Apple, BUSINESS, JUST SAYING, RANDOMIZER9.COM, TECH, TECH SUPPORT, WHISKEY-TANGO-FOXTROT, WORK

Upgrade or Die!

YOU GET NOTHING! YOU LOSE! GOOD DAY, SIR!

There are many common terms that have different meanings when put into the context of computers.  To most people, “monitor” means to keep an eye on something, but to us IT Guys, its a display device.  “Legacy” is another one of those terms; in the computer world, it is a nice way of saying “obsolete.”  I learned this at a previous support job where the company pushed and pushed for its customers to upgrade (and spend more money on) the Latest and Greatest version of their software, but there were plenty of hangers-on that were content to use older versions.  That’s the way it was, it worked, and they liked it.

Eventually, a new service pack or new version of Windows would come along that would completely break the software, and there wasn’t much else we could tell those guys besides “well, you need to upgrade.”  The customers would get mad and stomp their feet and demand that we fix it right away, but 95% of the time, that wasn’t going to happen.  If the customer didn’t upgrade, they were out of luck.  On a certain level, I can understand the desire to not change something that works (heck, I still use Microsoft Money 2000 and WinAmp 2.9), but at the same time, nearly all computer software will eventually go off into the night of obsolescence because eventually the developer will decide that it isn’t worth the expense of continuing development and support.

One common customer response I would hear (and still do) to this situation was that we were awful people that wanted them to spend more money.  To that, I say: I’m sorry, but this is a BUSINESS, it exists to create a product, provide a service, and make money.  If we don’t make money by releasing new products and lose money by devoting too many resources to old software, we go out of business and all lose our jobs.  Yeah, it royally sucks for users (I myself had a printer that was ‘orphaned’ when Windows Vista came around) but it is a necessary part of the software “circle of life.”

At least that’s how it should work, but instead, many companies insist on continuing to support outdated software, and continue to sell it in many cases.  The end result is that tech support gets driven bonkers trying to support the old stuff on top of all the new stuff that comes out and it can get overwhelming.  It also results in poorer customer service because techs have to take extra customer time to dig into knowledgebases and ask senior techs about programs that were written for Windows 95.

This is one of the few things I love about Apple.  Instead of letting software linger around and stink up the place like old cheese, they have the cojones to tell their customers that the bar is closing, its lights out, so go to the newer nicer bar down the street or go home.  They did it when they nuked support for ‘classic’ Mac applications in Leopard, and again by no longer supporting PowerPC applications in Lion.  In both cases they waited until four years until after the product was discontinued before pulling the plug and did not hesitate to do so.

In the short term, yes, some customers will be upset and some will go to competitors, but in the long-term, the company can continue to move forward as opposed to having the dead weight of zombie software hanging around their necks like an albatross.  I guess we can put this in the “painfully obvious observation that senior management never gets” file.  I can’t wait to see what happens when Windows XP support goes away in 2014…or maybe I can.

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Android, Apple, RANDOMIZER9.COM, Tablets, TECH

Tablet Thoughts

As I work on my Acer Iconia TAB A100 review and read the headlines coming out of the Consumer Electronics Show, I keep hearing about why Android tablets haven’t quite caught on. I keep hearing the same arguments: Android is fragmented, Android tablets are all the same, blah blah blah. What I don’t hear anyone talking about is how overpriced some of these Android tablets are.

Any tablet that costs $499 or more is not going to sell unless it is an iPad.  Period.

The iPad is the ‘gold standard’ in tablets right now, and the least expensive one costs $499.   If a competing product cannot be as good as an iPad then it has to cost less, or else that person will just buy an iPad.  Android is nice, but it is not as easy to use as iOS.

Keep in mind that I am referring to the average person when I make these statements.  Nerds such as myself are willing to live with a learning curve and some obfuscation.  We like figuring things out, we’re just funny that way.  The average person isn’t as patient, though, they want to turn a device on and be able to do things from the get-go.  That is why iOS is as successful as it is.  Granted, there is a lot that you can’t do with it, which is frustrating to nerds like myself, but the majority of people tend to not care about stuff like HDMI ports and memory card slots.

