Hands-On With The Samsung Galaxy S4, Plus Antivirus For Android

galaxy-s4I recently had the opportunity to test-drive the Samsung Galaxy S4 from Verizon. If you’re looking for a powerful smart phone with some of the features of a tablet, this might be the device for you.

Related article: Galaxy S4: Vivid Color, Vibrant Performance by Triona Guidry (The Northwest Herald)

The Galaxy S4 looks similar to the Galaxy Note II, which I previously reviewed. In the hand it feels light and lively, matched by smooth performance when you use it. The 1080p Super AMOLED screen is unbelievably vivid even in sunlight, just the thing for entertainment on the go.

The S Apps are interesting, but I don’t know anyone who buys a device solely for the manufacturer’s add-on apps. If you want them they’re there, but as a recent article in Forbes asked, do people actually use these brand-name features? If you do, I’m curious to hear how you like them.

The Galaxy S4 is an Android device so you’ll get the full performance of Android 4.2 Jelly Bean plus the features available in the Google Play store. Just watch out for bad apps! Android is notorious for malware. You should run an antivirus program on any mobile device you use. For Android I am fond of Sophos’s Android security app. It’s free so there’s no excuse not to protect yourself.

Verizon is promoting its VZ Security service, which gives you antivirus plus SiteAdvisor for free, or antivirus, SiteAdvisor, and some other goodies for $1.99/month. Whether you pick Sophos, Verizon, or another product, please make sure you are running legitimate antivirus. Fake antivirus is skyrocketing on Android along with other malware.

Have you tried the Samsung Galaxy series? What do you think? Share in the comments, and don’t forget to subscribe to Tech Tips by email and follow on Facebook. You can also follow @trionaguidry on Twitter.

 Disclaimer: Samsung Galaxy S4 provided by Verizon; this is an unpaid review.

 

 

Six Things Every PC User Needs To Know About Windows 8.1

Windows81The new Windows 8.1 affects you, even if you’re still using previous versions of Windows. Here’s what you need to know about the upgrade.

First Rule of Windows 8.1: There Is No Start Menu
Microsoft’s been shouting it from the rooftops: “The Start button’s back! The Start button’s back!” Except that doesn’t mean what you think it means.

What Windows 8.1 does is stick a Start button in the lower left corner, which brings up the new Start screen – not to be confused with the old Start menu you’re probably looking for. Dizzy yet? To make matters worse, not all applications will support the returned Start button, meaning it’s less of a fix than a kludge. A Start button that isn’t always present is as confusing as a Start button that’s missing entirely, if not more so.

Second Rule Of Windows 8.1: The New Look Is Here To Stay
Regardless of what they’ve done with the Start buttonmenuscreen, the Windows 8 interface (which I would call “Metro” except Microsoft says we’re not supposed to call it that anymore) is the future of Windows. So don’t expect Windows 8.1, or any other update, to restore your computer to yesteryear. The new look and feel is here to stay, and it’s time to get used to it if you intend to stay in the Microsoft world.

Third Rule Of Windows 8.1: Say Goodbye To Your Keyboard And Mouse
Windows 8 is made for tablets. In fact, many of us are still trying to figure out why Microsoft thinks a tablet interface is a good idea in a PC environment. If you don’t have a touch interface, it’s klunky to use – in other words if you’re one of the 99.99999% who still have a keyboard and mouse, which is SO 2012, PEOPLE.

Fourth Rule Of Windows 8.1: You Need It, Unless You Like Viruses
If history is any indication, expect Windows 8.1 to become the only acceptable version of Windows as far as being able to fix problems or install updates. Doesn’t matter if you want it or not, eventually you’ll have to install it or your computer is guaranteed to become a writhing infestation of identity-stealing viruses and malware.

This means you, Windows XP people – you need to upgrade. Now. I don’t care if you go Win7 or Win8, either is better than what you’re using now. Don’t wait until your computer is unusable, your financial data stolen, your accounts hacked, and your personal information spread across the Internet.

Fifth Rule Of Windows 8.1: It’s Not That Bad And In Some Ways Good
If it weren’t for the klunky interface and the lack of training for the average consumer (you know, the people for whom it’s purportedly designed), I would like Windows 8.

