Tag: Tech

Windows Community

As a matter of profession and interest, I have always tried to keep current on both side of the Great Computer Divide. I have Windows running with my Mac at home. I support both and I’m fluent in both operating systems.

I try to keep up on the latest developments, ongoing issues, and a running list of interesting applications or ones that play nice across the divide.

Empty seats http://www.gratisography.com/

Empty seats http://www.gratisography.com/

And while the Mac is seemingly in a class by itself in terms of the quality and quantity of excellent software available for it, Windows is catching up. The biggest thing the Mac App Store ever did was to collect all the great applications in one place so the normal user could find and use them.

Windows is on its way there and given a few years, may have a competitive store. For now, seeking out great Windows applications is more difficult because there is no one go-to place to find them all.

Technibble is a one-stop shop for PC techs. I’ve found most of my tools from the site and it’s a great resource for all things related to computer repair and troubleshooting.

Another post place I refer to is Scott Hanselman’s Ultimate Developer and Power Users Tool List for Windows. It’s been a couple of years since he wrote one. But he just published his list for 2014.

While I am not a Windows developer, his list of Power User resources is second to none. It’s well worth the bookmark. I’ve found that even if it didn’t have the answer I was looking for at the time, I will often return to it and find something to fill a need I have later.

Thomas Brand got me thinking about it this morning. He makes the point in his excellent post Banished to Bootcamp.

I wish more technology enthusiasts would do the same. Using the product you love is not enough. You must first banish yourself to the alternative before you can confirm your beliefs.

Where are the great Windows writers? Maybe I’ve spent too much time in the Mac world so I know that circle better.

I know Paul Thurrott‘s out there. The podnutz network has some good Windows shows. But they’re for repairing and maintaining Windows. I don’t want to learn how to repair Windows.

Writemonkey and Haroopad are good markdown editors. Notepad2 one of my first changes to Windows once I get it installed. SyncBack is a wonderful file backup/sync tool and Scup recently filled a wish I had to take a screenshot and upload with one click. I should be better about writing up these finds and I intend to in the new year talk more about what I use and what I’ve found to do somthing I wanted ot needed.

I’m tuned into a good set of Mac power users who share tools and tips and tricks. But where are their Windows counterparts? Are we all slogging through the tech support trenches without the time or desire to write-up our finds? That’s certainly how I feel many days.

Choosing a Platform

Choosing a platform

Tonight I read Gnorb’s article on how he views the smartphone landscape. The problem with choosing a smartphone is no longer as simple as choosing the phone and what the phone can do for you.

With the major players producing tablets, integration into that ecosystem is something to consider. In addition, there is the possibly integration with the computer of choice sitting on your desk or on your lap.

Google Android

Android as a platform has unlimited options, choices and freedom. Android is shopping mall. It offers a variety of wares at prices all across the board and you can get exactly what you want at the price you want to pay.

Android also struggles with fragmentation and being forgotten a year after its release. When I had an Android phone my problem was there was always a bigger, better, more amazing Android phone being released the next week.

Every. Single. Week.

Apple iOS

Apple’s platform is the opposite of Android. Apple is the high-end boutique. It offers a couple of variations on a theme but overall, the quality is high and the choice is small.

Where Apple shines is control. It controls the vertical, it controls the horizontal. To use Apple products is to not just use a single product but to play in Apple’s playground and live in their world. Apple has built an experience.

Because of this totalitarian control, Apple is able to offer longer support and a consistent experience across all the devices in their playground. Apple’s control wrinkles the noses of those who feel there is not enough freedom across the platform.

Apple’s control also assures nearly no malicious applications are released to the platform and they have safe guards in place to resolve any issues that may arise.

Microsoft Windows Phone

The last Windows Phone I used was a disaster running Windows Phone 6.5 which was basically Windows XP crammed into a smartphone body. It came with a stylus and extreme frustration.

Since then, they’re built a respectable platform and have embraced Apple’s control to make the hardware and software which should help the platform. I haven’t used or had experience with any of the new phones so that’s as much as I’ll say for the platform as I don’t feel it fair to talk about a platform I’ve not used.


So what is a consumer to do? Buy into the Apple iLifestyle? You’ll pay a hefty price but will be rewarded with multi-year support and a consistent ecosystem. You’ll also be subject to the whims of the big red fruit and their seemingly arbitrary removal of support for features in older hardware. The tight integration between the mobile and computer platform can be real benefit to those living in both. However, if you only use one or the other, there is a lot of missing value.