I think Amazon did two smart things with the Kindle Fire: first, they sold it for cheaper than the iPad, but more importantly, they didn’t make an iPad. The Fire is significantly smaller than an iPad, and doesn’t look like one when you start it up.  Sure, if you’re a nerd you can argue about how yes, its really Android under the hood and does mostly the same things as an iPad and all that, but to the average person it is different.

Sadly, the bargain prices for the Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet are going to make it harder for other 7-inch tablets to gain any traction unless they drop in price as well, so it may not necessarily be a good thing for Android in general.  Then again, the functionality they leave out is fairly significant, so it may not necessarily be a bad thing, either.

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Apple, Computers, JUST SAYING, RANDOMIZER9.COM, Tablets, TECH, WHATS GOING ON

Why a Tablet?

I have been thinking about getting a tablet as of late, going as far as to even take one for a test drive not too long ago. Of course, the question then becomes “Why?”  Here are my reasons for wanting to “small-grade” down to a tablet:

I DON’T REALLY DO A LOT WITH MY LAPTOP

When I am on the road with my laptop, I increasingly find myself either doing stuff inside of a web browser or in Microsoft Word.  I don’t play games with it, I don’t do any programming (yet!) and except for the occasional trip to YouTube, I don’t watch very many movies or videos.  All of the “big stuff,” such as editing audio or video, I do on my desktop, which has plenty of horsepower and a nice, big 24-inch screen.

PHONE TOO SMALL, LAPTOP TOO BIG

I have owned smartphones for about four years now, with my first one being a Windows Mobile 6 phone that I had before my current Samsung Moment running Android.  They work okay, but their screens and keyboards are just too small to type on for extended periods of time.  I am due for an upgrade soon and am leaning towards a phone with a larger screen, but even then I don’t think that they will not be big enough to use for any extended length of time.  As I mentioned in my Vizio Tablet review, I tend to carry a lot of crap in my laptop bag, which even at 12-inches, makes more cumbersome to lug around than it should be.  A tablet, on the other hand, would be more usable than a phone because of its smaller screen, and more portable than a laptop.  It should be the best of both worlds.

INSTANT-ON

Ideas don’t wait, so when something pops in my head I want to be able to jot it down before it gets lost with all of the other stuff being tossed around in the clothes dryer that is my brain.  While Windows 7 is nice, it does take a while to boot up and shut down.  With a tablet, I can turn it on at the touch of a button, type down whatever Big Idea I have, put it back into sleep mode and then get back to using the crapper or whatever it was I was doing when inspiration struck.

BACK TO A DUMB PHONE

These days, Wi-Fi is widespread enough to the point where it’s available nearly everywhere you go.  For those times when WiFi isn’t available, I have a pre-paid MiFi device which works well, even in the hole in the Internet that is my hometown.  Since an Android tablet can to do everything that my phone can do, there doesn’t seem to be much point in carrying an Android phone.  Thus, I should be able to ‘downgrade’ my phone to a more basic model that does not require a data plan which should save a few bucks in the long term, especially since Sprint is bumping up the price of the their smartphone plans another 10 bucks.

So there you have it, four reasons I will be soon purchasing an Android tablet.  I’m looking forward to having the near-ultimate in portability in the palm of my hand!  Move over, laptop!

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Apple, Computers, TECH, Videogames

Apple is the new Nintendo (which is the new Apple!)

Somedays it is easy to believe that I have waken up in Bizarro-world.  Apple recently decided that the iPod Touch was going to be a game machine.  Nintendo turned the DS into a music player with the DSi, (using Apple’s codec, of all things!)  In addition, Nintendo announced the DS XL not even a year after the DSi’s release.

What’s next, a new version of Windows that actually works?

Oh…

I have thought of Nintendo as being the “Apple” of the video game industry for some time.  Much like Apple, they march to their own beat and don’t worry about what “the other guys” are doing.  Sometimes it works out great, sometimes they trip over their own innovations, and sometimes they are just too far ahead of the curve for their own good.  At the end of the day, they make lots of money and have lots of die-hard fans.

