Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Apple's cool is no liberal triumph

I was just reading about this on Salon.com today. I thought it was interesting although a tad flawed in reasoning. So I wrote a letter to the editor explaining where I think he went wrong.

The Salon article is available here and link to my letter to the editor below.



Not a bad article but I don't totally agree
First Apple is forced to play the patent game or others will eat their lunch as is currently happening to Google. Google seemed to want to stay out of the patent game but after several court challenges went and bought Motorola undoubtedly for the patents.
As for Asian workers and plants there is not a computer company or a light bulb manufacturer that makes a product here. We don't make things in America anymore. Should it change why not it would be good for jobs but probably not good for low cost items like WalMart's bottom line. Are Americans willing to spend a little more for made in America on their consumer electronics? If they were businesses would be more likely to do it.
A company can be pro liberal and still make smart business decisions. Look take a look at where companies and individuals make political donations and that offers a lot of insight into their political leanings. Mostly liberal candidates you can bet the person or company leans liberal. Same for conservatives, if they split down the middle they are more interested in how government affects their business than their ideology.
Apple owes their success to innovating, to redefining the smartphone and the MP3 player, to building a better OS and sexier computer hardware. They also keeping inline with ideology found ways to make the computers greener using recyclable components and by insisting on better working conditions and pay for the people that make their hardware. When several suicides happened in a short period at the Foxconn plant Apple sent investigators to look into it and see what they could do to help.
Overall they are a company that tries to do the right thing and take care of their employees. Note when the earthquake in Japan occurred Apple stepped up to help their employees and families.
As to the companies software ecosystem, they make money on sales of apps they also shoulder the cost for bandwidth and credit card processing fees taking that off the shoulders of the small developer allowing smaller companies or individuals to publish apps. The vetting process for apps helps curtail malware from getting on smart phones and by building an integrated ecosystem it helps the end user by making sure things just work together. The Mac is stable because the company controls the hardware and the software.
Read PaulTheMacGuyScott's other letters

Friday, August 5, 2011

The MacGuy visits a Microsoft Store

Much to the surprise and amusement to my readers I checked in on FourSquare from the Microsoft Store at the Mall of America stating I went into the store and didn’t burst into flames. For those of you who don’t know me personally but read my writing here and in Apple Spotlight Magazine and listen to the TechBits podcast may not know is that your friendly neighborhood Apple Certified Support Professional and other affiliations is a mild mannered Support Engineer by day supporting both Mac and PC and my alter ego is the MacGuy writer, podcaster, and general Apple fanboy by night. It is sort of like being a super hero without the cape.
We have all heard the news about Microsoft’s 11 Retail Stores and the stories about 45 more coming in the next year across the US except for Alaska. Well, on a recent trip to Minneapolis I decided to visit the Mall of America to visit the Microsoft Store and its arch rival the Apple Store just across the hall.

The look of the two stores is very similar downtown the liberal use of white walls and generous lighting and light wood tables. Microsoft does throw in some splashes of orange and video monitors that wrap around the store instead of putting up ad banners. The MS store employees where red shirts to the Apple Store employees use of blue. Apparently the Microsoft Store designers never watched Star Trek.
I did notice in the hour I was there no one walked out with any snazzy new Microsoft gear. In fact the employees seemed a tad distant and didn’t talk to me unless I approached them and asked questions. Since Microsoft doesn’t sell much hardware except for the Xbox and keyboards and mice the store is loaded with Sony, Dell, Asus, and a few off brand looking machines. The store was adorned with four Microsoft Surface tables. Not for sale that I could tell and not as impressive in real life as in the videos.
Overall it was a poor imitation of the Apple Store experience. Although lots of Xbox’s and Connect systems scattered through the store provided hours of entertainment to kids of all ages. I supposed it is cheaper than the arcade around the corner.

A Microsoft store employee who spoke to me on condition on anonymity confided in me when I asked about the striking similarities between themselves and store across the hall stated “We like to take something that obviously works well and improve upon it.” Later in our conversation this employee pointed out something missing from the Microsoft Windows 7 computers stating the “Microsoft makes a deal with all vendors that put hardware in our stores. No bloatware is allowed on these computers. These machines only have Microsoft Windows software on them and Microsoft security software nothing extra.” I will note one of the Asus tablets that converts into a laptop they were showing did feel very sluggish when using it and the similar tablet right next to it for a few hundred more was a much better performer. Even in the Microsoft store they allowed under powered hardware in that makes their software look bad. Incidentally that under powered hardware was still more expensive than a Macbook Air which is much faster and more usable.
Nothing in the Microsoft store I looked at came close to the usability of the iPad, the elegance and speed of a MacBook Air and notably missing from the line up of tables of gear was a selection of Windows Phones. Maybe I missed that section of the store. There was a large window display reminiscent of the iPhone displays with a LCD monitor turned on its side showing video of what an iPhone can do. They had the Microsoft version in the front window of the store but I never noticed phones out to be touched or used. Also conspicuously missing was MP3 players. I guess Microsoft figures those will never catch on.

Finally putting the Microsoft store across the isle from an Apple Store and this was not an accident all of the 11 Microsoft Stores are in close proximity to an Apple Store. Just seems to highlight the deficiencies in Microsoft’s strategy. The one winning product they have the XBox is relegated to the back of the store and looks more like an arcade than a retail store. The employees aren’t engaged and don’t feel like they really believe in what they are doing. It seems as though Microsoft thinks if they make themselves look like the Apple Store that one of two things might happen. Either one they will confuse would be consumers into walking into the Microsoft Store instead of the Apple Store and selling them a computer. Or two if they make themselves look as much like Apple as possible somehow that will make them magically hip and competition for Apple.

The problem is the PC industry engaged in a race to the bottom on price and innovation suffered. Since Microsoft doesn’t control the hardware at all it makes it impossible for them to move in the direction they want to go. Apple can and does tie the hardware and the software together tightly to make a great experience. Something Microsoft does not have enough control over their vendors to accomplish.

In short after spending time their I have to agree with an analysis of the Microsoft Store by John C. Dvorak the Microsoft store is not a good idea. It seems as though Apple is the only one who has figured out how to make the experience work. Did any of you ever visit a Gateway Country Store? There is something going on in Apple that isn’t easily duplicated. Like typing the hardware and software together to create an experience the Apple Stores are more than just the decor, the computers, and the staff. There is something very carefully planned a secret sauce that has made these stores wildly successful in a way no other PC manufacturer has been able to duplicate. When the Apple Stores first opened It was universally accepted they would suffer the same fate as Gateway Country. However they have grown and flourished into one of the most profitable retail spaces on a per square foot basis. It is amazing.

