BUSINESS, Computers, Microsoft, TECH, WHATS GOING ON

Change of Screenery

technology2I have owned a iMac for five years now.  At the time, I figured that if nothing else, the improved hardware would be worth the expense.  It has been a pleasant experience for the most part…mainly because I installed Windows 7 onto it.  Thus, I don’t have to deal with OS X unless I really have to…like when I’m publishing an e-book to the iBookstore.

OS X is nice, but when I need to Get Things Done, I find myself gravitating back to Windows.  I also own a Windows laptop and thanks to The Cloud (or OneDrive to be more precise), I can easily keep my files in sync between my various devices instead of relying on the ol’ ‘sneaker-net’ like I used to back in my netbook days.

I will concede that the Mac is good at certain things, like organizing pictures and iTunes and all that good ‘not-computery’ stuff.  I also like that Time Machine keeps a full backup of my system in the event that something awful happens.  While I (fortunately) haven’t put it to the test yet, I have faith that it will work as advertised.  Sadly, my lack of being in OS X means I’ve accumulated quite a few pictures that I haven’t file away yet for safe keeping or kept very well organized, for that matter.

And so I have decided to start using my Mac, as, well, a Mac.  My 12″ laptop will serve as my ‘desktop PC’ and so I will be able to finally get all my pictures organized and keep all of my music in one place for what that’s worth.  Of course, when there’s Serious Work to be done, I’ll be booting back into Windows 7.  I’ve even gone as far to consider buying a new Windows desktop for the first time in a number of years.

Windows 8 makes that proposition a little trickier than it should be, but not for the reason you might suspect.  As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t mind Windows 8; the 8.1 update has made it much more usable with a keyboard and mouse (TIP: On the Start Screen, click the arrow pointing down to easily find all of your programs).

My issue is that I kinda want a touch screen.  The Metro/Modern user interface is made for touch and having (literally!) poked at Windows 8 on Windows tablets I’ve grown to appreciate it for what it is.  The issue is that touchscreen monitors are expensive and ‘all in one’ computers generally don’t have as much horsepower as a tower.  While I am not a big gamer, when I’m rendering a video it would be nice to not have to wait a half hour for it to finish.  There’s also something about having some  BIG IRON sitting under my desk chugging away at Important Stuff.

I’m tempted to build a new PC from scratch, but part of me says ‘I don’t have the time’ and the cost savings isn’t quite as dramatic as it used to be.  In the end, I may end up going to Ye Olde Eletronics Store to plunk down a few c-notes for a tower.  While I may lose nerd points for that, I’m pretty sure I don’t have many left after buying that iMac in the first place. 😉

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Apple, CAMPING, Computers, CONS, Microsoft, RANDOMIZER9.COM, Uncategorized, Writing

I Wish I Knew How To Quit You, Laptop!

technology2I have a trip planned for this weekend (to Furry Fiesta) and as I begin to pack, I ask myself the same question that I do every trip:

Do I bring my laptop along for the ride?

I have a smartphone and a tablet and while they both do a decent enough job at keeping me connected to my precious data out in the cloud, I always find myself going back to Ye Olde Laptop.  I always need to have it with me whether I’m going to visit my folks or I’m at a convention or yes, even camping.

The most obvious advantage to the laptop over mobile devices is the screen size.  My smartphone has a 4-inch screen and I have no desire to get a huge phone (or ‘phablet’ as self-important tech writers call them).  The iPad mini is okay at 7.9 inches, but even then, a good chuck of that gets eaten away by the on-screen keyboard, and I have no desire to upgrade to a full-sized iPad or fork out a c-note for a decent keyboard accessory.  Speaking of keyboards…

The second obvious advantage of a laptop is the presence of a full-sized keyboard.  More importantly, especially to me, as a writer, the laptop keyboard actually has all of the keys.  I’ll never forget how flabbergasted I was when I was merrily typing away on my iPad mini’s Microsoft Office program and discovered that there was NO TAB KEY.  WHAT. THE. FRAK.

Speaking of ‘having everything,’ the most important benefit of having a laptop is that it has Windows.  While iOS and Windows Phone can do lots of stuff, neither one can do everything.  Even the Microsoft Office app on Windows Phone feels kind of half-assed (no tab key there, either *sob*) so if I need to do Serious Things I need to have Windows.

