Live show will be at 2pm on Saturday 23 February next week. Send in your audio reviews for Allister, Bart and Katie for the shows while we’re gone. Go here to sign up for the NosillaCastaways Party at Macworld. If you can’t come to Macworld, make sure you circle up Kevin Allder in G+ and join our NosillaCast Google Plus community so you can chat with party goers (and each other!) during the party. Paul Thurrott wrote a critical article about Windows at Supersite for Windows wrote a really interesting article criticizing Windows and talked about it on What the Tech with Andrew Zarian. We tell the tale of Lisa’s laptop and decide if her friends are idiots or not. Review of the TYLT Energi 5K+ battery pack. In Chit Chat Across the Pond, Chris Ashley of WinGadgetNews.com and the SMR Podcast joins us to talk about home automation. He tells us about the Insteon system from insteon.com.
Hi this is Allison Sheridan of the NosillaCast Mac Podcast, hosted at Podfeet.com, a technology geek podcast with an EVER so slight Macintosh bias. Today is Sunday February 16, 2014 and this is show number 458.
This is the 2nd to last show I’ll be doing before Steve and I leave on our big adventure to New Zealand! I’m excited for you guys too because you get three awesome guest hosts – First will be Bart Busschots, then Katie Floyd and finally Allister Jenks. I have complete faith in all three of them to keep you entertained and informed. How can you help you ask? The BEST thing you can do is to send audio reviews to them. If you don’t already have their contact info, you can send the links to me but you might lose a few days in translation if I’m on a plane. Our trip is 24 days and we have 12 plane flights in that time, so there’s a good chance I miss a few days!
We’re leaving on Sunday the 23rd, so I’ll be doing the Live show next week on Saturday and I think I’ll do it earlier in the day, probably 2pm. Because Kirschen is so good at reminding me, I’ve actually already updated the NosillaCast Live calendar so if you’ve subscribed to it via the link on the podfeet.com/live page, you’ll get an update automatically. I’ve also let the three guest hosts off the hook – they won’t be doing a live show because that’s just too much to ask. Who in their right mind would make this that much harder by doing it live? Seriously. One thing I haven’t figured out how to fix is how to get the app Donald Burr wrote to stop telling you the show is about to start when it’s not actually even on the right day. I suspect he’s got it hard wired into the app that it’s 5pm on Sunday nights so it tells you the show’s about to start even if it’s not! The best trick is to subscribe to the calendar or to pay attention to my tweets and the NosillaCast News.
Copy this address (don’t try to click it!) and paste it into the Subscribe field of your favorite calendar app:
Since Macworld is shortly after we get back, I figured I’d better create the sign up page for the NosillaCastaways party at Macworld | iWorld. Thanks again to ConnorP for turning me onto Google Forms, it took me just a few moments to create the sign up from and to embed it into a password protected page at podfeet.com. In the top menu bar you’ll see the very first tab next to Home says NosillaCastaways Party 2014. If you click on that you’ll get to a password page, and enter ClarifyRules! to get in. Then enter your name, email address, and Twitter name if you have one you’d like to share. I ask for that because sometimes I only know you guys by your Twitter handle! I ask for your email address just in case something happens and the party has to get canceled or moved I’d hate to have you standing outside the door with a sad little face wondering where the party is. If you’re bringing a guest, which is totally ok, please make a separate entry in the form for their name so we can get an accurate headcount. I ask that you not consider this an open invitation, Steve and I fund this out of our own pockets so it’s definitely by invitation only! One year someone put the party on a list of open parties and we ran out of food in 10 minutes! We’ve had a rotating cast of bouncers since then including Paul Shadwell, Barry Fulk, Guy Serle and Julie Kuehl, and that’s worked QUITE well with the sign up list.
I guess I should tell you where and when the party is too! The party is Friday night March 28th from 6-8pm at Jillians at the Metreon. Jillians is right next door to Moscone North where the conference will be held, so it’s pretty easy to find.
Now for everyone who can’t be there in person, we’re going to try yet again to have a Google Hangout set up so you can come on video and chat with people at the party. We’ve had varied success with this, but Kevin and Steve SWEAR that they’ll get it figured out this year to work for everyone who wants to come in. I would, right now, join the G+ community for the NosillaCast if you haven’t done that already, because I think inviting the community might be the actual trick to getting notified and being able to come in and out of the hangout. Unfortunately my Google accounts are so weird that I can’t be the one running the hangout (plus I’m playing at the party) so you probably want to circle up Kevin Allder in G+ too so you’re sure to be able to connect. I’ll hopefully get more details from the boys closer to the event, so keep an eye out in the community and make sure you’re subscribed to the NosillaCast News for last minute updates. Links in the shownotes to the people and things I just talked about of course!
