technofile blog archive

Written by Al Fasoldt of
Technofile Online.

Return to main blog entries

Index to these blog entries

DNS woes

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The world is changing to a new DNS numbering system, and as far as I can tell tests done to see if the new system is working found that it wasn't working for some sites. Like maybe mine.

But I'm back in business. Sorry for the downage.

Cops in shorts, Alaska-style

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Here in Fairbanks, the cops ride bicycles. At least some of them do. And those that do wear Bermuda shorts. No, not in the winter, silly.

Northern exposure

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Our Sprint broadband signal is strong enough for serious online work here in Fairbanks. We're probably roaming (the way we use the broadband device, by plugging it into a mobile wi-fi router, keeps us from knowing if we're roaming) but I'm not complaining. Roaming within the U.S. is not charged extra under our contract.

Your location, anywhere in the world, doesn't matter any more.

The days sure are long here, but otherwise Fairbanks looks and feels like a small city in Colorado or Wyoming.

When we stopped for a great lunch in Tok -- at Fast Eddies, which you won't want to miss -- we learned that Tok's weather records include a high of 96 and a low of -83. That's hot. That's cold.

By the way, you can reach Fast Eddies the next you head west, maybe for a visit to Rochester. Just keep on going until you reach Seattle, then head north. After a week or so, you'll reach Tok. Trust me, the cheeseburgers there are well worth the extra mile or two.

Chinese boy sells kidney to buy an iPad

Friday, June 3, 2011

I think Steve Jobs would have sent one for free if he'd known about this 17-year-old student's determination to sacrifice his right kidney for enough money to buy an iPad.

Welcome to the Arctic Circle

Friday, June 3, 2011

We're in Dawson City, former capital of The Yukon and the place that grew from nothing to the "Paris of the North" when thousands of gold miners floated and hiked here in the gold rush of 1898. It's a lovely little town, very friendly. We're about 100 miles from the Arctic Circle, and the days in summer are very long. It's not even summer yet, officially, yet the sun is still up at 11:45 p.m. and returns for sunrise at 2:30 or so.

Diesel fuel is easy to find all across the northern Yukon but it's not cheap. The most we've paid so far is about $6 a gallon. A neighbor in this RV campground -- it's got free wi-fi, so we love it here -- told me the station down the street wanted $7 a gallon, so he said no.

You can only say that when you have a lot in your tank, I guess. I'm not taking chances. I have a 5-gallon plastic can full of diesel fuel in the shower of the motor home. (I would have mounted it on the back, but that's where our bikes are.) We're driving a Winnebago-made Itasca Navion, which has a 5-cylinder Mercedes Benz diesel engine. Even with the motor home loaded to its maximum, and even though we're mostly driving in the mountains, we still get 17 mpg.

Apple now worth more than Microsoft and Intel combined

Friday, June 3, 2011

Used to be that smart investors would buy Intel stock and, of course, Microsoft stock. But now that Apple is bigger than those two combined, it's time for a new strategy.

Skimmed again?

June 3, 2011

Nancy noticed a fishy entry on one of our credit card bills today and she called the card's troubleshooting number and found out that the card's number had been stolen. $7000 was charged to the card.

As far as we can tell, we were victims of a card skimmer. It's the second time we've been skimmed, apparently. Card skimmers are card readers that crooks attach over the top of (or in front of) regular card reads at gas station pumps, supemarket checkout aisles and the like. Once your card data is picked up, it is immediately sent to a site controlled by (or paid by) criminals in a foreign country and then sold on the Internet.

Be very cautious when you slide your card through a card reader. If it looks non-standard, don't use it.

Act fast when you check new OS X security settings

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Apple was quick in coming up with a way to block the scareware that's been bugging OS X users, but maybe it should have acted with more deliberation -- and care. The bad guys found a way around the Apple block almost immediately -- I can't give you the link because the DNS server is down on my Yukon connection -- and a bug in the patch will almost surely ruin whatever fix is applied.

Why James Bond gave up his Beretta

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

I'm a big fan of Beretta pistols (I own and adore a replica Beretta air pistol, and, yes, it looks and feels and acts like the real thing), and have finally found out why James Bond stopped using his Beretta and switched to another make.

Why am I not surprised?

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Microsoft hasn't learned anything about how to treat its users. Right after it bought Skype, Microsoft made sure that Skype started slipping a hidden program into Windows installations. Spyware from Microsoft?

No wonder so many of us have switched to Macs.

Let's see, I think I should choose Yes. Er, I mean No. Or is that Yes?

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Easy choice, right?

Android app shows this dialog when asking for the user's choice. This is what can happen when someone with more experience than the programmer is not double checking the app.

Where the bad guys are

Sunday, May 29, 2011

When I teach classes and seminars on Internet security and mention rogue software, I'm usually asked who does this sort of thing. Is it teenagers who have nothing better to do? College students sharpening their programming skills?

Hardly. As far as I know, nearly all malware is created and disseminated under the direction of criminal gangs in various countries. Here's a report about a Russian "company" (a criminal enterprise -- is that a "company" the way we innocents imagine companies to be?) that's responsible for the big Mac scareware scam and many other scummy deeds.

It's time for governments to recognize that activities like this can be just as damaging as old-fashioned missile threats.

Out of touch

Friday, May 27, 2011

We're in Watson Lake, B.C., a beautiful little town on the Alaska Highway. Nancy has been doing all the navigating on this journey, and she tells me we might not have any Internet connections for a long time. I don't know if that means "until September" or "seven hours." You'll know from my silence.

Prisoners in China forced to mine 'virtual' gold for their jailers

Thursday, May 26, 2011

This is almost impossible to believe, but this is China: Prisoners in Chinese prisons are being subjected to forced labor -- of a kind never before encountered. They're forced to 'play' video games to earn virtual currency from their 'gold farming' -- and their prison guards turn the virtual winnings into real cash for themselves.

Sometimes, truth is much stranger than fiction.

1 in 14 Windows downloads is snarky, Microsoft says

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The world isn't a safe place for Windows users who download stuff. How do we know? Microsoft says so.

How to make money if you are Microsoft -- oh, sorry, I meant to say How to lose money

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A chart courtesy of Business Insider:


100,000 new apps waiting to be posted

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

There are now 400,000 apps for the iPad and iPhone on the App Store. That's not news. There will be a million before long, and probably a trillion a week after that. What's really interesting is that Apple has approved 100,000 more apps (besides the 400,000 at the store) that are waiting to be posted. That makes a half million.

Let's see, how many dozen apps are on the Android store? And people keep asking me if they should get an Android tablet.

3 signs

Monday, May 23, 2011

Three signs we saw coming up through British Columbia:

-- Haircutting and Sausage Making

-- Car and Dog Wash

-- Eat at Double JJ

The last one left me confused. Is the place called JJ? If so, then it couldn't be "Double JJ," because that would be JJJJ. We decided to skip the haircut-and-sausage place; somehow I can't imagine putting one of the sausages near my lips. But when we tied our two giant poodles to the roof of the motor home and got ready to bubble through the car-and-dog wash, we realized the vehicle was too tall. An opportunity lost.

A Prince of a place

Sunday, May 22, 2011

We're in Prince George, British Columbia, on our way to Alaska. This is a cool place, and I love the way BC residents talk. They sound like Seattle folks. Same accent. Or, as a young lady at Tim Horton's told me today, "we don't have any accent -- it's YOU."

