Pearl's Paradise

"Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled teams yearning to breath free…"

September 10, 2013
by Steve Pearl

Apple’s “Big” iPhone 5C/5S Announcement Hits and Misses

I’m so glad I dumped my Apple stock when it hit $600.00.

Don’t get me wrong.  I still think Apple makes killer products.  Nobody, but nobody, is better at basic industrial design and a rock-solid consumer ecosystems than Apple.  If you want the most elegantly designed, longest-lasting, most functional, personal computing tool on the market, the odds are it’s going to be an Apple product.

Every time someone asks me, “What should I buy?  A Mac or a PC?” my answer is easy.  If you want the most durable, easiest to use, best designed laptop on the planet, grab a Macbook Air.  Light.  Long battery life.  Blazingly fast.  Durable.  You’ll still be doing great work on it 7 years from now.  Spend more, enjoy more.

I can’t say the same for ANY other major PC manufacturer except Lenovo.  I’m in LOVE with my first-gen Lenovo Yoga 13.  (I’m typing this on it now.)  And from what I’ve seen of the Yoga 11s and the second gen Yoga 13, I think Lenovo has hit the sweet spot in the competitive laptop marketplace.  The Yoga line actually makes Windows 8 appear – dare I say it – usable.

Click to continue reading “Apple’s “Big” iPhone 5C/5S Announcement Hits and Misses”

July 2, 2013
by Steve Pearl

Faint Praise for Win8.1 Preview Highlights Microsoft Arrogance

Microsoft_DownloadI know I’m starting to sound like a Microsoft hater.  That’s not true at all, but with the amount of time I’ve spent lately bashing MSoft for Windows 8, you could get that impression.  I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again…  There are many elements of Windows 8 that I actually like.

But it’s hard to deny.  The recent release of the Windows 8.1  Preview underscores just how intransigent and arrogant Microsoft has become.

In Windows 8, Microsoft decided to re-write everything everybody ever knew about Windows.

They left us access to the “Desktop” but without any of the “desktop functionality.”  They yanked out the one item that has been kicking around in every incarnation of Windows since 1994.


Listen up, Microsoft…  To paraphrase that immortal debate performance between Lloyd Bentsen and Dan Quayle…

“Mr. Ballmer, I knew the Start Menu.  I was personal friends with the Start Menu.  What you’ve given us, sir, is NOT a Start Menu.”

Click to continue reading “Faint Praise for Win8.1 Preview Highlights Microsoft Arrogance”

January 19, 2013
by Steve Pearl

Lenovo Yoga 13: Major League Hardware, Whiffle Ball OS.

A little over three months ago I picked up a Lenovo Yoga 13 to replace my small-ish Acer 11.6″ TimelineX.  My college-aged son needed a new laptop on which to do game design studies, so I gave him my 15″ Macbook Pro and decided it was time to head in a new direction.

I know.  I’m weird.

Who in their right mind would give up a perfectly fine, super-fast, super-durable, 15″, non-Retina, unibody Macbook Pro for anything but another Macbook Pro or say a Macbook Air?

I thought about the Air, really I did.  I even considered the super cool, ultralight, 11.6″ Macbook Air.  I even bought one as a super duper open-box buy at BestBuy.  I liked it.  A lot.  Very snappy.  Very sleek.   Instant on.  I mean, hey, it’s a Mac!  Duh!

And then I tried to lay the display back a little bit further than Apple decided a display should move.  No joy.

And then, because I’m spoiled by my iPad and my Android tablets, I tried to touch the screen to move around some document elements with my fingers.  No joy.

So I decided to think out of the box.  WAY out of the box.  I stumbled upon the Lenovo Yoga 13 at BestBuy and immediately fell in love.  You remember that old song?  I think it was Fred Astaire who sang, “Heaven…  I’m in Heaven…”

At first, it was a joyous engagement.

Then…  Well…

Great hardware can only do so much to mask so-so software.

Read on for the details.

Click to continue reading “Lenovo Yoga 13: Major League Hardware, Whiffle Ball OS.”

January 6, 2012
by Steve Pearl

What’s On Steve’s iPad Part 3 – When iWork isn’t as Cloud-Friendly as You’d Like

(In Part 2 of this series we looked at Apple's entry into the productivity software world.  Pages, Numbers, and Keynote are fantastic tools for getting beautiful work done on your iPad.  But what if Apple's solution seems a little disconnected from YOUR world?  What if you use Google Docs and you can't seem to get your documents into and out of your iPad so you can edit them on the fly?  Buck up, friends.  This is your answer…)

Editing In the Cloud with iWork Alternatives

It's time to face reality, friends.  Apple isn't exactly known for its open-minded approach to computing.  Where Apple is concerned, it's either Apple's way or it's no way.  (Considering that my Apple stock is sky high compared to when I bought it and Microsoft's is stuck in 1st gear, I guess I shouldn't complain too much.)

