I have long wanted to write a blog entry concerning the long-running battle between Mac and Windows users. I have started to write one every time Apple aired another of their “I’m a Mac, I’m a PC” commercials, but have held back because I really didn’t want to wade into the storm of flying vitriol that I knew such a post would engender. Well, Apple hasn’t aired any new commercials since last fall and Justin Long and John Hodgman have both indicated that there will not be any new ones coming and I have spent considerable time reflecting on the matter and decided that it may be time to put aside my reluctance to stir up controversy and gird myself for the coming battle.
The impetus for my having to write this entry is that over the last few months a few friends have had issues with their PCs and I have gotten involved with trying to find a solution. My wife’s friend handed us her 3-year-old laptop and asked if we could do anything to speed it up as it had gotten so dog-slow that it was unusable. (Folks, I have an iMac that we bought 8 years ago and it is not appreciably slower than when we first hooked it up.) We cleaned up the laptop as best we could and were able to recoup some of the lost speed, but whenever the antivirus software kicked in to do a scan, the computer was still a pretty slow pup. I checked into getting it looked at and speed-optimized by a professional service here in town that has a good reputation for reliable service, but it was ridiculously expensive. We gave the laptop back to the friend and told her what her options were and after she regained her composure, she asked about Macintoshes and we took her to the local Apple Store to let her try them out. She is currently saving up to buy a MacBook.
Last weekend, a good friend of ours called up while I had my hands dirtied with tax issues so I wasn’t able to attend to the possible virus issues she was having with her Toshiba laptop so I handed the phone to my wife and she advised her to download a copy of Norton off the Internet and see if that would fix things. Well, after I finished with the nastiness I was dealing with, I found out she hadn’t been able to do that and had gone to a certain Big Box Store and picked up a copy there, but wasn’t able to install Norton with the disc either. Because of our busy schedules, it was Wednesday night before I was able to get over there and help her out.
I got over there to find constant popups on the screen telling her that her computer was infected and that she needed to go to a website and buy a piece of software called Antivir Solutions Pro. Never heard of them, hmmm. The only protection she had on her computer was the built in Windows Defender and whatever had hijacked her machine wouldn’t let it launch. It also blocked Internet Explorer from going to Norton’s website or to any other antivirus software’s website. Nastily defensive little bugger. Found out it had hijacked the Internet connections settings for Internet Explorer and it was running through a proxy server and had grayed out the settings under Tools so you couldn’t change them back. Really nasty!
I stuck in the Norton disc and tried to do an install and it came back and said the file was infected. How does a READ-ONLY file on a CD get infected?! Well, I had to resort to a few tricks by doing some funky restarts so that whatever was in her system wouldn’t launch and I was able to do a sort of backdoor install of the Norton antivirus software and kill the evil little piece of software. Four days my friend was without her computer and for four hours we grappled with the beast within to kill it. She has at least learned a valuable lesson in that if she uses a PC, she needs to use antivirus software and keep it up to date and practice safe computing and be careful where she goes on the Internet. I think she is considering the switch to a Mac; I know she is looking rather covetously at my iPad. (No, I am not gonna mention the site where she picked up the malware.)
During our friend’s downtime this week, a dialog developed on Facebook discussing viruses (virii?) and one of the lesser-informed participants was arguing the point that Macs were no safer than PCs. No matter what factual details we presented to him, he could not be dissuaded from his misguided belief that Macs were just as prone to virus infection as PCs. I told him, correctly, that there were in fact NO viruses out there that would infect OS X machines. While there have been a few viruses developed over the years as proof of concept experiments, none have ever made it into the wild and the areas that were vulnerable to attack within the operating system have long since been blocked. Even these examples were not self-replicating, so they would have been difficult if not impossible to spread. The only malware I have ever heard of for the Mac that ever made it into the wild at all was some that were embedded in some supposed free copies of iLife 09 that were floating around the web last year. If one was so cheap that they had to resort to downloading pirated copies of a $79 software suite, well, you got what you paid for. I have no sympathy for users of pirated software or media.
