Sunday, December 18, 2011

Whats so great about the new iPhone 4s?

Lots of people have posted lots of stuff about this infernal smartphone. But here I am going to cut to the chase. There are perhaps 3 major developments. And one of them in my opinion obsoletes all other phones.

1. Speed. This phone is blazing fast. Can you say instant? I mean, this thing is fast.
2. Camera. This is why my wife upgraded. Really, it rocks. The only camera I have that is better is my Canon digital rebel SLR.
3. Siri. If you haven't already heard, this is the near instant digital assistant you talk to. You don't just give her commands, you have conversations with her. It completely changes how you interact with your computer (the iPhone is a Mac computer if you didn't already know). This is science fiction cum science fact. The speech recognition is nearly flawless, and it not only recognizes commands, but responds to conversations and intelligently interprets intended meanings.

My prediction: within 2 years, Siri will reach the status of cultural icon. It will become so indispensable that iPhone market share will only increase as people grow into understanding how to use it.

So, Apple does it again: the hype for a product seems too good to be true, but the reality makes the hype an understatement. Damn them, now I have to buy some more Apple products! On the agenda for 2012: two MacBook Airs, Apple TV, and hopefully another (used) iMac or two. Anyone have a part time job I can take up?

Monday, December 12, 2011

How do you report Spam Text Messages?

Have you ever been happily asleep, when you are awakened by the ding of a text message, only to find it is some gambling site trying to get you to log on?  Now, there is something you can do about it!  You know, sometimes it takes a while before the left hand learns from the right, but apparently phone companies have been learning how to handle SMS Text Spam.  Finally!

FIRST TIP:  DO NOT REPLY TO THE MESSAGE!  Note the picture below, they say "Write NO to end" - yeah, right.  I bet you anything that is a scam to get you to send them a message, which they can legitimately charge your cellular account any amount they deem.  Plus, it confirms to them that your number is valid, and they can now sell your number to other spammers.

If you have AT&T, Verizon, or Sprint, you can "forward" the message to them.  Here are the steps:
  1. Select the message they sent to you - on an iPhone, hold your finger down on the message, and tap the "Copy" balloon that pops up.
  2. Create a new message to 7726 and paste the message.  (Double-tap in the text area, and tap the "Paste" balloon that pops up.)
  3. Hit send.  You will get a reply message that asks you to send them the number from which the message was sent.
  4. Send the phone number.
That's it!  Simple, and the more we do it, the cleaner the system will be.

(Since no other carriers have an iPhone, I didn't check - I mean, come on, just get an iPhone!! ;-)  [Seriously, call 611 or your carrier's support line and ask.]

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Error installing eFax Messenger Plus on roaming profile

My work computer has a roaming profile with a Documents library on a network location.  Apparently this doesn't work well with eFax Messenger Plus (the reader app to read your incoming faxes from eFax), I get the error:  "The specified path is too long: C:\Users\Jay\My Documents\eFax Messenger 4.4" Retry/Cancel.  The problem occurred on Windows 7 x64.

The solution turned out to be pretty easy.  Windows 7 has a Documents library, which is a collection of folders it uses for "My Documents."  You can specify a different folder - I would recommend changing it to a path that is shorter, for example create one.  In my example, I create a folder under C:\Users\Jay, make it the default, then install Messenger Plus, then change the default back to resume normal Windows operation.

As you can see, I created a folder called JaysDocs and set it as the default location.  The install worked fine.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Have you upgraded to Windows 7 or 2008?

In This Post
  • What's Wrong with the latest Windows?
  • Taking Out The Trash
  • The Problem of Landfills
  • Solutions

What's Wrong with the latest Windows?
Here we are on yet another rant regarding the pathetic quality of the world's leading computer operating system.  Yes, that's your warning!  Why, what's wrong with Windows 7 or 2008?  They are really pretty, everything runs great!

If you ever wondered what was so great about Steve Jobs and Apple's products, this is another key differentiator.  Garbage.  What do we mean by garbage?  Garbage collection and taking out the trash.  In specifics, with computers garbage collection pertains to collecting up unused "pieces" of computer memory - and cleaning up.  What kind of garbage do computers collect?

