The new leader.

This is pretty big news. I called it. A sneaky takeover is approaching. It doesn’t happen often in the real world that a race for the leader sees the winner fall from first to third place, but it might happen this year.

Microsoft was first out of the gate with an open system that allowed anybody to make and sell the hardware, and let Microsoft worry about making it all work together. Most would say they had limited results.

Soon, Apple came in as leader cooler looking hardware that was the same for everyone, so software was able to be more secure and bug free. They made a lot of money and also took over the music industry and phones and tablets.

Google meanwhile made a third option that wasn’t really being taken seriously in the laptop world, but Android phones are neck and neck with Apple in popularity and each wins at some parts of the phone market. Windows phones are still struggling.

THis year however, Google sneaks in a new PC OS. All new Chrome Laptops will run Android apps. This means they enter the computer market with a polished 10 year tested OS thatat least half the world knows, uses and loves. BAM.

With people using their phones and tablets more than their home computers in many cases, this is huge news. Microsoft lost it’s lead because people stopped needing it, and could choose options. The switch to Macintosh was a big move for people. We usually like to avoid big moves.

However a move to ANdroid is a breeze, and we may already have all the software we need. Word Processing, video, Facebook and Chrome. The urgent need to have Microsoft Office is no longer an issue.

Google, with almost no fanfare may win the home computer and laptop market this year and in the future. They underprice the competition and in many ways, iOS is great on a phone, but the Mac OS is now the only one not supported on tablets, phones and desktops. Mac OS is the old school way.

Plus Android is in TV, Fridges, cars and everywhere!

Speaking your Chats

A funny thing happened to me recently when I was involved in a text conversation with a friend of mine. I was laying in bed, chatting with a friend using Google Hangouts on my cell phone. At some point it occurred to me the typing on the cell phone was a little tedious, but I didn’t have a full keyboard or computer near the bed at that moment, so instead I press the microphone button on the keyboard and activated the Google Voice keyboard. From that point on I used my voice to dictate the messages that I was sending into text.

Google Voice keyboard has a very accurate translation system and makes very few mistakes. In fact, I have to do far less corrections than when I am typing, especially on my small phone keyboard.  Google Voice keyboard knows how to spell better than I do. It isn’t always familiar with obscure words, but it actually does an amazing job guessing what I mean from the context of the sentence, and is quite aware of many technology and pop culture words. It even knows to capitalize show titles or movie names most of the time.

Talking to a voice translator is a little different than talking to a human, and you get used to the style fairly quickly. I find I talk slower than I do in person, because I am actually composing and thinking in text sentences rather than  just words I speak. It’s strange at first.

Next, I turn on another APP on my phone, that works in the opposite fashion, and it translates my friends text replies into a voice.  So now I am actually talking and listening to my friend, but still using text messages. It occurs to me how absurd this is. In any previous time, we’d simply be on the phone actually talking. In fact, even Google Hangouts has a pretty good quality voice system that would allow me to call him and talk… or even face to face video chat.  There is also Skype, or Facebook messenger or Apple FaceTime… and yet, we continue using this multiple step translation system to talk for another 20 minutes.

We’ve changed society. People prefer texts to actually conversation.  Well, to be fair… some people, not all.  Certainly phone and voice communication is still popular, but a lot of new generation people are  using text as their main communication between friends and even business associates.

It’s faster. It’s less intrusive. I can send a 140 character or less text to somebody and they can read it without actually having to interrupt their day and talk. They can read it in any mood they’re in and react in any manor they chose, and I’m not witness to that. I’ve just sent a statement and I’m done.  They can reply now, or later or never. We can text back and forth while they watch TV or reading a book. We can even have 3 or 4 of 15 conversations open at once.  We’re learning, through emoticons and emoji how to convey sarcasm or shock or happiness in text. We can convey a smile or a laugh to reward someone for humour.