How to get rid of the 'Mac Defender' scam

Friday, May 20, 2011

Mac users are being bombarded with a scam that pretends to be an antivirus program. It's called "Mac Defender" in most of these attacks, but can have other names. Here's what The Unofficial Apple Weblog has to say about it:

The MacDefender malware has been causing trouble for Mac users all over the world; people are calling Apple Support in a panic, spending time visiting their local Apple Store Genius, and getting all stressed out about it. What's worse: the malware is mostly harmless. It's a scam trying to rip off your credit card number, not hurt your Mac.

The attack, which displays a message stating that your machine has been infected with viruses that only a "MacDefender" app can remove, has been spreading rapidly. MacDefender doesn't infect Macs with a virus, nor does it run a keylogger as a background process on your machine. It's simply trying to scare users into providing credit card information by registering an unneeded piece of software. MacSecurity and MacProtector are the same scam software, differing in name only.

For help getting rid of Mac Defender or its clones, go here:

Go the what?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The hottest new book of the season is setting a new standard for book titles. It's Go the F--- to Sleep, and, no, I'm not kidding.

App happy, but photo phooey

May 18, 2011

Next Sunday you'll be able to read Part 2 of the current series on my favorite iPad apps. I'll follow up with a look at photo-editing apps in the summer.

But I thought I'd pass along a huge disappointment. If you export photos from iPhoto on your Mac (or your photo collection in Windows) to your iPad, you'll find that iTunes -- the sync software on your computer -- trims photos so they won't be larger than a certain pixel size.

You can get around this by bringing photos directly into the iPad through the photo connection kit (or by transferring them some other way -- by wi-fi, maybe). But many of the photo editors for the iPad do their own downsizing, too, usually without letting you know. A 12-megapixel photo from your new camera might be turned into a much smaller resolution photo by one of these apps.

A few photo editors avoid downsizing, which apparently is encouraged by Apple's guidelines for iPad apps. I'll explain this in more detail when I review photo apps, but I thought you'd like to know now. One excellent photo app that does not do any downsizing -- as long as you set it up in its options the proper way -- is Filterstorm Pro. I recommend it highly.

Say it ain't so, Joe

May 12, 2011

Nobody seems to care about the forged birth certificate now that a little time has passed. Obama's staff released a PDF that showed obvious computer fakery and the world looked the other way.

This isn't a dead horse. I'm not beating some dreadful corpse. This is a matter of extreme importance to U.S. Constitutional law. Yet because the evidence is technical in at least one way -- it requires at least a mind, if not an open one -- no one cares.

Should you have just budged the rock you've been sleeping under, let me explain. The PDF posted on the White House website has layers. All you have to do to view the changes made to the original document is look at each layer, one by one.

A simple copy of a document cannot show changes in layers, especially the kind of changes in the forged birth certificate. So the "explanation" offered by "experts" that the presence of layers doesn't prove anything is a sham; it's not the layers themselves that matter, but rather the changes visible in each layer.

I'm not a conspiracy theorist. I do know how to look at a layered PDF and I do know a fish when I smell it.

This is truly fishy. Without an original birth certificate -- where is it, and where has it gone? -- we are left with a forgery.

I'd like to hear Joe Biden's take on this. He's honest and straight-shooting.

C'mon, Joe. Do you believe this forged birth certificate is real?

Obi-Wan is dead

May 11, 2011

The world is a sadder place. Obi-Wan Kenobi has been killed .

The Queen gets an iPad

Monday, May 9, 2011

Queen Elizabeth saw her grandson princes enjoying their iPads and now she's getting one, too.

'Death Grip' is just the tip of the phoneberg

May 7, 2011

A new study finds that smartphones like the iPhone have many more problems than just the 'Death Grip' we've all heard about.

The issue now is 'Why'

Thursday, May 5, 2011

OK, so the latest Obama birth certificate is a clumsy forgery. I voted for the guy, and I'm willing to hear him out. I'd like to know why it was forged and who forged it.

Students had Bin Laden's hideout pegged -- many years ago

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Sometimes people just don't listen to you. A geography class at UCLA figured out where Osama Bin Laden would be hiding back in 2009. Yep, three years ago.

TomTom sold GPS data of speeders to the cops

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

I like my TomTom GPS receiver. I have two, in fact. But I'm not sure if I want to keep them now that the company says it's sold data on users' driving habits, including whether they are going over the speed limit, to the cops.

New measurement for the pound?

May 1, 2011

No doubt you've noticed that bacon and coffee, among many other items, are sold in 12-ounce packages instead of the 16-ounce packages they had been sold in for a century or more. This makes them appear less expensive, of course, even though the price per ounce has gone up.

Stores are reportedly worried that older consumers -- the fastest-growing segment of the consumer market -- will remember the older packaging and hold back on purchases of items that are obviously being sold in reduced-size packages. An ounce is an ounce, of course, but a "pound" is no longer a pound, so to speak.

This has led to a so-far secret effort in Congress and in the International Substandards Organization to alter the standard measurement of the American and English pound. "This would do nothing more than confirm the status quo," according to Sen. John Wheeler of Utah, one of the sponsors of the legislation. "We've been buying pound-size cans of coffee for years now without thinking about the actual measurement in ounces. Coffee and other goods aren't going to return to the old-style larger packages ever, so it's time we recognized the need to revise our old measurement standards -- which go back to the early kings of England, for Pete's sake! -- in line with the real world."

Wheeler's bill would confirm the pound as 12 ounces, and would require the ISO to revise its measurement of the pound also. A companion bill from West Virginia Sen. A.J. Rockefeller looks ahead to a time, estimated at 10 years from now, when manufacturers are likely to shrink packaging yet again; it would redefine the pound at one-half its present value, making it 8 ounces. One advantage, the sponsor said, would be that stores would now be able to sell 12-ounce packages of bacon and 12-ounce cans of coffee as "1 1/2 pound" items.

The president is expected to sign the Wheeler bill when it reaches his desk, although insiders made it clear that the signing would be private, and in fact the White House has no plans to make any public statement on the change.

The new measurement should go into effect within 90 days.

Sprint pulls the plug

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Sprint, which holds the contracts for our two cell phones and our mobile broadband connection, decided enough was enough Saturday and cut us off. All we saw when we tried to go online was a message saying we were naughty and were roaming too much. The connection would be dead until May 10, the note said, at which time, presumably, we could roam some more and be cut off again.

We had bought a Sprint (Sierra) air card after testing cards and service from Sprint, AT&T and Verizon many years ago. Sprint had the best signal in most of the country, and Verizon was second. AT&T fell out of the running when the AT&T support guy asked me what a "Mac" was (said he had never heard of one) and when service was unavailable a few miles from the Kennedy Space Center. (If NASA engineers don't count to AT&T, then AT&T doesn't count to me.)

Sprint also had the best customer relations. So we signed up for a broadband account with no data limit. The only charge was the fee, about $60 a month.

A month after we began using our account, Sprint decided (without checking with the Oxford English Dictionary, apparently) that "unlimited" actually meant "limited." To say that I resisted this change in my personal account would be misleading; I moved mountains and threatened nuclear war. Sprint looked at its conscience (or something similar) and found that in my case the word still had the original meaning. At one point Sprint's time-billing computers sent us an e-mail telling us we had gone over our limit, but Sprint's humans fixed the problem. And we had no more difficulty.

