Monday, April 30, 2007

Windows Vista: Its not that bad

A flood of reviews about Windows Vista have spread to the far reaches of the internet mostly detailing new features that are included in Windows Vista and how this is a great or terrible new Operating System from Microsoft.

As soon as Apple released bootcamp 1.2 I quickly grabbed it, a copy of Windows Vista Premium Home edition and then spent some time installing Vista onto my iMac. I wanted to see not only how realistic some of these reviews about the system were but how it ran for a normal average user.

Initial Feel

Having originally participated in the public beta for Vista I was surprised at how much had improved in the OS by the time they released it publicly. Applications actually worked as expected and often ran faster and more stable than what I had experienced before. Not only that, many applications seem to work better than they do on XP.

I must admit that while many features have improved since the original Beta or even improved on the stable system that has become Windows XP, I quickly turned off User Access Controls (UAC) that constantly warned me of anything my system was doing. My friend said it best when describing UAC:

It's like forcing me to make a 25 character password, upper case, lower case, numbers, and special characters to sign into my hotmail account.

Yes it is that bad and often pointless.


My iMac was rated a 4.5 out of 5 by Vista's custom analytic tool that will rate your hardware and how optimal it is for the Operating System. Booting up the system is as fast as ever but it still gets beat my OS X. Shutting down seems to take Vista a lifetime.

Standard applications that people will use everyday perform great. They open quickly, shut quickly, rarely lock up, and don't crash as often as they do in XP. Getting to your files and applications is also easier.

Although the integrated search could be more powerful, it does make it easier to find the applications you're using for. I know that with XP many users quickly switch the start menu back to windows classic mode. You won't need to do this with Vista as you'll never use the navigation tree to find an application. Click start, type in Word, hit enter, and Microsoft Word 2007 will quickly open. It really makes it easy and quick to find and launch the files or applications you're looking for. The location of the search is what makes it so useful. In contrast, I believe spotlight for OSX is underused because it is located poorly. Most users go to finder or their Hard Drive to find files. If Spotlight was somehow better located and available in these locations I believe people will use it as often as I expect normal Vista users to use the built in search feature.


ReadyBoost is a built in feature to Windows Vista that allows users to use USB based flash memory to increase the performance of their system by caching portions of their hard drive for quick easy reference. by the Operating System. I will never be able to say enough about this feature. It is the best thing that Microsoft has done with Windows Vista. With USB based flash memory readily available to every user, Microsoft has provided users a way to increase their systems performance without having to use a screwdriver or install anything complicated.

Insert your flash memory, set it to be used with ReadyBoost and you'll quickly notice how much faster your applications open, close, and perform. Additionally finding files and saving items to the Hard Drive takes that much less time. Its like giving your Computer a dose of caffeine followed up with a shot of steroids.

I hope Apple and Linux developers quickly follow the lead with this Microsoft idea and implement it into their own Operating Systems.


Windows Vista is an improvement on what Windows XP does well. The UAC is intrusive but can easily be turned off by the user. While some people feel Vista has under performed I would say that most of the areas it is lacking are with features or ideas previous versions of Windows has not provided. The system for typical users is improved upon and I expect Windows to make right what is lacking through feature updates. If they can get ReadyBoost right there is still hope for Windows!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Online Storage: Store and Share Your Files For Free

While there are a number of online storage options available, many of them cost money or restrict what and how you can upload files. After trying many different options I've become completely satisfied with Divshare.

Divshare is a new and growing online storage site that allows you to not only host your files privately but also allows you to share your files with others.

The service is free and has unlimited space for each account but does limit file sizes to 200mb per file upload. You can purchase for $9.95 a month an account that ups that file size limit to 2gb.

Divshare has also started a social network amongst its users. A user can create a Group which others can join and provide easy access to upload files, share files, and download files others have shared. This can be great for open source projects or anything that might be accessible digitally. One of the groups I've joined is for Apple and currently the users have only uploaded images related to Apple computers but it has promise for other interesting files in the future.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

How To Pay Your Bills On Time

Having recently purchased a home and a new car the number of bills I'm responsible for has gone up considerably. At first I found myself always wondering when the next bill was paid and found myself checking my banking and account records to make sure that I hadn't missed a date. Unfortunately I completely missed one Credit Card due date. The frustrating part was that I had plenty of money to pay for it and on time.