Taking Out The Trash
First, there is RAM - that is, the memory computers use to "think" or process while running.  This memory is relatively expensive (say around $10 per gigabyte), and only works as long as the computer is on.  Chunks of memory are "allocated" to be used by your programs (say Firefox while you are surfing a web site), and are supposed to be "freed" (or marked available) once the program is done with it.  All computers must manage RAM, and Windows does this in a fairly fragmented way.  It has always done this poorly compared to other operating systems.

However, my big beef is with persistent storage (in other words a hard drive).  Let's take for example, installing a new program.  OK, so you know how you constantly have to keep updating your operating system in order to get the latest "security" updates?  (Whose security is it anyway, Microsoft's?)  How do you think it handles these updates?  Well, these updates come in the form of system files.  Your Windows system consists of many different files, and Microsoft sends updates to these files.  What does it do with the old ones that got replaced?  Delete them?  No, because what if you want to go back and uninstall the update?  (Who ever does, but that's beside the point - what if?)  It keeps all these files in what it calls the "Windows Side By Side" directory (winsxs).  All thus junk just collects.  And collects.

What about the TEMP folder - did you know about that?  On every system there is a temporary folder where files are stored - temporarily - on the hard drive.  However, what is the definition of temporary?  What really happens is files get put out there, a small percentage get removed when the computer is done with them.  The large majority of these files just collect.

Windows has something else you may or may not be aware of - I call it the "trash" heap.  The Heap, and the Hive, are where Windows stores all this various stuff that is not files, but it still "needs."  Why the double-quotes?  Really, it is only a Windows thing.  The Registry is stored in the Hive, and provides a central database of installed applications and their settings.  This Registry, the Hive, and the Heap which stores some things about RAM, constantly get written to, deleted from, and basically left like Swiss cheese - fragmented.  (How does Mac do this?  Instead of a central Registry, each application stores all of its settings within a bundle file which you think of as the application.  When you launch it, the bundle is "unzipped" and the files within it are utilized.  When you delete an application - the bundle is removed, clean, and simple - you are done.)

The Problem of Landfills
So, what's wrong with the way Windows does things?  Guess what - it truly is antiquated.  This is technology that was developed, and let's face it not really innovated upon, since the 1980's.  Yeah, back when computers were 8-bit, and 16-bit were coming on the scene (not 64-bit...).  The more the landfill collects, the harder it is for the workers to truck around all the waste that "needs" to be stored for future disposal.  Oh, and who ever goes through their basement and empties out the stuff collecting in it?  You just say "this computer is too slow, I need a new one" and just buy a new one - which is just what the computer manufacturers and Microsoft want because you keep spending more money.  This landfill of the Heap, Hive, and Registry constantly build up - until you decide to move to a new city.  When that city's waste disposal is full - move to a new one.

So, there are collateral damages coming out of this behavior.  What happens to the old electronics?  Are you guilty of this?  Do you throw it in the trash - literally?  Well, let's take a look at what is in these electronics, and are they safe for a landfill?

Electronic circuit board components are connected with solder.  This is made primarily from lead.  Lead, if you don't already know, is toxic to humans, plants, and animals in concentrated amounts.  Furthermore, there are trace amounts of mercury, cadmium, and other heavy metals.  Did you know that all computers have a lithium battery that keeps the clock running even when they are unplugged?  This battery is a standard CR2032 about the size of a quarter, just like the battery in your bathroom scale or electric candle, that needs replacing every 5 years or so (unless like me you set up time synch with the Internet time servers so the clock is always in synch with Boulder, CO).  Now, what about those old vacuum tube monitor screens?  Many more nasty stuff there.  In fact, in some states throwing these things in the trash is illegal.  (It should be a federal EPA statute.)

Hopefully you enjoyed the allusion to literal and figurative landfills I talked about here - and hopefully I opened your eyes a little to the impact of your actions on the overall earth and your pocketbook.