I’ve also learned the etiquette that, at least between my friends, it’s not rude to just stop replies suddenly. I can be distracted or needed elsewhere.  A text conversation can take hours or days to continue.  It can pick up where you left off, because the words remain on the screen. I love this about texts. I can say HEY to a friend, and not get a reply for 20 minutes or more, and we can continue on for a few minutes, or continue the conversation later.

Texting really is a great replacement for some phone calls. In fact, many people get angry at phone calls. I can text somebody a few times a day with comments, or sweet sentiment or a great deal I just saw at the mall, and even if they’re not answering it right away, they’ll see it.  If I call them, I may have to leave a voicemail, and they probably won’t listen to ot anyway.

I don’t want to talk right now. Text me.

It’s not as much emotional effort. I don’t have to turn on a happy face or a good mood to reply.

It’s just the darn typing that gets in the way.  When I converse with a friend socially, rather than just for utility, I use full words and sentences. I don’t abbreviate things like: R U Happy? I converse in text using the same mental voice I use in words, so that means my replies are often greater than 140 characters. Phones today – or Google Hangouts handle this fine, but it also means replies are delayed a bit. The voice conversion option may seem silly at first, but it keeps everyone happy.  We’re still using the rules of texting, which means the interruptions are on my terms. No doubt my friend was with his wife at the time, and a phone call would be unwelcome, but a text every few minutes seems a lesser evil.  Your partner can still get angry at you texting in certain situations, but that’s the beauty. Just stop. Conversation end.  Pick up later, when she falls asleep.

Note: This entire blog post was written using Google Voice. I edited later, but most of this text was spoken.

Microsoft Edge Browser: 17 minutes till the first crash.

Windows 10 Update:

SC_009
I crashed Microsoft Edge the very first time I used it.

I was interested to see how Edge, Microsoft’s replacement for the old IE almost everyone but me hates. I gave it my morning task… a rough run through it’s paces for any browser. So far, it’s crashed regular IE and Chrome trying to do what I want. Only Firefox outlasts the ritual.

I load up Facebook first every morning, and as I scroll down and down and down, I occasionally see a link I want to read, but rather than taking it aside and breaking my stride, I hold down the CTRL key and click the link.  This opens that particular page or graphic into a new tab, but does not display it for me.

After 20 minutes or so of Facebook scrolling, all dependent on how late I went to be and how much new content interests me each day, I have between 5 and 30 tabs open.  Then I close Facebook and start to read the rest of my morning news.

IE usually fails before I get to the end of new Facebook content. Chrome passes many days, but still fails now and then before I’m done. Although I don’t like Firefox as much, for this particular morning routine, it hasn’t let me down yet.

I was excited to try Microsoft EDGE on this exercise. It failed. Bad. I can’t even rick it to give me back control, so now I have an Edge browser with 12 tabs of information I was genuinely interested in reading – inaccessible to me. They’ll be lost when I am forced to TASK MANAGER quit the frozen tool.  I’ll lose it all.

If I’m lucky, I’ll be offered the opportunity to reload the tabs when I restart, but I’m not counting on it.

Oh well Microsoft. At least you tried.

Your next new phone.

Apple does a few things really well, but one of the biggest impacts on the cell phone world, is the way they’ve managed to make getting the newest iPhone an obligation of your status.

Of course, not every iPhone user lines up to be first, and many don’t even bother with the new release at all, but we’re all still aware of the concept. New iPhone day is a big deal. It gets more news coverage than almost anything happening outside America.

Even if you don’t own the new iPhone, you’re aware of that fact, and many of you may even talk about it with a hint of shame. I constantly hear people say things like; “its not the newest model or anything, but it gets the job done”.

People who don’t own the newest iPhone still would, if they could afford it without issue. Nobody actually chooses to want the old one… And in time, those iPhone users will upgrade. Not because they have to, but because… Well, because it’s the new iPhone.

Well done Apple.

Now they’ve even made the new ones have a different shape, so you can judge people from a far, without even meeting them.

In the other world of Android, we don’t have that. Android users have a different kind of arrogance, founded by a belief that they have a superior product that the masses just don’t understand. Proud underdogs. The inner battle between iPhone and Android isn’t as pronounced as it once was. As the Android system grows up, it’s polish and style approaches Apple, and each new version of iPhone catches up on features. They each do my things better than the other.

