It’s the Apps, Stupid!

windowsAfter months of learning to live with Windows 8 on the desktop, I picked up an ASUS VivoTab 8 tablet back in early 2015.  Finally, I would get to experience Windows 8 with a touchscreen, just like God Microsoft had intended!

As much as I like to think that I ‘got’ Windows 8 before, using it with a touch screen was wonderful.  No more fumbling with sides and screen corners!  The stupid charms on the right side of the screen finally made sense and I could bring them up by swiping in from the right side instead of madly fumbling around for for the magic spot with my mouse!  Life was great!

That euphoria lasted for about five minutes until I tried to pull up the News app and it crashed.  I checked for app updates in the Store, and there were none to be had.  So much for that.

I am totally on board with the idea that there should be desktop apps Just like the ones we have on our phones and tablets.  I shouldn’t have to go back to my web browser to do things.  Indeed, I would love nothing better than pick up my Windows 8 tablet and left-swipe from app to app to get things done instead of having to go back to Ye Olde Desktop unless I want to.

Unfortunately, Microsoft’s apps suck.  Everywhere.  They sucked on Windows Phone, sucked on Windows 8 and continue to suck on Windows 10.  Until they stop sucking, I’ll find myself going back to my desktop and my browser or using my iPhone or iPad.  Don’t like it, Microsoft?  THEN MAKE YOUR APPS STOP SUCKING!

21 Things I Noticed after getting an iPhone

technology2After hemming and hawing about getting an iPhone, I finally broke down and got an iPhone 6 to replace my poor old Nokia Lumia 530.  During the buying process, and over the first few months of ownership, I noticed a few things:

  1. I usually don’t buy cases for my phones but I am DEFINITELY getting one this time.
  2. I think the sales guy forgot to take off the plastic they put over the screen, gonna have to figure out how to take apart the case now >.<
  3. Speaking of the sales guy, he was starting to push just a little too hard to get me to buy another on-contract device.  Grr.
  4. First order of business: upgrade to iOS 9!
  5. Make that the second order or business, had to charge it fully first.
  6. Weird thing: My Apple purchases have been three years apart:  iMac in 2009, iPad mini in 2012 and now an iPhone. I guess I’ll be getting a new iThingie in 2018
  7. Picked up an OtterBox Defender case, which turned the slim, sleek, sexy iPhone into a big chunky thing. I may have gone overboard on the whole ‘protection’ thing.
  8. Then again, I like having a little heft to my devices, so it’s just as well
  9. There is something weirdly satisfying about snapping my phone into its OtterBox belt clip.
  10. It’s just as well that I traded in my Windows Phone, I don’t even think I could get few magic beans for it at this point.
  11. Speaking of which, I keep going OMG I CAN ACTUALLY GET THAT APP NOW instead of “Aww, no Windows Phone version.”
  12. iPhone is Coke. Android is Pepsi. Windows Phone is that godawful ‘Cola’ they have at the dollar store.
  13. I nearly talked myself out of an iPhone while waiting in the store.  I started thinking: “Well, maybe an Android…” but then remembered my past experiences with them.
  14. When did Android phones get more expensive than iPhones?
  15. Sign of the times: I didn’t realize I hadn’t set up my voicemail until I got a phone call the next day.
  16. I thought I’d have to charge my iPhone once it hit 10% but it took a while for it to get really low.
  17. Not sure what I’m going to do with the earbuds that came with it: 99% of earbuds don’t fit my ears so I’m not even going to try them on.
  18. I’m having to get used to having a good camera on my phone.  The iPhone has all but replaced my point-and-shoot Sony camera.
  19. That said, it was almost a full week before I took a picture, and it wasn’t even a selfie.
  20. Time since last charge: 51.5 hours standby, 7.5 hours usage 😀
  21. I already miss Cortana!

myPhone

technology2There are a number of things that I don’t mind, but at the same time it’s sometimes fun to wave my metaphorical Cranky Old Man cane at the durn kids with their newfangled doohickeys and double-you-step music.

Case in point: Apple.  I don’t mind them.  I own a 2009 iMac and an original iPad mini.  Both are quite good at what they do, and I continue to use them.  Despite that, I like to thumb my nose at the ‘Apple guy’ in the office (there’s always one) and have back-and-forths with him about why I feel Microsoft is better.  As if in retaliation, my original iPad mini has been slowly inching towards obsolescence with each iOS update.  Recently, I was frustrated at not being able to play the neato new Fallout Shelter game for more than a few minutes without the poor thing crashing.

While the thought of getting a new iPad has crossed my mind, the thought of dropping a few hundred bucks on another one is not a pleasant one, especially since my Windows 8 tablet has proven to be quite capable, Microsoft Office notwithstanding.

