Windows 7

So I ordered another one: Dell Inspiron 14Z Ultrabook

Inspiron 14z Ultrabook™ Non-Touch

I was surprised at the large number of the bad reviews the 14Z has gotten. That has not been my experience with this computer. After reading all the bad reviews, I believe I have a better grasp of the issues. Perhaps it’s unwise to automatically believe every reviewer.

There was one review — really a complaint — that exemplified why you need to evaluate the reviewer as well as the review. He had given the 14Z a one star review because he had ordered the computer (he said) with Windows 7, but when he turned it on, “this thing comes up and says Windows 8.”

Gar14Z-Open-2

“What,” he asked, “Does that mean?”

About 20 people had written to suggest he return the computer and buy an Etch-A-Sketch. I suggested if it said Windows 8, he could be reasonably sure it’s Windows 8. Either he was sent a computer with the wrong operating system or he ordered the wrong operating system. Given his cluelessness, I can’t see how it would make any difference which operating system he has.

The Etch A Sketch Animator

Next, there was a one star review by a woman who complained she couldn’t get the WiFi to work because “I have a wired system and don’t want to waste money getting wireless.” She felt the computer should run WiFi anyway. What can you say to that? Remember, these people are allowed to vote. Frightening.

I have read reviews that complain of the keyboards failing for no reason, of monitors or screens breaking — again for no reason. That the back “just fell off” the computer.

I’ve been using computers since the early 1980s. I’ve never had a screen or monitor break at all. When my keyboards stop working, it’s because I dropped my jelly sandwich on it.  And really, you’re telling me the back fell off the laptop? Just like that? You didn’t unscrew anything or maybe drop it on a cement floor?

In over 30 years of using computers, I’ve never had a monitor or screen break. Never had any computer, no matter how cheap, fall apart. It doesn’t happen.

The people who are most likely to write reviews are those who are having problems. Many have no idea how to use a computer but that doesn’t stop them — or even slow them down. People do dreadful things, then panic and blame the computer. Then there are the people who, rather than call customer service, write a bad review. It doesn’t solve the problem, but I suppose it makes them feel better. Maybe they’re afraid if they call customer service, someone might ask how the back really came off. Sometimes, the problem is the user, not the tool.

I bought a Dell 14Z for my husband more than a year ago. It has Windows 7 as its OS with 4 GB of memory. It’s not a super computer; he doesn’t need one. It’s just a good, dependable machine that does what he needs to do and doesn’t break his back when he takes it with him.

The 14Z is the economy model among Dell’s lightweight computers. It’s classed — by them — as an ultrabook, but it’s a bit heavy to be a true ultrabook. Weighing in at 4 pounds, it is lightweight, but to be an ultrabook, it should be closer to 3 pounds. In compensation, the 14Z has a DVD read/write, a full-size keyboard and good sound — so it’s a more than acceptable compromise at a reasonable price.

My husband’s machine has operated for more than a year completely trouble-free. I took it out of the box. I installed Google Chrome, added his email accounts, installed and/or downloaded whatever applications he was likely to need. He’s been using it ever since. There hasn’t been any reason to call customer service because there haven’t been any issues to address. I don’t know how long the battery would last because he usually plugs it in. It must be easy to use because he is not especially computer savvy and if he were having problems, I would know about it.

Gar14Zclosed-2

The 14Z is light. It has a bright high-definition screen. The speakers are good, loud for a laptop. They aren’t as good as those on my XPS laptop — those are very good — but significantly better than typical laptop speakers. Overall, I’ve found that Dell laptops have better than usual sound. Even my little 10″ Dell mini has decent sound.

The 14Z plays videos without complaint, runs applications, boots, sleeps, wakes, reboots with never a hiccup.

Meanwhile, I’ve been trying to figure out what to do about getting a more portable computer. My mini still works, but it can’t handle much beyond basic email or maybe an audiobook. It just doesn’t have enough juice.

I never go anywhere without a computer, a bunch of camera and accessories, my Kindle and of course, the ubiquitous cell phone and associated chargers, cords etc. I’m beginning to feel I need a fork lift to get from the car to wherever we are staying. I usually haul my hefty XPS with its anchor-like 9-cell battery when I think I’ll need Photoshop or some other installed application. But for short trips I would like something less weighty. No matter how I figure it, no tablet is going to do it for me. It’s either too expensive, has the wrong operating system, no real hard drive, too slow, too small and typically, no keyboard. I need a keyboard. And USB ports.

I love being able to play my own media. I prefer having a DVD player. I can’t work without a keyboard.

And then I realized the solution was obvious. Buy a 14Z. For me. Dell is still offering the 14Z with Windows 7, so I can have my cake and eat it too — so to speak.

I have a houseful of Dell computers. Literally. Why do I keep coming back? Dell has gone through a lot of changes. For a while, customer service was awful and I actually bought two Gateway laptops. They were okay but when I needed a new desktop for myself, I came back to Dell. However dubious their customer service has been sometimes, their computers are really well-built. They last. Moreover, Dell has addressed most of the customer service problems of the past and while they aren’t perfect, they offer the best standard warranty in the business. When I had a bad hard drive on my desktop, Dell sent a guy to fix it. He not only replaced it, he also re-installed all my applications and transferred the mountains of data from my dying hard drive to the new one. It was above and beyond any obligation he had under my warranty, but he was a really nice guy. I was incredibly grateful. He saved me long days of additional work.

Since then, I’ve bought two more Dell laptops, the 14Z for my husband and the loaded XPS 15 for me. Now, I’m getting a 14Z for me, also with Windows 7 and I’m pleased with my choice. It’s not a powerhouse like my XPS, but I don’t need another powerhouse. This will handle anything I usually need to do when I’m away from home — editing and writing this website, downloading photographs and light photo editing.

