technofile blog archive

By Al Fasoldt of
Technofile Online.

Index to these blog entries.

Off to Facebook

12:06 PM Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Blogs are dead. Time to switch to Facebook. In good time.

Too much to handle

9:53 PM Wednesday, January 13, 2016

The stuff going on here at Countless Pines has been too much for a blogger to handle while still writing a blog. But that stuff's easing off. I'll be back to normal by tmorrow.

Blue is the color of faded memories

7:21 PM Wednesday, December 16, 2015

I have gallery-size photos, mounted nicely, of scenes I took with my first digital camera, my Sony F707. They were printed by Apple, which means by Kodak's digital lab. One of these 30-inch by 20-inch prints is a grayscale (i.e., black and white) photo of Paris shot from high up on the Eiffel Tower.

It's not grayscale any longer, however. It's blue. Ugly blue. Really terrible ugly blue.

At the same time, I made similar prints on my Epson 2000P printer. Black and white, grayscale, whatever you want to call it. (B&W suggests nothing but black and nothing but white -- no gray at all -- but 99.9% of the world's photographers call grayscale "black and white," so I'll do that, too,)

The Epson prints are still black and white.

People sometimes ask why they should print their photos on their own high-quality printer when the pro labs can do so much better. It sure is a lot easier to have them do it.

And, in some cases, a lot more disappointing.

iPad can now make PDFs from any open webpage or other document

9:34 PM Saturday, December 5, 2015

For years, Macs have been able to create PDFs out of any document -- anything capable of being printed. Windows PCs can do the same, using a little help from a utility program. It's a cool way to save such things as webpages.

But the iPad (and, of course, iPhone and iPod Touch) never had that ability. Not until now, that is. Apple added "Open PDF in iBooks" to the action menu that appears at the upper right of every document window in the current version of iOS.

Small matter to some of us, perhaps. But a giant improvement to me.

Made my day.

Maybe they're wimps up there

1:08 AM Thursday, December 3, 2015

The U.S. has 12,000 gun deaths a year.

Canada has 12.

Must be the air in here

10:38 PM Saturday, November 28, 2015

I ordered a new iPad today. Well, not "new" as in "never been touched before" -- "new" as in newly refurbished and given new software, new packaging, new battery, new warranty and all that good stuff. It's one of the things Apple does right.

It's an iPad Air 2. It's for Nancy, whose iPad 2 is a little long in the screen. I mean tooth. But Nancy tells me she'll take my current iPad, an iPad 3, so I can have the new one. The 3 was never called "3," as far as I know, just "iPad," but it was the first retina iPad and is superb. She'll love it.

So sometime this weekend (I know, it's half over) I'll be backing up my current iPad and Nancy's iPad 2 so we can make the swap. Apple makes that easy also. (Not to iCloud; that takes too long. To my Mac.)

And all I was going to do was clean out the old files from her iPad 2. Sometimes, sitting in the easy chair and looking for stuff to delete can cost hundreds of dollars.

Let me count the ways

8:05 PM Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Roku, the streaming service, has hundreds of channels. Maybe 250 or more. But that doesn't include all the private channels Roku has. If you're a Roku user, go to and check them out.

Dial M for murder

3:15 PM Tuesday, November 24, 2015

I love the VA.

The one here in Syracuse is exceptional -- the best-rated veterans care in the country.

But a small change is in order. When you call the VA switchboard and you encounter a delay while your call is routed, a recorded voice tries to help.
"If you are calling about a prescription, press 9," that kind of thing.

But sometimes the delay builds up, and you're waiting a long time and you feel like you can't stand it any longer. That's when one of the calling tips seems eerily prescient.

"If you are thinking of hurting yourself, press 6," the voice says.

I didn't tell you the real number you're supposed to press. I don't want you to hurt yourself.

Put a lid on it

10:10 PM Friday, November 20, 2015

Everybody makes the same mistake. It slows down Macs, Windows PCs and Linux boxes.

There are too many items on the desktop. Each one has to be checked and traced before your computer is able to finish booting up.

The easy solution is just to drag them all into a folder. The folder can be on your desktop -- the location doesn't matter, because folders aren't parsed the way files and shortcuts are.

Try it. I get a big boost in startup times both on my MacBook Air and my Asus laptop,


11:04 PM Thursday, November 19, 2015

Those ISIS propagandists are weenies. When Anonymous, the hacker collective, announced that it would start a massive campaign to disrupt Internet communications among ISIS lap dogs, ISIS complained, publicly, that the hackers shouldn't do that.

It also said the whole effort was ridiculous.

Where I come from, you don't complain about something that doesn't matter to you. The hackers bother ISIS very much.

Win? Mac? Does it matter any more?

12:32 PM Tuesday, November 3, 2015

For the first time since I switched to a Mac for all my normal computing activities around 2001, I've realized how far Windows has come. I've written before about the advancements in Windows, especially Windows 8 (in classic mode) and Windows 10. But just now, as I moved over to work on my Windows 10 laptop to write another blog entry, I had one of those smack-me-in-the-face-and-call-me-a-moron moments: Using one was just like using the other.

There is no preference any more. I don't feel like I'm slumming it when I use Windows. I don't feel like I'm missing something.

I'm sure one of the many reasons is my choice of keyboards.

I have some absolutely first-rate Windows keyboards. I'm crazy about them. They turn typing into an ecstasy.

Yet I type on my Apple Bluetooth keyboard when I use my PC. On my Mac, I type on my MacBook Air's keyboard, of course. But what you need to know is that they are the same -- the same layout, the same mechanism, the same size, the same feel, the same touch.

That is, of course, the way it should be.

What if they gave a party, and nobody came?

11:57 PM Saturday, October 31, 2015

This year, for the second year in a row, nobody came on Halloween.

Not a doorbell was rung. Not a knock.

Sure, the kids who used to live here in our little neighborhood along the river are grown up. Five or 10 years ago those grownups would bring their own kids down the driveways on both sides of the road here.

But now even they are gone.