Because of its creaky performance, I have been using the iPad mini as a hotspot more than anything else as of late.  I would use my cell phone as a hotspot, but Cricket Wireless has internet sharing disabled on my Lumia 530.  Jerks.  So I send a few bucks to Verizon, turn on the iPad’s hotspot feature, set it down, and then use my Windows laptop or tablet to get things done.

Which brings me to my next point.  I am, for better or for worse, married to Microsoft Windows as well as their ecosystem.  Windows 8.1, Word, OneDrive and OneNote have all served me well over the years and I have no reason to stop using them.

In spite of that, I have decided to get an iPhone for my next phone.  As I am not on a contract, I can make the jump whenever it pleases me, but more practical concerns such as home and vehicle maintenance take precedence. Nevertheless, whenever I am financially ready to make the jump I will be more than happy to for the following reasons:

  1. Apple makes pretty good hardware – My iMac and iPad have been pretty durable and dependable over the years.  I’ll likely have to get a case for an iPhone, but I’m pretty careful with my phones; I’ve never cracked a single screen over the years.
  2. Apps apps everywhere – This is the Achilles’s Heel of Windows Phone; the limited app selection wouldn’t be so bad if Microsoft would keep their own apps up to date.  The iPad version of Word blows the Windows Phone one out of the water, too.
  3. Accessories – Because I often get cheaper (or Windows) phones, cases and accessories are rare or nonexistent.  Stores seem to have three sections for phone accessories: Apple, Samsung, and one with a big sign above it for everyone else that says EFF-YOU.
  4. Microsoft is on board – The fact that I can get Microsoft Word on iOS and Android means no more Brand X Office apps.
  5. Hotspot! – I travel, and it would be nice to be able to fall back on my phone as a hotspot instead having to carry another device to do so.
  6. Android = suck, WinPhone = bleh, iPhone = ? Android devices have been craptacular for me over the years and Windows Phone trips at the finish line despite its nice interface.  I have never owned an iPhone so who’s to say I won’t like it?
  7. Get rid of iPad – I still only have my iPad mini for two reasons: to use as a hotspot and for work.  If I get an iPhone I can do without it completely.
  8. Updates for all! – With Android and Windows Phone, you are at the tender mercies of your carrier for updates unless you buy an unlocked device.  My Windows Phone is one update behind because of this.  iPhones, on the other hand, usually get all updates.

Of course, there is some bad with the good:

  1. Increased Cost – I am currently not on contract with Cricket Wireless and its been pretty sweet: $35 a month for 2.5GB of high speed data and unlimited minutes and texts.  To get an iPhone I’ll either have to pay a few hundred for the device up front or go on a contract again.  Either way that means more money.
  2. Durability – It is out of sheer luck that my Lumia doesn’t have a cracked screen given all the times I’ve dropped it (thank you Nokia).  I will definitely have to get a case to ensure my iPhone doesn’t meet an unfortunate fate.  It will remain to be seen if the iPhone is ‘Eduardo-proof’
  3. Apple EVERYWHERE? – Despite having an iMac and iPad, I am barely invested in Apple’s ecosystem.  Except for backing up my iPad I don’t use iCloud for anything.  That should stay the same with an iPhone…I hope.

I was on the fence about getting iPhone before writing this blog, but now that I’ve jotted down all the ups and downs, I’m all but certain I’m going to pull the trigger on one…eventually.  $35 a month for cell service is going to be really hard to give up, though!

A Touch of Office

windowsI purchased a Windows 8 tablet (ASUS VivoTab 8) back in January with the intention of using it as a laptop replacement.  On paper, it sounded perfect:

  • Touchscreen that Windows 8 can work well in
  • Full Windows 8 (none of this RT malarkey)
  • Improved Intel Atom CPU and better battery life compared to a laptop
  • Increased portability
  • Only $150!
  • Free Office 365 for a year

Let’s run down the list:

  • Windows 8 on a touchscreen is pretty good.  Heck, its actually great once you learn all of its little tricks.
  • A full version of Windows 8 means I can install some of my favorite (read: ancient) apps I use like WinAmp 2.9 and Microsoft Money 2000.
  • Remember Netbooks?  Those used the first Intel Atom CPUs and they were dog slow.  The newer one in the VivoTab is good for basic tasks and battery life has been in the 7-8 hour range which is what I wanted.
  • Even with a case, the VivoTab is remarkably portable.  Like my iPad mini, a 7-8″ tablet is the perfect size to carry around.
  • The price was definitely right!

And now we get to the device’s biggest problem:  Microsoft Office.  Because the VivoTab is capable of running the desktop version of Microsoft Office, that’s what you get.  That would be pretty neat, but Office is not optimized for touch on an 8″ screen.  Thus, I end up wasting time mashing its teeny icons with my sausage-fingers and fighting the interface instead of doing work.  Styluses are no help either, they make me feel like I’m trying to draw on the screen with a fuzzing crayon.  I bought a Bluetooth mouse and keyboard so I can get around Office more efficiently, but carrying them around and setting them up sucks some of that wonderful ‘portability’ out of the tablet.

