BACK IT ALL UP!

I was just reminded of something. I go long periods and don’t think about it, but I shouldn’t, and neither should you. By “you” I mean absolutely everyone. Whatever you do — write, take pictures, or whatever — if you do it on a computer, back it up. I learned the hard way.

ILOVEYOU (aka Love Letter), was a computer worm that attacked tens of millions of PCs on and shortly after May 5, 2000. It showed up as an email message with the subject “ILOVEYOU” and an attachment: “LOVE-LETTER-FOR-YOU.txt.vbs”. The  ‘VBS’ file extension was typically hidden by default on PCs back then. It wasn’t on my computer, but I worked on a development team on my computer at home — an early telecommuter — so it wasn’t unusual for me to get files full of code as part of my job.

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It took a mere few seconds to destroy every single jpeg on my computer. That represented all of the photographs I had ever taken that I was storing on my hard drive, more than a decade of family and artistic pictures. It only took a few hours for a fix to be created and distributed, but it was too late for me.

I had been backing up to CDs, but I hadn’t backed up my photos, only financial records and my writing because that was work-related.

I lost hundreds, maybe thousands, of photographs.

External hard drives existed, but they were uncommon and expensive — very expensive. Now, there’s no excuse. You can get a huge external hard drive for short money. I back up intermittently to my two external drives, but a make sure to move files between my laptop and my big desktop everyday, and I save things online too

Eventually, I have 3 or 4 copies of everything, not counting whatever I store online. I don’t feel it’s too much. You can’t have too many backups of things that are important.

Even if it doesn’t seem very important. it can suddenly become very important if you have lost it forever and can never replace it. Back everything up. If it’s important enough to save it on your hard drive, it’s important enough to back up.

You can, for example, get a 3 TB external Seagate drive from Amazon for $139 including shipping. One and two terabyte drives are less expensive. If you don’t like that, there are ample choices for every budget. Don’t make excuses. One day, something bad will happen. A hard drive dies on you. It happens. It has happened to me twice. The first time, it was a secondary hard drive and I got enough warning to get my stuff off the drive. The second time, a message in a black  message box — I’ve never seen one like that before or since — appeared on my screen saying that there was a problem with my hard drive, back up now. By the time I finished reading the message, everything was gone.

But that time, everything was backed up. It was an inconvenience, not a catastrophe. I had learned my lesson.

You don’t have to learn the hard way. Back it up. All of it.

THROWING THE WORLD AWAY

It’s not about Windows: The repairable PC is dead

… Amazon, who launched their Workspaces offering yesterday, which provides a remote Windows environment that allows you to run all of your business-critical and personal applications in EC2.

Amazon is certainly not the first service provider to do this, but its endorsement of the technology speaks volumes about where we as an industry are going.

You don’t need an expandable, serviceable PC to get to that desktop and the applications that are hosted there. Indeed, Windows still serves a very key role in that scenario, but within the datacenter and public clouds. —  From ZDNet, November 15, 2013

The computer industry has declared me — and everyone like me — obsolete. Irrelevant. We can’t afford subscriptions to “keep us up to date.” Worse, keeping up to date isn’t a major issue in our lives. I don’t mind running a version or two behind as long as the tools I’ve got get the job done. I can go years without repurchasing my software. I guess they don’t make enough money selling new releases to folks like us. Yeah, that’s probably it.

dell14ZIf you — like me — are one of the millions of computer users who live on fixed incomes or are just plain poor , you’re barely able to keep a roof over your head and food on the table. You are NOT subscribing. To anything.

A couple of days ago, I got my “You’ve Been Hacked!” letter from Adobe. This has affected (depending on who you believe) between 38 and 150 million people. All of us have had our personal information stolen and quite probably sold to hackers. Doesn’t anyone but me find this alarming? Where’s the outrage, the demand for better security? I am less than ever interested in storing anything I care about anywhere except on a drive I own and have at home.

Yes, I know the house could burn to the ground and all my backups would be lost. If that, God forbid, should happen I will be otherwise occupied trying to put my life back together. Worrying about lost data is not going to be my primary issue. I’m not a business, you see. I’m a person. (What’s a person, daddy? Is it a new kind of corporation?)

When my PCs stop working, which they don’t do more than once in a deeply cyanotic moon, I call the Guy Who 75-WorkingNIK-CR-87Fixes PCs. He comes to the house.  Replaces the broken bits. Cleans out the virus that bypassed the safeguards and generally tunes it up. I give him a hundred bucks, he gives me a card with his number on it so if the problems come back, he will return and fix’em.

Am I the only one who is in no position to just dump equipment and replace it? No way could I afford that. I’m still in debt for the stuff I have. Moreover, I deplore the throwaway society we are building and the mindset that comes with it.

Disposability it not good. It’s not an improvement. It’s destroying our environment. Polluting landfills. Making an already profligate society more thoughtless and wasteful. It’s the definition of where and how we’ve gone wrong.

Does no one in the computer industry look at business in a wider social context? Realize what a dangerous path we are treading? If one thing is going to doom our world, throwing stuff away rather than fixing it will be our route to damnation.

There was a time when Garry and I were working a ridiculous number of hours and started using paper plates. To avoid washing dishes. After doing this for a while, one day, I found myself washing the paper plates. I couldn’t bear the idea of throwing them out. It seemed wrong. Wasteful. That was when I rediscovered the concept of reusability. I had actual dishes in the cupboard. I could use them, wash them — and use them again! Epiphany!

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We are turning into a world of paper plate users. Everything, from your car to your computer, to your kitchen appliances. It’s all junk. When it stops running, dump it. Don’t even think about fixing it. Change your cell phone every six months. Toss the old one. Somewhere on this planet, there is a giant, bottomless hole into which the garbage goes and it will never fill up, right? If you keep believing that, maybe the house brownies will come and clean for you while you sleep.

I’m not expecting answers. I’ll be dead before anyone looks around and says “Whoa … this isn’t so good. What about building things we can repair. You know. Reuse.”

 

Gadget saturation.

Pointy shoes hurt

When I was a young woman, I refused to wear pointy shoes. They hurt my feet. It took some hunting, but I found round-toed shoes. I wore comfortable sandals, even having them made for my feet — simple, flat and strappy. I owned boots with square toes made in England or Australia. I would not wear shoes that caused me pain.

I still won’t wear clothing I don’t like or is uncomfortable. I didn’t care about fashion when I was 20 and I care less today.

I am equally resistant to gadget fads. I’m geeky enough to understand the latest gizmos and old enough (and poor enough) to think long and hard if it would be useful enough to be worth the cost. What I buy, especially tech stuff, is driven by what I need rather than what’s new, trendy or sexy.  I don’t have an MP3 player because I don’t need one and I hate earphones. When I’m not near a computer, I use my Kindle.

