Category Archives: Computers

Upgrading to Windows 8 Was Not Meant For Me

Upgrading to Windows 8 Was Not Meant For Me

Since Microsoft was offering a Windows 8 upgrade for $39.99 until the end of the month, I decided to bite and upgrade while the cost was still low. I ran the install process late last night and woke up to a completely different operating system interface. It was pretty clear from the start that Microsoft is trying to take some of the tablet market. However, in doing so they appear to have failed the desktop market.

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Mechanical Keyboards Rock

Mechanical Keyboards Rock

I am now the owner of a Das Keyboard Model S Professional, and it rocks the socks off any other keyboard I have ever used. For years and years I have used keyboards that were either rubber dome or membrane switches. When I discovered mechanical keyboards from Jeff Atwood’s blog, I was intrigued but scoffed at the high price of a such a keyboard. Last summer, I upgraded my keyboard from a plain, old keyboard that comes with a Dell computer to a Logitech Illuminated Keyboard.

My typing was never very good. I can sort of touch type, but my fingers a slightly more tuned to hit my keyboards in certain patterns for gaming or coding. The rubber dome Dell keyboard I had been typing for nearly 10 years showed a lot of wear. Switching to the Logitech keyboard was a slight improvement, but getting used to a low-profile scissor switch keyboard was a bit of a hurdle. It took time for me to get used to typing on it, but I was never truly comfortable with it. Sometimes I would miss keys, or my accuracy would be off because I was typing too quickly. It was the closest thing I could have to the Apple Aluminum Keyboard that I use at work. However, even I was getting tired of that keyboard.

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My Thoughts on the iPad

My Thoughts on the iPad

I think Apple has made a very wise choice by devleoping the iPad and announcing it today. I agree with Steve Jobs that the netbook is dead. Actually, I never thought it was alive from the start. Netbooks also seemed like crippled devices, and I couldn’t understand or justify paying a lump sum of money for hardware that was only to be used for browsing the Internet. I would rather much prefer an iPhone or an Android phone, or even a regular laptop, over a netbook.

Apple really seems to be pushing the all-in-one be-all end-all solution for general consumers’ computing needs with the iPad. I seriously think that just the introduction of the iPad is going to revolutionize future devices even more so. Being closed isn’t so bad in Apple’s case. They have been continuously creating revolutions for years and years. The iPad actually reminds me of the various futuristic devices seen in movies. They are devices that very small and compartmentalized but yet seem to do so much.

I like that it’s a larger iTouch. The iTouch, while a nifty device, never felt more than a novelty to me considering that it’s nothing but a stripped-down iPhone and beefed-up iPod on a teeny-tiny screen. Apple has certainly created a very nice platform with their store of applications, and it is certainly nice to not have to worry about managing the nitty-gritty underpinnings of the operating system (me, being a crazy computer user).

I would love to lug around a slim-profile computer around especially to my living room where I can do a quick web browsing during live TV without having to switch inputs to my living room PC (whose only purpose if for gaming anyway) or walking the 20 feet back to my other computer (despite how small my apartment is, it’s very annoying to do and I spend enough time in my room as it is).

However, my lifestyle also does not necessarily beg the need for an iPad much like I don’t need a smartphone either. There is rarely a time that I am not near a computer throughout the day. Being a full-time programmer requires me to use a computer. I hardly travel anywhere besides commuting to work everyday by car. It would be a stupid idea and a death wish to use a computer while driving. I am doing some kind of physical activity nearly everyday or taking care of household tasks that computers can’t do. The free time I do have isn’t much, and usually by that time I am ready to fall asleep.

I realize why I can’t get excited about the iPad. Apple’s technologies don’t provide me with any advantage over what I can already do now on my own systems. I still believe that watching movies and listening to music and shrunken devices is a very cheapening experience. Apple still isn’t at the point where they can compete with the video game industry despite that developers have created casual, mobile games. That is the one area that I think where they can at least decently compete with Nintendo.

I think Apple has hit a very good price point for it. The cost of Apple’s technologies has always been a huge turnoff for me because I don’t feel they offer a justifiable value for what they offer at their price. $500 as a base price plus the data pricing plans ($30 for unlimited data) is incredibly attractive. Bu I honestly thought Apple was going to develop a better non-app-based system at least running Mac OS X and having a decent solid state drive. I don’t discredit them though; I really like think they are onto something in the world of computers.

I’m a Windows 7

I’m a Windows 7

Months ago, I rambled about Mac versus PC and what my personal preferences were. After running Ubuntu Linux for about a year as a media center PC, I have gotten fed up with it enough that I wanted to move to a different system. My main gripe was that it seemed any software I wanted to run for a media center PC was always getting stiffed because of my particular configuration (AMD64 Linux) or some strange hardware oddities (like how my motherboard will absolutely fail with certain RAM modules).

For some time, I was deciding what kind of configuration to set up in my home. I was pondering switching my media center to a Mac Mini and moving the Ubuntu Linux box as my main computer. The problem was that I would still have my old Dell computer leftover. I had also thought about getting an Xbox360, but the idea of basically adding another PC into my living room didn’t sit that well with me because then I would still have an extra computer leftover. I thought about getting a new laptop, but I’m hardly mobile. It would have been pointless, and all I would do is use it to ssh access into my Linux computer from my couch or dining room table which is a whole 6 feet away from the computer.

