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Power play | Computerworld

It’s the late 1980s and this pilot fish is getting his first lessons in PCs and PC architecture. In fact, the first desktop computer that his company buys is quite interesting.

Not unusually for the time, it runs on a pair of floppy drives, but it’s upgradable: You can add a hard disk later.

The employee using this PC spends about a year filling dozens of floppies with his programs and data before getting the OK from his boss to purchase a hard disk. Capacity: 10MG. Cost: nearly $1,000.

When the disk arrives, fish and friends open the PC’s case and follow the upgrade instructions to install it. The first step is to remove a perforated metal box that takes up the space where the disk will go. It’s about the size of five or six decks of playing cards, has lots of holes for air circulation — and is plugged into the PC’s power supply.
Inside the box is a large, heavy power resistor with gold-colored fins. Its purpose is to use as much power as a hard disk would draw, apparently to keep the PC’s underdesigned power supply from getting unbalanced by too small a load when no hard disk is present.

All these years later, fish is still amazed: “Every unit sold of this particular model of PC contained one of these heavy, expensive, power-wasting monstrosities just to save the effort of designing a better power supply, and its selling price had to cover it.”
But he’s happy to report that the hardware vendor in question got drummed out of the market years ago.

Power up your device to send Sharky your true tales of IT life  at [email protected]. You can also subscribe to the Daily Shark Newsletter.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

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Discover the optimizing power of the vSphere virtualization platform for just $30

One of the keys to prosperity in business is efficiency. If you aren’t operating at your best, your chances of success are severely diminished. And this even extends to the IT department, which is why so many companies around the world use VMWare’s vSphere virtualization platform.

vSphere optimizes your existing computer infrastructure. It’s a gross oversimplification, but it essentially allows you to run a large number of virtual machines using just one physical system. The end result is that you’ll end up paying less for equipment, use what you already have more efficiently, and significantly reduce or even eliminate downtime.

But, even simplified, that sounds pretty complicated. Need a crash course in how it works but would rather avoid expensive and time consuming classroom sessions? Then we recommend giving The VMWare vSpere 6.7 Fundamentals Prep Course, now only $29.99, a try on for size.

The VMWare vSphere 6.7 Fundamentals Prep Course is just the ticket for anyone who wants to learn how this powerful platform works. It includes over 20 hours of content that’ll introduce you to the vSphere system, show you the basics, and help you set up your own virtual machine. And, it comes with practice test questions too, so you can even use it to prepare for certification.

What makes this particular course so attractive is that it’s about as flexible as it gets. The VMWare vSphere 6.7 Fundamentals Prep Course is delivered via the web so there aren’t any physical classroom sessions to attend. You just access the content from anywhere using a desktop or mobile device and train at your convenience. It truly puts the power of education back in the hands of the student.

This training is ideal for current IT technicians and administrators. If you want to realize a higher level of efficiency, learn how to harness the power of vSphere. And, since The VMWare vSphere 6.7 Fundamentals Prep Course is temporarily marked down to $29.99 (over 90% off), now is the perfect time.


The VMWare vSphere 6.7 Fundamentals Prep Course – $29.99

See Deal

Prices are subject to change.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

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Unleash the Power of Web Data with scrapestack

Data is the lifeblood of the web. We often say “content is king”, but what we mean is “data is king”.

All good user experiences are crafted after careful data analysis. It’s why we’re all here, from the articles we read, to the products we buy, to the ideas we post, data is everything.

Finding data, particularly for smaller businesses can be a daunting prospect. How can you generate so much data, when your competitors have been pushing, and collecting data for months, or even years? How do you manage and analyse data from millions of sites, without a dedicated research team?

We often say ‘content is king’, but what we mean is ‘data is king’

The answer, as with so many things on the modern web, is automation.

Automating data collection, analysing it, and responding accordingly is easier than you might think thanks to web scraping.

Web scraping is, in essence, what your browser is doing right now: retrieving data from a server, and making use of it by formatting it for you to read. But that’s not all you can do with web scraping. Once you have the data, it can be processed, stored, or republished.

Web scraping is a fantastic way of working with web data, without having to do any heavy lifting.


When to Use Web Scraping

Imagine you’re running a design conference in Manhattan. You want to help your customers by suggesting hotels they might stay in, places to eat out, and the best prices on flights so they can afford your top-tier ticket price. But it’s simply not possible for you to try out every hotel in NYC, let alone every eatery, and pricing for flights from thousands of points of origin changes hourly.

if you were going to build your own, niche search engine this is exactly how you’d do it

So you deploy a web scraping API to search hotel websites for room rates and contact details. You deploy the same API to search review sites for restaurants within walking distance of your venue. You can even deploy the same API to regularly check pricing on the most popular travel sites to help your customers snag the best deal.

