Category: Technology

The disappointment that is Windows 8

Call it impetus, call it giddiness, call it holiday delirium. What ever you do, don’t call it a smart decision. Just a couple of weeks ago Windows 8 bounced on to the world market and like a naive child looking at candy in a candy store I bought in to the hype, lock, stock, and crazy 8 barrel.

Now, I’m no stool pigeon and I didn’t just fall off the turnip truck… I have a long history with windows, even becoming a MCSE in 2000, so I know my way around the OS. But, I must confess, since Windows Vista arrived and was simply a train wreck, I completely skipped it and waited for SP1 on Windows 7 to arrive before I dared to upgrade. I have loved Windows 7 and its stability. But, I read the reviews for Windows 8 and decided I would jump out early and adopt. I liked the idea of Metro and while I have no use, nor do most of the massive population of desktop users, to implement the touch screen features, it seemed cool. Famous last words…

What a disaster it has been
First, I can’t begin to express how ridiculous it is that the start menu is gone. I have had to create a start folder “short cut” in the toolbar just to get a horribly inferior experience. It still sucks. I know that I am going to have to buy a 3rd party solution sooner than later to fix this really bad decision on Microsoft’s part. I get it, MS wants to be cool and hip and target the tablet market, but screwing over millions of desktop users is a really bad idea and a great way to push more users over to the fruit tree company that shall remain nameless.

Fruit Anyone?

Second, to take full advantage of Windows 8, MS wants you to login with them automatically to get updates and use most of the Apps they offer as well as skydrive. Within a few days of installing W8 I was informed that I was somehow spamming through email and my account had been blocked. I don’t spam and I am not sure how they would know what I was doing that anyway with the yahoo account I registered with unless they were tracking every bit of data I moved around the internet. As a new install, there are no viruses running on my system and just to make sure I checked with yahoo to see if the account had been hacked. Clean as a whistle. So, I have no idea what they are talking about. I proceeded to try to reset my password and found out I had to email someone to get it reset and then wait… and wait… and wait. I have not heard a follow up in over a week and a half, so I have no idea what happened. My skydrive has started working again, so I assume the problem is fixed.  But, I would not be surprised if the other shoe drops and I get blocked again for no reason.

 

Third, my system has started rebooting on its own again for no reason. When I bought the system a year and a half ago it started this little game of randomly screaming out of my speakers and rebooting once or twice a week. I never clearly determined the problem, but decided it had something to do with the power supply being too small for 3 monitors. So, I upgraded it to a 750w supply and I upgraded the BIOS. Problem solved and system behaved. Now, almost a year later, the mysterious problem has returned with like a squealing pig.

Fourth, I don’t like the way the Apps behave, it is incredibly annoying that in order to use an App I have to switch over to the Metro screen to click on it, then when I am done, I have click back into windows to get back to work. All my normal programs I can find in the annoying start folder I have pinned to the toolbar, but not the “Apps”.

The Skype App is also broken and shuts down, but oddly worked for the first few days. The 8 zip app is a piece of shit and poorly designed and slow as molasses. The selection of Apps is minuscule at best and one has to wonder if it will get better any time soon. I can go on and on, but what I am saying here is that you should not upgrade anytime soon unless you have to. I was happy with Windows 7 and I am still contemplating reverting back. But, it would entail so much work.

Not to be negative Ned to the grave, I will give kudos to the fast boot time, and  to Metro. It’s an interesting idea, I just think it should be optional. MS may want to consider sliding back to two interfaces to accommodate the desktop crowd, which is its bread and butter. I do not see the need or desire to start poking my monitor with my finger anytime soon to open anything. The mouse and keyboard is my dance partner and we ain’t square dancing, so back off!