I had been wanting to get a Mac laptop for some time, but the hefty price tag for hardware that can’t be upgraded is very unattractive. After using OS X at work for a long time, I decided it was not what I really wanted. The operating system does some very nice things automatically under the hood that you don’t have to worry about, and configuration of the system is very easy. However, what I don’t like is largely the Mac Finder. Its presentation of file system browsing doesn’t really fit me. The other thing about Macs is that I get this uneasy feeling that Apple is always hiding something from me. As nice as Macs are, I feel it’s a little too simplified for the kind of user that I am.

I decided to skip Windows Vista because of all the bad press it was getting, and it was mainly driver support that did it in early on before the problems were fixed. The new Aero theme was not attractive to me either. It basically looked like Microsoft slapped on an ugly skin to the very old and very classic look-and-feel of earlier versions of Windows. My only real experience with Windows Vista was within a virtualized environment (Parallels running on a Mac). Windows Vista seemed okay (now that it’s been out for a few years), but it looked like it still needed lots of polish and trim.

I bit the bullet and downloaded the Windows 7 Release Candidate a few days before downloads closed on Microsoft’s website. Early reports of the beta and release candidate seemed to say that this was a very good operating system, but I was skeptical. After backing up data over several days (via wireless SFTP, ew) I installed the release candidate and was very impressed by the new operating system. Overall, the presentation is nice, a lot simpler than previous versions of Windows. Configuration and settings are organized neatly while advanced settings aren’t too hard to find beyond that (and I almost didn’t need to even touch those settings).

The new taskbar is a very nice change. Despite the parallels to the Mac OS X dock, its implementation is much better because of it previews and highlights the windows rather than stack window titles in a huge list. The included Windows Media Center is also one very nice piece of software that works very well with the system. XBMC was nice, but there were things about it that felt too convoluted (not that configuring it was hard at all). Windows Media Center’s presentation almost makes everything a no-brainer. What also sold me is that Microsoft has better market share for software. I didn’t want to dink around with Linux anymore (or even try on Mac OS X), and I was already very used to lots of (free) software readily available for Windows.

I’ve liked the release candidate so much that I immediately want to upgrade my Windows XP system. Windows XP is admittedly getting old but vastly improved on its predecessors. Windows 7 does that same thing to Windows XP in a new era. I’ve read that this the operating system Windows Vista should have been originally, and it certainly seems so. It looks like a Windows Vista that was done with the right, smart decisions from the beginning. I think Microsoft has something very good on their hands with this operating system.

Mac vs PC

Mac vs PC

First of all, I don’t call myself a Mac guy or a PC guy. The term “PC” will always mean “personal computer” to me, and that itself is nomenclature for a general-purpose, consumer-grade computer that an “average” person will have at home. It doesn’t mean Windows as everyone is using it, but that’s due to historical reasons that you wouldn’t expect an average user to know.

The war between Microsoft and Apple is very amusing, and I think Apple is really coming out as the “winner” because of how aggressive their marketing campaign has been. Apple has been so much more up-front and simple in their delivery, while Microsoft tries to create a giant magical grandeur like they have something to hide. Microsoft’s responses to Apple have been lackluster, boring commercials that feel like they are trying too hard to defend their image. Recently, I’ve actually found Microsoft’s commercials to be decent to watch, because they seem like they are _finally_ listening to the criticisms Apple isn’t afraid to throw at them. I think their “computer hunter” commercials are very effective, because they showcase real people trying to find a computer similar to how any other consumer might do it. The shortcoming of this latest campaign though is that it doesn’t really show what the capabilities of their operating system is. All I see really is that people are comparing hardware specifications, saying that Macs are too expensive, and that basically they choose Windows because they don’t have a clue or don’t want to learn how to use Macs. It’s understandable, since there are historical reasons why Microsoft Windows was much more popular. The large market share is also a reason why so many viruses and trojans target Windows as well. Mac OS has fared well because of this, and that’s why they get to make fun of Microsoft Windows in their commercials.

I personally don’t care if I’m using a Mac OS system or a Windows system. I think Mac OS has a very nice and simple elegance to it, and the included software is very nice. I like the Explorer presentation in Windows much more than I like the Apple Finder. It feels more transparent and easier to control. Plus, I’d rather game on a Windows machine than Mac OS (no way in hell am I going to try virtualized gaming). With my current attitude towards PC gaming these days, I’d rather just buy an XBox360 and call it a day (though I really like the Steam platform a lot now). If I could have it my way, I would take all the bits and pieces I liked and smash it all into one operating system. However, I don’t have the time or capacity to do so, but that’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make. Other people don’t seem to want to make that sacrifice because they want to feel in control which means staying with the familiar. Why waste time with something they don’t want to understand if it doesn’t bring them instant gratification?

Windows XP is plain fine for me, but eventually it will be obsolete despite it being somewhat dated already. If I had to move on to another system, I’d probably go to either Ubuntu or Mac OS. I’m comfortable enough with either of them, and all I really do on computers these days (besides programming) is check my e-mail and browse the Internet. I’ve yet to jump on this wireless/netbook/mobile device craze that is going on. It’s not a matter of me becoming a Luddite, but it’s that I have no need to do it. I grew up fascinated by electronics and gadgets and whatnot, but now I’m discovering life is much more than what lies on a computer screen.

Hacking My Computer

Hacking My Computer

Hacking My Computer

I had upgraded some components in my computer, but I also needed a new power supply to provide power to the whole thing. Dell computer cases are not the greatest to work with. I had to take a metal saw and literally hack out a big piece of metal just so I could connect my power cable to the back end of the power supply.