I’m sure that there will be more terrible reviews by customers who are disappointed that the 14Z isn’t an XPS.  But I already know that, so whoever is writing the review won’t be me.

Pros: light, fast, good speakers, great monitor, full-size keyboard, comfortable to type on.

Cons: None

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Screams in the Night: The Rise and Fall of Windows 8

When Windows 8 was initially released, my first thought was “You’re kidding. Surely they don’t expect me to use that!” Yes, they really did. They seemed to be of the opinion that the future of computers would be touchscreens all the way. Which made me wonder if anyone at Microsoft had actually tried using a vertical touchscreen. Not a tablet or a tiny laptop, but a real, full-size 24″ high-definition touchscreen on a desktop. Because I sure had and it was not a happy experience.

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Touch screen is for tablets, not desktops — or even laptops.

I actually bought a big touchscreen PC more than two years ago. What a waste of money! Forget software issues. Software was not an issue. The concept itself is hopelessly flawed.

I bet you need a real world example, just so you know I’m not making this up or displaying uninformed prejudice against new technology. If you know me at all, you know I love new technology. I embrace technology. But I abhor “upgrades” that make things that were easy difficult. It’s just a way to grab more money from our already depleted wallets. More exercise for the credit card.

Following are a few good reasons and a possibly entertaining anecdote to explain why, if the future is going to be all touchscreen, I’m saying “no thanks.”

Upon installing and activating my exciting new 24″ touchscreen all-in-one desktop computer, I discovered:

1) Every time a mosquito landed on the screen, it reconfigured my computer. What a MESS. And a little spider crawling across? Oh my god! We live in the country. Yes, Virginia. There are ants, spiders, mosquitoes and other icky things. No avoiding them, not out here in the woods.

Sidebar: Huh?

As the shades of the evening drew on, I retired from my office and went to the living room to join my husband on the reclining love seat. There, with our smelly hounds and our popcorn, we settled down to watch a movie or a few TV shows. Eventually we noticed there was extremely loud heavy metal music playing. I thought my granddaughter, who lives downstairs, had friends over and I didn’t want to rain on her parade, so we patiently waited for the noise to subside. When she appeared at the top of the stairs asking us to turn down the music, I said … huh?

My computer had found a music channel. A heavy metal music channel. It had, apparently with the help of a music-loving insect friend, selected the channel, turned it up to full volume and was blasting it through the house. OriginalJPG

When I looked at the monitor, there were (literally) dozens of windows open. Such a busy little bug. And all my preferences had been changed. AND SAVED! Who knew our six or eight-legged friends were so computer savvy? I sprayed the office for things that crawl, fly and scurry, and grumped off to watch something on television, which is where I had begun. It happened again the following day, only this time, I knew from whence the problem originated and promptly went to deal with it.

The offending crawler, a small flying thing smaller than a mosquito, but bigger than a fruit fly, was sitting on my monitor, laughing at me. I swear he was laughing. I sought in vain for some way to reduce the sensitivity of the monitor or better, turn it off completely. It wouldn’t have mattered what software was being used. It was the touch sensitivity that was the issue, not the software. A very big strike against touch screens. Actually, I think it was a foul ball, double play, side out sort of strike if you catch my drift.

More Good Reasons to Not Get a Touchscreen on Your Next Computer

2) The physical position required to use a vertically positioned touch screen is total hell on wrists already suffering from carpal tunnel. We are talking SERIOUS pain, nothing minor. Every time I made any attempt to use it, I had to grit my teeth. I had to cut my fingernails all the way to the quick because I didn’t want scratches all over my monitor. I got the scratches anyhow.

3) Nothing I want to do works well with fingers. It is slow, imprecise, essentially useless. I am not going to use my fingers to work in Photoshop. I’m not going to finger edit a manuscript. If I wanted to draw, I’d use a precision tablet, not my index finger thank you. I couldn’t figure out under what circumstances touch sensitivity would be an advantage. There was not one single computer activity that could be done better with my fingers than a mouse. Not one. So exactly why was this “the way of the future?” Whose future? Not mine!

4) FINGERPRINTS. It’s taken me a very LONG time to get the screen clean again. It’s amazing how determined fingerprints can be. I still haven’t gotten it completely clean, but it’s closer each time I find a new lens cleaning formula and give it a try.

5) Fingers are much slower than a mouse. I can scroll. I can move all around, up down and sideways with a mouse quickly and precisely. About the ONLY thing I could do precisely with my finger was close a window. Press X. THAT I could do.

6) I finally disabled the touch input functionality. I spent an entire day searching for the menu until finally, at long last, I found it. After it stopped being a touch screen, life improved.

Win8 start screen

Then out came Windows 8. I almost broke a tooth I was so aggravated.

I do have a Kindle. Touch works fine on it, though I yearn for a way to scroll that doesn’t involve a finger and a real keyboard rather than poking one key at a time. Some of us actually know how to touch-type. We don’t type with our thumbs or index fingers. Ponder that.

So now I hear that “Windows Blue” (not its real name) is going to replace Windows 8 and will address issues we ignorant clods (AKA “users”) have with Windows 8. I do hope, among many other things, that they make it less ugly. I know usability is the big issue, but aesthetics matter when this dreadful, inelegant block of crayon colors is in my face day after day. If this isn’t the least attractive design ever put on a computer monitor, I don’t know what is. It would offend a first grader and I’m assured they like primary colors.

I live in hope of a better Windows operating system, a system designed for actually getting tasks done and the ability to do it all without having to relearn how to use my 4 computers. I live in hope.

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Related articles

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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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?”