Buying A Laptop

 

Laptops

Buying a laptop these days is a scary adventure. I think one of the reasons for this is that there are so many on the market. And with each laptop brand, there are so many prices. There are also so many sizes and weights to think about. I wanted to point out a few key points that you need to consider when buying a laptop.

First, let’s talk about pricing. Many times I see a person going out to buy a laptop based only on price. If you do this you will be very disappointed. Did you ever hear you get what you pay for? Well, cheap is cheap. That’s not to say you may not find a deal but make sure it is a deal on the laptop for want for the following reasons.

Second, is that screen. This is what you will be looking at for hours at a time. You need to find a screen that is easy on the eyes and has good depth and colors. You also have to make sure the screen is a comfortable size to view all day. I normally shop for the 13″ size screen. I find the 11″ too small and the 15″ too big and bulky to carry around.

Third, is the keyboard. You are going to be spending a lot of your time typing on the keyboard. You have to make sure keys don’t stick and have the right amount of travel. You will better understand travel when you test out the laptop at the store. Also, make sure the keyboards keys fit your fingers. If you have a larger hand you don’t want a keyboard with cramped keys.

Forth, battery life. We all hate when we are using a laptop and you are in the middle of a great creation or some work project and the battery dies. A good rule of thought for me is that the battery should get me through the normal 8 hour work day.

Fifth is the amount of RAM and hard drive space and today it should be a solid state drive or SSD. These drives are super fast and will make your laptop startup faster and the programs load quicker. Ram should be at least 8 GIG. Windows 10 likes to have room to breath and using only 4 GIG you will find times that the laptop seems to just sit there when you want it to be doing work.

Sixth and final thought. The weight of the laptop. You don’t want to break your shoulder every time you toss your bag over it. I have also seen many people choose not to take their laptop off their desk because it is too heavy to carry to a meeting. I normally work all day and everywhere on my laptops so it has to be light and portable.

At the end of the day buy a laptop that fits the way you work. Don’t buy a laptop to be part of some in a crowd. And don’t be afraid to spend a little more money to get a laptop that will last you for 3-5 years. And never skimp on the warranty you want to protect your investment.

 

Does Operating Systems Matter

Operating Systems

I have been working with computers since the early day’s of DOS, yes we didn’t even have a graphical user interface. When you wanted the computer to do something most of the time you would have to be able to write a program and then do the project.

Then came Apple and Windows with their pretty point and click graphical user interface. You wanted to open an application you simply double clicked on it and it opened. What was even more impressive was the fact that you could have multiple applications opened at the same time. Which I believe was the beginning of giving all of us a little OCD. This is because we could be working on one project and quickly switch to another application and look at the news. You may do this today? You are working on a large project and you open another tab and check your email or facebook?

At one time the operating system meant that you choose it because of the application you are used to using. Such as running Microsoft Windows because you are a Microsoft Office user. Or using a Mac because you enjoy using Final Cut Pro. Or you might have been a FREE type of person and you went with Linux?

In today’s modern computer world the operating system is really the less important thing on the computer. Why is this? Easy most software vendors have found that programming for the web is the best choice for their applications. I am working on a large database program now and after careful consideration, I decided to write it for any web browser. Why would I choose to do this? I am like the big guys. I want my application to work on any operating system as well as any device that may could be invented for years to come. As long as there is a way to view the Internet I can adjust my program to run on that device.

We see in schools today most of the daily work is done inside of the browser. We have Google Suite and Office 365. Kids take their tests using a web browser. Teachers are teaching from the web browser. So you can see that the operating system basically boils down to what you want to look at all day.

One last thought of today’s post. This is why when Google released the Chromebook it is such a great hit. Because people who use a computer know that the only place they will be spending their day is inside of a web browser and most people choose to use Google Chrome so why not buy a full function laptop for a few hundred dollars and put the saving into some other form of technology.

Cloud Storage

Cloud Storage

When it comes to cloud storage I often ask myself which one is the best for your day to day working environment? The truth is they all have their own strengths and weaknesses.

As many of you know I work in a public school setting and we are always looking for ways to better serve the students and staff while still maintaining a balance of reliable technology for everyone.

I look at my own cloud storage and find that I am using four main ones. Google Drive for all my school-based work, Onedrive for all of my company work, iCloud for most of my personal work and then DropBox just because I have had it the longest and I still have a lot of my work on their servers. So how do you pick just one?