What the Heck is Happening to Windows?
It might come as a shock to you, but I’m not a huge fan of Windows. I know, I hide it really well. Today I was actually daydreaming of the celebration Steve and I should have on July 1st of this year to commemorate a full Windows-free world.
This week though, Paul Thurrott, author of the Supersite for Windows wrote a really interesting article criticizing Windows. Let me set the stage first on what Paul is about. Paul is not what I’d call a fan, definitely not a fanboi, in fact I’d actually call him a critic. If he thinks something Microsoft does is stupid, he’ll say so. If he thinks Apple does something stupid, he’ll say so. Because of this, he manages to alienate pretty much everyone. And he simply doesn’t care. He only knows how to tell the truth as he knows it. He has preferred Windows over the years and isn’t a big proponent of Apple, and yet has some Apple products he likes quite a bit.
He wrote a post on February 9th entitled, “What the Heck is Happening to Windows?” In the article he walks through the mistakes he believes Microsoft made in the creation of Windows 8.1. Here’s a quote from the article,
if you were to simplify the issue down to a sound bite, you might make the following claims: Windows was designed by a committee. The Mac, by contrast, often feels like it was designed by a single person.
He also says,
Windows 8 is a disaster in every sense of the word.
This is not open to debate, is not part of some cute imaginary world where everyone’s opinion is equally valid or whatever. Windows 8 is a disaster. Period.
Right there is what makes Paul unique – he knows, not believes, that what he’s saying is true and that no one else can have an opinion on the issue because he’s the knower of all truths. As much as I might gleefully enjoy such a well respected tech writer bashing Microsoft, this is a very interesting perspective to have in life.
As snotty as he wrote that, he doesn’t just give these inflammatory statements, he backs up what he’s saying with some very interesting truths. He points out that Microsoft is chasing a market which is no longer interested in running Windows because they’ve already left to use Apple and Google phones and tablets. He doesn’t stop there though, he gives constructive advice on what he says they should/could do now.
I hope I’ve piqued your interest enough to get you to read the article because I found it really interesting and a very good analysis, in spite of his outrageous and inflammatory statements. Like I said, you know I loved it but it’s really a compilation of things he’s been saying for a long time, and it’s worth reading to understand the problems Microsoft is having and will continue to have. I put a link in the shownotes to the article so you can go read it for yourself. Paul does a show called What the Tech with Andrew Zarian and on this week’s show he talked quite a bit about the article and what he was trying to say and how misunderstood he feels. I put a link in the shownotes to that episode too. It’s also fascinating.
Lisa’s Friends are Idiots
Remember my friend Lisa, the one with the dead PC from a few weeks back and Steve and I gave her a hand me down Mac? This week she successfully got a data plan on her Sprint iPhone so she has Internet service for her Mac now. Sprint made it SO easy – she has a grandfathered in unlimited plan, but they still let her add a tethering plan without any fuss at all. I think it was $20/month for 3GB which is actually pretty good for a data plan. We were there when they set it up for her and it couldn’t have gone more smoothly. Not exactly like my experiences with AT&T last week.
So anyway, while we were hanging out with Lisa, I asked her if she would let Steve and I take a look at her dead PC. It had been dead for three years, and she’d had friends of hers look at it for her and they told her that it was dead dead dead. They said it wouldn’t boot up and that there was no way to get any of her data off of the drive.
One of my pet peeves these days is that people who don’t understand technology think they’re idiots. I’d love to preen and act superior that I’m good at all this stuff, but it simply makes no sense to me. The same people who call themselves idiots can play the piano or grow roses or build houses. I can’t do any of those things and I don’t think I’m an idiot because of it – why do they feel that they’re idiots because they don’t know what I know? Unfortunately there are people who feel that they do hold great knowledge, and perhaps to maintain their superior position they can’t admit when they don’t know what they’re doing.
I had a suspicion that perhaps Lisa’s friends might be in that category. Remember they told her all her music was gone, never thinking to ask her if she’d bought it in iTunes which meant it was all available in the cloud? Steve and I took the laptop home. It’s a 15″ Toshiba and in pretty pristine condition, no signs of being dropped or anything like that.
Steve and I are engineers, and part of our training is to look for the simplest problems first and then to peel things back to more complex problems. Just in case they were real dummies, we simply plugged the laptop in and tried to turn it on. Not surprisingly, the laptop didn’t boot up. At that point I asked Steve, “you don’t suppose it’s the power cord itself, do you?” I’m the idea man you see, Steve has the skills to answer the question. He got out his trusty voltmeter, and a second power cord that we knew worked. He tested the good one, which was rated for 12 Volts, and it registered more than 12 Volts (with no load on it). He then tested the one on the Toshiba, and it did NOT register at all! Wow. Could it be this easy? Well not so fast, we need a good power cord to be sure. We dug through the myriad of leftover power adapters we had from Tim and none of them were the 19 Volts and 4.7 Amps we needed.
