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Windows 10 is Pretty… but not Pretty Enough to Bring me Back

Published August 3, 2015 - 0 Comments
Windows-10-Super-Wallpaper-HD-14

Windows 10 is pretty

I swore off buying Microsoft Windows computers a few years ago.  I’d owned many of them over the years… from Windows 3.11 up to Vista.  Then I bought my first Mac, and I’ve never looked back.  I’ve been so happy with my Macs that I even bought one for my sister, rather than continue to live the eternal hell known as being “the computer guy”.  My mission to eradicate Windows from my family was thwarted by my Mother secretly replacing her new Chromebook with a Windows laptop with touch screen.  Shit.  Well.. there’s one in every family.

Then I heard a tale of woe… Jess’ cousin had a Windows 7 laptop that was sick.  Very sick.  Plagued with unwanted pop-ups and chronic pokiness.  Several times she had taken it to a local computer shop, and within days the troubles re-appeared.  It was an endless nightmare.  Or as I like to think of it… just another day with Microsoft Windows!

I couldn’t stand by and allow this to continue.  I had to do something.  But I’m old.  I haven’t had to troubleshoot Windows problems in seemingly forever.  (except at work, but hey.. that’s another story)  Could I even do this anymore?  There was only one way to find out.

“If you want to drop it off to me sometime, I’ll take a look at it for you.”

It was official.  I had come out of retirement.  Me vs Windows in a bloody, take-no-prisoners, bout.  A fight to the finish.  A clash of the titans.  Insert your own hyperbolic statement here.

I’d been out of the game for so long, I had to get myself back into shape.  I trained.  I Googled.  I talked to people who continue to do this for a living.  It was going to be ugly.  I needed the best tools for the job.  File scanners.  Harddrive utilities.  Anti-virus.  Anti-malware.  Anti-spam.  Anti-biotics. Even a bottle of Captain Morgan.  I had my work cut out for me.  And then something happened… a new icon appeared at the bottom of the screen…

Get Windows 10.

Really?  Well shit… that’s convenient!  Yup!  On the very same day that I sat down to try to clean the infected laptop, Microsoft released Windows 10.  After checking with Julie, I backed up her important files and went through the clean installation process.  Microsoft has greatly improved this from the days of old.  It’s very straight forward.  I had a brand new installation of Windows 10 installed in an hour.  It’s pretty.  It’s definitely faster than what she had been using.  Is it perfect?  I doubt that.  I assume there will be a bit of a learning curve to try to figure out where things are, and what they do, but that’s normal with any new software release.  I just need to be clear when I hand the laptop over to her… no support questions!

I’m retired.

Total Annihilation: Passing the Torch

Published April 20, 2015 - 1 Comment
Total-Annihilation-Might-Get-Modern-Remake-Says-Chris-Taylor

Incredible amount of units

Back in 1997 there was a little company called Cavedog Entertainment who released a RTS game that blew all other RTS games away.  It was called Total Annihilation, and went on to become 1997’s Game of the Year.  The graphics were excellent but it was the game play that set it above all others.

 

Fast forward to 2015, and Total Annihilation is still as much fun today as it was almost 20 years ago.  Thanks to GOG games, Total Annihilation has been ported to Mac, and is playable under WINE.  And it’s cheap too!  I bought the entire Commander’s Pack for $5, which is awesome.  It can be a little glitchy sometimes, but that’s the price you pay to be able to relive some of your best memories.  When I get in a mood that I just want to blow shit up, I sit down and load T.A.

Yesterday I loaded the game onto my Macbook Air and set up a multi-player game between my Macs.  It’s been almost 20 years since I’ve played Total Annihilation against anyone other than a computer player.  It worked perfectly!  They connected and I was able to create a new game.  Why?  Because my son has been watching me play this game for years, and despite its now-dated graphics, he’s been itching to try and figure it out.  So we had our first Father-Son Total Annihilation Smackdown yesterday!  The kid’s got 18 years of catching up to do before he’s going to beat his old man, but I give him credit… he’s willing to get crushed 🙂

We have another session scheduled for Wednesday, which is great because it’s not even my week to have the kids, but he wants to come over and spend some time with me.  Now if I could just get his sister interested too!  Where’s the My Little Pony mod?

