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Category Archives: Computers

Blogging on the go

Earlier this week I received an unexpected gift, an Adesso bluetooth keyboard.  I have really been wanting a full keyboard for my phone or Palm Pilot, so now I finally have something usable.

The keys are about 3/4 size, about the same as a mini laptop or netbook, with good tactile response.  The overall height is amazingly thin, around a quarter of an inch!  It charges via USB, but looks like it works via bluetooth only.  I will post a follow up later once I have used it a while and get to know what the battery life is like.  For now, it is a great little toy, and large enough to touch type on.

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Posted by on March 21, 2013 in Computers, On the Go

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Okay is not Good Enough

 A couple of months ago Microsoft released Windows 8. Well, they released Windows 8 RT, Windows 8 32 bit, Windows 8 64 bit, Windows 8 Pro 32 bit, Windows 8 Pro 64 bit, Windows 8 Enterprise 32 bit, and Windows 8 Enterprise 64 bit. I have read and viewed and personally tried Windows 8 (64 bit, I think). Some people hate it (like me), others merely tolerate it, some people actually like it.

Personally, I feel it is one of the least intuitive, least polished operating system GUI’s I have ever encountered. The transition from Modern UI to classic desktop is jarring and really unfinished. The controls are hodgepodge and inconstant. Hidden controls abound and make little logical sense. Heck, even shutting down the machine does not make sense. But, despite my personal views (and I have been using computers a long time), most professional reviewers miss one thing. Windows 8, at best, is poor on the desktop, pretty decent on tablets, and just okay, overall. That does not cut it in this day and age.

Personal computers with GUI’s have been around for over 25 years. Companies like Apple, Red Hat, Palm (dead), and Google and Organizations like X.org, KDE, and Ubuntu have all been developing desktop and mobile environments during most or all of this time. For the desktop, Apple’s OSX, Linux KDE, GNOME, LXDE, Cinnamon, and Unity are all elegant, easy to use designs. For portable devices, Apple’s iOs and Google’s Android, both derivatives of Palm OS, are perfectly matched to smaller screen environments. Microsoft’s own Windows XP and 7 are well matched for the desktop environment, functional, if not the most aesthetic implementations. There is a reason there is quite a dichotomy between the two. What works for one does not work as well for another. Microsoft tried to blend the two and ended up with bipolar acting GUI. To be honest, they didn’t blend them at all, you are just tossed back and forth between the two competing paradigms. In the end, you still have an okay experience.

On the desktop, why would you choose a hobbled system over OSX, Unity, or KDE? All of the alternatives are much better and you can find everything. On portable devices, you can argue Windows 8 is a decent choice, but is it really easier to use than the classic design of iOS and Android? Palm figured it out 15 years ago and it still works now. Okay is just not acceptable when very, very worthy and mature competitors are out there. I honestly don’t know what Microsoft was thinking when they released Windows 8 in its current form. This isn’t 1998, and you can’t release half baked software just because you are a monopoly. You are not a monopoly on portable devices or even a major player. Very risky, to the point of reducing Microsoft to another IBM. Stable, but a second or third class player behind Apple and Google.

I am very glad I made the switch to Linux many years ago do I don’t have to worry about the silly Windows shenanigans. For anyone who has made the upgrade to Windows 8, why did you do it, and was it worth it?

 

 

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Posted by on December 22, 2012 in Computers

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FocusWrite

Finally, a simple word processor. I have found that over the years, I type less and less for my blog, and for enjoyment in general. Why is this? Well, for one, I really do think there are just too many distractions for doing some real writing. Even trying to type a watch review was a real chore. So, I went looking for something simpler, cleaner, and with less distractions. What I found was FocusWriter. It is available for Windows, Mac, and of course, Linux. What it is gives you is just what you see in the screen shot. A blank page to write on. You can import or create your own themes. Another neat feature is the fact you can set goals for yourself. Number of words, minutes of typing, etc. It is full screen, so no e-mail notifications, or instant messengers. I even have it set up to sound like an old typewriter, which this really reminds me of. When I was a kid, that is all you had to make professional looking documents. Computers and word-processors did not arrive on the scene until the mid 80’s. The program I learned to word process on was WordPerfect for DOS. It was a simple interface as well. No buttons, doodads , and almost distraction free.

This is WordPerfect for DOS:

This is OpenOffice Writer 3.4:

This is FocusWriter:

See the difference? For a little fun, I created a theme very reminiscent of WordPerfect for DOS.