For those wondering when I left the Microsoft Store I did walk straight over to the Apple Store to get a refill of that upbeat Apple energy and the force was in balance and all was right with the world again.

When Nerds Give Back!

Recently the following article was posted on my companies web page. Visit http://www.augustjackson.com/our-space to read this article and the musings of my other co-workers and check out our companies new web site, it is really stunning!

ScreenShot2011-08-05at10.16.02AM-2011-08-5-10-19.pngLike other programs such as Teach for America or Americorps Code for America is a way for Technologists, and other IT people to give back using our unique talents to help governments be more efficient and connected with its citizens.

By pairing city governments with technology people to develop scalable solutions to improve government transparency and communication, replace outdated technology with modern Web 2.0 technology.

Code for America is working to create open source software repositories so governments can share code and solutions to help them integrate platforms, reduce costs, and eliminate redundancy.

Geeks like to solve problems and create new software. So using those talents to serve the community is away for another group of Americans to give back to the community. Government has been historically slow to change and adopt new technology that businesses have used for years to remain competitive.

Code for America gives city governments a chance to catchup with larger organizations with bigger budgets and more human resources without having to spend the money.

Currently the city of Chicago is a finalist for the 2012 Code For America Fellowship to update the 311 system in Chicago. Making it more than just a phone based service to contact city government services. Open311 will extend the existing 311 service to the web and allow citizens to contact government services and track status updates through the web and smartphones.

Freedom Speaks LLC has created a program called City 311 that runs on Windows Phones, Android, iOS, and Blackberry and the web. Allowing participating city governments to receive reports from citizens for graffiti removal, report potholes, request bulky trash pickup, report illegal dumping, street light outages, or virtually anything else that might need to be reported to a city government. Allowing this to be done electronically of course makes it more efficient since someone isn’t required to be on the phone to take the report. The appropriate department can get the dispatch right away and the citizen can get feedback on the status of the report. Making us all just a little more connected.

Check out Code For America at
www.codeforameica.com or take a look at the City 311 app on your smartphone or www.citysourced.com.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Lion Has Arrived!

First looks at the much anticipated big cat are popping up all over the place. I don’t think I have ever seen this much excitement surrounding a new OS release but this one has a lot to be excited about. While Apple called the event Back To The Mac and said they wanted to take what they learned from iOS and update Mac OS X in reality they did a whole lot more. Many people who had yet to touch the new OS complained about the very features they had yet to touch. I am here to tell you today the new OS feels much more powerful than all of its predecessors. It even seems to perform faster. I am feeling as though I am getting more work done in a day.

Let’s start with the Major Features that have been covered and my first impressions.

Full Screen Mode

Icon_Fullscreen_07.08.11-2011-07-31-19-00.pngFull screen mode is a bit of mixed bag. It does look great on my 17” Mac Book Pro and I am using it heavily there. However once I move to my 27” iMac Desktop with a second 24” screen attached I don’t use it anymore. The second screen is just covered in linen and is pretty useless. The screen is so large that full screen just doesn’t feel useful. If you get an app in full screen mode and want back out just go to the top right side of the screen and the menu bar will reappear and give you a button to click to return to windowed mode and you will be returned to your windowed desktop.

Icon_LaunchPad_07.08.11-2011-07-31-19-00.pngLaunchPad I don’t currently hold out much hope for. I have spent hours setting it up and I just don’t seem to really use it yet. Normally when I launch apps I use the command and space keys and type the name of the program in spotlight. I can see when it would be useful at some point. When you have organized everything and you know you have a video app but just can’t remember the name of it, LaunchPad could be useful. It just takes a lot of time to get it organized and I finding a lot of programs like un-installers that are just hanging out there that should be hidden in a folder on the last page.

Mission Control
Icon_Mission_Control_07.11.11-2011-07-31-19-00.pngThe rebirth of Spaces and Exposé into Mission Control was a great move by Apple. It still has all the power that the power users have come to know and love with a new simplicity that will make it useful even to the novice user. I have heard some complaints in the first couple of days that exposé features were lost. They really weren’t you just need to turn on the gesture in your trackpad settings. With a four finger swipe up your are in Mission Control and a four finger swipe down you are in Exposé. Now the documents below the line in Exposé are not just items minimized in the dock but recently opened documents as well to give you fast access to your documents.


ScreenShot2011-07-31at10.13.28AM-2011-07-31-19-00.pngSpotlight has been around for a while and not particularly smart but had limited use. Spotlight has gotten some nice improvements with this update like a preview feature that displays a thumbnail of a document so you can preview it before you open the document. The search seems a little more refined now and more useful than it has been in the past. Search the Web and search Wikipedia have now been added to Spotlight. I still use it the same way I did before as an app launcher but it is more useful now than it was before. Like in the Snow Leopard version of Spotlight you can still do quick math problems if you just need to solve an equation quickly by typing it right into the search.

Show All Files
Breaks up files by type and provides a CoverFlow view of document thumbnails to allow you to quickly flip through your most recently accessed documents. By default the left most document is what you most recently accessed. It is broken out into Spreadsheets, Developer and Documents. Any of these sections can be clicked to chosen to show all documents of that type if you are looking for something in particular. Also with the search bar on top you can search through all your files for any search term and it will automatically add extra categories like chats and emails. This coupled with Spotlight may make it much easier to find documents in the future. I am still getting used to getting to my files through Show All Files instead of opening Finder and digging through the file system. It will just take a little time to get used to the change.
Finder Enhancements

Preview Signature
This has to be one of my favorite new features. Frequently I have to sign PDF documents and now Preview can create a store your digital signature. To setup your signature open Preview and click on the Annotate button.ScreenShot2011-07-31at10.58.44AM-2011-07-31-19-00.png Next click on the Signature button ScreenShot2011-07-31at10.58.51AM-2011-07-31-19-00.png and sign your name to a white piece of paper. Finally hold the paper up to the camera with your signature lined up with the blue line. Preview will capture your signature and save it. Then in the future you can click on your signature and add it to any document.


I can’t speak to the security of this yet. As long as I am logged in to my account I can add a signature to any document. The Signatures Window does show a padlock next to the signature indicating their may be some sort of security on the signature but I don’t know much about it at the time of this writing. It is something I will continue to dig into and report on at a later date. It is a great feature though and it is making my work flow much faster when signing documents.

ScreenShot2011-07-31at11.26.35AM-2011-07-31-19-00.pngFor the first time in years I haven’t felt the need to have Chax installed on my Mac. First the iChat Buddies is now all in one window making people I want to talk to easier to find and grouped by Co-Workers, Friends, Family, etc. Once I open a chat with two people I am now presented with a single chat window showing both peoples names and allowing me to click back and forth between users. If a message comes in from a person in the background a preview of the chat appears under their name until I click on them to return to the chat. The iChat changes were subtle and it is still missing the ability to get out a screen sharing and back to a video chat without ending the call. If anyone from Apple reads this please fix that it is really annoying.


