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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.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Welcome to the Microsoft-Free Zone

Published November 23, 2010 - 9 Comments

Last week I wrote about buying my first iMac.  And here’s a quick update: I LOVE IT!   In fairness though, I might very well have been saying the exact same thing had I bought a 27″ all in one Windows machine too.  It might be less the fact that it’s Apple, and more the fact that it’s a beautiful machine.  The jury’s still out on that one.  But doesn’t matter.. I love it.

Today I want to talk a little about what I did to my Dell Inspiron laptop.  I’ve removed Windows 7 from it, and gone with Ubuntu Linux!  Exciting, isn’t it?  Yeah well, for me, it kinda is.  I’ve never installed Linux before.  I’m not really that type of geek.  (Whatever the hell that means)  But the current installations of Linux are a lot more user friendly, and a lot less geek factor required.

I have to say… my laptop runs noticeably faster under Ubuntu than it did under Windows 7.  I think that it shipped with Vista, but I had put a copy of Windows 7 on it last year.  Maybe it was the hardware.  Maybe it wasn’t high enough for Windows 7 to run as well as it probably should.  I don’t doubt that.  But still… doesn’t change the fact that Ubuntu runs beautifully on it.

I honestly don’t find that it looks as slick as Microsoft Windows does, but it’s not horrid.  I’m sure that there must be a version of Linux that is closer, but Ubuntu comes highly recommended, so that’s why I went with it.

As for software, as long as I have Firefox to start with, I’m fine.  After that, I installed VLC (movies and music) which is far better than Windows Media player (I also run this on the iMac), Tweetdeck (for Twitter), Open Office (a Microsoft Office clone) and Evolution (e-mail program).  I’ve been an Outlook user all my life (well, maybe not THAT long) and I was hesitant to install Evolution, but ya know what?  It’s pretty damn good!  Oh yes, and even Skype runs on Linux.  All these programs are free, and stable, and do 99% of what I need a computer to do.

Other than the XBox 360 (and my roomie’s Toshiba laptop) there are no Windows devices on the network any more.

And really… I can’t say as I miss them.

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!

Going in a New Direction? My First Mac?

Published September 10, 2010 - 3 Comments

Macbook Pro

I’ve been giving some serious consideration into purchasing a new laptop.  My Dell Inspiron actually works well enough, and I have nothing against it… but I feel like it’s more of a toy, and less of a workhorse.  I can play around on the net, download crap, break it, and reinstall Windows back to it without much thought.  It’s great for a time-waster… but what I want is a serious multimedia beast, so I can work on some serious projects.  Yes… what I’m saying is this…

I think it’s time to look at getting my first Mac.

There’s no doubt about it.  I’ve been extremely happy with every Apple product that I’ve bought.  (Except that I’m a little bewildered where my ringtones disappeared to after I upgraded my iPhone OS, and iTunes 10) They’re beautiful, and the user experience is generally far superior to the competition’s efforts. Granted, they’re also pricey… the Macbook Pro starts at $1250. I think that my Inspiron was around $600, and for the price of it, you couldn’t ask for better performance. I can buy one hell of a Windows laptop for $1250. But I don’t want another Windows laptop. I’m tired of Windows. I know Windows too well, and maybe that’s part of the problem for me. I’m looking for a new direction, and I’m growing a little tired of the technical side of things. I’m more interested in content creation at this point, and that includes audio and video.. two things that the Mac is supposed to excel at.

There’s no rush. I’ve been stashing a little money away every pay in the “iPad” account… but I don’t really think that I need an iPad at the moment. I’d much rather put that money toward an iMac or Macbook Pro.

Apple… One taste of the forbidden fruit and I want more… Isn’t that always the way?