Which Mac to get?

 Computer, Research  Comments Off on Which Mac to get?
Feb 012018
 

Considering purchasing a Mac for the first time or replacing an older one? Apple computers are premium products; so, congrats on your decision. If you’re a typical user, your experience on a Mac will be smoother, more consistent over time, particularly due to less housekeeping distractions than on a PC. And while Macs are not immune to malware and hacking, generally there’s less risk (remember, regardless of type of computer, more often criminals hack your head, not your device).

For power users — those with a passion for high-end video games or professional video production — choosing a Mac can be more complicated — considering a purchase over $5000 gets into a range where PCs have advantages regarding bang-for-the-buck (despite other factors).

Other than spending time exploring product descriptions and specifications on Apple’s site, this January 30, 2018, PC World article “Which Mac should you buy?” is an excellent guide.

When it comes to purchasing a Mac, we’ve got the lowdown on each model to help you make a buying decision.

Before we proceed, we should specifically address Apple’s desktop Macs. It’s been a while since the company has updated the Mac mini and Mac Pro. While our advice for each Mac model provides guidance as to which model you should buy, you might actually consider waiting to see if Apple releases a new Mac mini or Mac Pro, or consider buying an iMac.

This buying guide provides an overview of all the Mac models available, and what each model is best suited for. To get more details, you can read the full review by clicking the product name in the product boxes that have mouse ratings.

Apple has standard and “Pro” models for some of their computers — notebooks (MacBook) and all-in-ones (iMac), and then at the high-end just the Mac Pro. Most of my clients with Apple computers have iMac’s. And indeed those models are the most popular.

I always recommend visiting an Apple Store and getting some hands on experience to help decide which model fits your needs and budget best. Just remember that you’ll likely be getting another new computer in several years, and if you can do everything on your iPhone or iPad, then there’s no need for a desktop. And if printing from your phone or tablet is the only issue, then a less expensive notebook may be fine. But one thing I can say from experience is that my 2012 Mac has gotten somewhat slower and slower with each macOS upgrade; so, performance is important, even for routine daily tasks.

 

Mixed reality — if the price is right?

 Computer, Desktop, Research, Site  Comments Off on Mixed reality — if the price is right?
Jan 292018
 

I’ve been following this topic for a couple of years: virtual reality and mixed reality consumer gear. I have one PC which meets the requirements, but I’ve yet to make the investment in a headset. Now there are choices other than Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive if “mixed reality” is good enough. Price still can be a barrier when the value over time is fuzzy. And the technology is advancing quickly. So, this Cnet article on January 19, 2018, grabbed my interest: “Windows Mixed Reality headset prices cut in half on Amazon.”

The big promise of Windows Mixed Reality headsets was to bring augmented and virtual reality and anything in between to people at more reasonable prices and with an easier setup than competitors. By the time they rolled out late last year, though, it was mostly just the latter that came true: Once the headsets were bundled with controllers the WMR headsets cost the same or more than the current $399 Oculus Rift bundle.

But, there’s nothing like a steep price cut to spark some sales.

As spotted by GameDeals on RedditAmazon currently has prices on Windows Mixed Reality headset and controller bundles from Acer, Dell, HP and Lenovo to around half of what they are elsewhere. Note, though, that these deals appear to only be available through third-party sellers and fulfilled by Amazon, so you’ll want to check their ratings and reviews.

 

Best video streamer — Roku?

 News, Research, Video  Comments Off on Best video streamer — Roku?
Jan 292018
 

Some of my clients are using streaming devices (or sticks) for viewing movies and TV shows on their TVs over the Internet. Quite popular — these over-the-top (OTT) services versus over-the-air (OTA) or cable TV channels. Personally I’ve used a Fire TV Stick since 2015. And if all you’re interested in is getting to Netflix, that’s available on all these devices; so, compare other features, as this Cnet article “Which streamer should you buy?” on January 18, 2018, discussed.

Plenty of options exist for streaming Netflix, YouTube, Amazon and the rest. We’ve reviewed almost all of them. Here are our picks.

Here’s a sample:

Why it’s great: Roku [the Roku Streaming Stick Plus] is my favorite streaming system, with the most apps, the simplest interface, the best search and a content-agnostic platform that doesn’t push any one provider, like Amazon video or iTunes over another. The Plus is the company’s cheapest streamer with 4K HDR, and even if your current TV doesn’t support those formats, your next one probably will. Its accent on practical features, like a remote that can control your TV’s volume and power, seals the deal.