So how do we solve these problems?
  1. Don't use Microsoft Windows on your computer.  There are many alternatives to Windows, some free and work on your existing PC, some cost.  Upgrade your Windows to Linux, or if you really are ready to buy a new computer, buy a Mac.  Not only do Macs hold their performance throughout the years, but they also have - almost unheard of for a computer - resale value!!  Yes, you can sell a Mac for a decent amount of money years after you buy it.
  2. Tune Up Your PC - just like you tune up your car, you have to tune up your computer.  You can try to do this yourself, or you can budget in a maintenance cost of taking it in once a year to your local service shop.  Find one of those little mom & pop shops - and support local small businesses - the lifeblood of American enterprise.
  3. Become a Mechanic - if you really do want to try to maintain it yourself, I will follow up my next Blog post with some tool recommendations.  You can also find some recommendations here on an older post.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Who ever heard of Dennis Ritchie?

When I was in college, my bible was the thin C primer by Kernigan and Ritchie.  I just found out that Ritchie passed away a couple of days ago - with a lot less fanfare than Steve Jobs.  However, the C programming language, and the resulting UNIX operating system, have perhaps had as great an impact on everyday life as Steve Jobs.  So I want to delve a little into it, so we can all appreciate how incredible Dennis Ritchie's contributions have been.

First, let's look at C.  After A and B (yes, really), C represented a huge leap in capability of writing computer software.  The constructs were concise, yet powerful and flexible enough to represent anything.  Over the years, C has evolved - and morphed (some might say polymorphed).  (Yes, hold the groans.)

C represents the base language for C++, C#, Java, JavaScript, Perl, PHP...and the list goes on.  In case you were wondering, what products run these?  Just about everything.  Almost every smartphone, of course every computer manufactured since, what, 1990?  Many embedded devices (cable boxes, parking meters, stoplights, you name it).

The UNIX operating system was the first one developed in C.  It is also probably the most widely used computer operating system in the world - if you include Mac OS X and all Linux flavors under the UNIX umbrella.  You may not realize it, but handheld devices, even computer printers, and more often run some flavor of UNIX.  The list is literally endless.

As one of the inventors of C and UNIX, it is extremely difficult to overstate Dennis Ritchie's contributions to all things electronic at this day and age.

So I think, in retrospect, that 2011 will go down in history as the true end of a large part of the second era of electronic computers.  The first era, of course, is the vacuum tubes up until the electronic transistor and silicon chips - the second would represent the proliferation and "ubiquitization" of computing devices.  As I look around my room, what computing devices do I have?  iPhone, Macbook Pro, Comcast remote control, Motorola Comcast cable box, NEC TV, Sony iPhone dock clock radio, Panasonic VCR, and Toshiba DVD player, plus our Panasonic cordless phones.  That's just in the bedroom.  You would find that many such devices run an embedded UNIX, and even if not, that the software/firmware for the devices was written in a language with C roots.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The New iPhone 4S - Groundbreaking no matter what they say!

Although many people in the press are complaining that the new iPhone doesn't have a different shape, the truth is that this phone - again - totally changes the meaning of what a Cell Phone is.

First, about the kvetches.  Why did it take Apple longer than usual to come out with this phone?  Yes, it's true I am not an insider and not in the know, but with some knowledge of what it takes to bring a product to market, I can speculate.
  • New camera redesign - this is totally redesigned not only to perform, but to perform well.  It is fast - the time it takes to snap 2 photos is less than to take 1 with the next closest competitor phone (in speed), with amazing clarity and beauty of picture.  For example, what's the difference between my Canon EOS digital rebel with 6MB, that it can blow away pictures taken by a newer 10MB Panasonic camera?  Optics - it's all in the optics.
  • Complete redesign of the interior - this means a LOT of testing to meet quality standards.  It has to work, and work flawlessly, or they will catch a lot of flack.  All the internal changes, means they have to test it out thoroughly.
  • Siri.  In one word, this is revolutionary.  Think about it.  It is not just voice recognition ("command: Text Julie Come pick me up" ala Vlingo).  It is speech recognition - it understands when you say "do I need an umbrella today?" to check and see if it is raining.  Did you see the guy jogging, and saying to move the appointment to 12, no 2?  This is not the spoken command recognition we've had up until now, this is truly futuristic technology.
  • Think about the advantages of NOT changing the shape - all the accessories built for the iPhone 4 will work with the 4S.  Truly, what's wrong with keeping the shape?  One little thing, I would like a bigger screen, but then again - pretty soon it becomes an "iPad Mini".