Finally, for all my tech knowledge and willingness to try new technologies, I tend to stick to old habits to a certain degree.  I still use a desktop, rarely watch video on mobile devices, prefer to get media on physical discs and still have a checkbook.  Based on that, it looks as if I’m stuck lugging around my old faithful 14″ Toshiba for the near future.

Or maybe not, I see there are Windows 8.1 tablets out now.  Hmm… 😉

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Computers, JUST SAYING, RANDOMIZER9.COM, TECH, Ubuntu, WHATS GOING ON, WHISKEY-TANGO-FOXTROT

Eww-buntu

wtflinux

Dafuq?

Well, that didn’t take long.  Within 24 hours of installing Ubuntu (see previous post) onto my laptop, I found myself reaching for my Windows 7 restore discs.  While wasn’t bad, it possessed one major flaw that kept it from staying on my laptop: it was horribly inefficient and significantly cut down its battery life.

I found that to be odd because one of the things I distinctly remembered about Linux was that it was efficient, but the fan on my laptop just wouldn’t stop spinning as I installed programs on it and got re-accustomed to the Ubuntu UI.  While doing so, I had forgotten how convenient it was to have multiple desktops.

Getting back to my main point, running Ubuntu reduced the laptop’s battery life from 4-5 hours on Windows to under 3…and that was with Wi-Fi turned off.  While  I was processing that unfortunate turn of events, my screen started to glitch.  This was a fresh install with all updates installed and barely any additional software on it.  As awful as Windows supposedly is, I’ve NEVER had something like that happen so quickly.  I have to say, I was very disappointed with the experience.

Already annoyed with the battery performance, I (metaphorically) flipped the table, opened the laptop’s DVD drive and inserted the first restore disc.

Ahh.  That new Windows smell!

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BUSINESS, Computers, JUST SAYING, Microsoft, RANDOMIZER9.COM, TECH, TECH SUPPORT, WHATS GOING ON

Closing Windows

technology2I don’t drink alcohol, but it is going to be hard to resist the urge to raise a glass of something on April 8, 2014.  That particular Tuesday is going to be a special day for many of my fellow techies around the world and I have no doubt that many of my I.T. brethren will be celebrating the momentous occasion that takes place on that day.  What is it, you ask?

It is the day that Windows XP finally DIES.

Don’t get me wrong, Windows XP has had a hell of a run since August 2001.  It was a good OS and was definitely a step up from the awful Windows Me that preceded it.   Heck, it was so good Microsoft kept it around when Netbooks came into vogue a few years ago.  Those netbooks and the terrible Windows Vista probably helped to keep it alive probably well past its originally intended expiration date, but all good things must come to an end, so here we are…or at least here we will be in just under seven months.

Windows 7 is goodness and I finally decided to eat my Windows 8 peas, so XP is but a fond memory for me except for when I have to deal with customers that still use it at work.  I can’t give them too much grief, because I still use WinAmp 2.9 and Microsoft Money 2000!  That said, I’ll be happy as a clam when I no longer have to worry about whether users should click on ‘Add/Remove Programs’ or ‘Programs and Features’ in the Control Panel!

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Android, Apple, BUSINESS, Computers, JUST SAYING, Microsoft, Tablets, TECH, WHATS GOING ON

Apple Does Not Like Files

technology2As my iPad mini is my first iOS device, I have had to learn it and adjust to its idiosyncrasies. Some of the new things I’m discovering are good, like the ability to swipe up with four fingers and bring up a list of currently open apps and volume/brightness controls. Of course, there are bad things to discover as well, such as the ‘locked down’ nature of the device. In particular, I was initially miffed that I could not work with files like I could on desktops or Android devices.

I like files. I know how to work with files. I like to make folders for my files and organize them and e-mail them and sort them and rename them and open them and edit them and do all kinds of fun stuff with them.

Apple does not like files.