Of course, we wouldn’t recommend scraping content and simply reposting it unaltered. Duplicating another site’s content doesn’t help your users, and will see you fall foul of Google, if not the law.

Web scraping works best when you use it to grab the data that other sites want you to find, and make use of — if you were going to build your own, niche search engine this is exactly how you’d do it.


Web Scraping with scrapestack

One of the best web scraping APIs available is scrapestack, a real-time, scaleable, REST API. With scrapestack you can retrieve data from billions of web pages, hosted anywhere on the web, in milliseconds.

scrapestack provides a simple 3-step quickstart guide, which is easy to follow, and will have you up and running in five minutes. You can access the API however you please, and example code is provided for PHP, Python, Nodejs, jQuery, Go, and Ruby.

Boasting an uptime of 99.9%, and a widespread, mature infrastructure means that scrapestack can handle bot-blocking, captchas, and even sites rendered with JavaScript. scrapestack allows you to search from numerous cities, or dozens of different countries, so that even localized data is available to you.

Best of all, scrapestack is free to get started; all you have to do is register to get your API key and you’re all set. The free-forever plan allows you to make up to 10,000 requests per month.

you don’t need to be an expert developer to take advantage of the scrapestack API

If you decide scrapestack is the right solution for you, then you might want to delve into the premium offerings. Starting at just $15.99 per month, you can increase your requests into the millions, as well as adding features like HTTPS encryption, concurrent requests, and JavaScript rendering.

scrapestack is delivered by apilayer, one the the most reliable names in the field. apilayer products are known for their shallow learning curves, which means you don’t need to be an expert developer to take advantage of the scrapestack API. The excellent documentation will guide you step by step, and there’s always technical support if you need it — even free customers get access to limited support.


Should You Use Web Scraping?

Everything that you can do with web scraping, can be done by a human being with a web browser, painstakingly traversing search engine results, copying and pasting. But for those who think life is too short for that, a web scraping API is ideal.

The web is packed with semantic data, data that wants to be found and used; scrapestack is an excellent solution that will help you do just that.

To grab your free API key, and start harvesting data from the web, head over to today.


[– This is a sponsored post on behalf of scrapestack –]

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Emergency Power Backup for All The Things

Our verdict of the Jackery Explorer 240:
An essential part of any household emergency resilience toolkit, the only downside to the Jackery Explorer 240/250 is the eight hour charge time.

As millions of Californian residents face rolling power outages, it’s fair to say that natural disasters are increasing in both intensity and frequency. Having your own source of electricity in an emergency has never been more important, particularly if you’re reliant on powered medical devices.

The Jackery Explorer 240/250 is an essential bit of kit for every modern household to include in their resilience plans. It retails for $250, stores a whopping 250 watt-hours of energy, and weighs less than 7lbs.

Note: we’ve reviewed the Explorer 250 model, a UK version of the Explorer 240. It’ll be available to buy in the UK next year, but the product itself is functionally identical to the Jackery Explorer 240, just with a different plug socket and output voltage. 

What’s a Watt-Hour?

A watt-hour is the amount of power required to run a device that uses a watt of energy for an hour. So a 250 watt-hour (wH) battery holds enough power to run a 250-watt device, for an hour.

In reality, the Jackery Explorer 240/250 is limited to a continuous output of 200 watts. A more real-world example might be a 5m LED strip running at full white brightness, which can use up to 50 watts. The Jackery could power this for around 5 hours.

Another comparison might be your smartphone. Mobile batteries are typically stated in milliamp-hours rather than watt-hours, but the two can be converted easily enough as long as you know the voltage. A typical smartphone battery is usually 10-12wH, so you could fully charge your mobile battery around 20-25 times from the Jackery, if that’s all you were doing with it.

view of jackery explorer 250 from the side

AC Power Output

The key difference between your average mobile battery and this, other than the sheer amount of power stored within, is the ability to plug in AC electrical devices. The only restriction is that you can’t draw more than 200W continuous or 400W peak on the Explorer 240/250 model. This means you couldn’t plug in, for example, a kettle, or other induction heating appliance, which can exceed a few kilowatts. Most refrigerators use 100-400W. CPAP machines are 30-60W, so would happily work with this.

Before purchasing with the intention of using it with a specific device, check the packaging to find out exactly what the power requirements are. Divide 250 by the wattage to get a rough running time in hours. If the device needs more than 200W or the running time is too short, you may need to consider the larger model. The Jackery Explorer 500 stores twice as much power, and allows up to 400W continuous.

font of the jackery explorer 250

Sockets Everywhere

In addition to the AC power outlet (that’s a UK socket you see in the photos), there are also two fast-charging 5V USB ports at up to 2.4A, and a car/cigarette lighter socket at 12v 10A.