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Terra Nova

I watched the pilot and second episode of the new show Terra Nova.  Have you seen it?  A bunch of people from the future - where the world is dying from environmental disasters - travel 85 million years back into Earth's past and set up a colony?  Cool idea - good characters, even a good plot, great special effects.  However, there is one huge thing that sticks in my throat, prevents me from swallowing the whole thing.

The story follows a family - a cop who was imprisoned for breaking the 2-child limit law, a doctor, and their 3 children as they break their dad out of prison and sneak him into the 10th pilgrimage through the discovered time rift into 85 million BCE.  There is an encampment all set up, housing built, and a good start - weapons, vehicles, self-generating power, etc.  Did I mention weapons?

So the part that bugs me is this.  Of course, they have to fight off the vicious dinosaurs that come looking to make humans their new repast.  In the 2 hour pilot, I think I counted at least 5,000 rounds of ammunition fired - often point-blank - into the dinosaurs.  A few times, the big one like Allosaurus did falter, but after firing a vast quantity of munitions, the score is Dinosaurs: 6, Humans: 0.  That's right.  0.  WTF?  I mean, either these people are the worst shot ever, or dinosaurs are impervious to bullets (unlike all other creatures big and small throughout the 200+ year history of firearms).  OK, cool, futuristic weapons.  The machine guns were pretty heavy-duty.  But you would think, if they are cut off from the mass manufacturing of ammunition, they would consider it precious and wouldn't waste it.  If the dinos are impervious, then why bother?  Dump them in a ditch!

(Some may wonder, why post about a Science Fiction show on a tech blog - well, it is techie...)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Whatever happened to the Second Party?

For a long time now, I have been using First Party software.  That is to say, software developed by the hardware manufacturer.  I have also been using Third Party software - that is, software developed by someone else.

Third-party hardware as well - accessories you add on to your car, computer, what have you.  There certainly do seem to be some parties going on here.  Are they related to the political parties?

Now, my big question.  In order to be the third party, you have to first have a second party (read that sentence several times!!).  So, who is this phantom Second Party?  Do they serve drinks?  What exactly do they make, or do for that matter?  I have never seen nor heard of a product made by them.  Really, what's the deal?  If anyone knows of this mysterious group, I will pay good money* for:
  • Their address
  • Some contact names
  • A list of products they make
  • Their Twitter, Facebook, or other social networking page link
* When I say "good money", I mean my definition of good money.  Money I think is good.  That may or may not be legal tender.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

iPhone 5 Release Date - You Heard It Here First
That's right, here is all the 100% guaranteed* information you have been waiting for on the iPhone 5.  Release date, features, and more.  Now, here's a rundown of the facts:

  1. To be released on October 1, 2011 at 6:18:20 PM PST
    • Why that time?  Apparently the number had significance to Steve Jobs
    • Hey, at least we know the exact moment it will be out in stores
  2. A new camera will feature
    • 100 megapixels for better-than-professional quality
    • 30 x optical zoom lens
    • Wind-resistant boom microphone option
    • Face recognition technology will automatically tag the pictures for contacts in your address book
  3. Instant coffee maker
    • Manufacturer Keurig has been hard at work making the new iCup (kind of like the K-Cup but smaller and more mobile)
    • Only caffeinated flavors are available from Green Mountain and Starbucks, but decaf will be coming within 6 months
    • Rumors say you can brew up to 3 cups on a battery charge
    • Stir stick can be inserted into the handy slot in the corner of the phone for storage (like a Nintendo DSi stylus)
  4. Built-in AM/FM Radio tuner
  5. High-gain antenna to avoid reception issues experienced in an earlier model - telescoping to an unbelievable 4 feet
  6. 8-Track, Beta, and VHS cassette tape adapters optional so you can listen to, and watch, your entertainment directly on your phone
  7. Unisex Razor
    • That's right, built right into that slim top edge is a men's/women's razor screen with an easy dump tray
    • Battery life is good for one shave a day and normal 4 hour talk time; or 1 shave, 1 cup of coffee, and 1 hour talk time
  8. Fold-out pliers
  9. Large jack knife
  10. Extensible toothpick

* Who makes these guarantees anyway?  Aw, fuggeddaboudit.