The list of choices includes:

  • Roku Streaming Stick Plus
  • Roku Streaming Stick
  • Roku Express
  • Apple TV 4K
  • Nvidia Shield TV
  • Amazon Fire TV
  • Chromecast

Rose Parade — screenshots

 Photo, Research  Comments Off on Rose Parade — screenshots
Jan 012018
 

My Rose Parade 2018 screenshots: Rose Parade 2018 • 42 items • Shared

[Wiki] The Rose Parade, also known as the Tournament of Roses Parade, is part of “America’s New Year Celebration” held in Pasadena, California each year on New Year’s Day (or on Monday, January 2 if New Year’s Day falls on a Sunday). The parade includes flower-covered floats, marching bands, and equestrian units and is followed by the Rose Bowl college football game. It is produced by the nonprofit Pasadena Tournament of Roses Association.

Originally started on January 1, 1890, the Rose Parade is watched in person by hundreds of thousands of spectators on the parade route, and is broadcast on multiple television networks in the United States. It is seen by millions more on television worldwide in more than 100 international territories and countries.

Screenshot

Rose Parade 2018

Potentially Unwanted Programs (PUPs) — deceptive, insidious malware

 Computer, Research  Comments Off on Potentially Unwanted Programs (PUPs) — deceptive, insidious malware
Aug 192014
 

This year I’ve seen more and more Potentially Unwanted Programs (PUPs) creep onto some of my clients’ PCs. Sometimes their anti-virus programs detect these objects; but more often than not, I’ve installed the free version of Malwarebytes Anti-Malware (MWB), which has proved extremely useful at detecting and removing PUPs.

Here’s a link which describes MWB’s PUP criteria — a list of bad behaviors.

What has surprised me is that most of these unwanted objects were repeatedly from the same companies. The overt “damage” varied from annoyance to dysfunction. These PUPs “hijacked” all the Web browsers (for example, Microsoft Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome) by resetting the home page, changing the search engine, and installing Add-On’s or Browser Helper Objects such as toolbars (sometimes from other, quasi-legitimate marketing companies). Sometimes unwanted Adware / Scareware pop-up’s were displayed. Recently, however, these infections even blocked browser access to Web pages on a client’s PC, although his Internet access and service were working okay otherwise.

The potential personal risk is even more insidious. PUPs may install (bundle) other undeclared PUPs. And by hijacking your Web browser, some PUPs can return search results (or send you directly) to malicious sites where malware is immediately injected on your computer — “drive-by installation” without you doing anything. My research also found that browser hijacking can capture sensitive private data, thereby possibly compromising your identity.

Whether originating from overly aggressive marketing efforts or malware attacks using techniques of aggressive marketers, most of these scams start by hacking your head, not your computer. Such scams may present themselves at your door, on your phone, or in your email inbox. Be wary of alarmist messages claiming that one of your accounts will be disabled if you don’t click on a link in the message or open an attachment. Misrepresentations, deceptions, or spoofs may appear to be from someone you know as well.

And watch out for those tiny, pre-checked “foistware” boxes which even large, successful, legitimate companies use as “optional” installs for their freeware programs.

If you’re interested in reading more about PUPs, here’a a link to a 2005 article (PDF document) by McAfee: Potentially Unwanted Programs – Spyware and Adware.

4G Reality

 Computer, Phone, Research  Comments Off on 4G Reality
Apr 032012
 

Walt Mossberg’s recent article “4G or Not 4G: A Guide to Cut Through All the ‘Fast’ Talk” discusses the current state of mobile device connection speed.

Of all the confusing technology terms used in consumer marketing today, perhaps the most opaque is “4G,” used to describe a new, much faster generation of cellular data on smartphones, tablets and other devices. It sounds simple, but there are many varieties of 4G and conflicting claims.

May 182011
 

I’ve been following the evolution of the HTML5 standard for awhile. In particular, what the new standard might do for Web video. Christopher Harrington wrote a good summary of the state of affairs recently: “The State of HTML5 Video Sucks.”

The video tag is promising. I’ve built a few demo pages (see below) over the last year in order to explore this tag. Not all browsers support the tag fully. Implementation varies. And then there are competing video formats, namely h.264 and WebM to boot.

h.264 encoding works well in Adobe Premiere Pro, as well as other workflows. The latest release of Sorenson Squeeze encodes high-quality WebM, albeit extremely slowly. Premiere Pro CS 5.5 does not support WebM.