Being unfashionable has advantages. It saves money. If you don’t need the latest thing, you need not replace your wardrobe when what was “In” goes “Out.” I have a pea coat  made for the U.S. Navy as warm and attractive as it was 35 years ago.

My computers were bought with an eye toward running everything I have now plus anything I might need in the near future. I bought computers with as much memory as I could get. I got the highest resolution monitors available. I bought fast hard drives and big external drives as back ups. I got the best video cards the machines would support, Blue-ray reader/writers, and sound cards to support any system I want to hook up.

If we aren’t hit by a tornado, tsunami, or earthquake, as far as computers go, I’m set for a while, a few years at least. And most everything is upgradeable.

“The sky is falling,” cried Chicken Little. “PC sales have flattened out!”

I’m surrounded by desktop and laptop computers that run smoothly and on which everyone depends. Meanwhile, ZDNet is predicting the end of the PC.  This deduction is worthy of Chicken Little or maybe, Turkey Lurky. Computer sales having flattened out while mobile device sales remain brisk from which the author concluded everyone will do everything on mobile devices. We no longer need hard drives or embedded applications. We can pick up apps from the app store and everything we need can be accomplished … on the telephone? iPad? Chromebook? Android tablet? Having made an earlier and even more baseless pronouncement that we don’t need dedicated GPS’s because you can use your telephone or iPad, I should not be surprised, but stupidity always surprises me. For some reason, I expect better of my peers.

Others have said we don’t need cameras. If you are a photographer, you’ve probably bumped into these people on forums. They don’t understand the difference between photography and snapshots. “We can take pictures just as good on our phones,” they shout. Shall I take their advice? I will just throw away my cameras, lenses, filters …everything. I mean, Hell, I have a telephone. What more do I need?

They have declared anything I use for work or art obsolete. However, before I start editing a 16 X 20 photograph on my telephone, there are a few issues to work out.

Who are these pundits?

In what world do these predictors live? Do they work? As in, for a living? Are any of them musicians, authors, or photographers? Book designers, engineers, developers? Accountants, financial advisors? Movie makers? Are they aware that most professionals rely heavily on powerful installed applications, like Photoshop, Acrobat, Framemaker and CAD?

Or are they kids who think playing games on their iPhone is the ultimate technological achievement?

People aren’t buying PCs because they have computers … and they don’t like Windows 8. I don’t like Windows 8. I want to like it. I just can’t.

Sooner or later, everyone has enough and they don’t need another, especially if buying a new one means having to relearn everything they already know.  Microsoft made a huge miscalculation when they banked on touchscreens as “the next big thing.” Hubris is dangerous, whether you’re a Greek demigod or a corporation. I think until they back off, Microsoft is in very troubled waters.

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You aren’t going to see a buying surge for microwave ovens or refrigerators either. People usually replace what they have when it no longer does the job. The market for expensive new toys is not limitless. One day, everyone will stop replacing their almost new cell phones with the next generation that has a new bell or whistle. Everyone who wants a tablet will have one, two or three of them.

Right now, almost everyone who wants a PC has one. Most have several. In this household, with 5 computer-using adults, we have 12 laptops, desktops and tablets. None is obsolete. Plus a couple that are in working condition but no one uses.

Like other families, we tight for money. Bad economy. We buy things, but only when something else breaks or becomes too old to do the job. We can’t afford mistakes.

A few years ago, we ran out of space for books. I bought Kindles for my husband, son, and me. Later, I got a Kindle HD Fire that plays audiobooks, music, videos, collects email and can be hooked up with Facebook and Twitter. It’s my compact media center and it didn’t break the bank. it’s not a full service computer, but I knew that before I bought it. I’m addicted to audiobooks. Since I no longer commute, listening has tied me to the computer in my office. The Kindle has freed me to roam.

But I still wanted a lightweight compact computer. My netbook was supposed to fill this niche, and it tried. Like “The Little Engine That Could” it mumbled “I know I can, I know I can.” The Kindle will do many of the things I did on my Netbook — which moved down the line to my daughter-in-law — but the Kindle isn’t a computer. It is what it is, so I got an Ultrabook. I also have an iPhone but don’t use it even for phone calls. I hate it, actually. I have yet to figure out what people find so great about it.

I took a long, hard look at Chromebooks, but lacking a hard drive, its limitations exceed its value.

Lies and suppositions

Not long ago, an equally ill-informed ZDNet author announced the death of dedicated devices, in particular, the GPS. The author (I use that word advisedly) surmised that since we all own tablets and smartphones and will use them for navigation. The idea of using iPads, iPods, or smartphones for navigation attaching a 10-inch or 7-inch iPad to my windshield is hilarious. Having tried my phone as a GPS, no thanks. I can barely understand what someone is saying on a phone call. As a GPS, it’s useless. I wouldn’t be able to read the map or hear directions. Just because a device has a technical capability doesn’t mean it really does the job.

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These same pundits have repeatedly announced the death of personal computers and the replacement of standard application with mobile apps. They y think free apps will replace everything. Really? Or do they believe that we are all going to sign up for expensive monthly subscriptions? I’m not. Are you? I can barely afford my current overhead: I’m not going to up the ante.

We don’t need no stinkin’ facts! 

Instead of professionals producing thoughtful articles about technology, we have a bunch of stooges for big corporations. They are not working for their readers. They are trying to sell us on whatever their sponsors want them to push. The articles are nothing more than slightly reworded corporate PR releases. I would say they are badly researched, but I no research is more accurate. How do I know? Because I used to be a tech editor. I got those releases too.

They got a PR packet, picked some information out of it, did a little tweaking, and voilà, that’s the article. If I’m going to just take the manufacturer’s word for it, I don’t need them.

I assume whoever wrote the last article saying we are all going to do everything on mobile devices has never tried to do anything working people need to do. He certainly never tried to do it on one of the devices he was touting. He probably thinks his telephone is a fine precision camera and he is welcome to his opinion so as long as he doesn’t ask me look at his pictures.

Anything that can do everything doesn’t do anything well.

In the realm of small dedicated devices, from cameras and MP3 players, to telephones, DVD players and book readers, dedicated devices perform far better than equivalent “add ons” to general purpose devices. A modern computers is not a dedicated device: it’s a platform with power to drive a lot of different things, rather like a big empty room. It does many things, but it won’t do everything well. You can use it as a TV, but sitting in your living room, feet up on the recliner and watching a movie on your big-screen TV is a more satisfying experience.

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You can use a computer as a GPS, but a small dashboard or window-mounted unit works much better. Nothing takes pictures like a good camera. Nothing reproduces music better than a sound system with quality speakers. Book readers are great for reading books and if you want to make music, learn to play an instrument.

I don’t want to read on my computer or take pictures on my phone. I am a photographer and I use a camera. If you are positive your iPad is just as good as a camera, if you believe your cell phone or android tablet is good enough to fill your picture-taking needs, you’re probably right. Don’t show me your pictures. Please.