For a reasonable person, this should have been enough to convince him of the errors of his thinking, but it wasn’t. As “proof” he presented a link to a video that purported to show an example of a Macintosh malware program. Well, I navigated to the site shown in the video, being reasonably sure that the security built into Snow Leopard would provide protection from what I saw in the video. Sure enough, I received a warning about potential security problems with the website and it was actually blocked; first time I had encountered that. So, the only way one could even get to the site to be at risk of being infected, one would have to turn OFF several built-in security features of OS X under Snow Leopard. Looking closer at the video, one is aware that the video was made by a company that is in the business of selling security software for the Mac and I felt this was rather disingenuous of them, so I won’t mention the company here as I don’t think people should patronize a company that stoops to such practices. Also, the file they were trying to download when their software blocked it was an .exe file which will not run on Mac anyway. If you are running Windows on your Mac, either natively under Boot Camp or under a virtual machine under VMWare or Parallels, you better be running antivirus software.
Beyond all this, Mac OS X is a UNIX based operating and as any old UNIX-head like me or even a Linux maven can tell you, UNIX is a seriously secure OS with literally thousands of people working on making it more secure all the time, mostly out of a desire to make the open source OS the best there is out there rather than for commercial reasons. The same cannot be said of the Windows side of things as an entire commercial industry has arisen to deal with the matter.
I know there will be those that will argue that Macs cost much more than PCs and though I will admit that years ago there was some truth to the added premium amounted to a Macintosh Tax; I really don’t think it applies any longer. While you can get very low-priced PCs, Apple doesn’t compete in the low end of the market and if you actually compare PCs specced out comparably to a Mac, the price difference pretty much goes away. Also, as an interesting aside, if you install Windows natively under Boot Camp, Windows will actually run faster on the Mac than on the similarly specced PC. I actually bought one of those lower end PCs (a Toshiba) for a job last year and I can tell you the build quality is nowhere close to what you get on a Mac and is slow enough booting up that I can almost make and eat my breakfast before it boots up all the way and if you own one of these bargain PCs and are truly honest with yourself, you know this is not really much of an exaggeration.
Another argument I often hear is that there is no software for Macs. To that I have to ask, just how much software does one really need? Now before you say that I am being flippantly dismissive, consider what is actually out there for both platforms. I have been on both sides of this divide for more than a quarter century and have gotten a good look at what is available. On the PC side there are a lot more programs available, but a lot of them duplicate one another, so you might have dozens of program solutions for the same problems, however, the quality of these solutions are often a crapshoot, so instead of having a plethora of choice, one is often confronted with a morass of confusion. With the exception of some vertical market solutions, whatever you might want to do, there is a software solution on the Mac, and I have invariably found that the software companies produce programs that are easier to use, work better and just plain out and out look better on the Mac than anything on the PC. In short, solutions are often more elegant on a Mac. The only software areas I can really concede ground on, other than the aforementioned vertical market programs (eg. medical and legal office software) would have to be games, and truth be told, if I were a gamer, I would much prefer to be playing games on a dedicated console and a huge HDTV and not a PC. But that is just me.
So, we’ve touched on security issues, value and software, and folks I find the PC wanting in all these areas and that leads us now to overall functionality and true cost of ownership.
With all the horror stories my friends have told me, all the problems I have seen in the workplace over the years, the downtime cleaning systems up, I don’t know how anybody gets anything done using a Windows PC. A friend of mine from high school wrote me recently to tell me that her PC is down again, probable virus infection crashing it every 5 minutes or so, and it is going to cost a pretty penny to get it fixed again. I don’t really know what her financial situation is, but I am sure she can’t be very happy about having to shell out cash to fix a problem that a malicious person out on the Internet caused. So add in the price of software to protect your machine and at $40 to $80 a year, it adds up to substantial portion of you original investment real quick, especially on the lower priced machines; adding a substantial negative to the cost of ownership. I don’t know about the rest of you, but as a photographer, musician, business owner and sometime blogger, I have better things to do than to spend my valuable time fixing, tweaking or otherwise dealing with problems on a computer that was supposed to make things easier and faster to do. From what I hear out there, that just isn’t happening on the PC side of the equation.