Until the message we just got from Sprint. We spent three hours on the phone with Sprint service adjusters (in India, I think, although I heard a Texas accent in the background a few times) and got the matter straightened out. We had signed up for an unlimited plan. No limits. Roaming charges are limits. (They're especially limits when you meet up with them and get cut off.)

The last gentleman I talked with, maybe three or four times, was named Joseph. He told me his name at every opportunity, in case, he said, I got a form to fill out asking how I felt about Sprint's handling of my complaint. Joseph.

OK, Joseph. Thanks for getting me back up on the Net.

Dvorak: BlackBerry's maker lost in the woods

Friday, April 29, 2011

nothing but failures from RIM, maker of the BlackBerry, the Storm and now the Playbook.

Microsoft is No. 2. Guess who is No. 1?

Thursday, April 28, 2011

It doesn't matter how you figure things. Selling dangerous operating system software does not make you richer. It puts you in second place.

When is Microsoft Office not Microsoft Office? When it's from Microsoft, apparently

Thursday, April 28, 2011

How low is Microsoft going to stoop? It's offering a beta version of Office that's not Microsoft Office at all. How stupid does this company think we are?

Oh, sorry. It thinks we're pretty stupid. Maybe even very stupid. After all, it doesn't have time to fix the bugs in Windows because it's working on a newer buggy version, and it knows there are hundreds of thousands of companies and hundreds of millions of individuals who never question such an insulting policy. So, yes, we're stupid.

Tell me, what's the reason Mac sales are up 250%?

Jobs talks about tracking

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

In a rare interview, Steve Jobs and his two top executives talk about the iPhone tracking scandal. "When people accuse us of things, the first thing we want to do is find out the truth," Jobs said. "That took a certain amount of time to track all of these things down."

Proposed passport application asks if you've been circumcised

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The State Department has proposed a new passport form that requires applicants to state whether there was a kind of "religious ceremony" attending their birth (i.e., circumcision) and requires them to list the names and phone numbers of ALL supervisors in their employment history, among many other incredible requirements. Anyone unable to answer any question -- including, one supposes, the phone number of that jerk who was your boss at the gas station when you were 16 -- can be denied a passport.

And no, this is not a hoax. Go here and here. At the second link, the experts even say they wish it were a hoax.

Things are not well here in the melting pot for democratic ideals. Apart from being stupid, silly and outrageous in a democratic society, the proposed passport questions should make us wonder if anyone is in charge at the State Department. I know, I know -- we do have a Secretary of State. My question still stands.

Last typewriter factory closes

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

We've finally crossed that line.

Karen Kenworthy dies

April 25, 2011

Karen Kenworthy, longtime author of helpful Windows utilities, died of complications from diabetes recently. I'd been a follower of her utilities since my Windows 95 and 98 days. She had two gifts: She could program operations that Microsoft couldn't seem to manage, and she knew how to explain how her utilities worked in living English. A programmer who knows how to write is rare indeed.

Her website, with access to all her utilities -- totally free, of course -- is still online , as if she were still alive. It probably won't remain up for long, so if you are at all interested in mastering many of the foibles of Windows, pay her site a visit. It would be a fitting tribute to a stellar member of the small community of writers who program and programmers who write. I'll miss her work greatly.

Cheap iPads, original version

April 25, 2011

This place -- -- will be selling its large stock of used iPads direct to consumers, apparently at great prices. More here.

Are you a Mac or a PC? Or maybe a Linux?

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Somebody polled computer users to find out if the stereotypes that characterize Mac users vs. PC users were accurate. No surprise: They're dead on.

Teleportation, for real

April 22, 2011

You probably think teleportation, in which some physical object is moved from here to there instantly, no matter how far the distance, is just science fiction. Not so. And we're getting closer to using teleportation to create extraordinarily fast computers.

The French connection

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Tom caught me napping with some of the URLs here, so I fixed them. Seems that my hand-coded URL parser needs a little hand-holding now and then.

But what I also found were some dreadful misspellings, also fixed. I reluctantly repaired the best misspelling I've seen in years, however. It was bleutooth.

Web of Trust has a problem with my old blog site

Thursday, April 21, 2011

I clicked a bookmark that tried to open my old blog, the one with all the ads and popups, and got this warning screen from the Web of Trust.


Google: Slippery journalism

April 21, 2011

It seems that Google, which competes with Apple, isn't quite an honest broker of news reports about its competitor. Time for a new search service?

What's the real story about the iPhone's location data?

April 21, 2011

No doubt we will hear a lot more about the iPhone and iPad location data collection -- a Congressional hearing might be a good way to start -- but the entire affair is not quite what some people think it is.

Is that Steve in the bushes?

April 21, 2011

Steve Jobs hides in the bushes to spy on Apple Store customers.

Is sugar toxic? Or is this sensationalizing?

April 20, 2011

The New York Times takes a look at a researcher's widely published belief that sugar is killing us.

Internet Explorer strikes again

April 20, 2011

When will this stop?.

Apple up 250%, Windows down 2%

April 17, 2011

Looks like Apple's rise to the world's second-largest company has been borne on the booming sales of Macs and iPads. Apple's sales, counting just Macs and iPads but not the non-computer devices (iPods and iPhones), are up 250 percent. There aren't enough non-Apple pads to count, but adding the almost non-existent PC pads to the mix of total Windows PC sales, the same way Apple's total is figured, provides a 2 percent drop in Windows and PC pad sales.

As for the second-largest rank, Apple is behind Exxon Mobil. But Exxon Mobil is going nowhere, and Apple is still soaring. It's likely to take over the top spot in 2012 or so, becoming the world's first trillion-dollar company.

Microsoft, the company behind the failures of Windows, still doesn't have a clue about how to compete, especially among the under-30 crowd -- the folks who drive the computer economy. When we visited a Barnes & Noble store in San Antonio recently, laptop users crowded the tables in the store's cafe. We saw a few dozen Mac laptops and one PC laptop. The lone PC laptop was being operated by a confused looking guy in his 60s or 70s. Everybody else, on Macs, was young.

Finally, my laptop is fixed

April 15, 2011

It took visits to two Apple stores, but my new MacBook Air is finally free from wireless-less-itis. The entire Airport apparatus has been replaced.

Apple is wrong, and I'm right

April 14, 2011

Yesterday I mentioned my disagreement with the "genius" at the Apple Store over how to fix my errant Airport card.

A few minutes ago the card stopped working again. It's back to the Apple Store in the morning. This time they will replace the card or I will call Steve and demand it.

Or something.

Apple and I differ, in a minor way

April 13, 2011

When I got to the Apple Store carrying my wireless-less new MacBook Air (see item below), I was pretty sure I asked the "genius" to make sure the Airport card was reseated or, preferably, replaced.

Nancy and I went to lunch in the shopping center (North Star, in San Antonio) and then came back to pick up my repaired (free, of course) MB Air at the Apple joint.

What had they done to it?

"We reinstalled the operating system," the "genius" said.

Arf! A long trip (6 hours round trip!) for nothing!

"You didn't fix the hardware?"

"The Airport card is working, sir."

And indeed it is. Still working.

Is it possible the "genius" knew more than I did about things like this?

No wisecracks, please. I'm still watching the little Airport icon, waiting for it to turn into the wireless-less blob.

Why does this sound so familiar?