It’s fast. It’s powerful. It doesn’t take up a ton of memory (looking at YOU, WinME), doesn’t throttle your processor (Windows Vista), doesn’t cause incompatibilities with every single piece of hardware you own (Windows 95).

So, yes, it’s a technically superior operating system. So was OS/2 Warp, only it wasn’t widely used because it was hamstrung by a lack of apps and a failure to educate people on how to use it. Ironic that Microsoft may be following the same road to ruin decades later.

Sixth Rule Of Windows 8.1: You’re On Your Own Learning It (But I’ll Help!)
Microsoft has information online, but you have to hunt for it – using an unfamiliar touch-swipe interface, unless you happen to have another device handy, and doesn’t that eliminate the point? It’s no wonder many businesses have decided to hold off on upgrading. I don’t know why Microsoft has such blinders on when it comes to understanding that your average, everyday person needs to be able to use this without spending the entire morning trying to figure out how to accomplish a task.

To that end, here are some resources to get you started with Windows 8:

And don’t forget to follow Tech Tips for the latest on Windows 8, Mac, and more:

Once again we come to the age-old dilemma: Do you put up with the new features for the sake of security? If I were you, I would either a) get on Windows 7 ASAP, b) get on Windows 8 ASAP, or c) pick another platform (Mac? tablet? phablet?) because the Windows 8 train has left the station and anybody who didn’t jump on board is going to get run over eventually by viruses, malware, and other Internet scum.

What do you think about Windows 8? Love it? Hate it? Cowering in a corner hugging your Timex-Sinclair and dreaming of punchcards? Share in the comments!

 

Hands-On With The BlackBerry Z10

z10I recently spent some quality time with the new BlackBerry Z10. The Z10 is a lightweight, keyboardless smart phone… wait, a keyboardless BlackBerry? How does that work? Let’s find out.

The Z10 has a 1.5GHz dual-core Qualcomm processor with 2GB of RAM and a 4.2-inch 1,280-by-768 LCD display at 356 pixels per inch. It’s sized about the same as an iPhone, 5.1 by 2.6 by .35 inches, weighing 4.8 ounces.

Related article: Review: Will the new Z10 save BlackBerry? by Triona Guidry (The Northwest Herald)

The Unboxing

First, we have to install the battery. Fortunately the Z10′s case is a snap to open, no finger-mashing required. Once that’s done the unit launches into a setup wizard that talks you through a brief configuration process. It also gives you the basics of the Z10′s swipes and gestures.

I like to evaluate new products from the perspective of a brand-new user. How do you figure out how it works? What resources are available to help? In the case of the Z10, the learning curve is short and sweet. Swipe to the Hub for notifications, swipe to your apps to launch them. The Z10 reminds you with helpful glowing arrows if, for example, you forget you have to swipe from the bottom up to unlock your phone.

The Z10′s Software Keyboard

Instead of physical keyboard, the Z10 comes with a software keyboard which is responsive enough that you might forget it’s not physical. Predictive completion learns as you type, so your phone quickly becomes customized to your preferences. In other words, it’s still a BlackBerry even with a software keyboard. Weird but true.

BlackBerry 10

The Z10 runs BlackBerry’s signature BlackBerry 10 software, which has received rare accolades from the tech industry. It’s not hard to see why. BB10 is sleek and intuitive, giving you a no-frills environment that lets you get the job done with minimal interference. However, that easy of use comes at the cost of customization. This isn’t Android; you can’t just arrange your icons any old way you like. But die-hard BlackBerry fans will be pleased.

Features, Functions, And Apps

Unfortunately you’re not going to find as many apps for BlackBerry as for iOS and Android. BlackBerry’s app store simply hasn’t been around long enough yet, so you might find yourself waiting (and wondering) if your favorite apps will be released for it.

The Z10′s Help section rocks. It’s well-organized and helps you find everything you need to know, which is vital considering that this phone is brand new to the market. I especially liked the prominent Passwords & Security section which can help you protect your phone.

Related article: Tools To Protect Your Smart Phone From Malware

Conclusions

The Z10 is a decent entry into the smart phone arena, but BlackBerry has a steep climb ahead as it struggles to catch up to its competitors.

What do you think? Can BlackBerry woo its CrackBerry addicts back into the fold or has the company lost too much momentum? Share in the comments, and don’t forget to  subscribe to Tech Tips by email and follow on Facebook. You can also follow @trionaguidry on Twitter.

