Monthly Archives: July 2015

Build a website with these free online tools

Ever wanted to create your own website, but don’t know where to start? These days, you can have a website up and running in a matter of minutes using simple, freely available online tools.

(Image courtesy of Rock1997/Wikimedia Commons)
(Image courtesy of Rock1997/Wikimedia Commons)

First, why do you want a website?

Maybe you have a business you want to promote online, or maybe you just want a place to publish your thoughts and opinions. Whatever the case may be, consider why you want to make a website. Knowing the purpose of your site will determine which service you choose.

For example, if you’re a photography enthusiast who wants a place to post your photos, you may want to consider starting a blog. On the other hand, if you want to run a small business and have customers fill out forms, purchase products, etc., you may be better served by a more professional site.

The options

Blogs are simple websites used by individuals to post both text and multimedia, normally on a regular, recurring basis. Although they come in many shapes and sizes, some of the best general-purpose blogging platforms include the following:

WordPress.comWordPress is an excellent free option for creating a blog. WordPress offers a large number of custom themes that completely change the look of your site. You can tailor these to the kind of site you want to create.

BloggerBlogger is Google’s blogging platform. It provides simple, easy-to-use tools that will have you posting content in no time. Blogger is a bit less flexible than WordPress, but it’s also free, so you don’t have to commit a lot to try it out.

For a more fully-featured website, you may find the simplicity of the aforementioned blogging platforms a bit limiting. The following options come at a price, but provide you with more granular control over your site:

Squarespace – Squarespace offers websites for a number of different purposes, complete with your own domain name, email addresses, and a number of other features that might appeal to a budding entrepreneur.

Web Hosting – You can rent server space from companies like GoDaddy, HostGator, and others, then build your website from scratch. The easiest way to get up and running is to install WordPress (different from WordPress.com, which was mentioned above) or another content management system. This option comes with a domain name, administrative control over many aspects of your site, and much more.

-Jesse

Advertisements

Speed up your computer with an SSD

What’s an SSD?

If you’re buying a new computer or looking to upgrade an existing one, you may come across the term SSD. An SSD (which stands for “solid-state drive”) is a device that stores data on your computer, much like a mechanical hard drive. A hard drive is where your computer’s operating system is installed, as well as any personal documents, pictures, music, etc.

An example of an SSD (Image courtesy of D-Kuru/Wikimedia Commons).
An example of an SSD (Image courtesy of D-Kuru/Wikimedia Commons).

A traditional hard drive stores data on a spinning magnetic disk. While this is a cheap way to store lots of data—hard drives are currently much cheaper than SSDs when looked at in terms of cost per gigabyte of storage—mecahnical hard drives are susceptible to damage if dropped.

SSDs do the same job as traditional hard drives, but instead of using a spinning disk, they use flash memory, similar to USB flash drives. There are no moving parts, which reduces the risk of accidental damage. Because of their flash memory, SSDs are also much faster than mechanical hard drives.

A computer with an SSD will boot up much quicker than it would with a traditional hard drive. Programs will load faster, and any tasks that involve reading or writing data will be performed more rapidly. In fact, according to many tech journalists and websites, an SSD is the best way to improve the performance of your computer.

How to Get an SSD

You can get an SSD in two ways: Buy a new computer that comes preinstalled with one, or purchase one yourself to add to an existing computer. The latter option is by far cheaper than buying a completely new PC, but it does require you to open up your computer and connect the new drive to your system.

To find new computers with SSDs, pay attention to a PC’s technical specifications. SSDs are normally found in high-end laptops, but they can also be found in smaller ultra-portable devices such as Chromebooks.

If you’re interested in adding an SSD to your computer, refer to the manual for your PC. You should find a guide on how to open up and replace your current hard drive. If you have a desktop, this will be very simple. It can be more difficult to work on a laptop, but with patience, a screwdriver, and a willingness to follow instructions, the average person should be able to pull it off.

The following video from Kingston provides a basic tutorial on how to install an SSD, in this case alongside an existing hard drive in a desktop PC:

You’ll also have to either clone your hard drive or completely reinstall Windows on your new SSD. These are both fairly advanced tasks, so only undertake this option if you’re comfortable with it. (Refer to this article for more information on installing Windows if you don’t have the installation disc—many new laptops don’t come with one anymore.) And as always, remember to back up the data from your old hard drive to avoid losing personal documents.

What to Look for in an SSD

If you’re shopping for an SSD, there are two main factors to consider: Storage capacity and price. Storage capacity for SSDs is measured in gigabytes (GB), with the largest SSDs topping out at one terabytes (TB; equivalent to 1,000 GB). Samsung has also recently announced 2 TB SSDs will be available to consumers.

Determine your current disk usage by looking at the size of the C:\ drive in Windows Explorer.
Determine your current disk usage by looking at the size of the C:\ drive in Windows Explorer.

To figure out how large of an SSD you’ll need to buy, determine how much data you currently have on your computer. The easiest way to do this is to go to the Start Menu > Computer and look how full your computer’s C:\ drive is. Consider deleting unnecessary files or programs to get a more accurate representation of how much space you’re currently using.

It’s a good idea to give your SSD room to breathe, so if you currently have 100 GB on your computer, it would be a better idea to spring for a larger 250 GB model rather than a smaller 120 GB one.

Once you’ve determined what size SSD you’re in the market for, go to online retailers like Amazon or Newegg for the best prices. Because SSDs are a newer technology, you’ll generally pay more per gigabyte than you will for a mechanical hard drive. As of the time of writing, 120 GB SSDs have fallen into the $60-$80 range, while 250 GB models have ducked below $100. To put that into perspective, just two years ago, 250 GB SSDs were in the $200 range—twice as expensive!

Prices continue to fall, with rumors that 250 GB SSDs will reach as low as $70 later this year. When it comes to newer technologies, waiting always saves you money.

Manufacturers such as Samsung, Crucial, Kingston, and Intel are among the more popular, but there are a large number of brands to choose from. Read professional reviews on tech websites to get a sense of what’s good, and scan customer reviews for trends that might indicate a particular model’s quality.

-Jesse