April 13, 2011

If you've shopped at Best Buy for major consumer purchases, you should be familiar with one of the most annoying practices in all the world of merchandising -- the schlocky way Best Buy tries to push you into extra-cost items at the time of sale. I recall being urged to buy an incredibly expensive "cleaning" service when I bought a VCR at Best Buy many years ago, and many times I've been harangued about the "need" for extra-cost warranties. (And those incidents, and more, became the primary reasons I've stopped buying anything other than ink and paper at Best Buy.)

Well, things apparently haven't changed. Why is it some companies go out of their way to annoy their customers while others go out of their way to make them feel good?

Mouseless, and happy with it

April 10, 2011

I'm back to doing everything on my iPad. Not that I want to. When I got my new MacBook Air back from Apple, after dropping it off for repairs caused by my coffee habit, I found that the wireless card didn't work. On a Mac, that's called the Airport card. I kept getting an error message, as soon as I booted up after picking up the repaired (and renewed -- like new again) computer from Apple, that said "No Airport card installed."

Oddly, at times I got no such message and I had a perfect wireless connection. This made me think the real problem was a software incompatibility, and I spent hours looking for it.

But most of the time I have a wireless-less MacBook Air. I'm now convinced the Airport card is not securely connected to the logic board (the motherboard). And I'm off in the morning on another trek to the Apple Store to have them fix it. This time, it's on their dime and not mine.

In the meantime, I've had renewed warm fuzzies for my iPad, which took over all my normal computing tasks when my MacBook Air died. I've decided the Apple Bluetooth keyboard works better with the iPad than the Keyboard Dock, mostly because the Bluetooth keyboard can be used with the iPad in landscape mode, which after all is how every laptop computer is configured. (The Keyboard Dock makes a great dock and keyboard for the iPad in portrait mode, but I can't imagine what Apple was thinking of when it failed to make an allowance for landscape mode in the Keyboard Dock.)

I use Textastic, a very professionally designed and implemented text editor, for all my writing, and it's been almost ideal for my HTML coding. It has a preview mode built in, letting me switch instantly to a view of my code as a Web page. Like all iPad apps, it always saves a document as you work on it; there's no separate "Save" function.

Textastic has a built-in FTP client and many other features. I was surprised to find such a powerful editor for the iPad.

I also use TextExpander, a macro program that makes HTML coding simple and fast. I created a few dozen macros, ranging from simple (inserting a pair of "break" codes in the text) to complex (turning a Web address written in plain text into a full HTML expression of that address).

And, among many other apps that I use daily, I'm enamored with GoodReader, which displays, renames, deletes, manages and uploads or downloads documents of many kinds -- images, texts, HTML code, PDFs, Microsoft Office documents, and much, much more.

But what seems to have struck me most is my realization that a mouse is not necessary for work on an iPad. I've been planning to jailbreak my iPad so I could use my Bluetooth mouse with it -- that's just one of the many non-Apple changes jailbreaking can make to an iPad -- but the more I work with the iPad's touch screen, the more I like it for everything.

To help make touching easier, I use a stylus. I think it's a Pogo. (The name is either hard to read or is just not there when I look at the stylus.) I have another one, brand forgotten, that doesn't have the precision touch the Pogo has, so I use my Pogo exclusively.

In some ways, writing and editing on my iPad is much, much easier than doing those tasks on my Mac. Textastic, in particular, ranks higher in just about every way than any text editor I use on the Mac. (Note that I'm talking about a text editor, not a word processor; text editors produce text designed to be read on a computer or iPad screen, not to be printed, so there are no print-pretty functions in a text editor.)

As for editing photos, the iPad is entrancingly powerful. I'll be reviewing photo-editing apps in early summer, probably in June. If you're an iPad user and like photography, you'll be interested in that review. You might want to know that all the recent photos I've displayed on my site's main page were imported from my cameras into my iPad, processed and edited on my iPad, and then sent from my iPad to my Web site.

BT all the way

April 8, 2011

I never really paid any attention to Bluetooth until Nancy and I bought headsets for our new phones. The Bluetooth pairing worked splendidly.

Then I tried a BT speaker system that worked with my iPad. Then a BT mouse (the Apple Magic Mouse) for my Mac. Then a Bluetooth keyboard for my iPad. All this stuff works great.

Recently I discovered a Bluetooth file-transfer program in the depths of my new MacBook Air. It's cool like you never saw cool. Nancy and I send each other stuff all the time, usually (or maybe always) by email. But the Bluetooth transfer software makes email unnecessary, and it works perfectly as long as we're in the same room or in adjoining rooms.

I noticed when running my Mac in single-user mode (which makes an expensive Mac into an ordinary Unix computer, more or less) that OS X gets Bluetooth up and running very early in the boot process. By the time the desktop finishes appearing, the Bluetooth discovery is finished, and my Magic Mouse is already working.

And my iPad is always set up with the Bluetooth keyboard, with no delays or stumbles.

As for the Bluetooth keyboard itself, I like it very much. It's the same keyboard that's built into my MacBook Air, and as far as I know it's the same as the keyboard on every modern Mac.

1, 2, 3 …

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Somebody asked how I could possibly believe Apple's claim that there are 75,000 apps for the iPad.

Simple. I counted them. I went to the App Store and added them up.

We must be in Texas

Monday, April 4, 2011

On the road in a small town in Texas, I see these signs, all the same size, with the same lettering, all in a row:

Vote for Roland

Vote for Menendez

Fish Fry

Two important two leave out

Sunday, April 3, 2011

This was written by Tom Andrews.

One company puts the number of seeds per pound on each packet of seeds, presumably so that automatic seeders can be calibrated. Today, as we were planting grape tomato seeds (the honey-sweet tiny tomatoes about the size and shape of grapes), we spotted this:

Seeds/lb. 240,002.

No word on why it was so important that the count included those last two seeds.

Why no comments?

Sunday, April 3, 2011

I've been asked why I'm not allowing comments on this blog. Comments change the nature of a blog from a personal view to a community view. This blog reflects my personal view.

75,000 and counting

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Apple's App Store now has 75,000 apps specifically written for the iPad. There are a few hundred at most (none of them at the Apple App Store, of course) for all other non-iPad tablets.

The wrong way

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

This was written by Tom Andrews.

The latest issue of CNY Business Exchange arrived today. That's a bi-monthly publication of the Post-Standard, which they send to area businesses for free. This issue is a "Special Family Business" issue, just chock full of praise and advice for family businesses. Reading it over, though, I see that Jerry and I are pretty much doing everything wrong.

We were supposed to have a written partnership agreement, spelling out what each was to contribute and each partner's areas of responsibility. Instead, we each gravitated toward responsibility for those things each does better than the other, and by mutual verbal agreement each one has the final say in decisions in his area. For the areas where neither has clear advantage, we simply assigned to one or the other. Each of us respects the other's opinion and seeks the other's input, and listens when the other has an objection, but each has the final say in his areas. Sometimes, infrequently, we simply have to agree to disagree. (This was our mother's suggestion when we took over the business, as the only way we'd possibly stay together. It's been invaluable.)

We're supposed to have regularly-scheduled family business meetings where we discuss things. In our case, that's a colossal waste of time. We discuss things as they come up. Much more efficient.

We're supposed to have a written business plan which we then take to lenders and investors to raise capital. This is supposed to be the most important thing somehow. In our case, since we are self-financed and have some fifty years of experience - each - in the field, we don't see the need for it. We never did, since we never sought out lenders or investors. When our parents gave us the farm they "loaned" us their produce from the year before, to sell for capital to get us started. They stipulated that the way they were to be paid back was, when we in turn passed operation of the farm onto the next generation, we'd do the same thing for them. We intend to do so.