I know and you know what killed Halloween. Razor blades in candy killed it.

Maybe there weren't any razor blades in candy. Maybe it was all made up.

But that doesn't matter. We all got scared, and that was the beginning of the end -- of our innocence, of our Halloween.

I ate two of the candy bars I'd arranged in a bowl. I stared up the driveway, then finally turned off the porch light.

Next year I will just go to bed.

Got those St. Lewis blues

1:07 AM Wednesday, October 28, 2015

On one of our local public radio newscasts Monday, the news reader warned about high winds coming our way -- and coming someone else's way, too, apparently.

Listeners in various counties were told to be careful. One of the counties was "St. Lewis" -- or maybe "St. Louis," I couldn't tell.

There is indeed a Lewis County in our state. But it didn't get sainted. Not yet, at least.

Life's lessons on the field

11:19 PM Saturday, October 17, 2015

Our godson and his two brothers play football in the Pop Warner league. In addition to the thrill of watching 10-year-olds battering each other on the field -- and sometimes even battering kids from the other team -- I've found a lot of humor and even some of life's lessons while a spectator.

First, I've learned that kids at that age don't actually understand the point of running after the guy carrying the ball.

They run after him, for sure. But they usually don't try to catch up.

This might seem odd to all of us who have grown up. Indeed, it might seem odd to some of us who haven't grown up. (I know a guy in -- oh, sorry.)

In other words, there goes the guy carrying the ball. He's not running very fast. There goes a kid after him. At the same speed.

My dog chases squirrels that way. The goal isn't to catch the squirrels. It's to chase them.

And something the kids do when the opposing team is kicking a field goal is fascinating, too.

The coaches teach them to raise their hands during the kick. The idea, all of us who have grown up know, is to block the ball hit by a low kick.

But the kids stand there with their hands raised up even with their shoulders.

All of them do that.

Nobody in that lineup understands why he is holding his hands up.

Not a single kid holds his hands up high to block a kick.

I understand that. It was easy to figure out.

We all do that. Not at a Pop Warner game, but in life.

We shake our right hand with someone else's right hand.


To show that we're not carrying a club. (This goes back to a time when every guy was right-handed, I guess.)

But who thinks of that now?

We don't spend a moment analyzing why we do thousands of things.

The kids are told to hold their hands up, so they do it. They haven't got the foggiest notion why.

At first I tried to intervene. "Tell everybody on the team to hold their hands really high," I told our three players.

Yeah, right. I could have been telling them to memorize Pi to 17 decimal points.

So nothing happened, and I wondered why the coaches didn't care.

A week ago, after the team two of our guys are on qualified for the playoffs, the coaches treated them to a night of pizza and bowling. I went into the bowling alley to pick up the kids and ended up talking to the head coach instead. (Anybody who thinks 10-year-olds aren't going to play video games for an hour after bowling is all over must be a dimbulb. So I ended up chatting with the coach.)

"Winning isn't the point," he said. "Doing the right thing, making the right moves, they're not the point either. It's learning how to play together, teamwork. Learning how to have fun. Sometimes kids need to learn that most of all."

Sunday they'll be playing the last game of the regular season, in the snow, if the forecast holds up. With their hands up to their shoulders when a guy from the other side is ready to kick.

I wouldn't have it any other way.

Heavy stuff for fifth-wheel owners

4:27 PM Sunday, October 11, 2015

We're buying a new fifth-wheel trailer. Our previous one was bought used, so this is the first time we're able to choose style, brand and options carefully.

That also means we're able to choose a model with the correct hitch weight.

Hitch weight for a fifth wheel is very particular. The hitch sits right over the rear wheels, so whatever the front of the fifth wheel weighs is the hitch weight. And you measure that when the trailer is loaded, not empty.

Right. Tell that to the folks who make fifth wheels. They measure the weight of the front, called the pin weight (because fifth wheel trailers usually have a pin at the point of their hitch that fits into a slot on the truck's hitch receiver), when the trailer is empty. That's fine when you're pulling your trailer with nothing in it, but it's nuts when you're actually using the trailer.

So your trailer's pin weight will never be as low as the manufacturer's rating for the pin weight, except, of course, for the day you tow it home from the dealer.

Expect a considerable increase. A manufacturer's pin weight of 2,000 lb. can end up being 3,000.

OK, that's understood. The way things are.

Wrong. Very wrong.

Lost in this equation for many fifth-wheel owners is what's under the pin. The truck that is carrying the hitch is the forgotten partner. I know many 5ers who assume that whatever they stick on the hitch, whatever the size or weight of whatever they're towing, the only thing that matters is how much the trailer weighs.

And of course that's nonsense.

These guys know, for example, that their Ford F-150 with the towing package can pull, say, 12,000 lb. But they have no idea what their truck's payload is. That's the mount of weight, placed on the truck vertically, the weight the truck can actually hold, not pull.

Half-ton trucks like the Ford F-150 are called "half ton" because the people who make them are addled. No, maybe we're the ones who are addled. A half ton is 1,000 lb. The payload -- the amount of weight the truck can hold -- of all our half-ton trucks in the U.S. is much more than that. I'd guess it's 1600 to 1800 lb. That's almost a ton.

So does that mean a half-ton truck can handle a pin weight of 1600 to 1800 lb?

Sure. If it has no hitch receiver and no driver and, of course, no passengers.

Ah, you're getting the point. Vacationers seldom travel alone, so let's take the typical family traveling in a truck that is pull ling a fifth wheel.

Dad and mom in the front, Or mom and dad. (No sexism here.)

Junior and sis and Rover in the back.

(Oh. That's doggist. Rover and sis and junior.)

Figure 160 lb. for dad, 140 for mom, 90 for junior, 70 for sis and 60 for Rover.

That's 520. Just for the family. (And I'm being very conservative. I know moms and dads who are, um, well, you know.)

Soda, snacks, maps, GPS, iPads, you know what I mean, in the back. 40 lb.

Hitch in the bed of the truck. 220.

Tools. 40.