I own cameras. I edit in Photoshop. I write books. I design books and I use Framemaker, the world’s most anti-intuitive software, but also the only software that does the job. In the ZDNet fantasy world, we are going to do everything on our telephones or tablets. Where do I fit into this portable society?

The answer is simple: I don’t. Maybe you won’t, either. Many of us have been declared obsolete.

“There’s an app for that!”

No, there isn’t. There is no app by anyone anywhere that can come anywhere near any version of Photoshop. There is no application other than Framemaker that will create indexes across chapters. For creating PDF books for reading online, you need Acrobat. What? You don’t need to do any of that?

I do. So do others. Spread sheets and other office applications need screen real estate. Before you declare the PC obsolete, you might want to try really working on a tiny devices you want to sell me. You’ll be shocked to discover a spread sheet is invisible on a telephone. You might be able to create a small one on a tablet, but if you are a serious number cruncher, you aren’t going to do it on an iPad or any other tablet. You may use a tablet to display the final result, but you won’t use it to do the work. If you are editing pictures, you’re not going to use a little screen on a pod, tablet, or telephone. You want a big high-def monitor.

Some people take their jobs and art seriously. They want real tools. If you think games are the height of technological achievement, get a job.

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How come people are still buying small mobile devices but not computers? Aw, c’mon. You know why. They don’t need another computer. If they do, they are hoping Microsoft will come to its senses and give us a real operating system before they have to decide what to buy.

Meanwhile, technology for telephones is changing fast too. Telephones are subject to more abuse than other devices. They get rained on, dropped, and sat on. Crumbs and coffee make the keys sticky. Touchscreens become unresponsive. But, people will not always buy a new phone twice a year. They’ll demand sturdier phones that are waterproof, dust-proof and shock-proof.

Eventually, everyone will have enough telephones, tablets, and other gadgets. No doubt there will be new gadgets, but if they want us to buy, they’ll have to come up with new needs. Otherwise, they will create sexy, cute and trendy gadgets and manufacturers will expect a rush to buy them but no one will care. They will be gadgeted out.

Computer sales will stay modest until the expensive high-powered laptops and desktops we recently bought break down or are obsolete. Are personal computers going the way of dinosaurs? Mine aren’t.

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No amount of salesmanship will convince me to buy stuff I don’t need or like.

I like gadgets. I like cool devices. If someone gives me a toy, I will play with it but I’m not going to spend a lot of money to get it. Free is my price on anything I don’t need.

It would also be great if magazines and journals that supposedly provide information to the trades would really do it. I resent them trying to sell me stuff. The only reason I read trades is for impartial information on technology. I can no longer trust what they say so, so other than finding out what’s new on the market, they are useless. They might at least test the products before they tell me how great they are.

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Geeks Speak, Consumers Say No

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So I’m sitting here reading a ZDNet article: Microsoft’s Windows 8 approach: Bold, arrogant, or both?

The argument is irrelevant.

Is Microsoft’s approach, which involves trying to force feed Windows 8 to unwilling users, bold? Arrogant? Stupid? Who cares? How about all three? What is over-the-top stupid — not to mention self-destructive — is trying to stuff an operating system down users’ throats when they obviously do not want it.

I bought a PC for my husband last night to replace his 6-year-old desktop. I ended up buying almost exactly the same computer, but with much more memory, hard drive space, graphics support … more of everything and blazingly fast, too. Ironically, it also cost less than the old desktop. Prices have come down a good deal in the past 6 years, at least for desktop computers.

Did I order a Windows 8 machine? No, I bought a Windows 7 machine because he would be lost in Windows 8 and so would I. He is not computer savvy and does not give a hoot about what’s under the hood of the OS nor does he care to learn. But he does need a computer with an up-to-date version of Word, PowerPoint and Outlook. He needs to be able to get on and off the Internet, receive and send mail, create documents, keep a calendar, and exchange files. He hates finger painting and will never use a tablet, prefers the comfort of his desk, the big flat screen monitor and full size keyboard.

If I’m going to be honest about it, so do I.  Laptops are fine, but some of us spend a lot of hours at the computer and we type faster and more accurately on a standard keyboard. I love my big bright HD monitor and for editing photographs, the laptop is never going to be first choice, even though it has the same software as my desktop. It simply means that my husband and I are probably always going to have both a desktop and a laptop and they will serve different purposes in our lives. That ought to be a plus for business since we end up keeping 4 computers for two of us (not counting Kindles and other small devices).

It ought to be easy to get an operating system with which we feel comfortable and familiar. We should not be forced to use something a corporation deems better. What in the world is wrong with supporting both Windows 7 and 8? It would hardly be the first time Microsoft has supported multiple operating systems. They supported NT and Windows for years and still support various versions of every operating system including Windows 8.

But Microsoft is bound and determined to do it their way, no matter what it costs. We are going to march to their drum beat. Or else. Or else we give up and buy a Mac? Switch to Linux? Wait a while until something else that will support our familiar applications comes onto the market? Are the marketing wonks at Microsoft so out of touch they believe they can force me to buy something I don’t want? What in the world makes them think that? As a side note, I should point out that what people do not like about Windows 8 is not how it works or anything complicated. They don’t like the user interface. I think it’s ugly, in addition to taking away familiar functionality with which I am comfortable. If they just made Windows 8 look and feel like Windows 7, it would sell. And yes, they could do it. They just don’t want to.

I don’t want to buy what they are marketing. Who will win? I think I will, or maybe, we will all lose. Because in this fragile economy, losing a few big players like Microsoft, Dell and other Microsoft dependent corporations would probably be that final nail in our economic coffin.

Meanwhile, collectively and individually, we aren’t marching to Microsoft’s drummer. We aren’t buying their act or their operating system. PC sales are falling through the floor. Microsoft stubbornly insists everyone will do it their way while we dig in our heels and say “Hell no!” They obviously don’t get it. They think it’s about technology, but it’s really about choice. It’s about comfort. It’s about freedom.

I’d have bought a different computer for Garry, but I refused to buy Win8. I don’t want it. Neither do most of the people I know. We are called consumers and it doesn’t matter how great Microsoft thinks their new OS is. They may even be right and it still doesn’t matter. If we don’t buy it, they are screwed. And so, in the long run, are we. They are being incredibly short-sighted, which I think is a special kind of stupid. How many computer companies have disappeared because they wouldn’t bow to the market?

Remember Digital Equipment Corporation? DEC was Massachusetts’ biggest employer and it is gone, baby, gone. By the time they finally realized that being better wasn’t selling their products, it was too late. Down in flames they went.

When I was a child and my mother tried to make me eat food she believed was good for me and which I did not want to eat, I clamped my jaws shut and refused. It didn’t matter how long I was forced to sit at the table. I would not eat it if I didn’t want it. No amount of coercion, coaxing, or arguments changed anything. I said no, I meant no. If my mommy couldn’t force me to eat the mashed potatoes, why does Microsoft think it can make me buy Windows 8? And what in the world makes them think they have the right to try?

