Windows 8 is the New Windows Vista

Microsoft on Windows 8 – You don’t see anything…

Windows8 is the new Windows Vista

I think it’s safe for nearly anyone and everyone to say and agree that Windows 8.x is a total train wreck. That’s sad, because it isn’t the OS itself that’s horrible, it’s just Metro, or what Microsoft officially calls “ModernUI” (though I fail to see much that’s “modern” about it. It’s very similar to Windows 1.0 in look and feel…). Microsoft is officially looking forward to putting Windows 8 far, behind it, much as they did with Windows Vista.

When Windows 7 was released, Microsoft went on a huge media blitz. They contracted with a company called, House Party – a company that does classic “Tupperware” styled parties for just about everything – to help them get people across the country to host Windows 7 Launch Parties. If you were chosen to host one, you got a party kit, which included a free Windows 7 license so you could demo the new OS and talk up its new features. I actually got a local newspaper – The Aurora Beacon – to help with the coverage and started a 12 week freelancing stint with them where I started off with a cool series on Setting up Windows 7 for the first time. In the end, they really did great job on moving the limelight away from Windows Vista – the old and busted – to Windows 7 – the new hotness.

Microsoft would very much like to repeat that kind of activity with similar results. In fact, I’d wager that their tactics will be nearly identical. They’ll do anything and everything they can to make the public forget Windows 8.x, and especially MetroUI.

For example, in the months leading up to Windows 7’s release, Microsoft did everything it could to make users forget about Windows Vista. All formal communications released from Microsoft either downplayed the former OS release and/ or played up the new OS release. Microsoft did everything it could to help users forget that Windows Vista ever existed.

For Windows 8, it’s going to be a little more difficult, but in the end the results will be the same. Microsoft has one more major update to Windows 8.1 scheduled for release on 2014-08-12. Windows 8.1 Update 2 (or whatever they end up calling) was supposed to be the update that had the new, revamped Start Menu in it. However, that update was pulled from the release many months ago and will instead come as part of Threshold, largely believed to be called, Windows 9. New – read reinstated – Start Menu with a revamped – read MetroUI removed – user interface, plus some other, yet to be announced, features = new version of Windows that Microsoft hopes everyone will embrace. In an effort to help that, Microsoft will likely have little to no press or released information about the 2014-08-12 Patch Tuesday and the release of Windows 8.1 Update 2 (if, in fact, that is what it called).

Another tactic, as noted by ComputerWorld would be to change the naming convention of the next version of Windows. As I stated above, the next version of Windows is rumored to be called Windows 9. When Microsoft released Windows 7, instead of giving it a name – like XP or Vista – Microsoft instead switched to a numeral based designation. They did this because XP was the OS that just wouldn’t die no matter how hard they tried and Vista was the marketing and sales thud heard round the world. Since Windows 8 is just as much of a dud as Windows Vista is, Microsoft may decide to remake the brand entirely and leave the numeric designations behind.

Perhaps they’ll move back to a product name. The next version of Windows is codenamed, “Threshold.” So, for example, calling it Windows Threshold, or something else may help Microsoft move away from the failure of Windows 8. Perhaps they’ll return to a year designation like they did with Windows 98 and Windows 2000 and call this version of Windows, “Windows 2015,” as the OS is supposed to become available for download and distribution in the early Spring of 2015.

Whatever its name, Microsoft is going to have to put some heavy marketing capitol behind it in order to reduce and remove the market share that Windows 8 has. Windows 7 had three to four years of exclusivity before Microsoft started talking up Windows 8.x. Microsoft is hoping to bury Windows 8 after only 2-3 years of exclusivity. Yes… it’s really that bad for Windows 8.x.

(BTW, it’s not the OS itself that’s bad, just MetroUI, which unfortunately, is nearly everywhere within the OS. While you can’t get away from it, with tools like Stardock’s Start8, and other very cheap utilities, you can nearly turn Windows 8 into a Windows 7 look alike. The OS in and of itself, is fast, optimized, and it will run on cheaper, more affordable hardware. That means your older notebooks and netbooks can use it too, extending their value and life.)

Some pundits – as well as many people in the tech circles that I frequent – that are talking about this issue are saying that Microsoft needs to do something spectacular to help remove Windows 8 from the annals of history. Some feel that giving away Threshold may be the best way to do that. Those that ARE saying that are calling that the, “smart thing to do.”

