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Archive for the ‘Computers’ Category

Linux is awesome, but its a proprietary world

Posted by Chance on February 7, 2012

I mentioned in an earlier post how I decided to run Linux as my home OS. However, I recently switched back.

I wasn’t completely happy about switching back – I didn’t miss the antivirus programs and frequent and slow reboots.

Ultimately, though, Linux took too much time and effort to do everyday tasks.  And I wasn’t the only one using the computer. My wife has some computer smarts, but she doesn’t know the ins and outs of Linux.
I wanted to do basic tasks like watching flash videos on Firefox. Other things weren’t so much an issue of Linux, but issues of software availability on the platform. I had to work hard to get Adobe Digital Editions to work with our Nook, and I couldn’t upload pictures directly from Picasa to Facebook. Skype worked with my webcam – most of the time.  And, when I saw a show (Fiesta Bowl 2012) on iTunes available for purchase, I loved the idea of something so simple as simply buying an iTunes video and being able to watch it on my computer. I don’t have to make calculations in my head about what it would take to get such a thing to run in Linux.

So, I decided to make the switch back to Windows.  I sort of miss having an OS with which I can tinker, but having an Android phone has helped in that respect, as I still have something I can play around with.  It’s also nice having an OS in which I don’t have to tinker to get things to work.

As I’ve said before, the strengths of Linux and those of Windows are why I would like to get a Mac someday.  At its core, a Mac OS is Unix (like Linux, only proprietary), and it has commercial support.  Until then, my Windows machine works fine.

Ultimately, though, I wish someone Linux would take off in the commercial desktop world the way Android has.  I don’t know all the details of hardware vending and propriety drivers, etc… works, but Android doesn’t have the issues Linux does because phone manufacturers are willing to adapt it to their phones, and software developers are willing to make apps that make them money.  I’m not sure why such a system has never happened for Linux, at least on this scale.


Posted in Computers, Technology | 1 Comment »

Why I don’t use the Chrome Browser

Posted by Chance on September 27, 2011


I like many things about the Chrome browser.  It starts up extremely fast.  It has a nice interface and looks ahead of its time in comparison to Firefox.  But, I still use Firefox.

One thing I love about Firefox is its smart bar, in which you type any term and it will search your history and pull up matching URLs and web-page titles.  This doesn’t work as well in Chrome.

Let’s take a look. Click on the pics to see full-size.

In Chrome, I view an article in PCWorld called “Amazon Kindle Tablet Could Shake Up Tablet Wars”.

I close Chrome and reopen. I type “kindle”.  I don’t get the article I just viewed.

Now I open Firefox and visit the same page.  I close Firefox and reopen.  I type in “Kindle”, and I see the site I just visited, 2nd from the top.

I personally like to be able to easily retrieve sites in my history.  I’m surprised Google doesn’t exceed in this area.

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Android apps that I use

Posted by Chance on July 29, 2011

I’ve had an Android phone (Samsung Galaxy S) for a few months now. Here are a few appear I use.  (Note: I suppose I could post links, but that would be a lot of work, and that’s why things like Google exist).

Bible from Lifechurch.tv. Great app. It has many, if not all, of the major Bible versions, and it has an easy to use interface that allows me to get to a desired chapter very quickly.

Nook. I still like using my wife’s actual Nook better due to its superior battery life but if you don’t have an eReader this is nice to use for occasional reading. The animated page turns are pretty cool.

PowerAmp. This is one of the few apps that I have that actually costs money. (about $5) It’s the most driver friendly music app I’ve found, as I can use swipe gestures to skip songs or go to next album.

Angry birds.  As fun as advertised. I like the original better than Rio.

Barcode scanner. I haven’t used it for anything useful yet, it’s just impressive technology.

Overdrive Console. Used to check out ebooks from the library.

TuneIn Radio. Used to listen to various internet radio stations

Word with Friends. Fun to play.  Although I usually lose.

ESPN ScoreCenter. Self-explanatory.  Finally updated to be as good as the iPhone version.

