Four Things the Mac OS Does to Confuse a Windows User

First off I will say that I love the Mac OS and I love the Windows OS. (How about that for staying neutral?) Listeners to my Fogview Podcast know I switched to the Mac about six months ago when my main Windows XP computer died. I had an iMac that I was using for video editing and my photography work so I started using that for my daily work. I know there are a lot of Mac fan-boys out there but I’m not one of them. A computer is a computer and each type has it’s advantages and disadvantages. I enjoy using and learning about the Mac OS but I still do a lot of my work on my new Windows Vista machine.

I found that the Mac has it share of “spinning beach balls” just like Windows has it hourglass when the CPU is overloaded and can’t do one more thing. I have programs crash on the Mac just like they crash on Windows. I don’t have to worry about viruses and spyware on the Mac like I do on Windows, but I know that could change in the future.

Mac_exampleWhat I would like to mention is the four things that still confuse me as a newbie “Mac switcher.”

  1. Closing a window on the Mac doesn’t close the program.
    I can’t tell you how many times I’ve clicked the close window icon and realize later that the program is still running. Most Window programs go away when they are closed.
  2. The program menu bar is at the top of the screen instead of at the top of the window. This is related to the first item because if I close a program’s window (i.e. iTunes), I now see another program underneath it but I’m still in the program I thought I closed. If I try to access the menu for the program that I see on the screen, I will be accessing the menu for the program I thought I closed. (See the screen shot on the right for an example of what I’m talking about: iTunes menu and Aperture window)
  3. Control = Alt and Alt = Command keys
    Yes, the keys are switched, at least for how I normally think of them in Windows. For example, I press Ctrl-C to copy in Windows, and Command-C in Mac. Alt-tab to switch programs in Windows and Command-tab in Mac. (The last two are not switched, which only adds to the confusion.)
  4. Home and End act like Page Up and Page Down instead of begin/end
    If I’m typing something in Windows, the Home/End keys will move the cursor to the begin/end of the line I’m typing. On the Mac it generally shifts the content of the window up and down on the screen and doesn’t change the cursor location. (I realize that each program can use the Home/End keys as they see fit, but in the Windows world these keys always seem to work the way I expect — or at least the way I’ve come to expect of them.)

Of all the differences I mentioned, #4 is the one thing I have not been able to get use too. I’m always trying to use the Home/End keys on the Mac to move my cursor around when editing text (I admit that I make lots of typing mistakes). I try to use it when entering URLs into the browser, Google search strings, emails I’m composing, and blogs entries (like this one), and I’m always surprised at the results. I would love for a Mac user to tell me what keys will do a similar thing on the Mac.

Learning to use a Mac has been a fun thing and helps to keep my brain engaged. I picked up a great book that helped answer the question of “How do I do that on the Mac.” It’s called “Switching to the Mac, The Missing Manual” by David Pogue. I highly recommend it if you’re thinking about switching too.

I’m not a Mac expert but I will write more in the future about my experience navigating in a Mac world from a Windows map. Stay tuned.

73’s, Tom

Wall Warts Are Like Socks

200px-Wall_wartWall Warts is a slang term used for power supplies (wall transformers) and are the little brick-like devices that come with almost every electronic device. So why do I say they are like socks? Well, like socks, they seem to lose their mate and you end up wondering where it belongs.

Socks have a habit of getting lost for a period of time (typically around laundry day) but eventually show up and can be reunited with it’s mate (or one that looks similar). The same can’t always be said for wall warts. These are the ones that have no identifying information about where they belong and to make matters worst, may actually have a plug that would fit a number of devices. The fact that the plug fits, means it could supply the wrong power (voltage, current, polarity, AC/DC) and possibly destroy your device. (See AllElectronics.com for some examples of wall warts.)

This is a problem I’ve seen for years and I thought manufacturers were getting better identifying their products. Just the other day I bought a Maxtor 750 GB OneTouch4 external USB drive and it came with a small power supply. On the power supply was this information: “Sunny Switching Adapter; Model: SYS1308–2412–W2 … OUTPUT: +12V 2.0A …” It also showed a symbol indicating that the center connection was positive. The back of the Maxtor OneTouch drive had no voltage or polarity information so if I was trying to match up this power supply to it’s mate, I would be taking a gamble if the plug just happen to fit. This power supply uses a very common power connector and I know it’s fits at least four other devices that I own. I wonder how many devices have been destroy because the wrong power supply was plugged in? Would you take the time to research the power requirements of your device before plugging in an unknown wall wart if the plug fit?