Apple likes objects. On an abstract level, apps are objects in iOS,not files.  Instead of having files scattered all about, like in Windows or Android, your stuff lives in the app that uses it. If you’re going to work with a picture, you open up Photos, select the picture you want to work with, and get to work. Music lives in iTunes, documents live in Pages, and so on and so forth. The app comes first.

iOS gets irritiating for people like me because unlike Android, where I can get an app like Astro and poke around at the underlying file system, iOS does not let you get ‘under the hood’ at all.  I can’t put stuff where I want it because Apple won’t let me, and coming from a world where files rule and I can do whatever I want to with them, that is frustrating.

Case in point: I use Dropbox to store stories that I am working on. Indeed, one of the first apps I downloaded onto my iPad mini was the Dropbox app.  I also got the Pages word processor because it had totally knocked my socks off on the iPad demo units. Awesome. I quickly learned that Pages does not talk to Dropbox. My file-centric brain then said: “No biggie, I’ll download a copy of my latest story via Dropbox, open it in Pages, do some editing, save my changes, then upload the newest draft back to the cloud. After all, that’s how it had worked on my Acer Iconia Tab A100.”

In response, Pages threw the finger at me and said, “NO SAVING FOR YOU.  You’re going to open the file in Pages and I’ll make a copy there. Its staying there after that, too, because I don’t like Dropbox and I ain’t giving it back.” So I end up with two copies of the story floating around, one in Dropbox and one in Pages. So much for keeping things in sync.

Ultimately, I found a Microsoft Office-compatible app talkd to Dropbox direclty, so that fixed that, but its just one an example of how I have had to work around iOS because it ‘thinks different.’  Its methodology is awesome for end-users because files are icky things and people don’t like dealing with them.  I think its because most folks can’t make the mental leap from objects (like documents, pictures, and music) to files. They can’t wrap their heads around the abstract concept like ‘computer people’ do.

If everything lives in the app, then they don’t have to deal with files at all.  If they want to do something, they open the appropriate app, and everything is there.  Instead of a list of files, they see pictures, songs, and documents, and that’s what they know.

Those of us that are more ‘computery,’ on the other hand, have a few options: muddle around iOS as best we can, jailbreak our devices, or just not bother with it altogether. Unfortunately, I think I’ve taken one step too far into the rabbit-hole, because for all that fuss, I’m still loving my iPad mini…even if it doesn’t want me to have my precious files.

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Books, Computers, CREATIVE, JUST SAYING, RANDOMIZER9.COM, Seven Super-Short Sci-Fi Stories, TECH, Writing

Mac Musings

Buy me now!

I own a 24-inch iMac.  I bought it when I had some extra money on my hands and I wanted to see how ‘the other half’ lived.  I’d also had a Gateway crap out on me after just three years.  The iMac came with Leopard, which I obediently upgraded to Snow Leopard, and I haven’t upgraded OS X since.  Yeah, I know, I’m a terrible iPerson for not shelling out the cash for Lion or Mountain  Lion or Griffin or Hydra or whatever their next update is going to be called, but I have no desire to.  I appreciate that OS X is probably wonderful for people that ‘aren’t into computers,’ but I am not one of those people.

In addition to Snow Leopard, my iMac boots into Windows 7.  To further add insult to injury, I keep a Windows XP virtual machine handy in OS X for when I need to do ‘real’ computer work, because OS X just doesn’t do it for me.

I cut my teeth on MS-DOS 3.1 and remember futzing around with AUTOEXEC.BAT and CONFIG.SYS in order to play Wing Commander.  I remember making a 3.5” bootable floppy with a batch file I wrote called Kenny on it for those inevitable times when I would have to reformat my PC after poking at Windows 98 too many times with a sharp stick.  Plug n’ Play started out as Plug and Pray and we all wondered why we had to reboot our machines after changing the lousy screen resolution.  The Unix lab at the University was for Computer Science majors only and the servers had monitors that were as big as my TV set back home.  I remember the sysadmin telling us to clean out our core dumps when the drives filled up, and one guy being labeled “The JPEG King” because his directory was full of megabytes (yes, MEGABYTES) of porn, which was promptly deleted by the sysadmin.

Good times, and yes, I mean that seriously.  For folks like me, part of the fun of owning a computer is goofing around with it and watching what happens.  I don’t do that much anymore, partially because Windows 7 is pretty darn good, and partially because I’d rather be putting words together instead of spending hours under the virtual hood of my PC.