What about the Open Android platform? There are phone sizes, speeds and carriers for everyone. There are a vast array of tablets. There isn’t a desktop companion but they play decently with the big players. The initial price is low but quality is all over the place from excellent to appalling. The overall lack of support could mean your shiny new toy get abandoned a year later and never see another update.

Then there is Windows phone which has some real potential. Microsoft is putting together a cloud-based ecosystem and is betting big on Windows 8 which features a lot of integration and visual similarity with their Windows Phones.

My experiences

I owned an original Motorola Droid. I was very happy with it though the lack of support from Motorola was disappointing. I had to root the phone to install an Android Operating System update after Verizon claimed the phone could not support it. There was also a large gap in the availability of applications in the earlier days of Android.

Many things were iOS only and Android support was more promised than delivered on. This was before the Amazon Android store and Google’s integrated Play store. This was before Android was a household name and more the domain of nerds and Blackberry refugees.

After the Droid, I got an iPhone 4 which is the phone I still use today. The instant upgrade in camera and software quality was welcomed. At the time I had a Mac laptop so the integration between phone and computer was a welcomed change, since there was no good way to sync media to Android and DoubleTwist was just being released. Though I used the Droid as my phone and primary device, I had an iPod Touch for all my music because Android was so frustrating to use.

I had an Android in the dark days of the platform and it has come a long way since then. However, it still has many of the same issues as it did when I had the Droid. Specifically, the lack of support from carriers after purchase, lack of OS updates to hardware that can handle it, the fragmentation meaning not every phone can run every app, or run it well and the constant New Big Thing means support quickly gets forgotten for the phone you choose in weeks instead of years.

What works for you

What is comes down to is what works for you. What is the best choice for what you wan to do. Are you a writer? Are you a photographer? Are you a technologist?

What phone best fits your lifestyle and what are you going to enjoy using for the next few years since most of us can’t afford to get a new device every year.

What I have

I have the iPhone 4. My contact is up in December, though I am eligible for an upgrade now. I am looking at the iPhone 5 because while it doesn’t overwhelm me, I do get all the features that came with the iPhone 4s as well. I still like the iPhone over the Android choices because of the ecosystem I bought into starting with an iPod Touch. I feel like I know what I am going to get with Apple. Like it or not, they’re consistent and I know I will see a new operating system in a year and possibly another one after that. With Android, I don’t know if I’ll ever see an upgrade, and when the carrier loses interest, so too goes the support.

I have a Lenovo Y570 laptops running Windows 7. My plastic MacBook died years ago and I wanted to get a laptop I could play PC games on, had enough power to last me a few years and have some room for upgrades. The biggest selling point was price since I had a small amount of money to spend on a computer and a new Mac or even used Mac was out of the budget. I work in IT Support so I live in Windows and Mac OS all day so I don’t have any allegiances to one or the other. Operating Systems are tools.

I also have a 1st Generation iPad which I did not buy. It was a Christmas present a few years ago. It is also easily my most-used device and my go to reading and chill out device and the device I am itching to upgrade the most.

I have a Google CR-48 Chromebook I was lucky enough to receive for free when Google first announced the new project. I use it from time to time and while I love Chrome on all my devices, the Chrome OS is not enough to be an everyday use platform. At least not for me. The CR-48 is a decent machine albeit under-powered and with a terrible track pad. I like the keyboard and the lightness. I wrote this post tonight on it because it was sitting next to my bed and within reach.

This is what I use and what I like. It’s not going to be perfect for everyone but it works for me. And that’s all that is really important.

iPad 2: How thin is too thin?

Upon reading Andy Ihnatko’s first look at the iPad 2 tonight a single line caught my eye and it’s been bugging me since the announcement this afternoon.

“But you kind of have to hold the iPad 2 to really get the redesign. It’s thinner by a third, plus its edges taper to a thin line of metal.” — iPad 2 is here

I owned a 4th Generation iPod Touch. I bought it to replace my ailing 1st Generation model and it is still one of my favorite pieces of technology ever. The iPod Touch changed the way I thought about media and entertainment on the go.

My biggest gripe in the upgrade to the newest, sleek model was the tapered edged. The iPod Touch is just .28″ deep. The iPad 2 is going to be .34″ deep. This means a very sharp tapered edge to achieve the incredible thinness.

This also means edges digging into your hands when held at length. Holding the iPod Touch when reading at length or playing Fruit Ninja was fine for short periods. However, when held for 10 or 15 minutes or longer, it would start to become uncomfortable.