I bought my first Mac on October 31, 1984, the original Macintosh to replace a Timex-Sinclair Z80. In the intervening almost 26 years I have only had two problems. My ex-wife decided to kill my PowerBook 150 by slamming in on the floor and stomping it to death. Killed the hard drive, but only put a little crack in case. The other problem was when the TSA goons slammed my Powerbook G4 through the scanner in the San Jose airport back in ’05. The tray came out the other side so hard that when it hit the end of the rollers, the laptop nearly flipped out of the tray. TSA agent standing there laughed about it. Killed another hard drive, but Apple Care fixed that one; called them Sunday evening when I got home, the shipping box was on my stoop when I got home Monday after work, shipped it to Memphis that evening, got it back Wednesday evening, restored from backup and computed away happily into the sunset.
Is Apple a perfect company? No, they make their missteps. I personally think they let the Antennagate thing go on too long this summer before they addressed it, but they did eventually do the right thing. But even there, the antenna situation is something of a made-up scandal, as almost all phones suffer from the same problem, but that is beyond the scope of the article.
I am sure many PC user will try to justify or even rationalize their decision to stick with their platform, but in light of the cold, hard facts, it just doesn’t make any sense, so I will refrain from arguing with any of them, living up to some advice I received when I was growing up in the pre-computer days: “Never argue with an idiot for they will drag you down to their level and beat you with experience.”
Disclaimer: No actual PC users were harmed in the production of this blog. God knows they do enough harm to themselves.
This past Saturday afternoon I had driven Lynda to a planning conference way out on the west side of town. After the meeting and after the torrents from the sky had abated somewhat, we decided we were getting famished and needed to eat before we headed back to the house. Last fall, a former colleague of mine at the insurance company I used to work for introduced me to a small diner down Dixie Highway in the Valley Station area. With the high water and nasty traffic, it took us about 30 minutes to drive the 4 or 5 miles out Dixie to arrive at Christi’s Cafe.
Christi’s is in an old cinder block building with old metal awnings over some wide windows, right on the west side of Dixie Highway, about a mile south of the Gene Snyder. They have a tiny blacktop parking lot (which is usually full — usually a good sign of good food) in front and a large gravel lot to the side. We got out of the truck and trotted in so we wouldn’t get too soaked by the heavy drizzle, but not so fast that Lynda wasn’t able to notice the artwork on the windows (a soda and a milkshake as Rhett Butler and Scarlet O’Hara from Gone With the Wind, a sunny side up egg as Marilyn Monroe holding down her dress over the subway grate from The Seven Year Itch).
The place was packed, but we found an open table over by Marilyn’s painting. The tables and chairs are just simple ones that you would find in your usual diner that cares more about good food than creating some sort of faux ambiance, although one could have hoped for a bit more padding on the seats, but then, the service is very fast so that doesn’t really become much of an issue. The movie theme from the murals on the windows is continued on the walls with several framed pictures from various movies on the walls.
The waitress brought us a couple of laminated menus that had had several item marked off to reflect recent changes to a menu that is in want of a new printing. After bringing us a couple diet sodas, she took our order. Lynda opted for breakfast and ordered a short stack of Pecan Pancakes along with a scrambled egg and some bacon. I went for late lunch/early dinner fare by ordering a double cheeseburger (dressed) and a side of onion rings. After a very short wait our order was brought out to us.
Lynda’s eggs looked very nice and she said they were done just right, done all the way through and without any of that lacy crispness that a lot places do to their eggs whenever they let someone on the grill who doesn’t know what they are doing (most places fall into this category unfortunately). Her pancakes were a bit of a disappointment for her though. Even though they were a ginormous stack for a short stack and actually tasted wonderful in her opinion, they were just a bit too dense for her liking. I tried a bite, but I think just a little more butter and syrup would have helped out quite a bit, but they weren’t bad. She ate more than half the stack which was impressive considering how huge the portion was.
My double cheeseburger came out much larger than I anticipated. It was two very thick patties smothered in American cheese, served open-faced with an ample amount of lettuce, tomato, pickles, onion and mayo sitting on the bun. Had the onion rings been paired with a lesser burger, I might have thought the portion a bit on the skimpy side, but as it was, I was hard pressed to finish it all. I bit into the burger and am pleased to report that it was very fresh and beefy tasting, done all the way through but very juicy. It was very nice to get a well-done burger that wasn’t a dried out hockey puck. As many of my readers know, this is a pet peeve of mine and I get upset with restaurant managers telling me it can’t be done when I run into proof it can all the time. Those onion ring I mentioned earlier were perfect by the way.