How To Learn Windows Phone 8

lumia-822I recently had the opportunity to test the Nokia Lumia 822 smart phone from Verizon. From my review in The Northwest Herald:

 At 5-by-2.7-by-0.44 inches, the Nokia Lumia 822 is a streamlined yet speedy device. The 4.3-inch, 800×480 WVGA AMOLED display may not be the fanciest, but it boasts sharp colors and good readability even in a brightly lit room. The Lumia 822 uses the 1.5GHz Snapdragon processor with 1GB of RAM and 16GB of storage, and it supports MicroSD cards as well as NFC.

I was particularly interested to find out how consumers are supposed to learn this brand-new version of Windows. Good news, everyone: there’s a convenient Help & Tips section in the menu, which is only a left-swipe away from the home screen. From here you’ll find simple instructions plus videos and other helpful links. Some quality time spent browsing here will save you frustration down the road. You may also find yourself making frequent use of the Back button, as the menus aren’t always intuitive.

In addition to the Help & Tips section on your phone, Microsoft has online resources to help you learn how to use Windows Phone 8. Here are a few to get you started, including Rooms and Groups which I mentioned in my review.

Whatever kind of phone you choose, let me remind you to enable your security settings. Passcode lock, remote data erasure, and Find My Phone are all included with your phone, but you need to set them. Microsoft has a nice primer on how to secure your phone: Microsoft: Tips to help keep my phone secure

Have you tried Windows Phone 8? What do you think? Share in the comments!

 

Readers Ask: Sending DOCX Files To Macs, Troubleshooting Slow Web Sites, Choosing New Computer Hardware

computer-booksI’ve been talking with Fr. Jack Sweeley about whether he should move to Windows 7, Windows 8, or a Mac. After our initial discussion, he had some followup questions, which I am posting with his permission:

Thank you so much, Triona. This is very helpful. However, I have a few questions.

1. As I stated, I have several books written and others in process as well a hundreds of commentaries all written with Word using VISTA. Will I be able to open and edit these on a Mac?

2. From time-to-time I have sent documents I have written to someone who at that time had a Mac and they told me they could not open what I sent written in WORD on a PC. Is this still the case?

3. Contrarily, will I be able to open documents sent to me in WORD using a Windows PC on a Mac?

4. RE Macs: Could you give me comparisons between hard drive space on a Mac v. PC (is a gig a gig on both), for processing speeds what are the terms used and are they the same for a Mac and a PC, what are the terms used for memory and are they the same for a Mac and a PC?

5. What amount of HD space, processing speed, and memory do I need to do what I described in my original letter? I am impatient and go crazy having to wait for Websites to load especially when I have 8-10 sites open at the same time.

6. I know a little about the landscape of PCs and once I know what parameters I am looking for I can find one. However, I have never even looked at a Mac to say nothing about being able to compare them. So, could you cite different kinds of Macs–with their price ranges for what I need–and the pros and cons of each.

Let’s look at Fr. Jack’s needs and see how we can help him.

Opening Word For Windows .DOC and .DOCX Files On Macs

wordmacYes, you can open Word documents, both .doc and .docx, on a Mac. Apple’s word processor Pages (paid; via App Store) can open both but saves in its own proprietary .pages format. NeoOffice (donationware, www.neooffice.org) can also open both .doc and .docx but again, it saves in its own .odt format. You can spring for Microsoft Office for Mac (paid; via Microsoft), which is the most expensive option but can handle Word .doc and .docx files without conversion.

The person to whom you sent the Word file may not have had a recent Mac word processing program, or did not have Microsoft’s free .docx converter installed. You can either make sure all Word files are saved as .doc and not .docx (.docx is default from Word 2007 onwards), or make sure the recipient can convert .docx. Don’t go looking online for free converters, use the genuine ones from Microsoft to avoid viruses.

For the most part, Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files can be used interchangably between PCs and Macs. The main exception is if you have code in Visual Basic (VBA) or custom macros not supported by the Mac. Everyday documents work fine, and on the rare occasions they don’t, the one-time installation of a converter tool usually fixes the problem.

Now, if you have print-ready files, a Word document just is not a proper layout tool. Better to save final drafts to PDF which will keep the pagination you want. Professionals do document layout with industry standard tools like Adobe InDesign and Quark.