I know that many people enjoy the Bill Pay feature that Banks offer that allow you to write checks for your various banks but some may prefer paying their bills the more conventional way. Lucky for us, Google Calendar is a free tool that can help make sure we never miss a bill due date again.

As I mentioned in previous posts, Google Calendar great for reminding you of events, your schedule, and everything else that you need to get done. It can also be setup to help you keep track of your bills and their various due dates. Simply create a new calendar and call it something like Bills. Post the various dates that your bills are due and then be sure to set the reminder to something like 2 days in advance. You can setup Google Calendar to remind you by email, and even through text messages.

Be sure to go back to Google Calendar and enter a comment when you've actually put the bill in the mail or paid it online. This will help keep track of things just in case you forget which bills you've paid.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Google Earth Adds Another Partner

Google explained on their blog that they've added new Architecture layers to their Google Earth application. By partnering with the AIA (The American Institute of Architects) Google plans to help users learn and understand about the Architecture around the country.

The new layers include both America's favorite architecture and a community based layer which is based up of architects using their free time to work with local leaders to make the community a better place.

Google Earth continues to become a more and more powerful source of information as Google is combining efforts with notable organizations around the country to make the information relevant to location around the globe.

Google Earth is quickly becoming a tool that helps you not only see where you are going, but what you can do there.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Google Adds Video Conference Firm to Portfolio

Google announced that they've acquired Marratech - A Swedish based company that has been developing browser based video conferencing software.


This new addition to Google could be vital to the companies long term strategy. It has been clear since Google acquired Writely and developed it further into the impressive Google Docs and Spreadsheets that the company is big on collaboration. The potential of working productively over the internet continues to look as a strategy Google supports. Video conference capabilities would only improve collaboration efforts.


With Google preparing its Presentation addition to the office suite its developing it won't be long before we see solid solutions that will allow individuals to not only create presentations but also present them over the internet with the addition of Marratech's technology.


You can also see how the addition of video conferencing would help them in the Instant Messenger field. While MSN, AIM, Yahoo, and Apple's iChat all offer ways to Video conference Google Talk is still limited in many of its features. Video conferencing capabilities will help position itself for the future of instant messaging. Don't be suprised when Google Releases an update to Google Talk that includes video conferencing capabilities.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Google Spreadsheets Adds Charts

Everyone can now add charts to the various spreadsheets they've developed on Google Docs and Spreadsheets. This new feature is a great and needed addition to the online office tool.

Adding charts is quick and easy and moving them around your spreadsheet is as easy as dragging and dropping. The number of available chart types is also impressive and customization of features such as title, legend, and axis labels make for a solid addition to the spreadsheet tool.

Personally I'll be using the new additions to Google to help me keep track of my "to do" progress and the weekly, monthly, and yearly goals I've set for myself.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Joost: Bringing the TV to your Internet

While Apple TV and other new media devices have pushed to find ways to bring video content to your television Joost is attempting to bring the TV to your internet.


Joost describes itself on their website as being FREE TV with complete control and exciting extras. They currently are streaming TV shows as user demands over the internet and to the Joost Client.

At first I was skeptic of the whole idea given that the most important item or any TV service would be content. Fortunately for all of us, Joost has been working deals for a while with a number of different providers. Their channel lineup includes MTV, Comedy Central, BET, National Geographic, and many many others. While most of these Joost Channels only include one to two shows, the potential of additional content seems endless.

The application is still in Beta but I must admit that I'm very impressed with my initial experience with the application. The current version of the software is 0.9.2 for windows but also has a similar release available for Mac OSX.

After receiving an invite to the Beta testing I quickly downloaded the software and registered an account. The application loaded quickly and within seconds started streaming video content to my computer. While the user interface is a bit flashy for me, it provides all the userful options for navigating a TV internet application including channels, shows, and even personal options that allow you to chat about the episodes you're watching with other users currently watching the same show. It was nice to be able to quickly pick from one show to another and start watching in full screen a decent quality video for free.

