30 November 2005

The War for your Computing Soul

Mini-Me with non-Apple stuff
If you are an iGeek, you won't like what I say here. If you are a PC snob, you won't care. And that just about sums up the whole war of PC vs. Mac.

Mac is the downtrodden, the Avis of the personal computing world, the second child. No matter how good it is, it is not No 1, and this drives its fans nuts. They are underappreciated and misunderstood, and if only the world would listen to them, they are sure that everyone would join them. Sound like a weird new religion? Call it the Cult of i, or iCult for short.

The most rabid of the iCult factions is the FUndamentalist Mac usERs. FUMERs worship Apple, but they realize that Apple is an imperfect diety, especially since the company began "catering to Switchers." Switchers are, of course, Windows users who have Seen The Apple. FUMERs still use 1980s-era Apple technology (e.g., a one-button mouse) "because the old ways are best and no self-respecting real Mac user would have that newfangled crap near their computer."

In many Christian religions, being 'born again in Christ' means relinquishing your past life of sin. You are generally allowed to retain the unsullied parts of your Self. In the iCult, being 'born again in the Apple' means not only relinquishing the bad parts of your past Windows life but also the good, useful parts. Because under iCult teachings, nothing good ever came from Microsoft (e.g., Satan).

The non-Apple PC world is more like one of those new non-religions where you can wear jeans to church and hear uplifting sermons with lots of bullet points saying that it's ok to be rich and skinny and even covet the preacher's beautiful wife, as long as the church gets its cut. On the Windows version, they basically say "We don't care whose computer you use, or what other stuff you plug into it, even Apple stuff if you want, as long as we get our cut." It's sort of an uber-tolerant way of accepting individual needs/wants. Not much religion, but whatever works.

The Cult of i, on the other hand, is intolerant. They pretend to be tolerant, offering Microsoft Office for Mac, but Mini-Me whimpered when we installed it. "Are you sure you want to put that ...that... serpent on this pretty, unsullied machine? [pout] You didn't even try the nice AppleWorks suite that we installed for you!" And don't even ask about plugging in my multi-button, scroll-wheel mouse or my Microsoft keyboard: Oh, the wailing!

I am happy with the Mac, really. I had one 20-ish years ago, and I liked it then, too. But in the end of the day, it's just another tool. Not much different from my Dells, really. And although I have chosen to use the Mac tool over the Dell tools for the bulk of my computing activities, I don't consider it vastly superior. And that's why most switchers will always stand on the outside edge of the iCult, looking in.

29 November 2005

Patrick's Sunday Seven

I don't usually do these list things, but I started to leave the answer to Patrick's Sunday Seven in a comment & realized I talk too much for a simple comment. Anyway, Patrick asks for seven gadgets you would not want to live without, that could be good gift ideas for others. and so I offer:

1) Mouse with a scroll wheel. Yes, I know confirmed Mac-addicts eschew the things, and when I first tried it I also thought it was a dumb thing. Now... I can't stand to not have my wheel! [I happen to have a logitech cordless optical mouse; see item #4 for an accessory that makes life much happier when you use one of those ins tead of a wired mouse.]

2) Belkin adapter for iPod Mini for the car. Plays your iPod over the car radio. I don't have a cassette player, so it was my only alternative to 'how many commercials can we make you hear before you realize we never play any music on commercial radio?' With four presets & a wide broadcast range on FM, you can find a station that works evenin a big city (I have used it in Phoenix & Houston). I had another brand/cheapo thing that didn't work worth beans in Phoenix. Spend the money & get the good one so you can take road trips wherever you want.

3) MagLight Rechargeable flashlight. I have only ever seen this item at Harbor Freight but I'm sure you can get it elsewhere. If you think you have a bright flashlight... I'm telling you, it rocks.

4) Any NiCd/NiMH AA/AAA charger & batteries. I happened to buy a Monster but cheaper ones work just as well. Everything these days uses AA and AAA batteries. The rechargeables don't last quite as long as new batteries per charge, but... you only buy them once & you always have spares without a trip to the store.

5) Webcam. Pick a brand. Not too cheap or you won't see anything. You won't use it every time you chat with a pal, but when you just want to show off your new haircut, new shirt, dog's Christmas outfit, whatever, why use the digital camera, upload still photos, and all that? This is another item I never ever thought I would want/need, but when the UMR got me & dad a pair last Christmas, we learned it's fun. Now that I'm using the Mac almost full-time, I guess I really am going to have to get an iSight. (sigh) It's always something.