This article isn’t to compare Apples to Lollypops. It is simply an observation that Samsung, HTC and Motorola (among other brands) all have new models each year, but Android masses don’t really know when, and we don’t seem to have the need to care and upgrade.

The article that inspired this blog, was talking about how Samsung was surprised and sad that their S5 flagship sold only 40% as many units as their S4 last year.

I am not surprised at all. The S4 was a great phone and there is no real reason to upgrade. There is no peer pressure to have the newest Samsung. A Samsung phone is to be used more than it is to be seen with. Most people don’t know what is the new model anyway.

Because multiple companies make phones under the Android OS system, we have a bit if an identity crisis to begin with. If you SK me what phone I have, do I say Android or do I say Samsung. For many people, all I need to say is; Not an iPhone. They tune out.
I remember the days when my phone was still a wow factor. I had one before you. I had a smaller one than you did. I owned the first Motorola StarTac and I paid $2000 for that private when everyone else had a 2 pound brick. People would want to see it and touch it.

Those days are gone. He new iPhone have retained a little of that feeling, but only for the few who still bother to be current in release week. Everyone else doesn’t care anymore. Nobody asks me what phone I have. Nobody wants to touch it.

Hey! Have you seen my cool new Smart Watch?

GO64. Commodore 64 Newsletter

COMPUTER IMAGE – THE SILENT KILLER

This is an article I found today, written for the Georgetown Ontario Commodore 64 users group.

By Jeff Goebel  Circa 1985

A reputation is a strange thing. Most of us spend much of our lives either trying to create a good one, or erase a bad one. Although reputations are generally specific to each individual, occasionally people confuse reputations with stereotypes. This is especially true in the commercial marketplace, were an image can make or break a company; or both.

Take the Commodore 64 computer for instance. Although you might not realize it, the computer has one of the biggest immages of any computer. Depending on what you want a computer for, this stereotype may work in favor of, or against the Commodore. The way the public views this computer has certainly changed over its two year history.

In the fall of 1982, Commodore shocked the computer industry with the annoucement of their new personal computer; the Commodore 64. The computer industry took immidiate notice. Commodore had already shocked everyone the year before when it released the VIC 20 for under $500 and now it looked like they were doing it again with the first 64K computer under $1000. At that time, the APPLE II computers were standard with 48K or less, but sold for more than double the retail price of $895 for the Commodore 64 and has still not mastered colour.

The new machine sold quite well in the beginning, although there was almost no software for it. It was bought by serious programmers and software designers, because of it’s unique built in operating system, superior SID music synthesizer chip, and 16 colors. Because of it’s basic similarity to the popular PET computer, users groups like TPUG (Toronto Pet Users Group) had no trouble converting PET programs over, to satisfy their continually growing membership.

As time passed, and computer sales steadily increased, more and more commercial software became available. In the beginning, the first titles to appear were conversions from popular APPLE, VIC, ATARI and PET programs. Anything that had done well on other computers. The more software that becames available, the more people bought the computer, and the more Commodore 64 owners there were, the more software was written.

Just as the market was settling down a bit, and other computer companies had lowered their price, and raised their standard models all to 64K, Commodore shocked them all again, by slashing the price on the computer and distributing it through MASS MERCHANDISING outlets like Eatons and Simpsons. Soon followed Zellers, Towers, K-Mart and even Canadian Tire. The computer became available everywhere. Suddenly the market changed.

No longer was this computer a product to be purchased only in computer stores. it could be picked up at a discount store just like a washing machine or stereo. This image of a computer as a regular piece of furniture certainly helped to increase Commodore’s sales. The figures make both the Commodore VIC 20 and the Commodore 64 the biggest selling computers of all time. The computer is cheap and redily available. Custommers who don’t want to shop around can walk in and take one home.