I got hold of my buddy Ryan who keeps crap like this around and he came over with an old HP adapter that was 19 volt, 4.7 amp power supply for us. Unfortunately, the connector was just slightly different. Hmmm…Ryan suggested we just cut the connector off the bad power adapter and splice it onto the good one. Great idea! Steve to the job again. He cut the two off, and spliced the Toshiba connector onto the HP power cord…but when he tested it, he still had no power coming through it. Hmm…I asked whether it was possible the failure was even closer to the connector than Steve had originally cut it? Back to work, he kept cutting it shorter and shorter until just beyond the strain relief of the very tip, he found where the white insulation inside was black where the short evidently had occurred. Now he didn’t have enough wire to work with so he actually had to strip off the strain relief to get enough to splice – and it worked!
Ok, plug in the Toshiba again and we have lights! Well, some lights, like a blinking battery light and a power light. We wait, and we heard the optical drive agitating itself like they do – and I popped out the media that had been left in so long ago…but nothing else happened. Sadly nothing on the monitor, no power on self test beeps to tell us if we had bad RAM or something needed to be reseated. Bummer.
We left it plugged in for a while, and then a few hours later, on a lark, Steve pushed the power button again…and we were rewarded with a black screen with white text telling us that the CMOS battery was dead. This was awesome news – the CMOS battery is only in charge of things like the system clock, not catastrophic, and about a $2 part. The best thing was that it asked if we wanted to continue? Why YES, we would love to continue…and it booted right up!!! NOTHING wrong with it at all! Seriously. This laptop is FINE. Well, maybe fine.
Immediately I went into my Airport Extreme router and created a Guest Network that would allow this Windows machine that hasn’t seen a Windows Update in 3 years onto the network without letting it get all over MY network. I connected on the Toshiba to the guest network, and it connected, but for some reason can’t connect to the Internet. They have a nice little graphic that shows the laptop and a happy green line going to the router, and then an angry red x on the line going to the Internet. I did a search online for “Windows machine connecting to Airport Extreme” and the first hit I got was three people with this problem…all on Toshiba laptops. That might be a red herring but it sure was interesting.
My buddy Ron suggested trying it on another network, so I turned on the trusty Mifi…and got the exact same result. I got my buddy Ryan on the phone this afternoon and we did a bunch of hunting around and even though the firewall is off, and we uninstalled Norton 360 (which was long since expired anyway), we never got it to work. I know this is one of those things where one of us is going to slap our head and say, “oh! we forgot about…” in 2 or 3 days. If anyone out there is yelling at their device right now knowing the answer, I’d sure like to hear about it. I expect us to figure this out shortly.
So bottom line, are Lisa’s friends idiots for not figuring this out? I would suggest that perhaps someone who actually fixes PCs for a living, like maybe the Best Buy Geek Squad even, would definitely have figured this out. Should I expect Lisa’s normal friend wouldn’t have the diagnostic skills of Steve and me, and definitely wouldn’t have the technician skills and tools Steve possesses, but I would have hoped that they would be smart enough to say, “gee, I’m not the right person to ask, take this to a repair person!” So remember how I started this story? I started by saying how annoying it is when people don’t want to admit they don’t know something and pretend they do! For that, I declare Lisa’s friends idiots. So, anyone out there want to buy a VERY gently used, maybe 5 year old Windows Vista laptop? I’ll put Linux on it if you’d prefer…
TYLT Energi 5K+ Battery Pack
Everyone loves to talk about battery packs these days – we just can get enough of them. I remember last January at Macworld, we’re sitting around with a bunch of Mac heads playing games and drinking beer and suddenly we’re all comparing our battery packs to see who’s is cooler, who’s has more charging power. I think Adam Christianson won for the coolest looking one but I had the most power. Then again at New Media Expo we’re hanging out with Chuck Joiner and he’s showing off his cylindrical charger. Ooh…a cylinder! I gotta admit, it was cool.
The fine folks at Dr. Bott included a battery charger called the Energi (with an i) 5K+ from a company with a very confusing name – it’s TYLT, spelled with a Y but on their packaging they’re so stylistic with the letters that I kept turning the packaging upside down to try to read it. Before I tell you about this cool battery pack, I have to say that each member of the packaging design team should be forced to make their grandfather’s try to open this package. First of all, there’s a hard plastic box around the whole package that is taped in so securely that my handy Open-X struggled to get it loose. This is just a rectangular box that when you get it loose falls away and leaves you with a standard plastic clear box. Now it’s a matter of not getting my hand sliced open getting that open but I’m motivated so I persevered and made it through. Inside THAT clear plastic enclosure is another opaque plastic carrier out of which finally slides the battery pack, along with three manuals.