Currently Joost is only available by Invite only. Post a comment if you'd like an invitation and I'll share any that come my way.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Google: Docs and Spreadsheets To Get a New Friend

Presentations will soon join up with Google Docs and Spreadsheets to offer more office based applications to end users. Like their other web based applications, Google plans to add collaboration capabilities to the new Presentation software. Google expects to have this out to end users by sometime this summer.

This addition will bring it even closer to the home user versions of Microsoft Office. With the online capabilities of the software and its expanding software package it will be interesting to see if Microsoft next versions of Office include more web based tools and collaboration abilities.


Google also made the announcement today that they've purchased Tonic Systems:

"Tonic Systems is a San Francisco-based company that provides Java presentation automation products and solutions for document management - Tonic Systems Builder, Tonic Systems Filter, Tonic Systems Transformer, Tonic Systems Viewer, and JarJar Links. Features of their products included text extraction for indexing documents, presentation creation capabilities and document conversion tools."

It looks like Google is hoping that some of the software and ideas from Tonic Systems can help them with Presentations and all the Google Office features.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Adobe's New Media Player

Adobe announced today that they'll be entering the Media Player market to compete with Microsoft Media Player, Real Media Player, and Apple's Quicktime.

With proven track record of providing online video options through their flash based software Adobe instantly stands on stable grounds in the increasingly important online video market.

Some of the features that their new media player will offer include the ability for users to save copies of video they access on the web to their hard drives and personal media devices and even mobile phones. In accordance with the web 2.0 movement, the Adobe media player will also support RSS feeds.

One of the most interesting technological aspects of their new video system is its increased ability to provide relevant advertisements to end consumers. A future partnership with Google may be a very interesting possibility.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Find a Hike with Google Earth

If you're an outdoor type person and always looking for new places to explore, things just got a little bit easier for you.

Google announced a partnership with Trimble Outdoors to provide Google Earth users information about hiking trails and opportunities. Through the user of GPS technology the two companies will provide users with detailed information about hiking locations and the trails you'll set out on.

Trimble Outdoors website explains how easy it is to add the layer to your own Google Earth:

  • Start Google Earth
  • Go to "Layers" in the Sidebar on the left
  • Expand the "Featured Content" folder under "Primary Database"
  • Click the "Trimble Outdoors Trips" checkbox
  • In the main window, pan and zoom into the area of interest to you until you see red lines and dots indicating Trimble Outdoors trips
  • Continue to zoom in until you see little "Green Hikers":
    "Green Hikers"
    Depending on the zoom level and context, clicking a Green Hiker will open a popup window with detailed information about a trip or its element, for example a photo as shown above.

Based on the screenshots from their announcement... it looks like people in California have a lot of exploring options...

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Google Calendar: Features has posted an interested article with some additional insights on how to get the most out of Google's free Calendar application.

While I listed and talked about some of these Google Calendar features in the past, the article is well written and explains how simple adding tasks can be with a simple push of a button (q).

Check out the article and the links to read more about how you can optimize Google Calendar to help you stay organized and productive.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Free 411 - Google Offers Local Voice Search

You'll never need to pay for a 411 call again - for business listings anyways. Google has released to their labs a free 411 call by dialing 1-800-Goog-411 (1-800-466-4411).

I tried the new service out as soon as I heard about it and searched for a printer ink cartridge refill store that a friend of mine had just opened that week in the area. After asking for the City and State and the Business Name the recorded voice told me there were 4 stories in the general area that matched my request, and the first was the new store I was looking for.

I asked the system to send me a text message with the details on the number and before I had hung up the phone the requested text message was their waiting for me on my phone.

Google 411 also will connect you to the business you're looking for.

I was most impressed with the Google Database. It wasn't more than a few days ago that I helped my friend list his new store on Google Maps using their Local Business tools and help him setup an adwords account to start to drive local searches to his store and in addition to having this all setup, the store was also listed first in a Free 411 call to Google. Making these type of requests to the phone company or yellow pages might take weeks or at least until the next printing.

While it is still just part of Google Labs - Google 411 is a great feature and something you can use often to find those numbers addresses you're looking for while on the run.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Google Maps: Marking your Map

Google continues to bring users enhanced map features through their Google Maps service. Today they announced that in addition to the Google Maps API that allows programmers the capability to create custom maps for their website they have provided a service that allows anyone to mark the map just the way they want to.