When it comes to file types and permanent storage – as in, stuff you want to keep longer than the software program that created it – I am a fan of good old RTF, or rich text format. It’s a universal file type that allows formatting like bold and italic but can still be opened by nearly every word processor past, present, and likely future.

Choosing A New PC Or Mac

question-computerA gig is a gig is a gig – 1,024 megabytes, sometimes rounded off as 1,000MB. So yes, hard drive sizes are consistent across Mac and PC hardware. Processing speeds are harder to compare. You can go digging across the Internet for all sorts of bench tests, but you’re better off comparing PCs to PCs and Apples to, well, Apples.

Typically a sub-$500 PC is not going to be worth the cost. In my experience they fail more quickly and catastrophically than more expensive models. A midline PC, in the $700-1,000 range, offers better and faster hardware. Laptops will be more expensive than desktops, and bear in mind that if you choose Windows 8, you’re going to want a screen with touchy-swipey capability for the best experience. That is, assuming you can find one; it’s not available for every model.

Macs may cost more, but in my experience they also make up for the price difference by outlasting their PC counterparts in the long run.

Troubleshooting Slow Web Sites

slowWaiting for web sites to load may be a function of your network connection and not your computer. Or, if your computer is gummed up with adware and malware, you’ll notice the drag particularly when using the Internet. For optimum speed you need to use a modern operating system – Windows 8, Mac, or Windows 7 as long as Microsoft deigns to support it – because you need to use a modern browser.

Your web browser is your window to the Internet. That means it’s also a vulnerable point. If your software is out of date, your connection will seem slow or you’ll be unable to load pages or images. The older the browser, the slower the connection, until you finally throw your hands in the air and buy a new computer. This is another reason it’s good to keep your software up to date, it’ll stave off that new computer moment as long as possible.

If you don’t know which browser you use, you’re probably using the default for your system. Common browsers as of this writing are as follows, but this information changes rapidly. Your best bet is to use the “check for updates” feature of the program to find the current version for your computer.

Windows 7 and 8

Mac

Note: there is no current Internet Explorer for Mac. If you’re still using the old versions, switch now!

Choosing A Mac Model

choose-appleThe easiest way to see the available Macs is to pop over to the Apple store: store.apple.com. They have a clickable list in the Mac section which shows the Mac model options.

In my experience, you are almost always better off opting for an iMac or a Macbook Pro than trying to cut corners with a Mac Mini. For one thing, you have to factor in the cost of the screen, and for another the Mini really doesn’t have the oomph for what most people want. You don’t have to go nuts on one of those bigger, expensive tower Macs. Those are usually purchased by designers and video experts who need the extra processing power and expandability.

When configuring a Mac using the Apple Store tool, get the fastest processor and best graphics you can for the model you want. You can always add more memory or a larger hard drive later, but with an iMac or Macbook you’re stuck with whatever processor and graphics card it has. You can go Macbook Air instead of Macbook Pro but remember you’re sacrificing processor speed for a lightweight form factor.

Apple Store has a nice comparison tool to help you make the choice.

Finding Discounts On Macs

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention you can look for discounts on warrantied refurbished Macs on Apple’s site. You can also find discounts at Mac retailers like Mac Mall and OWC. A good time to buy is right after Apple announces new hardware; you can get a discount on older models that still have solid tech specs. (Insider’s tip: Apple usually has events in the spring and fall; the next one will be in March 2013.) If you’re an educator or student, be sure to check out Apple’s education discount. Many colleges and universities have deals through the campus computer store.

Ask Your Computer Questions On Tech Tips!

Do you have a computer problem? Leave a comment and let the Tech Tips community help. Your question could appear in a future Tech Tips article!

Image courtesy of (1) ddpavumba (2) Danilo Rizzuti (3) Idea go (4) Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Hybrid Devices: You Got Smart Phone In My Tablet!

I recently had the opportunity to test-drive the Samsung Galaxy Note II, a hybrid device that lies somewhere between a smart phone and a tablet. Are these hybrid devices just a fad or will they stick around?