Nearly every version of every distribution of Linux is free to end users. Apple is making OS X Yosemite free to all Mavericks users. For Microsoft to continue to charge end users for upgrades and new versions is becoming problematic. Only Macs can run OS X, but nearly every Windows machine can run Linux, and their user interfaces are becoming more and more Windows-like and end-user friendly than they were before. With online versions of Microsoft Office and other online office suites that run on any and every OS that has a web browser, a compelling reason to pay for Windows on your PC is quickly disappearing, despite any reasoning behind Microsoft’s One Windows vision and streamlining.

What do you think of all of this? Is Windows 8 a boat anchor drowning Microsoft and holding them back? Should they do their best to erase it from history as they did with Windows Vista? Should they give Threshold away? Let me know in the Discussion area, below. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the whole issue.

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One Windows

Say goodbye to Windows RT…

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I saw a report by The Verge yesterday and it kinda got me thinking. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has been busy over the past couple of weeks. He cut over 18,000 jobs from the new combined Microsoft after the deal with Nokia closed and they had time to figure out where the redundancies were. He’s killed Ballmer’s devices and services focus for the company and has everyone focusing on the cloud and on productivity. Now, he’s taking a shot at one of Microsoft’s major products – Windows.

There can be only one…

According to Nadella, Microsoft will “streamline the next version of Windows from three operating systems into one single converged operating system.” Windows will be built by a single team with one common architecture. The details of how this will actually happen aren’t known as of yet, but that means that desktop Windows, Windows Phone and Xbox will be unified. This is huge for developers, as they can now create universal apps, meaning they will only have to code and compile once and their app should run anywhere Windows does.

This has been something that Microsoft has been moving towards for months. At BUILD, Microsoft showed of dev tools that support this. While this works better for developers, how it will work in the wild remains to be seen. This ultimately means the death of Windows RT and Microsoft Surface RT/Surface 2 tablets.

THAT isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as Microsoft never really got behind RT and pushed it as their competitors – both Apple and Google – push their mobile operating systems. RT was confusing to users who often mistook it for the Pro version of Windows, only without any real apps. The problem with RT was the Windows Desktop. RT still had it and Windows [File] Explorer, making it look and feel a great deal like its bigger brother, but without the ability to run any desktop apps. Quite honestly, no one knew what to do with Windows RT and Surface RT. Microsoft didn’t push it, users didn’t understand what to do with it, and it just kinda died.

As I have stated many times, Mary Jo Foley is a friend of mine, and I trust her take on the inner-workings at Microsoft more than anyone else’s. Well, maybe not as much as a Microsoft press release, but you get my meaning.

Anyway, I took a long hard look at the report by The Verge, and it didn’t quite sit right. Based on what I know MJF has said before, creating one, single Windows SKU that runs on all devices and only differentiates based on the box its running on is NOT what Microsoft has been all about…EVER. Thankfully, MJF has come to rescue again and provided some clarification.

In a nutshell, this is what “One Windows” means:

One Team – a single team developing the core of Microsoft Windows has been in place under Terry Myerson since July 2013. They will continue to take direction from one set of notes.

One “Core” – All Windows variants (and there will continue to be a few) will continue to come from a single Windows Core. Each SKU and variant will be built via a layered architecture, but will be built on top of this common core

One Store – Microsoft isn’t closing the Windows Store simply because RT is dying. Microsoft has been working to unify the Windows Phone Store and Windows Store over the past year and will continue to do so. The unified store should debut with Threshold sometime next year. How or when Xbox apps and games will be made available in the Store isn’t known yet.

One Development Platform – Microsoft will make a single set of developer API’s and developer’s toolset available. Developers won’t necessarily get the code/ compile once functionality as reported by The Verge; but they are still shooting for having developers write “universal apps.” What “universal” actually means is still a bit unclear; but many of those pieces are in place now.

According to MJF what One Windows does not mean is a single Windows SKU. There will be multiple versions of Windows, in much the same way as we’ve always seen Windows – Enterprise, Consumer, OEM and Industrial (Windows Embedded). We should be able to see this come to fruition this Fall when the public preview of Threshold is still scheduled to be made available.

