Thursday, April 30, 2009

The joy of evenings

Maybe it's the nicer weather and longer days (light-wise). Or maybe it's the fact that I've cut down on my evening commitments recently (including leaving Shed Music - though I wish them well for the future). Or maybe it's that my daughter is now old enough not to need constant attention all the time.

Either way, I seem to have evenings back. You know, that time of day when your main work is done and you can genuinely potter around in the garden, watch a little TV and generally relax. 

As someone who is self-employed, it's sooo tempting to fill some of this time with trying to work (or looking for work) - memo to self: must try to stay away where possible. As a wise cousin once said "I work to live, not live to work". 

Thursday, April 16, 2009

$500 for the Apple logo?

Microsoft's crazy-as-can-be CEO Steve Ballmer has been dissing Macs again, this time saying: "Paying an extra $500 for a computer in this environment—same piece of hardware—paying $500 more to get a logo on it? I think that's a more challenging proposition for the average person than it used to be"

As a recent Mac owner and long term (8 of them) PC veteran, I feel quite well qualified to be objective here. Having first borrowed a Macbook and then bought a Mac Mini, I've been staggered at the difference in build quality between the PCs I've owned (cheap plastic or badly finished metal) and the Apple hardware (rounded corners, terrific material choices, a feeling of real permanence). Take a £400 Windows laptop and a £800 Macbook and they're patently not the "same piece of hardware".

Of course, the question is: is the better hardware worth a virtual doubling in price? Possibly not, but then there's another factor to consider here, besides the logo(!) Obviously, one device runs Windows Vista and one runs Mac OS Leopard. If it was just down to the bare operating systems then there wouldn't be that much in it, but Leopard comes with iLife 09, including the best video editor in the world, plus the also-staggeringly-easy iWeb, iPhoto and Garage Band, a semi-pro audio studio. Look for similar apps for Windows and you're looking at a few hundred pounds extra, potentially. (And they still wouldn't be as good)

I reckon that add the extra build quality to the extra media software and you get the price difference. Factor in a more robust OS that's not (anywhere near as) prey to viruses and exploits and the buying decision isn't as clear cut as Steve Ballmer say it is.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Online backup might be the way forward, but it's not there yet

Whether, as part of my job, messing around with Files on Ovi, or using Syncplicity to backup parts of my Mac, or listening to TWiT and hearing of their new sponsor, Carbonite, I keep running into the notion that the best way to back up your computer is online. The concept's not that new and these are only three of over a dozen possibilities, but I'd like to sound a note of caution and sanity.

You see, most of us are on asynchronous broadband links. ASDL, to use the full acronym. What this means is that home broadband is great for downloading stuff and not brilliant and uploading it. Upload speeds from the average connected home are or the order of 128kbps. This is just about OK for uploading short video clips to YouTube and fine for syncing documents up a web server, but it's utterly inadequate for being the basis of an all-in online backup solution. 

The likes of Carbonite (and I'm not just picking on them, I've heard the same idea from others and from several should-know-better bloggers) say that you can just select folders of favourite pics, music and videos and they'll be spirited seamlessly up into the cloud, fully backed up.

Oh no, they won't. What'll happen is that you'll tag the aforementioned folders and they'll start uploading. And, three days later, they'll still be uploading. And in the meantime the saturation of all your upstream bandwidth has meant that everyone in your family has been just about locked out of doing anything at all online.

Don't be taken in by the hype unless you really do have a lightning fast non-ASDL connection - by all means back up your document folders and anything really important online, but stay clear of your media - that 80GB of JPGs, MP3s and MP4s is far, far, better backed up locally - to another (plug-in, removeable?) hard disk or similar.

Trust me.