Archive for January, 2007

Get A Mac…or not

Okay, I’m a Mac user. And a PC user. I like both platforms equally. So I feel I have the right to criticize either platform if I want to. You know, like how my laptop, with a full gigabyte of memory, can’t be used for anthing while it’s importing DV video and encoding it into WMV. Guess I need something more powerful. But anyway, I’ll see if I can provide an answer to all of Apple’s reasons to get a Mac, tit for tat. Not going to even bring into the equation that you can get something that’s as powerful as a Macbook Pro for a mere $1400 from Dell. No wait…the Dell is more powerful. Hmph. Anyway…

1. It Just Works
True, if you have a fairly limited subset of the hardware available out there. Don’t try hooking up your Mocrosoft LifeCam to your Mac Mini…the Mac will act like it isn’t even there. Or try hooking up an inexpensive laser printer, or a Canon copier, or a relatively new HP photo printer over a network (the other end of the connection is a Windows computer, let’s say). Nothing. So it just works…if you have the right hardware, or if you install Windows on it.

2. You can make amazing stuff
Um…Windows users don’t have to buy a new version of MicroLife for $79 every time it comes out, only to find that some features have been dumbed down or require zillions of horsepower to do well. I mean, skimming is nice but I use iMovie HD because I want more control over my footage. Or Windows Movie Maker. iPhoto? Try Windows or Windows Live Photo Gallery, or Google’s Picasa2. iTunes is available on Windows, but I like Windows Media Player better. iWeb? Meet the web…WordPress looks better and doesn’t need to sit on your computer. I’m forgetting something I’m sure…besides GarageBand, which I’ll talk about later…help me someone…

3. Everything-ready
Yes, you can use your Bluetooth headphones with your Mac. You can use some Bluetooth phones with your Mac even. Oh, and you can use a few printers and scanners…though a lot of ’em you can’t. Windows Mobile devices of course are harder to work with. Disk drives? Of course. Keyboards and mice? Yep. Can you use them on Windows too? Sure. Might require some software, but the software gives you extra features that Macs just don’t get. Or that software allows the device to work in the first place…I don’t like hunting for dirvers either, but lately I haven’t had to and finding drivers is better than not finding them.

4. 114,000 viruses? Not on a Mac.
Just wait. Once you get enough market share, hackers will start writing for the Mac. Look what happened to the iPhone. There is Mac antivirus out there, but most people don’t need it…yet. Then again, unless you don’t know what you’re doing you don’t need antivirus on Windows either. Not kidding.

5. Still the most advanced OS
The features touted as “more advanced” are available in Windows Vista, or via Google Desktop (yep, just one app) in XP. Next, please?

6. The latest Intel chips
Last time I checked, your consumer-line products tended to be a tad behind in tech, only catching up a few months after the tech is released. Pro products tend to be a few weeks ahead of the curve, true, but in the end PC gets the same technol0gy (minus EFI) as Mac, at a lower price point. Oh, and Windows isn’t optimized for a particular processor…it’s optimized for ANY x86 processor. Meaning it will run well on any computer you throw at it, depending on specs (Vista or XP), not be confined to a particular tiny subset of hardware like the Mac is. Last time I checked, there were about two dozen times as many PC makers that are major as Mac makers, because the Mac just doesn’t support a decent subset of internal hardware. That, and Stevie Jobs wants to keep a close vest. By the way, Leopard is pretty much the resource-hungry best that Windows Vista is, except Windows Vista generally has more whiz-bang visual effects than Mac OS…and the translucently disgusting menus don’t count.

7. No hunting for drivers.
Right. You don’t need to search; you either have them or you don’t. If you don’t, you’re…hmm…screwed. Yeah, that sounds about right.

8. Design that turns heads.
Well, that’s comparing Apple to PC makers, who don’t pay their design teams, or don’t have them, or something. But take another look…HP and Dell are getting better-looking all the time. Or you can grab an Acer Ferarri laptop…how cool is that? Don’t get me wrong, I am happy with how my iMac is designed, but PC makers are catching up…and they give you design choices, not a select-from-thrse-six-designs-across-our-platform mentality. You’d think that Apple was pursuing an economy of scale, which went out awhile back for high-end stuff like computers.