What do you think of these developments? Is Microsoft getting it together, or is their strategy still too segmented/ fragmented and confusing? Does this kind of “unification” make sense to you, or is this all just a coat of paint on a busted wagon? Does the reported death of Windows RT matter? Does the reported death of Windows RT and the apparent loss of the Surface RT/ Surface 2 (not the Surface Pro line, which includes the Surface Pro and Surface Pro 2/3). Why don’t you meet me in the discussion area below and let me know what you think?

UPDATE – After trading a few Tweets with @MaryJoFoley on Twitter, just before this went into 2013-12-09 report, Microsoft isn’t killing RT. It still plans on making it one SKU with Windows Phone that runs on smartphones and tablets. This fits with the “One Windows” MO, noted above.

I know this is all a bit confusing, but again, I trust Mary Jo Foley. Her sources are known and trusted, and she has yet to lead me down a wrong path.

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An interesting way to keep track of your stuff with Tile

An interesting way to keep track of your stuff…

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About 20 months ago, Tile – a new company initially funded as a Kick Starter project has started shipping its product. I was really hot-to-trot for them, as the solution they offered provided a quick and easy way for you to find things you often misplace. For $50 bucks, you got four Tiles (three plus one bonus tile). I jumped on in January 2013, a number of months after the program had been initially announced in either late 2011 or H1 2012. (However, my timing may be slightly off. Please correct me if I’m wrong in the Comments, below…)

The process was fairly simple, you attach a Tile to an object, pair it with your smartphone and then if you lose it, you can use your phone to track it down. The app on your phone provides you with the last known GPS location of the Tile; and use play a game of Hot-Cold until you actually find the object that the Tile is connected to.

Tile recently began shipping their products to its initial backers, and I received mine a few weeks ago. I’ve had a chance to stick one on my keys (of which I am CONSTANTLY misplacing..!) and I have the following commentary on the app and the product; and I have a few suggestions for Tile as well…

My Biggest Use Case
Tiles product itself is pretty ingenious. It uses Bluetooth 4.x and BT-LE to help you find the object you’ve attached the actual Tile to. As long as the Tile isn’t over a year old (more on that later) and as long as the Tile is in range of your smartphone, you’ll be able to find what you’ve lost.

This was a HUGE deal for me, as my family has a HORRIBLE habit of misplacing the universal TV remote in the family room. The kids don’t put it back where it’s supposed to be, it gets shoved between couch or chair cushions, the baby walks it to another room, or some other weird result. I often spend more time looking for the remote than I do actually watching my beautiful, 51″, plasma HDTV.

I have about 5 TV’s in the house and a universal remote for each. None of them are the same brand, so each remote is really tied to the TV it’s paired with. Unfortunately, the family tends to take remotes from one room to the other (as the cable boxes all use the same signals)

I thought this was going to be the best thing in the world! I could attach a Tile to the remote and then instead of spending hours looking for it, I could simply track it down with my iPhone and start watching TV. My Backer’s shipment of Tiles even included a way to attach a Tile to my often wayward remote. I really thought I would be ecstatic with this solution. This was really the only reason why

Tile – It’s a [Huge] Mamma-Jamma
When you back something on Kickstarter or other crowd-source funding site, you really have no idea what you’re buying or funding. I love the idea of Tile, but I’ll tell you this – I’m very disappointed. The darn thing is HUGE! I thought it would be about half the size it actually is.

The concept is right: a water-tight, one piece BT-LE widget that easily attaches to items, allowing you to track them down if they get misplaced. If your spouse forgets their purse or wallet at a diner you stopped at while travelling down the road, you can go back and easily find it. If you’ve lost your keys, but you know they’re SOMEWHERE in the house, you can quickly track them down. If your granddaughter walked away with the universal remote in each room and she’s not quite two, and doesn’t speak sentences yet… You get the picture. It’s pretty awesome.

Unfortunately, the devices themselves are very large – about 1.5 to 2.0 inches square, with a large hole in the upper left corner allowing you to put them on a key ring or other fob. They’re also about a quarter of an inch thick. When I said they should be about half that size… Yeah. You see what I mean. These things are LARGE.