Bikes in the bed. 35 X 4. 150 lb.

Portable generator. 100 to 200 lb.

Gas can. 45.

Let's add it up: 1215 lb.

The truck's payload is something like 1500 to 1800 lb.

Subtract the weight that's in the truck already, choosing 1650 as the payload: 385 lb. In other words, that truck, ready to go, cannot handle a fifth-wheel trailer with a pin weight greater than 385 lb.

Think I'm over-dramatizing this?

Have it your way. Add 500 lb. to the payload capability. Maybe a half-ton pickup that thinks it's a one-ton pickup. (Yeah. Right.)

Max payload capability is now 1650 + 500: 2150.

What was the pin weight of the fifth wheel in my example? 2000 lb. Unloaded.

Don't pack more than 150 lb. in the front of the trailer, right?

Of course, half-ton trucks can't have payloads of 2150 lb. So that means, as simply as I can state this, that most of the Ford 150s you see towing medium- or large-size fifth wheels are grossly overloaded.

Back to our search for a new 5W. We have a 3/4-ton pickup with a diesel engine. Great! Super! A Cummins diesel, in fact.

Able to pull a locomotive. Able to leap tall buildings with a single bound.

Because we have a 4-wheel drive version, it's heavier than the stock truck. So the diesel adds about 800-900 lb and the 4X4 transmission adds about 250. More than a thousand pounds heavier than a stock truck.

Guess what that does? It takes away from the payload.

So the originally huge payload of my Ram 2500 HD in stock form is cut back considerably. We have a payload of 2360 lb. Max. That's it.

Add mom, dad, sis, junior, hitch, generator, gas can, tools and all the rest and we're looking for a 5W with a hitch weight of maybe 1300 lb.

We found one, and it's very nice. But it was a struggle.

More on the particulars another time.

Which is it, Microsoft?

8:36 PM Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Microsoft has announced two new products. They both sound pretty good. There's a new Surface tablet, the Surface Pro 4, and a new laptop -- yes, a laptop, the Surface Book, a first for the company that invented Windows. (What took them so long?)

That's the good news.

The bad news is that Microsoft, as usual for such a gigantic elephant, doesn't know which end has the trunk and which the tail.

It says the new Surface Book is "the ultimate laptop."


But then it says the Surface Pro 4 is "the tablet that can replace your laptop."

What do I do, buy the laptop and then replace it with the Surface Pro? Clever idea, maybe. Double your sales.

'Lost' cause?

7:19 PM Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Nancy and I have been watching "Lost" on Netflix. We're on the third season. One little game we play is counting the number of times someone says "Are you OK?" in a single show. My theory is that every time the script writers ran out of ideas, they had one of the characters say that phrase.

But the real letdown is the realization that the show needed an idea person really bad as soon as the second season started. The script writers lost their way by then, and -- C'mon, folks, really now. Black smoke winding through the trees and causing havoc? -- and, sad as it seems, the show's imagination index bottomed out.

Oh well.

Thank you

7:44 PM Wednesday, October 7, 2015

You don't know who your friends are until you're gone. That's why I've always been in favor of a wake held on your 75th birthday, while you're still on two feet and able to think semi-clearly.

Well, I'm exaggerating a little. Maybe on your 76th.

I'm saying this because I find myself humbled by the comments coming from longtime readers. I'm not going to quote any of them. I used to do that, back when my buddy Gizmo was doing half the typing (on the left side of the keyboard) and prompting me to respond to catcalls and dog whispering.

I just want to say thanks.

Win 10, you're cool

7:44 PM Wednesday, October 7, 2015

My Windows 10 installation was doing great for weeks, but then Microsoft made a boo-boo or the moon was in opposition -- whups, I might have something there! -- or something else happened, but I ended up barred from doing my normal system chores on my own PC, with myself as the administrator.

Argh! Nothing I tried worked at all. Things got worse.

So I decided to take advantage of two newish developments:

1. Windows 10, like Windows 8 and 8.1, lets you do a "repair" of Windows by getting out your Windows 10 installation disk and just running it and choosing the correct option.

2. Who! What installation disk? You mean the one I borrowed? Microsoft has the answer to that, too. It has a Windows 10 installation ISO ready for download online. Google it by searching for MICROSOFT WINDOWS 10 ISO DOWNLOAD.

It's free, of course. And an "ISO" is simply a disk that's been compressed intro a file. Any CD/DVD burning software should be able to create a CD or DVD from an ISO.

Cool, yes? I'm doing a repair right now. Will keep you informed.

The blog is back

Saturday, September 26, 2015

The Technofile blog is back, with no promises. Retirement has given me more time, and to take advantage of that lifeline I'll be closing down my weekly Technofile articles soon. But my blog will be too much fun to let go of when Technofile columns finally retire after more than three decades.

I'm disallowing comments in the blog, just as before. (An earlier blog at the newspaper site allowed comments, but most of them were trivial, silly or offensive.)

I hope you'll enjoy it.

Wisecracks from your phone? Ask it to tell you a joke

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Apple spent a lot of time developing the new iPhone 4S, and a good part of that time was spent creating an artificial intelligence that will wisecrack with an attitude. If you find this hard to believe, you need to ask your phone about woodchucks and wood.

Pixar's tribute to Steve

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Pixar, the "other" endeavor of which Steve Jobs was CEO, pays a simple tribute.

The 5th one is the charmer

Friday, October 14, 2011

Apple's been working on improvements to the operating system that powers the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch, that much we all knew, but I doubt anyone outside Apple ever guessed how many new features would end up in iOS 5. I installed it yesterday on my iPad and installed the Mac side (the iCloud portions) today on our Macs. I'm not easily impressed -- well, I suppose I am, about some things, maybe, but not about operating systems -- but I'm stunned by the changes in iOS 5 and the advantages of iCloud.

I'll come back with more on my impressions soon, but I wanted to bubble out my enthusiasm right now; I can't contain it. It's quite possibly Steve Jobs' parting shot at the lethargy in the rest of the industry, where dullness and a near total lack of imagination have reigned for years.

