#Winning on Friday the 13th

f13a_300.jpgToday is Fri­day the 13th. The only Fri­day the 13th of 2011 as it works out.

This spe­cif­ic date has spe­cial sig­ni­fic­ance for me — and it has noth­ing to do with movies.

Since Fri­day the 13ths occur so infre­quently, and are  some­what fam­ous, I use the day as a semi-ran­dom chance to get my digit­al ducks in a row.

Stop everything
My Fri­day the 13th routine starts with a quick review of all open pro­jects and work. I don’t actu­ally do any work on those pro­jects, rather I look over everything, review­ing all the details and mile­stones, and just make sure that nothing’s being missed.

Backup everything
Next, I check out my data backup soft­ware and pro­cesses. In the blo­go­sphere, the 13th of each month  has been pro­moted as Blog Backup Day, but really, pro­tect­ing your data is some­thing that every­one should do, be it through a highly-pro­tec­ted stor­age device like the Drobo-FS, or using a backup drive sys­tem like ClickFree’s, or some com­bin­a­tion of  the two.

Vac­cin­ate everything
Then, I make sure my anti-vir­us and fire­wall tech­no­logy is cur­rent — and run a manu­al scan over all my drives. Yes, time con­sum­ing but it also provides me peace of mind that everything’s clean.

Defrag everything
Finally, I run a drive defrag­ment­a­tion util­ity over all drives that can bene­fit from it. Some oper­at­ing sys­tems auto­ma­gic­ally handle drive frag­ment­a­tion and some don’t.

Data ducks in a row
And yes, that can be a lot of work, but at the end of it, I’ve got a good pic­ture of my work­load, and the state of my data on my com­puter sys­tems. I’ve turned a day that’s fam­ous for hor­ror stor­ies into a day of good. #Win­ning 🙂

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I think I’ve bought my last desktop computer

A couple of years ago, I was all into and enjoyed build­ing desktop com­puters, pick­ing out the right video card, select­ing the best mother­board and gen­er­ally dig­ging deep into the innards of my future com­put­ing plat­form. And design­ing the per­fect ‘office’ com­put­ing envir­on­ment with short cable runs, ample power for my accessor­ies and lots of desktop space. Yes it was com­plex and involved and detailed, but it was a hobby — build­ing com­puters.

These days, I’m not so con­cerned about it. What I need to do on a com­puter hasn’t changed, but the com­put­ing industry has matured, my needs are now becom­ing much more main­stream, and the sig­ni­fic­ant dif­fer­ences between one com­pon­ent and anoth­er aren’t quite so sig­ni­fic­ant any more.

Put anoth­er way, what I have been doing and want to do on a com­puter, is now much more in demand by every­day con­sumers. And the hard­ware, is becom­ing much more homo­gen­eous. They’ve caught up. Wel­come to the future.

Honey, I shrunk the CPU
Moore’s Law has also caught up, to the point where the hard­ware is smal­ler, light­er, faster, and cheap­er to make. On today’s hard­ware you can have full audio and video edit­ing stu­di­os in the soft­ware that runs your phone. You can remotely pilot vehicles with your phone or mobile com­put­ing device, and you can eas­ily com­mu­nic­ate with any­one on the plan­et using any num­ber of mobile tech­no­lo­gies.

Any of the mod­ern note­book com­puters have all that stuff in a very tiny pack­age.

Home file shar­ing
It used to be that you had files on one com­puter, and you shared them with the oth­er. Both com­puters had to be on to share the files. Now, with ubi­quit­ous WiFi and home net­work stor­age appli­ances (basic­ally net­work-aware hard drives) in your house­hold, any com­puter or com­pat­ible device can access any doc­u­ment, video, mp3, at any time. No need to have a big Mas­ter Serv­er.

Print­ing
The same goes for net­work-aware print­ers. Most man­u­fac­tur­ers have WiFi mod­els avail­able that know how to play nice with your home net­work envir­on­ment. Again, no need for a com­puter dir­ectly con­nec­ted to a print­er.

Stor­age
I men­tioned home net­work stor­age above, but these days stor­age devices are dirt cheap. So much so that it’s become pos­sible for com­mer­cial busi­ness to be built up around the concept of offer­ing you free online stor­age of your doc­u­ments, pho­tos, music, whatever…for free.

And they won’t only store your files, they’ll give you free access to applic­a­tions and tools to cre­ate and edit your stuff. Again, I no longer have a need for a huge drive attached to a big desktop box — all this stuff is in the cloud.

One caveat
There’s only two real reas­on that I can think of for need­ing a ded­ic­ated desktop com­puter these days; high-qual­ity media cre­ation, and gam­ing.

If you’re into music mak­ing, video edit­ing, pho­to­graphy, art, design, any­thing that needs you to move masses of pixels or gigs of data around, the archi­tec­ture of a desktop com­puter box is more suited to that than many of the note­book com­puters on the mar­ket. And you’re likely using the com­puter in a pro­fes­sion­al set­ting as a pho­to­graph­er, com­poser and the like.