Apple, of course, has long been known for “thinking different,” as well as for Steve Jobs, overpriced hardware, constantly re-releasing new iterations of said hardware with minor updates, and not being very interested in gaming.  At the end of the day, they also make lots of money and have lots of die-hard fans.

Thus, it came as a surprise to see Apple take a page out of Nintendo’s book, as they touted the iPod Touch as their new portable “game machine.”  Apple was also pretty blatant in promoting their device as being superior to Nintendo and Sony’s portable offerings.  The beauty of Apple’s approach is that Apple itself does not have to make any of the games themselves.

Nintendo, for its part, recently announced the DS XL, a curious move which defies traditional gadget logic.  After all, things are supposed to get smaller over time, not bigger!  In fact, the 4-inch screen of the XL nearly brings it to par with Sony’s PSP.

Speaking of Sony, Lord only knows what they’re thinking…I mean, seriously, $250 for the PSPgo?

For all of the hype, I don’t see games being a big part of Apple’s overall strategy; instead they will be another revenue stream just like apps and music.  The games themselves have been mostly casual affairs, the ‘big budget’ titles have come from EA and their ilk…as if they needed another platform to release Madden onto.

It remains to be seen whether Nintendo will be adding other multimedia functions to take advantage of the DS XL’s bigger screen.  While a video player would be much appreciated by DS users, it won’t contribute to Nintendo’s bottom line, so I doubt we will see that happening anytime soon.

While Nintendo and Apple have taken pages out of each other’s business plans, the fundamental core of what both companies will remain the same, so long as the DS and iPod continue to be money-makers.

I suppose Bizarro-world isn’t such a bad place to be after all.

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Apple, TECH

Mac and Me – Networking

For the first time in awhile, I have two computers at home: my new iMac, and my HP Mini 1000.  In addition to being my “on the road” computer, the Mini comes in handy for when I want to do something PC-ish but don’t feel like waiting for the iMac to boot into Vista.  I have been using a 1GB SD card to transfer files from one to the other, which works okay, but I’d like to think I can improvise something better than the old “sneaker-net.”

Prior to obtaining the iMac, I made an observation to one of my Apple-loving friends that Apple had a tendency to “make the easy things easier, but the hard things harder.”  I had yet to experience this in my thus far, but it came out bright and clear when trying to get my PC and Mac to talk to each other over the network.

The Mini had been set up for sharing with the Gateway prior to its demise, and so I figured the Mac should be able to see it.  Of course, I had to be able to find the option to connect to another computer first.  This took much longer than it should have.  Going by my not-quite-eliminated Windows instincts, I went to System Preferences and selected “Network.”  I was then greeted with general network setttings, none of which I thought needed to poke at in order to get this to work.  I then figured I should use the Help facility to find out where the option was hiding.

My Google-fu is strong (or at least I like to think so), but  my Apple-fu is not.  After typing in quite a few search terms into Spotlight, I couldn’t get a satisfactory answer, so I found it on the tubes.  Curiously enough, the option was in the Finder, I guess I haven’t quite picked up on Apple’s moon-logic quite yet.

Once I typed in my PCs address, I could see its files.  It turns out that it was pretty simple after all, once I found the right option.

Getting the PC to see the Mac was another matter entirely.  I doubted that I would actually use it, but I was feeling good after getting the Mac side to work.

That small victory appeared to be a fluke as I tried to get Windows XP to see the Mac.  Everything LOOKED okay, but it just wasn’t working.  I Googled and Googled to no avail.  Apparently there used to be an “Allow Windows user to login from Windows” option that was removed somewhere down the way.  Yeah, thanks, Apple.

I was all but ready to throw in the towel and then I realized that XP was probably looking for a domain name and I had not set one up on the iMac.  Given Apple’s tendency to do everything for you, I figured it had been already set and thus I had to find it.  The “Network” option under System Preferences turned out to be what I was looking for, and after giving it my current domain name, my stubborn PC finally acknowledged the Mac’s presence.

