My Fortnight as a Mac Fanboy

28 June 2015

FanboySmOK, the title is a little on the link-bait side. I wasn’t so much a fanboy as a dedicated Mac user for two weeks without even looking at a Windows machine. Why would I do such a thing? Simple, I hate Windows 8. I have used every Microsoft operating system since MS DOS 3.3, but I just cannot endure Mr. Sinofski’s design aesthetic since he supported putting that ribbon on MS Office. You are welcome to that design if you like it, but I find it as intuitive and pleasing as a barf salad.

I tried Ubuntu. A great operating system, as are all the Linux flavours, but it just isn’t ready for the mainstream. The absolute inability to take an office document from Windows to Linux to Windows without a formatting nightmare is just a deal breaker at this stage of my careers. Don’t get me wrong; if you are just ‘browsing, Email, and stuff,’ or a nerdy person doing nerdy things, Linux is the OS for you!

So I ran some week-long diagnostics on my Windows machine and became a slave to the Mac. Honestly, it wasn’t really a hard transition at all. Almost anything that a user needs from a Windows machine can be done on a Mac, though possibly a little differently. Being a results oriented kind of guy that doesn’t play enough games, this scored well for me.

Everything was perfect, sunshine, and rainbows, right? Well there were a few things that I did notice that shocked me, and would prevent me from becoming a true Apple Fanboy. The first of these revelations is that Apple users are very patient; Yosemite is SLOW. Before you get out the torches and pitchforks, try Mac hardware with a spinning drive and it is obvious that an equivalent Windows 7 machine running similar basic software is much faster (compare Apples to apples if you will). Mac used to be faster, but it seems that the battle of the bloat has come to a new winner.

Also, it might have been true that Mac OS was once far more stable than Windows, but it isn’t now; I had more crashes from a clean Mac Mini as my seasoned Windows 7 machine over a comparable 2 week period. And then there is the customizing issue; you can only do what Apple will let you do – period. I researched how to set up for a unique use case and heard, “Why would you do that? You are supposed to do it this way. Macs don’t do that.” That might sound reasonable in print, but actually hearing it sounded like something a Stepford wife might say.

Now I do have to be fair, Apple has a lot of things going for it. Mac’s lack of an obvious registry is something that Microsoft really needs to steal. The included apps are decent enough for anyone to get started doing amazing things (with the exception of iTunes, but that is a monster on any platform). Apple hardware is high quality, power efficient, and is so easy to re-image that one might believe that Apple actually cares about its customer experience. Overall, Mac is a real contender if you don’t like Microsoft’s direction and can tolerate some seemingly arbitrary restrictions. Or we can wait and see if Windows 10 sucks less.

Why are people shopping online?

18 April 2015

Because most local retailers suck.Linen Jacket

I have wanted an ivory linen jacket for years and decided to stop waiting for that ‘someday’. So I went on a walk-about to see what is out there and how it fit (I won’t get into my rant on who they measure men’s clothes on these days). Because of the fit problem, I will gladly spend more at a local shop where I can try on the items and know they will fit when I get them home.

I went to about a dozen shops that might have had what I was looking for. Only 4 of those shops bothered to speak to me, three of which only because they had to and got back to prowling at the first opportunity. You DO NOT get to complain about someone taking a job that you can’t be bothered to do; customer service means that you have to interact with customers, and hiding in the corner doesn’t count.

So did I make the purchase at the final place? No, they didn’t have my size (or anything near large enough). Fair is fair though, that salesman was very good; I would have bought there even though the same jacket was significantly more expensive.

I’m not a Calvin Klein fan per se, but it was the jacket at each place

What does a murder, car crash, house fire and collapse all have in common?

9 October 2014
ivegotyourback911

Story at Owen Sound Sun TImes

Someone has to respond.

First responders witness the horrors of life every single day; the things that common people don’t even want to hear about on the news. You can justify that they get paid well, have great benefits, or don’t work enough, but what they also take home are nightmares, guilt, and depression.

First responders are largely ignored when these horrors get too much. Mental health issues are taboo enough in the general public; they are completely unspoken demons in the realm of emergency services.

One of my crew brought this initiative to my attention. It has been featured on the other social networks, but not a word on Google+. I’m going to try and change that.

There have been 24 known first responder suicides in the last six months in Canada. Police, Firefighters, Paramedics, Search and Rescue, and many volunteer support agencies are all affected and this needs to change. Insurance companies do not recognize clearly diagnosed conditions as essential, and too often find a way not to assist the people affected. The public looks away from a uniformed professional that is obviously overwhelmed. The services don’t want to admit that there are weaklings on their staff. The stigma is everywhere. Can we stop it?

Depression
Burn Out
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Do you support the men and women that suit up to face what the public doesn’t want to see?

#ivegotyourback911
(This is not just a Canada issue. If emergency services don’t support each other, who will?)