When Your Computer is Stolen You’ll be Happy You Have Prey Installed

Published October 6, 2012 - 0 Comments

I’ve never had a computer stolen.  I once had a couple of old Cisco routers stolen from the trunk of my car, but never anything like a computer, cell phone, or iPad.  When I think of those Cisco routers, I would love to have seen

the look on the thief’s face as he tried to figure out what the hell they were.  I was using them to study for a Cisco certification and even *I* wasn’t sure how to get them to work!  Good luck to any common thief trying to convince a pawn shop that they were worth anything.  I picture them rotting in a landfill somewhere.

But what if I did lose a laptop?  Or my iPhone?  Or one of the kids left their iPod somewhere and someone swiped it?  It happens all the time.   A thief can walk off with a couple of thousand of dollars worth of tech in one armful.  Leave the TV… it’s too heavy.  Stereo?  No way.  Oh… nice shiny iPad?  That’s worth $500-600 easily.  Same thing for a smart phone.  Macbook Air is $1100.  And it’s not just Apple products… a decent Windows laptop or desktop is still hundreds of dollars or more.  Your new Android phone is going to set you back $500 or more to replace.  These items are particularly attractive to thieves because of their high monetary value, small size, and ease of dumping… and the chances of the police recovering your stolen tech is slim to none.  By the time you’ve even filed a police report, your iPhone is packaged and on its way to an unsuspecting EBay buyer anywhere in the world.

So what can you do to dramatically increase your chances of recovering your stolen property?

Let me introduce you to a neat little program called Prey.  Before I go any farther, I’ll tell you that Prey comes in a free and a paid version.  Even if you don’t feel like spending a single penny to help protect yourself from thieving paws, I highly suggest that you consider installing the free version!  It’s not nearly as feature-rich as the paid version, but it’s still awesome, and you can install it on up to 3 devices.  And when I say devices, I mean any Windows, Mac, Linux, iPhone, iPod, iPad, or Android piece of tech that you own.  But forget about the free version for a minute, and let’s talk about the paid one.  I bought it.  Yup.  Yesterday.  So this isn’t me just looking around for things to promote… this is something I should have bought ages ago, and it’s only a fluke that I haven’t had to use it yet.  Trust me… every time one of my children says “I lost my iPod” I feel my skin crawl.  So far “lost” means that they forgot it at their grandmother’s house… or it’s under the bed… but it’s only a matter of time before one of them truly loses it.  And that’s where Prey comes in.

 

Installing the Prey client on your device takes less than a minute.  Once you log in with your Prey account, you’re all set.  From that point you can decide to never touch it again, or if you’re like me, you’ll probably want to log into the Prey website and simulate a “stolen” device.

You can see from the screenshots that you have a lot of different actions that you can take.  Simply move the selection bar from OK to MISSING, and you will start to receive reports from your stolen device as soon as it connects to the internet.  You’ll get a map of its current location, detailed information about the network that its connecting to, and even screenshots of what the thief is doing.  And my favourite?  Activate the webcam and have it email you a picture of the thief.  Say cheese!  You can also do standard stuff like lock the computer, have it display a message, sound an alarm, even speak a message in an eerie computer generated voice… “Hey shithead!  I want my computer back!”  Or whatever you feel like saying…

And even if your device hasn’t been stolen, it’s comforting to know that you can activate the siren for the times when you can’t remember where you set your iPhone.  Or when calling the children to the supper table is too boring, why not have their iPod talk to them in a robotic voice… “Supper.  Now!  That’s right.  You heard me.  Now!”   Oh… I can’t wait to get Prey installed on their iPods.

As I mentioned above, you can install the free version of Prey on up to 3 devices, and I think that it’s a great idea to do that.  The program will automatically capture your serial numbers, which are critical in recovering stolen goods, and most of us do not have these written down.  So at the very least, you will have that, and the ability to track your stuff should it wander away from you.  But I fully believe that this program is insurance for my electronics (Did I mention that the paid version can protect up to 10 devices? No?  Well I just did!), and more than willing to pay for it, especially given the amazing deal that the fine folks at AppSumo were able to offer.  If you’re not familiar with AppSumo, they are an awesome company that works to secure amazing discounts on software and training from other internet companies.  They’re primarily focussed on internet entrepreneurs but occasionally a deal comes along for the masses… like this one!