In moving to the MASS MARKET Commodore have seperated themselves from the rest of the competition in the serious computer marketplace. Although the computer is the same it’s image is new. It’s no longer SPECIAL. Many more serious programers don’t even look at a 64 when they are looking for a computer to buy. Although the 64 can almost definatly do anything they require a computer for, they rule the Commodore 64 out claiming; “IT’S A GAME MACHINE”. Ironically, most apple owners will do their best to prove that their computer is as good at games as anything else. The companies know that a strong game or non-game stereotype misses out on the other half of the market.

Serious computer buyers are like serious stereo buyers. People who want top quality “state of the art” equipment don’t often shop at department stores. Even if the same equipment is sold at specialized dealers. It’s always a good idea to shop where there is a certain degree of knowledge behind the counter. In the big chains, you’ve often got to purchase blindly. Your salesperson is often a recruit from the shoe department.

Unfortunately, many big computer dealers are no longer carrying the 64 line anymore. It’s become increasingly difficult for a one store dealer to compete with huge corporations purchasing for 500 departments accross Canada. When the computer itself retails about 9% above dealer cost, it’s simpler to “JOIN THE BANDWAGON”, and badmouth the unit as a “TOY” and try to talk the custommers into buying a $4000 IBM system with a much healthier markup.

It s obvious that Commodore doesn’t really care this goes on. It makes no difference to THEM, why people are buying their computers, just so long as people ARE buying them. So what if they lose a little respect from the so called EXPERTS, respect doesn’t pay the bills. Commodore enjoys being on top in the sales department. They like to keep the market changing. They invented a new LOW end market with the VIC 20, and then the 64 was released and the MIDDLE END computers all dropped a notch closer to becomming the new LOW END. I suspect they’ll soon release another industry shocker and bring the HIGH END computer market prices down as well. The new AMIGA/LORRAINE sounds like it just may do that. Who knows. Perhaps in the year 2000, you may be playing SPACE INVADERS on a 2000 MEG Computer. Naturally, it’ll be reguarded as another Commodore “GAME MACHINE”.

EDIT: Commodore went out of business.

Cheap Android “test” Tablet

I recently bought a cheap 7″ tablet from a foreign “free shipping” web site and it’s horrid.  Really really bad.  In fact, I can’t even browse the web or watch any video at all.  However, I don’t consider it a waste because I have learned from it that I really do want a tablet.

I think a lot of Android phone users wonder if a tablet is right for them. It’s really just a bigger version of our phones, and I wasn’t sure I’d have any use for it. My phone is always with me, and I can use it to read books, watch TV, write my blog and anything else. I really didn’t think I’d find a tablet useful. I didn’t want to spend $300 to find out it was just another gadget I’d bought and not used.

The cheap tablet taught me I do want one. In fact, I thin k I could use 3 tablets., One beside my bed, one beside my TV watching couch, and one with me in the car for restaurants and waiting rooms.

The crap tablet showed me I do prefer doing stuff on a bigger screen, as long as it doesn’t suck. In fact, I have almost done away with the full sized laptops I currently have bedside my bed, beside my TV watching space, and in my car.  Microsoft word takes 4 to 7 minutes from off state to writing mode, and the tablet doesn’t. When I get a thought to jot down, it’s almost seamless from idea to journalizing it. That will literally change my blogging life.

In summary; if you’re unsure if a tablet is for you – don’t fear the crap ones. They’re a great way to test whether you’re a tablet person or not.

My Slow Computer

Today an old friend asked me about her father’s old computer, and whether I could come clean it up and make it run faster.  Another techie already tried and it’s not significantly better.  I decided to share my reply here for public awareness.

I do support like this for an hourly wage

A few tips he/you can do first may help enough to make you not require my services.

Secret #1: Microsoft Windows XP Service Pack 3 (SP3) was HUGE forced upgrade in 2011, and almost every older computer slowed to a crawl when it auto-installed.

Some believe this conspiracy theory that it was designed to obsolete all the older machines and make them slow so people would run out and buy new computers with Windows 7. It’s not my place to speculate.  It does however have the effect or forcing most people with older computers to run out and buy a new one.