6) Digital Camera. Does anybody really use film anymore? Oh instant gratification. That's for me. Think minimum 5 megapixels for really nice prints; you don't need that much if you're just going to look at pictures on the computer screen.

7) Cell phone. A couple of years ago, I wrote a journal entry about how I don't 'get' cell phones. Less than a year after getting one, I can't imagine why anyone would have a wired phone anymore. Mine is always on vibrate & always in my pocket. If I'm busy or don't feel like answering it, I can ignore it or turn it off.

I meant to write today about Mac things so I'll simply note that on Safari, I'm missing most of my 'create post' buttons from IE. If I want bold or a link or whatever, I have to manually enter HTML. It's an annoyance for me, but it could be a deal-breaker for others. I'll have to look into that. I may have some setting messed up on Safari.

26 November 2005

Mac Attack!

I am officially a Mac user again!! Who knew a computer could be so fun & so cute?

The unnamed male relative is in town for Thanksgiving to dump some of his 'old' Apple hardware on me & the parents. Mom & Dad got a very attractive iMac to replace their early Triassic (and semi-functional) Gateway beast; I got a cuddly cute Mac mini (since I had an extra monitor & mouse in the closet).

The conversion of Windows-heads to Mac-brains has been slightly stressful, as the UMR has been working hard to convince us to go cold turkey on habits that we have picked up over some 20 years of PC use. I have only once had to remind him who was the first person in the family to own a Mac (me).

That was back in the mid-'80s, back when a Mac was a sort of bulky extra-large Kleenex box with a floppy slot on the front. Back then, PC meant DOS -- EEK. I was upgrading from an Apple II+, so the Mac seemed a logical step.

I don't remember how/why I ended up with PCs, but I donated the Mac many years ago to the UMR for his 'museum.'

Anyway, the re-education of Windows users has been a learning experience for the UMR, who is a trainer at the Unnamed Manufacturer of Cute Computers. It's a holiday weekend, so I will not type that my dad is a troglodyte, but if I did, it would not be too far off the truth. "I want it to work just like (name of Windows application)," he keeps saying, and to give the UMR credit, he is trying to make it so -- through gritted teeth.

Mom is more relaxed about it, open to learning a new way to read her mail, edit her pictures and generally work with a computer.

I'm a little of both. I don't take well to instruction; I like to fiddle with things & see how they work, then bend them to my will ;) For example, the UMR suggested that "Real Mac Users" don't need no stinkin' scroll thingie or multiple buttons on their mouses, but (whew) my three-button/scroll wheel mousie does retain its functionality on the Mac. I remember when I first got the scroll wheel, thinking, "Who needs this nonsense?" but now I can't imagine computing without it. Interestingly, the 'End' key on the keyboard does not function as expected, so I'll have to learn a workaround for that habit as well. There are also some issues with the way that I want to use iPhoto; he grits his teeth & says, "Well, you CAN do that but..." so I will try to be open-minded about different ways to organize my 'stuff.'

Some of my mission-critical software only runs in Windows, but my ancient printers may create the ultimate block to being able to go totally Windows-free. Two of the three are from an ancient culture that used parallel ports for printing; the third also pre-dates OS X and does not wish to work across a network with a Mac. I believe direct connection to the Mac could make it work, but I worry, then, that the Mac may not want to share that resource ;)

Time will tell. For now, it's just fun to fiddle with stuff. And the mini is cute as a button. I just want to cuddle it. I'd show a picture but I haven't had time to get my camera to talk to the Mac yet ;)

22 November 2005

E-mail notifications

For my fellow AOL ex-pats who miss (or whose readers miss) the friendly notifications of new blog listings, I have dug up some options.

I use Bloglines to track all my various subscriptions, AOL & otherwise. I've been using this for a while, long before the nonsense with the ads, because it's a quick way to see everything new on your favorite blogs. It's also extremely easy to use & add/drop blogs as they move around. I just log into Bloglines whenever I have time, and see who has new goodies. You can also use Bloglines to track blogs & other assorted stuff that has the right sort of 'feed.' I have added a button on the right column of this blog to easily add this blog to your Bloglines subscription.

For those who don't have a long list of blogs to watch, or who prefer not to log onto a Web site to see what's new, you can sign up for e-mail notifications about updates, via Bloglet or Feedblitz. They appear to be very similar, if not identical, services, so you only need to subscribe to one.