We're supposed to have a written method of conflict resolution. All we ever do is talk it out, respecting each other's opinion and area of responsibility, as described above. It's worked for the twenty years we've run the farm - I don't see any reason to change it.

So you see, we're doing everything all wrong. Defying the odds, ignoring the sage advice of people who think they know more about how we should run our business than we do. What else would anybody expect?

Don't drink and type

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

I quit the heady stuff two decades ago, but I love a cup of coffee -- good coffee, really good. Our current favorite at Countless Pines (and in Otto, when we're traveling) is Luzianne, the New Orleans coffee-and-chicory combination.

I'm telling you this because I really love a good cup of coffee, and always seem to have one handy when I'm working or playing on any of my computers or my iPad.

But I've found that to drink and jive is a bad combination. The other day I knocked over my coffee cup while writing on my almost-totally-new MacBook Air and drowned it, made it fall over and go poof. It stopped working.

I made lemonade out of the lemon and learned how to do everything possible on my iPad. I bought an extra keyboard, the Apple Bluetooth variety, so I could type on a REAL keyboard in landscape mode on the iPad. (I already had an Apple Keyboard Dock, a real keyboard if there ever was one, but it only works when the iPad is in portrait mode -- not exactly the orientation I prefer for most of my work and play.)

The lemon, should you ask, is a $700 item. Apple called and said the repairs on my nearly-new and fully warranted (even to the extent of Apple Care) MacBook Air will cost about one-fourth of the total cost of the computer new. I suppose that's OK. Laptops that small and that sophisticated cost a lot to buy and a lot to fix.

And, should you ask again, Apple has a wonderful standard warranty and the extra-cost Apple Care is the sweetest thing since the Snickers bar. But. Ahem. Arf. Apple doesn't cover damage from spills.

I don't know any other manufacturer that does. And I can see the point. Spills aren't acts of God or random acts of dire fate. They're evidence of idiocy. I was an idiot for setting my coffee cup down near my Mac. It was all my doing.

When I brought the MacBook Air into an Apple store to have it fixed -- we chose one in San Antonio, about three hours from where we're enjoying some sun, sand, ocean and bike riding -- I told the guy with the "Genius" badge that I spilled coffee into the side of the laptop.

But my say-so isn't what Apple used to determine if there was a spill. Each Mac has spill detectors inside. If they say there was a spill, there was a spill. And mine said there was a spill.

Some lessons are easy to learn. Some lessons are expensive. Some, should you ask, are both.

Perpetual motion machine

March 28, 2011

A reader sent this in.

Every time I get a pop up on Windows asking me if I am smart enough to do what I just told the PC to do, and every time I have to hunt for a high grade steel tool to open the indestructible packaging of the $10 product I just bought, and every time I try to use a new expensive product or program that just does not work, I picture the board of directors of the responsible company meeting and telling each other how customers will just love the annoyances these products bring, so much so that they will buy several just to repeat the frustration.

OMG! I'm LOL! These are real words now!

March 26, 2011

The dictionary is catching up with the way some of us write online. FYI, I don't do things like that. OMG, yes I do sometimes. LOL!

Can the iPad function as your only computer? In many cases, no

March 25, 2011

I received this note from a reader asking if the iPad could be used as a stand-alone computer. Here's his letter and an expansion on the short reply I sent him.

I'm trying to determine if I may go all iPad2 for my computing needs. I only do light email, video, and photo along with some web surfing and word processing. So, my plan is to sell my iMac buy a 32 inch HDTV w/RW DVD drive to use as a monitor and DVD import tool, and get the wireless keybd and mouse. Given this setup, would I be able to back up my iPad to the cloud and do direct iOS updates from Or do I still need my Mac for backups and updates?

No. The iPad can't be completely backed up to the cloud with its normal software and can't be restored, either. I haven't tried any non-Apple backup methods; undoubtedly you can back up some of the iPad's contents to the cloud (to a remote server somewhere, in other words), but backing up the entire iPad, including system files, hidden stuff, preferences, operating system and all, is what we are talking about here, and so far I know of no way to do that without using iTunes, a physical USB connection, and a companion Mac or Windows PC.

As for using the iPad for every last computing chore, my experience in the last few months is discouraging in some ways and encouraging in others.

I spilled coffee into a USB port on my new MacBook Air and disabled it totally -- it wouldn't boot up -- and had to switch to my iPad for as much of my computing as possible. (Basically, if something wasn't possible, I just didn't do it -- so I haven't done any audio editing or video editing, for example, nor have I done any TV recording. These are hardly the sort of things most users need to do on their systems, but they're what I normally do.)

On the other hand, my iPad has served me well in a few areas where I expected to have trouble. I've been able to keep my website up to date by using an outstanding web editor and text writer called Textastic, which has ftp capabilities built in. (My new blog was launched using that software, and I use it to do the blog, too, of course.) I've been impressed with a range of photo apps, including many that rival good photo editing software on the Mac and on Windows, but I'm still disappointed in the way the iPad handles photos in general -- something I'll be explaining in detail in a newspaper column soon.

Web browsing, or perhaps I should say "power browsing," is harder on the iPad than on my Mac. But the iPad's native browser, Safari, does provide a way to keep multiple pages open at one time, and switching from one to the other is a sort of semi-bothersome two-press (or "two-click") act.

Basic email is a pleasure on the iPad, but it could do better handling attachments. And I've been able to keep up with my family on Facebook using a Facebook app on the iPad that makes everything easier than I normally do it on my Mac. (This impressed me so much that I'll surely stick to doing Facebook on my iPad.)

Business-style correspondence works fine using Pages. Printing is not a problem at all; the iPad prints wirelessly to printers connected to Macs or Windows PCs. (It also can print wirelessly to a some printers without the help of a connected computer, but I haven't tried that.)

This all sounds positive, and in many ways it is. But the iPad needs an attached computer for backups, and not backing up your work is just plain crazy.

While my Mac has been down, I've used my wife's MacBook Air for connected backups. If my iPad is stolen and I get a replacement through my insurance coverage, all I need to do is plug in the USB cable to the associated computer, run iTunes and let it do its thing. For the iPad, backup is not a chore. It's a blessing.

I could name a dozen functions I can't possibly do on the iPad that I normally do on my Mac laptop. But I'll save anything further for my newspaper article on this topic, coming in April. In the meantime, shelve any plans you have for a lonesome iPad. You'll be able to do much more than you expect using just an iPad, but unless Apple changes the iPad's operating system, you'll never be able to keep that lonesome pad truly on its own.
As for my damaged MacBook Air, it's in Apple's hands right now. I expect to get it back soon.

Assembling some common sense

March 23, 2011

This was written by Tom Andrews.

It was August 1998, less than a month before our parents' 50th wedding anniversary. All of us "kids" decided to pool together and get them something nice, but what? They'd already said they didn't want some gold-plated thing they had to look at and dust, and by clever shopping over the years they'd managed to accumulate anything they wanted. Mike's mother-in-law (and Mom's best friend these days) finally suggested a gas grill. Mike and family had just bought themselves one, and they all loved it. Mom and Dad had never had one.

Time was getting short, and we seized upon the idea. That week one of the Home Depot-like stores (not sure which one now, might even have been Home Depot) put a nice one on an end-of-season sale, at a darn good price for what it was. As John was living close to the store at that time, he was commissioned to go and buy one.

