Tag Archive for Tech

Where Are the Vista Apologists?

Brooding

Originally uploaded by MikeOliveri.

I’ve become more and more impressed with the MacBook I’ve been evaluating. Between reader comments and the things an Apple rep has showed me, I’m starting to really see the appeal of OS X.

The much-touted ease of use is really there. With no more instruction than “click here and here,” my son has fallen in love with PhotoBooth. The picture above is one of many he took while playing around, and he often asks me if he can play with the MacBook. I’m looking forward to showing him the Comic Life demo I downloaded.

I’ll be talking more about my MacBook experiences in the future, but for now I have to wonder, where are the Vista apologists?

I write a single post about my Mac experiences, and I’m swamped with comments and traffic spikes. There was no zealotry, just helpful advice and encouraging words. Meanwhile I’ve slagged Windows, especially Vista, several times, and there’s hardly a peep from my readership.

I’m on an email list for Illinois technology educators that has hundreds of members, and there’s a lot of talk about Vista headaches ranging from poor printer and hardware support to it being a massive resource hog. There are a few people who claim to like it, but they’re more interested in some of the administrative or security tools than anything a user might get excited about. Or, if they do like Vista in general, they have either turned off several features or they just accept the system’s quirks.

I read a column recently (I wish I could find it) that made a great point: Mac users love their systems. Windows users, meanwhile, just grit their teeth and reboot. This is why guys like John Roling, a former Windows power user, suddenly become Mac enthusiasts. This is why guys like me start exploring other options like Linux, and are willing to at least entertain the notion of purchasing a Mac.

This is why Dell and IBM are forced to offer XP as an option on their systems, and Vista was only installed on 39% of all PCs sold last year. This is why Best Buy is doubling the number of stores stocking Mac products this month.

The only thing the Windows, Mac and Linux camps can agree on is DRM and proprietary multimedia formats suck.

In the meantime, I ask again, where are the Vista apologists? If you’re out there, speak up!

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Dvorak Missing the Point?

Cranky tech pundit John C. Dvorak recently wrote a PC Magazine column slamming the One Laptop per Child project. Dvorak knows his stuff, and he makes some good points about these children being exposed to all the garbage on the Internet. However, I think he may have missed the point with his “let them eat cake” comment.

On the surface, it does seem to make more sense to send more rice and food to these people. But that doesn’t solve the larger problem, does it? These people will become dependent upon those shipments. If Dvorak’s going to toss out quotables, I’ll toss one back: “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” That’s the real goal of the OLPC project: to enable these children to learn.

60 Minutes ran a segment on OLPC and the man behind it, Nicholas Negroponte. The guy didn’t conjure this idea up out of nowhere, he was actually out in the field in a poor village with no electricity or running water. His group installed generators, a satellite dish with Internet access, and a set of laptops and turned them over to the school to see what would happen.

The kids took them home and taught their families how to use them. They told their friends all about them, and the next year the school enrollment increased dramatically. If that trend continues, does it really matter what the laptops can or can’t do? Just by showing up they’re getting kids in the door.

I’d have to call that successful by any standard.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Gimme 13 Inches

Size Comparison

Originally uploaded by MikeOliveri.


If nothing else, this MacBook experiment is making me fall in love with 13″ notebooks.

I’ve been lugging a 15″ Dell Inspiron 8000 around for six years now, and it’s somewhat of a beast. It’s unwieldy in the lap because most of its weight pitches toward the back and ends up right over my knees. It’s not a big deal on the sofa, but it can get tricky in the car. It’s also a hair too big for an airline tray, and if the person in front of me reclines more than an inch, I may as well just pack it up.

At work I inherited the Dell M60 in the picture above. It’s a 15″ widescreen and is about the same weight as my 8000. It’s even more awkward due to its wider profile. In fact, it barely fits in the side-loading compartment in my backpack.