However, what I usually use is this:


It is the classic green characters on a very dark screen, much easier on the eyes than a bright, wight screen, with dark letters.
Give it a try, you may like it.  It is even available for Windows and Mac.

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Posted by on August 19, 2012 in Computers

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Sorry Old Friend

For many, many years I was a Mandriva Linux user.  In fact, I started back in 1999, with Mandrake (former name) 6.0, which I purchased, in box form, from Microcenter.  This was after a really revealing hack on my Windows 98 machine.  Since then, I have never looked back.  I dual booted between the two for a while, but after 2002 or so, I made the complete switch.  For the last 13 years I stuck with Mandrake, then Mandriva Linux for my main computer until about 3 weeks ago.  The transition away from Mandriva started on our netbook.

About six months ago, I got fed up with the performance of Mandriva 2011 on my netbook, so I tried something different, Ubuntu 10.04,  For the beginning, it was a much better match to the hardware.  Everything worked with minimal muss and fuss.  The Lenovo S10 never ran better.  Battery life was not great, but acceptable.  Fast forward to a few weeks ago, and my desktop machine just stopped working.  I was running Mandriva 2011, which is now a KDE only desktop system.  I had a lot of quirks, had to compile the nVidia driver myself, and it just was always on the cusp of crashing.  Not something you want on your main computer.  I had a combination of hardware failure, something on the motherboard, and a corrupt home partition.  I figured, screw it, I really like Ubuntu on the netbook, how about I try it on my main machine?

I have to say, I was very pleasantly surprised.  Everything worked out of the box, including the nVidia proprietary drivers.  Unlike the ailing Mandriva, Ubuntu has a very healthy support community, and they support their LTS (Long Term Support) installations for FIVE years.  Pretty impressive for free.  I opted for the Unity (gnome based) desktop environment.  I have seen complaints about it being too cell phone like, but, to be honest, it is nice having a unified interface between my phone, netbook, and desktop computer.  It is simple and quick to use, even for an old salt like me.  The package management system, and how many packages are available, are outstanding.

Looking back now, I don’t know why I put up with the poorly supported and infrequently updated Mandriva.  I wish them nothing but the best, but I see why Ubuntu is the most popular.  Heck, even Suse is much better supported.  I have found it compares very favorably compared to Windows 7, and is much more polished and modern than Windows XP.

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Posted by on August 8, 2012 in Computers

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Android WiFi Issues

With my Wife’s new HTC Inspire (Android 2.2 based) phone, we had a strange issue with the wireless connection to our home router.  After a week of using it, it suddenly stopped connecting to our router, it was so irritating, we nearly returned the phone.

Luckily I found this fix online:

http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=683639

1) Download an app called WiFiStatic from the App Market. WiFiStatic takes each DHCP assigned IP address and stores it in a small database to be re-applied whenever you are back in range of the same Router again. It is not an ideal solution as you may have to re-scan and re-assign if you visit a busy hotspot, but this is a two press function, so it’s not that onerous.

2) Turn off your Router. Make sure the WiFi on your phone is off too.

3) With the router off, clear your Remembered WiFi connections (or at the very least the Netgear connection). Once that’s done, turn the Router on again and wait until it is full back up again.

4) When the Router is fully operational again, turn on your wifi on the phone and let is scan for and connect to the Netgear Router. You may need to tell it to connect from the Wireless Settings menu on the phone.

5) The phone should now connect to the Router successfully. If it doesn’t, repeat the above procedure.

6) With the phone connected to the router, fire up WiFiStatic. Check Auto Switch and Show Visual Prompt if they are not already selected, then Tap Add configuration at the bottom of the screen.

7) The IP address and other settings assigned by your router should be displayed at the top of the screen, at the bottom should be the name of your router and its MAC address. If not then tap Menu > Generate to populate the form.

8)Tap Menu > Done when everything is ok.

That’s it. Now when you move into range of your Netgear, you should get connected, though it does take a bit longer than normal (the Router still wants to assign an address first before accepting the static IP). You can speed this up by changing the Device table on the router to always keep the Phone’s static IP open.

This shouldn’t work as all my other attempts with Static IP failed, but I’ve had five days now of instant connection to WiFi at home, so something has been freed up.

I has worked like a charm so far for us, and the phone is just amazing.  I see why people really like smart phones, and in particular, Android phones.  It replaces your MP3 player, camera, phone,  PDA, camcorder, and even you netbook for most things.  Pretty remarkable what they can put in your pocket now.

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Posted by on March 10, 2011 in Computers, Linux

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