Why the GERD 8’nt Upgrading

As you well know, the GERD loves new stuff; new tablets, new laptops, new phones – you name it.  I also love new software.  I have spent hours plying the innards of a new application to learn how to make the most of it.  Case in point – Apple’s Mountain Lion.  I loved drilling down and finding the new little changes that make the process fun.  I can’t wait for iOS 6 this fall,; doubtless more hours will fall as I go spelunking throughout it as well.
So why not Windows 8?  That’s right, I have no plans to upgrade from my old friend, Windows 7.  You see, we have been through a lot together.  We survived Windows Vista, also known as the World’s largest computer virus.  I’ve become very comfortable with Windows 7; I like the way it works, I can find my way around.  My other toys like it as well; printers, scanners, label makers, tablets – everything is well in Windows 7-dom, so why upgrade?
Not that Microsoft isn’t trying to get me to upgrade.  With unprecedented pricing for upgrading from Windows 7 ($14.99) and for a downloadable full version ($39.99), even the $69.99 for a production DVD is a far cry from the $199/$219 for Windows 7 Pro/Ultimate.  The influence of Apple is seen here – the latest upgrade (Mountain Lion) cost only $19.99 as a download from the App Store.  Microsoft had to rethink its pricing scheme or be trampled by those fleeing the overpriced replacement to a very stable, very useful Windows 7.
Yet, with that attractive pricing, I’m still not sold on Windows 8.  It was developed as a crossover platform for Tablets and desktops, a kind of hybrid for both.  The unique “tiles” on the desktop look interesting and may work well on a tablet, but why a desktop?  Navigating to familiar and useful places like the Control Panel and other user tools is not intuitive (I had to scramble just to shut the thing down!)  There seems to be no apparent speed advantage – programs open with about the same speed as Windows 7 (in my admittedly unscientific tests).  When I loaded Microsoft Office, things went smoothly, but each application in the Office Suite became its own tile on the Windows 8 desktop.  That meant that the desktop became quickly crowded with these over-sized tiles.  I mean, really!  What’s the advantage in that? So, Windows 7 and I will stay together for a while longer.  I could hope for an improved Windows later on, as Windows XP followed ME, and Windows 7 followed Vista; something to wait for and switch to, however, it seems Microsoft has charted a course from which it cannot turn back.  As it tries to meld the desktop and the tablet, neither will succeed and both will suffer.  The desktop, from capabilities limited to fit on a tablet; the tablet, from an operating system too big to work in its inherently confined space.

Microsoft may have to learn that the most dangerous thing in the world is to take something that works, and “improve” it to the point that no one wants to use it.  For all the supposed improvements in Windows 8, I’ll stick with my tried and true Windows 7- for now at least!
Next Time:   Do you really want to watch a 3D Television?

Why iOS 6 will revolutionize Computing

The gap between the computer and the tablet as a capable work platform has been shrinking – and the pace of this shrinkage is accelerating.  With the original iPad introduction on 3 April 2010 Apple changed the game, giving us geeks a new toy unlike any since the invention of the laptop.  Many called the first iPad a “large iPod” (yep, so did I).  It was cool, but how useful was it going to be?  I used mine to watch movies and listen to music (just like an iPod!).  However, the overwhelming number of apps developed since changed the iPad into a useful platform for writing (Pages), tracking finances (Pageonce, Mint.com), travel (Flight+ Tracking, Weather Channel), along with all the social media integration (Facebook, Twitter, etc).  In fact, about half of the GERD’s blog entries are started or finished on my iPad (thanks to WordPress) and I follow my daughter’s web comic on my iPad when I’m on the road.
Now Apple has taken the next step – data sharing run amok!  Starting with the iCloud (that giant data center in North Carolina), iPad and iOS users now enjoy data sharing among different platforms.  Contacts, notes, calendar events, even Reminders created on one platform (iPad) show up on all your other platforms (iPad and Macs).  The GERD does most of his blogging using the Notes application, starting on the Mac Mini, continuing on the iPad, reviewed on the iPhone, and eventually publishing from the Mac Mini again.  Since I’m working on from 6 to 10 blog subjects at any one time, this data sharing is a tremendous advantage.
iOS 6 will continue and accelerate this trend.  Yes, Apple has updated many of the core features including Mail, Safari, and even Siri.  But Apple has also ramped up data sharing with the unification of your phone number and Apple ID – meaning that any iMessage sent from any iOS device can be seen on any other iOS device;  FaceTime calls will follow suit.  I must admit that the inability to see iMessages sent to my phone on my iPad has been disappointing.
Others are attempting to follow Apple – Amazon and Google were among the first with cloud storage and web-based media stores.  Dropbox and SugerSync offer terrific cloud storage for data sharing.  However, Apple combines the best in breed; superb media content, apps, cloud storage, combined with unmatched hardware to run it all on.  When iOS 6 hits the streets this fall, it will all get better.  Perhaps one day we will wonder whatever happened to the windows-based laptop…
Next Time: Why I 8’nt upgrading