I’ve developed products before and totally understand why manufactures do this. They develop a product that uses a common power source (i.e., +12V DC, 1.0A, positive center) and order an off-the-shelf power supply from China. It cost more to private-label the power supply, so they decide against it to keep down the cost. There is nothing stopping a company from offering a power supply with the same power connector but with a different power output (i.e., +5V, 0.5 A, negative center) and shipping that with a different consumer product. The consumer is the loser when he/she tries to mix and match loose wall warts and with their tech toys.

I do see a trend that I think may help. It’s the move to USB. More manufacturers are using the fact that the USB connector supplies a standard 5.0 VDC at 0.5 Amps. I said I think it may help because a lot of newer USB devices need more than the 0.5 Amps supplied by a standard USB connector (my Zune requires 1.5 A and my Android G1 phone needs 1.0 A). At least you have a fighting chance and may only damage (overheat) the power supply if your device needs more juice.

I would love to see manufactures label their power supplies to help out the consumer. I can’t believe printing and placing a sticker on the power supply to identify the manufacturer before they ship the product would be that costly.

I make it a habit to add a label to every wall wart before I start using the device. I have a Brother P-touch labeler and find it’s very handy (and fun) for things like that. I even add labels to wall warts that has been re-branded because I generally find the information is too generic (i.e. Maxtor) or hard to read when I’m looking to remove a power supply from a power strip under a desk with very little light. (I won’t mention that I have aging eyes too.)

Another reason I do it is because it’s a nice feeling knowing I’m organized. It’s wonderful seeing that little label showing me my Android G1 power supply after digging it out from under a foot-high stack of papers and unpaid bills.

73’s, Tom

 

Is it safe to go Home?

Garmin_gpsI love my GPS and use it whenever I’m going to a new place. Last night I had to go photograph a band at a small club in San Francisco so I programmed the address into my GPS. I also used it to get home since the one-way streets in San Francisco can be confusing at night. Like most users I have a place called Home in my GPS address book. Handy, but is that really safe?

There was story in the news a few months back about thieves breaking into cars at long-term airport parking lots and stealing GPS devices from the cars. The thieves know the owner is away and may even have observed the family leaving for a family vacation. What better time to break into a house when the family is on vacation. Even better, if there is a GPS in the car, there is a good chance it has a Home favorite that leads directly to the goodies.

The take-away here is to not have a Home favorite or entry in your GPS address book. All you need to do is change the name to something else: Bob’s home; Doctor; Church. (If you travel a lot the thief may wonder why you’re going to Church every other day if he/she looks through your GPS Recent/History entries.) If you really want to be really careful, don’t use your GPS to lead directly to your house, but some place close. I changed mine to a shopping center two miles from my house.

It’s also not a good idea to have anything left in your car that has your home address. I think it’s safe to block out your address on your car registration and proof of insurance forms. If you are ever questioned, you can say you did it for security reasons.

Technology is a great time-saver but you need to be careful. Be safe out there!

73’s, Tom

Mini Review of SquareSpace.Com

From time-to-time I develop websites for clients and they generally want something reasonable (cheap) and easy to Squarespacemaintain. I’ve been hearing about a new company, SquareSpace, and how great it was so I decided to try it for myself. I was generating a proposal to update a website and decided to implement a prototype in Squarespace so the client could actually test drive my ideas.

I signed up for the 14 day free trial and watched a few “getting started” videos to help understand the interface. The site uses a visual interface and it’s very easy to get started. You pick a template style and color scheme depending on the type of site you want to create: blog, photo gallery, commercial/business. The templates are just a starting point because everything can be customized. You can even start with a blank screen and build your site from scratch. The templates are really CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) pages that can be customized by a visual interface or directly adding/modifying the CSS code.

In the site editor you can add pages and sections in sidebars that appear on every page. When you create a page or section you specify what “widget” to use. Widgets determine the type of content you want to add (journal/blog, html/text, links, search, map, forum, etc.). You can add/remove widgets and even change templates on the fly.