It’s not about technology, oh ye geeks.

IT’S ABOUT CUSTOMERS AND WHAT THEY WANT!

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Everyday goodies that make a difference …

I write a lot about computers and computer-related equipment. I also write a good deal about photography and photographic equipment. Strangely missing from my writing are the many “low tech” items on which I depend and many of which are so integral to my life that I don’t know how I would manage without them. Most of these were reviewed on Amazon, which for a variety of reasons, is my shopping site of choice. Most of these items are available elsewhere, but not around here.

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Copco 2510-9963 Acadia Reusable To-Go Mug, 16 Ounce Capacity
Price: $7.99

Copco 2510-9963 Acadia Reusable To-Go Mug, 16-Ounce Capacity (Kitchen)

Copco 2510-9963 Acadia Reusable To-Go Mug, 16-Ounce CapacityEver since Dunkin Donuts “improved” their cups, I have been looking for travel cups with a screw top that are big enough (16 oz.), will fit in my car’s cup holders, and will help me not spill my coffee into my computer keyboard. I have very specific preferences in lidded cups. I hate handles and the pressure fitted lids that explode all over the place when you open them.

I was actually searching for a new coffee machines — not finding what I wanted — and there were these cups. I read other reviews, then ordered 4 of them.

I don’t know how I lived without them. They are solid and the screw tops have a rubber gasket inside the lid that, assuming you get the lid on straight, keeps the coffee in the cup and off your clothing and equipment. It also keeps your coffee warm much longer than most of these cups.  They required just a quarter turn to open or close and you don’t have to jiggle it around to get it to fit on straight. They don’t have handles to get in the way and they fit comfortably into auto cup holders. They are not bad-looking, either. AND they were very reasonably priced.

Well designed, right-sized, and a great price! I haven’t drowned a keyboard since I got these about a year ago. That’s a record.


Logitech Wireless Mouse M310 Dark Aces (910-002087)
Offered by LLYtech
Price: $14.71

Logitech Wireless Mouse M310 Dark Aces (910-002087)Logitech Wireless Mouse M310 Dark Aces (910-002087) (Personal Computers)

I have a lot of computers in my home, 8 or 9 at last count. I have 4 of these mouses (don’t argue; mice are fuzzy and squeak, mouses are electronic and point). One lost a foot after heavy use and has become a back up  … but it still works. These never die from use. If you drop them often enough, they might break, although I can’t count the number of times I’ve dropped mine and it doesn’t seem to mind … but wear out? Not in my experience.

I’ve had many mouses from many manufacturers and my favorites have all been from Logitech. Of the many Logitech mouses — and they certainly make a wide variety from ultra high-tech to basic and compact — this model is my favorite, not only mine, but everyone in the house. It’s a good size for any hand, large or small. It’s comfortable, accurate, and it doesn’t have any bells or whistles which for me is a big plus. The transmitter is tiny; you can leave it in your laptop. It won’t get in the way when you pack the computer in its case, even if it’s a tightly fitting case. Its one of the ones that theoretically you can use to operate multiple devices, but I’ve never succeeded to making it perform properly and inevitably wind up using a receiver for each device. It works without special software. It has what you need, no extra doodads, wheels, or buttons to annoy me. I have had fancier mouses and hated them. I always return to this model.

It comes in more colors and designs than I can count and at least one of them is always on sale. If you aren’t picky about the color, you can find what you one  at a price you can afford. If you’re picky, you can pay more and get something that will match your computer, your decor, or your shoes. This one tickled my fancy. It’s a bit girly, but I’m a girl. I gave my husband the solid red one, which was okay with him and took this one, which he felt was a tad feminine for his taste. My granddaughter has a blue striped one. My son has a grey one with some sort of design. Other than the color on the casing, they are exactly the same and work precisely the way you want a mouse to work.

I love Logitech products. I have Logitech keyboards, mouses, speakers, and other accessories. They are well made, reasonably priced, and last forever. You can’t ask for more.


Lodge Logic L8DOL3 Pre-Seasoned 5-Quart Dutch Oven with Loop Handles
Price: $29.99

Lodge Logic L8DOL3 Pre-Seasoned 5-Quart Dutch Oven with Loop Handles

Lodge Logic L8DOL3 Pre-Seasoned 5-Quart Dutch Oven with Loop Handles (Kitchen)

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Stuck as I am with an electric range, the Lodge series of cast iron solve so many problems. Their flat bottoms work fine on my smooth top stove. I’m sure it would work just as well on a gas range. Great cookware.

You can keep a pot of chili or pasta sauce simmering without scorching for hours … and there is nothing easier to maintain than cast iron. Treated with even minimal care, these will last forever and are as non-stick as Teflon without the side effects.

It’s easier to clean than even the best stainless steel, better quality and a more durable almost anything … certainly more so than fancy and much more expensive brands.  I’ve owned all kinds of cookware over the past 40 years and finally, came back to where I started: nothing is better than cast iron and Lodge makes excellent cookware in all the right shapes and sizes. Whatever you need, they make it and you can probably afford it. It doesn’t get better than this.

If there is a fault, it is that it is very heavy. This pot, when full, weighs a lot. NOT something to pick up with one hand!

That being said, I have a whole set of this cookware and I love and use every single piece of it. It’s the best.


Lodge LCC3 Logic Pre-Seasoned Combo Cooker
Price: $29.99
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Lodge LCC3 Logic Pre-Seasoned Combo CookerLodge LCC3 Logic Pre-Seasoned Combo Cooker (Kitchen)

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Talk about useful, this is as close to a pot that will do everything as any pot possibly could. Chili pot, frying pan, dutch over, stew pot … that and more. If it has a flaw, it is the problem with all good cast iron … it is heavy. This is a very substantial piece of cast iron and when it is full, even heavier (obviously). It can be difficult for someone with weak wrists to lift. That being said, its advantages hugely outweigh any problems. It heats evenly and keeps an even temperature. It works very well on my flat-topped electric range because it has a flat, smooth bottom. No small thing if you are stuck with using an electric stove. I should think it would work even better on a gas range.

It holds enough to feed a family, if not a crowd. It is the perfect pot for a couple and is my go-to pot for just about everything. Season it properly, treat it as cast iron requires and you will have a lifetime of use from it. Best pot I’ve ever owned and that includes some absurdly expensive pieces from big name manufacturers. The frying pan top is relatively shallow and you can use it as you would a griddle. Great for eggs … or pancakes. Or anything else, actually. I recommend this without reservation.