9. Instant video chats.
First off, you need to get an account to work with the chat program. At which point the PC has caught up to you; WIndows Live Messenger does the same thing, perhaps better over low-bandwidth connections (in my experience) with a simple download…MS could not include it due to antitrust stuff last I heard. So why can Apple bundle all the good stuff? Geez.

10. More fun with photos.
One word: Picasa2. Another few words: MS Photo Gallery. Now stop bragging and start working on development again. People aren’t going to switch because of iPhoto anymore unless they’re ignorant, and nobody likes to be ignorant, right?

Oh, and quick interjection here: my parents use Windows…on a Mac mini. So there.

11. Hollywood style movies.
Excuse me while I laugh my head off on this one. We’re talking iMovie ’08 here? Gimme a break. Also, if you haven’t noticed, Windows Vista Home Premium (the most common iteration of Vista) also has a very passable suite of video editing tools. They’re called Windows Movie Maker and Windows DVD Maker, if memory serves me…and they don’t let you overdo your menus, then ask you to randomly put less motion in them. Geez. Oh and now I remember: iDVD was the iLife app I forgot. So what?

12. One-click websites
Actually, this is false advertising. No website can be made in a click 😉 Especially when it requires paying for .Mac to get that site up, or your webhost, or whoever. Okay, iWeb is good software, but KompoZer is available for Windows, and doesn’t come as part of a $79 suite. In fact, it doesn’t cost a penny. Yep, iWeb seems to be for people who want to whip up something quickly, but you can do that with WordPress last time I checked. No reason to switch.

13. Amazing podcasts.
Sorry, but everyone and their dog still doesn’t podcast. But for those who do this is a valid point. Then again, I still haven’t figured out how to work GarageBank. Maybe I’m dense, but…oh and you can use the free Audacity on the Windows side for this sorta thing.

14. Rock star tunemaking
Whatever. Tout GarageBand twice, willya? Still don’t know how to use it for whatever reason. Can some Machead help me?

15. Awesome out of the box.
Agreed. Most big box manufacturers love to box their computers with extra software. The Mac, or any PC that you install Windows on yourself, has none of it. Also, Dell now has the Vostro line of computers. Sure, they’re just black boxes, but there’s no extra software…and without the extra software, Windows runs nicely. Hmm…if PC makers actually got the extra software right then PCs would, too, be just as awesome.

Vista Reasons

1. No upgrade nightmares.
Hey, at least you can upgrade Vista in your sleep ;). Okay, I’m kidding, but my nearly-new iMac (bought AFTER Leopard came out) had to have Leopard installed twice. What an ordeal. If that ain’t a nightmare, or at least part of one, then ask anyone else who has tried to upgrade to Leopard and had problems, how they feel. Probably as Mac-headed as ever. But you’ll be able to find them.

2. You can even run Windows
Yep, thanks for finally seeing the light Apple, and making your computers 5x faster in the process. My parents are “even running Windows” right now. I “even run Windows” and wouldn’t have bought a Mac if I couldn’t have. Now stop treating us like illegitimates.

3. It’s simpler
Ooookay, if you’ve never used a computer before. But if you’ve used Windows, it’s like dude, totally radical. Oh, so you’re talking about versions? Well, if you’re a business guy you don’t want to have to pay for frilly home features, right? And if you’re a home user you don’t need business features. But if you’re a power user you want everything. Easy enough; it’s kind of like buying Microsoft Office…you pay for the features you need. Novel concept.

4. You don’t have to buy new stuff
Weeeelllll, you might need to once 10.6 comes out. If you bought a computer in ’05 before Intel machines came out, sounds like you’re out of luck when the next upgrade rolls around. Hey, at least you can upgrade a late 1999 computer to work very well with Windows XP, or run Vista on a computer from 2003 with maybe $20 worth of extra RAM. All right, if you want Aero you need a beefier system, but seriously Apple, you guys scale down graphics too when the computer isnt powerful enough…and I noticed a few hiccups running 10.5 on a current-generation Mac Mini that someone would end up paying around $800 for, including keyboard, monitor and mouse. Don’t throw stones in a glass house, especially when you can’t reinforce the glass!