Finally, Office 365 sucks horribly on this device.  It had a terrible habit of slowing down to the point where I could see letters being placed on the screen one…at…a…time every few seconds.  I would type out a full sentence and then wait for the poor thing to catch up before doing the next one because I didn’t want it to crash and potentially lose my work.  I got into the habit of saving very frequently for a few frustrating weeks before removing the craptacular Office 365 and installing my copy of Office 2010.  Needless to say, I have no intention of paying for Office 365 when the trial year runs out.

I really like my VivoTab 8, and if Microsoft could get around to making a version of Office that was suitable for smaller tablets, I would like it a whole lot more.

Oh wait, they already made one…it’s on my iPad mini!  /facepalm

The Long and Winding Words

writingbear

My last e-book “Con Fluff 1: 2012 Furry Convention Short Story Collection” was released seven months ago, and as the 2013 edition won’t be ready for a few months at the minimum, I feel the need to get another e-book out into the wild.  My (virtual) stack of unpublished short stories has been growing and I’m pretty sure that I have enough of them to assemble another e-book.

Since my stories are very short, I have to round up a few in order to assemble a collection of decent length.  One early lesson I learned in my Adventures in Self-Publishing is that five stories was not enough content for 99 cents, as evidenced by the thud that ‘One Sheet Stories’ and ‘FlipSide Stories’ made in their respective marketplaces.  Luckily, people are buying the longer collections I’ve produced since so I think I’ve figured out how much stuff is enough.

The stories themselves are another matter, though.  The longest anything I’ve ever written was about 12 pages.  It also took me a little while to get over my habit of keeping stories about a page long due to printing constraints back in the First Storm Manga days.  Even when I have a hard limit to work with, I try not to think about length, but even then I’m pretty sure that the thought of ‘is it long enough’ rattles around somewhere in my subconscious.

I don’t know that I have a Great American Novel in me but I’d like to write one eventually.  Time will tell!

38 Things I Noticed During Furry Fiesta 2013

I'm all ears!
I’m all ears!

For the second year in a row, I headed up to Addison for Texas’ one and only furry convention:  Furry Fiesta 2013: The Time Traveller’s Ball.  I had a wonderful time, and so without further ado:

  1. JUST TAKE THE TOLL ROAD around Austin, especially if you’re going northbound.
  2. Driving up was much more pleasant in my still-pretty-new Honda CR-V
  3. The con was made even more fun by the friends that went with me and the ones I met there!
  4. Artist Alley needs to be a little bigger and supervised.
  5. What? No Rock Band in the game room? Aw, I so wanted to do Power of Love…again and again.
  6. BuckHopper just barely got last year’s Voice Over panel uploaded before this year’s show because he was very very busy with work.
  7. Of course when you realize that his work involves videogames, the amount of sympathy you have for him might drop just a teensy bit.
  8. I think his Voice Recording Basics panel needed to be just a little bit more, well, basic.  My head was spinning near the end.
  9. I was a very sad bear just ten minutes before my panel started because nobody was there. *sniff*
  10. People then started to show up, and I became happy, and nervous!
  11. I burned through my prepared material in a half hour…need to rehearse next time
  12. Things went downhill fast during discussion when the subject of DRM and piracy came up…argh
  13. At dinner, the restaurant owner asks how we’re doing and notices the badges. Her: “Are you here for a convention?” Us: “Yeah!” Her: “What kind of convention is it?” AWKWARD SILENCE.
  14. Seriously, I have never seen nine adults (including me) simultaneously freeze like deer in the headlights.
  15. OH YEAH, ITS AN ART CONVENTION! :3
  16. Luckily, I remembered my ‘training’ the next day. Get some furry common sense, y’all!
  17. One guy trying to explain Furry Fiesta to an older person got “What? Fairy Fiesta?” as a reply. That explains a lot, actually.
  18. I’m not sure which made my attempt to record the fursuit parade worse: the lighting, my iPad mini, or the two rubes that stood next to me…seriously, I kept expecting to hear one playing a banjo and the other a jug.
  19. The Furry Psychology panel filled up quick, they should just give Dr. Nuka a video room next time, it’ll be like college but much less boring.
  20. If the International Anthropomorphic Research Project were to change the last word in their  name to something starting with “F” it would be I-ARF which would be pawsome!
  21. Got my first dose of con funk in AA when some nasty dude decided to sit next to me.  Ended up having to shoo him off later, too…jerk.
  22. Not sure which was better: acquiring a pair of bear ears to wear, or my friend Chris’ reaction to them.  “What the hell are those things?!”
  23. There were lots of Marty McFlys but one guy (a fursuiter no less) NAILED IT.  How?  He had a WALKMAN.  Everybody else GO HOME.
  24. There were lots of 4th Doctors, too 🙂
  25. While my panel went well, my attempts to sell berks in Artist Alley did not. *shrug*
  26. I guess I didn’t really need that Sales Tax ID after all, then.
  27. Speaking of AA: If you are going to be in AA read the rules on the wall and don’t whine like a petulant child when they don’t match your expectations.
  28. $3.75 for gas?  Makes me glad the Excelsior gets about 30MPG on the freeway even with 3 dudes with 3 days worth of luggage.
  29. Thanks for putting us in the ‘annoying kid’ section of IHOP, waiter.  *twitch*
  30. Either the con is short on staff or they were not very noticeable, because I don’t remember seeing very many staff members.
  31. One person in AA had an old school early digital camera that I used to take his picture with a fursuiter: a big chunky HP one that was the size and weight of a brick.
  32. Never mind the burgers (which are good) I want In-N-Out to come to San Antonio because the ‘well done’ fries are the BEST. THING. EVAR.
  33. Boston Market.  We also need them in San Antonio, too.
  34. Some friends call TFF ‘CircleCon’ because everything on the second floor is well, in a circle.
  35. Thing I forgot: Electric razor. The ol’ greymuzzle was showing by Sunday
  36. Every time I thought I was going to need/use my laptop, I didn’t because my iPad mini did the job. I may have crossed a threshold.
  37. Of course, just when I start to get familiar with the area around the hotel, they decide to move it next year.
  38. I’ll definitely have to take Thursday off next year…maybe Monday, too 🙂