From the review I wrote for The Northwest Herald:

The Galaxy Note is a hybrid Android device. At approximately 3.17-by-5.95-by-0.3 inches and weighing 6.44 ounces, it’s large enough that it may feel awkward while making calls. But the 5.5-inch HD Super AMOLED display (1,280 x 720) is so gorgeous that you might not notice. (read more)

These hybrid devices are called by a variety of names, including phablet which I personally think sounds phabulous. They can be powerful devices. The Galaxy Note I tested has enough oomph to run some seriously resource-intensive apps. Hybrids also have larger screens but are still portable enough to fit in a pocket.

I can understand the attraction of a device like the Galaxy Note. There are a lot of things I would do with my smart phone if it were big enough for me to see what I’m doing, and it would be nice not having to schlep a full-sized tablet around.

I’ve seen a lot of tech gadgets flash then fizzle. I remember when everyone and their brother had a Palm Pilot, and I recall Microsoft’s original attempt at a tablet. But the technology’s gotten to the point where the things we wanted to do with those devices is both possible and affordable, like handwriting recognition and the ability to watch video or play games.

So I think phone/tablet hybrids or phablets or whatever you want to call them will stick with us a while. They may not be for everyone but there is a segment of the market that wants a single device to replace the cumbersome smart-phone-plus-tablet combo.

As I reiterated in the column, you need to secure your mobile devices as well. Here are some previous Tech Tips articles on mobile security and more:

Disclaimer: Galaxy Note II provided by Verizon; my opinions remain my own.

Have you tried a hybrid device? Which mobile devices do you prefer? Share in the comments and don’t forget to  subscribe to Tech Tips by email and follow on Facebook. You can also follow @trionaguidry on Twitter.

Holiday Tech Gadgets: How To Choose A Mobile Device Platform

It’s an exciting time in mobile technology as three major vendors vie for our holiday shopping dollars. In this month’s The Northwest Herald I’m discussing the season’s hottest gadgets. From the article:

Mobile technology is hot this holiday season, and you’ll find gadgets to fit every interest and budget. I visited AT&T and Verizon to get the latest news. (read more)

Smart phones and tablets are this year’s top sellers, which begs the question: What’s the difference between the Big Three mobile platforms, iOS, Android, and Windows?

Apple iOS
Runs on: iPhone, iPad, iPod
You may not know iOS by name, but if you’re familiar with an iPhone screen, you know what it looks like. iOS is Apple’s proprietary system for its iDevices. iOS is known for its ease of use and its seamless compatibility across all your iPhones, iPads, and iPods.

Google Android
Runs on: Tablets and smart phones
When it comes to Android, Google makes the software and other manufacturers like Samsung make the hardware. Android is a powerful and flexible platform but may be too complex for the beginner. There’s also a rampant malware problem on Android because of lax standards in Google’s Marketplace plus a rash of lookalike app stores.

Windows Phone / Windows 8 / Windows RT
Runs on: Tablets and smart phones
If you don’t know what to call Windows on mobile devices, you’re not alone. Windows Phone is simple enough; it’s Windows on a phone. Windows RT is Windows 8 on ARM-based tablets, notably Microsoft’s own Surface. However, WinRT is not as flexible as the full Windows 8 on a PC.

How do you know which mobile platform is right for you? It depends on what you’re currently using. If you have a Windows Phone and love it, then it makes sense to stay with Windows for your mobile devices. If you adore your Samsung Galaxy, you’re an Android fan. All platforms offer similar features as far as email, web, and social media. As far as ease of use, I would say iOS is the easiest, followed closely by Windows 8 with Android last because of its complexity

What about other mobile platforms like Blackberry or Symbian? At this point, Blackberry manufacturer RIM is having so many problems they can barely compete – they released Blackberry 10, but the universe barely blinked. Symbian is still around but has been largely supplanted by Windows Phone.

What tech gadgets are you considering for the holidays? Find anything fun and exciting? Share in the comments and don’t forget to subscribe to Tech Tips by email and follow on Facebook. You can also follow @trionaguidry on Twitter.

 

 

Readers Ask: Should I Buy Windows 7, Windows 8, Or Mac?

My recent post about why people hate Windows 8 sparked a lively discussion on the merits of Windows 7, Windows 8, and Mac. In the commentsFr. Jack Sweeley asked a number of questions that epitomize what everyone wants to know. You can read the previous post and comments here: Dear Microsoft: Why Your Customers Hate Windows 8.

Let’s start with Fr. Jack’s letter.