The device can’t be end user serviced. It has a battery in it, but they last about one year and then need to be replaced. The letter “E” serves as a button for the device. It allows you to turn discovery on and then be paired with your smartphone. The devices also have an electronic speaker that plays a cute little melody to let you know where it is.

Tile also provides you with two different pieces of specially shaped and sized two sided tape that will allow you to attach your Tile to the side of something you want to keep track of – like my remote – so you don’t have to worry about fixing it to something so that it can be successfully paired without falling off of the object you want it to help you locate.

Don’t get me wrong. The devices work. They work well. However, they’re about two times as big as they should be. I understand that these are 1.0 versions of this hardware; but you’d think that we would be able to engineer a smaller device that fulfilled its charter.

The speaker on it also isn’t very loud, so if you’re hard of hearing (like me), you may have trouble hearing it as it calls out its location to you. It’s a good thing that your smartphone can determine distance (but not necessarily bearing) from your current location. Just remember that if you frequently use the device to shout out its location, its battery may not last its stated year of life; and at $20 bucks PER Tile, the replacement costs are a bit steep, too.

The Tile App
Unfortunately, I’m not entirely happy with the app, either. While it again, does a decent job, I expected a bit more. I’m not ENTIRELY certain just WHAT that was… maybe a better UI and/ or design. I’m not certain. However, it doesn’t do that Hot-Cold thing I mentioned earlier, and I really thought that it would.

The app shows you a GPS location, and that’s nice; but if I KNOW my keys are in the house and I’m just not sure what room they’re in, a GPS or map location isn’t going to help me. I need to know how close I am (or am not) to my target. Having some sort of “compass-styled” locator or other UI that would give me a “warmer… warmer…, cooler, colder…” kind of look would be better.

The musical tones and chirping that Tile does is nice, but if the thing you’re looking for is underneath some couch or chair cushions, you may not hear it. Having some kind of real time directional locator as part of the app would really be much more value-added and a bigger help. Having my phone vibrate also doesn’t help. All that tells me is that “it’s close.” It doesn’t tell me exactly where it is.

While the Tile app will give you a GPS location of the Tile’s last known GPS location, it won’t tell you where it is if what you’re looking for grew legs and decided to walk away. If someone took your purse or wallet from that diner and drove away with it, Tile won’t broadcast its GPS location to your phone and let you know where it is. That could be problematic, and would be really cool if it did do that. Unfortunately, there’s no way for your Tile to “call home” if it goes out of range of your smartphone.

Conclusion
I’m really torn here. I want to like these so much; but Tile has three big problems going against it.

1. They’re big
2. They need to be replaced annually
3. They’re expensive

When I bought these, I imagined something, as I’ve said, about half its current size. Tile adds a huge amount of bulk to an already crowded key ring. I don’t have unnecessary or old keys on my ring. I use each one, almost every day. If all I had was a car and a house key, that would be one thing, but with office keys, car keys, house keys and filing cabinet keys on my key ring, a 2×2 square, plastic widget takes up a lot of space.

If you look at the Tile website, you get the impression that each Tile has a 12 month life span. From the way their documentation reads, you get the idea that on each Tile’s anniversary, they stop functioning whether their battery dies or not. That’s totally NOT cool. I know Tile has to have some sort of working business model, but I honestly wouldn’t have bought into these if I knew they had a 12 month shelf life.

At $50 bucks for four Tiles, that’s $12.50 a Tile; and a bit much in my opinion. At regular price, these are $19.99 for one. That’s way too much (and $30 more a year for the original 4 I bought.) I’d rather see these priced at $9.99, since they have to be replaced annually.

Don’t get me wrong. I hate that I have to turn my family room upside down to find my remote for my TV nearly every day. I don’t like misplacing my keys. However, it’s unlikely that either of those conditions are going to change. I was wishing for something like this when Tile came around. The only thing that I can say is that I hope version 2.0 is much improved over version 1.0.

While Tile fulfills its mission, its current version software can use a huge upgrade and its hardware should be sent to a fat farm. The app should do a lot more than it does in terms of local location. I’d like a better hot-cold UI than what I have now. It would also be cool to see Tile do more with Location Services. The initial GPS and map data that Tile captures after it locates a device is nice, but having it phone home would be much better for those things that can grow legs and walk away.