According to the story he told us it must have been a good deal, because by the time he got there the only one they had left was the display model. John looked it over and didn't see anything wrong with it, so he took that one. It even included a free tank of propane.

When he got to the front with it, and the cashier rang it up, she said, "And another $15 for assembly..."

John said "Hold it! I didn't have them assemble this. This is the display model."

"I'm sorry Sir, but if it's been assembled, we have to charge the assembly fee."

"But it didn't get assembled on MY say-so - you guys did it for the display! Get the guy from the grill department here - He can confirm it's the display model."

They got the guy, but it made no difference. "I'm sorry, Sir, but it's Store Policy. We have to charge the extra fee for an assembled grill."

"Fine. Take it apart and put it back in the box, and make darn sure I get all the pieces. I'll take it home and re-assemble it myself."


"Take it apart, I said. You have to charge me for an assembled grill - OK, I'll take it home dis-assembled. I'll wait here and watch while you do it. I have plenty of time."

"But -"

"You really ought to get going on that. Customers are backing up behind me."

"All right, Sir. You can have the grill as it is without paying the assembly fee."

John told the story two weeks later at the party on the front lawn when we gave them the grill, using vocal inflections and facial expressions I can't reproduce with simple text. Everybody laughed so hard we were almost in tears. Mom and Dad practically beamed, and you know - I think it was made even more dear to them when they saw that the lessons they taught over the years had been learned so well.

I can't think of a better gift, can you?

Want to scan your old slides? Maybe you should reconsider

March 19, 2011

I heard from a reader who is interested in scanning a collection of slides. Some things are not as simple as they seem. Here's her message, followed by my reply.

Dear Al: I read your column when available, but have missed your advice on scanning equipment for vintage slides.  Forty years of slides that I want to preserve are in boxes.  I want to "do the right thing" and preserve them on discs.

What equipment would you recommend?  Many, I'm sure, will need some touch-up work for centering and red-eye and other flaws I don’t even know about yet.  Also, I'd like to add background music to the disc, if that is possible.

I'm a "senior" without a lot of experience, but want to do a good job of this without destroying the original slides. Thanks for your guidance.

Thanks for writing. My column is always available on the Web -- has been since 1983 -- so look for the Web version if you can't find it in the printed newspaper. The Web version is easy to read and of course there is an index to all the columns as well as a search function.

You CAN indeed do all the scanning yourself, if you're up to it, then do all the editing and fixing yourself, if you're up to it. (I wouldn't add music and wouldn't put the scans on DVDs for your family and friends; the easiest way to share photos is to put them on a Web site that others can use to view photos. The one I recommend is built into Picasa, which is free and also an excellent photo organizer and editor. It's free from Google, so go get it and get used to it. Search Google this way: PICASA DOWNLOAD.

Scanning slides takes about 15 minutes per slide if you count sorting them, cleaning them as best you can, making sure the slides aren't backwards and so on. You can speed that up to 10 minutes per slide once you have done a few hundred and have the knack.

Editing each image produced by the scan takes 15 minutes to 20 minutes for most photos, sometimes a half hour for others.

Organizing the slides later can take a matter of hours, maybe four hours for a few hundred slides and 12 hours for a lot more.

So if you have, say, 500 slides, get the hours required this way:

(500 X .25 hr) for scanning + (500 X .25 hr) for editing + 8 to 12 hr for organization.

This comes to 260 hours of work for 500 slides. These times come from my own experience of scanning all our family slides over the course of a couple of years.

I mention this to let you know that turning slides into digital images is a LOT of work. It takes a lot of time. You don't want to do a lousy job (it's not worth doing if you don't do it right -- these are archives of the family, right?), so leaving out the editing or doing fast scans without being careful would just make everyone feel like the job was badly done.

So you're looking at spending a few hours a week for 130 weeks. Or six hours every Saturday for 44 weeks.

That's just for 500 slides.

So: If you can afford the cost, have the scanning done by a commercial shop. You might find one locally (ask at a real photo shop if they have recommendations -- a place that sells cameras and film and lenses and does not have WALMART as part of the name (otherwise you'd get blank stares). Or check the Web for SLIDE SCANNING.

Picasa is great for editing scans. It has Web Albums built in, so you can share photos on the Web with everyone, with just people you want to, with just yourself. Easy to set up.

Hope this helps. I'm not trying to discourage you. Just telling you stuff most people would never mention. The world is full of well meaning folks who like to share their misinformation.

The Windows discontinuity

March 18, 2011

My Windows-using friends must think ratios don't count. Whenever the subject of Windows viruses comes up, they're ready to proclaim that Macs will soon face the same problems as Windows PCs. "Wait until the guys who write viruses discover the Mac," one of them told me -- as if Macs are hidden away, out of the sight or reach of virus writers, who presumably will suddenly start creating Unix viruses as soon as they stumble over this alien creature, the Mac.

Macs aren't weird. They're not hidden. My guess is that 200 million modern (OS X) Macs are in use around the world. Macs are simply Unix computers; writing viruses that target Unix systems is easy.

But writing viruses that damage Unix systems is much harder. Writing viruses that do to Unix computers what Windows viruses do to Windows systems is even more difficult.

That's because Unix systems are designed to be safer than Windows systems. Somebody always manages to argue with this point, saying that this study or that one (financed, I'd have to suppose, by Microsoft or one of its apologist "partner" companies) shows that Windows 7 is actually safer than Mac OS X.

To which I say, a ratio on all your houses. A pox on all your studies.

Suppose, for a moment, that you build a fortress. A gang of three thugs shows up and tries to attack it.

You scare them away. You blast them with ice cream. It doesn't matter; you got rid of them. Nice job.

Now suppose an army of three million shows up. Scare them? Nope. Blast them with Ben & Jerry's? No way.

You're overwhelmed. It matters not at all that your front door can withstand an assault by three heavily armed men. It can't withstand an onslaught of three million.

That's the ratio problem. Shooting one bullet at a target means you have one chance to hit it; shooting a million bullets at the same target means you have a much greater chance.

That should be clear to all of us except head-in-the-sand Windows users. There are currently 5 million to 9 million Windows viruses -- the total is difficult to figure, so that's an informed guess -- while at the same time there are zero Mac viruses. The chances of a Windows PC being overwhelmed by viruses is infinitely greater than the chances a Mac would suffer the same fate.

Take the shy side of the estimate and make a ratio: 5,000,000:0.

Not 5 million to 1 million (five times the chances) or 5 million to 500,000 (50 times the chances) or even 5 million to 500 (50,000 times the chances). 5 million to ZERO.

I'll have to guess that only a tiny percentage of Windows users -- maybe .0000001 percent -- know that their chances of getting virus infections is infinitely greater than a Mac user's chances. Infinitely. If you were told that you had double the chance of a flu infection if you skipped your flu shot, you'd think twice before turning down the inoculation. This isn't double. It's infinite.

If I told prospective computer buyers that they have 1,000 times more likelihood of virus infections if they buy a Windows PC instead of a Mac, they'd be stunned.

This isn't 1,000 times the likelihood. Infinite is a tough concept to get around.