Some folks just don't "get" Apple. I don't know what could be done to help them understand -- maybe nothing. There are those who can easily learn a foreign language or a difficult sequence in esoteric mathematics but can't understand how (and why) Apple is different from Microsoft or Nokia or Samsung. It's their loss.

Macs now 24% of all PC sales

Friday, October 7, 2011

John Gruber points out that Tim Cook, new head of Apple, cited the Mac's current market share as 24% of all PCs sold in the U.S.

What's the rest of the story?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Jobs with his wife.

The death of Steve Jobs is a story all on its own. We don't need to praise or criticize Steve, at least not now. What I'm eager to know are the circumstances of his death. To die so soon after appearing on stage, exceedingly thin but apparently well, is puzzling. I have a feeling he knew his days were very short. This photo, showing him leaning in an exhausted but endearing pose against his wife, Laureen, right after announcing his resignation from Apple, could be a clue that he knew the end was near.

Bank of America: Don't talk to our customers or we'll boot you off the sidewalk

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Gestapo tactics from the bank that wants to soak the poor by $60 more a month? Naw. Just a little touch of thuggery. The Bank of America thinks a public sidewalk is no place for a reporter who's asking for opinions about -- you guessed it -- the Bank of America.

What's that word in the company's name that comes after "Bank of"? Ah, yes, I'd almost forgotten. This is Amurrica, folks. We don't stand for stuff like this, do we. Or do we?

Those friendly folks who make cigarettes put a radioactive ingredient in them but, ahem, forgot to tell you. And it's still there.

Friday, September 30, 2011

File this in the impossible-to-believe dept.: Companies that make cigarettes aren't content with hooking you on nicotine and shortening your life with lung cancer and emphysema. They added a radioactive substance to the mix, and that's caused the deaths of 138 people for every 1,000 smokers. That's nearly 14 percent of smokers dying from radiation's effects.

And we all thought this was America, where this sort of monstrous crime couldn't happen.

The Mac is making more money than Windows, and the iPhone/iPad combination is making more than ALL of Microsoft's revenue

Friday, September 30, 2011

My, how things change when people vote with their pocketbooks and choose safe, easy-to-use devices instead of ones that are plagued by a million viruses. Apple's revenue streams are far head of Microsoft's, according to a new analysis:

-- The Mac business generates more revenue than Windows

-- iOS powered devices (iPhone and iPad, mostly) generate more revenue than all of Microsoft's products put together

-- Apple's revenues grew 413% since Q2 2007 while Microsoft's grew 26%

That's from Asymco. The report is here. The statistics are sobering. Apple's revenues have grown 15 times as fast as Microsoft's. No wonder Apple is now the world's biggest and richest company.

Amazon's way of making Kindles cheap: Load them with ads

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Amazon claims it is selling Kindles at low prices. Yeah, right. If you don't mind being stuck with ads in your face, all the time.

Walkout greets Microsoft CEO's speech to company employees

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Steve Ballmer, Microsoft's top exec, couldn't hold the troops in their seats at a recent company-wide meeting.

OnStar collects (and forwards to law enforcement) data on your whereabouts even after you've canceled the service

Monday, September 26, 2011

Trusting a big company like General Motors is not a good idea. Its OnStar operations has revealed that it keeps on tracking your whereabouts and how fast you drive even after you cancel the service. And it also says it provides your private, personal data to the police and other agencies.

Nice folks, those OnStar people.

46% of Citrix employees choose Macs

Sunday, September 25, 2011

When you give employees a choice of which computer they'd like to use at the office, watch out if you're the kind of manager who thinks everybody uses Windows. At Citrix, 46 percent of the workers chose Macs.


September 21, 2011

I must have gotten bored with my iPad's Apple Bluetooth keyboard. I was suddenly overcome with new-keyboard-it is and bought the Kensington KeyFolio keyboard-and-case keyboard. $80, not bad.

It's smaller than the BT keyboard from Apple but lives in the iPad case, so you get a sort of mini-laptop. The keyboard is quiet, too -- rubber-coated keys.

Review coming up in October.

Capital crime

September 18, 2011

Capitalization isn't just a way of adhering to the rules of grammar. It's a way of keeping sane.

When I uploaded my new Web content Saturday night, I was careful to send up the new photo on the cover page. The next day, when I looked at the page, the photo was missing.

But I had uploaded it!

A little investigation showed that the name of the photo was "bike.jpg" while the link referring to it called it "bike.JPG" -- a difference no human would possibly care about. But the HTML code cared a lot. So the photo was missing.

I renamed the link. Life is hard enough. Those early HTML coders should have taken a day off now and then.

Sprinting backwards, again

September 15, 2011

Sprint once again cut me off, this time because we were doing too much actual use while roaming. Sprint thinks it's OK if you roam without doing anything, but tries to charge you extra if you actually use your mobile device.

So long, Sprint. I am fed up.

Don't take your bird to the job interview

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Experts say you shouldn't take your cockatoo to a job interview, or handcuff yourself to the interviewer's desk. Umm, non-experts would say that too.

Take an iPhone and call me in the morning

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The main supplier of Apple's upcoming iPhone 5 is making 150,000 of them every day.

Android, yes or no?

Sunday, September 4, 2011

A reader asked if I would be covering Android tablets the way I cover the iPad.

Sure, when Android becomes more than just an embarrassment. Amazon seems to be ready to release an inexpensive (but 7-inch) Android tablet soon, and that might be the start of something good.

Or it might be just another ridiculous Let's-Fake-the-iPad-with-yet-another-Lousy-Copy. Time will tell.

Figures will, too. It's been learned that Samsung, which claimed it sold 200,000 Galaxy tabs in the initial selling period, actually sold only 20,000.

A dog's life

September 3, 2011

My dog, Joshua, is as old as I am, in dog years. He never complains about his arthritic hip or his injured leg or his fading eyesight. Some things you learn from a dog are more important than what you learn in school.

Hooray for B.C.