A one year subscription to Prey would normally cost $162, but if you buy it through AppSumo, you get it for a whopping $49. 

Will this change?  Probably.  Many of the AppSumo deals are time limited, but I don’t see a timer associated with this one.  Still, it’s unrealistic to think that this offer will be available forever… so at the time of this writing $49 is a pretty sweet deal for something that normally costs $162.

And like I said earlier… even if you don’t want to spend the money to protect your hard-earned tech… do yourself a favour and install the free version.  The Prey website has a section with customer testimonials… and these look to be 100% legit.

I wish that I had Prey installed on those Cisco routers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blogs on the Move: December ’10

Published December 25, 2010 - 4 Comments

At the start of the month, I changed the links under my Interesting Stuff section to include some of the blogs/websites that I take a look at on a regular basis.  I wanted to highlight them because I feel that it’s important to talk about what other people are doing.  Part of blogging is the conversation… and each of these sites are adding to that conversation in their own unique way.

  • 123LinkIt isn’t a big surprise.  I love this company.  If you’re serious about blogging, then you should love them too…  unless you want to sign up for a bunch of different affiliate marketing networks, and sift through thousands of products to decide what to write about.  123Linkit acts as your affiliate account manager and automatically matches keywords from your blog to their ever expanding list of advertisers.  Then if someone clicks one of your links and purchases a product, you get a commission for that sale.  It’s as simple as that.  Plus, Yasmine (founder and CEO) is super-nice…  You can read more on their blog here.
  • The Canadian Disability Resources Database is a site started by my sister to gather as much information in one location as possible for families looking for disability resources.  Jennifer has discovered first-hand how difficult it can be to locate resources, and how different programs can be from province to province.  This database is constantly evolving as more resources are added.  Check it out here, and don’t be afraid to pass it along to someone who could benefit from this information. 
  • Darren Rowley’s blog is a personal blog, with a mixture of family, fun, and Apple topics.  As I’m a brand new Mac user, I find Darren’s posts very helpful in easing my transition from Windows to Mac.  He has reviewed several software programs that I’ve adopted for my own use.  I found Darren on twitter when I sent a message asking for help finding an RSS reader.  Twitter isn’t just a waste of time.  Finding someone like Darren has been extremely helpful. 
  • Fumbling for Perfection is a personal blog maintained by a really great young woman, Cuddles.  I had the pleasure of meeting Cuddles in the spring, so I have a little more insight into her blog than most people would if they just stumbled onto it… but I think that everyone can get something out of it… especially if they’ve had any sort of breakup.  She normally keeps the blog pretty up-to-date, but I haven’t seen any new posts there in a couple of weeks.  I’m hoping that it’s just that time of year, and that she’s been busy with Christmas stuff.  Still, her blog has been around for a couple of years, so there’s plenty of reading there.  And what a great name for a blog!
  • Jazzalicious85is another personal blog that I check out from time to time.  It’s updated less frequently than mine, but that’s ok.  She’s in Australia, so she’s on a different schedule than I am.  Actually, it was the fact that she IS on a different schedule that brought us together.  I was looking on Twitter for someone in Australia to chat with because my nightshifts coincide perfectly with their day time schedule.  Jazzytook the bait, and we’ve been keeping each other amused ever since!  Now if only I could get her to change her Gravatar, and comment on my blog.
  • Whatever’s In My Head is yet another personal blog from a Twitter-friend.  Erinand I started talking after I commented on her tweet about the #DoubleDown sandwich from KFC.  To those people who think that I have a disproportionate number of female twitter friends, Erin is a perfect example of what I call “Guys Don’t Talk!”… I sent essentially the same message to Erin as I did to a male Twitter user who had also mentioned the #DoubleDown.  She replied to my tweet.  He did not.  Then she replied to my reply.  Now we’re tweeps  🙂   Her blog is an introspective look into her life… It’s fairly new, but I hope that she continues with it.

Those are just some of the blogs that I like to check out from time to time.  I can’t keep up with everything, as I’m sure that very few people follow every word of this blog.  But I like to catch up as best as I can when I have a little time.  I certainly appreciate everything these people do, wish all of them the best of luck!

