Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Love at first byte - the Surface Pro 3 is my dream PC

In interests of full disclosure, I own 2 iPads, and an iPhone 5s.  There are 2 more iPads and 2 more iPhones in my household.   So obviously, I am no stranger or enemy to Apple.

But I love, love, love, the Surface Pro 3.  Really - it is almost everything I have been dreaming of in a PC - plus a few things I didn't know I was looking for.   That type keyboard/cover with the magnetic connection and the tilt - so easy.   I was reminded of what a pain every other keyboard, including the sleek looking Apple wireless, is to pair up and recharge.  Sooner or later the keyboards run out of juice, and it is never convenient to recharge.   And the connection - no Bluetooth pairing, so it is instantly on.  The magnetic coupling means no fumbling with cables, or matching ports.  You literally slap the keyboard on side of the table and it is ready to run.

I find the spacing on the keys totally typical..   I don't even think about it.  The kickstand on the back of the tablet makes it stand up at the same angle as would my laptop screen.    There is also a touchpad mouse controller on the keyboard, so I don't have to use an external mouse.   Or I can just touch the screen.    The screen is so readable, with that 4:3 aspect ratio.  

The PC has an i7 processor and and 256 gb storage.  That means it runs as fast and stores as much as my previous PC, but weighs half as much.   Considering I was already carrying an ultrabook, I still noticed the reduction in weight.

The only thing I still depend on my iPad mini for is the 3G connection.   If I could put a SIM card in my Surface to connect to the Internet, it would be perfect.   I don't understand why the vendors think that a Windows tablet only needs to connect to Wifi.    Carrying around an external Internet connection is like constantly carrying a power adcord because there the vendor thought because electric power was available no one would need a a battery.  

I also like not having to constantly locate the iPad equivalent to everything I do on the Windows PC.   Until the cloud storage vendors came of age I was frustrated by all the backflips I had to do to find and use files.  Each app may or may not connect to my cloud storage, and might or might not coordinate with the app I wanted to use.

The Surface Pro 3 is simplifying my life.    Windows 8 is still confusing me, but at least I can switch over to the desktop.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Amazon rules, Microsoft drools

What a nightmare!   As much as I love my Surface Pro 3, the experience of dealing with the Microsoft store would put off buying any more there.

It might be 2014, but the Microsoft store still requires that you call  a phone number and talk to a person to request a return material authorization.   So first you have to navigate a voice menu, to talk to someone whose first and second language are not English after waiting in a queue for the privilege.

And then they start walking you through the script.    Instead of an electronic logon to your account, like the Microsoft store did when you ordered, to return you have to recite all the information they already have stored on you back to someone on the phone.   Your customer service representative and I use the term “service” loosely,  repeats it back to you, incorrectly, in a heavy accent.    For your protection, if you manage to successfully communicate your email address on the account, then they must “verify” you. 

If they wanted to “protect” me, they wouldn’t make me read off personal information to someone on a voice call.     Everyone within earshot would be able to break into my Microsoft account for sure, and maybe a few others.     

For my protection they send a code to my email.   I need to access this email on the same phone I am talking on.   If I am using a service provider that does not allow me use data and text simultaneously,   I will need to disconnect the call to retrieve new email.  If I disconnect the call, I will need to be, wait for it, re-verified when I call again. 

If their goal was to make people give up on the returns process, and not return items, this experience will do that.  I won’t return anything to Microsoft store again – because I won’t buy anything from them.  Amazon, I love you. Truly I do.  Easy to order, easy to return, no sales tax, and it shows up in 2 days.   I promise I won’t cheat on you again.  

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Still love the Careline

Last year I reviewed the Careline phone.   This year, as I continue to struggle with an older adult in my household, I have started to add Careline handsets around my home to replace aging technology.  

I can listen to messages remotely, or from any of the other handsets.   The phones are easy to hear ring, and have good call quality.   Pairing the new handsets is a breeze.   No one supplies me the additional handsets - they are just the best solution for me in this situation.

Should Dancing with the Stars Finals Include More Dancing?

One of my guilty pleasures is watching Dancing with the Stars.   If I miss an episode, my household is instructed to go on information blackout until I can catch up.  No morning news, no web news, weather only from weather apps to avoid spoilers . . . technology really makes it hard to stay in the dark.

This season I have really enjoyed watching Maks and Meryl's journey to the finals.  Personally, I think Maks has been robbed of the mirrorball more than once (Mel B, anyone?)  After 13 seasons he was clearly the Susan Lucci of the mirror-verse.   Though Derek Hough's choreography is excellent, after all these seasons I begin to see the same tricks over and over to hide his celebrity's lack of skill.

Carry the Load
The easiest way to camouflage is to pick the partner up.    The partner no longer has to stay in time with music, or get to the right place on the floor.   Another version of this is to twirl or drag them across the floor, which both have the same advantages of not demanding any timing of the celebrity.