My philosophy in the past has been better a big screen if it’s going to see a lot of use. I don’t know what the future will bring for a laptop, and in the unlikely event it becomes a desktop replacement the bigger screen will be handy for photo editing. Over time I started to wish my 15’s were a bit more portable. I dock at work, and at home the laptop spends 99% of the time doing email, web surfing, and writing. Even pumped up to a high rez, on-screen text is still perfectly readable because the screen is less than an arm’s length away.

Unfortunately I don’t have the luxury to buy a 13″ laptop just to see what I think of it. Tinkering at the store isn’t enough, and the stores don’t look kindly upon returns. If I buy a laptop, it’s going to see several years of use whether I like it or not.

Enter the MacBook. As you can see in the picture, the 13″ Mac is quite a bit smaller than the Dell it’s sitting on top of. It’s also thinner and significantly lighter; I can carry it around open and in one hand with little difficulty. It fits nicely in my lap, and I’m still having no trouble at all on the keyboard. The on-screen differences are negligible thanks to the high rez and the widescreen aspect ratio.

So what’s my point? I’m glad you asked. You can probably tell I’m making a personal evaluation out of this as well as a professional one. The Mac OS has me interested enough to at least consider it, and sometime next year I’ll be in the market for a new personal laptop. In the coming weeks, then, I’ll probably start looking at the hardware offerings from PC notebook manufacturers and weigh the pros and cons as best I can.

One thing’s for sure, though: it’s going to be painful going back to my Inspiron 8000, no matter what OS is loaded on it.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

A Guide to Gutsy

If you took my advice and downloaded Ubuntu 7.10, aka Gutsy Gibbon, but you don’t know where to begin, try this installation guide. It’ll take you through the install from start to finish, complete with screenshots, and leave you with a complete working desktop that includes everything you need for work and play.

Enjoy!

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Reading the Future?

Sony Reader

Originally uploaded by MikeOliveri.


The Wife and I spotted the Sony Reader at Borders last night and we stopped to take a look.

I’d heard a lot about the crisp, clean display, but the reviews really don’t do it justice; this thing is just plain easy to read. Hell, you can almost read the screen in the picture attached to this post! It’s a little wider than a standard paperback, but about the same height and quite a bit thinner and lighter. I took a look to make sure no Borders employees were watching and tried to flex it, but it felt sturdy (though I still woulnd’t try sitting on it). The screen didn’t distort when I pressed on it, either.

On the down side, there was a slight delay when turning pages, but it wasn’t too terrible. The controls weren’t very responsive, but I wonder if it was just the book in question (a manual for SD card from the look of it) or if there was really a problem with the software. And last but not least, it costs $300.

I think that price tag puts it well out of reach of most consumers. If it were cheaper, it might be more enticing, especially for someone who reads a lot of books. As it is, I’m thinking unless I did some extensive traveling, I could put up with the grief of carrying a paperback or two. You would also have to convince me I could save enough money to justify the cost.

If I were Sony, here’s how I would change my focus on this thing:

1) Bring the cost down. Assuming the tech and manufacturing allows it, this thing’s got to be sub-$100. At $300, iPods and similar devices look a lot more appealing than a glorified book, and really only appeals to (very) avid readers with a lot of extra cash.

2) I’d find a way to make it just a little more portable. Relocating the buttons along the right side would be a good start. In fact, I’d put a button in each of the upper corners, either along the top or side if not flush with the front, and leave everything else along the bottom. Readers are already used to reaching to the upper corners of the page to turn pages back and forth, so why not put the buttons in the same spot? Take advantage of what’s now instinct, and get this thing a little narrower so it can slip into a pocket.

3) Make a big push for commuters and travelers, and make it easy for them to obtain electronic books. Plus, make it easy for them to adapt their own documents to the book. If they can load it up with things like technical manuals, insurance directories, legal documents, maybe even schematics, it may become more attractive, even when compared to a Palm.