Tile works and does a decent job, but its hardware size makes it a bit impractical for some of the things I’d really like to track with it. Having a smaller form factor would make it easier to attach to my universal TV remote… and easier to hide. I’m also not pleased with the shelf life or their cost.

It’s a good accessory; but I’m not as happy with its execution as I thought it would be. I also think that the effort will ultimately fail, as the annual cost won’t be seen as value added as it would or should be at a lower price point. Tile is a nice to have convenience; but not much more than that.

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Keep your PC’s hardware working to the best of its ability with Smart Driver Updater

Keep your PC’s hardware working to the best of its ability with this important Windows utility.

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One of the most important parts of any operating system as the drivers for each component under the hood or connected to your computer.  Having really good drivers can mean the difference between your PC running well, your performance tanking or not being to use either an accessory or peripheral or the entire PC.  This is especially important with newer operating systems, as updates to drivers can come, literally, all the time.  At that point, versioning can become an issue as app and driver installers are notorious for leaving artifacts behind and in some cases, drivers can even become outdated. This is why I really like Smart Driver Updater.  It helps you find and keep the best drivers for your Windows PC, up to date.

Just because a file is a driver file, doesn’t mean that it’s excluded from errors and other kinds of file corruptions that happen to other Windows components.  As peripherals and accessories move through their life cycle, drivers get updated and your copies can become out dated, quickly; and you often won’t know if that happens. Most computer connected devices don’t have auto-updaters.

Sometimes, installation processes can go sideways and an update gets applied incorrectly.  Or sometimes OTHER drivers get updated, and that update effects the performance of another peripheral or accessory because they share some kind of soft-component…  When something like this happens, it can take one, the other or both drivers – and devices – down.

Provided that the device or accessory isn’t damaged, all you likely need to do is update the actual driver file(s) for any related accessories and you’re back in business. Unfortunately, trying manually track this stuff down can be a HUGE headache. I know from firsthand experience. It can be a nightmare, especially if you’re trying to update drivers for more than one device at a time. This is where Smart Driver Updater comes to your rescue.

Smart Driver Updater has a database of over 600,000 drivers. The app’s database is constantly updated and edited to make sure that the best driver updates are available. With Smart Driver Updater, you’ll always have the latest driver updates available to you.

Having a Windows PC – especially for someone like me who is constantly testing both software and hardware – means that you’re always only a few months away from a complete tear down and rebuild of your PC.  If you ever have to nuke the hard drive and start from scratch, getting right back where you were with all of your drivers is very easy with Smart Driver Updater. It backs up all of your drivers to a zip file that is easily exported, giving you a quick, easy way to get back to where you were.

Smart Driver Updater isn’t the kind of application that has a lot of bells and whistles. It’s no nonsense, pragmatic approach to keeping your computer’s and peripheral’s drivers updated and current isn’t going to be the application that you ache to run every time you boot up your PC… That is, until it saves your bacon.  Then, you’re probably not going to want to run your computer without it.

The app’s Scheduler gives you standard “set it and forget it” functionality. Once activated, the app will scan your drivers at startup or at a day and time during the week or month and tell you what needs updating.  Putting that in place should be part of EVERY Windows PC’s boot process so that your PC is always running at peak performance.

 

Download Smart Driver Updater

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The Next Item Up for Bids

Eddy Cue Apple SVP is offering a one hour lunch AND a 13″ MacBook Air and it’ll likely only cost you a couple hundred grand…

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Following Tim Cook’s lead, Apple SVP Eddy Cue has decided to offer an hour long sit down with anyone as well as a 13″ MacBook Air – valued at $1199 – to the highest bidder.

This “Fortune 500 Charity Dunk Tank” is a GREAT idea. The MB Air chaser is an awesome idea, as the winner not only walks away with a dozen or so selfies with Cue, but a 13″ MacBook Air as well. I’m certain that if you bring a Sharpie, you could get Cue to autograph the case, and/ or the box, as well.

Tim Cook’s last time out brought nearly $1.0M in a direct donation to the RFL Center for Justice and Human Rights, as that was his choice for the destination of the winning bid. This time, like Tim, Eddy will host up to two guests after they have both passed a security screen. Depending on schedules, you may have to wait up to one year before you get the sit-down; and Apple doesn’t cover travel or lodging. Honestly, if you’re going to be able to afford this, travel and lodging probably aren’t high on your worry list, though.