Plant Their Feet and Dance Around Them
Sometimes this involves a pose, or a fancy position, but the result is the same.   For example,  that cha-cha move once more where he holds back of his partners head and raises and lowers her in time to the music at least 5 times, more if he is in a dance challenge and needs showy filler til he can think of the next move.

Add a Great Prop for Balance
Derek's not the only one guilty of this.   But dancing while sitting on a table, or a chair, or steps,  or holding on to a pole or a rope,  removes one of the greater challenges of ballroom dancing - moving across the floor. It's much easier to look good if you don't move.  

This year's partner had two prosthetic legs.   I get the difficulty involved with that, but Heather Mills did not get to dance half the time because she had one prosthetic leg.   The freestyle done this season with Amy Purdy was clever and beautiful, but, for the most part, it wasn't dancing.    It was a series of lifts (well-done) and poses, interspersed with brief sets of steps that covered very little ground, and finished with her spinning in the air a la Cirque de Soleil.    I would have liked to see her on her gazelle feet actually covering some floor.    

The freestyle from the fourth place couple was also dance-light.   A nice no hands flip from James, then some booty-shaking with backup dancers.  A run up a wall, and then twirling a martial arts spear to used up the rest of the time before a pose.

So I think Meryl and Maks more than earned the win.   We didn't get to see much of Meryl and Charlie dancing together (cut off coming in from the break) and why didn't they let the charming and hilarious Diana Nyad dance?   She wasn't great, but Billy Dee got ten times the onscreen camera time.  One more season down in the mirrorverse.   I go from selected information blackout to withdrawal

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Measuring Your Content Stripe like Tequila

First of all, I know that ads are the most popular way to monetize your blog. 

But when I go to a blog, I want to read content.  As monetization increases less and less of the blog screen is devoted to actual content.   With some blogs the amount of content has been reduced to a continually thinning stripe down the page.   Even though the saying is “You can’t be too rich or too thin” your content stripe really can get so narrow that it lacks value.     Do you aspire to write the next infomercial, or are you writing "must-read" content?  

I suggest we measure the content stripe the way I measure how much tequila I am consuming – using the width of my fingers.   Three to six fingers of tequila – nice buzz.     Nine fingers of tequila – difficulty talking.   Twelve fingers of tequila – difficulty walking.   Fifteen  fingers – who remembers?

Now look at your blog on the screen.  (No cheating by using an extra-wide screen!)    Put three fingers up on either side of the screen.     How much content is visible and how much advertising?   Now try six, eight, etc.   Keep in mind like tequila, the more fingers you have, the less you remember and the less the readers get for their viewing investment.

For some of you it may be faster to reverse the measure.   If you only are giving me three fingers of content, I’ll be finding another bartender.  

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Makeup or no

I need to learn how to put on makeup again.   The face I learned with is not the face I have now.

Help me Obi-Wan L'oreal/Revlon/Maybelline.   You're my only hope.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Tale of Two Cities – Taking Construction Detours on a Road Trip

In Michigan the snow obstructs the roads in the winter.   In the summer, it is construction.  The longer I live in the state, the better I am at locating those alternate routes that run free of traffic within sight of that parking lot occasionally known as an interstate highway.   On a recent trip to Indiana we ran  a foul of two traffic backups that put in contact with two extremes of small towns.

The first detour selected took us on back roads running through farms and abandoned gas stations.  We stopped briefly in a crossroads of town called Pompei.   The place was so deserted on a Sunday afternoon you would have sworn an invisible volcano had erupted and the inhabitants had dropped everything and fled.  We parked across from a general store with a front window so dusty they didn’t need curtains to keep out the light.  Crooked letters made of tape on the window advertised “Taco Tuesday” specials.   We wondered who was around to take advantage of this special, or how old the special was.  The gas station, closed, still posted a last gas price of $1.50 a gallon.   This place made Dorothy’s Kansas look like Wonderland, to mix mythologies.

The second detour took us through rolling countryside of farms once again. This time we ended up in downtown Angola.  The picture perfect town square with the pillar topped with a war monument could have been a movie set for small town America.  We passed a shop called “Touch of Lace’ that had all red, white, and blue outfits in the window to celebrate July.   In the corner of square was a cute little cinema with the old-fashioned marquee advertising a current movie.  On another corner was the county courthouse.  Two doors down was the First National Bank (of course), a two story building only a little wider than a townhouse.  The square was edged with multi-colored flower beds with petunias and marigolds, and a few other plants my botany-challenged brain couldn’t identify.

One town reeked of depression, with a brave cry of “Taco Tuesdays” to rally the remaining inhabitants.  The other lifted our spirits with its silent simplicity, small town America charming and real.    Sometimes detours can provide better entertainment than the DVDs and music on the car radio.