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Posts from the ‘Computers’ Category


My Dark Linux Confession

Creative Commons License photo credit: phauly

When it has come to operating systems, I have always had a hard time making up my mind. Windows, for me, has been a good choice for my gaming consoles and a reasonable one for work as well. Mac has become my default office system, having used it now for nearly two years as my primary “getting things done” machine.

However, Linux has always been my secret love affair. It is a relationship that has stretched over half a decade. It began with some spare hard drive space and a desire to to see what Linux was all about. Now, it is a relationship on life support.

You see, I’ve come to notice something. After seven years of using Linux, seven different distros, countless versions and six computers, I’ve finally hit a point where I have to admit something. That every computer I’ve had both Linux and Windows XP on has worked far better with Windows than Linux.

There’s a lot of reasons for this, but none of them bode well for penguin. Read moreRead more


Does Anyone Want My Comments?

wordpress-logoThere’s something of a war going on right now, a war for your blog’s comments. Sure, any blogging platform worth its salt will provide you with a decent commenting system, but there are others who promise you more. Services like Disqus (which is used right now on this site) and Intense Debate say that they can add features, make commenting easier and encourage your community.

Now I am the first to admit that blog commenting right now sucks. When a company like CoComment, which does a mediocre job at best, can earn a living just by tracking and seeking updates on the comments you post across the Web, there is a serious problem. Users have a lot of reasons to prefer centralized commenting tools as having two or three commenting accounts beats checking dozens of sites for updates.

But what about bloggers? What do we get out of the deal? Though I’ve kept Disqus here on IS for some time, on PT I’ve been bouncing around from comment solution to comment solution trying to figure out what is best for my blog. I’ve tried nearly every service out there and the only conclusion I’ve reached is that no one, repeat no one, really wants my comments.

That is, at least not bad enough to create a truly compelling service… Read moreRead more


The Death of Honest Review Scores

pcworld-logoMy parents need a new security suite for their computer. They’re reasonably computer savvy but still asked for my help in picking one. Since I’m a Linux/Mac kind of guy, I decided to do a few searches to see what was new and ran across PC World’s chart of Internet security suites.

PC World is a magazine I have a lot of respect for. They do a lot of great work in the field of reviewing computer products. But I noticed something when I looked at the bottom of the chart. Trend Micro got the lowest score on the list and their “Bottom Line” review reads as follows:

“Trend Micro’s latest suite fails at the most basic task of detecting and blocking malicious software. Not recommended.”

Ouch, seems pretty scathing to me. But then look at the score. It’s a 74/100. On a regular grading scale that would be a middle “C”. On a 1-10 system it would be a 7.5, well above an “average” of 5.

How the Hell do you say something “fails at the most basic task” and then give it an average or even good score? That makes no sense. The full review isn’t much more kind saying that:

“Trend Micro’s suite has some good points, but there’s no getting around the fact that Internet Security Pro 2009 fails at detecting malicious software, and therefore fails as a security program. We cannot recommend buying it.”

Clearly something is wrong with review scores when a 74 is a total failure of a program. It’s time we woke up a little bit and realized that review scores on the Web are garbage and reliance on them is dangerous, especially when dealing with security software.

However, this isn’t a new problem, it’s been going on for quite some time. Read moreRead more


Nine Reasons Every Eee PC User Should Get Easy Peasy

easy-peasy-logoIn my previous write-up about my six-month journey with the Eee PC, I spent a fair amount of time griping about the default install OS. Though a few of my complaints, such as battery life and keyboard, were primarily related to the laptop itself, most were more software-oriented.

Shortly after penning that review and opening up my Eee PC to use the version Firefox that was inside (there was no means to update to 3.x) I realized I had to change something. With all of the system software hopelessly out of date, the OS wasn’t merely annoying, but dangerous.

So, I did a little bit of research, learned how to install Linux distros using UNetbootin and raced to download an ISO of the latest Ubuntu version.

The experience, however, was less than rewarding. Though the install worked perfectly, requiring only a free 1 GB pen drive, which they now give out in cereal boxes, Ubuntu was a poor fit for the Eee.

The wifi didn’t work properly, the OS gladly ate up much of my precious screen real estate and it required some brutal hacking to get everything running.

Then I read about Easy Peasy, formerly known as Ubuntu Eee (I’m forced to assume the name was dropped fr trademark reasons). I gave it a whirl and it was a like a breath of fresh air. Not only did everything work out of the box, but the system was up to date, shiny and new.

It was what my computer should have been when I first plucked it from the box.