Why the GERD didn’t buy the new iPad

If you’ve been reading about the GERD you know the saddest he ever gets is when he walks out of Best Buy without buying anything.  So when the new iPad (aka the iPad 3) went on sale it was a forgone conclusion in GERD-dom that a shiny new Retina Display would adorn his desk in no time flat.  Except that it didn’t – the GERD didn’t buy the new iPad.  Why not?

The day the first iPad came out, I took off from work to be home when the delivery man (actually it was a very nice lady) placed that prized pad in my eager hands.  When the second one came out, I stood in line outside Best Buy for over an hour…blah, blah, blah.  You get where I’m going, I really like the thing.  So when news of the new iPad came out, I eagerly scooped up the details in anticipation of owning one.  That beautiful Retina display, the faster processor, the better camera…

So why didn’t I buy the new iPad?  It was not the money, I could have traded in the iPad 2, taken a second job, or sold most of my blood to get one (I’ve done it before).  It wasn’t the lack of improvements; the retina display is truly groundbreaking in a tablet (or even a laptop).  It wasn’t any one thing I could put my finger on, it was just that the iPad I had was enough for me.  Yes friends, the old GERD, who tries to buy every new thing out there, was satisfied.

So, what am I saying?  If you have never owned an iPad, then by all means get the new iPad – and I envy the experience in store for you.  If you have the original iPad and are looking to upgrade, get the new iPad – you will be blown away by it.  But if you have the iPad 2, think long and hard about an upgrade. As good as the Retina display is, the iPad 2 also has an excellent display.  If you are as happy with your iPad 2 as I am, the need to upgrade is not very great.  This may be a case of Apple making something so good (iPad 2), that following it up is very difficult.  Having said that, however, I will be paying close attention to any rumored specifications of the NEXT iPad!

Next Time: Why iOS 6 will revolutionize computing

Apple or Android – I’ve used both

The GERD loves a good discussion amongst those who disagree (read: argument), as long as it’s done with respect to all involved (that leaves out Politics!).  Few subjects inspire such a heated discussion as Apple versus Android.  “I have an iPhone, I have a Droid“, how about having a cool drink and sitting in the shade for a moment!

For the purpose of simplicity, let’s limit this discussion to media devices and phones. Having used the iPhone, the HTC EVO, iPads, and Ice Cream Sandwich-equipped tablets, allow me to say something very pithy, very wise, very GERD-like.  What’s the big deal? (sounds very Jeffersonian, doesn’t it?)  As is almost always the case, it comes down to what YOU like best.  Apple is a very mature system.  For phones and tablets the operating system (iOS 5, soon to be iOS 6) works very well.  Apple’s innovative App Store is a terrific place to find tested and approved applications that are low cost and, in most cases, very useful.  Updating the operating system is effortless, as is updating the apps.  iTunes is great – music and movies and TV shows (oh my!).  Apple set the standard that everyone else is trying to copy (sorry Samsung, didn’t mean to use the word “copy“).