I have been struggling with this for some time and I think I have found the true direction to guide people in. Use whatever ego system you are working with the most. If you are a 100% Microsoft shop and work in the Office products all of the time then you would use Onedrive. This will allow you to work on files on your computer and then on the road jump into Office 365 and pick up where you left off. If you use Google Apps all the time then use Google Drive. If you are using a Mac most of the time I would suggest iCloud and also suggest buying more storage from Apple. If you use many different apps and don’t relay of web-based apps then I would suggest DropBox or Box. The real trick is to work within the ego system you choose.

At the end of the day, all of the companies out there providing cloud-based storage are very good at what they do. Your work will be safe and sound no matter where you keep it. I would however always suggest using some form of backup. I dump my files onto an external drive for safe keeping. In today’s world, nothing is beyond hacking.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this subject. Drop me a comment and let me know what if any cloud-based storage you may be using?

Mac’s In Business

Mac Computers

When I first started my career in the computer field it was all about the PC and the Windows operating system. We would go into a business and set up a Windows Server and Windows Workstations and install Microsoft Office. Mostly everyone in the office was familiar with Windows because that is what they had at home.

Today’s business world is changing. If you are in the IT field now you may walk into an office thinking you will be troubleshooting a PC issue and find an entire office full of Mac’s?  Will you be ready to take on the challenge or will you be running for the door?

I relate this back to our children going to school. I have found more and more school districts using Mac’s in their classroom rooms for one purpose or another. I also see more young people going to college and taking a Mac Book with them. They might also be carrying an iPad and an iPhone. Students become comfortable with using the Apple products and when they leave school they want to stick with the platform.

If you are reading this and you are a technical person I would suggest to start learning the Apple ecosystem.  If you really want to support the Apple clients pick up a Mac Book or to start maybe a second hand newer Mac Mini and begin to learn what makes an Apple computer tick. Chances are you have an iPhone in your pocket right now and maybe even an iPad?

So you may be asking am I a Mac guy? Well, I use Mac’s at home as well as work. But I also use a lot more Windows machines at work then there are Mac’s. But I enjoy both for different reasons. I would like to hear your take on this subject.

 

Browser Wars

If you have been into computers for as long as I have you will remember that we had a browser war back in the 90’s. At the time there were two players Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator.

The reason this war started in the first place was because Bill Gates from Microsoft said that the Internet was just a fad and in a few years would go away. Until he began to watch Netscape Navigator’s bottom line profits go through the roof. Then old Bill doing what he did best decided he would steal the market share and make everyone use his crap browser called, Internet Explorer 1.0. If you enjoyed bad dreams and night terrors then this was the browser for you. So how would old Bill get everyone to switch to his browser and leave Netscape?

Easy enough, he will build it into every copy of Windows 95. Of course this was a great idea! Not really Microsoft got sued for trying to create a monopoly and lost and had to make it so that you could remove Internet Explorer from your computer.

Why am I writing about this in today’s modern world? Because folks we are still having browser wars. Netscape is long gone but has rolled into a FREE browser known as Fire Fox. We also have a offering from the KINGS of the Internet Google called Chrome. Internet Explorer is still around and still being used for some unknown reason. There is also some you may not know about. Opera, Safari from Apple. They all do basically the same thing. They open the door for you to the World Wide Web.

Browsers

Compressing Files

We had to deal with small storage devices for years. Most people don’t remember when we were limited to hard drive space. My first hard drive was 80 MB and I had to save forever, it cost me almost $300.00. But I was the talk of our computer circles. Everyone wanted to see my new drive; they could not believe when they saw the 80 MB on the label.

Since many people were limited we had to conserve what little space people had. This was done by compressing most file sizes. The first program I remember that did this was call zipper. We would use this at a DOS command window. You would place all of your files into one directory and then change to that directory from the command line. Once there you would issue the command “zip c:/myfiles”, then hit enter and watch as they zipped.

In today’s world we now have large hard drives that will hold what seems like unlimited files of unlimited size. But there are still compressing tools. Today’s tools come with your computer and are much easier to use.

On the Mac is the Archiver. It is easy to add files to a compressed package and it is just as easy to uncompress files that may have been sent to you. On Windows there is the compressor. Easy enough to use; select a group of files and right click on them and click on add to compressed file. You give it a name and off it goes doing it’s magic.

The main reason I see people using compression today is to allow the emailing of large files. Mostly pictures because they are so large these days with the high mega pixels.

If you have never used a compression program on your computer try it today. I compress large folders of pictures to put them on my backup drive. It uses less space and allows me to store large groups of archived pictures together.