To support their claim from their blog that the new service is so easy a caveman can do it, Google has provided a mapping tools that will allow users to mark any place in the world, and upload pictures, video, and add custom titles and text. To access the new mapping tools navigate your browser to Google Maps and then click on the My Maps tab next to search results.


After you've entered the My Maps section be sure to search for the location you want to map around and then start clicking the new tools available that allow you to mark locations, give them titles, and then add description including pictures and or videos. you can draw lines or shapes around areas of interest and then save the map so you can access it again in the future.

If you want to show your map off to others, just click the link to this page option and then copy the url in your web browser. You can send that to your friends or link to it all over the web.

Find out more about these new tools from Google Maps!

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Google Desktop Gets its Mac On

Today the Official Google Mac blog announced that they've released Google Desktop Search for the Mac. Like it's PC counterpart this service will index your Hard Drives and help you quickly search to find files.


Google's Desktop Search for Mac can quickly index and help you find files that you create with your standard apple programs. This includes the ability to search iChat conversations, Apple Mail, Microsoft Entourage, your Address Book contacts, and music and video files.


In addition to helping you find your files, Google Desktop Search for the Mac also creates snapshot copies of files every time you use them that can be accessed in case you save over that important file with something not so important. It may not be as safe or useful as some of the future Leopard backup features but its a start.

Find out about additional Google Desktop for Mac Features or talk about it in the discussion group.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Tutorial: How to Install Windows Vista using Boot Camp 1.2

Apple released Boot Camp 1.2 beta this past week that updated drivers and added support for Windows Vista. Upon hearing this, I quickly purchased an upgrade license to Windows Vista Home Premium and got started on upgrading my Windows XP partition to Windows Vista.


Before doing anything else you must download Boot Camp 1.2 and update it on OSX. After Boot Camp has updated to version 1.2 Burn the Driver CD so that you'll have it ready once Vista has finished installing.

NOTE: If you have previously installed Windows XP on your Apple Computer with the FAT file system you will not be able to upgrade to Windows Vista without reformating your Hard Drive to the NTFS file system. I learned this the hard way, and had to completely reinstall XP on a NTFS partition before I was able to install the Vista upgrade.


After installing Boot Camp 1.2 and burning the Driver Cd, reboot your system into XP and insert the Vista installation DVD. It will take you through a few steps and allow you to start the installation process. Follow the on screen instructions and let the installer do its work.

It may be of some interest to note, that since I had to reinstall Windows XP on an NTFS partition that I did not activate XP before installing an upgrade to Vista. It all installed perfectly, without once prompting me to activate my copy of XP before continuing my upgrade installation to Vista.

The system will reboot a number of times, but this all seems to be part of the installation process. The system froze once for me, but simply restarting the computer let it move a long past the part that was holding it up.

After Vista finishes installing, you should insert the Driver CD and install the windows vista drivers for your apple hardware.

Everything, including the remote seems to be working great. The only thing I've noticed is that if you have any external Hardware that requires a driver Vista doesn't like, you may get a Blue Screen of Death followed by a system reboot until you are able to uninstall those drivers.

Vista rates my iMac Core 2 Duo with 1gig ram and ATI x1600 a 4.2 on its hardware performance scale. It runs smoothly but I had to turn off Vista's UAC (User Access Control) in about the first 5 minutes of using the operating system.

iTunes: EMI Offers DRM Free Music

EMI, the European recording company that distributes music for The Beatles, Coldplay, and The Rolling Stones amongst many others announced today that they will be distributing music without any restrictive use DRM technology. It is still unclear as if


These tracks will cost $.29 more than the usual $.99 tracks on iTunes but they will also allow users much more freedom with how and where they decide to play their purchased music. EMI also made it clear that they would still sell tracks for $.99 that include DRM features.


DRM is the technology that limits the ways owners can use the music they purchase. For example, music purchased from iTunes that includes DRM technology limit the user to only playing the tracks on their 5 authorized computers and their iPods. Without DRM, users will be able to play their music the same way the do with the tracks they rip from CDs.