Friday, September 2, 2011

We're back in the lower 48, visiting kids and grandkids (they're all grand kids, right?) in Seattle. Alaska is a place all on its own, unlike any part of the lower 48, but Canada is actually comprised of three "countries" -- The northwest (Yukon and the Northwest Territories), British Columbia, and all the rest of Canada.

The most compelling place to visit in all of Canada is surely B.C., which Teddy Roosevelt wanted to annex for the U.S., with his Rough Riders taking the province by force. The B.C. residents were mostly all for the idea, but England, which governed Canada at the time, wasn't impressed.

B.C. is still the least Canadian of all of Canada. Even though it has a glorious capital -- the cosmopolitan and beautiful port of Vancouver -- B.C. thinks of Seattle as its Big City. Signs are in English, the folks sound unlike any other Canadians, and the countryside is gorgeous. B.C. is also full of oil. Annexation looks better all the time.

It was great

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Steve Jobs is quitting as Apple's boss. He'll be missed more than any of us can imagine.

New operating system runs ANY software?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Here's something you just can't believe unless you see it for yourself, and so far no one is seeing it: An operating system that can run ANY software. Hmm, and maybe they have a bridge to sell us.

Apple the biggest PC maker in the world

Thursday, August 18, 2011

John Gruber says Apple has become the #1 PC maker by volume sales worldwide.

Model helicopter, controlled from your iPhone or iPad

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

How about a little helicopter you fly using an app on your iDevice? And it's only about $50.

Lots more fake Apple stores

Friday, August 12, 2011

Chinese investigators have learned that China, alone, has more fake Apple stores than Microsoft has real stores worldwide.

Apple gets to the top, for a while

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Apple became the world's richest company today, at least for a while. It slipped past Exxon Mobil to take the top spot in terms of market capitalization (market cap). I wasn't expecting Apple to reach that point until next year. Shows how much I know.

Schwinn and beauty

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

I bought a new Schwinn Cruiser to ride when conditions aren't right for my fancy recumbent bike and have rediscovered an American classic. Maybe even a world classic.

It's a 7-speed Cruiser. I park it where I can stare at it whenever I want. It's the most beautiful bicycle I've ever seen. The curved tubing, the size of the wheels, the whitewalls, everything.

Here's a photo of my bike, at the Jerome County Fairgrounds in Idaho.

My cruiser

Scroll down to go up? Up to go down? Does this make sense?

Thursday, August 4, 2011

I heard a complaint from a reader about Apple's change in the way scrolling works in the latest version of OS X, called Lion. Here's what I wrote to him.

A lot of Apple-oriented sites have been telling users (or warning them!) of the changes in Lion. You might want to do a Google search the next time you are upgrading OS X to check on what these sites say. I don't want you to be surprised by such changes. Apple sometimes pulls off some doozies.

There are of course MANY more changes than the scrolling direction. You'll find them as you go along. Apple changed the backwards scrolling that we've all accepted to turn it into natural scrolling. (Scrolling up to get the page to move down? That's what you and I were doing all these years.) Not only is it natural scrolling, it's the way the iPad works; you touch the text on the screen and push it down to scroll down, for example.

The iPad's scrolling is natural because there's no other way to do it. You touch a pencil on your desk and you want to move it sideways, to the left, so you push it to the right … yes? Of course not. You push objects in the direction you want them to go.

So that's what Apple decided had to change if the Mac was going to work like the iPad and if the iPad was going to work like the Mac. They are becoming more and more like each other, and in a couple of years all Macs will work like iPads in just about every way.

It took me a few minutes to get used to the scrolling change. Since you're not an iPad user, it will take you longer. But it becomes natural after a while and you wonder how you ever lived with backwards scrolling all this time. (Scroll down to get the page to move up? What kind of nonsense is that?)

I'd like to see Apple tackle the world's most pressing bad-nomenclature problem next: The naming of lumber. 2 X 4 lumber isn't 2 by 4; 2 X 6 isn't 2 by 6; 2 X 2 isn't 2 by 2, and so on. What a bunch of clowns we all are to accept this nonsense! (The lumber industry says this all came about because there is shrinkage, and the lumber that is cut larger ends up being smaller -- but the raw lumber is NOT cut 2 by 4! If it were, our 2 X 4 pieces would be 1 7/8 by 3 7/8. They're actually a lot smaller.


So that's the story. I think you should keep giving it a try. But if you can't stand it, you CAN turn it off -- System Prefs, Mouse.

Lyin' Lion

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Thanks to a kind and generous longtime reader and super friend (maybe if I keep saying these things he won't expect a check in the mail), I'm now enjoying Lion, the latest version of Apple's OS X. Lion, should you have just budged the rock under which you've slept to emerge after 20 years in seclusion, is the first of Apple's de-emphasize the PC operating systems for the Mac; it's a little like the iPad's OS in some ways, and a lot like it in others.

My friend Peter (no, I won't give the rest of his name; he deserves privacy, and maybe Apple would get on his case, too) sent me the Lion installation DVD after I told him my purchase of Lion, which you buy as a download, was going so slow I would not be able to finish downloading the software until sometime in early 2014. Peter made the install DVD from his own purchased and downloaded copy of Lion. He's got a faster connection, you betcha. (Sorry. Ever since I knocked on Sarah's gate in Wasilla I've been afflicted by Alaska-talk.)

I like Lion a whole bunch, you betcha. A proper review coming before long.

What's interesting at this point isn't Lion itself but my Mac App Store account. Lion, as I just pointed out, was taking so long to download in the wilds of Alaska -- OK, the semi-wilds; the bears ask before they maul you -- that I put the download on "pause" and waited for Peter's installation disk to arrive. It did, in only three days, from the East Coast of "Outside," the region of the world inhabited by the 48 Staters.

When I looked just now at the status of my Lion download in my Mac App Store account, it's changed from "Download Pending" or whatever the term is to "Installed."

Well, yes, Lion is now installed, no thanks to the App Store. So I wonder: Should I ask for my $29 back? Should I confess to Apple that the version of Lion I installed was not paid for by me? Should I complain to Apple that the version of Lion I paid for couldn't be installed by me?