A side note: My philosopher friend Tom Andrews points out that I could make the same arguments in favor of Linux. I have learned in the two-plus decades I've known Tom that he's usually right, and of course he's right on this count, too. But Linux just never made it to the table. It's been waiting in the anteroom for years and years. Linux users are a great bunch and I love them (and I'm happy to be one of them, too, and happy to have been a founding member of the local Linux user group), but Linux failed, somehow, to reach the maturity of Windows and the Mac. A shame, to be sure, but life is what it is.

Still using XP? Microsoft thinks you're on a Mac

March 16, 2011

My next-door neighbor worked for Kodak back when I lived in a Rochester suburb. We used to joke about Kodak's tactic of creating new lines of cameras that required entirely new formats of film.

The new film wasn't any better, of course. It was simply different. Just when you realized you could buy 3M or Fuji film for your Kodak Model A camera, getting better results and saving money, you noticed that Kodak had a new Model B camera with new features. It was longer, lower, wider. So you bought it, and then found out it no longer worked with your old film. Kodak had gobsmacked you. You became a Kodak customer for life, locked in.

Microsoft can't compete with Apple's Mac, as anyone who uses both Windows PCs and Macs can tell you. It's given up. Tactics it tried in the past, including charging school districts who used Macs a "Windows Tax" -- counting every Mac as a PC for the purpose of figuring how many Windows licenses schools had to pay for (and, yes, that meant a school with three Windows PCs in the office and 100 Macs in the labs had to pay for 103 Windows licenses) -- didn't work, and only served to embarrass the company.

So now Microsoft has to start picking on Windows users. There's little question they're, um, slower on the uptake than Mac users -- after all, despite 10 million viruses and uncountable spyware, they're still using Windows, so that ought to give you an irrefutable argument -- and since they're captive anyway, they undoubtedly think they have no choice.

Microsoft wants Windows users who are not using Windows 7 to start using Windows 7. Mac users aren't going to switch, so someone has to be the Bad Guys.

And the Bad Guys are XP users. If you can't shoot at Mac users and score a single hit, aim at XP users. They're sheep.

Catch this. Microsoft was asked why it refused to make versions of Internet Explorer 9 for Macs and Linux PCs.

The answer, from Dean Hachamovitch, the head of Microsoft's IE engineering group:

"Other browsers" [he means "other browser manufacturers"] "dilute their engineering investments across systems. Because we focus exclusively on one [platform], IE can make the most of the Windows experience and the hardware."

The single platform? Windows 7.

Windows Vista is Windows 7 without the diapers, so when Microsoft says "7" it means Vista and Windows 7.
Microsoft is saying its single platform doesn't include Windows XP. Not Macs. Not Linux. Not XP.

So, listen up, Mac users and Linux users and users of that non-Windows version of Windows called XP, there's no Internet Explorer 9 for you.

XP users can, of course, use Safari, just like Mac users do. Or Firefox, just like Mac users do. Or Chrome, just like Mac users do.

They could even start going to Mac User Group meetings. Or start sticking Apple logos on their Dell laptops.

Chin up. It could be worse. Microsoft could actually REMEMBER you and send you updates that don't work and time zone patches that mess up every appointment in your Outlook calendar.

So cheer up. New Mac models are coming out soon.

Microsoft yields another market to Apple

March 14, 2011

Microsoft has given up on the Zune -- the pocket music player that was supposed to take the portable-player market away from Apple.

The Zune originally came in only one color -- brown, if you can believe it -- and shared music with others who were nearby (on Zunes, of course) by a method no one wants to remember today. (Microsoft called the method a name that could only bring derision, and might even be classified as risque.)

Zune owners got their music from the Zune store, where they paid by Zune points that weren't equivalent to dollars. They looked like they were (and they used decimal amounts the way dollars do with pennies) but they weren't.

Zunes played copy-protected tracks. If you rented them, the music would stop playing when the rental period was over. (I'm not sure of this, but I also think the rental music deleted itself at the end of the rental period.)

The issue here isn't whether the Zune was any good. Clearly, it was a loser. Rather, the sad tale of the Zune leads us to a serious question: Why isn't Microsoft able to compete with Apple?

You've surely noticed that there is no Microsoft pad to compete with Apple's iPad 1 or iPad 2. There's no music player any more. There's no sleek, super-thin laptop to compete with either version of the MacBook Air. (My wife and I each own a new MacBook Air; they make all the new Windows laptops look like they were designed in the previous century.)

It's not that Microsoft doesn't have talented engineers and designers. It's that the company doesn't have that single quality that makes Apple stand out -- vision. When you have vision, you see far enough ahead to know that brown music players are ridiculous. When you have vision, you know that music lovers are tired of schemes to "protect" the music they pay for. (Who's being "protected" by copy protection?)

Vision is what guides you when you're alone on a walk in the woods, when you're staring at the night sky. It is not what you think of when you're meeting with 20 others to come up with a new product. (A Microsoft engineer complained that his team of fellow engineers took two years of daily meetings to come up with the way the Start Menu should look. Apple would have asked one of its back-room guys to have it done by 3 p.m.)

Vision keeps you from making appalling mistakes. You can hit the wrong target or miss the bouncing ball entirely, but it will not be because you were stupid or ignorant or incompetent.Critics might ask why you designed a product a certain way, but they will not ask "why in the world" you did it.

You can counter with the argument that Microsoft is not in the hardware business, something that the millions of owners of Xboxes and Microsoft mice and Microsoft keyboards would find curious. Of course Microsoft is in the hardware business. There's nothing that could get in the way of a Microsoft tablet computer except Microsoft's own lack of vision. Laying an egg in the form of a badly designed tablet would be far more embarrassing than doing the chicken cluck with the foolish-from-the-start Zune.

And Microsoft knows this. So it hides its head in the sand. Better to let one of its "Windows partners" come up with a dud.(How can you possibly be a "partner" to Microsoft? The gorilla rampaging in the forest does not have partners; he has victims.)

Apple needs competition. Microsoft has disqualified itself. This is very sad.

The right way to do backups might not be what you think

March 12, 2011

I received a couple of questions about backups and the use of external drives. My reply should be of interest to many of you.

The letter:

I am interested in doing a backup on my computer.  I have a 500GB Vista with 309GB Free, and a 500GB external and a 1TB external (both free). My thoughts are to move all the photos, videos and music into the 500GB external and use the 1TB external as a backup for the computer and the 500GB external - but which way?

I read everything you write about. In 8-31-08 you recommended to make backups. In 2-15-09 you mentioned as a Second Copy from

I have seen tech articles on the cloud online storage: and and which makes too many options. What would you suggest, online or do I use second copy and back up everything on the 1TB external drive?

Note I keep everything on the computer, except PDF copies of bank statements. They contain the full account numbers so I keep them all on a flash drive. Should I back-up the flash drive also, and is this possible?

Many thanks.
(Name withheld)

Let's start at the beginning, more or less.

Do not ever, ever use a thumb drive for storage. Temporary secondary storage, OK. In other words, you have files on a computer that you want to bring to work. So you copy those files to the thumb drive and take them to work. The thumb drive should never be used to store important files EVER. And especially it must not be used as the only copy of important files.

Why? Because thumb drives are unreliable. Period. Temporary storage only. Not for your financial data.

(If you're keeping financial data on a thumb drive so that no one can access it but you, you need to know that thumb drives the most common method of stealing data. Why? Because they are easy to lose, easy to misplace, easy to set down on a counter in Denny's while you grab your keys, and so on.)