Dear Triona,

I need to get a new computer and have heard the hype about Windows 8 as well as how many tech people hate it because it is obtuse and does not really add anything new for home and small business users. Also, I have read to use the features on Windows 8, I will need to buy a new touch screen monitor.

However, as the hype goes, Windows versions below Windows 8 will become obsolete re: security updates and new software will eventually be incompatible with Windows versions below Windows 8. So, if I don’t want to be up the creek I need to get Windows 8 now and suffer through the learning curve.

So, I am in a quandary. My old computer keeps sending me “low memory” messages, if I have too many windows open the page fades and locks up, and sometimes I have to shut down the computer and restart it just to keep working.

Yet, I am by far the world’s worst technophobe, squeak by using WORD, and have no idea how an operating system works–and yes, I got sucked into VISTA because I needed a new computer when VISTA came out.

I am on the computer 10-12 hours per day. Much of the time I am doing research becasue I am a writer and need to have many Websites open at the same time. I currently have 8 completed manuscripts on my hard drive as well as 3 more I am working on. I also have about 300 commentaries I have written and over 1,000 photos I have downloaded from the Web.

Basically, I use the computer for my work, email, my 2 websites, and am building another website for my artwork. I am also planning to create a series of videos for Youtube.

What I am looking for in a computer is a hard drive big enough to hold my work with a lot left over and the fastest speed I can get for opening Websites and downloading material from the Web. Also, a desk top because I have tried my wife’s laptop and type like I have fumble fingers on it.

I have no idea about computer prices but hopefully can find something between 700-1,000 dollars.

That said, I don’t know anyone who uses an Apple-Mac–at least they haven’t told me they do–but given the already bad reputation of Windows 8 can getting an Apple-Mac be any worse of a learning curve?

So, my question is, “What are my options?”

– Fr. Jack Sweeley

Many people are in the same boat. You just want a working computer but you’re not sure which way to go.

Computer Crossroads
I have a question in return: What do you envision as your computer future?

We’re standing at a computer crossroads. Ahead lie three paths: Windows 7, Windows 8, and “Something Else”. Down the “Something Else” path you can barely make out a few more signposts: “Mac” and “Mobile” are the only ones you can read. Which path do you take? You’ll have to make some decisions.


Path Of Least Resistance: Stay On Windows 7

If you are a Windows user and want to stick with the closest thing to what you have now, consider Windows 7 – with a few caveats.

Bear in mind this is a dead-end operating system. Microsoft has dedicated its not-inconsiderable resources toward pushing Windows 8, to the point of discontinuing Service Packs for Win7. That’s a bad sign.

Also, there’s still a learning curve to Win7, although not as bad as Windows 8′s. Given that Win8 is the future whether we like it or not, you have to ask yourself whether it makes sense to learn something that you know is going away in the near future.

Learning Curve: Upgrade To Windows 8
Let’s say you’ve decided you’re riding this thing out at Microsoft’s side, no matter what. In that case you are committed to learning Windows 8.

The interface is designed for touchy-swipey and not the traditional keyboard-mouse. I’m interested to hear how that’s working out, for better or for worse. My anecdotal evidence so far indicates that Windows 8 is awesome on tablets but kludgey on standard PCs.

Windows 8 will take considerably more effort to learn than Win7, but Microsoft has promised big rewards for those who take the plunge. We’ll have to see if the results match the hype.

Gearshift: Move To A Mac
Some people think I’m a rabid Mac fangirl because of my Mac tech support experience. Actually I think you have to use the right tool for the right job, and sometimes that ends up being a PC.

But not this time. Given Windows 8′s uncertainty, I see no reason why every consumer out there shouldn’t go get themselves a Mac. It’s either that or wait around for Microsoft to figure out how this whole Win8 thing is supposed to work in the real world. Want to be a guinea pig? By all means – but if you want to know why Steve Jobs used to say “it just works”, get a Mac.

Are Macs are more expensive? Not in the long run. The lowest-end Mac costs significantly more than the lowest-end PC BUT – and I am basing this on 20+ years of PC and Mac experience – Macs last at least twice the lifespan of most PCs.

Worried about the learning curve? Don’t be. Apple has some nice starter guides for those moving from Windows to Mac (much better, in my opinion, than what Microsoft has offered for Win8). You should also read my advice about Mac antivirus: How To Remove A Virus From Your Mac.