You want to use that beautiful Mac Operating System, OS/X?  

Buy a Mac.  

You want to edit your movies with that gorgeously simplistic software called iMovie?  

Buy a Mac.

(Well, now there's iMovie on the iPad, but let's not quibble.)

You want to store your documents in "The Cloud" so you can download them, edit them, and the re-upload them no matter where you are in the world?


Click to continue reading “What’s On Steve’s iPad Part 3 – When iWork isn’t as Cloud-Friendly as You’d Like”

January 5, 2012
by Steve Pearl

What’s On Steve’s iPad Part 2 – Pages, Numbers, and Keynote

In our Part 1 of this series we set the stage.  I'm a geek, I love tech toys, and I have definite opinions about what high-quality, must-use software should be on just about anyone's iPad.  Now we get down to business.  It's time to talk APPS!

Real Work, Real Apps:  Apple's iWork Suite for iPad

Let's start our tour of "What's On Steve's iPad" with Apple's earliest and most mature contribution to the iPad software cause; The iWork suite.

iWork on the iPad includes the same three apps as iWork on the Mac.  Pages (Word Processing), Numbers (Spreadsheet), and Keynote (Presentations).

Pay attention to this caveat…  

iWork apps on the iPad still don't contain all the same features as their big brothers and sisters that run on Mac computers.  Running a productivity app like a spreadsheet on a small-ish 9.7", 1024×768 screen will cramp your style in a hurry if you aren't ready to make some compromises.  Go in forewarned.  

Forget mail merges.

Forget including links to external data sources in your documents.

Forget anything that even remotely looks like an advanced script or automation tool.

If the advanced stuff is your bag you better hang on to your trusty copy of Microsoft Office.  iWork on the iPad will disappoint in a hurry when it comes to advanced features even if it will be precisely the eye-candy you wish you saw every time you fired up Microsoft Word.

(For a decent, in-depth review of the software package, take a look at this PCWorld article.  Yes.  I'm deliberately steering you to a non-Mac publication.  Gotta go contrarian once in a while even if I am an admitted Apple Fanboi.)

Click to continue reading “What’s On Steve’s iPad Part 2 – Pages, Numbers, and Keynote”

January 5, 2012
by Steve Pearl

What’s On Steve’s iPad Part 1 – A “Best of Breed” App Guide for Noobs and Devotees Alike

The "Making Meetings Matter" and "Crisis Communications" series are on hold.  Right now I need to answer a burning question I found myself asked three times in the past two days.

"Hey, Steve, I'm buying an iPad.  What programs do you recommend?"

You want my opinion?  Really?  Little old me?  Awe, shucks!

Well, who am I to deny my oh-so-well-informed geeky counsel to friends in distress?

iPad, iPad…  Oh How We Love Our iPads!

A little over a year ago I posted an comprehensive list of what I considered "must-have" apps for the original iPad.  It was a pretty good list at the time, giving readers a solid idea of what I use on my own iPad on a day-to-day basis.  I included a software mix that showed the average user how to equip the iPad so they could leave their laptop at home and actually get real work done using Steve Jobs' self-proclaimed "magical" tablet.

Well, a lot of time has gone by since then.  It's time for a revisit.

I admit that most people aren't total geeks like yours truly.  Most iPad users really don't care about the nitty-gritty like, "Is it an A5 or an A4 processor," or, "How much usable RAM does it have?" or, "It heard it's supposed to render graphics up to 9x faster."  Though there are some people out there who know (or care) what "Jailbreaking" and "Cydia" mean, but most devoted iPad users could not care less.  They just love their iPad because it works well, it's super-cool, and by-golly Steve Jobs told them it was "magical."

When people see me toting my iPad (or my Android tablet, for that matter), they always ask me two questions:

  1. What Apps should I buy?
  2. What kind of case should I buy?

We'll tackle that second question in the future.  For now, let's take a bite out of the App store and talk about "Must Have" iPad software.

(NOTE:  Where possible, I'll include links to outside web sites that provide unbiased, in-depth reviews of each piece of software.  Caveat Emptor.)