Dial AA and AAA Battery Storage Box
Offered by MMP Living
Price: $4.04

Dial AA Battery Storage BoxDial AA Battery Storage Box (Kitchen)

It’s exactly what it says it is … and just what I need.  After I made the big move to rechargeable AA and AAA batteries, figuring out what to do with them so they wouldn’t get lost became increasingly urgent. You’d think it would be no big deal to find a convenient and inexpensive box in which to store your charged batteries … but you would be wrong. Most of the boxes are fancy, expensive … overkill in the extreme.  Then, I found this and the problem went away. Light, small, closes securely.

Good rechargeable batteries are expensive, so you don’t want to lose them. You can pay a lot of money for something fancy that does the same thing, but this works, holds both AA and AAA. It’s the no frills solution.  Sturdy and worth the money.


OXO Good Grips Brushed Stainless Steel Utensil Holder
Price: $19.99

OXO Good Grips Brushed Stainless Steel Utensil Holder (Kitchen)
OXO Good Grips Brushed Stainless Steel Utensil Holder

I like to keep utensils within reach while I’m cooking. This means next to the stove on the counter top. I want to be able to grab things I use for daily cooking without searching. Many times, I’d just as soon not leave whatever is cooking, even for a couple of minutes, so having things within arm’s reach and visible matters.

I’ve used all kinds of containers to hold the spatulas, wooden spoons, and those myriad hand tools I use daily, but none of them enabled me to keep them in any kind of order so that I could grab what I wanted without dumping everything all over the place. This container is the best looking container I’ve found, but its design is also practical. It fit in a narrow space, yet it holds a lot of utensils and keeps them upright and separated. It contains everything I need and with room for more. I thought I was being self-indulgent when I bought it, but it has turned out to be a big improvement in “kitchen dynamics.” Easy to clean, too.


Eco To Go Cold Drink Tumbler – Double Wall 16 oz. Capacity – Smoke
Offered by California Tools
Price: $2.99

Eco To Go Cold Drink Tumbler - Double Wall -16oz. Capacity - SmokeEco To Go Cold Drink Tumbler – Double Wall 16 oz. Capacity – Smoke

I am always toting a drink around with me, usually fruit juice. It’s next to me when I travel, watch TV and most importantly, work at the computer. I am not the most graceful individual and have knocked over a lot of drinks over the years. I get particularly twitchy about having a glass of liquid next to the computer and have been looking for a cold drink cup with a good cover for years. This is IT. It’s big enough, solidly made, keeps stuff cold, is easy to clean and sturdy. It fits fine in my car’s cup holders too. And finally, with 3 dogs in the house, I spend a lot less time worrying about a wagging tail sending my drink flying! The screw on lid fits on easily and the rubber gasket forms a nice, tight seal. It is NOT dishwasher or microwave safe, but I don’t care about that. I have plenty of other glasses and cups that I can nuke. These are GREAT cups. The clumsy computer user’s best pal.


Case Logic JDS-6 USB Drive Shuttle 6-Capacity-Black
Price: $5.98

Case Logic JDS-6 USB Drive Shuttle 6-Capacity-BlackCase Logic JDS-6 USB Drive Shuttle 6-Capacity-Black (Personal Computers)


Always losing your flash drives? This may help. It’s got 6 slots, it zips shut, it’s a nice little case and gives you someplace to put them where you may actually find them again. Before I bought this case, I lost my flash drives almost as soon as I bought them. Since I got this simple little case, I can find my flash drives. Sounds like no big deal? Do  you now where your flash drives are? I do.

So many things, so little time … I’ll post more soon.

Why tablets can’t replace computers. And why they shouldn’t.

I keep reading articles telling me that tablets will replace laptops and desktops. Every time I read one of these articles, I want to reach through my 24-inch super high-definition monitor, grab the author by the throat and shake him or her until his/her eyes roll back in his/her head.

I don’t have anything against portable devices. I have a smart phone. I have a tablet. I have a netbook. I have a medium-size (but very powerful) laptop and a big desktop with a super monitor. Each of these devices has its own place in my world.

The difference between me and the people who write articles suggesting small portable devices — Smartphones, iPads, android tablets, or Chromebooks — are going to replace desktops and laptops is twofold. The reviewers don’t seem to do any real work and they think whatever is their favorite device should be what all of us use for everything.

Not only do they not do any work, they apparently don’t even have hobbies.

My life includes work.

Have any of these the people extolling mini devices as the total computer experience ever designed a book? Made a movie? Edited RAW? Converted a book to a PDF? Or for that matter, have they tried playing Castleville on a tablet? It’s close to impossible. If it doesn’t crash or refuse to run, you still can’t do it because the screen is too small.

Do you take pictures? If you are a snapshooter and your idea of serious photography are  pictures in which you can’t see who is who because they too dark and blurry, a tablet or smartphone may do the job. But even if you do nothing with your photos … not even cropping … I can’t figure out how you can even download pictures without a computer. How can you decide which ones you like? Even if I accept blurry, poorly framed snapshots as photographs … how can you see anything at all on a little tiny screen?

Virtual keyboards are good for virtual typing …

I just read an article explaining how you can type perfectly fine on the iPad’s virtual keypad. Having tried it on other peoples’ iPads, not to mention my own android-based table, no, you can’t. With two fingers, sort of …  but not if you are a touch typist and believe it or not, some of us are.

There are so many issues involved that I can’t even begin to list them all, so I’ll start with the most obvious ones.

You need memory and a hard drive to run embedded applications.

You can’t run Photoshop on a tablet. Any tablet. Or a Chromebook. Or even a Netbook. Or Smartphone. It’s not that it won’t run well; it won’t run at all. It has to be installed and without a hard drive, you can’t install it. Without memory, you can’t run it. If you use a real camera … something beyond a very basic point and shoot or, oh Lord spare me, a telephone … you can’t even download photographs, much less edit them. If you shoot RAW, you might not be able to fit as much as a single photograph on your device.

You can’t edit a 16 X 20 photograph on a 10 inch tablet, much less a telephone.

This is not a matter of opinion. It’s a hard and fast truth. Can’t do it. Can’t see enough of the pictures to know what you are doing. It does not matter whether we are talking about a Chromebook, an android tablet or an iPad. The operating system is irrelevant. The device is physically too small to do the job. Assuming it had a hard drive and sufficient memory (none of them do), you still could not do it. Physical limitations would prevent it. But, if you don’t care what your pictures look like and think anything showing, however fuzzy,  a member of your household is so adorable that blurriness, bad color and creepy backgrounds don’t matter, everything I say here will mean nothing to you. Enjoy your pictures. I beg of you, do not show them to me or worse yet, request my opinion.

Typing with 10 fingers requires a keyboard.

Virtual keyboards are perfect for tapping out a couple of lines in an email. After that, if you know how to type, you will become increasingly frustrated until you are ready to toss your high-priced device through the nearest window. “But wait!” you cry. “I’m in college and need to write papers. I’m a master’s student and I have to turn in a thesis. With footnotes and all that jazz.”