I think I'll just be happy that I have it. You betcha.

Does RAW matter to non-pro photographers?

Monday, August 1, 2011

I was asked whether the Fuji S2950's omission of RAW capabilities was a problem. RAW, as you might already know, is a way of extracting photos directly from the camera sensor before the camera's internal circuitry has a chance to do any adjustments on the image. (Cameras without RAW always make these changes on the image, including such operations as sharpening, light-and-dark balance and color adjustment.)

Here's my response:

I think RAW is unimportant to non-professionals. All good photo editors operate in lossless mode, which is what really matters. I use Lightroom with Photoshop CS 3, but I also use Picasa, which is free (and which does a much better job of photo editing than anything else I've come across); both use lossless editing. In terms of JPEGs, this matters because you are never doing any repeat edit-save-edit-save operations on your JPEG photos, which is what degrades the quality. In lossless editing, all changes are logged to a file, and any time you view, print or edit the photo again, the changes are applied mathematically; the original is never touched.

Apple should buy the U.S.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Apple has more cash on hand ($76 billion) than the U.S. government does ($73 billion). I suggest it's time for Apple to buy America. Steve Jobs would continue to be CEO, and he could let the civilian government continue as it is, with a president, vice president and so on. The military would have to be reined in; maybe it could be employed as security guards for Apple Stores. The wars we are now conducting would be fought with iPad sales instead of bullets. Peace would blossom forth. Microsoft would be declared an enemy combatant and would be imprisoned in Guantanamo.

Are Internet Explorer users really dumber than people who use other Web browsers -- or is the press just plain stupid?

July 29, 2011

The report that insisted Internet Explorer users are the dumbest people in the world -- in the world of browser users, at least -- has turned out to be a hoax. A grand hoax, to be sure, taking in nearly all the computer journalists in the world. Here's what I wrote to a reader who (rightfully) chastised me for falling for the hoax:

This is not the first time so many other journalists have been taken in by such a thing. The problem is that a big lie succeeds especially well when people are eager to believe it. I've yet to find a really good reason for anyone to use Internet Explorer, but that might just be me; after all, there are folks who like ice cream and folks who like custard. But if ice cream were so dangerous, would people still choose it?

What about the GE version of that Fuji camera?

Monday, July 25, 2011

A reader asks:

Thanks for the article yesterday. I found it very helpful but it has opened up a question: I can get the Fuji you talked about for about $175 but I also found a GE Power Pro X500 16mp 15 zoom for around $124. What do you think of the GE brand?

My response:

The GE version is made by a company that bought a license from GE to sell the camera; it's not related to General Electric otherwise. It has an inferior lens and is missing a few features.

I haven't tested it or tried it, but my guess is that it's OK but not as good as the Fuji camera. There's a big savings, true, but you're paying for better quality with the Fuji.

Want more network security? Try this lockout method

Sunday, July 24, 2011

All devices that connect to networks have unique Media Access Control -- yes, all you Apple haters, that's spelled "MAC" -- and these machine identifiers are always transmitted during the handshaking of network connections. This means you have a simple method, if your router is designed with appropriate options, of locking out devices that aren't authorized to connect. You simply fill out the MAC addresses of all allowed devices and set up the router to admit only devices with those MAC codes.

Obviously, no defense is perfect, and MAC addresses can be spoofed. But the harder you make entry, the less likely it is that a casual snooper will get in. Mac addresses are usually listed in one of the router's setup screens.

(My thanks to Mike Finnigan for reminding me that MAC didn't stand for what I originally wrote. Sometimes even people who think they know what they are doing don't know what they are doing. Mea cupla, as the railroad engineer said.

Fake iPods? Forget them -- China now has fake Apple stores, too

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Apple needs to send a few lawyers to China, fast. There's a "store" or two they might want to visit.

A pain in the ftp

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

My ftp problems continue. Or should I say they have become much worse.

But I've learned a lot about latency in my search for a solution. Let me explain, but first I need to elaborate. There is no solution. My search for a solution revealed that much. Simple-minded as I am, I had hoped to find an ftp client, Windows or Mac, that would get around the crazy packet delays I've been enduring here in the north. They've continued through British Columbia and the Yukon and finally (sine I can't drive any farther) here in Alaska.

Latency, you should know, is the delay introduced into communications networks by physical and electronic limitations -- distance, for example, will cause a slight latency. As will each "hop," or relay from one network to another, along the way. There are other factors, too.

I'm not sure how Sprint, which supplies my broadband mobile connection throughout the country, manages to add a lot of delays to the signal, but the result, no matter how it is achieved, is horrendous. Pinging my server in Central New York from Seward, Alaska shows a delay ranging from a half second to more than a second. Normal long-distance networks have a latency of a quarter second or perhaps a little more. Even Internet satellite communication is free from the incredible delays I'm suffering from; satellite methods use a transmission technique that speeds up the data from satellite to earth (and back).

This degree of latency causes few problems with normal email traffic and Web operations, but it can be deadly for downloading files and doing anything at all via ftp. In the case of ftp, handshaking (acknowledgment by one side that a packet has been received, using an ACK signal) is literally impossible; it is only by the merest luck that any ftp up- or downloading can be done. (And my luck ran out many miles ago.)

Updating my website or my blog is a simple process. You write the updated material and send it up. Or it used to be simple. Because the procedure uses ftp, it's become almost impossible. This week's newspaper column, revised menus and new photo were sent up courtesy of my brother Bob in Florida; I emailed him the files and he uploaded them by ftp.

But a rescue might be at hand. I'm testing a roundabout method of doing ftp transfers in a high-latency network, using a website that you upload your files to (via http, not ftp); it then transfers them the ftp site of your choice using standard ftp.

If you can read this, the new method is working. If you can't, send me an email and I'll explain things.