The last odd bit with Lion is the default inclusion of FaceTime. It is in no way connected to iChat and it by default installed on your Mac. So for those of us early adopters that paid $.99 for the App when it went to version 1.0 we just made a small donation to the cause for Apple because it is free now. It runs in the back ground and if someone calls a FaceTime registered email address or iPhone number it will ring through to all of your computers and devices with FaceTime installed. It is useful but FaceTime doesn’t support screen sharing, special effects, or text chatting. So both products feel a little odd and incomplete.

I would like to see one chat product that integrates everything for communications and allows me to share my screen or the user to share their screen. One final oddity I noted about FaceTime is if you move between desktops in Mission Control the video call pauses. Audio conversation continues uninterrupted but the other side becomes a static grey picture with a giant pause in the middle of the screen indicating to the other person they may be on hold but audio continues both ways. If you mute yourself in FaceTime the video continues again greyed out with a big mute in the center of the screen but full motion video is still happening in the background.

Changing Your Password

ScreenShot2011-07-31at4.00.15PM-2011-07-31-19-00.pngWho hasn’t lost or forgotten a password from time to time? Well, with this new feature connecting your User Account to your iTunes account gives you a way to reset your User Login password with your iTunes ID. This will not reset your Keychain password so if you store passwords in your keychain they will be lost when you delete the keychain you no longer have access to anymore. However this is an easier process than getting out the boot disk (if your Mac has a DVD drive) rebooting from the disk and resetting the password.

iOS style auto correction

For someone who does a lot of writing and sometimes makes mistakes this is a great feature. If you misspell or the prediction pops up and your accept the correction the word is briefly underlined in blue. A person can start typing a word and use space to complete it or escape to cancel the word. For the words that OS X doesn’t pick up or common misspellings that are not picked up from iOS can be picked up by Text Expander from Smile Software.


Ok this one is for geeks and support people and it is pretty buried in the Operating System and it isn’t clear other than visiting the CoreServices System Folder I am not sure how to open this application yet. For those daring souls that like to dig into the OS and play with this new feature it is located under /Library/System/Core Services/Wi-Fi Diagnostics. A user can monitor the performance of the computers on the wi-fi network, Record Events, perform a raw packet capture, or turn on debugging information. I think this has been included but either isn’t ready for primetime yet or is automatically launched when a particular problem occurs that I haven’t encountered yet.


Programs resuming from their last state

This can be a mixed bag for some users. You don’t want to be visiting a client and open Keynote to another clients presentation. So the best thing a user can do is remember to close files when you are done with them to prevent potentially embarrassing situations from arising. That being said I do like the feature in general. As we all know sometimes Safari starts using up a lot of memory or running slow and needs to be restarted. If you leave you tabs open but close Safari when you reopen it the tabs will all reload just the way it was and take up less memory and improved performance. So no need to go back and reopen the dozen tabs I had open again.

Last week while being out and about I was using my computer and put it to sleep. When I opened it up again I was presented with my login and password screen. Upon entering my credentials all of my apps reopened and resumed where they were when I put the computer to sleep and informed me the Mac had experienced a crash and would like to send diagnostic information to Apple. Other than having to login and getting this dialog box I had not even noticed that the computer had an issue and I was able to resume working right where I left off quickly.

To date most of the apps I spend my greatest about of time in do not support Versions so I haven’t had much time to work with it yet. While Versions doesn’t totally rely on Time Machine it does seem to integrate with it to display data from documents older than the two weeks defaulted before the document locks. As more applications start to utilize versions I think this will become a huge feature in the future.

Visual Tweaks

Finder got a few nice visual tweaks like hiding the scroll bars when they are not in use. This is great for freeing up more space and if you want to see the scroll bar for a moment to get a feeling for where you are in a document just touch two fingers to the trackpad and move slightly to see where you are. Also with the loss of scroll bars the window moves resize button has gone away at the bottom of the screen. Now users can just grab any edge to resize a window and by holding the option key can resize opposite sides of a window or by grabbing the corner of the window the entire window.

Window graphics look more refined and the drop shadows around windows seem a little longer giving the desktop more of a sense of depth. It just makes the Windows environment feel a little more polished. Grabbing multiple files now adds a badge to show a user how many files they have grabbed so they know they got the right number of files. Finally when moving a file from one location to another the icon morphs into the shape of the view on the screen. Dragging from icon to list causes the icon to morph when it is over the destination window. It is not particularly useful but does make the OS feel a little more thought out and polished.

New Voices

With Lion users now get additional choices in natural sounding voices. These voices it is speculated came from a deal between Apple and Nuance Technologies. The voices now include many foreign languages and a variety of accents. To access these open the System Preferences, click speech, click text to speech, and under the voice choose customize. These additional voices are downloaded from the Internet and installed as a user requests them.


Icon_AirDrop_07.08.11-2011-07-31-19-00.pngAirDrop there isn’t too much to say about it, it just works. It requires zero configuration and it is very secure. The only downside is you have to be on late 2008 or newer Mac hardware that takes advantage of Wi-Fi Cards that can support an Ad-Hoc and Infrastructure network at the same time. AirDrop is off until the user clicks on it in Finder then it locates other people with AirDrop on in the immediate area. They are represented by an icon with their login picture. If a user wishes to send a file just drag and drop it to the recipients picture and it asks the user to confirm they wish to send the file. Then on the recipients computer a dialog appears telling the user the sender wishes to send you a file do you wish to accept the file. If the recipient clicks yes then the file is transferred over an encrypted connection. The process couldn’t be any simpler.

So all in all Lion is a pretty major upgrade for users despite the $29.00 price tag. As long as you don’t have PowerPC apps you still need there is no reason not to upgrade to the latest version. It doesn’t feel any faster than Snow Leopard but it does give the end user quiet a few new features and ways to help save their work and alter their work flow to make them more efficient. It is a nice upgrade and fun to use.

This is also the first major OS release to be available by download only and there was a lot of hoopla over it when this was announced. My computers took about 20 minutes each to download the data and Apple stores have been letting people who have slow Internet drop in and use theirs. It was announced last week that a USB drive will be made available in August with the installer for $69.00 US for the bandwidth impaired. New Macbook Airs and MacMini’s come with a method to re-download and install Lion from the Firmware if a blank drive is installed in the machine and eventually this feature will make it across the complete line.