 

Cutting the Cable (Company)

Hard to believe I canceled my cable almost 3 years ago. Sadly for them, I have not missed the $80 a month they charged me to have nothing on worth watching on their shitty basic cable. So, I am saving a grand a year and I couldn’t be happier with my decision. But, don’t think I haven’t watched TV or TV shows this year. Oddly, I may be watching more, the big difference is I do it all on line via Amazon and an antenna on my roof.
I bought and installed an $80 antenna when I killed off cable, not long after all the channels went digital. The truly interesting thing is now that all the channels have sub channels there are around 20 channels free on the air of which a dozen actually have good programming. KERA has 2 good channels, NBC has 2 and WB33 has 2. Usually the second channel is older stuff, but I do enjoy old shows on occasion ( Threes Company anyone?). And honestly, almost everything I watch these days is on the big 4 broadcast channels. Sure I don’t watch Game of Thrones, but if I really want to follow a show, like Dexter, I can buy it for $2-3 an episode at Amazon. I then own the whole season for 40-50 bucks and watch it any time I want and I am still way ahead of the crap I payed for with the cable crooks.

How did I end up with Amazon On Demand? I have an Amazon Prime membership which I bought that cost $79 a year. I bought it so I could get free 2 day shipping when I realized I was ordering from Amazon almost weekly. It seemed like a no brainer. I then discovered they have a great library of movies just like Netflix and all of the lastest releases that you can rent. The real treat is they include all of these shows at no additional cost with your prime membership.  The only problem I had was that I could only watch these movies on my PC. I started looking at Blu-ray players and Sony has a great one. Its Blu-Ray models  load DVDs fast as hades and all have a built in user interface that links up to all the services that I like as long as you have a decent internet connection. So I can get Pandora, Amazon, Netflix, Hulu and a dozen other options, that seem to grow every day. Oddly I rarely go out anymore to rent DVD’s. Of course, even if I wanted to, there are no more blockbusters within 15 minutes of me, but there are always redboxes, until they become dinosaurs.

So I now watch what I want, on demand, and usually free. It really is a genius concept.  Now, when am I going to be able to have my vacations and excercise come to me. Then I can turn into a vampire sloth and fear the light and garlic.

The end of AT&T, Verizon and Sprint’s contracts

It’s coming, I don’t know when, but the days of contracts for phone service is doomed, DOOMED!  I say this because I just found out that Google Voice now allows you to port your mobile number to them. What is google voice, read my earlier post about this great, free service. I use it from my desktop computer more than my mobile phone now. I call from my computer, text from my computer, and listen to voicemail from my computer. Essentially a mobile phone with Google voice is now nothing more than another device that connects to the internet for me and allows me to make calls, text and browse the internet.  It just happens to be a mobile device that works on Sprint’s crappy network at $130 a month that I have locked myself into until 6/30/2012.  I am counting the days til then hoping my EVO phone can make it to the middle of Summer. Its going to be close, my video no longer has audio, my camera won’t adjust to light, and my phone reboots when I try to browse the internet. It has survived almost 2 years, that is 4 times longer than my shitty iphone on AT&T lasted a few years ago.

But, that is my point, these carriers extort $1500 a year plus from me for their crappy service and crappy connections. Google voice eliminates all of this. Now that I can port my number to them for a small $20 fee I can move my phone service to the internet. Here is the part I really like, I have always thought my phone service should cost sub $50 a month, not a dime more. Anyone with a smart phone knows that is a ridiculous goal with the big carriers. I have always wanted to go to Virgin Mobile, Metro PCS, or one of the half dozen cheap as crap phone providers, but I couldn’t risk that the service would be sub par. With Google handling my calls, I don’t have to worry about it. I simply move my old number to them and have them forward my calls to whatever cave, mobile phone or destination I want. Its just that simple, the phone company is no longer my “life line ” for my business. I can swap my phone company out like a Lithuanian light bulb and throw it to the curb if I’m not happy.

So I am going to start saving $840+ a year as I switch to a cheap carrier. That puts a smile on my face. Of course the thing I find the most interesting about all of this is how quietly Google is going to put the screws to the phone companies as they muscle into their phone service with a superior product and give customers ultimate freedom. It will force these domineering behemoths to actually compete in an open market as contracts become a thing of the past.