I completed the final text draft of my next e-book “Seven Super-Short Sci-Fi Stories” a few days ago, and all that remained for me to do was take those words, squash them into an e-book, and upload it to the iBookstore for all to see and buy.  Of course, uploading it into the iBookstore would mean I would have to boot into OS X and send the .epub file to them using Apples super-special uploader program (iTunes Producer) because it, of course, its OS X only.

The first time I had tried to do so for “The Rules of Tech Support,” I encountered a problem with the .epub file I was trying to send.  The file worked just fine in Kindle, worked just fine on Nook and even passed ePub validation, but it just wasn’t good enough for Apple.

Luckily, Apple technical support helped me make my file Apple-friendly and all was well.  I was a little miffed to find out that the problem was that one line was missing from a specific file.  This time, I knew that I had to add that one line before trying to send the file to Apple.  I added the line, recreated the file, and waited for the upload to complete so I could start waiting for someone at Apple to bless it and put it up for sale.

The second time, for “One Sheet Stories” the process went without a hitch, so I was baffled, because this time I got a different error.  Crap.

I sent an error report to Apple, but I knew from previous experience that I was going to have to wait until at least until the next day to get a response.  To Apple’s credit, I always get a response within 24 hours whenever I send error reports, but I wanted my book uploaded now.  On a hunch, I fired up the aforementioned Windows XP virtual machine, did the exact same thing I did in OS X.  I resent the file and was rewarded with success.

While I was happy to have accomplished my goal, I was irked that OS X had failed me where Windows had handled the task with aplomb.  Sadly, if I wish to continue publishing e-books onto the iBookstore, I will need to keep the iMac, but like any good geek, I will always have a backup Windows machine handy.

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Computers, E3, JUST SAYING, RANDOM STOPS, RANDOMIZER9.COM, TECH, Videogames, WHATS GOING ON, WHISKEY-TANGO-FOXTROT

Kicking Tires

Buying cars seems to have changed a little bit since I bought my trusty Dodge Neon back in 2006.  I have been going to dealerships and looking at vehicles for a few weeks now and thus far the salespeople aren’t quite as pushy as I remembered back then.  I’d like to think that the Internet and social media have made it harder for bad dealers and salespeople to get unnoticed.

In any event, I haven’t had to raise my hackles at any pushy salespeople, even though they’re on a hair trigger almost from the moment I leave home to go looking around.  One guy made me wonder, though.

As I was shopping for a new vehicle last Saturday, I happened upon a Ford dealership and pulled in to check out what they had.  A younger gentleman introduced himself and showed me around the vehicle I was considering.  We went out for a test drive and started just talking about stuff.  I made mention of my job as editor of Original-Gamer.com and he made the comment that yeah, he had played World of Warcraft and League of Legends.

I figured, okay, I can talk shop with this guy.  As it turns out he, was either a poser or had been out of the game for way too long.  He asked me what “MUMORPUHGERS” were, barely batted an eye when I mentioned my beta invite to Mists of Pandaeria and didn’t know what E3 was.  Really?

I guess shopping for a car hasn’t changed that much.

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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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Computers, Microsoft, RANDOMIZER9.COM, TECH, WHATS GOING ON

Is Windows Eight Enough?

A pre-beta version of Windows 8 launched last night and so I fired up my desktop and got to downloading.  I remember being very impressed by the Windows 7 pre-release versions, and so I was foaming at the mouth to take the latest from Microsoft for a test drive.

Sadly, I had to go to work the next morning, so I burned the install DVD and went to bed.  As I type this, the installer is almost done running on my laptop and I am eager with anticipation as to the new stuff that will be in this latest version of everyone’s favorite OS.

I’ve been hearing about Windows 8 for awhile, but hadn’t really looked into the new features much.  I heard that some things were being borrowed from Windows Phone, and tha’ts pretty much it.  I hear Windows Phone is really good from the few people that have Windows Phones so perhaps this will be a Good Thing.  That is pretty much the extent of what I know about Windows 8, as I have been deliberately staying in the dark so that I will be (hopefully) pleasantly surprised when I start it up.

In any event, my laptop is almost done rebooting so we’ll see how it goes!

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