5. Know iTunes? You know the Mac.
More like, you know iTunes. iTunes for Mac works differently (a bit) than iTunes for Windows, and iTunes for Mac in turn works differently (a bit) than any other Mac OS program. I mean come on, when the “zoom: button does who-knows-what, your Windows key is nw the functional equivalent of Ctrl on the PC…yeagh. Mac ain’t PC.

6. Macs run Microsoft Office.
Right, but since the release of Intel, Office has run slow because it’s designed for the older PowerPC platform. Thankfully for Mac users, the new Office ’08 has remedied the problem, but Office ’07 on Vista delivers a can of whoop-you-know-what in terms of power-of-use (there is a learning curve to the new UI so not quite ease of use) compared to ’08 for Mac. Office was meant to run on PC. So y’all Mac users just sit back with your little iWork and create TPS reports…no wait, iWork can’t do that. Scratch that…

7. You can take it with you.
Are we talking Back to My Mac? Nope, because it doesn’t work. Are we talking ultraportables? Not yet…all of Apple’s laptops are rather heavy and though they’re thin for regular laptops, they haven’t made the step toward ultimate portability…yet. Oh, so we’re talking file formats. Welcome to the revolution, Apple. Everyone else has been compatible for years…Linux, Windows, Palm OS, Windows Mobile, Symbian. Geez.

So I love my Mac. But most of Apple’s claims are empty. We just need to get the PC makers to stop shipping over-bloated, under-powered Vista machines and all of this Apple marketing is for naught, and Apple will have to find something legitimate to crow about. Which they have. It’s just not the above.

The Great Phone Wars

Well, I’ve been wanting to do this for awhile, and now I’ve finally done it: disregard same-color and refurbished and limited-edition versions of the same phone, and count up which carrier has the best selection of cell phones…

The top honor looks to go to Verizon at the moment. At the moment meaning that all carriers change their offerings on phones very quickly so a small lead might become a small defecit quickly. But anyhow, with a whopping 26 models of phone to pick from on the regular side, 8 smartphone models, 4 blackberries and 8 aircards, for 40 phone\smartphone\blackberry models total (counting the two push-to-talk enabled phones not mentioned above), VZW is the leader in choice…for the moment. Their prepaid section, however, is by no means first, with just six phones to choose from.

Second place looks to be a tie between AT&T and Sprint. AT&T actually may have more phones, and thus be first, but I was so confused by their bunches of multi-colored and refurbished models scattered throughout the phone buying page that I may have missed one or two. Anyhow, AT&T looks to have 24 regular phone models for sale, eight smartphones, five Blackberries and four aircards, for thirty-seven total models phone-wise. Pretty good, considering AT&T’s phone selection seems to be cheaper than VZW’s, especially in the area of smartphones. You can get a Treo 680 for $70 refurbished, or a Samsung Blackjack for just $30. The prepaid area is quite huge as well…again I may have missed a few models, or maybe overcounted, but the number looks to be 20 there. Oh, and a very large portion of AT&T’s phones are 3G-enabled. The same can’t be said of Verizon and Sprint’s offerings, though the proportion of 3G phones isn’t too bad on their respective services, and unlike AT&T’s network, the CDMA 3G network works in a LOT of places and is darn fast 🙂

So, on to Sprint. At first glance, they have a paltry 12 “regular” phones. But to that you have to add 10 Nextel iDEN phones, two of which are smart (one Blackberry, one Windows Mobile device that also has GSM capability for overseas). And three hybrid CDMA\iDEN handsets that give you both walkie-talkie and all the cool CDMA features in one handset. Add eight CDMA smartphones and 4 CDMA Blackberries to the mix…and a choice between seven aircards if you need ’em…and you get a magnificent 37 models to choose from. Geesh, the choices…do I want to pay an arm and a leg for the world’s highest-tech, fastest-data, instant-communications walkie talkie phone (the Motorola ic902) or do I want a freebie Samsung cameraphone? How about an HTC PDA? Would you like that with or without a keyboard? Okay, that’ll be right out to you…oh and if you need to go overseas Sprint will rent you a GSM phone or three. Or use your fancy new Blackberry 8830. But all major CDMA carriers have that ‘un.