SEOopen Toolbar plugin for Firefox 9.x updated

SEOopen Toolbar has always been my favorite toolbar for Firefox. It simple, effective and doesn’t have a bunch of adware built into it. But, the owner quit supporting it a few years ago. I have hacked my way through it every time I have had to update Firefox to a new version. As more things change online I keep having to update it. Recently Yahoo did away with its backlink tool which has been killing me as I search for an alternative tool. I finally found a new search engine and decided to add it to SEOopen under the same spot as Yahoo for backlink checking. I’m afraid Yahoo is officially dead for me. The only thing they did really well was support webmasters and SEO types. Sad for them.

Anyway, I thought I would offer this updated plugin to anyone interested. Here is it. Just click on the file in Firefox to get it working, you may have to reboot. I have it set up to work until version 9 of Firefox. It is a .xpi file so it should slide right into firefox. IF you want to download the file and look at it you will need ti unzip the package.

Two big changes:

Fixed the Pagerank checker tool to go to a site that works

Changed the backlink checker tool to go to blekko.

Plugin

The Death of the Mobile Phone

It has happened before, the rapid upheaval of the telecom industry. Many companies didn’t make it such as MCI, Nortel, Frontier… Its about to happen again. Cell phones are as ubiquitous as landline phones were 20 years ago. Everyone had one, if you were well off you had 2 with call waiting. But, they were expensive and long distance was ridiculous, a quarter a minute or more in many cases. I remember getting 200- 300 dollar bills calling Dallas from Houston. What a joke that was.

Don’t think AT&T and Verizon aren’t plotting a way to keep people from dumping their $140 a month phone bill, but history has shown that technology always wins out. The question is when, 5 years? 7 years? I think it will be start happening next year with Techies like me and mainstream a few years later.

What am I talking about? VOIP, or skype or google voice or what ever comes along next. Think about it, the only reason you can’t skype everywhere and ditch your cell phone is the internet and bandwidth doesn’t exist everywhere. But with 4G and LTE coming onto the scene, there will be no more need for the cell phone. You want to talk on your ipad, itouch or laptop with 4g, its going to cost under $50 a month. Verizon looks like they are going to offer $29 a month plan.

But what about your phone number, you ask? Well, that’s the tricky part that has to be worked out. Currently Skype doesn’t support the porting of numbers from another carrier, but they will have to eventually or they will lose out. Google, which is my carrier, does allow Sprint numbers to be ported over, but I am not sure what would happen if I cancelled my sprint plan.

Since I have switched to Google Voice the world has opened up to me. I now do most of my texting on my computer with a keyboard, I make calls from my bluetooth headset which is connected to my computer, and of course I manage all my voicemails through google voice which looks like email. When I get calls my computer rings 5 seconds before my phone. so I have plenty of time to react. I have found I look at my phone half as much as I used to, and I am currently connected anywhere I have wifi. All that is missing is mobility. If I had a reliable wireless WAN like LTE, I would no longer need the phone or data plans that come with it. It is just that simple. And the cost savings is staggering. I currently spend $120+ a month for Sprint unlimited, switching to a data plan would cost $30-50 a month for an annual savings of around $850 to $1100 a year. That is no small potato, and one everyone will be deciding on in the next few years. I likely will switch in the next several months and reduce my sprint service to a shell account which is $29 a month for 200 minutes. Then use my computer and touchpad to make calls.Your decision gets easier if you are always in a wifi spot at work and home. You could just have a mobile phone with purchased minutes just in case.

I know a lot of you chatty Cathys out there don’t want to give up your car phone talking, but I am sure it will be illegal in all 50 states within a few years considering research has shown that drunk drivers have better response times than people on phones.

Of course, I expect AT&T and other ISPs to fight back, likely charging more for their DSL plans or metering your home connection, much like they started metering cell phone data plans.