Need more reasons to try Easy Peasy on your Eee? I’ll give you nine, especially if you’re stuck with their version of Xandros. If you want to make it ten, leave a comment and make a suggestion. Read moreRead more


Six Months with a EeePC

eeepc-logoBack in June, I purchased an EeePC 701 4G Surf off of Amazon for about $300. The goal of it was to replace my aging Compaq laptop that had been dropped, beaten, overwritten, broken and was doing good if it could turn on without flashing an error screen.

I had been doing a lot of traveling and I wanted the EeePC to be my go-to laptop for all my getting around. I already had one trip out of the country planned and had almost half a dozen other conferences lined up. I needed something light, portable and simple. The EeePC seemed to fit the bill.

When I purchased it, I wasn’t looking for anything that would replace my home PC, just something that had enough power to “get me by” while I was on the road. I had no plans to be editing podcasts or making movies. I just wanted to write a few blog posts, touch up a few PowerPoints and check my email.

Now, after six months, two overseas trips, about ten presentations and countless hours of use, I’m finally ready to offer some of my thoughts on how well it has held up and what others might expect from the line should they buy one. Read moreRead more


Fixing Gmail: How the Best Can Be Better

Gmail is the best Webmail client in the World. I get that. However, winning that contest is a bit like being named the “Most Talented Baldwin”. The competition is thin, to put it generously.

Sure, some people swear by Yahoo!’s mail offering. It is pretty and it does deal with some of the issues I address below, but it also doesn’t load on slower connections, has a terrible search function and can’t import email (seriously, are you THAT stupid Yahoo?). Compound that with no IMAP access and a paid account that doesn’t equal Gmail’s free offering, you have a rather distant second at best.

Outside of a few startups that are doing promising things with Web-based email, such as Zenbe, Gmail stands alone. There is no one out there that really competes with Gmail in this area. They were the first to introduce the super-sized mailbox for free, they were the first to use tags not folders on Webmail (Opera did it first in their mail client), they were the first to give free IMAP access and they were the first to actually put one iota of thought into usability.

But can it be better? Damn right. Nothing in the world is immune from improvement, except perhaps Joan Jett, so what can one do to make Gmail just a little more awesome? Here’s my pick of five things that can push it to eleven. Read moreRead more


Opera Pulls Out the Stops

Well, it appears that Opera has been listening, much to my surprise. It was just a week ago that published my article about five steps to fix Opera, the culmination of many years of my frustration with the browser, and yesterday they release a new alpha of their 10.0 browser, which addressed many of my issues.

Apparently, they had been listening and working on many of the problems for quite some time, just very quietly (perhaps they were also hunting rabbits).

But is it everything that I had hoped for? Well, not quite. However, it shows a great deal of promise and has a lot to offer for us Opera outcasts that have been pushed to using Firefox, Safari or Chrome because of how incomplete the Opera offering has been.

So what’s new and how well does it work? Here’s my breakdown of the latest features and how well they perform. Read moreRead more


5 Steps to Fixing Opera

Somewhere between the sleek look and simple stylings of Safari and the open source can-do-anything-but-make-you-breakfast feel of Firefox, there exists another browser. Opera.

Opera is the almost forgotten brother of the browser war. Though Internet Explorer seems to be the “successful for no good reason” sibling that the others despise and direct their anger toward, Opera is the one sitting in the corner, reading a book and struggling to make friends.

But Opera’s lack of social skills is to be expected. Though the browser has done reasonably well in both the embeddable and the mobile market its desktop application has faltered, unable to gain any real momentum.

The reason is that, much like myself in high school, the browser has spent too much time hitting the books and not enough time learning how to deal with people. The Internet has moved forward and left Opera behind and, if it is going to catch up, it needs to start studying a very different book, the book of real life.

In the meantime, here are five things that, if Opera were to fix, I would seriously consider using their browser full-time. Read moreRead more


MailPlane: Not Worth the Price

I have a bit of a saying. If you write good software and charge a fair price for it, people will pay. I routinely buy software for my Mac, including programs that I may or may not use over the long haul.

However, one program I recently started to use, or rather, am starting to use again, has put me in a bit of a bind.

You see, even though Mailplane is a great program that does exactly what it advertises and is very polite with my system resources, I simply cannot justify the expense.

However, I’m not some cheapskate that refuses to buy software. I am a happy customer that just dropped $100 for Screenflow, and $20 for Gyazmail (though I have since stopped using it full-time). I’m the type of customer Mac software vendors love, a small business admin with a decent-sized PayPal account and lots of discretion to buy software I need.

Still, I can’t see myself spending $25 for Mailplane. The reason is that the price point is horribly wrong and $25, though reasonable for other applications, is far too high for this app. Read moreRead more