There may be other options for notification, but this seems like plenty to me.

21 November 2005

Poor dog

Lakrids went to see Santa over the weekend. The Woodlands Dog Park Club had a "Paws with Claus" event at which some 60-70 pets (one cat) sat on Santa's lap at one of the members' homes.

Small world: "Santa" was a friend from geocaching.

The event was a fund-raiser, as are most of this club's activities. It's a very rescue-oriented group. So I don't feel that I 'wasted' the $10 on a 'photo with Santa,' but the photo on this page is from my own digital camera, not the instant camera that the supposedly professional 'furtographer" was using. Her photo is way too dark, the dog is not looking toward the camera, and Santa has a look of abject fear, as if a vicious dog had just been dumped on his lap. (In mine, he just looks bedraggled, as if a pesty lick-machine was wiggling all over him, which she was.)

I won't blame the 'furtographer' since I'm sure she was not using her own camera. But based on what I saw at this event, it would be more cost-effective (not wasting so much film redoing bad shots) and provide members with higher quality images if they used a digital camera & printed the pictures on a nice computer/printer.

Does anybody really use an instant camera anymore? I think I still have one, but I don't even know if you can buy film for the old thing anymore. Speaking of film... does anybody use that stuff anymore?

18 November 2005

Blogspot comments

Is anybody else out there so dyslexic or blind that they have trouble leaving comments on Blogspot journals?

They have the little boxes of letters that may or may not keep spammers from commenting about their totally X-rated cheap-o Viagara ripoff or whatever. This is a nice feature, seriously, except that sometimes the fonts are hard to read, and some of us have trouble with random letters. At least when Ticketmaster does it, it's usually a word. Words I can handle.

Yesterday I was leaving a comment for somebody... Robbie I think... and there was a character in the box that was either a 'g' or a 'q'. In the font in question, it could have been either. I guessed wrong. At least it didn't make me retype my comment, and it did give me another set of letters to try.

And that is one step better than Xanga, where I can't get the letters to show up on my screen at all, even when I right click to "Show Picture." I've been trying to comment on Remo's journal for some days now, but I can't get the letters to show up. Sorry bud.

16 November 2005

Sometimes things just don't work out

I was with AOL for more than 10 years. I even had CompuServe for a few years before that, and before that I was a 300-baud modem freak before any of these dang Internet-ready kids knew their diaper from an ethernet cable. (Oh there was no ethernet back then, either.)

I was also with my ex for more than 10 years, and that didn't work out, either. Slowly but surely, we sort of drifted apart into a kind of empty closeness where you share a bathroom and a blanket, but not much else. Sometimes things just don't work out; 'for better or for worse' becomes 'whatever.' But inertia has you by the toes, and until there's a real reason to move out of the house, it's easier to just keep your stuff where it is.

Then one winter the first snow comes in October, and the last in mid-May, and you think to yourself, "Exactly why is it that am I still in upstate NY?"

AOL started out like a great match. They had a service I needed, a good match for my needs and abilities at the time. My needs changed, but inertia (and my e-mail address) held me there until...

Well, they put an ad on my journal. I pay $xx per month to have an account there to read mail and write a journal. That's really all I have been using on AOL for several years now. I used to participate in some forums, read news, watch video clips, chat a bit, had a website, etc. But mostly now I have found better places to do those things. So I had e-mail and a journal. And they put an ad on my journal.

It's been in the back of my mind to drop AOL since I left New York, but I had the journal and oh it's such a pain to change my e-mail address, etc. Inertia. An ad banner is not that big a thing, but it was just enough to push me off the edge I've been dangling over for some time.

So here I am.

It's ok to wave back because I know that at least some of my AOL-journaling pals are out here in non-AOL journalingland. I know this because Patrick has a list of us, those who have managed to break the inertia. If you're an old AOL friend who has joined what Patrick calls The Great Exodus, be sure you get on the list.

Because somehow, even though I'm just leaving an ISP, I feel like I'm also leaving a community. A community that has been ravaged in the same way that Katrina demolished New Orleans, but a community that I will hate to lose.

15 November 2005

New Home

AOL has messed with me one time too many. I have been meaning to drop AOL (and stop paying for it!) for some time now, and the new banner ads on the journals just gave me the impetus to do it.

The old "Small Adventures" blog from AOL is now moving here. I hope I still occasionally have something to say.