Our experience was very pleasant. Even with the place being full, the noise level was such that a good conversation could be had with out shouting. The waitress was fast, attentive and friendly. It may not be trendy or chic, but the food was great and VERY reasonably priced considering how huge the potions were. Lynda and I are looking forward to going back soon.
Lynda gave them 8 out 10 stars.
I gave them 10 out of 10 stars.
Well, I had to hold back a week to write this article, because I didn’t want to spoil the surprise that we had bought one for my step-daughter, but now that she has been given hers, I can sit down and share my experiences and thoughts about the latest from Cupertino. Besides, it gave me a week to play with the iPad.
Lynda was extremely excited when the iPad was announced in January as she had been looking for a lighter solution to her mobile computing needs for a few years now. Before 2004, she couldn’t imagine needing a laptop for anything and then she decided to get a white iBook computer when I upgraded my aging PowerBook to a new one. Since then she has upgraded a couple of times to lighter but more powerful Mac laptops but still hates to travel with them because of the weight. She also took a misguided detour with an Asus EeePC netbook last summer that came to an end a few weeks ago with her selling it to a former colleague of mine after she became frustrated with its many shortcomings. The iPad sounded like a perfect solution for her as it could do most and probably all that she needed when she travels. But she hesitated and didn’t pre-order one like I thought she would because she wanted to get her hands on one before she made the leap.
We decided, literally at the last minute, on April 3rd to mosey down to the Apple Store at Oxmoor in the early afternoon to at least look and touch one to see if it would really suit her needs. Figured it was probably safe, since they should be sold out by then.
I think we were the second ones in the the non-buying, touchy-feely line. The store was crowded as it normally is on the weekend and we were ushered in with our personal Apple concierge to answer any questions we might have. We were lead to the first blonde maple table where the iPads were set up for demoing and Lynda was handed one. I could tell as soon as she had it in her hand that it was over, the look on her face said that she was not leaving the store without one. Our Apple person went through all the features but basically, just let Lynda play for a few minutes until, reluctantly, she handed it to me for a few seconds. Dang, this does feel nice!
I have to confess, I wasn’t sure I wanted one or if I really needed one. I mean, I have a perfectly serviceable MacBook Pro (has a few years on it, but it still is a really good machine) and a maxed out iPhone 3GS, so I couldn’t really justify or rationalize getting one. But, in just those few seconds I was calculating how many insurance sales I was going to have to make to buy one.
I handed the demo iPad back to Lynda and she turned to Meagan, our Apple person and asked what they still had in stock and Meagan left to check and quickly returned to inform us that they just had the 16 GB models, but they might have some of the 32 or 64 GB models that were being held for the people who reserved them for in-store pickup, but they were only being held until 3 PM if we wanted to take our chances we might be able to get one of those. We discussed it for a few seconds and decided to go ahead and get her one of the 16 GB ones and she told Meagan to get us THREE! Huh?!
While Meagan was going to get them, Lynda told me that she was getting one for her daughter too because she really wanted one bad and got the other one for me because she figured if she didn’t get one for me, she would never get to use hers because she would have to track me down and pry it out of my hands. All joking aside, she got me one because she is just the best lady a guy could be married to, although there is probably some truth to the reason she gave.
Meagan brought us our iPads and we also picked up 3 cases and AppleCare on each. A few minutes later we were checked out and on our way home.
There is nothing quite like unboxing an Apple product and it is hard to do it justice with any sort of description, so I won’t even try. Our iPads came fully charged and powered up and prompted us to hook them up to our computers and sync them with iTunes and register them, which we did. We found out, like a lot of other people did, that the USB ports on our computers do not put out enough juice to charge the iPads while they are on, but they will slowly charge them if you put the iPad to sleep. Had us scratching our heads for a few minutes there though.
Now the fun began as we started loading them up with apps that were optimized for the iPad. The first thing that happens when you go into the App Store though, is that it prompts you to download your free copy of the iBook app. I have to admit that it is a nice little app and one of the neat touches is that it includes an illustrated copy of Winnie the Pooh with it.