But wait…there’s more…Sprint doesn’t have its own branded prepaid service, but it does have Virgin Mobile, with 11 phones, and Boost Mobile, with 2. Plus, if you want, 2 more from Boost Unlimited, for a magnificent total of 15!

Last among the carriers, due to a near-complete lack of smartphones as of yet (I suppose because their 3G network ain’t there quite yet and 2.75G smartphones are sooo out of style…no wait the iPhone is 2.75G), is T-Mobile. But hey, you could actually buy one of their phones without a contract and your wallet would live to tell the tale. I think AT&T and Alltel are also okay at that sorta thing. But back to T-Mobile. They have a decent 22 phones of the regular sort on tap, plus their three Sidekick devices…which you could call “smartphones” if you wanted I suppose. They have four Blackberries (e-mail is fine with non-3G connectivity…heck, that’s why you even have a Blackberry or two on iDEN) and an abysmal (in my opinion…oh and now I remember…T-Mobile doesn’t sell Treos and that’s why there is a lack of smartphones…maybe) three smartphones available. That’s just 32 phones…and if you want an aircard (don’t know why…internet speed on T-Mobile is maybe twice dialup, probably worse) your choice is simple…there’s only one. The prepaid side of things is simply pathetic…just four phones available. Then again, their FlexPlan converts any plan, if you buy the phone without the discount, into a prepaid plan, and you can use whatever phone you want with whatever feature you want that way. Or put a phone, at full price, onto T-Mobile To Go. So you could say they have the best prepaid phone selection of anyone.

Now to the last carrier…nah I’ll put in one more below this one as far as mainstream carriers go. Anyway, Alltel is significantly lower than the above carriers in postpaid lineup, with just 13 regular phonne models, 5 smartphones and 2 blackberries, for just 20 total. Oh, and four aircards. But hey, their phones generally work well and quality should be there though quantity isn’t. And you get thirteen prepaid phones t pick from, from low-end to high-end. Cool.

What the heck, I’ll do two more biggies. Second-to-last, US Cellular clocks in at fifteen “normal” phones strong, if you call a bag phone a normal phone. Two Blackberries and the Motorola Q later…yes, just one smartphone due to USCC’s mere 1xRTT network (think T-Mobile speed, maybe just a tad slower)…and you get just eighteen models to choose from. Weak. Three prepaid phones? Gimme a break.

Last, let’s get Qwest in here. They resell Sprint. Maybe their extra phones should be credited to Sprint’s account, giving that carrier domination in the area of phone selection. Anyhow, you get a choice between nine decent phones for Qwest service, plus three smartphones, for a total of just twelve. Meh, at least they’re okay phones. Oh, and seven of them are Qwwest-only if you’re comparing the lineup to Sprint. So if they’re counted Sprint comes out as the clear choice leader when it comes to cellular selection. Interesting.

Now for the honorable mentions. Or dishonorable: the unlimited carriers. No smartphones here anymore. CricKet has just elevevn models to choose from. The same as Pocket, a Texas-based unlimited carrier that services where I live…and has about one-tenth the number of customers. MetroPCS is a little better, with 13 phones and color choice on one of ’em. Heard of Cleartalk PCS? Didn’t think so…they’re also unlimited, and sell just eight phone models, looks like. All this looks pretty pitiful when you consider the local carrier in my area, Five Star Wireless, has ten phones to choose from, plus maybe a Treo, and their 2.5G CDMA network, while simply amazing coverage-wise, can’t cover more than 200,000 people…and I’ll bet only 10-20,000 are using Five Star as their provider directly.

Well, hope this has enlightened you to…something. Just thought I’d do a little research and see what came up, and the above is what happened. Maybe it’ll be of use to someone, though PLEASE don’t choose your carrier just because it has more hones available than anyone else. Choose it if it gives the features you want with the coverage you need at a price you’re willing to pay. 🙂