Next: You're not interested in creating a backup system. Forgive my openness, but it's rare for anyone to be straight with others these days, so I'm happy to supply the honesty. As I said, what you're thinking of is a way to make backups much more complicated and therefore useless. (A backup method that's hard to use won't be used.)

If you need more space on the main drive, get a larger main drive. The other drives are NOT for keeping data; they're for storing copies -- i.e., backups. Hard drives are cheap, especially internal ones. So no one has an excuse to have a too-small main drive on a PC or Mac.

The main drive holds all your stuff. It's the C: drive in Windows.

The other drives are backup drives. My preferred method uses cloning software to make a clone (maybe once a week) of the C: drive and standard backup software to make backups of important files every day (or constantly, as Second Copy will do.

So you have an external drive the same size as your C: drive, for cloning. You have a second external drive for daily backups. If you lose a photo or a piece of mail or a video of the kids, you can get what you lost back using the daily backup method. If your C: drive gets hosed or you have really serious problems with it, you can boot from the clone or copy the clone over to the C: drive (using drive-copy software, not just by copying) and you're OK.

The iPad 2 is cool, but is it hot, too?

March 10, 2011

The next-generation iPad is about to reach consumers. Is it The Next Big Thing?

Well, no. I'll have a full newspaper column about the iPad 2 in a few weeks. In it, I'll explain how I feel about the newest Apple tablet vs. the original one. But let me share some of my thoughts in the meantime.

Apple's really just updating the iPad to where it was supposed to be in the first place. When the iPad 1 was introduced a little more than a year ago, most buyers -- and there were a LOT of them -- didn't realize the iPad they fell in love with had a place, inside the chassis, for at least one camera. Apple's strict quality control nixed the planned camera at the last possible moment. Rather than hold off the iPad's introduction until the camera was ready (no one has yet said what specifically was wrong with the camera), Apple decided to stick with its schedule and unveil a camera-less iPad.

So the introduction on March 2 of an iPad with a camera just means Apple got it working right. In fact, iPad 2 has two cameras, one facing out so you can hold up the tablet and take photos and movies, and a second one, of lesser quality, facing the user, so you can hold face-to-face conversations using Skype or Apple's own Face Time software.

That's cool stuff. But Apple was going to do that last year.

All the other changes to the iPad are fluff. My newspaper column will explain this in detail.

If you need an iPad with a camera, the iPad 2 is for you. But if you don't, find an iPad 1.

(It won't, of course, be called an iPad 1. It will just be called iPad. Note that Apple has, for decades, referred to its products using an anthropomorphic lack of the articles "a," "an" and "the." So the Mac isn't "the Mac" but simply "Mac"; an iPod is simply "iPod," and the iPad is "iPad." Apple's headline for the iPad 2 read this way: "Introducing iPad 2," not "the iPad 2." It's a bit like an affectation. It started when Steve Jobs showed off the first Macintosh on stage in San Francisco in the early 1980s. He treated the computer as if it were a tiny person, hidden under a shroud. When Steve pulled off the cover, the little "person" spoke a greeting. So it has been ever since: Apple's devices are beings of their own. The Macintosh isn't even a Macintosh any more; it's a Mac. Oh, excuse me. I mean, "Macintosh isn't even Macintosh any more; it's Mac.")

Updating a Xoom tablet is easy -- just delete everything and ship it to Motorola

Feb. 25, 2011

Interested in a Motorola Xoom tablet instead of an iPad?

Think twice. Maybe three times.

To get your iPad updated, you plug it into your PC or Mac with the white cable it comes with, then let the iPad update itself. It's automatic. To update your Xoom, you erase everything on your Xoom, stick it in a box and mail it back to Motorola. You get it back, updated, in a week or so.

Way to go, Motorola! What part of the iPad ecosystem did you NOT study when you designed the Xoom?

(A reader complains that the update in question is actually an upgrade, and should be identified as such. OK, this means Xoom owners -- the ones who want what the upgrade offers -- are buying tablets that aren't ready to be sold and have to erase everything and send them back to Motorola to have the latest hardware installed. Or whatever. Great public relations for Motorola.)


DNS troubles are over, and we're back..
Baltimore? Miami? No, the cops in shorts are in Alaska.
It doesn't matter where you are any more..
Boy sells his right kidney for money to buy an iPad..
The Arctic Circle's just up the street, more or less..
We've been skimmed again, apparently, this time to the tune of $7,000. Don't let it happen to you..
Apple's block for the recent Mac OS X scareware was done without due deliberation, and it has a big, bad bug..
Why did James Bond ditch his trusty Beretta? We finally know..
<Microsoft will always be Microsoft. After buying Skype, it changed the Skype installer on Windows so that Windows users get an uninvited and unwanted guest..
This Android dialog is an example of what happens when apps never pass through a vetting procedure..
Want to know who's behind the Mac scareware scam and other malware? A criminal enterprise in Russia..
Prisoners in China are being forced to 'play' video games to earn virtual gold that their jailers are stealing after turning it into cash.
Microsoft knows Windows is dangerous, and admits it.
How Microsoft makes money.
A half-million apps.
How many Js? Signs along the way.
Hit by the 'Mac Defender' scam? Here's help.
It's a book for adults who are worn out trying to get their kids to go to bed, but the title will make grandma blush.
I love apps and love to share my discoveries, but one thing I've learned about photo-editing apps on the iPad is a theft of resolution: They might reduce the resolution of your favorite photos without a warning.
OK, if nobody cares about this forgery, let's see what Joe thinks about it. Say it ain't so, Joe.
Obi-Wan Kenobi is dead.
The Queen is now amused.
Smart phone users have more to worry about than just the 'Death Grip'.
Forgery it is. That's clear. But the real issue is why?.
Students had Bin Laden's hideout pegged -- many years ago.
New measurement for the pound?.
Sprint pulls the plug.
Dvorak: BlackBerry's maker lost in the woods.
Microsoft is No. 2. Guess who is No. 1?.
When is Microsoft Office not Microsoft Office? When it's from Microsoft, apparently.
Jobs talks about tracking.
Proposed passport application asks if you've been circumcised.
Last typewriter factory closes.
Utility author Karen Kenworthy dies.
Cheap iPads, original version.
Are you a Mac or a PC? Or maybe a Linux?.
Teleportation, for real.
The French connection.
Web of Trust has a problem with my old blog site.
Google: Slippery journalism.
What's the real story about the iPhone's location data?.
Is that Steve in the bushes?.
Is sugar toxic? Or is this sensationalizing?.
Internet Explorer strikes again.
Apple up 250%, Windows down 2%.
Finally, my laptop is fixed.
Apple is wrong, and I'm right.
Apple and I differ, in a minor way.
Why does this sound so familiar?.
Mouseless, and happy with it.
BT all the way.
1, 2, 3 ….
We must be in Texas.
Two important two leave out.
Why no comments?.
75,000 and counting.
The wrong way.
Don't drink and type.
Perpetual motion machine
OMG! I'm LOL! These are real words now!
Can the iPad function as your only computer? In many cases, no
Assembling some common sense
Want to scan your old slides? Maybe you should reconsider
The Windows discontinuity
Still using Windows XP? Or is that 'Mac XP'? Don't tell Microsoft
Microsoft throws in the towel again, yielding to Apple
Breaking up might be hard to do, but backing up is even harder. Here are some tips
The iPad 2 is cool, but is it hot, too?
To update a Xoom tablet, use these easy steps

View latest blog entries

Write to Al Fasoldt