Google Listen. Listen to podcasts

Mint.com. Keep track of finances.

Covenant Eyes Beta.  I was using X3Watch but now am trying out Covenant Eyes Beta since I’m a member anyway, and CE is superior.

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Thoughts on Google+

Posted by Chance on July 22, 2011

I was one of the people important and special enough to receive a Google+ invite.  I don’t really have time for a second social network (the other being facebook) but I thought I would check it out.

How it works.

  1. Like Twitter, Google+ is based on one-way relationships.  That is, you can follow someone but they don’t have to follow you.  This is opposed to Facebook where the relationship is two-way.
  2. A central part of G+ (as us privileged few call Google+) is the idea of circles.  So, when I add someone to follow, I can choose from the default circles of Friends, Acquaintances, Family, or Following.  Or I can create a new one.  So, when I share something, I can choose what group I want to share with.  What’s important is that others cannot see which circle they are in.
  3. What a person shares is public, unless they choose to share with specific circles.
  4. I’m not sure what the limit is on posting things, but it is obviously bigger than Facebook’s limit for their status updates.

A few thoughts.

  1. I like the idea of Circles, especially since people cannot see what circle they are in.  This is actually implemented in Facebook via friend lists, but it is not nearly as easy to use, although it is a feature I use in Facebook.  I like sharing general thoughts to all my friends, but things that are more personal, or involving holiday plans (or more plainly said, when I’m not at home) I like to limit to a set of closer friends.
  2. One way relationships will probably only work if people choose to share things publicly.  For example, I chose to follow a sports blogger.  If he, and others like him, choose to share things with the world, then following them will have value.  If they choose to only share with their circles, and I’m not in their circles, then there is no value.
  3. Right now Google+ is not much fun.  While there are probably several pros to Google having a limited group to test G+ and build buzz, it means that not a whole lot is going on.  Right now I have 8 people I’m following and nothing is going on in the Stream (which is G+’s version of the News Feed).

It will be interesting to see how G+ competes with Facebook.  I think people will like the Circles option, although, as some tech-bloggers have pointed out, it’s probably only a matter of time before Facebook makes their Friend Lists feature easier to use and/or more like Circles.  I do like the one-way relationship structure, but as I said above, this will only have value if people share things publicly, as they do in Twitter. I don’t know if right now, in terms of my usage, G+ offers anything new other than something to play with.  But at the very least, I’ll keep the profile around awhile.

Posted in Computers, Technology | 4 Comments »

Running Linux on the home computer

Posted by Chance on May 30, 2011

So, I’ve been running Linux Mint 10 on my home computer.  I’ve been pretty happy with it.  Other than games, Linux will do about 95% of the stuff a Windows machine will do, and it does it much better in my opinion.

My wife and I actually do not use the PC too much any more, with most of our computer tasks being performed on her iPhone or my Android phone.  So we pretty much use our PC as a photo repository, for my blogging, and for our occasional word processing.  Linux cannot run Word, but it can run LibreOffice (formerly OpenOffice), and of course, there is always Google Docs.

I haven’t gone completely to Linux for a long period of time due to the lack of an internet accountability program like Covenant Eyes, which operates on Windows.  There is an open source program for Linux, however, called Net Responsibility.  It doesn’t have the advanced reporting capability of Covenant Eyes, but it still provides the essential component of internet monitoring and log emails.

The primary motivation of moving from Windows to Linux is that a computer running Linux is as fast today as it was 2 years ago.  Windows computers deal with an ever-bloating registry and they simply slow down over time.   Also, newer Windows versions have higher demand on hardware.  I have a new version of Linux Mint that I’m running on a Dell Optiplex GX270 – a five year old computer that I bought from eBay for about $85.  I couldn’t do that with Windows 7.

But everyone has different needs.  For PC gamers a Linux box simply wouldn’t be suitable.  I’m not one.  And for those who still need Windows to do a few things, they may want to consider a dual boot or holding onto an old Windows computer.  I have an old Dell laptop from which I run Windows.  Basically I use it to sideload library eBooks to our Nook and if we need to update the OS on the iPhone.