Where Capt. Cook turned again

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

We camped along the roadside a few yards from the water at Turnagain Arm. That's in Cook Inlet, south of Anchorage. An "arm" is a jut of the sea that looks like a fjord. It's called Turnagain Arm because the good captain -- he who landed at Hawaii, if you recall -- was looking desperately for the western end of the northwest passage, turned to see if the jut of the sea he was heading up was just that, then turned again to the open sea when once again, as always in the long quest of mariners of old for a shortcut through North America, he found no passage at all.

As others have pointed out before, if you have a sufficiently strong and ice-worthy boat, preferably an ice breaker, there is indeed a northwest passage. Or if you have a good submarine.

There's an app for that, and it's called jail

Friday, July 8, 2011

The Gestapo that usually confines itself to baring granny's diapers and disrobing children has a new twist on ways to humiliate American citizens: Trying to steal their iPads. A new low? Liar, liar, pants on fire.


Tuesday, July 5, 2011

There are now 100,000 iPad-specific apps on Apple's App Store. If the number grew by 7 a week, you'd have an entire day to get used to a new app. If by 700 a week, you'd have to stay up 20 hours a day and spend 6 minutes on each new app. But the App Store is growing by what seems to be 7,000 a week. I'm not even going to do the math. All I really know is that AppShopper, which I use to track new (and newly changed) apps, tells me I have so-many thousand apps to go when I look at new apps every few days.

The way a computer should work

Monday, July 4, 2011

One of the changes in Apple's new Lion version of OS X, available in a matter of days, is the way everything resumes where you left off, just as the iPad does. After many months of happy experiences with the iPad's auto-resume method, I'm ecstatic about getting the same thing on my Macs.

This works not only with documents (which reopen minutes, hours or days later to the exact spot you left them) and webpages (which come right back where you were) or music (ditto), but with everything you do. I've always insisted that it's not users who are dumb; it's computers. This inches the Mac forward a little toward intelligence.
By the way, Apple's not putting iOS on the Mac. It's changing OS X so that it does the superb get-back-to-where-you-were features that iOS already has (including automatic saves -- you never need to save something on the iPad, and in fact you CAN'T save anything -- it's automatic, so nothing shows up asking you to "save" what you do).

More mush from the wimp

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Microsoft has an Office 365 ad that shows the new software working seamlessly with iPhones and iPads as well as Macs. Actually, as anyone who knows the way Microsoft works could have predicted, the software does no such thing.

By the way, kudos to anyone who knows what the headline originally referred to. (I'll explain soon enough. Or you could look it up. C'mon, do some of your own homework now and then.)

That's how to do it, TSA! Get grandma before she wets those diapers

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Transportation Safety Administration strikes again. Who invited these Gestapo agents to take charge of American citizens?

Buy once, get it everywhere

Monday, June 27, 2011

Apple's announcement that all kinds of things would be happening in the Cloud (in the iCloud -- 'scuse me!) seemed like so much hyperbole until I checked into iTunes with my iPad. There on the screen was a question: Would you like to have all the music you downloaded on your other devices delivered to your iPad?

Cool. It's already happening.

At Ford, Quality Is Job 1, unless you are a victim of Microsoft's incredibly buggy audio add-on

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Ford probably thought it had a good deal when it chose Microsoft to design an audio interface for its cars. What it got, however, was typical Microsoft incompetence, and as a result Ford's once lofty rating in the J.D. Power quality survey has plummeted. But I don't blame Microsoft -- it's the maker of Windows, after all, and can't do any better (if it could, it would, right?). But I do blame Ford. Did Ford's executives think all those reports about Blue Screens of Death were made up? That Microsoft's abysmal customer support was just a figment of GM's (or BMW's, or Toyota's) imagination?

Slow ftp, and a mystery, too

Monday, June 20, 2011

Our Sprint wireless data connection here in Denali works surprisingly well. It's fast enough for mail and Web browsing. But it's not fast enough for ftp.

That's odd. I might not know much about the requirements for ftp handshaking, I suppose. I'd guess it's the handshaking, not the data transfer, that is giving my ftp transfers such a hard time. And if that's the case, I think I know the suspect: It's Sprint's method of shuttling the data from one crazy location to another, by whatever means necessary, thereby introducing a lot of latency. Sometimes, here in Alaska, my "location" according to services that pick up the originating network is reported as Ohio. Or Indiana. Or Oregon.

Latency, you should know, is bad for data transfers that require a lot of ACKs and reACKs. Oh, I don't really know if there is such a thing as reACKs, but an ACK is a signal that one side sends to the other when it successfully receives a packet of information. If the ACK (for "acknowledge") doesn't come back in due time, the sending party sends again. And again. You know the pattern.

Not far from our motor home is a building where the park service has showers and picnic tables -- and wi-fi. It's too far away for us to use the signal here in the motor home, but we can easily carry our laptops over to one of the tables and do our work there. It's not only faster than our Sprint data connection, it has far less latency.

Until Sprint can fix this nagging problem, those of us who use services such as ftp will be forever seeking other venues.

(Why does this matter? All my blog work and Web work in done via ftp.)

Incredible photos-of-photos of real life

Friday, June 17, 2011

If you can only look at ONE webpage today, look at this one.

Oh Billy Boy, Oh Billy Boy! Time to grow up

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Bill Gates is an extraordinary man. That's doesn't necessarily mean he's got any real smarts. Especially when it comes to allowing his kids to do what 543 zillion other kids do.

Or, well, maybe he's just teasing the interviewer when he says Apple products are banned in his household and his kids have Zunes instead of iPods. Zunes? Microsoft stopped making them, Bill.

Charge me up

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

My experience so far with a batch of NiMH rechargeable batteries -- 4 AA cells for my new Fujifilm S2950 camera, 2 AA cells for my Magic Mouse and a slew of AAA cells for a set of LED lights -- has been delightfully positive.

I'm impressed not only because these NiMH (nickel metal hydride) batteries perform so well, but also because the kind that I used before, NiCads, performed so poorly. I had gotten so used to NiCad (nickel cadmium) performance that I more or less figured all rechargeable batteries worked the same way.