DOS

 

Protect Your Computer

With all of this talk about the NSA or National Security Agency watching everything we do and monitoring all of our cell phone calls, don’t you want to protect your computer from prying eyes?

Okay now I don’t really believe that the government has the time of day to watch what I am doing on the Internet. But I know there are millions of hackers in this world that would like to get into everyones computers. They enjoy digging and looking for useful information.

We could talk about a thousand reasons to protect your computer, but what I teach people is that you want to protect your computer so that you can sleep at night.

The easiest way to protect your computer is to be sure you have the firewall turned on. On Windows you can find the firewall in the Control Panel then under Security. On the Mac, you will find it under Preferences and Security/Privacy.

What does a firewall do? Simply allows you to put up a virtual brick wall between your computer and the Internet. Although not non-hackable but a small brick wall is better then no wall at all. Now turn on those firewalls!

Firewall

High Cost Of Software

There is what we refer to in any business. It is “The Cost Of Doing Business.” When we talk about software most of it anyway we talk money. I know being a photographer I have to have software tools just as much as I need to have camera gear. Just think years ago when we were still using film cameras. I had to have a darkroom in our house or I could not develop my prints.

Even if you are a writer you will be using so kind of software. I have been using a program call Scrivener to work on my novels. Of course you could use free tools such as Libre Office, which I have used for years writing my books.

If you own a business, which I work for a number of clients that use Quick Books for their finance book keeping. This software if not cheap but it is much needed to manage all areas of business including billing. For my consultant work I like to use ZOHO to manage and create invoices. I use the FREE version because I only have a few clients.

Normally for any paid software product I can introduce you to a FREE open source software package. But if you are working in business you might want to have a software you pay for because there will be support for the product. Either way when you are considering a new software package, do a Google search for something FREE like what you are looking for. You might be surprised in what you find.

Software

Creating On The IPad

I hear that Microsoft will be releasing a version of office for the IPad? They are doing this at the expense of their very own Windows tablets because they don’t have a full version of office yet for their own platform.

I wanted to write this today again not to give you the tech news that has already been reported. But to tell you we have been creating on the IPad ever since they have been released into the wild. There has to be ways to create on the IPad they have been and are used in schools since they were first put on the market. I want to give you a few programs that already work very well on the IPad.

DocsToGo: I have been using this app ever since I was using a Blackberry. The app allows you to create slide shows, write documents, and create spread sheets. Not only that it allows you to open all forms on Microsoft documents.

Google Docs: Install the app Google Drive and have access to all of your Google Docs on your IPad. You can even create new documents while on the go. And best yet they since up with your Google Drive on all of your devices.

Key Note, Numbers and Pages: These are native apps written for the IPad from the creator of the IPad. Yes Apple and if you have a Mac you can open these documents anytime on the Mac from the Apple Cloud service.

So should we really be excited because now much like every time in history Microsoft is jumping on the moving band wagon? Here is the real kicker that set me on fire. This is going to be a subscription based service. Which means folks that you have to pay a monthly or a yearly fee to use office on your IPad! Stick with the one time paid or FREE apps. You will be happier at the end of the day.

If you have any other ideas for creating documents, spread sheet and slide shows on the IPad please comment and let me know what you are using.

Apps

 

Are You A Mac Or A PC?

One time in life this question would have meant something to a lot of people. Apple Macs and PC’s once were not on the same playing field. And today I feel they really still are not but we will get there in a minute.

Today with the modern software we all love and use, and with great programmers bringing their products to both platforms we can now grab a computer and feel comfortable.

Working at a school I have found a few ways that one can not replace the other. In our Auto CAD lab we still need Windows to run their applications. We do however use IMac’s and dual boot them with Boot Camp. And I use a Mac for video editing because I prefer using Final Cut but there are great video applications for Windows.

What I’m really referring to is the core applications. Word, Power Point, Excel, Editors, Photo Editing Software. These core programs are now what is called cross platform. So don’t be afraid to pick up a computer and use it. You will be find using either a Mac or a PC.

One last thought is this; I really hate still today hearing. I can’t buy a Mac I would never figure out how to use it? Let me be the first to introduce you to the ICON. They are really the same on the Mac as they as on the PC. And I am not telling you one is better then the other. But I can say that your Mac will never need Antivirus and we never worry about Spyware or Malware? At the end of the day a computer is a computer. As long as you have any computer and you are learning how to use it then kudos!

MacPC