So, are you buying it?  I just couldn't resist - just saw a post in the iPhone Developer's Forum asking for the release date - oddly enough, it had no replies in 7 days!  Can you believe it?

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Windows. Mac. What else is there? Ubuntu!

A few months ago, I was talking with a colleague about operating systems - and how much I loved the Mac.  He offered another suggestion - and it cost just the right price.  Ubuntu is a distribution (or distro if you want to use the hip lingo) of Linux.  If you want a history lesson, it's at the bottom of this post - for those of you like me who are endlessly fascinated with how things came to be.  Linux, to put it succinctly, is a "re-free" UNIX.  (Why "re?"  Why all caps?  See History below.)

Ubuntu is offered by a South African company called Canonical Ltd., based on the African concept ubuntu (humanity towards others).  I am so much impressed with Ubuntu, I hope you read this and figure out you can do it yourself.  Much of what I did, I did it myself by simply installing from the CD or Software Centre included in Ubuntu.  Some of the more technical points a standard person may not encounter, but it was easy enough to find answers in Google or the Ubuntu community forums.

About Ubuntu Linux
I have been using UNIX since the late 1980's.  My parents had gotten XENIX (see History below), I had a job with it, and have been on and off using it for a long time.  Its major problems, especially going to the fractionalization prior to Linux, were that it was a techie "hacker" operating system (not user friendly like Windows), software wasn't widely available because it had to be recompiled for each hardware platform, that had its own special version of UNIX.

So, I got ahold of a Ubuntu CD, and installed it on a spare computer (you know, us geeks always have a spare computer lying around for projects like this).  Wow.  That is what I have to say:  WOW.  Apple, with its vast resources, has come up with the ultimate operating system - fast, efficient, beautifully elegant, but you have to pay for it (yes, $30 or so to buy the OS, and the hardware to run it on is proprietary).

Ubuntu Linux is FREE.  FREE.  Read it again - free.  The interface is just as intuitive as Windows, perhaps even more so.  It comes with software, but most importantly it has something like iTunes App Store built into it.  What's so great about iTunes?  It is a single, simple place to find and download things you need or want - and it is filled with a ton of stuff.  The Ubuntu Software Centre is built into Ubuntu, and has all of that.  You search, and click Install, to get whatever you want.

Built into Ubuntu is multimedia (music, pictures, photos, etc.), instant messaging (or IM for those of you who don't know what instant messaging it), e-mail, and more.  Firefox (my favorite browser), it used to have Open Office, but since Oracle took it over they switched to a knock-off called Libre Office.  Anything you could want a computer to do, it does.  Did I mention it was FREE?

And, it doesn't have the hangups of Windows - the slow performance most notably, crashes, etc.  It is reliable.  The only down side, really, is that sometimes software you want may not be in the Software Centre, so you may have to download and install it yourself.  This, unfortunately, is not as simple as Windows.  You will have to go to a command prompt and "hack."

What Have We Done?
The kids computers were constantly going down - freezing up, or just not working and I would have to reinstall Windows.  Finally, I installed Ubuntu on them.  What do they do?  Play on the Internet (web browser), sometimes write documents.  All done with Ubuntu now.

Using the Likewise Open utility I got from the Ubuntu Software Centre, I joined the Ubuntu machines to my Windows domain.  Now the kids can log into Ubuntu using their Windows passwords.  Basically, the only thing that changed for them, is that their computers just work now.

A long time ago, I virtualized my Windows server.  This is my domain controller that controls peoples' passwords, allows the computers to connect to the network and manages traffic, and performs backup.  That is, I took my domain server, and made it run in VMWare in a window on another computer.  This meant I could upgrade the computer, install VMWare on the new computer, copy the files over, and boot the same machine I had run earlier without having to reinstall.  Big time saver.