The future has arrived our computers have gotten smarter, easier to use, and our OS’s will be downloaded.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Getting Ready for Lion

Ok so we are now counting down the days until Lion gets released. I am guessing at this point we have less than a week to go. So today I am going to talk about a few things you can do to get your machine ready for Lion to be let out of its cage! First thing I would recommend is to make sure all of your software is as up to date as possible. If you haven’t installed Snow Leopard yet that is the first thing you need to do. While many Apple Stores seem to be running out of Snow Leopard disks it is still available through the online Apple Store and through Amazon.com.

If you are already on Snow Leopard make sure you are updated to the latest and greatest version 10.6.8 by opening System Preferences go to Software Update and click on Check for Updates. Make sure you get all software patches that are available. Next open the App Store App in your System Dock or in the Apple Menu at the top left of your screen and click on updates. Make sure all updates that are available are installed. The next step in my preparation for Lion was to install a program called Bodega from Fresh Code. Bodega is an App Store similar to the Mac App Store but is not run by Apple. Bodega has a nice feature that will scan through all of the installed apps on your computer and tell you if you have updates. I have not been able to use the built in updater to update some apps but with this list I can launch each app and check for updates and install or visit the web site and download the latest version of the app. You can also buy apps directly from Bodega.

With all of your apps up to date or if you choose remove apps you don’t use or don’t like anymore from your computer to save space and make it easier to find apps in the future. Remember with Lion we now have LanuchPad and every app in your Applications folder is going to be showing up there. So feel free to get rid of any apps that you don’t find useful anymore by uninstalling them or dragging them to the trash. This would be a good time to use a program like AppZapper, AppDelete, or AppCleaner to get rid of old programs that you don’t use or don’t wish to update.

AppDelete has posted on their web site they are Lion ready.

Next on the list let’s do a little cleanup. Launch Onyx from Titanium Software. Verify the S.M.A.R.T. Status of your hard drive, Check the Structure of your volume, and scan your Preference files to make sure none are corrupted.

Next Check your Permissions, run all maintenance scripts, and rebuild the LaunchServices, dyld’s shared cache, Spotlight Index, Mail Envelop Index, and locate database.

Next clean and delete all System, User, Internet, Font, Log, and Misc. caches. You will need to click on each tab and choose execute to run each one in turn.


Next check your System Preferences / User Accounts / Login items and remove anything you no longer use or want in your auto startup.

Finally open System Profiler by going to the Apple Menu Screenshot2011-07-17at1.37.15PM-2011-07-17-10-25.png in the top left corner of your screen and choose About this Mac and click More Info...

Now in Profiler under Software click Applications and this will list all software installed on your computer. If you adjust the columns so you can see the Kind column and reorder the column by clicking on it you can quickly scroll through and see what types of apps you have installed. If you encounter any that are PowerPC they will not work in Lion. When you run your Lion install any PowerPC apps or apps that are not supported in Lion will be moved to a new folder that indicates the applications are not compatible. By clicking on the App the Location will be revealed in the lower pane so you can find and remove the incompatible app. If you don’t find them all it is ok Lion will find them for you during install time.


This would also be a good opportunity to check your apps and find out which ones are 64 bit and start moving your apps to 64 bit if possible. The popular VLC Player for example has a PowerPC version for older Macs, they also have a 32bit version and 64bit version for the newer systems. If you are running Snow Leopard or Lion in a week upgrading to the 64 bit version is worth while. It will save headaches down the road when it comes time to upgrade again and you might get a slight performance gain from apps and can more fully utilize RAM in your computer as more Macs start coming with more than 4 Gigabytes of RAM. Apple has done a good job of making the 32bit and 64bit applications very transparent to users. However if you are going to run the 64bit kernel in the OS all drivers must be 64bit. That has been largely handled by Apple but if you have any third party hardware check to make sure you have or can install a 64bit driver to keep things consistent. With Snow Leopard 10.6.4 and the 2011 Macs Apple started by default shipping computer with 64bit kernel mode turned on.

We are closing in on the end of our Lion preparation just a couple more steps to go. Next I would check and make sure you have at least 8-10 Gigabytes of free hard drive space on your computer. If you don’t then you will need to remove some old data or install a larger hard drive. Lion will be about 4 gigabytes to download and then it will need space to work with for the installation. So make sure you have plenty of free drive space. Once you have done that the last step I would recommend is defragging your hard drive if you are using a mechanical drive. SSD users of course can skip this step. If you have a mechanical hard drive then I would recommend Drive Genius 3, TechTool Pro 5, or iDefrag as options to defragment your hard drive. This step could take several hours depending on how frequently you defragment your hard drive.

For those of you that purchased a Mac after June 6th 2011 remember you can get a free upgrade to Lion through Apple. Just visit http://www.apple.com/macosx/uptodate/ for details.

Once you are done with these steps sit back, relax and wait for Lion! Remember on install day it will probably take some time to download the Lion installer depending on bandwidth and how many people start downloading Lion right away. Good luck and happy upgrading. If you have questions, comments, or just need help with preparing for Lion feel free to leave a comment in this thread or email me at paultscott@gmail.com. I will be happy to answer as many questions as I can.

Finally don’t forget to check out our weekly podcast myself and Dr. PC Jeff Bodenstein will be talking about Lion and other tech news and answering users questions. You can find our show in iTunes or at reboundradio.com. The show is called TechBits come check us out and leave us feedback.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

OCZ Vertex 2 Upgrade

I have been testing a couple of different hard drives over the last month looking for better performance in my Macbook Pro. First I upgraded from a Seagate Momentus 7200 RPM to a Seagate Momentus XT 7200 RPM hybrid drive. The Hybrid is a 500GB mechanical hard disk with 4GB of NAND flash on board to help accelerate frequently used files. Last but certainly not least I tried an OCZ Vertex 2 SSD drive. A 250GB hard drive and all ll I can say is WOW this is an amazing upgrade. It is a little hefty price wise but makes a phenomenal performance difference on a computer.

First I ran the Xbench program to performance test the same machine with several different hard drives. My first baseline test was using the Seagate standard mechanical 7200RPM hard drive. My computer overall score was 132.88 and when I first installed the new drive performance dropped slightly to 130.00. After a week of running the hybrid it stored slightly higher at 133.13. I was never able to tell a difference in performance in the real world between the hybrid and regular mechanical drive.

Drive Type
Xbench Score
Hybrid Day 1
Haybrid One week

Then came installing the OCZ Vertex 2. This drive is phenomenal. It is a little smaller than the other drives in the test only storing 250GB of data. However the computer boots faster, login is faster, and programs launch faster it makes my computer feel like a whole new machine. Now I will say the price point for this upgrade is kind of high. The Vertex 2 weighs in at $379 for the 240 GB model. Anything smaller isn’t particularly useful with our large media files and constant growing collections of MP3’s and movies.