Gam­ing also is a hard­ware resource hog, and falls into that cat­egory as many of the same com­put­ing tasks in media cre­ation are also neces­sary in game cre­ation and play­ing. Of course, there are excep­tions — I’ve seen some very power­ful (and pretty) gam­ing laptops.

Inter­est­ing, but not enough
But gam­ing isn’t enough for me to build my desktop around it, any more. Con­sole gam­ing sys­tems have edged in with com­par­able graph­ics and game­play, on much big­ger screens than could fit on my desktop.

So it looks like my next new sys­tem, likely in a year or two, won’t be a power-suck­ing behemoth that sits under my desk. Rather, it’ll be some­thing small, light, can con­nect to desktop mon­it­ors, mice & key­boards, and the home net, yet is still port­able. And I think the same holds true for most of you too. Yes, wel­come to the future 🙂
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DOS on the iPad? There’s an app for that.

5374144373_36b6e593f5_m.jpg[UPDATE — looks like Apple has pulled it from the app store again]

I’ve got a rather strange, yet fam­ily friendly habit — I tend to col­lect com­puter emu­lat­ors; soft­ware writ­ten for hard­ware, that acts like older hard­ware in order to run older soft­ware.

With me so far?

Over the last few years, Apple has been slowly relax­ing the emu­la­tion stand­ards in the iTunes App store for emu­lat­or apps, wit­ness the Com­modore 64 and rumored
Amiga emu­lat­ors — though sadly, I doubt we’ll ever see one for the Apple ][

In the last 6 months, a DOS emu­lat­or has appeared, dis­ap­peared, and now reappeared in the store. And it’s a pretty sol­id app. Con­tin­ue read­ing “DOS on the iPad? There’s an app for that.”

Show your parents you care — tech style

It’s highly likely that many of you, like me, are respons­ible for tech­nic­al sup­port of your fam­il­ies’ com­puter sys­tems and inter­net con­nec­tion.

googfooter.pngEarli­er today I found a great little micros­ite (by Google) that’ll help you sup­port your par­ents with their online issues.

http://www.teachparentstech.org/ is the site that helps you build a friendly little email and bundles links to appro­pri­ate self-help videos.

screener.png

Obvi­ously this won’t address every ques­tion they’ve got, but it does:

  • Get them using email (they’ll need to in order to view the mes­sage)
  • Get them watch­ing online videos through a browser
  • Teach them how to do some­thing to cus­tom­ize their com­put­ing exper­i­ence
  • Give them a sense of accom­plish­ment and inde­pend­ence as they use new tech.

Here’s what your out­go­ing email could look like:

email.png

It’s not just simple issues either, here’s a video show­ing how to set up an email autorespon­der in Gmail — though sim­il­ar email apps work in much the same way.

And it’s a great little mar­ket­ing and brand­ing oppor­tun­ity to get Google into their com­put­ing exper­i­ence.

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Dilemma: Offloading old tech

phonedump_250.jpgOk, so here’s the deal. You want a new com­puter, or iPad, or BluRay play­er or whatever. But your old one is still work­ing per­fectly fine. Yet, the fea­tures of your next tech­no­lo­gic­al acquis­i­tion are so good, so cool, that really, that new tech item will make your life much bet­ter.

Great, so you go out and get it, but what do you do with the old item?

And there’s the rub.

You’ve got the old tech, that still works and you’re com­fort­able with. And you’ve got your new tech that you’re learn­ing and works and is Jobs-gift-to-human­ity.

For me, there’s huge reluct­ance to get rid of the old stuff. Sure, it’s already been replaced by bet­ter stuff — but it still works! It can still do things. So here’s what I do:

1) Resell — this one is pretty obvi­ous, but takes a bit of work. List­ing on (com­pet­it­or) or Kijjiji requires set­ting up an account and man­aging the pro­cess. If you’ve done everything right, you’ve got a buy­er for your tech-stuff and you’re both happy.

Oth­er altern­at­ives that often work are pawn shops. If not, pro­ceed to step 2.

2) Regift — it’s entirely pos­sible you’ve got a very young neice or neph­ew that could use a ‘first’ com­puter. Once prop­erly refur­bished, your ‘gift’ could meet that need. Of course, you’ll be the first in line for hard­ware sup­port, but isn’t that what being sup­port­ive in a fam­ily is all about?

3) Repur­pose — Older com­puters still work well run­ning older oper­at­ing sys­tems. Giv­en your hard­ware won’t be your daily desktop box, nothing’s pre­vent­ing you from giv­ing it new life as a ded­ic­ated serv­er, a home secur­ity sys­tem, or a media centre box.

4) Recycle — this one is actu­ally my favour­ite. In Edmon­ton, we have loc­al Eco­St­a­tions that are set up to take our tech. As well, FutureShop has an amaz­ing Elec­tron­ics Take-Back pro­gram in Alberta and Ontario. What bet­ter way to keep your older tech out of the land­fill and ensure it (or its com­pon­ent mater­i­al) is being put back to work.