You can remove SP3 through a tricky process, and stop it from re-installing, but Microsoft will nag you every so often telling you the SP3 changes are really good improvements and you should do it.  Some new software even demands SP3 be installed before it will run.  Again, whether this is truly required, or part of the conspiracy, I’ll let you decide.

SP3 works “OK” if your computer has 3GB of Ram.  Most old systems don’t, and some CAN’T. Upgrading old computers to 3GB can cost a few hundred dollars, and that’s if you don’t have to pay extra for somebody like me to come and do it for you.

The single biggest factor in slow computers next to RAM, is heat.  A warm computer runs slower.  A LOT slower.  Old computers run warmer for a few reasons.  Often, it’s just dust making a blanket for the components inside. Opening up the chassis and vacuuming it, or using canned air to blast the dust blanket off all the chips and fans, and especially out of the CPU heatsync makes a HUGE difference.  Sometimes a REALLY huge difference.  Laptops are notorious for running warmer as they age. Sometimes they run so warm the metal circuits actually expand enough to separate the solder and fail.  Sometimes they fail when the computer has been in use for a while, and then work again when it cools down. Sometimes it just fails.  It is harder to cool/clean a laptop than a desktop computer.

Second Secret:  The conspiracy/truth that Microsoft windows was designed to get slower with every use. The difference between day 1 on a fresh new computer and day 7 is noticeable. Month 1 and month 4 is less noticeable, but still mathematically measurable. Every time you install ANYTHING or turn the computer on, it slows down.  Within 3 years, it’s so slow you start looking for NERDS to do speed restoration magic… but the truth is, it’s designed this way.

You can restore 80% of it’s speed back (after the clean up described above) only by reformatting the hard drive, and re-installing everything back onto it as if it was day 1.  A brand new hard drive will make it even a little faster – maybe 90% of it’s original speed – at least until you re-install all the Microsoft updates and SP3 that will slow it down again – and then when you actually start to use it – a week later, it’ll be back to 60% speed… and start the slowing down cycle all over again.

     (I made these speed percentages up)

Suggestions:

The good news: Better computers than you have are available from off-lease discounters for $150(ish) with 2GB or 3GB or Ram and dual core, faster processors.  The cheapest computer you can find for sale in a discount store, is still better than most of the computers in homes today.  If you’re going to bother reformatting and installing everything anyway – why not just get a newer used computer and start over with better hardware.

Second: Windows 7 really is nice and not at all THAT hard to get used to if you liked Windows XP. I configure Windows 7 icons and desktop to work very similar to XP and people grow to like it. It still slows over time, but much much less-so because you can put more RAM in it, and give it a 64bit architecture to start with. It’s a better OS.

Good-ish Windows 7 computers can be bought new for $250-ish.

In my world, buying new computers is exciting and fun. In the world of my clients, it’s thought of as more scary… but having a speedy fast computer with prettier design doesn’t have to be scary. It just depends on what you use it for, and how much the slowness drives you crazy.  Sometimes buying beats fixing. When it comes to 4 year old (or more) computers, I think it does.

I ALWAYS recommend; buy the cheapest computer you can find every 3 years instead of a costly one expecting it to last 5.

Last option.  A great many of my customers are over 60 these days, since I’ve been doing this for 20+ years.  I’ve actually found a good number of them giving up computers totally and switching to tablets; either the iPad or an Android tablet.  They do email, web, and apps better, and with an optional keyboard, there isn’t much they won’t do.

Android Voice Blogging

This blog was written entirely using my voice and the Google voice keyboard tool on my android phone. Wow I really didn’t expect it to work this well. I have not done any editing at all.  The option is new on Ice Cream Sandwich, and the Google voice box appears where my keyboard would normally be.

The future of this voice input looks good.  I just speak, and the words appear. Fast or slow.  So far, it is not even made 1 mistake. It doesn’t seem to have a new line feature or a new paragraph feature, but that just could be because I don’t know what word to use.  Editing takes me back to the regular keyboard, and the toggle is a hassle, but maybe this will change as updates become available.