I sure was wrong. These things last and last and last. (Alas, no bunny banging a drum has stepped into our motor home here in Fairbanks lately. I'm still looking.)

I'll be reporting on my experiences with NiMH batteries later this summer in my weekly column.

Tom Andrews asks me why I am so far behind the times in knowing about (and/or getting excited about) NiMH batteries, since they've been around for a zillion and a half years. I dunno. I just am. Maybe because I haven't had to use rechargeable AA or AAA cells for quite some time. Now, traveling in truly inaccessible places (Arctic Circle, anyone?), I find myself needing good, reliable rechargeable batteries.

Two portions of this blog item are not correct. I wrote that NiMH batteries retain their charge longer than NiCads. This might be only a little bit true. I'm told that basically there's not much difference. I'll have to look into this. Also, I was wrong in assuming that NiMH AA batteries supply 1.5 volts. They put out 1.2 volts, just like NiCads. Or so I've been told. It's all very interesting; that much is true.

Tether no more

Sunday, June 12, 2011

"Tethering" means two entirely different things. To someone with a 3G or 4G phone who'd like to connect a laptop to the Net the cheapest (or maybe just easiest) way possible, "tethering" means using Bluetooth or (yech!) an easily lost tiny-ended USB cable to link the phone's connection to the computer.

I suspect this sort of tethering is on its way out. Happily. It's slow and awkward. So much for that subject.

But "tethering" when it applies to iPads and iPods is a different fish of a kettle. It means you can't do a bunch of things with your device unless it's physically plugged into your computer.

Dumb idea. Was a dumb idea when it started many years ago with the iPod, is a dumb idea now. You can't update your iPad without that connection to your computer; you can't get Apple to register your iPad; you can't restore the contents of your iPad without that connection, and so on.

No more. Nada. You're out of here.

That's what Apple's all-seeing-guru-of-everything-good-and-schleppy Steve Jobs says. Starting soon, iPads and iPod Touch models -- I don't know about other iPods -- won't need to be tethered. All that stuff will be done in wirelessly.

I'll have more about this change in a while. I'm still trying to figure it out.

By the way, Apple has just announced that all of its mobile products will recharge themselves from free ions in the air. You just set them down near an open window and wait three hours.

(Naw. But you can be sure that Apple is spending millions on a way to charge these things wirelessly. That's the final tethering point.)


Blue is the color of faded memories.
Make a PDF on the fly on an iPad or iPhone? Apple just added that capability.
Don't these Canadians know how to shoot?.
Air power wins the day.
Let me count the ways Roku loves me.
Dial M for murder.
Stuff 'em into a folder.
ISIS propagandists are weenies.
Win? Mac? Does it matter any more?.
What if they gave a party, and no one came?.
Got those St. Lewis blues.
Life's lessons on the field.
Heavy stuff for fifth-wheel owners.
Microsoft has its first laptop, but the company hints that you should buy its new tablet instead.
'Lost' cause?
Windows 10, you're cool.
Thank you for the kind remarks.
Two iPhones walked into a bar -- and cracked jokes.
New iPhone/iPad operating system combined with iCloud is a stunner, and it makes you wonder why some folks just don't 'get' Apple.
Simple tribute from Steve's 'other' company.
What's the untold story of how Steve Jobs passed away?.
What's that about the Mac's supposedly low market share? It's now at 24%.
Bank of America, that wonderful institution of kindness and consideration for the poor, has the same touching attitude toward news gathering.
Radioactive cigarettes? Tobacco companies hit a new low. (And you still want to smoke?).
Apple's income growing 16 times faster than Microsoft's.
Get your advertising ... er, Kindles cheap!.
Microsoft boss unable to hold 'em in their seats at Microsoft meeting.
OnStar collects (and forwards to law enforcement) data on your whereabouts even after you've canceled the service.
When given a choice, nearly half of Citrix employees choose Macs.
Keyboard-in-a-case for the iPad: I like it, rubber keys and all.
Sprint blocks me again, this time adding a charge for actually using my 3G device.
Job interview no-nos, as if you needed to be told.
150,000 new iPhones a day.
Three cheers for B.C. It just doesn't seem like Canada.
Steve Jobs is quitting as the CEO of Apple.
Run any Windows, Mac or Linux program on a new operating system? Sounds like someone is pulling our keyboard. Or leg.
Gruber says Apple is now the No. 1 PC maker worldwide.
Fly a model helicopter and control it from your iPhone or iPad.
A lot more fake Apple stores than anyone expected, all in China.
Apple's the world's richest company, for part of a day.
Falling in love with a bike.
Lion arrives on my Mac, after I paid for it from Apple -- but not by way of Apple at all. Should I complain and get my $29 back? Should I confess that the version I installed wasn't the one I tried to download?.
Does RAW matter? Casual photographers probably don't need it..
Apple, richer than America, should buy the U.S..
Do journalists have a right to be taken in by a hoax? No, a thousand times no. But that's what happened with the Internet-Explorer-users-are-dumb claim.
Here's my take on that look-alike GE camera that sells for less than the Fujifilm camera I reviewed.
How to lock others out of your home network easily.
Fake iPods? Phooey. China now has fake Apple stores, too. And the employees even think they're working for Apple.
A possible fix for my high-latency ftp problems.
Where yet another search for the northwest passage had to end in a turnaround.
We pay these guys to protect us?.
100,000 apps just for iPads.
The way a computer should work, at last.
Mush from the wimp, even more so.
The Gestapo strikes again, when a granny wearing diapers is told to strip.
Apple's iCloud isn't coming; it's here, and it's a pleasant surprise.
At Ford, Quality Is Job 1, unless you are a victim of Microsoft's incredibly buggy audio add-on.
Sprint's roundabout routing makes my ftp fail.
Amazing photos of photos of real life.
Guess what products Bill Gates won't let his kids use?
NiCads, you were unfaithful. I get a charge out of something new.
Apple turning the iPad into a fully independent device -- no PC or Mac needed.

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