So, I installed VMWare on Ubuntu, moved my Domain server over, and booted it up.  Simple.  Well, not exactly - I had to do a few UNIX configurations to make it boot up automatically - took about an hour.  Still, I went from a Windows host machine, which every couple of weeks froze and would have to be powered off, to a Ubuntu host running the Windows server in VMWare.  It is rock solid now, and by the way runs on an old computer about twice as fast as Windows in the same hardware.

In the early days of electronic computers, you got computers to do things by moving wires around.  If you hooked up the wires just right, pulled the lever or pushed the button, it would do what you wanted it to do - within its limitations. As they got more sophisticated, and transistors evolved to Integrated Circuits (IC's, or Chips), the idea of a central processor unit (CPU) came about to do the bulk of the work.  Along with this concept came a programming language to simplify the numbers you would have to type in to make it do things - this is called Assembly Code (the numbers being called Machine Code).  Of course, assembly is just letters representing machine code, so it really isn't much more readable than machine.  But things got better - until finally after the first two languages were imaginatively called A and B, the next language was developed, C.

Along with C, it became apparent that the computer needed to take care of some common housekeeping tasks like file management (data being organized into files, and stored somewhere), memory management, eventually printing, security, and more.  An early operating system was called CP/M, or Control Program for Microcomputers.  This introduced commands to perform these operations.

Based on CP/M, a telephone company (the only one at the time) had an extensive research laboratory into computers, because they thought computers could be a huge opportunity in telecommunications for automatic switching.  This lab eventually became Bell Laboratories (named after the founder, Alexander Graham).  The team there used C to develop an operating system they called Uniplexed Information and Computing Service or UNICS, later changed to UNIX (trademarked as all upper-case) sometime around 1970.  Uniplexed, because it did one thing at a time, as opposed to multiplexed, which it later evolved to be.  UNIX provided operating system services - memory management, security, printing, e-mail as the DARPA-net (or later the Internet) evolved, and more.  And, AT&T developed and gave away all this, for free, including the C source code to modify it.

Along came University of California, Berkley.  A group there developed their own version, called BSD UNIX.  A whole bunch of commercial versions came out, including one from Microsoft trademarked as XENIX.  HP, IBM, Sun, Santa Cruz Operations, and many more companies had their own version of UNIX.  Much of it was proprietary.  At this time, DOS, and then Windows, came out - capitalizing on the research of Xerox's Palo Alto Research Center, who developed the basics of a graphical computer interface.  The various warring tribes of UNIX couldn't compete with a unified front presented by Microsoft Windows, and UNIX took a downward spiral.

Then, along came Linus Torvalds in 1991,  releasing Linux - a UNIX operating systems for IBM PC's.  Linux is a re-introduction, an updated back-to-basics if you will.  At the core is a standardized kernel of an operating system.  Even though there are several distributions of Linux, they all hail directly from this Linux core, and merely put their own wrapper around it.  Linux was ported to pretty much all computer platforms thanks to its open source.  Business models were built around a company packaging a distribution of Linux, to make it easy to install and administer.  Among the more successful distros of Linux are SUSE, Red Hat, and Ubuntu.  Ubuntu is free, while the others charge a nominal fee.  Canonical charges for services and business server software - but standard Desktop Linux is free - and will work for pretty much anyone, whether desktop, laptop, or netbook.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Please exit all applications before continuing

We've all seen this while installing software (at least on Windows). You run the Setup, hit Next, then it gives you this nice, friendly, "Pretend I'm the only thing that matters right now, and drop everything else in your life."

What exactly do they mean by exiting all other applications? What constitutes an application? Technically, any software executing in a thread is an application. Software drivers could constitute an app, strictly speaking - the driver for your camera, printer, microphone, network card. What? That means everything - all those little icons in your tray (or Notification Area as they call it now), what about Windows Services? So they want me to shut down Windows before continuing!?!? I don't get it.

Second, WHY?? Why oh why does it say that? I mean, really, if I don't shut down other applications, what will happen - is it going to make my computer run slower each month? (Already happens - it's Windows for God's sake.) Is it going to make it unstable and crash a lot? (Already happens - IWFGS.) Is it going to refuse to install the app? (Hasn't happened yet - IW...never mind.) Really, people, let's just get out of the dark ages 30 years ago when you were running only one program at a time, and you HAD to shut down all other programs in order to install.