Sorry,  bud. You’ve got a big problem. You can’t do that on your tablet or telephone. I guess you’re just going to have to give up on higher education because you don’t have a computer. No? But didn’t you tell me that you don’t need a real computer, that they are obsolete?

Who needs footnotes? Engineering drawings? Spreadsheets? We don’t need no stinkin’ spreadsheets!

If you’re a budding young filmmaker, good luck trying to edit video on your tablet. Let me know how that works for you.

And about that thesis: footnotes and bibliographies, much less cross references? Really, no problem. Just explain to your advisor that you can’t include references and attributions because your tablet doesn’t support those functions. Surely they will understand. After all, computers are obsolete. Who needs attribution anyhow?

If you’re an architect or engineer? Return to your drawing table and start doing them by hand. I hope you still have those old-fashioned tools and remember how to use them, because you aren’t going to be doing them on your tablet. Need a spreadsheet? Not going to happen. Even if all you are trying to do is track your own household budget, you can’t do it on your tablet or telephone.

It’s a big world with room for many operating systems and devices … you don’t need to dump one to have the other.

My point is simple enough. There is room in our world for many kinds of devices, many types of operating systems. Many of us like having various devices dedicated to particular tasks. I love reading books on my Kindle. I edit on my desktop with the big HD monitor. I use my laptop to play games, write, and work when I don’t what to be stuck in my office.

You love your iPad? Enjoy. Recognize that it is great for what it is. It has limitations, but if you remove the limitations, you also eliminate its advantages. If you make it big enough to edit film or photos, add a hard drive and a keyboard, it stops being small, and portable. By the time you finish adding all that functionality, it’s a laptop. We have them already. Add a bigger monitor? You’ve got a desktop.

You can’t replace everything with one thing  and there’s no reason on earth you should. There appears to be a widespread assumption by manufacturers and marketers that we all do the same stuff and therefore one size fits all, technologically speaking.

It’s not true. What is wrong with supporting more than one operating system? Is Microsoft unable to deal with two operating systems? It had both NT and Windows for decades … you mean now it’s whatever Microsoft wants to sell or nothing? Why?

Why can’t we have both Windows 7 and Windows 8? And Linux? And Macs? Androids and iPads? Smartphones and iPods, iPhones and Blackberries? Why can’t we own a variety of computing devices that run on various operating systems? Who says one device needs to do everything? Is this etched in stone somewhere? Or is it just some marketing guy’s idea and we do whatever we are told like mindless sheep.

For years I owned Macs and PCs until it became too expensive. Then I had to decide what would serve me best … and for a variety of reasons, the answer was PC. It wasn’t a decision made without considerable thought or because I have something against Macs. I just prefer the working environment of a PC for my task-driven world. If I did different kinds of work and the other people with whom I worked used Macs rather than PCs, my decision might well have gone the other way. I am not one of those people who have a cult-like attachment to one operating system versus the other. There are pros and cons for each and we all should make decisions based on what’s important to us. The nearly religious devotion a lot of Mac users have for their computers is scary. It isn’t a religion. It’s a computer.

One size does not fit all, not in technology and not in clothing.

English: A woman cuddling a pile of digital de...

One size fits all in clothing usually means that it will be too big for 40% of the population, too small for another 40%, and it will look crappy on the remaining 20%.

Technologically, one device, one type of device, one operating system will never do the many jobs computers perform for us. We are not alike and thank God for that. Do we want to be all the same? Do we want to enforce a total lack of diversity? Is our goal to eliminate choice? If not, then it’s time to rethink the concept that whatever works for you will automatically work for me or the guy down the street. Enjoy your choices, but recognize that choice is what it is. That you are devoted to your Mac means that your Mac works for you. If you find that your iPad or other tablet is more than sufficient for your computing needs?  Fine. If you feel that doing everything on your telephone suits your lifestyle, you are probably a teenager and you’ll grow out of it.

It’s okay to be different than your neighbor. You do not have to like the same things, do the same things, or need the same things. It’s diversity and our differences that make the world an interesting place. We don’t have to go to the same church, read the same books, believe the same stuff. We don’t have to live in the same environment or own the same appliances. Nor do we need to enjoy the same restaurants or cook the same food. We don’t need to celebrate the same holidays or be the same color.

If everybody would stop trying to force their beliefs and opinions on everyone else, this world would be a better place. Whether it’s the computer operating system you prefer or the political party you vote for, that is your right and privilege and it’s about time everyone stops trying to make other people adhere to their beliefs. It will never happen and all that you will accomplish by trying to coerce others is that they will resent you. The harder you push, the more resistance you will encounter.

Live your life as you prefer. Let others do the same.

Coercion By Any Other Name: Technology, Stupidity and Windows 8

It’s Official: Windows 7 is “Out” and Windows 8 is “In”

Oh yeah? And who’s gonna make me?

I am very out of sorts about this. Windows 7 is a stable, highly functional operating system that lets me run my applications and use the Internet, moving from embedded applications to online publication without a hiccup. I understand Microsoft’s desire to have a stronger presence in the tablet/touchscreen market, but their ill-conceived attempt to eliminate the work space in which most of us have become comfortable is not going to win them any popularity contests. It isn’t going to sell more computers. If anything, I’m betting that many people will do the same thing I’m planning to do: avoid buying anything unless it comes with a Windows 7 downgrade or just work with our existing computer equipment until they come to their sense. Keep Windows 8 … and keep Windows 7. Let users decide what they want instead of telling us what we want.

I don’t know about you, but I really resent coercion, whether by corporation or government decree.

Pointy shoes hurt your feet

When I was a young woman, I refused to wear pointy shoes. They hurt my feet. It took some doing, but I found non-pointy shoes from Fred Braun,  Bass and Keds. I wore comfortable sandals, going so far as to have them made to fit my feet — simple, flat and strappy. I owned boots with square toes made in England or Australia. I thought mini skirts looked ridiculous on any anyone over 16, so for a brief unhappy interval, I made my own. That was less successful as people looked at me and said “Ah, you must have made that yourself.” I don’t think it was a compliment.

I still won’t wear clothing I don’t like. I won’t wear anything uncomfortable.  I didn’t care about fashion when I was 20 and I care a lot less at 65.

I am equally resistant to fads in technology. I’m geeky enough to understand what’s going on when the latest gizmos are introduced and savvy enough to determine if it would be useful to me.

My purchasing … all purchasing, but especially tech stuff … is driven by what I need rather than what’s new, trendy, cute, or sexy.  I don’t have an MP3 player because I’m not outside on the move often enough to need one. For the few times I’m not near a computer, I take my Kindle.

Being unfashionable has advantages. It saves you money. If you don’t need to have the latest thing, you won’t need to replace your wardrobe when whoever decrees what’s “In” and “Out” changes his/her/their mind. I have a pea coat — a real one, made for the U.S. Navy — that is as warm and attractive as it was 35 years ago.