There are some really amazing looking apps out there and I will try to review some over the next few weeks and post here on the blog as I know several of my friends are getting an iPad very soon. There are several apps, that as I write this, have not been updated for the iPad, such as CNN and Facebook. The iPhone versions work ok on the iPad, but they reside in a window on the iPad screen that is the same size as the iPhone screen and if you hit the 2x button, they expand to fill the whole screen, but they look decidedly fuzzy and sadly just aren’t an optimal experience. Hopefully, they will be updated soon.
Now, can I really do anything on the iPad that I couldn’t do on my MacBook Pro or my iPhone? No, but that really is not the point. It is lighter and just a bit easier to handle than the MacBook Pro and the screen is a lot easier on the eyes and much easier to type on than the iPhone. By the way, this whole post is being typed in the WordPress app on the iPad, nearly as fast as I would be doing it on the MacBook Pro. The experience of surfing the web on here is different as it literally feels like you are holding the web in your hands, the iPad almost disappears after a few minutes. Watching movies is much the same, especially in a room with the lights turned down. And speaking of movies, the High Definition movies that you can buy or rent on iTunes play back very nicely on the iPad. I can’t wait to take this on my next flight. The iPhone was nice, but the iPad is so much better.
One of the big selling points covered when it was introduced in January was its use as an ebook reader and I was anxious to try it out. Lynda has a Sony Reader Touch and it does ok, except in a dark room and I had tried out a nook last winter in the local Barnes & Noble and was really disappointed in it and have even tried out a friend’s Kindle, but wasn’t that impressed with it. I have to say that the iBook app beats them all rather handily and so far have not noticed any eyestrain that I sometimes get when reading too long on the screens on my computers. It is just an enjoyable experience reading books on the iPad and can’t wait for the iBook Store to get better populated with books. I mean, it is an almost an unforgivable omission not to have Douglas Adams in there as the iPad is the closest anyone has come to his Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Can’t wait for someone to come out with a Babblefish app for the iPad…
Overall, I would have to say this is an amazing piece of work, especially for a 1.0 release of a gadget to be this slick and capable and with the improvements that are coming this fall with the iPhone 4.0 software update are going to take what is already a game-changing device and make it even more useful. I already know that Apple’s competitors are rushing to come out with a slew of me-too devices over the next few months, but truthfully, I can’t see them catching up to where Apple already is for some time to come.
Post Script — My step-daughter was thrilled and shocked when we surprised her with her shiny new iPad Sunday when she flew in for Thunder Over Louisville. She thinks it is just amazing.
While attending a function at the recently re-launched Crowne Plaza Hotel (formerly the Executive West), Lynda and I stopped in at the Blue Horse Café — a somewhat more upscale restaurant inside the hotel than whatever was in there before the renovation. The restaurant and the hotel itself looks much nicer than the last time we were there for a convention, so I do have to give the place good marks for appearances.
We were seated and promptly attended to by our waiter, who took our drink orders and quickly returned with them and took our dinner orders. My wife decided to give the $13 buffet a try and I went over to look at it, and it while it did look very nice, I just wasn’t interested in ribs or chicken, the only meat choices on the buffet. Instead — and I should point out that the menu was lacking in dishes that I would like — I ordered the Bacon Burger, but with explicit instructions to leave the bacon OFF (yes, I am weird in that I absolutely abhor the taste and even the smell of bacon) and to cook it WELL.
Lynda returned with her plate from the buffet and pronounced the all of it excellent — especially the ribs. The veggies that she brought back did look very tasty and I found myself wishing that I had decided to forego the meat and had done a veggie excursion to the buffet line. My burger finally arrived and of course, it was smothered in bacon. I recoiled from it since it was smelled strongly of it and told the waiter to take it back and have it redone and he asked if I could just pick the bacon off, to which I replied, ABSOLUTELY NOT. He reluctantly took the offending burger back to the kitchen. A few minutes later he returned with a fresh burger, sans bacon. The burger was a generous sized patty of beef but the bun was tremendously tall; I don’t think I have ever encountered a thicker bun anywhere. The accompanying fries were presented in a glass tumbler lined with wax paper and of course, they were only semi-warm, being on their second trip out from the kitchen. I bit into the burger — after inspecting it to make sure they hadn’t just peeled the bacon off in the kitchen as it seemed that it hadn’t really taken very long to bring out a well-done burger — and the first bite was overcooked and very dry. I am sure Lynda was wondering why I was staring at it dejectedly and shaking my head. Oh well, better overcooked than not cooked enough and I was starving, so…
The sautéed onions beneath the burger was starting to cause a sliding problem with it starting to scoot out of the bun, so I turned it around to try to even things up and bit in. Bloody raw! Instant appetite-killer! Apparently, the grill chef had thrown the burger on the grill’s hot-spot to expedite the burger’s return to the table, but I am guessing only half the burger made it on there, as I can find no other explanation that could account for how you could get a burger cooked biscuit dry on one side and oozing blood on the other. That was a new experience.