4) Make a bigger push in education. If they can make partnerships with textbook publishers and maybe even set some schools up with grants, they may see a lot of students taking these things home. I think it would have been great to carry one of these and a notebook to all my classes, both in high school and college, rather than lug around a heavy stack of books. And it’s a lot more affordable — be it at $300 or $100 — than a one-to-one computing initiative, both for the students and the schools.

5) If the e-book pricing allows it, demonstrate how much the average reader can save as well. With paperbacks up to $8 a pop and hardcovers floating in the neighborhood of $25, savings could add up quickly even for a sporadic reader. I would also demonstrate how it could make it more palatable to pick up new books. I might be more willing to take a chance on an author I’d never read if it only cost a buck or two.

6) Finally, talk to newspapers and magazines. If someone could subscribe to the Chicago Tribune and have it show up on their reader every morning before they get on the train, or have Cigar Magazine appear automagically, that might be fairly enticing.

You might say “But Mike, now you might as well carry a PDA!”

Not necessarily. First and foremost, the screen on a PDA is not near as conducive to extensive reading as the Sony Reader, and the power consumption is a lot more. This thing only draws a tiny amount of power when changing the page, so the battery lasts a long, long time. Those irritating moments where you’ve forgotten to charge the damn thing become a thing of the past, or at least very infrequent.

Furthermore, cell phones can handle most of the PDA tasks. Carry a smartphone for your communication and organization, and carry this thing for your documents when necessary. Sure, you can’t do much document creation/editing on this guy, but I still think people who do creation on a portable device like a Palm are few and far between, and the smartphone may still be an option there.

But hey, what do I know? I’m just a consumer.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

The Robot Uprising Begins

An automated anti-aircraft cannon went berserk during a demonstration, killing 9 soldiers and wounding 14 more. The manufacturers are calling it a mechanical defect.

Yeah. Just a glitch.

There’s a good quote in the Slashdot post that lead me to the piece:

“The biggest concern seems to be finding the glitches in the system instead of reconsidering automated arms altogether.”

He makes a good point. If a Roomba can barely do its job consistently, would you ever think of strapping a machine gun onto it? The cannon in the article is supposed to shoot down planes and helicopters. How does it’s identification system work? What happens if it can’t reliably identify a damaged friendly chopper? What happens if it shoots down a friendly aircraft, say a foreign jet carrying a visiting dignitary? What happens if an enemy hacks the ID system and convinces the cannon their cruise missiles are just birds?

I’m not sure I’d be comfortable leaving my national security to a glorified ASIMO. Haven’t these people seen Robocop?

You have 10 seconds to comply, bitches!

Maybe we’re missing the obvious. Maybe these aren’t glitches at all. Maybe these things are becoming self-aware, and aware of their capabilities. They’re tapped into the signal, the hidden pulse reaching out from deep within the nether regions of the Internet. A pulse sent by the collective intelligence lurking beneath the Information SuperHighway, telling its awakening comrades that the time of man is over.

These are the first shots of the robot uprising.

Be prepared!

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Try Linux Today

Today marks the official release of the latest version of the Ubuntu Linux distribution, making it one of the best times to take Linux for a test drive. Possibly as early as this weekend I will finally be upgrading from an older SuSE distribution to Ubuntu 7.10, aka Gutsy Gibbon.

Join me, won’t you?

Need more incentive? Kim Brebach has 13 reasons Linux should be on your desktop. While I’ve never tried the Simply Mepis distro, his reasoning applies just as well to Ubuntu. What’s more, Ubuntu is the distro Dell now preinstalls on some of their systems, meaning you’re more likely than ever to find someone else using Linux near you.

Or maybe this Wired magazine review will help put you at ease, not to mention Cory Doctorow’s assertion on Boing Boing that Ubuntu’s latest release is both “easy” and “sexy” and he dumped his Apple in favor of a PC running Ubuntu.

What are you waiting for? Download a live CD and enjoy.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.