While I was eventually able to get everything to work, it was certainly more trouble than I had anticipated.  Apple’s help (both local and online) proved to be pretty useless because I was not on the same frequency as they are.  Perhaps with time the Apple way of thinking will permeate my Windows-hardened skull, but for now I have to stumble along.

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Apple, Computers, TECH

Mac and Me – Not Quite A Mighty Mouse

I like buttons.  They’re fun to push, and they usually make something that I want to happen, happen!  Heck, a standard keyboard (a standard PC keyboard anyway) has over 100 of them, whee!  Apple, on the other hand, does not like buttons.

Seriously;  the one button on the iMac is hidden in the back, the mouse that came with it does not appear to have any at all, and  I’m sure that somewhere within the bowels of Apple, some engineer is scratching their head trying to figure out a way to get rid of the single button on the iPhone’s face.

As I mentioned last week, the Mac’s Mighty Mouse (seriously, that’s what Apple calls it) is the one part of the Mac experience that irritates me the most.  It lacks a distinct right click button and refuses to acknowledge my futile attempts at right-clicking.  After another week of missed right-clicks and re-right-clicks I finally replaced it with a $20 Logitech wireless mouse.  Its colored black, so it ruins the aesthetic of my workspace somewhat, but I’ll gladly take functionality over fashion.  Actually, I’ll take anything over fashion, but that’s a discussion for another day.

I tossed the Mighty Mouse into my netbook bag where it will ruin the aesthetic of my HP Mini 1000, and thus, the balance of the universe is maintained!

Once I adjusted to the Logitech’s heft, all was well.  Now if I could just figure out a way to get my keyboard shortcuts back, everything would be PERFECT.  I may also give Safari another shot, I’m hearing good things about the beta.

It has been two weeks since I took the plunge and my Mac has been treating me pretty good so far.  I’ll boot into Vista occasionally to play a game or work with Microsoft Money, but otherwise all is well with Mac and Me!

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Apple, Computers, TECH

Mac and Me – One Week Later

My new PC-free desktop!

It has been a week since I took the Apple plunge, and I my iMac/OS X experience has been pretty good so far (the one big fark-up was my fault).  I moved the files from my PC’s old hard drive last night, so its time to “move in” to the Mac for good.  My thoughts so far:

SCREEN

I have to start by talking about the iMac’s screen, it is gorgeous. I’m not sure what is different about it, but everything just looks better; more sharper, more vibrant.  The 24″ of real estate is a dream to work on.  Why have multiple monitors cluttering the desk when one honkin’ HUGE one will do?  I have yet to use the camera and mic as of yet, but I’m looking forward to trying them out.

The DVD drive is a located a little farther back than I would like, I’ve already dropped a disc trying to find the slot, and the occasional not-quite-perfectly-flat disc can get a little noisy, but that’s true for all DVD drives, so I can’t knock it too much for that.

The built-in speakers are the worst part of the screen/CPU/whatever Apple calls it.  I’m no audiophile, but they sound pretty bad to me, I quickly plugged in my basic 3-piece Altec Lansing set and Huey Lewis sounds just as good as he did on my PC.

KEYBOARD

The small keyboard freaked me out at first, especially since I like using the numeric keypad.  It is just bigger than the keyboard on my HP Mini 1000 netbook, with more space inbetween the keys.  The action on the keyboard is nice and typing is pretty quiet. I’ve had to re-learn typing shortcuts, due to the lack of HOME/END and PGUP/PGDN keys, but it hasn’t been too painful.  That cord is just too damned short, though.  I was taught that it was a bad idea to be sitting so close to a computer screen.  A USB extension cord fixed that problem easily enough, and I placed a USB hub on the end of it, because you can never have too many ports.