I’ve used Apple products, iPods mostly, since 2003.  In the last few years I’ve graduated to iPads, iPhones, and my Apple Mini (a superb mid-level computer).  I like Apple products – some may call me a “fanboy” (term used to describe “a passionate advocate and promoter for Apple operating systems and hardware”), but I like things that work.

But wait, I also used the HTC EVO for 2 years, and liked it!  I have and use the Asus EEE Pad TF-101 (I love the optional docking keyboard – I wish Apple made one for the iPad).  I have a Samsung Galaxy Player (the big 5″ one), and it’s a great media device.

While Apple may be compared to a buttoned-down solid-colored shirt that looks great with a striped tie, Android is that comfortable pull over that looks really cool with jeans and an old pair of sneakers.  You have to work a little harder with Android devices – updating is not easy.  The Google Play Store has matured in look and content.  However, you can find, shall we say, suspicious-looking apps (“Pocket Girlfriend”? Really?).  If that’s what you want, oh well.

Bottom line: For media players and phones, the inexperienced user should stick with the Apple iPhone and iPods.  They are easier to use, update, and understand.  A drawback is that any song purchased on iTunes is in a protected format (AAC) that only works on Apple devices.  You can convert them to MP3 format, but not easily.  However, if you stick with those Apple devices, you’ll have no worries.  If you are more experienced, or more adventurous, you can be very happy with an Android phone and/or media device.  As I have already said, it comes down to what YOU like best.  After all, we still live in a semi-free country!

ImageNext Time: Why didn’t the GERD get the New iPad?

My Favorite Bluetooth Headsets

I love Bluetooth headsets!  There is just something so comfortable about listening to good music (thanks Pandora), a ballgame (thanks MLB.com) or a good audio book (OK, thanks Audible.com) without the annoyance of a cord that is too short, too long, or just too much in my way!  One look at the old GERD’s desk will prove that I have many Bluetooth headsets – I use them all (more or less), and I have discovered what I like the most and the least about them.  If you are considering buying a Bluetooth Headset you must consider three things.

(1) Mono or Stereo, (2) Ease of Use, and (3) Cost

(1) Mono or Stereo: Mono headsets, designed almost exclusively for use during cell phone calls, can also be used to listen to music.  There are advantages to using a mono headset; you can use them at home or the office and still be aware of what’s going on around you; it’s legal to use them while driving (just please be careful); you can use them while shopping or standing in line at the bank (I love to listen to a baseball game or an audio book while shopping).  The sound quality of these mono headsets have improved dramatically over the years.

(2) Ease of Use: The GERD is a patient man, but he has been known to fling an uncooperative piece of technology in the trash.  I want my toys to work without taking courses from the Home Office.  Also, recharging the headset should be easy – specialized adapters are fine until you lose them (trust me, I have).  Give me a standard Mini or Micro USB plug in my Bluetooth headset any day!

(3) Cost: Despite what my daughters may think, the GERD is not a wealthy man (having two daughters is a major contributing factor).  I don’t want to have to get a loan to buy a Bluetooth headset.  However, you do usually get what you pay for, so expect to plunk down at least $50 for a good product.

Recommendations: As I said before, I have many different Bluetooth headsets.  Not everyone can win the Gold, so here are my personal favorites, both mono and stereo.

Best Mono Bluetooth Headset: The Motorola Elite Silver.  This headset has superb sound quality for both music and phone calls, it’s easy to use, light as a feather, and won’t kill your wallet.  At $129 (Best Buy, $89 at Amazon) it’s not cheap, but the results are worth it.  The Elite Silver fits over your ear and has a rotating ear bud that allows you to get just the right fit.  Unlike an ear bud, it won’t fall out during use, but I wouldn’t use it while exercising (the book says to keep it away from moisture).  It comes with an innovative recharging case that has it’s own battery.  I know, I said not to use a specialized power adapter, but the recharging case is small enough to fit in your pocket and uses a micro USB connector.  Take it out of the case and rotate the ear bud (left or right, depending on which ear you want to use) to turn it on.  Once synced to your phone/tablet/iPod, it reconnects better than any other Bluetooth device I’ve used (actually, it’s a tie with the Best Stereo Headset, read on!).  It gives you an audible confirmation of the connection and the battery status.  If I didn’t already have one, I’d buy one!  The Elite Silver is a superb product that I use everyday.