Oh and if there’s a site that you think I, or the other readers, would be interested in… just leave me a comment!  I’d love to know what other people are reading in their spare time!

An Apple a Day… Keeps The Windows Away…

Published November 5, 2010 - 4 Comments

As many people already know, I finally took the plunge into the world of Apple for my computing needs!  I’ve been loving my iPhone so much that I felt I was ready to make the switch.  Originally I had been thinking about a new laptop, but after one trip to FutureShop, I immediately set my sights higher!  In all honesty, the Macbooks didn’t really grab my attention as much I thought they might.  They were fine… but I wasn’t looking for fine.  I was looking for amazing.  And then I saw the iMacs.

Quite simply, these things are beautiful.  Every computer should look like an iMac.  The idea of a single integrated unit does cause me some concern.  I’ll admit that.  If something breaks, the entire unit is useless.  But I’m willing to take a chance.

When it came to choosing the right one, it was a no brainer.  Bigger is better, I always say!  There is a 21″ monitor model and a 27″ monitor goliath.  Guess which one I had to have?  (Hey, I only buy a new computer every few years, and I usually go for a basement priced model… this is definitely a treat for me!) I’ll tell ya.. the 27″ monitor is absolutely gorgeous!  I’m sure that the 21″ model is also quite nice, but when you have the two of them side by side at the store… it makes the little guy look like the runt of the litter!

Setting it up is a joke.  It’s one piece!  Just plug it in!  I opted for the wireless keyboard and Magic Mouse, rather than the wired ones.  You might think that would be a no brainer as well, but not for me.  I actually did put consideration into that decision.  The wireless keyboard is smaller than a traditional keyboard.  The number pad on the side is gone.  I’ll admit that feels wrong to me, but I’m getting used to it.  The other difference is that the wired keyboard has 2 USB ports on it, while the wireless has none.  Why would I even care about that?  Well… in order for Apple to make everything look as pretty as possible, all the inputs are in the back.  This isn’t a big deal if you have something that you plug in once and leave it there, but it’s a bit of a pain for something that you’re going to plug in on the fly… like a USB memory stick.  It’s not the end of the world to move the computer to get access to the back, but I think it would have been nice had there been one USB slot on the front or side.

As for the Magic Mouse, that’s less of a debate.  I could have gone either way with that, but the lack of cords getting messed up on the desk is certainly nice.

As soon as you turn on the iMac, both your wireless keyboard and Magic Mouse are automatically paired with it, so there’s no configuring anything.  It just works!  Doesn’t get much simpler than that.

So what’s it like to actually use a Mac for the first time?  Well, it’s not without its little challenges.  There is a learning curve, but that’s to be expected.  Some of the things that I took for granted with my Windows machines are different in the Mac.  Again, that’s to be expected, but it still feels a little frustrating at times.  I actually had to look online to find out why I couldn’t right click with my Mac.  Once I got that straightened out, things improved dramatically.  (note: right click is disabled by default with the Magic Mouse!)

There’s also the issue of my keyboard shortcuts.  Instead of Control-X to cut and Control-V to paste, the Mac uses Command-X and Command-V.  Not a big deal, but considering that there IS a Control key on the keyboard, it’s what I keep trying to use.

As for software, I think the only thing that I’ve found that I couldn’t use on the Mac was RSS Bandit, which I use to keep track of the different blogs that I read.  There are plenty of Mac RSS readers available, so that’s not a problem.  As for everything else, the first thing I installed was Firefox.  Safari is a capable browser, but I’m more comfortable with Firefox.  After installing the Xmarks plugin for Firefox, I instantly had all my old bookmarks again.  After installing Dropbox, I had access to everything synched between my iMac, iPhone, and Windows laptop.  (This would eventually change a little, but more on that another day).  Add TweetDeck, Skype, uTorrent, and VLC media player and I was nearly 100% comfortable with everything that you could possibly throw at me.

I’m still a ways away from becoming an Apple fanboy.  I have far too many years of Windows background for me to completely walk away from it, but I have to be honest here… it’s been a long time since I’ve been as excited to open a new computer box as I was when the iMac showed up!