The manager came over and apologized and comped us for my meal and honestly tried to make things right by offering me something else, but my appetite was ruined. I suppose I should cut them some slack, since they have only been open about three weeks, and I hope they get things ironed out before we return next year.
So, it was a split decision from us:
Lynda gave them 10 out of 10 stars.
I gave them 1 out of 10 stars.
I have been setting up a new Forum page for our website this week and I am now taking it live. Hopefully it will be a good place for our readers to interact with us and with each other and perhaps help improve the site. You can find the Forum here and I have also posted the link in the sidebar in the Blogroll and my Links.
Ok, I have been trying out Twitter for a couple of weeks now and I am still not sure what to think of it. I don’t think I can do justice trying to explain Twitter, so it might be best to just go explore their website and let them handle that task. If any of my readers want to add me as a Twitter friend, I am DougRivers on there and my Twitter page can be found here. You can follow my Tweets there, and if you are on Twitter already, just click “Follow” and you can see what the heck I am up to. Lynda joined for a few days, but she got a bit uneasy with so many people following her, that she had me help her delete the account. I don’t understand why she was picking up so many followers, I have had very few people even look at my Tweets. (Although, my Twitemperature is a Hot 85° (29° C) as of the time of this writing.)
I have been experimenting with a couple of Twitter clients on the iPhone and one on my Mac as well as just posting and reading Tweets in Safari. First up is the Mac client I have been playing with: twirl
twirl is available for Macs and PCs running XP or Vista and requires Adobe’s Air to be installed on your system to work. It supports multiple accounts on Twitter, laconi.ca, Friendfeed and Seesmic. I wanted a dedicated client on my MacBook Pro, rather than relying on going to the Twitter website in Safari to read/post Tweets and I really didn’t want to have to shell out $14.95 for the Twitterrific for Mac client, so I took twirl for a whirl. Unfortunately, it has to be one of the least Mac-like programs I have used in the last couple of years, with TINY, unintuitive buttons in a 2-paned, pastel-framed window. Attractive perhaps, but frustrating to use. After playing with it for a couple of days, I can use it without straining my limited mental faculties, but for something as simple as a Twitter client, I don’t think there should be a period of having to get used to the program’s peculiar user interface conventions in order to utilize the service. I mean, if that was what I wanted, I would be using Windows, and to tell the truth, twirl feels like a bad Windows port. I will continue to use twirl for now, but the search goes on for a decent Mac client that is either free or at least under $10 — can’t justify any larger capital outlays while I a still unemployed — and I can’t really recommend twirl, except for the fact that it free and seems fairly stable.
Next up, I tried out the free Twitterrific client on my iPhone. There is also a Twitterrific Premium app available for $9.99, but I have not tested it, but would be interested in hearing from anyone who has tried both and wishes to tell me about the differences between the two by leaving a comment to this article. Twitterrific is probably the nicer looking of the two iPhone Twitter clients I have been using, with a little bird for an icon and a bigger picture of the little fellow as the app loads up and downloads your Tweets. Tweets are displayed in white text on a black background with the newest ones at the top of the screen, but if it has been a while since you have checked on things, the app opens the list where it was when you closed it and that can mean a lot of scrolling up if you follow a lot of people or if the ones you follow post a lot of Tweets — I follow TUAW and Engadget and with this week’s MacWorld Expo, there have been a LOT of Tweets in my list. The four controls at bottom of the screen are easy to understand, with circular arrows for Refresh, a talk balloon for Post a Tweet, a little page with list on it for the Detailed Info/List View toggle and a little wrench for Settings.