Harry’s Review

22 August 2014

Harrys-smallI keep meaning to sit down and write a review of some of the products I experiment with. Well, I’m finally sat down with a product that I think is worth talking about. The product is Harry’s, an interesting new angle on shaving and shaving products found at harrys.com. I bought my Harry’s set and have received no incentives for this review.

Tl;dr Summery

If you dread the cuts, rashes, or expense of your current shaving experience, then you should definitely give Harry’s a try . Like any personal grooming product, it might not be for everyone, but the quality for price is hard to match. They even offer free shipping within the United States, and a $6 flat rate shipping to Canada. Also, I was pleasantly surprised when my second order arrived one day after ordering.

Why I Tried Harry’s

I hate shaving. I have a beard that grows in like a crop circle and the whole shaving thing for me is something that only a masochist would enjoy. I tried disposables and multi blade razors as well as different types of electric shavers and never found one that didn’t leave me with massive irritation and the inability to be clean shaven every day for a week. When I heard of Harry’s on a podcast, I thought I might as well give it a try; it couldn’t be worse than the shaves I was getting.

First Impressions

The Truman shaving kit arrived in a nice box and was well presented. It is hard to not have a favourable first impression when a company focuses on a good initial experience. Everything was well packaged and laid out without having to fight with some plastic packaging. The razor was simple but classy in design, which helped me to not think about my previous experiences with multi blade razors that looked cheap or flashy.

This was obviously not a product put out by some unknown factory in China with questionable quality control. I had heard the stories of how the founders were so concerned about quality and shave experience that they bought one of the two premier blade manufacturers in Germany; again, very impressed. I found myself actually looking forward to giving this razor a try.

The Shave

Obviously, the presentation means nothing if the shave isn’t there.  To be totally fair to the product, I read and followed the directions to a tee.  I mention this because I usually have the worst results with shaving right after a shower, or with using hot water.  However, I put my face in their hands and tried what would have usually been disastrous.

Their shave cream is exceptionally good with excellent lather and comfortable feel, it even smelled nice.  The razor was very sharp and glided over my stubble without any hesitation or pulling.  The handle was comfortable in my hand and allowed me to forget about it and focus on the shave, which is important considering that I used an electric shaver for the past decade.

When everything was done, I was clean shaven and impressed.  The real surprise was that there wasn’t any rash or irritation.  That was possibly my first ever shave in over two decades that didn’t leave me with some amount of grief.

My next shave was much the same, feeling very little difference from the first.  The third shave was against beard grade scruff and still worked like a charm.  In fact, the only “bad” shave I’ve had in the month of using Harry’s razors was trying to get one more shave out of a razor I knew should have been changed (stupid user effect).  Even under that circumstance, I still didn’t rash or have any irritation.

Overall

I am really impressed with my Harry’s razor.  If I could find any fault in the shaving system, it is that the blades can get clogged up pretty easily.  I really can’t count that as a criticism though because that is a trait of any multi blade razor.  Spending a little extra time and attention to cleaning the blade is a small concern when the razor refuses to irritate my skin into an ingrown whisker based rash.  Thanks to Harry’s, I almost look forward to having a good shave, though daily shaving still hasn’t become a thing for me.

11 November 2013

Remembrance Day

IMG-20131111-00282

Standing in the snow and rain at the cenotaph, I thought what it would was to be a soldier. I knew that they would not be the ones to complain about the weather, just as none dared do so today. I thought of my stepbrother that served so recently, the stories he told, and the ones he did not. I remember him talking about how he learned too well how unfriendly friendly fire could be.

He told me of his apathy as to why politicians sent him to a far off land, but rather the importance of the sentiments of the people recently oppressed.

He spoke of the horrors of the day shrapnel tore his flesh but would not allow any ill.  He was a soldier.  He fought as hard against lingering hatred as he fought for the freedom of a people he would never know.will to the one who brought it.

He taught me that every soldier’s decisions were immediate actions that could never be forgotten. Finally, he taught me that soldiers are meant to be forgotten on every peaceful day save one.

Remove your hats and bias for that one day; honour the veterans that gave you the freedom to forget the need for soldiers on this, one day.

New Internet Threat

28 October 2013

There is a very recent threat on the Internet that is being referred to as a crypto-locker attack. You may be familiar with terms like ad-ware and spyware but this is a new type of malware threat known as ransom-ware, which infects your computer and offers you a chance to buy software to “clean” the malware.

According to security expert Steve Gibson (host of Security Now!), this is a new threat uses strong encryption to encrypt the files on your hard drive. Normally, encryption is a great security measure IF YOU HAVE THE KEYS. This software encrypts your files and demands up to $300 for the keys to get your files back. Please note that people that would write this type of software are not likely to honour any deals.

This attack has already made the authors A LOT OF MONEY. Steve Gibson warns that this might be the beginning of a new family of threats from copy-cats.

If your computer gets this malware, your files are gone.