Posted in Computers, Technology | 4 Comments »

Why I don’t follow the zero inbox policy

Posted by Chance on May 24, 2011

The zero inbox policy refers to essentially keeping your inbox  0 emails by the end of the day.  For a while I had followed this, but because I’m somewhat lazy in this manner and unorganized I didn’t keep it up.  But not only that, I simply didn’t know it was worth it.  There are a few reasons for this.

First of all, a caveat

I’m a programmer.  I’m not a manager, and I don’t interface much with people outside of my company.  So, email is not the primary means by which I get things done.  This is just a system that works for me.  Also, I’m a sloppy and disorganized person so the costs of organization and the way I arrange things means this system works for me.

Electronic clutter doesn’t take up space

Many people espousing a zero inbox policy usually use analogies of clutter in one’s garage or desk, but the reality is it simply isn’t the same.  Physical clutter takes up physical space.  Emails take up hard drive space.  I have an 80 GB drive, small by today’s standards but still plenty of room.

I can instantly get to what I need to

I use Thunderbird for my work email and Gmail for my personal email.  Both have a quick and efficient search feature in which I can retrieve the messages I want easily.

I sometimes need those emails

There have been several instances where I have heard a facebook friend post “I’m glad I keep all my emails” or “I’m glad I had that email”.  One instance had to do with difficulties someone was having with their ISP doing something against the original agreement.  I myself, when trying to delete multiple emails, have ended up deleting something I needed later.  I suppose someone who is good at organization can judge what emails they will need later, and again, different things may work for different people.   But for me, there have been instances where an email I thought I would never need I ended up needing based on some audits by another group.  When sorting through emails and going on a delete binge, I get lazy and err on the side of deleting too many emails.

I lose more productivity in deleting emails than I do sorting through them 

Again, with Thunderbird and Gmail I can retrieve email I want instantly.  Perhaps if I went through my inbox every day, the task would not take as long as waiting till it piles up, but I still don’t feel like getting to the emails I need takes a long time.

That being said, I still delete some.  

Some emails I obviously will not need again, such as automated messages from our software tracking system in which I can get the same data online.  I also delete my monthly airline miles notifications, timecard reminders, people simply responding “ok”, and the like.

Other – I use tagging instead of folders

Sometimes the search function isn’t enough.  For those cases I use labels/tags instead of folders.  I have found that when I use folders, I often don’t remember if I copied a message to a  folder, or what folder I copied it to (Admittedly, this would be less of an issue if recursive searches were easier in email programs).  However, tags provide the organization advantages of folders, and I can still search from the main folder.  I can also apply multiple tags to the same message without creating duplicate messages.

So, in summary, I feel that a great search function and large hard drives make a zero inbox policy unnecessary, at least for me.  For someone else, such as those who do a large amount of their work via email communication, a zero inbox policy may be needed.

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Would you tell a person with car trouble to buy a Mercedes?

Posted by Chance on December 10, 2010

In the past I have had problems with my Windows PC and I post about it on facebook. Invariably, one or two people suggest that I buy a Mac. It doesn’t bother me so much that they mention Macs, but it is the way they do it. They bring it up in a smug manner, suggesting that it is the obvious solution and I’m a fool if I don’t follow it.

Now, I truly believe the Mac is better. As I’ve worked more in Linux at my job I have learned a little bit more about how Mac, which shares some commonalities with Linux, has some advantages to Windows. I would say that even based on the little I know about Mac, it is superior to Windows for several reasons I won’t go into here.

But here’s the thing; Macs are simply more expensive. Although a Mac at $1200 is probably better than a PC at $1200 (I haven’t done a direct comparison, but I would choose a Mac at that price), the point is, I can get a PC for $400; I cannot with a Mac. So if you are a Mac owner, I’m not saying you can’t talk about how great your Mac is or even suggest one if someone is looking for a new computer. Just keep in mind that the person you are talking to may not have $1200 to spend at the moment before you imply that someone is an idiot for not buying one.