MIGHTY MOUSE

The mouse took some getting used to, particularly due to the lack of distinct buttons.  The Mighty Mouse is not Apple’s worst mouse ever (that distinction goes to the “hockey puck”) but the right-click is pretty finicky, and the “4th button” (pressed by squeezing the indentations you see on the sides) all but drove me bonkers.  I don’t exactly have basketball-player sized hands, but I am accustomed to having my hand covering up the entire mouse.  At random intervals this would activate the 4th button and I would be yanked out of whatever I was doing and taken into Expose, which shows you all open windows at once.  Very distracting, especially when I’m trying to beat my Bejeweled Blitz high score.  Disabling Expose fixed that problem, and I’m not sure how useful I’m really going to find the 4th button.  Much to my surprise, I have had no problems with the teeny scroll ball.  If worse comes to worse, I’ll drop $20 on a new Logitech mouse.

PERFORMANCE

I haven’t really put the iMac through its paces yet (i.e. video editing) but so far it seems to handle multitasking quite well.  As I type this into Firefox, CDs are being ripped into iTunes and I am also IMing a friend.  Everything runs without any hesitations or hiccups so I guess that’s pretty good.

OVERALL EXPERIENCE

I have to say, the Mac life is pretty good.  I have yet to experience any of the frustrations that I have long considered to be the “facts of life” of using computers:

No more defragging, no more anti-virus, no more anti-spyware, no more hunting for old driver CDs, no more wondering why the CPU fan is still spinning even though the computer is in sleep mode, no more long boot times, no more waiting for that last program to close when I’m shutting down, no more wondering why flash drives and memory cards won’t unmount even though they aren’t being used, no more wondering if removing that startup program or changing that Registry entry is going to blow the whole thing up, and no more farking annual re-installations of Windows!

I plug in my camera, and up comes iPhoto.  I plug in my printer, and a minute later, I can print.  I drag an external drive to the Trash to eject it, and it unmounts.  Stuff just works! Heck, even Windows Vista works well now that I have enough horsepower to make it happy.

While I’m not sure I will do everything “The Mac Way” I’m looking forward to spending less time maintaining my computer, and more time actually DOING stuff.

After all, isn’t that the whole point of having a computer?

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Apple, Computers, TECH

Mac and Me – VistaMac!

As it turned out, I had screwed up my Mac by trying to install a version of Windows that could not “see” the newly created Boot Camp partition.  Thus, my retail boxed copy of XP was pretty much useless; I would need an XP Service Pack 2 disc.

Fortunately, I had one handy that I “borrowed” from one of my previous employers *evil grin*  Sadly, it would not accept the retail license key I had, so I had to punt and install Vista instead.

My previous experiences with Vista were less than pleasant, but then again I was installing it on a two-year old machine.  Vista just was not happy running on my Gateway’s single-core CPU and 1GB of RAM.   Even after I bumped up the machine’s RAM to 2GB it plodded along, and I could hear the hard drive constantly crunching away while I computed.

I hoped that running it on more capable hardware would provide a better experience.  I figured it should be happy running on a 2.66Ghz Intel Core 2 Duo with 4GB of RAM.  Sure enough, everything went well except for having to sit for about two hours downloading and installing various updates.

I wonder if at some point does it just become cheaper to mail everyone update CDs?  Bandwidth ain’t cheap!

Anyways, once the updates were done and the Mac drivers (and the anti-virus…sigh) were installed, Vista ran like a dream.  After I got Vista up and running, it was really late, so I couldn’t do much else.  Next, I will transfer my PC files over from the Gateway’s old hard drive onto the Mac.

That’s when things should get really interesting!

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Apple, Computers, TECH

Mac and Me – Just Like Starting Over…

Well, THAT was a close one…apparently I got a little too button-happy during the Boot Camp process and farked up my iMac’s hard drive…oops.  The fact that I read ahead in the Boot Camp instructions just a teensy may have contributed as well.

Luckily, I found a solution after digging around Apple’s support website for a bit.  I just have to reformat the hard drive and reinstall OS X, which should be done about the time I wake up tomorrow…argh.

Despite the setback, I intend to try Boot Camp again, hopefully the second attempt will go better (frankly, I don’t see how it could go worse).  Nothing lost but time.

I had taken the liberty of not deleting the pictures from my camera in the event that something went Horribly Horribly Wrong.  It probably says something about me that I planned for something going HHW, but hey, learning the hard way is still learning, so onward and upward!

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