To balance my need for storage and with the need for speed I went with a dual drive configuration in my laptop. I got an Optibay to put the 500 GB mechanical drive in and put the SSD in the primary bay. The optical drive was removed and put in an external enclosure with a USB interface. Frankly I almost never use the DVD drive anymore so swapping it out for some extra storage was an easy decision. Now my laptop is rocking 750GB of storage. I keep the Music, Pictures, and Movies on the larger mechanical drive and the OS, documents, and all the files I need fast access to on the SSD drive giving me the best of both worlds.

The prices are still high and capacities are still limited to 480GB but the prices are falling rapidly and with some management of media SSD’s are ready for the mass market. Other World Computing a couple of weeks ago announced their Electra 6G line of SSD drives. These are the first SATA III drives with 500MB per second transfer speeds and for the first time a 500 GB drive under $1000.00.

Pricing is still a little high but if you need the speed and have it in the budget it is a worth while upgrade. I predict in the next year prices will drop to point where SSD drives become a very reasonable must have upgrade. They certainly make a massive performance difference on any computer. There may be additional benefits when OS X Lion ships later this month since the OS is being optimized for SSD drives.

Monday, June 6, 2011

WWDC 2011 Annoucements!

This years World Wide Developers Conference was a blockbuster keynote with three big acts making up an amazing amount of news and information about things coming very soon to the Mac and iOS platforms. I don’t think Apple has made this many changes at once in their history. Coupled with the meteoric growth of the Apple brand in the last several years Jobs promised with the introduction of the iPad 1 thirteen months ago that Apple had a number of bold moves planned and they are not about to disappoint.

First this year the World Wide Developers Conference (WWDC) sold out in 2 just hours this year. There are now more developers of iOS and Mac OS than Apple can get space to work with at a yearly conference. In years past they didn’t sell out and now they are selling out in just hours.

As part of the normal Keynote Apple likes to talk about numbers. Apple now has 54 million active Mac users. 73% of all Macs sold are laptop computers. The PC market shrank-1% last year and the Mac platform grew 28% outpacing the rest of the industry five years running.

Act I

Lion Top Ten List

Apple has choosen to highlight the top 10 new features in the Mac OS and give a few more honorable mentions of other items at the end giving just a glimpse of the more than 200 new features being touted by the latest iteration of the OS.

290px-Mac_OS_X_Lion_Preview_-_Mission_Control-2011-06-6-11-02.jpgFirst up multi touch gestures such as inertial scrolling, tap to zoom, pinch to zoom, and swipe for navigating photos and web pages. Currently you can also rotate images and a few other gestures in the current OS but Lion is really going to take full advantage of one through 4 finger gestures much like Mac’s iOS cousin. As a visual enhancement scroll bars appear when you activate scrolling (using a two finger gesture) to give a sense of place and movement direction to the user, and disappear when not scrolling to get out of the users way and free up screen space.

Second item on the agenda was Full Screen Apps. With the touch of a button on the top right of a Window any app will be able to take up the full screen, eliminating distractions and giving a clean appearance. With a simple swipe the user can jump between full screen apps or go back to the desktop or into the widgets.
Third is Mission Control the unification of Spaces Expose and Dashboard. with a single three finger swipe up gesture the user can show all spaces and current desktops you are working on with access to widgets and allow quick access to other spaces created by the user. The spaces which are virtual desktops appear tiled at the top of the screen. Just grab the plus to add a space or drag an application window to the top right to create more spaces. In the center of the screen windowed apps are displayed above the desktop grouped by application. A quick gesture over one application can fan them out for easier viewing. Along the bottom of Mission Control are thumbnails of all full screen windows giving the user a quick glance at everything that is open at the same time.

Fourth is a revamped App Store. The first App Store was an interesting experiment and we will see where it heads in this next iteration. This is the one feature that seems to have generated the most fear and hostility in the media. Rumors have flown that Apple will lock down the OS and stop people from loading software by other means and all kinds of conspiracies. I don’t see that happening although most users will use it just out of convenience. Since App Store was rolled out in 10.6.6 Snow Leopard just a few months ago Apple has become the #1 PC software channel for buying software. Adobe and Pixelmator has made more than a million dollars in just a couple of months each on sales. One click updating for all programs makes it as easy to keep your Mac software up to date as it is to keep your iOS apps up to date.

App Store will be built into Lion and will include in-app purchase for developers. Users will be able to buy a graphics app and then order plugins they use as an example right through the app. The new App Store is also adding Push Notifications and options for developers to Sandbox their apps for security. Also software updates will be done through a delta download so only the files that change will need to be downloaded.
The fifth major new feature is Launchpad. Once you download your app from the App Store or install via installer the app appears on the LaunchPad with a pinch gesture at the desktop LaunchPad appears and you can swipe between screens or tap on folders to group apps just like iOS. In theory making it easier to find apps on your Mac.

Feature number six, seven and eight all work hand in hand. Apps will remember their state and even what you have highlighted in a document. You can resume your work environment right where you left off even after a reboot of the computer. The Auto Save feature will incrementally save your document as you work. Type a line of text and close the editor no saving needed it just works. Auto Save also gives you the option right from the document name icon in the tool bar to revert to Last Opened, lock the current version if you really like it or make a duplicate of the file from right within the app and continue editing the duplicate. The last piece of this puzzle is Versions which allows you to control versions of your document. To conserve disk space it uses subfile versioning to only save the changes to the file and not the entire file over again. With a Time Machine like view you can look back through all of the previous versions of a document. When you send a document to someone it only sends them the version you selected and not the entire revision history. Past and current versions are all live documents so you can even copy and paste between them if you just want a small piece of a document you can copy it from the Version history and paste it into the current version.

The number nine new and exciting technology is Air Drop. This might finally make file sharing truly simple. Using peer to peer networking technology Air Drop shows you the people around you with their picture. Drop a file on the person you want to send the file and when they confirm they want to get it OS X creates a secure encrypted connection and transfers the file. Easier than a USB stick and faster than Bluetooth file sharing.

Number ten of course is the venerable and somewhat long in the tooth Mail app. Now with two or three column view options and displaying the message to the right instead of below the snippet pane by default. This new version of Mail sports a more iOS like user interface, support for Exchange 2010, and a whole new search system. Once the search system determines what you are looking for it converts it to a token and allows you to further refine your search. No more partial search and then scan the rest of the list you can drill down to messages from a person where something was not included and something else is. It looks like it has the potential to be a very flexible search system.

Also new to Mail in Lion is the Conversation view which shows your messages with page breaks instead of indenting and changing colors. Attachments are kept inline as well so the whole context of a conversation can be maintained. When the conversation is done they can be archived or deleted. The Conversations feature is totally compatible with all other mail clients but still looks like the quoted messages everyone else is used to seeing. Users can also turn the feature off with the click of a button.