All the plugs can be used simultaneously, and each type is individually switched, requiring a single button press to activate. However, bear in mind that everything you plug in contributes to the overall 200W limit. So a phone charging at the full 2.4A would use 12W.

using the jackery explorer 250 with an AC powered electric knife
The electric knife we’ve been using to trim down insulation panels is rated at 180W, but actually settled at around 108W.

Helpfully, an illuminated LCD display shows exactly how much power is being drawn at any time (albeit with a few seconds delay).

The device itself is fairly rugged with the solid black and orange ABS case featuring a helpful carrying handle on top. Measuring 5.2 x 9 x 7.7 inches, all the ports and the LCD display are found on one side. The display can be activated briefly even when nothing is plugged in, to check at a glance precisely what percentage of battery power is left.

jackery 250 handle

Charge Time

Included in the package is a neoprene case containing two charging options. The first is a basic AC power adaptor; this takes 8 hours to fully charge the Jackery Explorer 240/250. The second option is a car adaptor for on-the-go; this also takes 8 hours. Be careful to only charge from your car battery when you’re actually driving, otherwise, you may drain the car battery entirely.

As an optional extra, you can also purchase a 60W or 100W solar panel. This option takes a little longer at around 10 hours, and that’s assuming a reasonably bright day.

All the charging methods connect through a single standardized 8mm DC input socket. This is a common connector, so you may find third-party products that do the job too. Input is limited to 42W, which is why it’ll take at least 8 hours to charge. This is the biggest downside to the Jackery Explorer 250, and it’s shame they didn’t develop some quick charging technology that restores 90% of power in an hour or two.

Using the jackery 250

On the plus side–and this is a huge plus–you can simultaneously use and charge the battery. Again though, keep in mind both input and output wattage. Since the input is limited to a maximum of 42W, if you’re taking more than 42W on the output side then it will still drain the battery eventually.

The most useful aspect of this simultaneous charge and use will be to simply extend the battery life using a solar panel. As a quick example, if you had a 100W device running off a fully charged Jackery 240/250, it would normally last around 2.5 hours. With the solar panel plugged in and charging at the maximum rate, your usage time would be extended to just over 4 hours.

Jackery Explorer 240/250: Emergency Power Backup for All The Things jackery explorer 250 case

Should You Buy the Jackery Explorer 240/250?

As the name suggests, the Jackery Explorer range is aimed more at outdoorsy types who need some power on the go; camping or fishing trips, that sort of thing. For that, it’s ideal, no doubt. You can power all the things. For a long time.

But I would argue that keeping an emergency source of power at home should also be high on your list of priorities, and the Jackery Explorer range is perfect for that too. Even if it’s just to keep your phone powered for two weeks and maintain lines of communication, having access to backup power during an emergency could make all the difference.

The only reason not to buy the Jackery Explorer 240/250 is if you need more power. In which case, the Explorer 500 probably has you covered, albeit at twice the price.

Please, don’t wait until emergencies actually happen to try and prepare for them.

Enter below for your chance to win a Jackery Explorer 240. Please note, this competition is only open to US residents as the UK model is not available yet. 

Enter the Competition!

Jackery Explorer 240 Giveaway

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Harness the Power of AI to Enhance Your Photos With Luminar 3

In photography, capturing an image is only part of the creative process. Much of the time, skillful editing can be the difference between a lifeless snap and an award-winning photo. If you want to take your photography to the next level, Luminar 3 can help. This powerful software utilizes artificial intelligence to help you achieve your creative vision. You can download the app now on Mac and Windows for $29 via MakeUseOf Deals.

AI Editing

Most photo editors are stacked with options nowadays. However, the fantastic array of sliders, tools, brushes and effects can be overwhelming. You can spend more time watching tutorials than actually working on your photography.

Luminar 3 solves this problem using artificial intelligence. Accent AI 2.0 technology allows you to adjust multiple aspects of your image through one slider. This means you can enhance a sunset or improve skin tone in seconds. In addition, Luminar 3 analyzes every photo to ensure the adjustments look natural.

To help you enhance your images further, Luminar 3 offers 70 one-click styles created by professional photographers. If you prefer, you can also take full manual control. The software has a full range of adjustments, including curves, noise reduction, lighting effects, and a smart erase tool.

Order Now for $29

It’s normally priced at $69, but you can download Luminar 3 now for just $29 on Mac and Windows.

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