This is the one thing that bothers me the most about something like this. There’s NO WAY the little guy has a chance in the Hot Place to win this kind of thing. It’s clear to me that the bids for this auction will soar, like Tim’s did. For example, as of this writing, bids were currently up beyond $10,500. The whole sha-bang is valued at $10k, so it’s already reached saturation. Bidding started at $1000; and has quickly climbed to the current $10,500 over the past couple of days. Bidding started on 2014-06-20. The auction closes at 2:20p EDT on 2014-07-16.

These high bids are good for the charity; but as I said, the little guy doesn’t have a chance at scoring the sit down. And while I get it – it IS for charity, after all – it would be really great if something like this could also be around for the little guy.

I know, I know… and yes, it is a bit of sour grapes on my part, I freely admit it. I need a little cheese with this whine; but it WOULD be cool to have the sit down, don’t you think? I have a ton of questions I’d like to ask, and I’m certain that with YOUR help, I could come up with one HECK of a list, especially with up to a year’s lead time. After the general, “whaddaya wanna do?” stuff ends, I’d have all kinds of questions about internal development processes, challenges, product development processes, testing and prototyping processes, NONE of which, I’m certain Cue would (be willing to) answer. Still, it would be awesome to go to the campus and have the meeting.

If you won, what would you ask Apple SVP Eddy Cue? What charity would you like to see the winning bid go to? What charity would you donate to, if you won? Whom would you bring with you; or would you go alone? Why don’t you join me in the Discussion Area below, and let me know. If you’re gonna dream… dream big!

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Secure your PC with Privazer

Secure your PC with this must have Windows utility.

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Keeping your PC safe while you use it is probably the most important thing you can do while actually using the device. Unfortunately, its one of the hardest things to do. Simply going online opens you up to all kinds of attacks, malware hacks and other nasty bugs and viruses. That’s why having an app like Privazer is so very important. It’s a Windows security utility, and its worth a bit of a look.

Privazer cleans your PC in-depth and removes unwanted traces of your activities at home or at work. You can see what can be recovered of your past activities and securely clean traces to get a PC Privazer cleans your PC and your external devices. Privazer is a smart cleaning tool that helps you master your security and freedom, free up disk space and keep your PC fit and secure.

With simply one click, Privazer is able to clean securely your browsing history and files, your registry, RAM, virtual memory file and hibernation file. It will also clean IM tracks of your computer as well. With the use of such apps (browsers, key system files and IM clients) nearly universal, this is something that everyone can benefit from.

Most security apps can do all of this. Its really nothing to write home about. However, what really makes Privazer valuable is its ability to scan the contents of your drive’s free space to see what data fragments have been left behind in what was once previously used space. The app will intelligently scan this space and can remove data traces that need to be reset to “0.” Performance of the app improves over time

Privazer is a great application that handles some very important, very complicated tasks. Having a tool like Privazer is something that every PC owner needs. The price is free and the risks of using are non-existent. If you don’t have a tool like this, then you need to give it a try. You likely will not be disappointed.

Download Privazer

 

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Would I be a Mac, if…?

It’s a great box and I love it, but…

For those of you that know me, you know that my love affair with the Apple ecosystem is very recent. I’ve been a Windows advocate most of my computing career.  In fact, most of my computing chops were earned in the Microsoft ecosystem – Windows, WindowsCE, PocketPC/ PocketPC Phone/ Windows Mobile and Windows Phone. I am still listed as a Sr. Content Editor for WUGNET, the Windows User’s Group Network and have been associated with them since 1997. For example, most of contents of their Windows and Computing Tips database are my work.

There’s been a bit of talk in the tech world about some changes Apple is making. Recently, Apple announced a decision to kill both Aperture and iPhoto. Jason Perlow over at ZDNet wrote a column about it.  It got me thinking about my own Mac journey.

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I bought my first Mac in 2006; and believe it or not, I bought it to be a Windows machine.  Boot Camp is a GREAT tool; and Intel-based Macs do a great job of running Windows (though I know Steve Jobs can hear me, and is definitely rolling over in his grave as I type this.)  I apologize, Mr. Jobs; but your hardware, IS the best in the business. Period…AND they make awesome Windows PC’s.