Until I choose to spend money on a Mac, Linux is probably the next best thing.

Posted in Computers, Culture | 1 Comment »

Microsoft Fail

Posted by Chance on May 14, 2009

Microsoft Vista is considered the biggest tech failure of the past decade according to some guy.

I don’t have Windows Vista myself, I still run XP at work and home.  However, a shared computer at work and my mom’s laptop both run Vista.  When I first played with it, I thought “Vista isn’t as bad as I thought!”  However, that was first glance.  After a short amount of time, I have noticed that Vista on both those machines are ridiculously slow.  It would often lockup, forcing me to try a reboot or logon/logoff.  Simple tasks like opening a new folder on the machine would take a ridiculous amount of time.

These are also fairly new machines with a decent amount of RAM.  And even if they were not top of the line, they shouldn’t have to be.  I disagree with Microsoft’s philosophy that an OS should tax a machine with current specs as much as possible.

However, I changed my Mom’s theme from the whiz-bang curvy translucent windows to the Windows Classic, which looks pretty much like Windows pre-XP.  I haven’t found out yet if it has helped significantly.

Posted in Computers, Technology | 2 Comments »

The PC Mac Wars

Posted by Chance on April 6, 2009

While I’m talking about computers, I wanted to offer my take on the whole war between PCs and Macs.

I think the advertising approach Windows is taking lately is pretty brilliant, although it took two and a half years to have a good comeback to the “Hi, I’m a Mac, Hi, I’m a PC” commercials.  The whole idea is that a PC represents the everyday person.  The commercials show a wide range of everyday ordinary people using computers to do everyday tasks.  There has also been a recent commercial in which a lady is given $1000 to purchase a computer; she could purchase a 13-inch Mac laptop or a 17-inch Windows/PC laptop.

Windows needs to continue with this line of advertising; if they do so, Windows computers can be the computer of the normal everyday person who doesn’t have tons of money to spend on computers. If they wanted to go into the negative direction, they could paint Mac users as elitist, but hopefully they will focus on positive advertising, as opposed to Mac.  I know people who use Macs; they are people who simply get tired of messing with Windows and happened to have enough money to spend on a Mac.  More power to them.

Apple has started to irritate me.  It happened at the tail end of Election ’08, in which negative political ads dominated the airwaves.  Living in a swing state compounded the issue.  After all these attack ads, I saw one of the “Hi, I’m a Mac” commercials.  What I used to think was funny just seemed mean-spirited.  I was tired of negative advertising, no matter what it was about.  I haven’t seen these commercials recently.  I wonder if that is because other people have felt the same way.

Posted in Computers, Culture | 2 Comments »

I’m not a religious zealot: I think both Windows and Linux have their strengths

Posted by Chance on April 6, 2009

I am starting to get frustrated with Windows.  It seems like no matter how fast a machine is when you first get it (or do a reinstall), it is pretty speedy.  But it seems like a Windows machine always becomes slower.

Part of this is because everybody wants your RAM.  You download a program, like iTunes, and it wants to run in the background all the time.  Other programs want to run in your System Tray all the time (the right side of your taskbar).  Some programs want to install 4 different toolbars in Internet Explorer.

But even if you guard your RAM with all your efforts, the machine gets slower.  People who are smarter with computers than I am says it has to do with the registry that gets bloated whenever you someone installs a program.  So, unless you want a bare-bones machine, your Windows machine is doomed.

That is one good thing with Linux.  The whole paradigm is different.  At work, I’ve been playing with Linux machines that are 3 or 4 years old and are every bit as fast as the day we got them.  Unfortunately, it takes a long time to get things working at times.  I tried running Wireless with a Linux laptop and it doesn’t work correctly, when Windows XP works fine.  I posted on some of the advantage/disadvantages of each operating system in an earlier post. If Linux could fix issues with wireless and come out with a commercial version geared toward the average person, it could really take off ( I know, Linux and commercialism in the same sentence is blasphemy).

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