There is no way to recover your files. Also, because the scam tricks the user into installing the software, there is no antivirus protection from the threat at this time. This threat only affects Windows based PCs for now but is a very successful attack.

The attack tricks people into installing the software by directing users to a website that looks very similar to a site that you actually use or offers a download (usually through Email). The actual download will (at this time) appear to be a PDF file but will actually be an executable (possibly ending with “.exe”). Once this file is run, there is no getting your files back.

What You Can Do

  • Follow the common advice to never install software that you were not explicitly meaning to install
  • Do not follow links in Emails. If your bank contacts you, go directly to the bank’s website to log in as you would normally (as an example)
  • Always have a BACKUP OF YOUR IMPORTANT FILES THAT IS NOT ON YOUR COMPUTER
  • Be cautious of suspicious Emails or attachments. These people know how to cause fear, which leads to mistakes
  • Practice general safe computing – prevention is your best cure

How About a Ponder?

2 April 2013

It has been too long since I posted much of anything here, much less some ponders.  Life had just got busy enough to deny me the opportunity or want to sit back and waste a bit of time pondering, but I have one today.

If you could conduct a scientific study (don’t worry so much about what specific tests you would do), what question would you like to find the answer?  Let’s put a practical limit on a 1 year time frame and a team of 5 or less (no, you can’t cure any diseases in that much time).

I was thinking about how I would like to study a crazy little theory of mine, specifically regarding emergency vehicles and their lights.  Pausing at the thought, “That’s nuts, I couldn’t take a year to do that,” I thought about how much citizen science could be done with a little training.  Imagine the innovations (and failures) that could be produced from such a thing if only there was a way.

An Officer is Laid to Rest Today

21 March 2013

No matter what you think of police in general, nobody should die in the line of their work.  An unfortunate accident last week ended the life of 26 year old Officer Jennifer Kovach.  This broke a streak of no officers dying in the line of duty in the Guelph, Ontario area since 1964.  All the flags in the small city are at half mast as the public and services join together to grieve one of their own.  To all those who have donned a uniform in the name of serving the public, remember the most important thing is to come home safe.

Social Networks, Big Data, and You

20 September 2012

On the most recent episode of This Week in Google (TWiG), co-host Jeff Jarvis was making his trademark point about social networks like FB having the ability to provide benefit to their users by knowing more about them.  Mr. Jarvis is quite candid on his views of openness and the benefits that can be derived from being open.  Typically, I agree with Mr. Jarvis with some reservations.

Something occurred to me this time as I heard him speak.  It is true that many social networks do know a lot about their users from the content that they provide; and yet targeted ads still have a track record of being ineffective on those sites.  Russ Pitts (of the http://www.theverge.com/gaming fame) said on Tech News Today (TNT), he encounters the rubber hose effect, which means that if you buy a rubber hose, the only thing you will see for the next while are ads about rubber hoses.  Add to this the complaints of ads that people find irrelevant, and a problem arises.

So, if these social networks know so much about us, why is there this problem with targeted ads?  The thought occurred to me that the social networks knew a lot about its users but failed to understand them.  Put another way, the companies are hearing about us without understanding.  I confess to dislike the thought of anyone looking at a significant amount of data and getting the results wrong, but that is what appears to be happening.  It also appears that it is a familiar problem with context.  Just because I do a search, post a photo, or share my thoughts on a subject, there is little understanding of how that fits into the consumer’s world.

The easiest rebuttal to this situation is that the system will get better with more data.  I am not convinced of this.  It already takes massive servers to parse what is already known; enough information that it is not that difficult to find the specific people through the piles of anonymized, aggregate data.  The whole situation leaves me to ponder why it is that there is enough data to know who I am and where I live, but not know that I already bought the rubber hose and don’t need any more.  This pondering also leads me to wonder about the entire assumption that knowing so much about us really is beneficial to the advertising revenue models of the Internet.

This could be the beginning of a scientific revolution or the Zombie Apocalypse – either way, it’s cool!

7 March 2012

This actually isn’t a joke.  What makes us different from the un-dead creatures from spook-show zombie movies and the likes of Twilight vampires?  Aside from value to society and a touch of class, the correct answer is a pulse.  Every known living animal has a heart that creates a pulse of some kind.  In fact, the pulse is the major criteria for determining the difference between life and death.  That is until now.


Doctors Bud Frazier and Billy Cohn have turned what we know about the difference between life and death and made it a lot less simple.  These doctors have made it so that 50 cattle and 3 humans now walk on the Earth without a pulse.  Taking a daring hypothesis that just because ever heart has a pulse, we don’t actually need it, they developed a 10,000 RPM pump that creates a continuous flow without any pulse.  Although these 53 cases all fit the criteria for being the walking dead, they are able to function normally.

Want to read more and listen to the Doctors (Frankenstein?) talk about their innovation?  Check out YouTube video for a quick peek, or the article from Popular Science.
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