Since 2006, I’ve owned 3 different MacBook Pro’s or Unibody MacBooks.  However, it wasn’t until late 2010/ early 2011 that I made the complete switch over from Windows to OS X. This happened for a number of reasons.

1. I Invested in the Mac Ecosystem
It’s gotten better over time, but even though iPods were Windows compatible, they REALLY didn’t want to live there.  The differences in their operation were subtle – and still are – but if you have a chance to have an iPod or an iPhone pair up with a Mac, you will see they are much happier speaking their own language with their own people than they are living as an exile in a foreign country. In other words – you iDevice wants to pair up with an iTunes library on a Mac rather than on a Windows box. It’s easier to manage. It’s easier to sync content to, though that may not be as obvious today as it was back between 2004 to 2010.

It was also about this time, that I started buying more audio and video directly out of the iTunes Store rather than buying CD’s and ripping them myself.  As I began doing this, I decided to move my music library from the Windows side to the Mac side of my MBP. Since I knew that my iDevice life would be a better experience as a native Mac device AND I had a Mac to do this with, it simply made sense to move everything to the Mac side.
2. I Became Lazy
I don’t want to say that I made the permanent switch to OS X from Windows because I got tired of stopping and starting my PC when I wanted to watch a movie or sync my iPod/ iPhone; but stopping what I was doing and trying to quickly swap over was becoming a bit of a pain.  There wasn’t a real good way to reading or writing to an HSF or HSF+ volume from the Windows side of things, though you could at least read from an NTFS volume via OS X, natively at the time.

My biggest problem at the time was Office for Mac 2008 – it stunk. Period.  Word, Excel and PowerPoint were DEFINITELY behind in both technology and functionality with their counterparts from both Office 2007 and 2010. As I was (primarily) a Windows tech journalist/blogger at the time, and all of the GOOD tools that I was used to using were on the Windows end of things, it made sense to stay there, despite the fact that I had a Mac.

The other big problem I had was that despite how much I tried, despite how much I upgraded my Mac(s), running Windows as a VM with either Parallels Desktop or VMWare Fusion was a horrible experience.  The only way you could get good performance was to run Windows via Boot Camp, and that meant bopping back and forth between the two operating systems. Running Parallels or VMWare was painfully slow, and threw a boat anchor around the host OS, too.  So, I stayed a Mac owner running native Windows.  However, it was becoming clear that if things ever did improve, or if I ever did get a Mac that could run Windows in a VM with decent performance, I’d make the switch.

It was in late 2010 that Office for Mac 2011 became available and I jumped on early betas thanks to my TechNet subscription. It was also during this time that I was able to purchase an Early 2011 15″ MBP that had decent enough specs to push Windows as a VM via Parallels Desktop that it made sense to make the full switch over to OS X.  I’ve been a full-blown Mac ever since.  However, I do want to make one very important point.

I’m not made of money.  I love the Mac ecosystem; but the price of entry is WAY too high for the average consumer, in my opinion. While it may be easier to get there with iPhone and iPad, buying a Mac laptop or desktop costs a LOT of coin, and honestly, I wouldn’t own a Mac computer if I wasn’t a technology journalist.

Since I can VERY EASILY run OS X natively and Windows (as well as any variant of Linux) in a VM with decent performance thanks in no small part to Intel’s i7 processor and 16GB of RAM it makes sense for me to stay here. Running a VM of OS X or Linux on a PC hasn’t always been easy, and I gave up on tweaking and pushing hardware to do things they REALLY don’t wanna do (even though they should be able to) a few years ago. It’s just not worth the hassle, and I have better things to do with my time.

However, Jason Perlow brings up a very good point in his Aperture/iPhoto argument – would I be a Mac for any other reason?  Jason’s pull was digital photography. Mine was the need to easily run more than one computing OS at a time without having to reboot OR having to put up with crappy performance so I could write about apps, hardware, accessories, etc. used with those operating systems.  I was forced recently to admit – and rightly so – that if I weren’t getting paid to do that, I wouldn’t have purchased a Mac in 2006 in the first place.

It’s true. I really like my Mac, OS X and the way all of my iDevices work and integrate so well in their native environments and operating systems.  While it isn’t as “just works” as it used to be, owning and using a Mac is still a lot more elegant than anything that I’ve seen on the PC side.