Off The Beaten Path: Move To A Tablet
Some people have found that they can do the majority of their work (surfing the Web, checking email) with an iPad or other tablet. If you choose Microsoft’s Surface you’ll still be using Windows, of course, but there are a variety of options including tablets like iPad and Android and e-book readers like Kindle and nook (now partnered with Microsoft).

If you want to see my experiments with this, read my previous post: How To Ditch Your Computer For An iPad.

Pros And Cons By Task
Still not sure which path to take? Let’s go back to Fr. Jack and see if we can find the right choice for him. I’ve broken down the needs he mentioned into five basic categories.

  • EASE OF USE
    Winner: Windows 7, Runner-Up: Mac
    If you are a previous Windows user and want a reduced learning curve, Win7 is the closest to what you have now, and it comes with drawbacks as explained above. Hanging onto an old interface doesn’t seem like the best option to me, and Mac seems easier to learn than Windows 8.
  • WORD PROCESSING
    Winner: All
    There isn’t a computer out there you can’t use for word processing. If you want stunning-looking software go for Apple’s Pages app for Mac, but otherwise word processors have similar functionality across the board.
  • SECURITY
    Winner: Mac, Runner-Up: Windows 8
    Windows 7′s days are numbered. Security-wise it will eventually fall by the wayside and you’ll have to use Windows 8 for the best cyber-safety. The Mac is not immune to viruses (read my advice on Mac antivirus). But, in my experience, it has far less security troubles than Windows as long as you keep up with basic maintenance.
  • WEB DESIGN
    Winner: Mac, Runner-Up: Windows 7
    There’s a reason Mac is the standard in the design world. I am going to call Windows 7 as the runner-up because of the current lack of applications for Windows 8. I expect this to evolve in Win8′s future favor, however.
  • PHOTO AND VIDEO
    Winner: Mac, Runner-Up: None
    Hands down, what you want for this purpose is a Mac. Photo and video can be done on a PC, but what most people want is something that’s easy to use and produces gorgeous results. That’s where the Mac really shines.

Conclusion
For Fr. Jack, I suggest either Windows 8 or a Mac depending on whether he wants to stay in the Microsoft world or not. Personally I would go for the Mac. He can meet his target budget with a low end model, but I would bump up the budget to about $1,500 for additional processor and memory.

Stay Tuned For Part 2!
I sent the previous post to Fr. Jack, who had a number of questions based on my analysis. Next week I’ll post Part 2 where we’ll discuss word processing compatibility, hardware specs, and available Mac models. Want to stay tuned to Tech Tips? Subscribe by email, find Tech Tips on Facebook, or follow @trionaguidry on Twitter.

What’s your experience? Do you have questions about whether to switch to Windows 7, Windows 8, or Mac? Ask in the comments!

Image courtesy of Danilo Rizzuti / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Dear Microsoft: Why Your Customers Hate Windows 8

The computer industry gives short shrift to small business and home users. This has never been more clear to me than with the introduction of Windows 8, so I wrote this letter to Microsoft on behalf of the Nation of Windows Users.

Dear Microsoft,

We know you’re excited about Windows 8, and you want us to be excited too. And you can’t figure out why we’re all “meh” when you want us to be all “YEAH!”

The Look
We hate Windows 8. You’re forcing a new look on us, when it’s all we can do to keep up with our everyday tasks. Windows 8 may have all sorts of nifty improvements, but that’s no good if it takes us two hours just to figure out how we used to do something.

Don’t make fun of us if we aren’t computer-savvy. Not everybody is a tech guru. For some people, even moving an icon on the desktop is a major change. That’s not our fault. It’s YOUR fault if you don’t understand that some people want to concentrate on what they need to do, rather than trying to figure out how to go about getting it done on an unfamiliar system.

Don’t tell us we’ll learn to love it. We don’t have time. If we have to learn something new, we might as well go over to Apple and see what the fuss is about Macs.

No Start Menu
You spent the last 20 years teaching us the Start menu. Remember how angry we were when you yanked the old Office Toolbar and replaced it with the ugly Ribbon? You told us, “You’ll love it, it’s so much better.”

Well, we don’t, and it isn’t. Some people still haven’t gotten used to it, and haven’t upgraded as a result. You make it much harder for us to want to buy your stuff when you treat us like children who need to have decisions made for us.