By the way, who are "people"? These "people" are a company currently called Flexera (, the company tasked with making the Windows Installer component. Let's start a campaign! Everyone, fill out their online contact form - ask them to rewrite the installer messages to be more up to date, and user friendly!

Flexera Software
1000 E Woodfield Road, Suite 400
Schaumburg, IL 60173

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Backing Up Your Computer

Nowadays, anyone who uses a computer probably has some awareness that it is important to back up your data.  How many of us actually do this?

There are many ways to back up your data.  So why is it that most people don't back up?  And I mean from the layman to the professional?  And what are the different ways in which you can back up?

Different Backup Methods
Hard drives are relatively cheap today, and you can purchase an external one.  You can also back up your files online.  Let's look at the various ways.
  1. Manually - that is, you can copy your file to a different location.  Now if you copy it to another folder on the same hard drive, that is just about as swift as having a backup house on coastal Japan, down the street from your primary residence.
  2. Automatically - you have some software that keeps things backed up in the background.
  3.  Backed up to a hard disk (could be a USB drive for example, or across the network - I currently use both).
  4. Backed up to CD/DVD.
  5. Backed up online.
Why One Over The Other?
What are the problems with these that would keep you from backing up regularly?
  • Manual means you have to remember to back it up - big pitfall!
  • Online you have to pay a recurring fee, and typically have a size limit.  They don't back up everything, by the way!
  • If it is automatic, you have to set it up.  Usually the problem is not here, but in the interface for how you find and restore a particular file you need - one that was deleted, or a version from last week before it got messed up.
  • CDs and DVDs just don't have the capacity to back up like we need nowadays - photos, music, videos, and Virtual Machines.
  • Online means you are putting your trust for your most precious data in someone else's hands.  Are you backing up your Quickbooks and Quicken data?  Do you really want that stored on another company's system?
For me, what I want is this:
  • Automatic, I don't have to think about it
  • Very simple to find and restore the files I need
  • Locate the files in my hand - I don't want anyone else carrying around my data!!
  • Not incur YAMF (yet another monthly fee)!!

Now before we get any deeper into this post, let me warn you that some may have noticed that I have gone fruity.  That is, I have gotten sweet on apples - Macintosh to be precise. 

Check this out.  The Macintosh has something that comes with it, called Time Machine.  It backs up changes EVERY HOUR - that's right, as things go along!  Further, you can flip back through the folder you are currently looking at, to see versions of that folder back in time.  And there's nothing you have to do - except keep your external hard drive plugged in!!!  I mean, is that cool or what?  If that alone doesn't make you see the value of a Mac over Windows or even Linux, then what does?

Unable to display content. Adobe Flash is required.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Texting while...

Texting while driving is, of course, the evil of the day.  Admit it, how many of you do it?  I am too afraid to try it!  However, I have a few questions.

Do we really need a law specifically dealing with texting while driving?  Existing laws govern save driving, so why do we need specific laws on this activity?  It seems to me there are many more activities that are just as (or perhaps more) dangerous: putting on makeup, eating (e.g. a sandwich), fiddling with your radio, heck how about your GPS?  I once was eating my sub while putting on makeup and talking on my cell phone in a stick shift car - but not in waking life!

So, now that I got that out of the way, what about other areas of life besides driving where texting permeates?  If we need to ban while driving, we also need to ban during these times!!  Are you with me on this, or what?
  • Toileting.  That's right, you go into the corporate bathroom, and there's Johnny standing in front of the urinal, both hands occupied.
  • In a meeting.  Hmm?  It's my turn to speak?
  • Babysitting.  Now where did Elliott get off to?  What's that crash?!
  • Mowing the lawn.  Snowblowing too - heck any yard maintenance (darn, where did that seed go while I was planting and texting??)
  • How about just plain interacting with other human beings?  Isn't it rude to answer the phone while in a conversation with someone else?  Why not texting?
Well, let's look for legislation soon regarding these important matters - and heck, if you don't see it, let's author some bills and get them in front of our lawmakers!  God knows they need to legislate more of our ativities.