My big Dell computers were bought with an eye toward running everything I have now plus anything that I might need in the forseeable future. I bought computers with as much memory as the operating system will support. I got the highest resolution HD monitors available. I bought huge, fast hard drives and two external drives to deal with data overflow and as insurance against losing a hard drive. I included the biggest baddest video cards the machines would support, Blue-ray reader/writer units, and sound cards that will support any system I feel inclined to hook up. These computers won’t be obsolete any time soon.

If we aren’t hit by a tornado, tsunami, or earthquake, as far as computers go, I’m set. I figure I’m good to go for 5, maybe 10 years or more. And, almost everything is upgradeable.

“The sky is falling,” cried Chicken Little. “PC sales have flattened out!”

I’m happily surrounded by desktop and laptop computers that run without a hiccup and on which everyone depends. ZDNet is simultaneously predicting the end of the home computer.  This deduction is worthy of Chicken Little or maybe, Turkey Lurky and is based entirely on computer sales having flattened out while mobile device sales remain brisk.

English: A pile of mobile devices including sm...

A pile of mobile devices: smart phones, tablets, laptops and e-book readers. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Armed with this pair of facts, the author concluded that from henceforth we shall all do everything on mobile devices because we no longer need hard drives or embedded applications. We can just pick up apps from the online app store and everything we need can be accomplished … on the telephone? iPad? Chromebook? Android tablet? Having made an earlier and even more baseless pronouncement that we don’t need dedicated GPS’s because you can use your telephone or iPad, I should not be surprised, but stupidity always surprises me. For some reason, I expect better of my peers.

Some other moron (maybe more than one moron) pointed out we don’t need cameras anymore. If you are a photographer, you’ve probably bumped into these people on forums. They don’t get the difference between photography and snap shots. “We can take pictures just as good on our phones,” they shout. Shall I take their advice? I will just throw away my cameras, lenses, filters …everything. I mean, Hell, I have a telephone. What more do I need?

They have declared anything I use for work or art obsolete. Before I try to edit a 12 X 16 photograph on my telephone, or for that matter, on my 7″ android tablet,  there are a few details that need ironing out by which I mean that there are people to whom an iron applied firmly to the side of the head would solve a few problems.

About iPads and Macs

I am not going to buy an iPad or ar any other Macintosh computer. An iPad would useless to me as would any kind of tablet. You can’t do real work on a tablet. You can display stuff, play games, diddle around, but you can’t edit a photograph or format a document. Despite the fact that I’m retired, I still write and I edit photographs. Now more than ever, actually. I am dependent on Photoshop and other heavy guns in the software department … none of which will run on a Chromebook, an android tablet, any kind of Mac or iPad. These require a real computer with a real — large — hard drive and a compatible operating systems spelled “Windows.” A high-end Mac could do the job, but there is no chance whatsoever that I am going to buy one because they are beyond my budget and my software wouldn’t run on it — which would add at least another thousand dollars to the cost of the computer. So please, my beloved friends, unless you are offering to buy me a the computer you think I should have plus all the software I need, do not tell me I should get a Mac. It’s just annoying … unless it’s an offer rather than a suggestion, in which case, hey, let’s talk.

How stupid are reviewers and what planet do they come from?

In what world do they live? Do they work for a living? Are any of them musicians, authors, or photographers? Book designers, engineers, developers? Accountants, financial advisors? Movie makers? Are they aware that most professionals rely on powerful installed applications like Photoshop, Acrobat, Framemaker and CAD?

Are they children who think playing games on their cell phone is the ultimate technological achievement?

People aren’t buying PCs because they have all the computers they need.

Sooner or later, everyone has enough and they don’t need another. There won’t be a buying surge for microwave ovens or refrigerators either. We have enough of them too. The inevitable has occurred. Everyone who wants a computer has one. Most of us have more. In this household, with 5 computer-using adults, we have 10 laptops and desktops. None is close to obsolete.

Like other families, we are short of funds. Bad economy; money is tight. We buy things, just not as much as we did. We can’t afford mistakes,  so we have to get it right the first time.

A few years ago, I bought Kindles for my husband, son, and me. Recently, I got the new HD Kindle Fire that plays audiobooks, music, videos, collect email, plays some games pretty well, has surprisingly good speakers, and hooks up with Facebook and Twitter. It’s not really a full service computer, but rather a good, portable, lightweight media center. A compact, versatile device I can use for all the various types of media I enjoy that didn’t break my piggy bank, has a long battery life and frees me from being tethered to my office computer, genuine freedom to roam.

My netbook was supposed to fill this niche, and to be fair, it tries. It does as much as it can, but I hear its labored breathing. Like “The Little Engine That Could” it mumbles “I know I can, I know I can.”  The new Kindle will do many of the things I do on my Netbook, plus everything I did on my original Kindle.

I took a long, hard look at Chromebooks, but the limitations kept flashing at me like neon signs. No hard drive. It would let me do everything I can do on the Kindle or Netbook except edit pictures and create real documents which I can do on the Netbook because it has a hard drive and software. It isn’t the most convenient way to work, but I’ve written on it, edited pictures and published, all from the Netbook. It’s not my first choice of tools, but it will work … and it forms a kind of bridge between a full-size laptop and my Kindle. The keyboard makes a huge difference. The netbook let’s me do 95% of my work without an internet connection. Offline! Imagine working without WiFi! It could revolutionize the computer world.

As far as I can figure it, a Chromebook can do what the Netbook does, but it boots  faster and doesn’t need virus software. It can be connected to an external hard drive … I think … but it doesn’t really have an operating system per se, so I’m not sure if my applications would work on it even if I try to run them from an external source. It can’t do everything the Netbook does because the Netbook’s 260 GB hard drive means I can use real software, not just “apps.” I have tried dozens of apps for photo editing and text editing. There isn’t any app for serious graphics design or photo editing. Finally, I already own a Netbook, so by definition it’s the cheapest solution. Saving 2 minutes of boot time is not a real issue in my life. I’m just not that pressed for time. When Chromebooks get a hard drive, we’ll talk. Meanwhile, between the Kindle, the Netbook, my laptop, and my desktop, I think I’m set. Push Windows 8 and all Microsoft will do is annoy me.

Lies! They are telling us lies!

The problem in figuring out what device was right for me was compounded by how corrupted my sources of information on new technology have become. ZDNet used to be a reliable source. Now they are toadies in thrall to their advertisers. No more real reviews. Instead, they serve up puff pieces, touting whatever Microsoft or Mac’s PR departments tells them to say. Maybe someone believes it, but based on the comments I saw, not many.

I search individual blogs for honest appraisals of new technology. I rely heavily on reviews by knowledgable users. I compare features against price. I try to evaluate if a technology is “ready” or if it’s still Beta.

Why should we believe them? We shouldn’t!