The site editor has four modes: Style Editor, Structure Editor, Content Editor, and Preview. The Style editor is where you pick/change your template, change column layouts, adjust fonts, colors and sizes, and customize the CSS. The Structure editor is where you add sections and pages. The Content editor is the section you will use the most after your site is configured the way you want it. This is where you add blog content, upload photos to your gallery, and change the information that your visitors will see. The last mode, Preview, shows you what your visitors will see when they visit your site.

Since this is a mini review I won’t go into all the details but I will tell you that I had a simple site up and running in four hours without any CSS or HTML coding. The site was mostly functional but it didn’t have the exact look and feel I wanted. I started switching templates to find a feature or a look I wanted for certain parts of my site and looked to see how it was implemented. In some cases it was a simple setting change in the visual interface and in others it was CSS overrides that made the difference (this is where watching the advanced help videos really helped). In one case I wanted to create a HTML page and add links to other pages. Since the linked pages were not created through the normal “add page” process, I couldn’t find a way to do it. I searched the Squarespace Help forum and found a mention of creating a hidden section on the sidebar and creating my pages there. This worked but seemed to be a kludge in the overall design.

Squarespace pricing starts out at $8/month for the Basic package and runs to $50/month for the Community package. You will need the $14/month Pro package if you want to map the website you create to your own domain name.

Pros:

  • Easy to create a website in minutes.
  • Lots of features for creating, maintaining, and monitoring your site.
  • Import content from other blogging sites: WordPress, Movable Type/Type Pad, and Blogger.
  • Detailed website analytics available.
  • Private site areas (password protected) and multiple editors.
  • Supports RSS and iTunes tags.
  • 100% customizable.
  • Great pricing.

Cons:

  • Website must be hosted by SquareSpace.
  • May require some HTML and CSS knowledge to really tweak the site the way you want (you may need to hire a consultant to finish the design).
  • No direct support for adding audio and video content. You can embed flash players using HTML Injection points but that feature is not available in the Basic or Pro packages. This may be supported with new widgets in the future.

In conclusion I was very impressed with what Squarespace offers. They have so many great features that I can’t possibly talked about of all of them here. I would suggest checking it out for yourself (14 day free trial) if for no other reason than to see how easy it is to create your own website.

73’s, Tom

A Short Introduction from Fogview

Hello, my name is Tom Newman (aka Fogview) and I’m the newest blogger on Geek News Central. You may ask what are my Radio-electronics-magqualifications and what will I be bringing to the table. Well, I’m a geek and have been involved with tech for over 30 years. I’m a hardware/software engineer and have been involved with the micro computer revolution (that’s what we called it back in the “old days”) since it first began. I started out as a Test Engineer integrating a Data General Nova 2 minicomputer into the factory manufacturing process of the company where I worked (Diablo Systems). I spotted an article in Radio Electronics magazine talking about a home-brew computer, Mark-8, and decided to build my own Intel 8008 microcomputer. I ordered the circuit boards from author of the article and scrounged all the parts and built my bare-bones system. I finally had my very own computer at home! I hand-coded a simple program in assembly language and amazed myself by having a set of blinking LEDs marching to the beat of my very first 8008 program. I had written pretty large programs at work that could control Diablo HyType Printers, but there was something uplifting about my very own computer that could blink some LEDs.

Fast forward 30 years and here I am. I’m a Windows/PC person who has recently added an iMac and a MacBook to my collection of tools. I’m a computer consultant so I still dabble some in hardware design and programming now and then, but I find myself moving towards web designs and digital photography. I’m also very involved in Social Media (Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, podcasting, etc.).

Oh, did I mention I’m a geek, just like the majority of those of you who come to Geek News Central and listen to Todd’s podcast. I’m interested in podcasting, video, photography, gadgets, software, and tips to make me and everything I use, work better and faster. That’s what I hope to bring to Geek News Central — reviews, tips, and my view of technology and this new fangled thing called the Internet.

If you want to know more about me, you can always follow me on Twitter @Fogview, or my podcast/blog at Fogview Podcast, and at Fogview Photos. Stop by and say howdy.

73’s, Tom