The edges would slowly dig into my palm and fingers. There was no comfortable way to hold the device. No matter which way I turned of placed it, those super thin edges would dig into me. The great irony is the beautiful design makes you want to keep your iDevices naked. However, the functionality of the design screams for the use of a case, with soft edges.

When I got an iPhone 4 this past December, I was very pleased at how good those .37″ edges felt. Those straight, smooth, non-tapered non-pointy edges were bliss to behold, literally.

Having just received a 32 GB WiFi iPad for Christmas I am not in a hurry to upgrade it. It still feels new and I get excited every time I use it. I watched the announcements today mainly to see if Apple was going to announce a better way to sync the data between my iPad and iPhone, or if there was some amazing deal-breaking feature for the sequel.

Though I didn’t have anything in my head that would make me sell this one and buy the new one. It didn’t mean I wasn’t open to seeing what the Cupertino gang could dream up.

HDMI video out is going to be killer for some people. However, I have to wonder how many people need yet another device to export video to a big screen. We have a PC Laptop, a Macbook, iPad, iPhone 4, Wii, Xbox 360, Power Mac Tower, and an iMac to export video to our 42″ TV. Do we really need another device to show video?

Face Time on another device is only exciting if you talk to small children in far away places. My wife uses FaceTime with our little niece out west because she doesn’t sit still long enough to chat on a computer. With FaceTime on the iPhone she can wander around and show us things. I don’t see this being a killer feature in the iPad. What’s the benefit for FaceTime on iPad versus iPhone or the a Mac laptop?

Though again, I am not a big video chatter. Also, Apple hasn’t mentioned the resolution of the cameras in the iPad. Will they be high quality like the iPhone 4 or barely usable like the iPod Touch. It’s these details that will make or break the usefulness of the cameras for most people. How about a better way to move photos from iPhone to iPad instead of syncing through iTunes?

A faster chip is always nice., the A5 being dual-core is a boon to the future of the product. Of course there’s going to be faster chips. Two times the speed and 9x the graphics performance means better games and other applications like iMovie.

Smart Covers. Now there is a brilliant idea and the one killer thin that caused me to stop and reconsider the iPad’s second coming. Then I snapped to my senses. It’s a cover. It’s a glorified microfiber wipe and cover for your iPad. That is not enough to sell me on a new device. It’s a brilliant implementation and if it works half as well as demoed will be awesome.

My biggest excitement comes in the form of the new iOS features.

Rotation Lock is a nice option to have back again for the iPad. Since the Mute switch doesn’t mute every sound coming out of the device, it doesn’t work well as a mute switch. I’d much prefer the rotation lock. I got my iPad after the removal of the rotation lock option so I am excited to have it for the first time.

Personal hotspot for iPhone 4 only. How long will it take for AT&T to implement it? Will it even be worth it with the limited data plans? It could be a great feature, or it could be a total non-starter. It all depends on AT&T and their track record has been abysmal. Will Verizon have put enough pressure on them to force their hand in reacting quicker to Apple’s new features?

iTunes Home Sharing is exciting. I’ve used it to manage and backup libraries between computers at home. I don’t sync any music to the iPad so it would be nice to be able to just pull over the few songs I want.

iMove would excite me if I shot video more than once a year or had a child to show off. I couldn’t care less about Garageband as I’m not musical. Photobooth, just as on the Mac was a lot of fun, for about 15 minutes. Then I forgot it existed.

I am curious the enhancements to AirPlay and (hopefully one day AirPrint) since I am much more curious how Apple is going to connect their walled gardens of iPad and iPhone. It really is obnoxious to have the same app or game on both devices but have no convenient way to share data. If everything had Dropbox syncing, the world would be a better place.

Safari is faster. Faster is always better.

There was nothing in the announcement today to make me seriously consider selling my iPad. It will be cause for those holding out to run to the store in a week and pick one up. The device is an amazing feat of computing and has changed how I read and spend my time in the evenings.

I will still go to an Apple Store after they’re released and pick one up. I’ll hold it. I’ll judge its heft against the original. I’ll see how it feels in my hand. I’ll imagine holding it for an hour, reading a book and see if those .2 pounds makes the pointy edges any better.

My guess is it will look beautiful but still be a pain to hold. I’d love to be proven wrong. However, MG Siegler’s preview in TechCrunch are not encouraging, “iPad 2 feels quite a bit like one of the newer iPod touches, just larger, obviously.”