Usability Over Security
And when you make us hang onto our old stuff because the new stuff takes too much time and effort to learn, you make it nearly impossible to secure our systems. We’re more concerned about usability than whether or not we’re running vulnerable software. That’s part of the reason there’s such a virus problem on Windows (that, and your sieve-like code).

The Hype
You keep telling us every version of Windows is the best yet. You said Vista was awesome and then you backpedaled because it sucked. Same for Windows ME. You used to tell us the Windows Vista & 7 interface was da bomb but now it’s “dated and cheesy”. Why should we believe you about Windows 8? We know today’s new program will be tomorrow’s garbage. Stop pretending otherwise.

The Tablet Craze
So you’re introducing the Surface tablet. Whoopee. We’ve already got iPads and Androids and other mobile devices. Your Windows Phone may be a technological marvel but it’s got minimal market share.

We know Windows 8 is more about you trying to break into the tablet market to compete with Google and Apple, and less about the people who rely on Windows *gasp* to get actual work done.

In short, we don’t care how fancy your new tablet is, nor how well Windows 8 works on it, if Windows 8 isn’t going to offer us benefits on the PCs we already own.

The Touchy-Swipey Thing
So Windows 8 is all touchy-swipey. No one, least of all you, has any idea how touchy-swipey is going to work with PCs that have keyboards and mice. It may be the wave of the future, but it doesn’t help us get work done. It’s just another annoying change on top of a lot of other annoying changes. Why do we want anything to do with Windows 8 if it’s going to be this much trouble?

No SP2 for Windows 7
And now you’re telling us that you’re not introducing another Service Pack for Windows 7. We’ve been around the block with you a few times and we know this is the death knell for a system you’re trying to obsolete in favor of new products and profits.

Maybe you’re right, Microsoft. Maybe Windows 8 really is the greatest thing in the history of creation… and maybe it’s not. We really want to like you, but we’re jaded after all the promises you’ve broken. You’re going to have to try harder than Windows 8 if you want to win us back.

Sincerely, Your (Former?) Customers

Other Tech Tips articles on Windows 8 you may enjoy:

Want to give Microsoft a piece of your mind over Windows 8? Share in the comments!

How To Decide If You Should Upgrade To Windows 8

Microsoft will release Windows 8 this fall. Whether you’re on Windows XP, Vista, or 7, you’ll have to decide if you want to upgrade. My latest tech column in The Northwest Herald talks about this new version of Windows and how to evaluate a potential upgrade.

Windows 8 has a radically different look and feel, which will be the main reason people decide whether they want it or not. Win8 is designed for tablets and we’re not quite sure how that’s going to translate to desktops and laptops.

As I said in the column, my advice is:

Windows XP
You should plan to upgrade – but if you can’t stand Windows 8, you can go to Windows 7. Just please, for the love of sanity don’t linger on XP unless you absolutely have to (usually because of software that can’t run elsewhere).

Why? Because Windows XP is a ticking time bomb. It can’t be properly protected from viruses because it’s old and doesn’t run the latest versions of software like antivirus and Web browsers. Bear in mind, though, you may have to buy a new computer to run Win7 or 8.

Windows Vista
I’m so sorry you got stuck with this dead-end piece of junk. Go to Win8 or Win7 based on your preference. You could stick with Vista but it’s so much buggier than 7 you’ll probably want the upgrade. Not only that, Microsoft wants to pretend Vista never existed so the likelihood of decent support in the future is not high. The good news is, most Vista-capable PCs can run Windows 7.

Windows 7
If you prefer the look of Win7 over 8, stay where you are. If you want the new features or security improvements and you don’t mind learning the new interface, feel free to try Win8 – but I would wait a few months to see how the bugs shake out after release.

If you buy a new Win7 PC now, Microsoft has an upgrade offer. You’ll find video and screenshots about the new look on Microsoft’s Web site. And you can find information about the multitasking funkiness I mentioned in the column here, but be prepared to smack your forehead in disgust at Microsoft’s hubris.

Try the Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor, it’s a super-useful tool and will tell you if your hardware can take it. There isn’t an Upgrade Advisor for Win8 - Microsoft explains why.

As I said in the column, the best thing you can do is check out Windows 8 for yourself. Here are some resources to get you started.