Personally, I wish they would just do away with the Refresh button and have the app just go out and check every few minutes for new Tweets. The Post a Tweet button is pretty straightforward, with a text box for your 140-character posting, a close button to cancel the operation if you can’t think of anything worthwhile to say — something a lot of people out in the Twittersphere should avail themselves of — a toggle button for regular Tweets (a talk balloon), Replies (a backward curved arrow) and Direct Messages (a little envelope). Next is a little camera button to post picture Tweets. The little circular crosshairs next to the camera button sends up a location Tweet to let your friends/Followers know where you are, or in my case with my 2G iPhone, hopefully within a mile of my current location. Then you have the character count so you know how much of your 140 character allotment you have used up for the current Tweet. Finally, you have send button to post your little gem of information online. The Detail Info switch brings up the selected Tweet with buttons below to Reply, see your Favorites, view User Info on the poster of the Tweet, Post a Tweet, Refresh or return to the List View. The little Settings button lets you change a few options for the app and is also where you go to enter your Twitter ID and password.
It is a nice enough app, but I really don’t like that doesn’t open at the top of the list when you open the app and doesn’t go to the top when you Refresh either. The little sounds it makes when you launch it or refresh the list is just a little too cute for my taste — can be turned off in the Settings, but I like to have audio notifications — and can be embarrassing in a group setting. Also, this app is ad supported and the ads appear as Tweets and I just find this wrong. But I really can’t knock it on price, so if that is a consideration, then give Twitterrific a look.
Last up is Tweetie, a $2.99 app that is a bit more capable than Twitterrific — as well as easier to type. Tweetie has two different themes (Chat Bubbles and Simple) to give you a choice of looks — they are selected in the Settings which is found in the iPhone’s Settings Pane, rather than in a Settings area within the app itself — and after trying both, I think I prefer the Simple theme, but to each their own.Tweetie also lets you set up multiple Twitter accounts— why one would want to is beyond me. There are more controls in Tweetie and I think they are organized much better than the other two clients I have looked at for this article. When you open the app, you find yourself in the Tweets page (at least if you have only one account like myself), with a button at top linking to a page with your various accounts to the left, Write a Tweet button to the right (with options to do Picture and Location Tweets), a Refresh button right below them — it refreshes automatically every little bit anyway, so this button is slightly redundant — and below that is the Tweet list. Along the bottom of the screen are buttons for Tweets, Replies, Messages, Favorites and More.
Most of those buttons are self-explanatory, but More takes you to a new page where you can look at your Profile (review your recent Tweets, search your Direct Message, remind yourself of exactly who you are following and who your followers are); Go to User to search for Twitter members by Screen Name; Nearby to see who is Tweeting near your current location; Trends to see what people are Tweeting about and finally Search, but I have not used it yet, so I don’t know what you can search for with it.
I find Tweetie to be the easiest to use of the three clients, it doesn’t make any cute bird noises, I can search for other people on Twitter and add them to my Follow list or stop following them from within Tweetie, I can see what people nearby are Tweeting about, and if I click on an url (usually a tinyurl link), the built in browser is much better than the one in Twitterrific. So, after two weeks of Tweeting, I am going to give the nod to Tweetie.
I am still new to Twitter, so I have probably made a great many errors in Twitter etiquette, so please forgive my ignorance.
I believe it was last Friday morning when I started seeing the fevered buzz about the imminent release of the updated version Google Mobile App for the iPhone with Voice Search and every other news/rumor site on the interweb had embedded the above YouTube video from Google. I quickly lost count of how many of the bloggers were prognosticating that it should be out ANY MINUTE NOW. So like the dutiful geek that I have become, at any opportunity I could find throughout the day Friday, I checked the Updates tab in the App Store with heightened anticipation of the arrival of the magical application. With somewhat reduced anticipation, I did my hourly checks of the App Store through the day and into the evening on Saturday. By Sunday, I was in a somewhat lessened state of enthusiasm as I made my somewhat more irregular checks of the App Store. I think I only checked twice or thrice on Monday, so diminished were my hopes of seeing the mythical App from Mountain View any time soon.