To reply to a message just float over the message and the reply button appears. Click it and your reply window pops out and you are ready to reply.

The Grab Bag

Apple made a few announcements during the show and some have trickled out after that really don’t fall squarely in iOS or Mac announcements as they affect both or are currently minor changes that just didn’t feel like they belonged in a top 10 list or just showed up on a slide but didn’t get any real time to discuss.

images-2011-06-6-11-02.jpegSafari 5.1 currently in beta is adding a new feature called Reading List new to Safari like Instapaper but built into the browser and able to sync between iOS and Mac OS devices. This is a great way to get me to stop opening dozens of tabs to hold on to sites that I will go back and read later.

Face detection technologies. Shown off in Photo Booth new effects allow targeted facial enhancements like larger eyes, or birds flying around your head. While it is a fun toy I would be interested in seeing what practical applications these might have.

A few other features will include a new FileVault 2, Windows Migration Assistant, Lion Server add on $49.99, FaceTime Free, Preview Signature, Time Machine Local SnapShot, App Sand-boxing, Folder Merge, Search tokens, Yahoo Messenger in iChat, iChat service plugins, XSan built in, Resize windows from any edge, and Push Notifications where just a few that were on the slides but not even talked about.

Mac OS X Lion will only available in the Mac App Store with a single click to buy, download, and upgrade. The install weighs in at about four Gigabytes and installs in place no reboot from optical disk needed. One copy supports all your Macs you sign in to the app store with. The prices will be $29.99 and it is coming in July 2011.

Unresolved Questions

There were a few things not mentioned in this section of the presentation I would still like to know more about. Nothing was said about the rumors of the Windows File Share compatibility being totally rewritten. What about diagnostic tools for OS X if there is no boot DVD anymore? How do companies order copies of OS X Lion for their employees?

Act II

iOS 5

First Apple has sold 200 million iOS devices. Making them the number one mobile OS with 44% of market. This would likely include the iPod Touch, iPhone, iPad. There were 25 million iPads sold in first 14 months they were available. 15 billion songs have been sold on iTunes music store. iBooks Store has sold 130 million books in 14 months. 14 billion app downloads have happened in less than three years. Apple has paid out more than 2.5 billion dollars to developers who have written apps for iOS devices. Recently apps have been approved for use by FAA and AMA. In a recent update Webex has added multi party video conferencing that works on iPad2.

iOS Top 10

overview_whatsnew-2011-06-6-11-02.pngFirst up and long overdue is new notifications. Notification Center drops right out of your menu bar with a swipe of your finger. I was hoping for more from Apple with this given the amount of time we lived with modal dialogs but at least we have a better system now and it brings iOS up to par with Android in that respect. Apple has handled 100 billion push notifications since the launch of the service. Getting two many notices quickly became a problem and required a new way to handle notifications. Notices appear at top of screen while the device is being used then hides itself. A new lock screen shows notifications on screen and allows you to swipe to respond to the notifications or swipe to unlock your phone at the bottom.

It is a good first step for Apple in improving the notification system and I am sure more changes will come to it. I have been using it all day today and I will say it makes the user experience on the iPhone much better already.

Number two is a companion to iBooks called News Stand. Many magazines and Newspapers have already signed up for news stand. WIth a single location in the app store to access and subscribe to them. When a newspaper or magazine updates it is downloaded in the background so it is ready when you are.
Number three is Twitter integration through a single sign-on setup in the system menu and Twitter aware apps can use that to login. Twitter is also built into the Camera, Photos, You Tube, Safari, and Maps apps. Allowing you to send photos, links and text to your Twitter followers. With Twitter integration iOS can also add @twitter handles to your contacts list and update your Contacts photos in your address book with Twitter photos if you like.

Single Sign-on for twitter apps. Support for multiple accounts. Twitter is integrated into Camera and photos, videos from You Tube, links from Safari, and businesses in Maps, Contacts integration that can update photos in your contact list and add @names to your contacts.

Safari has become the most popular Mobile Web Browser with 65% market share versus 27% Android which still uses the open source core of Safari WebKit as the basis for its browser. This is according to Net Applications US April 2011. The new Safari includes the Reader feature to remove clutter from the webpage and let you focus on the content. You can now email the contents of a story instead of just a link to the story. Also the new Reading list feature will remember the links you want to visit later and syncs between iOS devices. Safari has also added tabbed browsing like its desktop counter parts making it more natural to move between Safari on the desktop and on the iPad.

Reminders a new app in iOS gives us to do lists and in an elegant way. Set reminders based on time or on geo location. Tell a reminder to trigger an alert when you leave somewhere or when you arrive somewhere. This is going to a huge feature and it is capable of handling multiple lists and with a swipe move between lists. Reminders also supports iCal sync and Outlook sync with Exchange.

Camera is now faster to access by putting the button on the lock screen. Even if a passcode is set you can take pictures but do nothing else until you enter the passcode. The Volume Up button can now be used as a shutter button when the camera is open. Grid lines are now an option to help you compose the shot better and now zoom is done through a pinch gesture and AE/AF lock by holding your finger on the screen.

Photo editing can now be done right on the iPhone or iPad. With features like crop, rotate, red eye reduction, auto enhancement are built right in. With the iCloud Photo Stream feature you can take a picture on your iPhone and have it sync right to your iPad for editing.

Number seven to get a facelift is our trusty Mail App with Rich Text Formatting, control indentation, draggable addresses between to cc and bcc, and support for flagging mail items. The search engine now includes entire message contents on iPhone and the mail server. iPad picked up a swipe to inbox gesture in portrait mode. Support for S/MIME has been added for the security conscious. Plus the Dictionary is now a service built into Mail and all other iOS apps look up a word in the dictionary with a tap and hold.

Plus Apple demoed new keyboard styles on the iPad with a thumb typing split keyboard . Just grab the handle on the keyboard key and pull it up to split the keyboard into side by side thumb keyboards. This will be great for people who want to type in portrait mode while holding the iPad with both hands.

The eighth innovation in a post PC era is now here. iOS supports over the air updates, Delta updates only download what changed , a setup wizard built in longer requires a computer to configure your device. Users can now create and delete calendars right from within the device. Creating and deleting mailboxes can be done right in Mail. You can now use an iPad or iPhone as your only computer!

With over 50 million Game Center users in just 9 months Game Center is bigger than Xbox live with its 30 million users since launch. The new Game Center adds Game discovery to find new games, buy and download games right from Game Center, photos to see pictures of your friends. Plus a new points system to compete with your friends in games. Also added support for turn based games right into the OS. This will free developers up to focus on the game play.