Click to continue reading “What’s On Steve’s iPad Part 1 – A “Best of Breed” App Guide for Noobs and Devotees Alike”

January 4, 2012
by Steve Pearl

Review: Republic Wireless $20/mo “Unlimited” Cellular Plan

Yes, you read that title correctly.

This is a review of a WiFi/Cellular phone and service provider that purports to break new ground by charging you a measly $20 a month for "Unlimited" phone service.

I can already read your mind.

"You're kidding, right?  An "Unlimited" $20/mo cellular plan?  GET OUT OF HERE!"

No.  I am not kidding.  

It truly is a $20/mo plan and – to a certain extent – it is indeed "Unlimited."

I'm reading your mind again.  You're wondering if there's a catch.

Yes, there is a catch.

What Republic Wireless is offering is not a true "cellular" plan.  It's more like a WiFi-first, cellular-second plan.

In other words, as long as you are sitting in the middle of a nice, strong WiFi signal and can freely access that signal with your phone, you can talk to your heart's content all over the US for FREE, FREE, FREE.  Not only that, but Republic Wireless is providing international phone numbers for FREE incoming calls.  It's kind of like what we'd always hoped would happen once Android hit the landscape in full stride.  FREE WiFi calling over Skype or some such service.  If you're familiar with how T-Mobile threw in something called "UMA" into its phones to allow calling over WiFi you'll understand how Republic Wireless' service works.

But remember…

The second you move off your WiFi footprint you revert back to a cellular signal, in this case provided by Sprint, and the meter starts running.

As I'll note in a second, that move from WiFi to cellular is more than just a little bit sketchy.

Click to continue reading “Review: Republic Wireless $20/mo “Unlimited” Cellular Plan”

June 8, 2010
by Steve Pearl

Ballmer the Emperor Has No Clothes… Or Clue

Steve Ballmer, the CEO of Microsoft and heir to the Bill Gates' Windows legacy, is a pretty wealthy guy.  Ballmer's earnings could probably do a decent job of taking a chunk out of the national debt if he really wanted to.

So you would be forgiven for thinking that all his accumulated wealth meant that old Stevie Boy was a really, really smart guy.  And he might in fact be a smart guy. 

He just didn't sound very smart when he whined on petulantly last week about the irrelevance of the Apple iPad.  As you'll see in a moment, Ballmer's characterization of the iPad pretty much screamed, "I'm the one wearing the clothes, I tell you!"

Perhaps you've heard about the iPad?  It's that slick new piece of hardware that everyone wants and that places like Best Buy just can't keep in stock.

Oh yeah…  I almost forgot. 

Microsoft had nothing to do with the iPad's flaming success.

Click to continue reading “Ballmer the Emperor Has No Clothes… Or Clue”

June 7, 2010
by Steve Pearl

Worst Kept Secret Confirmed: New iPhone4 Dropping June 24

Gizmodo popped the story a little prematurely when it bought that errant iPhone prototype in late April, but that didn't stop Steve-O (Jobs, that is) from announcing a barrage of other, previously-unheard, unseen features shipping concurrent with the next-gen iPhone.  Apple's WWDC keynote today was vintage Jobs, including signature black turtleneck and right down to the "One more thing…", firing salvo after salvo across the bow of both RIM's Blackberry and Google's Android platforms.  Microsoft's Windows Mobile looked more like an afterthought than a bona fide competitor the way Jobs presented the event. 

Plus, news that Android's market share has gone from 0 to 9% in just over a year apparently got lost on Steve-O.  Or he just chose to avoid it like the master spin-meister he is.  Either way, the grand and glorious "Oz" of the technology world managed to altogether duck the topic of Android's assault on iPhone dominance.

Click to continue reading “Worst Kept Secret Confirmed: New iPhone4 Dropping June 24”

June 6, 2010
by Steve Pearl

Why I am Deactivating my Facebook Account

Some things in life just aren't as "free" as they seem at first glance.

Take facebook for example.  It may not cost much in terms of cold, hard cash but it can certainly carry a hefty cost in terms of heartache.

Last night I personally experienced the costly price of facebook as I viewed a posting on my daughter's facebook page.  My jaw dropped.  What I read was one "friend's" response to my daughter's innocent "Happy Birthday" posting for yet another friend.  The words seared into my eyes, giving this doting father a sucker punch to the gut.  I won't do the posting the dignity of a full airing here at "Pearl's Paradise."  Suffice it to say the word "whore" found its way onto my daughter's facebook "wall."

Click to continue reading “Why I am Deactivating my Facebook Account”

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