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Best Stereo Headset: The Rocketfish High-Definition (RF-MAB2).  Excellent sound, comfortable to wear, great battery life, and a steal at just $59.99.  This over the ear/behind the head design uses a mini USB connector to recharge and the battery life is rated at 14 hours by Rocketfish; I’d like to challenge that but I’ve never had the darn thing run out of life (I tend to recharge often, your experience may vary!).  Good for music and cell phone calls, I get the most out of mine while running on the treadmill.  I hate worrying about battery life while I’m worrying about a heart attack!  Volume and Forwards/Backwards buttons along with the Power/Pause/Call answer button that are very easy to locate and use, even while slogging along on the treadmill.   My Rocketfish has never let me down. Once synced, it reconnects to my iPhone/iPad everytime.

Honorable Mention: The Plantronics Back Beat.  Good sound, decent battery life (~3 hours); it uses ear buds that seems to fit well and in-line sound and pause controls that can be difficult to locate during use.  The Back Beat is light, unlike some others I’ve tried, and less likely to shift around during wear.  I’ve used them while running; take my advice – don’t.  The ear buds need constant attention (falling out).  I found it very distracting.  I always find reconnecting to my devices harder than it needs to be.  A little pricy at $99, but if you like ear buds, this will work for you.

Jaybird Freedom: Good ear bud headset for around $99.  The cord goes behind your head (or in front if you want – why would you?) and tends to lie against your neck.  This can be a bit uncomfortable.  The volume controls are on the right ear bud with the power switch/pause/call button.  The Jaybird uses a special power adapter.  Lose it (I did!) and you’re sunk.  It has decent battery life.  In my experience, the ear buds tend to slip out (maybe it’s just my ears, there are several bud types in the package).  If you use just one ear, the other ear bud pulls the cord down, pulls the other ear bud out, then you get mad, you start to frown, and everyone thinks you are a bad person!

Next Time: Apple or Android; I’ve Used Both.

Just what exactly is a “GERD”?

I have a terrific wife and two terrific daughters.  My daughters are pretty tech savvy, but I am the undisputed Tech consumer of the family.  In fact, it’s kind of an obsession with me.  Don’t ask how many iPods I have, or tablets, or Bluetooth headsets…you get the idea.  My daughters love it when I get a new gadget, because they know they are likely to get the one I replaced (can you say 4 iPads in this family?).

So on one sunny day, I’m sitting at my desk, surrounded by my loyal gadget minions.  I had several iPods, tablets, laptops, and who knows what else laying around as I surveyed what I wanted to play with next.  My oldest daughter happened by and paused to observe this buffet of technological buffoonery.   She looked at me, as only she can, and said “What are you doing?”  “Being a geek!”, I said.  She responded, “you are far more than a geek; far more than a nerd, you are a GERD!”  I was impressed (I frequently am by both of my daughters); so I relish the title of GERD.

Next Time: My Favorite Bluetooth Headsets

A blogging I will go…

As I stand looking over the abyss known as blogdom, I will admit to a certain amount of apprehension. Who am I to discuss any topic, much less computers, gadgets, and other sundry geeky-ness to the assembled masses? With so many others doing the same? The answer is simple; why not? So as I type (poorly, thanks autocorrect!) on my iPad, let us begin this journey together. You may learn more about me (sorry about that), and I hope to learn more about those who may perchance stop by for a digital visit.

Next time: Just what exactly is a “GERD”?