Not long ago, in an equally ill-informed article, ZDNet announced the death of dedicated devices, in particular, the GPS. The author (and I use that word advisedly) stated since we all own tablets and smartphones, we are now going to use these iPads, iPods, or smartphones for navigation. I found the idea of attaching a 10″ iPad to my windshield pretty funny. Having tried my phone as a GPS, no thanks.  The limitations of the phone mean you can’t see the map OR hear instructions over any kind of  background noise.

They have also repeatedly announced the death of personal computers along with the replacement of embedded software by mobile apps. They are serious, or appear to be. They think free apps will replace everything. Really? Have they actually tried to use these apps? I suspect they have not tried anything. They make assumptions and print them as facts.

We don’t need no stinkin’ facts! What’s research?

Instead of professionals producing thoughtful articles about technology, we have a bunch of stooges for big corporations. They are not working for their readers. They are trying to sell us on whatever their sponsors want them to push. The articles are nothing more than slightly reworded corporate PR releases. I would say they are badly researched, but I believe there was no research done at all.

They got a PR packet, picked some information out of it, did a little tweaking, and voilà, that’s the article. If I’m going to just take the manufacturer’s word for it, I don’t need them.

I doubt whoever wrote the last article saying that we were all going to do everything on our mobile toys has ever tried to do anything working people need to do. He certainly never tried to do it on one of the devices he was touting. He probably thinks his telephone is a fine precision camera and he is welcome to his opinion so as long as he doesn’t ask me look at his pictures.

Anything that can do everything doesn’t do anything well.

In the realm of small dedicated devices, from cameras and MP3 players, to telephones, DVD players and book readers, dedicated devices perform far better than equivalent “add ons” to general purpose devices. A modern computers is not a dedicated device: it’s a platform with power to drive a lot of different things, rather like a big empty room. It does many things, but it won’t do everything well. You can use it as a TV, but sitting in your living room, feet up on the recliner and watching a movie on your big-screen TV is a more satisfying experience.

You can use a computer as a GPS, but a small dashboard or window-mounted unit  is a lot easier and responds faster. Nothing takes pictures like a camera with a good lens. Nothing reproduces music better than a good sound system with high quality speakers. Book readers are better for reading text and if you want to make music, learn to play an instrument.

I don’t want to read on my computer or take pictures on my phone. I am a photographer and I use a camera. If you are positive your iPad is just as good as a camera, if you believe your cell phone or android tablet is good enough to fill your picture-taking needs, you’re probably right. Don’t show me your pictures. Please.

I own three cameras. I edit in Photoshop. I write books. I design books and I use Framemaker, the world’s most anti-intuitive software, but also the only software that does the job. In the ZDNet fantasy world, we are going to do everything on our telephones or tablets. Where do I fit into this portable society? The answer is simple: I don’t. Probably neither will you.

“There’s an app for that!” (No, not really.)

There is no app by anyone anywhere that can come close to the functionality of any version of Photoshop. There is no application other than Framemaker that will create indexes across chapters. For creating PDF books for reading online, you need Acrobat. What? You don’t need to do any of that? Well, I do. So do other people. People work with spread sheets and other office application. Before you declare the PC obsolete, you might want to try working … really working … on these little tiny devices you want to sell me. You’ll be shocked and amazed to discover a spread sheet is invisible on a telephone. You might be able to create a small one on a tablet, but if you are a serious number cruncher, you aren’t going to do it on an iPad or any other tablet. You may use a tablet to display the final result, but you won’t use it to do the work. If you are editing pictures, you’re not going to use a little screen on a pod, tablet, or telephone. You will want a big high-definition monitor.

Photo and video editing require a large monitors, lots of RAM and a huge hard drive. Despite the opinions of the young and clueless, there people who take their jobs and art seriously. These folks require serious tools with which to work. If you think games are the epitome of technological achievement, get a job.

How come people are still buying small mobile devices but not computers? Aw, c’mon. You know why not. They don’t need another computer, but they don’t have a tablet. Or, they have a cell phone, but the technology for telephones is changing … and telephones are subject to much more abuse than other devices. They get rained on, dropped, and sat on. Crumbs and coffee make the keys sticky and touchscreens become unresponsive. I’ve had the same phone for years, but I don’t use it much. When it dies, I’ll replace it. Till then, I’m fine.

People will not always buy a new phone twice a year. They’ll make sturdier ones, waterproof, dust-proof, and shock-proof. Eventually, everyone will have enough telephone, tablets, and other gadgets. No doubt there will be new gadgets, but to sell them, they’ll have to come up with new needs to fill. Otherwise, they will build them, but no one will buy. They will create a gadget so sexy, cute and trendy that manufacturers will be anticipating a veritable rush to buy them … but no one will care. They will be gadgeted out.

Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.

The clock is ticking.

Computer sales are going to stay modest until the expensive high-powered laptops and desktops we recently bought break down or are obsolete. And I don’t think that’s going to happen all that quickly.

Are personal computers going the way of dinosaurs? Mine aren’t.

If Microsoft forces their OS on me, an operating system that shows all the signs of being out of touch with the needs of users, I might reconsider my choices and buy a Mac or a Linux box. I have a big investment in PC-based software so I’d rather not, but maybe I can get upgrades that run on other operating system.

No amount of salesmanship will convince me to buy stuff I don’t need or like. I don’t like anything I’ve heard about Windows 8. Like Vista, it sounds like a good reason to not buy a computer.

I like gadgets. I like cool devices. If someone gives me a toy, I will play with it. But I’m not going to spend a lot of money to get it. Free is my price on anything I don’t actually need.

How about some new software?

We need new software. With the enormous popularity of digital photography, we need more and better choices for people who don’t need al the functionality of a full Photoshop installation, but are beyond Photoshop Elements. We need more streamlined applications for book design and text handling.  Microsoft Office is bloated and overly automated. You can’t do half the things using the new versions of it that you could do 10 or 15 years ago.

Freeware is the way of the future, as well as cross-platform applications that will work on any operating system. Many households already use computers running various operating systems.

For years, software was way ahead of hardware. Now, the reverse is true. The software world has seen an explosion of creativity in games, but no equivalent development of business applications. Adobe, a company that was dedicated to providing professional software has been floating along without doing anything significant or unique in years. How about a trimmed down home-user version of Framemaker? That would give Word a run for its money.

It would be great if magazines and journals that supposedly provide information to the trades would consider really doing that. As a consumer, I resent being sold a bill of goods. The only reason to read trades is for non-partisan information on new technology. Now, I don’t trust anything they say so, which makes them useless to me.

As a writer, I deplore the poor quality of the articles and the authors’ lack of thought, analysis and research. It gives us all a bad name. As a consumer, I’m offended that you think I’m that stupid. At the very least, try the product before you tell me it’s great.

Let’s go back in time to when integrity and honesty could be used in the same sentence with journalist.  Bad enough that every sleazy politician is out there lying his/her ass off, but “et, tu brute?”