The tenth new feature is iMessage for iPhone, iPad, iPodTouch built in messaging for all iOS customers. Everything a messaging app does, text, message, photos, videos, contacts, group messaging plus Delivery Receipts, optional read receipts, and typing indication. Messages are pushed to all devices so you can start a conversation on one device and pick it up somewhere else. iMessage works on 3G and Wi-Fi and encrypts the messages when it sends them.

This has the potential to really reduce the number of SMS messages that people send and I am sure something the carriers are not happy about. Apple didn’t give a heads up to the carriers before announcing this so they found out when the public did that the days of charging outrageous fees for simple text messages may be coming to an end. This is great for customers and if iMessage can’t deliver the message you can still fall back to SMS right in the app or send SMS to non iOS customers.

Coming soon to the Apple TV is Airplay Mirroring mirror the whole iPad screen to your AppleTV. iTunes now supports Wireless iTunes sync and auto wifi backup of your device. Plus the experimental multi-touch gestures introduced to developers in 4.3 will now be standard in iOS 5 including swipe up to show the task manager, five finger pinch to close an app, and four finger swipe to move between apps.

iOS 5 will be available for the iPhone 3GS & 4, as well as the 3rd and 4th generation iPods, and all iPads. iOS 5 will be shipping this fall.



overview_icloud-2011-06-6-11-02.pngApple is dropping MobileMe which is leaving a lot of questions swirling about the future of iDisk and web hosting on MobileMe. For now the new iCloud initiative does bring us some interesting new technology. First the computer has been demoted to a device in our digital lives and now the cloud is our new hub. Devices don’t have to even be removed from your pocket to sync. iCloud is being tightly integrated with apps so it is all automatic and “It just works”. Steve Jobs admitted MobileMe wasn’t their finest hour and learned a lot from it.

First Mail looks like it will continue to work as it always has. Everything syncs to all devices and it just works. Plus in a little swipe at Google they mentioned no ads on the webmail app.

Contacts now auto stores on the cloud and pushed to other devices to keep them in sync. This has been updated on MobileMe and tested extensively. It has worked great for me over the last several months.

Calendar has moved to the CalDav format and now includes calendar sharing. You can share calendars with other people and both can update the group calendar.

The App Store buy apps on a device and re-download anything in purchase history even if app is not on the device. Future purchases iCloud downloads the app to all devices automatically.

iBooks offers bookmark syncing via iCloud. Buy a book on one device it automatically downloads to all devices. Read a few pages on the iPad and have to leave, pickup right where you left off on your iPhone.

iOS Backup for those that want to be PC free. Enter your AppleID and your Purchased music, apps and books, camera roll photos, videos, device settings, and app data backs up wirelessly daily over wifi.
Documents in the cloud is a service that when you create a Pages document on say your iPad it automatically stores in the iCloud. Then pushes to all your other devices with Pages. So far this is built into Pages, Numbers and Keynote. This new feature works with all iOS devices as well as Mac & PC too. The API has been released to developers so others can start using it as well.

Photo Stream takes a photo from any device and automatically uploads to cloud and places it in the camera roll of all other devices including the Mac. Importing photos to Photo Stream from iPhoto library is also supported. Photo Stream even works with PC pictures folder and is built into Apple TV. Photo Stream automatically stores the last 1,000 photos in iOS and the Macs or PCs stores all photos locally. The Apple servers store images and videos for 30 days to give Macs and PCs time to sync the photos or the user to save it permanently by moving pictures to existing or new albums.

iTunes in the Cloud shows songs you have already bought and can be re-downloaded anytime. Buy on one device and auto sync to all devices up to 10 devices now.

iCloud is Free and will be available in the fall. MobileMe is going away and will be discontinued in April 2012. iCloud is offering 5 GB of storage for backup not counting Purchased Music, Apps, & Books those don’t count against the cap and neither do photos. It seems as though only documents will count against the 5 GB cap.

Some parts of iCloud are available Today. A Developer Beta is also currently being tested for a roll out in the fall coming with iOS 5. iTunes in the cloud is live today on iOS 4.3 devices with no update or download necessary.

One More Thing

iTunes Match Service will scan your ripped CD’s and match it to songs in the store. With over 18 million songs in the store it is likely most will match. This will afford users the same benefits of music purchased from iTunes 256 kb AAC, re downloadable from the cloud, etc. It only takes minutes to run on an iTunes library. If it isn’t in the library it will uploaded to your own digital locker. iTunes Music Match will cost $24.99 a year.

I still have a few questions about iTunes in the Cloud and iTunes Music Match service that have yet to be answered. Like is streaming an option or does music always have to be downloaded? What about videos will we be able to do this with them as well at some point?

Lastly Apple finally talked about the North Carolina Data Center. It is Apple’s 3rd and largest datacenter. It has been designed to be as eco-friendly as possible and it is enormous to accommodate all of these new cloud services and sync technologies.

Apple still has a lot of questions that need to be answered regarding the other services in MobileMe and what will become of them. Also questions about other new features like enhanced voice recognition was never touched upon either. Corporate licensing for OS X and OS X server was never touched on either. Hopefully over the next several days more of these questions will be answered by Apple.

Just after the keynote Apple quietly released a new version of iBooks 1.3 that included a Read To Me feature for children where a narrator reads books and the words in the iBook highlight and enhanced books also include audio and video elements. So while Apple made the keynote an overview of 29 large things they are doing in OS X, iOS, and iCloud it seems as though Cupertino has a lot of other things going on at the same time and we are just starting to see the large changes that are ahead.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Malware on the Mac

This week MacRumors reported the AppleCare hotline which normally has about 15 minutes between support calls now has a constant flow of calls coming in. A full 50% of these calls are because of a piece of Malware people have started installing called MacDefender. There is also Mac Protector and free iWork and Adobe Creative Suites floating around on the Internet that are really Malware. I won’t say the honey moon is over and we as Mac users really need to be particularly concerned about Malware and viruses. After all we are not PC users and our computers still can’t be infected by just going to a website or popping in a CD.

These Malware programs are either presented on a website or via an unsolicited email. I even got an email the other day structured to look just like something Apple would send and even took me to a website that looked very much like an Apple website. Except it wasn’t it. It was selling all kinds of fake or pirated software well below retail and most of it directed at PC users. The dead giveaway is Apple would never send an email from live.com (Domain owned by Microsoft and provides free email services).

So today I am going to give my readers a couple of tips to be safe when surfing the web and installing software. Plus I am going to include a quick step by step tutorial on how to remove the malware if you have already installed it on your computer. First, a quick synopsis of what is malware. These malware programs do nothing but tell the user they have a virus and if you buy the program it will remove this virus. Since there are no viruses in the wild on the Mac it is a fairly useless program. All it likely does is stop hounding you to buy it. However the people who wrote these programs don’t just want the $20.00 or so dollars for you to “buy” the software but then they have your credit card information and can sell that to the highest bidder online. It is about identity theft and credit card fraud. So your best bet is to just remove the program yourself and only install software from known and trusted software sources.

