If today’s headline made you think of robots and self-driving cars, we’re afraid that you had better keep looking somewhere else. This month we are looking especially at some developments, trends and devices for everyday users like you and me that have been in the works for awhile and whose time has (probably) come to shine this year.
SSDs, or Solid State Drives are disk drives that use integrated circuits to store files, using the same technology as USB Flash Drives which have been in use for more than 15 years. SSDs are often now installed in computers instead of (or along with) traditional hard disks (HDs). An SSD is many times faster than an HD and has the significant advantage of being more robust, due to the fact that there are no delicate moving parts. Until recently, SSD drives were much more expensive than equivalent HDs but their price has dropped radically in the past year, which means that it is now possible to have a reasonably priced laptop with an operating speed quite a bit faster than you might have expected just a short time ago.
USB ports that have been common on desktops, laptops, and even some tablets and phones have gone through generations 1, 2 and now USB-C. This is the first USB port to have a different shape from previous versions and it has the advantage of being symmetrical, meaning that there is no fumbling from trying to plug it in upside down – a deceptively important improvement when the ports are often located in a place on the computer that is hard to see. Far more important, however, is the speed of data transfer. USB-C speed rounds off to 10 times faster than USB 2 and several hundred times the speed of USB 1. This may not make much difference in your connection to a printer, but it is huge for any sort of data transfer. For example: copying videos or large numbers of photos or data backups may now take seconds instead of many minutes or even hours. Expect computers to have both older and newer USB ports during this transition, and for awhile you will have to put up with adapters to make the old and new versions fit, but we predict that it will not be very long before you will definitely want to have USB-C ports on your new equipment.
Improved routers and range extenders will overcome one of the most common problems that Compu-Home clients have been fighting with. Annoying connection failures in certain rooms of the house, or when moving from room to room with a portable device are now being overcome with improvements in the strength and speed of new generation wifi gear. This is due to better equipment being supplied by the Internet providers and/or better devices being available for purchase by the homeowner. This development is sometimes as much as twice the cost of what was previously available but the resulting reliability means far less frustration.
Refurbished smartphones are becoming more popular. Most cell phone plans in the past took advantage of an offer from the cellular provider for a shiny new phone at a greatly reduced cost or sometimes free, in return for agreeing to an extended service contract. Nowadays, however, many people are deciding that the fancy features of the most recent smartphones are not worth their exorbitant prices. (Do you REALLY have to pay $800 for your phone to recognize your face in order for it to unlock?) As a result, many users are simply buying outright a used or refurbished slightly older phone and signing up for a considerably cheaper cellular plan. You can read https://tinyurl.com/ycxtu8e4 for a lighthearted discussion of this moneysaving trend.