Are you a Mac?  Have any of the recently announced changes to the Apple ecosystem turned you off to the Mac?  Why don’t you let me know your thoughts in the discussion area, below? I’d love to hear what you have to say.

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Aereo Pushes Pause

After the latest from the SCOTUS, Aereo is taking a step back…

aereo

The SCOTUS (Supreme Court of the United States) has been on a roll lately, and it seems they’ve rolled right over Aereo in a sweeping decision that has all but shut down the little startup that would.  While I’m not an Aereo subscriber, the company has sent out a second update to its users.  The company has decided to “pause.”

In his short update to Aereo’s customers, Aereo CEO and Founder Chet Kanojia let’s everyone know exactly what the company is looking to do in the coming days.  They’re pausing operations as of 11:30am ET Saturday 2014-06-28.

“As a result of that decision, our case has been returned to the lower Court. We have decided to pause our operations temporarily as we consult with the court and map out our next steps… All of our users will be refunded their last paid month. If you have questions about your account, please email support@aereo.com or tweet us @AereoSupport.”

At this point, as I understand things, Aereo has three options:
1. Cease total operations and close down
While this would be the most disappointing of all the options available to Aereo at this point, it seems like this is the most likely outcome. Their case has been returned to the lower Court and the decision that was originally found in their favor has been overturned.  The trial, if it goes forward, is still on, but with the Supreme Court having indicated that Aereo is effectively a cable company (as defined by Congress, in 1976, I think…) Aereo has said that they would close their doors rather than take either action 2 or 3, below.
2. Change their technology so they do not infringe copyright laws
I have no idea exactly WHAT this would entail, but it MAY be possible for Aereo to change what they’re doing so that they don’t infringe on the copyright owner’s performance.  I had heard on TWiT that some experts had explained that there’s NO WAY a dime-sized antenna could be pulling in any kind of OTA TV signal and that what was likely happening was that each antenna was instead part of an array that pulled in the appropriate signal(s) in each broadcast area. As such, this is where you get the 1976 cable company (think: regional, shared or community antenna) comparison.
3. Try to strike a deal with the Networks and Pay a Rebroadcast Fee
All of the hullaballoo could be over tomorrow if Aereo agreed to pay a rebroadcasting fee.   It’s unlikely that that will happen, however, as Aereo went to great pains to construct their product and business model around what they believed to be loopholes in the law.  While not illegal by any means (EVERY corporation does that with the tax laws of EVERY government they do business with, world-wide), they did get shot down.  As they went to such great lengths to avoid having to pay ANY kind of rebroadcasting fee, it’s unlikely that Aereo will agree to pay the fees on behalf of their customers (with them likely passing that fee on to each customer…). However, this would make everything legal, and wouldn’t require Aereo to do anything to their technology or their product(s).

At this point, it’s all on hold as Aereo circles the proverbial airport and tries to figure out how to move forward.  What I think is funny is that Aereo in their current incarnation represents what the consumer wants and how many see the future of television.  Nearly all video is going to go from OTA to OTI (over the internet) in 5 to 15 years.

I think Comcast sees this as fact, as they have been steadily raising the price of their Internet service over the past few years in order to combat lost or declining television package revenue.  Most consumers would love to purchase individual channel broadcasts or services – i.e. an a la cart service – instead of having networks or specific channels bundled with channels and services they will never use.  They’d also rather push it over the internet to a connected TV, computer, mobile device or other set top box so they could watch what they want, where they want, when they want.

The issue is without a doubt, complicated.  I actually think very few people in this country know what the TRUE right and wrong answers are to these legal questions, based on the current state of all relevant US legislation.  In the end, I think it’s all going to boil down to who gets paid and how much they get paid; but that’s just me, I guess.  Greed in America is running amok at this point (and I’m a conservative, too….); and I’m not certain where it will all end.

What do you think of all of this?  Are you an Aereo customer? Are you a cord cutter? If you don’t have an Aereo subscription, were you thinking of getting one if and when the product became available in your home city?  Do me a favor and sound off in the comments area, below and tell me what you think. I’d love to hear a confirming or contrasting decision. As I said, this is a confusing and complicated question, and the results of all of this are going to be felt for quite a long time, I think.

 

 Our other article about Aereo Infringes Copyright

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