I really shouldn’t get started on the manuals because I haven’t told you about the back of the plastic box yet. I don’t think I’ve ever seen more words on the back of a package in my life. They do a great job of making sure it’s international – everything is repeated in five languages, there’s a bar code, a QR code, pictures of three phones, some curvy things, a battery symbol, a thumb drive drawing, a perspective view of the product…and more. The good news is that there IS a “made for iPhone and iPod” symbol on the box so it’s certified to work with Apple products.
The 5K+ is very slender, it’s 9/16″ thick (14mm), so just about twice as thick as a naked iPhone. It’s about 20% bigger in the other dimensions so actually a very small, flat package, and pretty light for a battery pack. The coolest part about the Energi 5K+ is that it as two cables wrapped into the sides, a Micro USB cable and a 9 pin Lightning cable. They tuck right into the edge so that when you’re toting it around you don’t have any cables flopping around. In addition to those two built in cables there’s a 3rd USB port so you can plug in any cable you like, and they even through in another micro USB cable. I’m really impressed with the sleekness and cool factor of this device.
When I was looking at all the text on the box and the packaging, the main thing I was looking for was the battery capacity. I mean, how can I try to best Adam and Chuck if I can’t quote mAhs, right? Steve actually had to help me find it, the 5K+ is rated at 5200mAhs. That’s not bad, the current model iPhones are 2400mAh so that’s a little more than 2 full charges. The three charging ports deliver 1 amp each so you’re not going to be charging an iPad (they require 2-2.1 amps) but you can charge three iPhones or other cell phones and devices at the same time. That’s a common limitation – lots of ports but you can’t use them all at once.
I plugged my iPhone in using the lightning connector that’s built into the Energi 5K+ and then found the power switch and when I pushed it, it turned green. In some micro print on the documentation (remember, they gotta do 6 languages so it’s going to get small) I discovered that the LED will show green when it’s got 70-100% battery, and then drops down to amber for 31-70,%, red below that and blinking red if you’re under 2%. I prefer a row of lights so I don’t have to memorize math like that but at least they do have an indicator.
According to the TYLT site, the Energi 5K+ will run you $90. You can get cheaper battery packs with 5200mAhs, and you can get smaller devices, but the sleekness and style of the Energi products with the built in cables, INCLUDING an iPhone Lightning cable might make this worth the price. I’d like to have seen it closer to $60 but like I said, it’s beautiful and sleek and cool with a good amount of power.
I poked around on Amazon a bit and found a nice pocket charger by TYLT too that has the lightning cable. It will give you just a bit under one recharge of your iPhone at 1800mAh but comes with the built in Lightning cable too, and it can plug directly into the wall. That way you can use it as a wall charger for your phone but also gives you a battery pack in your pocket. That one will run you $55 on Amazon.
When I was writing up the show notes, I wanted to include a photo I took of Lisa’s fully functioning laptop. Then I got to thinking, what if there’s something on her laptop screen maybe she wouldn’t want you to see? Would you believe I used Clarify to help me out with this? Clarify has a super easy to use blur tool. I took the photo and dragged it into a Clarify document, tapped on the blur tool and drew a rectangle across the desktop icons. I then dragged the intensity bar down so that it wasn’t nearly as blurry and you could at least see that it was desktop icons I was covering up. Then I right clicked on the image and selected Export Step Image. Boom, I’m done. I know, it’s such a tiny use for a tool that’s so awesome at making longer form tutorials, but it opens so fast and the tools are so easy to use, that I reach for it for so many non-standard uses. That would have taken me probably a half hour in Photoshop Elements, if I ever figured it out at all.
Remember Clarify 2 is in public beta right now so if you want to try it out you can. If you buy Clarify now through the clarify-it.com website, you’ll get the upgrade to Clarify 2 for free when it comes out. Come on, what are you waiting for?
Chit Chat Across the Pond
That’s going to wind this up for this week, many thanks to our sponsor for helping to pay the bills, Blue Mango Learning at bluemangolearning.com makers of Clarify. Don’t forget to send in your Dumb Questions, comments and suggestions by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow me on twitter and app.net @podfeet. Check out the NosillaCast Google Plus Community too – lots of fun over there! If you want to join in the fun of the live show, head on over to podfeet.com/live on Sunday nights at 5pm Pacific Time and join the friendly and enthusiastic NosillaCastaways. Thanks for listening, and stay subscribed.