Finally, shortly after I awoke on Tuesday morning, the App appeared on the Updates tab. I sleepily stabbed at the Install button three or four times before I was successful, punched in my password and waited with baited breath as it installed itself on my iPhone. I clicked the App’s icon to launch it and pondered what to ask the new Oracle I held in the palm of my hand. I brought it to my ear as I had been instructed in the video and when I heard the beep, I spoke, “local restaurants that serve breakfast.” (At 6:15 in the morning, what else would one ask? Food is the second thing that occurs to those of us of a certain age upon waking, and I had already attended to the first thing.) I lowered my hand to watch the screen, which had the sine wave representation of my voice query, the word “Working” above it and the white “rolling caterpillar” below it. After a moment, the caterpillar stopped rolling, “Finished” replaced “Working” and I had my results. Unfortunately, my question had be interpreted once it reached Google’s cloud as “stones that serve breakfast.” Certainly not nearly as dramatic as I had been hoping.
I tried a few more questions and these were actually returned correctly. I suppose I may have been less fully awake than I had thought I was and had slurred or mumbled more than I usually do. Perhaps, this new app just needs to get used my Southern Indiana drawl; I mean, even after 8 years, Lynda still has trouble with it. Still, with further use, it seem to adapt and returned flawless results as I tested it throughout the morning. Still, it wasn’t as bad as the early iterations of the Newtons from Apple.
Among the other nice things in the new release is the fact that the app utilizes Location Services, so when you ask it a question, you receive results pertinent to your location. So, when you ask it to find the nearest Starbucks or sushi bar — to use the examples from Apple’s iPhone ads — you get the ones closest to where you and your iPhone happen to be standing. Likewise, movie listings will reflect what is playing at your local 50-screen ultramegacineplex — which this week would be 15 screens of Quantum of Solace, 15 screens of Madagascar 2, 15 more screens of Role Models and 5 screens of High School Musical XV. Of course, you can still type in your query, but then what sort of self-respecting geek would you be? Also, the updated app now keeps a history of your searches for quick access if you have to come back for another look.
Another new feature they added, unrelated to searches is the App tab at the bottom on the main page to give you access to other Google services like GMail, Calendar, Docs and even Google Earth. There is an Edit button to let you organize the apps in a way that is more conducive to the way you work with them. As a long-time Mac user, I like being able to change things to suit the way I work, which is something that I have always found lacking when I work with PCs unless I want to jump through 47 hoops first to do it. It is nice that Google has imbued the app with this Mac-like touch. I am sure Goodle is working hard to bring a version of this app to other mobile platforms, but I am glad they brought it to the iPhone first.
This works with both generations of the iPhone and the iPod Touch, but the Voice Search feature does not work with the iPod Touch according to the information I see on the App’s page on the App Store. Hopefully, the feature will eventually be made to work on the 2nd generation iPod Touch with a microphone, but we’ll just have to wait and see.
I already get enough strange looks when I am talking on the iPhone as I am either using my Shure SE210 earbuds with Shure MPA-3C Music Phone Adapter for iPhone or my Apple iPhone Bluetooth Headset — both of which are hard to see — so it looks like I am talking to myself. Now, I should really get some curious glances when I start asking the iPhone questions and then looking at the screen like I actually expect answers from it. Already getting a lot of people looking over my shoulder as I sit here in front of the Apple Store in Oxmoor Mall typing away on this post on my iPhone.
Ok, I guess it is time to answer the implied question as to whether this app was worth all the hype of the previous four days that while I was talking to Lynda, I had likened being akin to either the Second Coming or the sudden, unexpected discovery of intelligent life in the marbled halls of Washington, DC? Probably not, but it does usher in a new era of voice control on mobile devices and this is what was leading several of the tech pundits last Friday to label the Google Mobile App as the Killer Application for the iPhone. Again, we’ll just have to see how that shakes out. I can tell you that it despite my first query’s less than optimal result, the Voice Search feature is probably better than 95% accurate and will hopefully get even better as they refine their algorithms up in the cloud. Certainly, it is a good bargain since it is free for the downloading. So go ahead and try it out, it is a valuable tool, even on the iPod Touch.
This posting marks the first time I have written the majority of an article on my iPhone rather than on my MacBook Pro and using the WordPress Mobile app on the iPhone to do minor edits. Hopefully, I will try this again in the not too distant future, as it could be most convenient to use on the road, especially for shorter postings.