Apple Does Not Like Files

technology2As my iPad mini is my first iOS device, I have had to learn it and adjust to its idiosyncrasies. Some of the new things I’m discovering are good, like the ability to swipe up with four fingers and bring up a list of currently open apps and volume/brightness controls. Of course, there are bad things to discover as well, such as the ‘locked down’ nature of the device. In particular, I was initially miffed that I could not work with files like I could on desktops or Android devices.

I like files. I know how to work with files. I like to make folders for my files and organize them and e-mail them and sort them and rename them and open them and edit them and do all kinds of fun stuff with them.

Apple does not like files.

Apple likes objects. On an abstract level, apps are objects in iOS,not files.  Instead of having files scattered all about, like in Windows or Android, your stuff lives in the app that uses it. If you’re going to work with a picture, you open up Photos, select the picture you want to work with, and get to work. Music lives in iTunes, documents live in Pages, and so on and so forth. The app comes first.

iOS gets irritiating for people like me because unlike Android, where I can get an app like Astro and poke around at the underlying file system, iOS does not let you get ‘under the hood’ at all.  I can’t put stuff where I want it because Apple won’t let me, and coming from a world where files rule and I can do whatever I want to with them, that is frustrating.

Case in point: I use Dropbox to store stories that I am working on. Indeed, one of the first apps I downloaded onto my iPad mini was the Dropbox app.  I also got the Pages word processor because it had totally knocked my socks off on the iPad demo units. Awesome. I quickly learned that Pages does not talk to Dropbox. My file-centric brain then said: “No biggie, I’ll download a copy of my latest story via Dropbox, open it in Pages, do some editing, save my changes, then upload the newest draft back to the cloud. After all, that’s how it had worked on my Acer Iconia Tab A100.”

In response, Pages threw the finger at me and said, “NO SAVING FOR YOU.  You’re going to open the file in Pages and I’ll make a copy there. Its staying there after that, too, because I don’t like Dropbox and I ain’t giving it back.” So I end up with two copies of the story floating around, one in Dropbox and one in Pages. So much for keeping things in sync.

Ultimately, I found a Microsoft Office-compatible app talkd to Dropbox direclty, so that fixed that, but its just one an example of how I have had to work around iOS because it ‘thinks different.’  Its methodology is awesome for end-users because files are icky things and people don’t like dealing with them.  I think its because most folks can’t make the mental leap from objects (like documents, pictures, and music) to files. They can’t wrap their heads around the abstract concept like ‘computer people’ do.

If everything lives in the app, then they don’t have to deal with files at all.  If they want to do something, they open the appropriate app, and everything is there.  Instead of a list of files, they see pictures, songs, and documents, and that’s what they know.

Those of us that are more ‘computery,’ on the other hand, have a few options: muddle around iOS as best we can, jailbreak our devices, or just not bother with it altogether. Unfortunately, I think I’ve taken one step too far into the rabbit-hole, because for all that fuss, I’m still loving my iPad mini…even if it doesn’t want me to have my precious files.