Thursday, August 27, 2009

Advice: Beware the First Version of Any E-Thing

A quick bit of technical advice, here, on the occasion Apple's release of the next-gen Mac OS tomorrow. I'm an unabashed Mac lover (though one who duly respects XP, alright?), but here's what a couple of decades in the computer world have taught me: Never Buy The First Version Of Anything.

The software business has long treated the first public release as the last beta version. True, you could test today's complex software forever and still never be sure you'd pressed every button in every possible combination. So they count on the "bleeding edge" types, the ones who pride themselves on having the latest/greatest of every product, to find out what still needs work.

It's therefore unsurprising that The New York Times' estimable David Pogue, in today's column praising the new Mac OS X 10.6 "Snow Leopard" (10.5 was Plain Old Leopard, I guess), nonetheless refers in to "the number of non-Apple programs that 'break' after the installation. I experienced frustrating glitches in various programs, including Microsoft Word, Flip4Mac, Photoshop CS3," and a couple minor apps.

"The compatibility list at lists other programs that may have trouble. Most of these hiccups will go away when software companies update their wares... Let’s hope that Apple hurries up with its inevitable update, too, to address the occasional Safari crash and cosmetic glitch I experienced, too."
Let me hasten to highlight the gist of the column, though, which he summarized as,
"Otherwise, if you’re already running Leopard, paying the $30 for Snow Leopard is a no-brainer. You’ll feel the leap forward in speed (and) polish, and you’ll keep experiencing those 'oh, that’s nice' moments for weeks to come."
State of the Art column, NYT:
Apple’s Sleek Upgrade (8/26/09)

So, like the man says, better to wait for the (or -.2) version. Let the real hardcore geeks unearth the larger bugs and thus get it in shape "for the rest of us."

(Full Disclosure: Mr. Pogue, in an earlier incarnation as a writer/reviewer for MacWorld, had nice things to say about two different manuals I wrote, as he was reviewing the programs they described. So, yeah, I am kinda partial to the guy's opinions, and think he's wicked smart.)

Related, here:
"Endless Vistas... of confusion" (2/4/07)
Posts tagged "tech advice"

Friday, August 14, 2009

Wherein I finally surrender to Facebook

Alright, alright — "Mr. Ross finally turned himself in to cyber-authorities in August, 2009, thus becoming the 487th 'Bill Ross' on Facebook." In the words of one friend — the actual, real-world kind — "Now everyone in the world is on Facebook." (Really? You mean, like, I am the last one in? I guess it wouldn't be the first time...)

It's worth noting that my old buddy, Neil, sent that message literally within three minutes of me signing up; I was still in the process, in fact, and when I first went to my inbox, I already had mail. (Better'n old aol right there, I can see that.)

But at this late date, I feel somewhat obligated to explain where the hell I've been, and what the hell took me so long?

First, it would be more factual to say that I was kidnapped into Facebookland, since my sister Cindy announced to me when I was down there last weekend that, having duly consulted with other very cyber-aware family members, she was signing me up. And it was so.

But credit's equally due my ol' buddy Val Vadeboncoeur, who's become quite the FB operative and connoisseur, and had been hectoring me all winter about getting in. He'd been a holdout for quite some time, but when he finally did sign on it was an exciting revelation for him. So I knew it was just a matter of when.

My resistance was based on a single word: Overextended. I've had a website for most of the last 12 years for my professional pursuits, which I'll sum up as technical marketing writing and Mac/Win tech support and training, which carries my writing samples, reviews, and various tech service pitches.

I started this blog commenting on technological issues in 2006, and post once or twice a month. Lately I've focused on Green tech developments in the Hudson Valley, where I've been living for the last 2 years. (Recently added a custom Google map of same: the Sustainability 'Heat' Map.) Oh, and how about Working, now most often done entirely on the computer, and the always-bigger job of finding work, ditto there.

Then, on the evening/personal pursuits side, I play once a week with a small group of musicians, record it, and post the good tracks on a page (which I keep separate from all the business linkage). As anyone who's worked with sound knows, that involves a goodly amount of ongoing time to listen through, select from and edit those recordings.

And best of all, I've got old-fashioned email and I'm always behind by a couple correspondents. And these aren't usually people that my "friends" are talking to, which could mean anything from my friend's point of view, but people I've chosen at some point to directly engage with.

Let's see, am I forgetting anything? Oh, yeah Real life! The physical world, food, the fresh air and exercise, and people with actual, fleshy faces, etc. 'Body language' is only the most obvious additional channnel available in that medium; these are devices which communicate in far more ways than we are even aware of, or, I'll bet, have yet discovered.

Ah, but that was then; I finally wised up and realized my point was simply that I can't spend any more time online than I do now. So I'm just going to have to appropriate time from something else, and that'll have to be all the news sites that I probably spend way too much time reading. There you go — another win for Reframing The Question.

The clincher was my sister putting it in a way that made sense to me, and that was that right now was a moment when, simply, everybody was on Facebook — and that may not be true a year or whenever from now.

That was the Ah-ha moment for me, having witnessed enough waves of technology wash by in 25+ years to recognize that old, familiar pattern. So I'm in there now, ready to ride.

See you on the wall, then.

Related, here (on that old paradigm):

"Slow-Blogging" 2009

"Twittering on about Facebook, etc."

"Top 10 Social Networking Annoyances"

Thursday, August 13, 2009

New Points on Local Green Map, Prism Solar Ribbon Spinoff

Added a few newsy spots to my Sustainability 'Heat' Map of Hudson Valley, explained and windowed-into in the preceding(/following) post.

The biggest news recently was Prism Solar Technologies' announcement Tuesday that they'll receive $3.6 million in federal money to spin off their R&D on a new form of photovoltaic technology in the Hudson Valley. They predict the new company will create 300 jobs over the next three years.

The new flexible solar ribbon cell is highly efficient, lightweight, made with much less waste, and has other unique characteristics, but its flexibility that's the main attraction. That allows countless applications, from the hood of a car to the outside face of a building, from cellphones and laptops to equipment for the U.S. Military, which has shown interest. Congressman Maurice Hinchey announced the grant with Prism Solar CEO Richard Lewandowski.

"Prism Solar gets $3.6 million in federal funds" - Poughkeepsie Journal, Sarah Bradshaw, 8/11/09

"Solar company to create spin-off, create 300 jobs" - Mid-Hudson News
= = =
…And I added these two places to the map:

"Green Living" index, Times Herald Record

The venerable Times Herald Record, published from Middletown, NY and in its modern form at, covers all things renewable in the region with its page on "Green Living - local coverage of the green revolution." It's a handy spot from which to keep updated on all recent related activity.

Hudson River Valley Farms, by Joanne Michaels, 2009Author Joanne Michaels' "Hudson River Valley Farms"

Joanne Michaels' latest book, published July 2009, is "Hudson River Valley Farms - The People and the Pride Behind the Produce." This beautiful book, thanks to the wonderful photography of Rich Pomerantz, is portrait of 44 farms from Westchester to Albany, taking the reader on an amazing journey through the heart of the Hudson Valley. The appendix covers close to 100 farmers' markets in eight counties, including driving directions.

Joanne, the former editor of Hudson Valley Magazine, has published numerous books which draw our attention to the profound beauty of the region, including "The Hudson Valley & Catskill Mountains: An Explorer's Guide," and coauthoring with renowned photographer Hardie Truesdale the stunning "Hudson River Journey" and "Adirondack High."