Safety Tips

1.) If you are running OS X 10.6.6 purchase your software from the App Store. It has been vetted by Apple and approved. It is the safest way to get software and you don’t have to worry about finding license keys if you have to reinstall and you can install software on each computer you own.

2.) Do not install software on your computer that you didn’t seek out yourself or you were not referred to by someone you trust. If you get an email saying get this great software cheap or you get something on Facebook or Twitter don’t be too quick to install it. Sometimes there are great deals like MacHeist and some others that put together bundles. Just be cautious and make sure the message came from someone you trust.

3.) When in doubt don’t install it. Do a Google search and find out more about it from trusted websites. You can even email me here at the blog and I will check it out and let you know if something is safe.

How to Remove Mac Defender / Mac Protect and other Malware

If you see the following screen as an example. You should not pay anything but follow these steps below to remove the malware from your computer.

Should you install the software and need to remove it follow these steps.

1.) Open Activity Monitor and locate the program running and select it. Under Process Name it will have the name of the malware. Click on it and then click the Quit Process


2.) Go online and download an app removal program from the internet. There are three I can recommend and the links to them are below.

        App Zapper http://appzapper.com/ available for $12.95
        App Cleaner http://www.freemacsoft.net/AppCleaner/ available for free although donations are accepted via the website. If you do use this please help support the                                                                                          developer.
        App Delete http://www.reggieashworth.com/appdelete avaiable for $7.99
        Hazel http://www.noodlesoft.com/hazel.php available for $21.95 Hazel, does much more than just help clean up apps.

All four of these apps I have tried and I have checked out these links so they are safe for installation.

3.) Find the MacProtect or MacDefender in the Applications folder of your Mac. Drag the Application to the running App Delete program of your choice. Once all the pieces of the program have been found just press the delete button your App Delete utility. Once it is deleted empty your trash and your computer is once again malware free.

App Cleaner is the app I have been choosing to remove this malware from the peoples machines I have tested this procedure on. So far all the feedback has been good and everyone indicated it has been a simple fix. If you have issues let me know through the blog or via email and I will modify the directions as needed and try and help users solve their problems. After all that is what the Mac community is all about helping one another.

Remember be safe when surfing, always exercise caution and make sure you understand what you are installing when anything asks for your admin password. If you or a family member are running as a Standard User the malware should not be able to install unless your provide an admin level password.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Hulu Plus, Netflix, and iTunes replacement for cable?

After a few months of testing I can say I have a pretty good feel for Hulu Plus. First the application runs fine on the Mac, not quiet as nicely as Netflix with its Silverlight technology and ability to run in full screen on an extra monitor while you work on other monitors, but it runs fine if you are just looking to watch TV on your Mac. The iPad and iPhone applications are fantastic for watching TV shows while you are mobile. The picture quality is a little lower on 3G but still watchable.

For comparison I tried Hulu on the Mac, iPad, iPhone, and PS3. The PS3 was just a bad experience. Every time a software update comes out Hulu gets stuck on the login and will not open completely or close to allow the user to update without holding down the power key and rebooting the PS3.

On the iPad and iPhone It is a completely different experience. Just tap the app and you are ready to watch TV. The search is a little non-intuitive and new full episode availability is still limited. The older series library is growing constantly allowing viewers to revisit old favorites or even discover old series they missed for the first time Recently some content has starred showing up as web only not allowing it to be viewed by anything but a Mac or PC. Since there is a $7.99 a month subscription fee i should be able to watch any content on any device I own. That has been a problem for several shows I watch.

At $7.99 a month for Hulu it isn't a bad deal if you want some TV on demand or your DVR missed a show, but I am not throwing out my satellite TV just yet.

Netflix is another TV / movie on demand service with a large selection of movies and a $7.99 a month streaming only option. The system recommends movies based on what you watch and how you rate movies. It is easy to discover movies you may never have heard of before. Or if you happen to be at home and in the mood to watch a movie you can just flip through and find something without having to go out of the house or buy a movie from the cable or satellite company.

Netflix on the Apple TV, iPad, and iPhone are great experiences. Again on the PS3 the User Interface changes every time you sign in making it a little confusing to use. I keep hearing that Netflix is trying to find the right UI and getting feed back from customers on the three leading ones. My recommendation is let us choose which one we want to use and don’t assign a random one.

While Hulu is focused on TV Netflix is definitely focused on feature length movies and a few older TV series on DVD.

Netflix will also for an extra dollar a month will mail DVD's to you. The entire catalog isn't available for streaming yet but, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings says they plan to have the entire Netflix collection online in the next year and sees an end to mailing DVD's in the not to distant future.

iTunes has come a long way since it’s early days of just syncing the iPod. Adding a music store, a movie store, and a TV shows in addition to the app store. iTunes became one stop shopping for programs and content. In the early days we could only purchase content which was a little expensive for just watching a movie. Later they added rentals and HD content. Now with the Apple TV2 renting movies is simple and competitively priced with cable and satellite. The 720p HD stream looks great and it is most of all totally convenient. The only thing Apple is missing now is a subscription service to let you watch all the movies and TV’s you want for a low monthly fee. Maybe a few content deals from networks and we could see competition with cable and satellite. I don’t think that is likely to happen since most of the networks own cable companies as well. It would be good for consumers as it gives us choice. What is more likely and will be slow coming is independent content creators will start making their own deals and getting themselves into iTunes, Hulu, and Netflix and start making the big production companies and cable networks less relevant. Much like the Internet has given everyone a voice to share content they have created we could see the same thing come to streaming services in the future. This would give consumers more choices and more diverse content, give advertisers a less expensive medium to get the word out about their products and give us access to content anywhere, anytime, anyplace.

For the providers of content it is time to get on board with streaming from iTunes, Netflix, Hulu, or even your own app that is available on multiple platforms. Just last season my DVR had an issue and stopped recording a series I watch. I didn’t notice until the end of the season and missed several shows. Not wanting to get lost in the story I stopped watching and started looking for the season once it ended. It isn’t available in any streaming format and is coming out on DVD but really not worth me going out of my way to get it and to buy it. So the network just lost a regular viewer due to a technical glitch and their inability to make the show easily available for me to catch up and resume watching on my DVR.

So I am not quiet ready to give up satellite TV yet but Netflix, Hulu, and network TV apps that deliver content to any digital device might make a compelling argument for leaving cable behind. Particularly for road warriors who are on the road frequently and don't always get a chance to watch their favorite shows.

Apple TV

The more I use the new Apple TV the more I like it. The previous model was likable and easy to use but we had no options for live content. N...