design, and output quality.

The Sound System

The sound system of the computer involves the devices related to the audio.
The sound devices primarily include the speaker system, headphones, etc.
Initially, the speakers that came along with the computer system were humongous and had sound-adjusting buttons right on the device.
The design and functionality of the speakers have vastly improved since then.
Laptops have speakers installed right on the console.
The sound can be adjusted from the options available on the computer, in the ‘Control Panel’ section.
The headphones are used to hear sound without disturbing others around.

I/O Devices

CD-ROM Drives

CD-ROM devices function as input as well as output devices.
It is a compact disc, and is used to store important information – documents, songs, images, movies, etc.
CD-ROM stands for ‘Compact Disc – Read Only Memory’. This is an important point you need to remember. These CDs are readable only – the computer can read data from them, but you cannot copy the data.
For this purpose, you need to use a re-writable CD-ROM. Using this, you can read data into the computer, copy or transfer data from the PC to the CD, even erase the data and store/replace with new data, which is not possible on a ‘Read only’ device.

USB Flash drives

The USB flash drive is a small device with considerable storage space, ranging from 1 GB to 8GB.
Using this flash drive, you can directly transfer data to and from the computer.
You can use the USB on various computers and laptops, thus enabling information transfer from one computer to another.
In fact, off late, bluetooth technology has made it possible to have wireless transfer of data within a specific range.
Prior to the invention of the USB, floppy disks were in great demand; as of now though, no CPUs are even manufactured with floppy disk drives.

Hard Disk Drives

A hard disk is typically stored inside the processor.
Your hard disk is where all your data is stored – it is the memory section of the computer.
Sometimes, we have so much of data to be stored and worked upon, that the computer/laptop memory proves insufficient.
Often, excess data storage may cause the machine to hang or crash altogether. This problem is solved using an external hard disk.
This device is like a heavy rectangular box with an attached cable for inserting in the other machine.
It contains extensive storage memory – you can store a huge amount of data.
It facilitates easy transfer of information from one computer to another without having to resort to means like formatting the machine due to excess data usage, etc.

When the perspective changes, the designations of the input/ output devices change as well. The physical movement we as humans do on the mouse or keyboards is perceived as an output by the computer, and it is transformed in specific language/signals that the computer deciphers. Therefore, the output from a mouse or from the keyboard is perceived as input by the computer. When it comes to the printer or a monitor, these devices receive the input what the computer sends as output, which is afterwards translated into a language the human factor can understand. Once more, a person takes as input the output of the computer, namely, the directions on the screen. Thus, each transfer represents an output from a certain device and an input into a different one.