I’m a Mac

My current PC is now six years old, and it is really showing its age. It’s been consistently very slow, despite the regular “maintenance” I perform to clean it up after barely using it every third day. I had recently lost files on it, and it even rebooted on me while I was typing. When we moved into a house last summer, the computer was set up in a spare bedroom that we turned into an office. So I wanted something portable that I could use in other parts of the house, such as the living room or basement. With this portability in mind, I researched laptop computers for a few months, waiting for the right moment to buy.

I corresponded with a friend who tried Windows Vista on a new laptop. He was really dissatisfied with its performance, even though he bought a computer that was at least a step up from entry level. My parents also had issues with their Vista desktop. And I had worked out a security issue at work where some of our customers were unable to access our legitimate registration Web site because of an over-cautious security setting in Vista and Internet Explorer 7 (I tried IE 7 at home on Windows XP and was able to access the site). After hearing all of the horror stories about Windows Vista, I decided to go a different route: I bought a Mac.

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E-mail format etiquette

I probably don’t say it enough, but I could live without e-mail and actually get some real work done. I’m a face-to-face type of person who prefers using e-mail mostly to communicate a complex process to many people, although I still feel that in-person meetings are much more effective. With that said, I still use e-mail for many day-to-day operations as well, such as sharing notes and collaborating (don’t get me started on using Web-based technology in the workplace such as blogs and wikis). But if there is one thing that frustrates me to no end, it’s the use of funky backgrounds and goofy text in e-mail messages.

Now don’t get me wrong; I don’t mind customization. I’m all for people showing some level of individuality and creativity in the workplace. But when you get some of these dark backgrounds with dark letters, my eyes leap out of my face and demand that I don’t make them view such hideous and torturous images again.

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Redesigning my Web site – 2006

I’ve “reloaded” my Web site, as indicated by the subtitle in the header. I’ve adopted WordPress as my primary content management system (CMS) and blogging tool, and have taken out a number of pages and elements. It’s a work in progress, but I’ve dedicated some time to this project.

As with any project, there is always a list of up-front work that must be done before jumping in and just doing it. And implementing the work also requires following a plan of attack (typically called a project plan). Even though this is a personal Web site, even I approached this using the project management skills that I developed during my time in my current position.

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New Windows Internet Explorer 7

I usually try to promote the underdog as much as possible, especially when it comes to those that always seem to get squashed by the big corporate machine. So it’s no surprise that I was a big fan of Mozilla Firefox for a while. Its cleaner look, tabbed browsing, and increased security made it a worthwhile adversary to Microsoft Internet Explorer 6. But with the introduction of Windows Internet Explorer 7, I’m having second thoughts about knocking Microsoft. After using it for a couple of days, I’m really impressed.

First of all, I’m a big fan of tabbed browsing. IE 7 not only offers tabbed browsing, but offers it in an intuitive way. Instead of downloading a special plug-in to make windows open in separate tabs instead of windows, IE gives you the option, and it actually works. It even offers a thumbnail/mosaic view of all of your open pages. And there is a special blank tab that allows you to open a new tab, in addition to using CTRL+T.

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FireFox 2.0 scheduled for release

Mozilla Firefox has been a major contender against Microsoft’s Internet Explorer since it released version 1.0 almost two years ago. Now Mozilla is preparing to introduce Firefox 2.0 tomorrow. I was a big fan until about a year ago when I noticed problems with its speed and usability. I am still a big fan of tabbed browsing and really like a lot of the features, especially with stronger security than Microsoft Windows Internet Explorer. But I may have a hard time adopting the new version if the fixes are not resolved.

However, with Windows Internet Explorer also releasing a new version of its browser (now available) with tabbed browsing and beefed-up security, it may retain its share or possibly regain some fans in the browser market.

PC World article: Firefox 2.0 Scheduled For Release on Tuesday

Wikipedia article: FireFox

Spread Firefox Web site

Windows Internet Explorer 7

Apple iPod turns 5

Apple’s iPod has been on the market for the past five years, and there doesn’t seem to be any slow down in its staying power. That’s significant, seeing how it not only was a pioneer, but also remains the leader in the market. I think this has to do with Apple’s ability to realize what customers want and makes efforts to deliver.
I remember purchasing my first iPod just three years ago. Back then, you had three choices: 10 GB, 20 GB, or 40 GB. The screen had one color, and it only came in white. Since then, new features were added; screens are now in color, larger ones can play video, anything with a screen can show pictures, and they come as small as a binder clip. In the past five years, the iPod has evolved significantly.

The significance of the iPod is not based only on the device, but also on the business model that Steve Jobs (CEO, Apple Computers) and Apple developed. Apple developed iTunes, the first on-line music store with industry buy-in. It developed a device that commands a high price when others are available at lower prices. The iPod is a very simple device to use and has an intuitive interface. And making iTunes available for Windows opened availability to a greather market. Although not the first on the market, it was certainly a pioneer in making the mp3 player more portable and easier to use.

So, happy birthday iPod!

Newsweek on-line interview with Steve Jobs: Good for the Soul

ABC News/PC World Analysis: iPod at 5 is Still the Top Dog

My cell phone is so old…

Since moving to Madison over five years ago, I have been a US Cellular subscriber. I’ve been fairly happy with the service over the years, and its customer service had been really outstanding, until recently. My last contract ended in May 2005, and I held off on buying a new phone because I was happy with my very basic phone.

However, I recently received a letter from US Cellular stating that my phone may not have GPS capability for enhanced 911 service (E911), and that I would need to upgrade my phone now or pay a substantial monthly fee, by order of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). After looking at the phone and plan choices online, I realized that I was not very happy with the options. One phone sales representative from US Cellular informed me that he thought the “substantial charge” could be around $20, but he was unsure (this was the person that answered when you call the 800 number on the letter). Other sales representatives (one through the US Cellular call center, the other at the local US Cellular store) told me that they had no information about how much the FCC would charge.

When I asked how long I had before I would need to pay this fee, the first representative told me that I had 10 days from receiving the letter to get the better price on the phone. The other two sales representatives did not know when the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) would start charging for this.

Being the astute analyst that I am, I decided to call the FCC. I stated that I received a letter from my phone provider, and the operator immediately asked if it was from US Cellular. I learned that the Wireless Bureau was investigating.

I then checked with the Wisconsin Division of Trade and Consumer Protection (TCP). They informed me that they would look into this. In the meantime, I started looking at other cell plans and phones. Within a week, this issue had come to a close with TCP’s investigation (the press release below has more information), but I chose to move on to a different service.

Although I had been impressed overall with US Cellular’s customer service over the past five years, I chose to switch carriers for a number of reasons: I was unimpressed with the US Cellular phones, I would need to switch to nationwide coverage if I travel out of my home area (other companies do not charge roaming fees anywhere in the US anymore), and availability of service across the nation is more complete with at least two of the other providers. A separate incident in which a US Cellular telephone representative called me to upgrade my plan and my phone in January also raised a red flag for me.

I switched to Verizon Wireless. Since making the switch, I’ve been happy with the service. I haven’t had any problems with coverage since, and most people haven’t had any problems hearing me. I was given 15 days to try the service, but it looks like I’ll remain with it for the next two years (longer if the service is still as good as or better than today). I also bought a camera phone, which I never expected to purchase (it’s a useful just-in-case feature), so I also use the e-mail feature. And if I have to travel for an emergency, I don’t need to worry about roaming charges. Overall, I’m very happy with my new service and phone.

NBC15 article: Cell Phone GPS Deadline

DATCP press release: U.S. Cellular “Regrets Confusion”