Obvi­ously, this won’t work for every situ­ation. For example, I’ve got a few old cell phones and  PDAs gath­er­ing dust in my closet. I’ve not figured out nor taken time to determ­ine the best ‘end’ for them, yet. Your mileage may vary…in fact, I hope it does! And I hope you share your best ‘tech recycle story below…because frankly, I could use a bit of help 🙂



This post of is one of many I pub­lish weekly at the Future Shop Techb­log. Read more of my stuff here.

Remote control your computer from your iPad

Some say that the iPad is a magic­al device. I won’t go that far, but it is kinda cool, though it does have its short­com­ings — espe­cially when you com­pare it to a desktop or laptop com­puter. There are just many things done much bet­ter on a com­puter than on an iPad, which is why it’s neat that there’s com­puter remote con­trol soft­ware for the iPad.

One of the easi­est I’ve found to use is Log­MeIn Igni­tion. Part of the Log­MeIn fam­ily, Igni­tion lives on your iPad (or iPhone, or iPod Touch, or Android) and allows you to con­trol any com­puter you’ve registered with the Log­MeIn ser­vice.

Here’s how the pro­cess works:
1. Get a free Log­MeIn account
2. Install Log­MeIn Free cli­ent soft­ware on every PC/Mac you want to con­trol
3. Register those com­puters with your Log­MeIn account inform­a­tion

If you stop here, you now have the abil­ity to con­trol any of your registered com­puters from any oth­er registered com­puter (that’s run­ning the cli­ent soft­ware), or through the Log­MeIn web inter­face (which is very slick!).

4. Install the LogMeIn:Ignition cli­ent on your iPhone/iPod Touch or iPad

And you’re done. You can now con­trol any of your com­puters via your iPad.

LMI1.jpg

Con­tin­ue read­ing “Remote con­trol your com­puter from your iPad”

Tablets will be the story this holiday season

The iPad has been out for a bit now, and it’s the tab­let that all the oth­ers will be com­pared against as they jockey for pos­i­tion going into the hol­i­day sea­son.

But over­all, I think this is the year that tab­lets finally start to make some head­way into the mar­ket­place; a mar­ket­place already crowded with Desktops, Laptops, Net­books and Data Phones.

So, why con­sider a tab­let? Here’s a few things to think about.

Middleground
Tab­lets won’t replace your main com­puter, nor will they replace your laptop. They’re not power­ful enough to do a lot of the work those com­puters do. But, they will fill in the middleground between your smart­phone and your com­puter, simply because they are smal­ler, yet not too small, and offer a great inter­act­ive exper­i­ence.

Tab­lets are  great to bring to meet­ings, light-weight and yet func­tion­al enough that look­ing up cal­en­dar con­flicts or tak­ing simple notes is a very simple pro­cess — and the tab­let is much less obvi­ous than a laptop when sit­ting around the board­room table.

Oh, and you smart­phone jockey’s out there, yes, you can do all that stuff on your hand­held Android/BlackBerry/iPhone, but the screen size is kinda lim­it­ing when you want/need to share the view.

Cloud­bust­ing
Using some cloud com­put­ing applic­a­tions such as Drop­Box, any notes you cre­ate on your tab­let are instantly stored in the cloud account and access­ible to your oth­er com­puters.

And, if you’re in that meet­ing and need to ref­er­ence some­thing stored on your desktop, you can use desktop con­trol soft­ware such as Log­MeIn Igni­tion (on the iPad / iPhone / Touch) or a VNC cli­ent writ­ten for your tab­let. A couple of quick touch­pad strokes and you’re work­ing on your desktop com­puter as if you were sit­ting in front of it.

Ok, those are the big reas­ons that a tab­let wins for me. And here’s a few more that are really just icing on the cake:

  • Inher­ently port­able — smal­ler form factor makes it easi­er to take every­where. My iPad is with me daily, where­as my laptop or net­book only came out when I thought I might need it
  • Cas­u­al usage — since it’s with me I use it more to jot down notes, surf, etc dur­ing oth­er­wise dead time
  • Tact­ile, friendly, enga­ging — a tab­let seems less impos­ing than a full-up laptop. People like to share work on a tab­let, it’s easy to hand around a meet­ing and soli­cit feed­back.
  • Port­able media — tab­lets are great for watch­ing movies or videos on the bus or wherever because they’re smal­ler and sleeker — no huge key­board to haul around in addi­tion to the screen.

So, in my humble opin­ion, yes, the tab­let will make some ser­i­ous inroads this hol­i­day sea­son, espe­cially if the price can stay low, the hard­ware deliv­ers, and the soft­ware is developed to live in this new middleground.

So that’s why a tab­let appeals to me, how ‘bout you? Are you in or out when it comes to con­sid­er­ing a tab­let in the near future?



This post of is one of many I pub­lish weekly at the Future Shop Techb­log. Read more of my stuff here.