Harrington confirmed what I’d found regarding inconsistent buffering; but, in particular, that: “Some browsers don’t even properly follow the parameters passed in the video tag. Safari, for example, will automatically download the entire video when the web page is loaded, even if you explicitly set auto-buffering to ‘false’.”

That leaves Flash as the stand-by. Cooliris does not even support h.264. So, I used some encoded flv files to demonstrate a video wall.

Video for Everyone is an interesting workaround, as well as VideoJS. The latest Gallery uses Flow Player as its default player.

What I mostly look forward to, eventually, is being able to design artful video galleries, showcases, carousels, walls without worrying about plug-ins and browsers.

Test mp4 Playback in JW Player 5.5
HTML5 Video Test: Webm
SuperBowl Sunday 2009 10K 5k Start
RBFD Community Spaghetti Dinner Saturday, April 26, 2008

2009 Research and Development Summary

 Research  Comments Off on 2009 Research and Development Summary
Dec 282009
 

AVCHD MP4 H.264 (720p) video editing and playback
Western Digital WD TV HD Media Player
(alternative in some respects to Apple TV)
EyeTV (ATSC HDTV / DVR for Mac OS X)
Mac OS X 10.6 “Snow Leopard”
Ubuntu (Linux)
Hard disk cloning
PC troubleshooting
Dymo LabelWriters
Netbooks
SQLite
OpenOffice
Windows 7

Skype Video Testing

 Research  Comments Off on Skype Video Testing
Jan 022007
 

Just a note that in December 2006, I installed and evaluated the latest versions of Skype for Mac and PC. I tested interoperability between Mac and PC, and video conferencing. I recommend Skype because of interoperability and the large international user base.

I also looked at web cameras. There are a lot of them. I studied specifications and reviews of Microsoft and Logitech products. The pricier models appear better. However, while bulkier, inexpensive digital camcorders provide the best quality and feature set. As far as web cameras per se, Apple’s iSight provides the best quality and feature set on the Mac.

Using FileMaker Pro as a GUI to a SQL Database

 Research  Comments Off on Using FileMaker Pro as a GUI to a SQL Database
Nov 282005
 

As of 11-17-2005, I’ve built a sample model for using FileMaker Pro as a GUI to a SQL Database using ODBC. My objective was merely to explore whether it was practical to use FMP (rather than other less “friendly” GUI applications or tedious Web-browser based HTML/PHP interfaces). I had found no useful examples on the Internet, including some FMP forums.

Scripts do SELECT (import), INSERT, UPDATE, DELETE. Some error checking even works. I’m not sure how it would scale to thousands of records, but it’s definitely easier and faster than a web-browser interface.

I purchased the Actual ODBC Driver for Open Source Databases. Jonathan Monroe at Actual Technologies (www.actualtechnologies.com) was quite helpful in confirming FMP limitations and documenting what really works and is practical regarding error returns, blobs, and security.

Another research topic – More DreamHost Goodies

 Research  Comments Off on Another research topic – More DreamHost Goodies
Feb 032005
 

DreamHost’s latest newsletter (Newsletter v7.1 January 2005) describes additional “Goodies” which can enhance client web sites, such as Bulletin Boards, Polls, and Stores. Here’re some excerpts below.


… we’ve converted the new “Goodies > WordPress Blog” area into the now-even-newer “Goodies > One-Click Installs” area! Everything’s just like it was before, except now you can ALSO install a phpBB2 forum, Advanced Poll software, and an OSCommerce store … all with just ONE CLICK (each)! Check out the new and improved area:

https://panel.dreamhost.com/?tree=goodies.installer

We plan to add even more easy-installs in upcoming months too!


… It turns out that our old anti-spam filter Razor is going the way of SolidComponents today too! As you may have noticed for a while, we have a new Junk Filter option here:

https://panel.dreamhost.com/?tree=mail.junk

It uses SpamAssassin and it works much better. It is true that Razor could be turned on for just one email address, whereas the new Junk Filter is per-domain, but that’s what we in the biz like to call “a tradeoff”. And in this case, the tradeoff is you get a Junk Mail filter that works better and works a lot while losing one that doesn’t catch much spam and breaks a lot!